I survived! Going into this past week, I had two personal meetings and four author-oriented gigs. It would be a fun week, a blessed and rare-air period of days, even, but it would involve a lot of programs and making sure I had the correct amount of everything (script, props, books) ready to go with the specific event.
Monday was Writer Chicks Society at Janet’s in Noblesville, and as always, we had a lot to say, and numerous updates on our projects. We didn’t even finish early, despite missing our member, Susan, who was off having fun on a family trip.
That evening found me in Middletown with a fellowship session, and then the highlight of the 2021-22 year of Bible Study Fellowship, our annual share night, where participants are welcome at an open mic to share their personal takeaways and insights from the study. This year's was Matthew.
Tuesday night took me down I-69 and other routes south to Greenwood at the Greenwood Christian Church where about 220 filled the fellowship hall for a mother-daughter banquet. Although I grew up in a tiny church, this banquet took me back to those years and how much I adored those banquets!
I only wish I had taken photos! Two key people among many wonderful ones made my night. One of the coordinators, Stellamae Carley, invited me to give the 2020 program, which covid ruined, as it did in 2021, and I was delighted to be remembered for the 2022 edition.
I broke out my new card reader to use for credit and debit payments and I felt nervous to use it for the first time. God sent me an angel named Elaine in the parking lot! We chatted there and some more inside and when she asked to purchase books with her card before everyone got there.
I told her she was my Guinea pig. I felt so grateful to process her payment while there wasn’t a group around waiting on my fumbles--and all went great. She even helped at my table as the night went on. And she gave me her necklace!
Wednesday night it was off to Fishers where Creek Readers and I discussed my book, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. I can’t begin to express to hostess Kay how much I appreciate her selecting my book and how much fun it was to see how the book affected the club members.
They brought heirlooms to discuss and share with the group ranging from Mary Jo’s father’s poem to Ellen’s majorette uniform and other delights! Kay told me it was one of the best meetings the group has ever had! I’m humbled and grateful.
When Thursday arrived, I did a first. I sat down and on the spot, that day, wrote a program for the evening’s gig, in my beloved New Castle for the Young Moderns Home Ec Club. They were hosting their annual guest night with about 40 slated to attend.
I had put off writing their program because I wasn’t sure which direction to go with it. I decided to go with a shorter, more personal program about how I came to write the book and what our family went through during both 2020 and 2021 and how cleaning out the attic and writing the book helped get me through some tough times.
I ended on a personal note about how we all made it! We survived a worldwide pandemic and it’s something to celebrate!
Oh, but I'm not done ...
Saturday's road took me east to another mother-daughter banquet, this one at Hagerstown’s New Testament Church of Christ. The Friendship Circle outdid themselves in décor and attention to detail, along with delicious food. They even surprised me with inviting my cover artist Marilyn Witt to join us! It was lovely. Just lovely.
Note: The following is my latest published column in the three papers for which I write twice a month. It printed around the date of Erma's 95th birthday.
by Donna Cronk
I hadn’t thought much about Erma Bombeck in some time. The national columnist was part of the average American homemaker’s life for 30 years through her consistent output of domestic common sense and humor.
I’m sure that many women considered her almost a friend who dropped by whenever the paper arrived.
It seemed that she would always be at it, cranking out copy from her laundry-room beat; that maybe we haven’t heard from her in a while due to a backlog of dirty clothes, with a funny story coming right up about how that happened.
Her death at age 69 in 1996 meant we would never share her life’s roadmap through her 70s, 80s, and even now, in what her 90-something self would have to say about life and aging. Today, oddly, I’m feeling the loss of that loss.
The humorist came back on my radar recently when my friend, Cathy, mentioned that she wanted to record a PBS show coming on late that night about Erma. I decided to stay up and watch it. While not a new program, I had never seen it before so it was new to me. It brought back memories.
When I came to the New Castle paper in 1989, Erma’s columns arrived in a large white Universal Press Syndicate envelope and had to be typed into our news program. It’s hard to remember how we got things done before the internet changed everything, but for sure, there was considerably more retyping copy into video display terminals (VDTs).
I sometimes spent entire afternoons keying in club minutes and wedding write-ups, for example. It fell to me to type Erma’s work.
I did the math, and at that time, she was a year younger than I am now. She lived only another seven years, passing from complications of a kidney transplant, a few days after penning her final column.
How can it be that she’s been gone for an entire generation—folks born, raised, and then some—without the wit and wisdom of one of the funniest women who ever knew her way around home row. I wonder if anyone under 50 has heard of her.
Erma is funny and brilliant on paper, but I didn’t think her charm translated well into TV spots. I wanted to laugh … but (sorry, Erma), it didn’t work. She was a paper person through and through. So was I, getting so nervous I nearly froze back then when I had to speak at newspaper-sponsored recipe contests.
I thought her lack of stage presence made her all the more believable and “like us.” She looked and sounded like your own mom, sister, or yourself, up there on the big stage or in the talk-show-guest’s hot seat.
Her gift was finding the relatable insights and humorous irony in ordinary-life situations. Not once or occasionally, but cranking out weekly masterpieces with the same inch-count as the previous ones, and the ones to come the next week. She pulled a writer’s version of dancing backward in high heels.
Her humor had none of the mean-girl snark nor insinuation that someone of a different political or faith bent than hers is a horrible person. She found the common ground. I couldn’t tell you her politics or denomination.
Erma inspired us. She truly was “just a housewife” from Ohio, and she really did make the casseroles and care for her family despite 30 million readers looking in, well, reading what she wrote.
Once I won a statewide newspaper-contest award for column writing. The judge jotted in the comments section that you never know from where the next Erma Bombeck will come.
She didn’t come from me, but putting Erma’s name in the same sentence to describe my writing was worth more than the engraved plaque. And I do like engraved plaques.
These days, I think of Erma in a new way. How is it that 70 once seemed old and now… not so much. I told a friend the other day that, “When I use the phrase ‘older woman,’ it will always mean someone older than I am.”
Should I live to be 100, the "older woman" I mention will be at least 100.1 years old.
Years ago we bought Brian’s mom a book collection of Erma’s columns for a Christmas gift. When Mary passed, and we went through things in preparation for an estate sale, I saved back the Bombeck book. I thought it was surely dated, though.
What did I know? I was then a younger woman in my late forties.
Now? Even though the hunky actors she mentions on her pages are dead, and we use computers instead of typewriters, and too much comedy has turned vicious, I expect that if I read that book, I’d find that Erma is timeless.
The last time I sat down and read her work, or enjoyed it as I retyped her columns for the paper, we weren’t peers—writing or otherwise. Now we are. I’ve caught up. We’ve both seen greater or lesser chunks of our sixties. We both had columns for at least three decades. Heck, we both had husbands who were school principals. She got a kidney transplant; my older son works in kidney-transplant surgeries. We have plenty in common.
It sure would have been nice to read Erma’s take on the sunset side of life, those missing years she didn’t get; the ones I still hope to see.
The unique twist of being common, yet one of a kind: that was Erma. She gave us the sustenance we needed to assemble a meatloaf after a long day, can the green beans when the garden is on summer overload, fold the laundry (yet again) and run the sweeper (yet again). And come on! No matter what other Big Things we’re doing, who likes a crunchy carpet or damp laundry? Seeing to the mundane is part of life. Erma knew that. She made it interesting.
Erma would now be 95. I miss her.
Donna Cronk is retired from 31 years at the New Castle Courier-Times. She still writes columns for three papers, and enjoys giving programs and attending book club discussions about her new book, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I continue the spring tour of ladies banquets, libraries, and other stops, I found myself over the weekend at two venues. Saturday was a brunch in Selma at the Christ United Methodist Church. I was invited by Anita Price.
It turns out that this church is the "home" church--if not now, in their childhoods or other previous years--to several women I know. Jackie, a retired teacher from my sons' elementary school, was on hand as this is her hometown childhood church!
So often, anywhere I go in Indiana feels like home. Connections abound!
Attending were some Bible Study Fellowship mentors, including with Anita, our long-time teaching leader Jodie, and group leader, Brenda, along with at least a couple others who were there. The committee provided fun decorations and a lovely brunch. Thank you Anita, for taking a chance on someone you have never heard speak before to provide the program.
Friday night found me in my home-away-from-home, Henry County, where Debbie from the Mt. Zion Wesleyan Church invited me to be the banquet speaker with a theme of "Garden Party." When I walked into their gym/multipurpose room, this bouquet was my welcome, and now greets me when I walk into our dining room:
The committee worked hard to carry out the spring floral theme, but also decorated the stage in keeping with the theme of my 2022 book, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.
A nice crowd filled the space and enjoyed a meal of a baked potato and taco salad bar, and dessert. There was a Garden Party photo booth, door prizes and fun.
Grateful for these lovely gigs, when I got home Saturday afternoon, I felt relieved that I didn't conflate the two gatherings! I had never been to either of these venues, and since they were hours apart, I hoped I didn't talk about gardens where trips were the theme, and vice versa.
And I was tired! That was my third program for the week. Tuesday's was at the Knightstown Public Library, and we had a wonderful time with my signature "What's in Your Attic?" program. Several attendees brought their heirlooms.
Today I have been working hard my to-do list; tonight is the last BSF of the 2021-22 year with our Share Night next Monday, and then we're off for the summer. I think I'll take the next hour off before it's time to get ready to leave. It's a busy season. But busy in a fulfilling kind of way. Hope your week is a good one.
I suppose you could call it a book tour, indie style.
Or the busy, spring season right after your book comes out.
Or you might just call it hitting the road again.
It's a fun week after a great Easter Sunday. I'm heading out to the Fairmount Public Library in a few hours where Director Linda Magers graciously invited me in to give a "What's in Your Attic?" audience-participation program tonight. We will have fun!
Big thanks to our mutual friend, Cathy Shouse, for introducing us, and for using her fine journalism skills to spread the word in area newspapers, including the Marion Chronicle-Tribune.
Tomorrow, I'm speaking at the Henry County Extension Homemakers' annual Achievement Day. It will be a happy time with a good number signed up to attend. They haven't gotten to have this annual time together since April 2019.
I look forward to seeing what the Homemakers bring as they will provide centerpieces and decor with heirlooms they will also share in a show-and-tell activity at the end of my program. Another fun day when the sun rises tomorrow.
A couple fun things to check out. I was interviewed for this podcast on April 10.
This looks quite interesting. Who knew?
And finally, here's my most recent column for the newspapers I write for. Enjoy the rest of the week whether you're wearing your heavy-duty winter coat like I did last night, or sandals, which I hope to sport on Saturday ... at my third gig of the week.
Goal: Do better than ‘light’ housekeeping
If you’re amped up on spring cleaning, ready to blend that perfect mix of vinegar and water to make the windows shine, if you can’t wait to tidy up the landscaping, or clean your woodwork, you have my admiration.
It’s my second spring as a retiree, and our house could use some sparkle, our landscaping some tidying, our woodwork some scrubbing.
I’ve allowed light housekeeping to become a permanent state. In fact, using the word “light” as a descriptor is more aspirational than actual.
This isn’t what I thought this era would be. I figured with all this time at home, and the kids out of the house for some years now, our house would resemble a bed-and-breakfast lobby, but somehow, I’ve found other priorities than making that happen.
Such as routinely hanging out in my pajamas until noon.
It’s not that I can’t clean in my PJs. I’m just lazy. But also, morning is when my mind is as nimble as it gets. It’s when I catch up on email, work on book programing and publicity, and come up with my best ideas—the ones that seem less than outstanding by afternoon.
Since his retirement seven years ago, Brian has taken over the vacuuming and most laundry except for what I call “specialty” loads. This is the clothing with tricky fabrics and icky stains that need the kind of TLC Brian won’t provide. He prefers gathering all dirty clothes and stuffing the lot into the machine.
He's the Bobby Knight of laundry. No matter the fabric, the stains, nor the colors, the dirty clothes are all expected to pull their weight. Then he turns up the heat in the dryer.
Brian is gruff with our laundry, and doesn’t make exceptions for fabrics that need a little more encouragement to come clean than, say, poly-blends. It’s as though he’s lecturing the sweatshirts and dress pants, the church clothes and underwear. “You’ll all get along. That goes for you lightweights. And for you with special instructions on your tags—dream on. No one is a VIP in this load, got it?”
So that’s why I pull some things out before he gets to them. You know, the delicates and hand-washables that need a little boost. Some of us require more hands-on support than others. Call me the laundry good cop to his bad.
But dusting? Brian doesn’t dust. I’m not big on bed-making unless someone is coming over. If that’s the case, it’s game on, complete with stacks of dressy pillows, meant to glamorize ordinary beds.
Today I surprised myself. I took a chunk of my usual morning writing time to thoroughly clean out the refrigerator and freezer, along with relining fridge shelves with plastic to pretty-up the aging surfaces.
Martha Stewart would be horrified to see what I had in there to throw out. It amounted to a kitchen garbage bag full of bulky containers and leftover-too-long food remnants. But the end result is a thing of beauty: pretty bowls of oranges and apples; the cheeses lined in a row in their drawer with the cheese sticks separated thoughtfully from their perforations for easy grabs.
Even the potatoes are reclining comfortably single-file in their mesh bag with a suite, uh, drawer to themselves.
We can even see what’s in the freezer over looking at jigsaw-puzzle-esque pieces of partial bags of fries and tater tots, blurs of frozen strawberries, and cartons of low-cal freezer meals.
When I finished, I needed a nap. It was 9 a.m.
But I need to sweep and clean the floors, dress the kitchen and dining room tables with tablecloths and centerpieces. After all, the church ladies are coming over for a supper meeting tomorrow.
I keep opening and closing the refrigerator door for inspiration, and as a reminder that I can do this! What happened to the lady who wanted to open a B & B nine years ago when she wrote her first book?
I don’t know why I’ve become so, shall we say, relaxed about housekeeping. I always figured I would accomplish many things if I only had the time. But 15 months into retirement, I now know that it’s not about time. There are just other things I’d rather be doing.
Such as writing this column.
It’s time to get back at it and knock out that kitchen. Then, I need to make sure I have everything put away from Christmas.
After all, Easter is over.
Connecting the dots: This Julie Jolliff photo was taken during my talk on Saturday at the Union County Public Library in the community room where the original library had the checkout desk and books when I was a kid. I used the entrance you see at left, center, for my first-ever visit--and library card.
I remember the day.
I may have been 10, accompanying the neighboring Chapman kids and their mom to Liberty. I suppose their mother was grocery shopping at Woodruff’s, close to the Union County Public Library, and we girls were killing time.
We walked through the lower-level library doors. I had never been there before. The Chapman girls had library cards. They said I should get one. So, I did –my first library card!
It was a defining moment, although I can’t tell you what or if I checked anything out that day. I never dreamed then of the places a library card would take me, including cyberspace, and being able to read checked out books on my telephone!
Who could have imagined that more than half a century later, I’d be in that room we entered through those side doors, standing at a lectern, giving a talk about the day I got the library card—and about my third book? Yet there I stood Saturday, with some family, some childhood friends, and some community folks listening.
Library Director Julie Jolliff wasn’t even born when my library card was issued. I think I surprised her by having it.
That’s a pack rat for you—and for that I make no apologies. That library card is a passport to not only stories I read in books, but to memories.
I told some stories from There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go, that relate to growing up in Union County at Rural Route 1, Brownsville. There was talk, following the book signing, of some other venues I might speak at locally.
My personal “drop the mic” moment came when an audience member, Janice, told a story about my grandma! The story even related to some artifacts I displayed that day. When you get to be in your sixties and come across someone who remembers your grandma, who was born in 1892? Priceless.
If only for a couple hours that day, I felt as though I had never left home; had remained a part of the community. It's called roots.
Julie filled me in on the many ways the library serves the community. I follow the UCPL page on Facebook and in local media where I read about the ways it serves all the population from toddlers to the most senior members of the community.
It’s not “just” a library. Not that any library is that—as a library introduces us to a world, at our fingertips—through books written over millennia as well as the most current bestsellers, periodicals, and other forms of modern media. Yet those are only a small part of what modern libraries do in and for their communities.
Libraries provide programming for young and old alike, offer services such as meals and daycares, gathering spaces, a clearinghouse for family and local history, answers to questions and how-to information. Libraries are community centers for activities, conversations, meetings, and life.
I am inspired and delighted by Julie’s enthusiasm for her job, and by her love for the community that I too love. I thank her, as well as Cindy Morgan, for inviting me into their world, just as the Chapman girls invited me with them into the library so many years ago.
Through the years, and in particular, during the last nine on my author journey, I’ve been in many libraries, large and small, in a variety of cities and towns and settings from A to Z—Attica to Zionsville. Each library and its personnel and patrons come with a distinct vibe and personality. I love how they are not all the same, but rather, quite the opposite of the same!
It is a blessing to see that the first library I ever entered remains in good hands.
I think the good people of Ukraine are showing us all regardless of our political stripe, that it is good to love your homeland, good to feel a link with a place and a people. Good to value your roots.
I’ve always felt those things about my little slice of the sweet land of Union County, Indiana. A little farm community? You betcha: the permanent address of my heart.
And ... where I'll be on Sunday:
SPRINGPORT-I knew that Friday would be a treat. Not only that hostess Cindy Bay's beautiful noon meal of nibbles, individual salads, hot chicken salad, and a chocolate and ice cream dessert (don't tell on me at WW) would be delicious, served on her vintage spring lily of the valley plates, but that the conversation would be lively, and the laughter sweet.
This is the third time the Literary Lounge Book Club had me in for a discussion about a book I wrote. Book clubs are a blast, and it is an author's honor for her book to be featured. But this one had a highly unique twist: That the cover image created by artist Marilyn Witt is modeled -- literally -- after Cindy.
Marilyn and Cindy are both artists and they paint together in New Castle one day a week. Cindy posed for Marilyn to paint the image of a woman at the top of the stairs inside her attic that appears on the cover. So Cindy was there from the ground up.
Guests shared special heirlooms of their own as we chatted and discussed the book and the various ways they related to my chapters about our stored stuff. I made a video of them talking about their treasures but my videography needs some work as I moved the camera in too many different directions and it doesn't look so hot. If I can edit it, I hope to eventually post it. Live and learn.
They shared lovely stories from grandparents' wedding cake toppers, to a first edition of Ben- Hur, vintage jewelry that sparkles in perfect style today, and so much more. Loved our time together.
Look at the way Cindy served sweet little salads.
I'll do a separate post this week about my Saturday at the Union County Public Library as soon as I get the photos together. Today is a major catch-up day! Yesterday I booked another program, and this week a church service group I'm involved with resumes, and the Writer Chicks Society meets Thursday. On Sunday afternoon, I'll be at the Hamilton East Public Library at the FORUM Events Center, 11313 USA Pkwy, Fishers, near IKEA. So I'll have more on that, too.
It's all part of an idie-author spring "book tour." I'm enjoying the ride. Thank you Literary Lounge Book Club! Read on, ladies.
I know. I'm retired. And retirees are supposed to have all the time in the world, right? Maybe someday, but not these days. I intend to devote a blog a week to the journey I'm on with There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. But folks, I'm typing as fast as I can, and I'm still behind!
I've picked up three new bookings and one possible one since yesterday afternoon. That means corresponding with the persons issuing the invitations, getting it squared away with our mutual calendars, and confirming the specific type of program they want, or maybe a discussion, or something else. Then sending some "press kits," the fancy term for information and photos.
All of that is wonderful, but leaving me behind on this blog, and on the programs I'm creating for upcoming outings.
Last week was about as perfect of a warm March day as an indie author can get. Loretta Sutherland and staff at the Sheridan Public Library had everything in perfect order when I arrived early to get my bearings. (A little secret: I love showing up early for library programs and soaking up the atmosphere.)
Arriving and setting up early allows me time to freshen up, set up my table, make sure a lectern and sound system are in place, and best of all ... visit with early arrivals.
Sheridan Readers are a great group. Some of the library patrons and book club members brought amazing heirlooms for a show-and-tell activity.
I didn't get all their permissions to show photos, so won't, but the stories generated from stuff include a yellowed newspaper ad for Sunkist Tuna. A lady's mother won $10,000 in the advertised contest and the money was life-changing for the family. A man displayed his Railroader grandfather's precision pocket watch; and there were gorgeous vintage post cards, and so much more.
Loretta's round table linen is in beautiful condition. She explained that part of its function was to cover the leftover food so that it could be left on the table following a meal.
As a personal bonus, son Ben was able to drop in for the program and help me pack up afterward. He enjoyed the early evening as well and then, we went to a late supper and enjoyed an hour together visiting.
If your book club or library would like to hear about my programs, give me a shout at email@example.com. Now back to my regular programming ... for the next stop on this journey.
What have I been up to for the past week or two? Prepping for the busy spring season of book presentations and all-out fun. By far, spring is the busiest time for my kind of indie author journey. It's filled with all sorts of opportunities to give a talk to a library book club (such as the Sheridan Readers), participate in a book discussion (and lunch!) with a home-based reading group; present a program and sign books in my hometown (Saturday, April 1) and speak at mother-daughter banquets. Also, work in a Red Hatters group, women's groups, and a state conference, and there you have my spring.
The prep involves writing new programs or tweaking others, gearing each to the particular audience or purpose of my invite. Between now and the start of summer, I have 14 gigs of various kinds. Each is an opportunity to interact with readers and to look for the blessing--because there always is one or many.
Prepping for a program involves more than script writing. It includes assessing what the host expects from my visit--not only in terms of content, but publicity--and what special needs are requested, such as a table to accommodate themed props that complement the book, copies of the book, a lectern, sound system, and other tech needs.
This morning I sent out three press releases for an upcoming venue. I view the releases as both a way to invite the public, but also a means of publicity for perhaps future invites. It's akin to throwing out a line and waiting for a nibble.
Every author approaches a book launch differently. Some might rent a facility, book a caterer, and mail out invites to guests for the official "launch." I would find that intimidating and prefer more of a soft launch approach in letting my various venues become my "launch."
The word "launch" is a bit of an unsettling term for me, personally. It feels as though there will be a big bang involved, the ground will shake, the earth will move. I'm not up to the pressure of that level of hype. I see "home-based" launches on programs, maybe C-Span at a rich author's Martha's Vineyard summer home or something. They sip cocktails and maybe someone plays the grand piano. That's not me.
So I move about the state when invited, and enjoy the journey, a soft launch.
This spring, I'll be in Sheridan, Springport, Liberty,, Fishers, New Castle, Knightstown, Selma, Hagerstown, Richmond, and Brookville--some, multiple times.
Meanwhile, here's a couple photos from what I've been up to recently.
March meeting of Writer Chicks Society met in the Fairmount Public Library. Shout out to Linda, the accommodating librarian who has permitted us to meet in her cozy library twice now. March hostess was Cathy, who arranged for our venue, a pitch-in chili meal, and guest speaker Gloria Doty.
Gloria's prolific work spans genres that include cowboy romance, devotions, children's books, and a memoir. Gloria has developed a loyal team that handle editing, cover design, and interior layout so that Gloria can focus on her writing.
She's a speaker, and is comfortable with what works for her. Learn more about the Fort Wayne-based author at www.facebook.com/gloriadotywriter or on her website, www.writingbygloria.com.
As indie authors, we're all about creative ways to get our books out there. I put it on social media when I'm headed to Henry County. I spent 31 years working in the communities there covering people's stories--and lives. I still write a twice-monthly column for the New Castle Courier-Times, two other daily papers, and for a news and sports blog.
When long-time reader Phyllis in Henry County called to tell me she would like a couple signed books, I promised to stop by that week on my way to New Castle. We had a nice visit, and she wanted to show me something.
When she opened the doors to her pie safe, inside were a variety of files ... at first I didn't understand what I was looking at. Look closely, and you might see that my name is on two thick, blue volumes. Those contain clippings from stories I have written over the decades.
Can I tell you that I was stunned? It fills a special place in my heart to know that my articles and columns have been clipped, saved, and preserved by a reader! Phyllis! I'm touched deeply. When I got into the car, I found she wrote the check for more than required. When I went back to the house to tell her and refund the excess--Phyllis said the $5 was a tip for delivering the books. Can you believe it? It was beyond a blessing to chat with her that day. Thank you, Phyllis.
The journey continues. Can we write the obituary for COVID? I think I shall give it a stab (pun intended) for my next newspaper column. It sure is good to get out and see everyone.
Pre-spring blessings to you all. See you down the road.
When you are indie published, the author hat comes off, and the marketing one goes on. Not only marketing, but the scheduling, speechwriting, and distribution hats.
One could work fulltime plus overtime to reach out to all the people, and do all the things, that the professionals recommend in the weeks following a book launch. But when you are one, and not a team, it takes time.
One thing I wanted to get to on my list was contact Kay Marrero of Fishers. Her Creek Readers group is composed largely--maybe exclusively--of retired teachers from the Fishers area.
Here's a funny story about networking. One would assume that Brian somehow connected me with this wonderful book club. He spent the bulk of his career as a Fishers educator. That would only make sense, right? But no!
It was a New Castle friend who connected me. Mary Malone's best friend is a Creek Reader. Mary shared my first book with her pal, Rita, who shared it with her book club. Mary picked me up one night and off we went to a meeting where we discussed the book. Can I even begin to tell you the thrill involved in being asked questions about your "baby," -- your book-- by interested readers?
Then they invited me in to do the same with the second novel.
Since that was five or six years ago, I wondered if the club was still going strong. I couldn't seem to find Kay's contact information! Well, again, Mary saved the day. She reached out to Rita, and Friday night, my cell phone rang. It was Kay, excited about the new book and by the way, she has the pick for May and it's There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.
She needed nine copies for the group. We met yesterday for the hand off.
Kay also plans to share Clydesdale with another book club she's in, the Fishers United Methodist Church. The club also read my novels. What fun it was, too, to meet with them for the discussion.
This is why I informally call my book journey my Tupperware party. One gathering leads to another. You never know where the ride will take you, or when it will end. You simply count your blessings and let the wind blow through your hair during the ride.
My calendar is full for March and April, with some May and one big June booking in place. It's time to write, write, and write some more programs. It is an honor when someone contacts me and says, "We were wondering if you would consider ..."
If you know me or have read Clydesdale, you know how ridiculous I am about a GOOD BOX. In the grocery store before meeting up with Kay to hand off the books, I spotted two empties inside some refrigerator doors. They looked perfectly sized for my books. I asked if I could have them and they didn't care.
I got home and gathered the nine copies for Kay. They nestled beautifully into one of these boxes.
"I can't get over how perfect those fit in there," said Brian.
"I know!" I beamed. "I will be going back to snag more of these."
Yes, these little book boxes are on my grocery list from now on. Thank you, Anderson Payless!
We Cronks love us a GOOD box.
Note: Henry County artist Marilyn Witt spent her career with the U.S. Postal Service, and then found a new adventure as an artist. She is on the go as she collects ideas for her art, then paints in her home studio or with other artists in New Castle. She also participates in competitions, and does all involved with her second-act career. Marilyn has created the cover art for all three of my books, including the new one, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. Enjoy a visit with Marilyn.
Q: Marilyn, what do you enjoy about being an artist?
A: Knowing that I am responsible for making someone else happy is one of the most fulfilling feelings a person can experience. Having the ability to move people intellectually or emotionally through something you have made.
It is a good feeling to witness my artwork making others feel or think something; watching someone respond to my artwork in a profound way is one of the best feelings for an artist.
By being an artist, I get to feel the invigorating energy of creativity. You are surrounded by beauty. You get to be surrounded by a community of other artists who share in your experiences.
Whether someone is learning how to become an artist or the artist has been creating for years, an artist community is filled with artists of all ranges and styles. What they have in common is a passion for the act of creating something new that adds value to your world.
And last, by being able to place a monetary value on your creations, you see the worth of what you've made in a dollar amount. Knowing someone will pay money to have your artwork is a special feeling.
Q. Were you artsy earlier in life before the empty nest?
A. I guess in a way I was artsy. I was always doodling, even on my school papers, which wasn't always appreciated by my teachers. I thought more about being a musician or singer, though, when I was younger.
I played the piano and violin and still play the piano. The only thing I considered when younger in the visual arts was being a dress designer. I still wish at times I had pursued it. I drew and cut out outfits for my paper dolls, even sewing or gluing on them bits of lace, rickrack, or tiny beads.
Then when I began sewing, I made clothes for my dolls, and for my cats. I always enhanced my own clothing and my children's. I also designed and made costumes for community theater for the Guyer Opera House.
I didn't begin painting until my children graduated from high school and I began taking art classes at Indiana University East.
Q. What's it like being a cover artist?
A. One of the purposes of a book cover is to draw the attention of curious readers. The book- cover artist needs to be sure that each book cover created is both representative of the contents and spirit of the book and also be attention-grabbing when surrounded by all the other books.
It needs to capture the attention of the reader.
It is interesting and fun to create and design a cover that coincides with the author's visions for their work. I enjoy the challenge of working with the artist and learning their thoughts. Besides, you get to be the first one to read the book.
Q. What was the experience of designing There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go like?
A. This is the third book cover I have created for Donna. I enjoyed them all, but this one has been the most challenging, stressful at times, fun, and I think, the most rewarding experience for me, as an artist, of all of them.
It needed to be a unique design and include all the features in the attic to express the mood of the author's writing and the essence of the story.
Coming up with the items for the cover attic that were in the stories in the book was a lot of fun. Next was to design them in a way that is representative of the contents of the book and attention-grabbing when readers are skimming the bookstore shelves.
I wanted a "wow" factor. I think that was the lady with her hands on her hips wondering what in the world she was going to do with all this.
Donna gave me the idea and I had to make her just right. Maybe the hardest thing for me was making sure I didn't overload this one and make it too busy. After all, nearly anything can be in an attic, but this was one particular attic. Or maybe the most difficult was those rafters.
The most enjoyable part was working with the author. Donna knew what she wanted and shared her vision.
I was able to develop a few ideas too for how the cover should look. In the end, I think it was a great experience. I hope for both of us.
Note from Donna: Yes it was, Marilyn. And I can't thank you enough. It is an honor to work with you.
Marilyn is a member of numerous national and local art organizations. Her paintings are in various private and corporate collections in numerous states. Her work may be seen in the Brown County Art Gallery.
Married to Dennis, the couple farm near Straughn. Their family includes a son and a daughter along with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Marilyn is active in her church and community.
Connect with her on her website, marilynwittart.com or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.