About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Wish List for My Grandchildren at Christmas

May you never underestimate yourselves but always overestimate the effort
it takes to fulfill your own expectations;

May you search deep inside to find out what is important and then
let go of things that are not;

May you have enough self-esteem to recognize your mistakes
and correct them;

May you share good times and bad with loved ones and continually
reach out to show how important they are to you;

May you find one good friend who will last a lifetime;

May you speak your mind with respect and listen with equal respect;

May you never be exclusionary and always complimentary;

May you judge others not by superficial things,
like the color of their skin or their clothes or dwellings,
but by their actions;

May you forgive easily;

May you marvel at the world that surrounds you and
actively protect it;

May you one day walk in the shoes of someone less fortunate;

May you spend time with an elderly person to learn wisdom,
patience, and companionship;

May you learn early that life is not fair, but that you can
deal with what comes;

May you never feel entitled to material things,
just because you are lucky enough to have
generous parents (and grandparents) who would happily grant
your every wish;

May you never feel entitled to arrogance,
just because you have achieved successes;

May you discover your unique talents and follow them
to the end of a dream;

May you develop a love of books and learning for its own sake;

May you find someone who will love you and make you feel
safe forever, as I did;

And may that person kiss and hug you in front of people
and always hold your hand!

REMEMBER, YOU HAVE MAGIC INSIDE EACH OF YOU!
With lots of love this Christmas, Granny Pam 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Keeping Up

I know a writer should write every day. I can confirm the benefits. My Palm Beach Writers Group can confirm the benefits. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you must sit down every day at the same time, with no distractions. Your manuscript will begin to flow if you block off several hours. By returning to the work the next day at the same time, simple grammatical errors, timewarps, or contradictions in plot and character will appear glaring. Similarly, the storyline will flow more easily. It is a job to be taken seriously.

I have not been able to do this lately. First of all, we were flying to join our family in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. I took up some Christmas gifts, all wrapped, since we will be returning for Christmas. Nothing was more important than our visit or the preparation.

Now, with Christmas upon us, I am almost ready. We will again be leaving Florida and the gifts are done. Although we are not putting up a tree this year, there are Christmas decorations all around our apartment. I have begun working on Christmas cards. In addition, we are seeing visitors who come down from up north and local friends for dinner. We will have a cocktail party.

I know that neither the holidays nor regularly scheduled activities nor exercise routines are excuses not to write. The final straw to keep me from writing is the extraneous stuff necessary each day to be a writer - the blogs, the emails, the websites, the newsletters, etc.

The blogs are necessary and informative that appear in my "Inbox" every day. They are from publishing groups, agents, and marketing specialists and I have subscribed to them all. I need them for specific agent listings and insights into the writing/publishing process. But do I need them to appear EVERY SINGLE DAY?? Some of them are so repetitive that it's just too much.

In addition, there are the two local writers' groups I belong to. One is informational and a terrific support group. That group validates me as a published author. The other is a critique group. The writers in the critique group are honest, positive, and insightful. Both groups meet once a month, and I really enjoy them. Right now, though, there is no downtime to even READ a book.

I'm not complaining. I'll prioritize. It's just that there's so much more to writing than just writing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Am I Too Old for This?


I just attended the Fla. Writer's Conference near Orlando. Like any conference, the three days were packed with double-session seminars, speeches, and meetings with agents/publishers. It was very well-organized and illuminating, but discouraging.

Prior to attending, I had submitted my memoir, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS (published in 2009), to the state-wide contest for that genre. In July I was notified that I was a finalist!

I didn't get my hopes up, but was pretty excited. The Writer's Association told us it would announce the winners at the banquet during the conference. Which they did. It seemed everyone in attendance was a finalist in one of the categories - 300 people! The winner in my category, including biography and autobiography, told the tale of a child kidnapped in 1939 from her aristocratic, Catholic family by the Nazis. No competing with that!! I moved on!

We listened to speakers describe the wreck of an industry - publishing - and the growth of ebook sales. I knew all this firsthand, since New River Press, a division of which published MOM, is no longer in business. My ebook sales weren't even worth mentioning, though paperback versions have sold 70% of the first printing (1500). We listened to marketing experts describe the necessity for authors to have blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook, and "Fans of ---." I already had that. I moved on!

We listened to flip agents from California use buzz-words (nonfiction must have a "platform" and every first page must have a "hook") and tell first-time writers that their expectations were entirely personal - i.e., if they succeeded in creating a manuscript that didn't sell, they should feel satisfied! None of us were there to hear that. Move on!

I met three other women writers my age and together we rocked! We laughed at the repetitious "we love ya'll's" of the FWA President on the microphone and made snide comments about the numerous awards in Young Adult Fiction (that's what's selling!) and Horror Fiction (that's what's selling!). We moved on!

None of my three buddies have been published. However, the former newspaper reporter had previously won a $1000 writing prize. Two of the others had submitted their short stories to the Writer's Association annual anthology and gotten accepted. My submission had not. I moved on!

Among the four of us, three had elderly parents they were either caring for or had cared for. We all anticipated that would be the subject matter of our next manuscript. Two of my buddies met with agents. Verdict: as a subject, the elderly is flooded, aka LOSING MUM AND PUP and STILL ALICE. Move on!

I have conscientiously read Nathan Bransford's blog for several years to learn the most concise, accurate info on how to get published. Nathan is a literary agent for Curtis Brown and his young-adult novel, JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, will soon be published. That should have told me something! Nathan held a contest for five guest bloggers to take his spot while he was on vacation. I submitted an entry. I know I'm way, way over the hill, but I still write English, don't I? The winning entries were HIP!! A guest blogger sat in Starbucks and talked about the new genre she was writing in - a "cozy." Another answered the question, "Who would be your literary BBF?" with the following: Alice Cullen from TWILIGHT and Harriet the Spy from NANCY DREW MYSTERIES.

At least I got something out of the conference. On the solitary ride home for three-plus hours, I decided to finish the manuscript I'm working on, then take it in a whole different direction! Or should I move on to bridge??

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Hard Work of Creativity

Writers understand the joy that comes from investing onesself in the creative process. In fact, that could be said of anyone who totally immerses himself in his work. Artists, inventors, performers, architects, teachers - the list is endless - know that hard work becomes FUN when they completely lose themselves in the process. These creative moments lift us out of the everyday into a zone where focus is fixed on a particular spot - a sentence on the computer screen or a ridge on a sculpture or a brushstroke on a canvas or a pencil line on a paper or the faces in a classroom. It is something we are driven to do.

But the work doesn't come without effort, discomfort, and sometimes pain (physical cramping, carpal tunnel, etc). Technically perfect work may not display greatness. The discomfort of doing and redoing, working and reworking, is what distinguishes quality from mediocrity. It is the fourth draft of a written work that is again revised into the fifth draft that may give the effort its finishing touches.

Dedication is not an easy thing to describe. It demands discipline and mental toughness. Sacrifices must be made to see a project through those finishing touches. I write because I love to express myself, and I think I have something worthwhile to pass on. It is a slow process, and must not be rushed.

I am not competing with a clock or with any other writers. I have plenty of time in my retirement years. Fortunately, I do not have to rely on the income (thank goodness!) to write. I am merely competing with myself. I want to leave something lasting during my lifetime.

I have no doubt I can go the extra mile and maintain a positive attitude while I produce better and better writing in my second book. The work is only one-third done and is far from perfect. Yet I know when the manuscript is finished, it is not finished. I will make extra, uncomfortable efforts at revision. It may mean the difference between being published again or remaining unpublished.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Best Is Yet to Be!

Who knew what a fantastic summer this would be! Here in New England we had two spectacular months of sunshine - July and August - ranging in temperatures from eighty to one hundred degrees. Not great for the electric bills, since we never turned off the a.c. from July 4th weekend until mid-August, but for any outdoor plans, the weather never failed. Even the sixty-six-degree temperatures in Buzzard's Bay didn't cool us off some weeks.

Charley and I started the summer in June by exploring a different part of Italy we had never been to - Puglia. It is located on the heel of Italy's boot on the Adriatic, and we were not disappointed. There were olive groves as far as the eye could see, gorgeous sand beaches (both deserted and mobbed), converted farmhouse hotels that served locally-grown produce, and architectural wonders seen nowhere else in the world. Two examples of the latter were the beehive "trulli" homes, built of local limestone with slate roofs and never a nail or mortar. These dated from the 13th century. There was also a city of cave-like dwellings or "sassi" homes, dating from the Bronze Age. We topped off our stay in Italy by returning via hydrofoil to our favorite island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples.

Following the annual July 4th parade, gathering at our beach, and cookout, our two new fraternal grandsons were born. They weighed six pounds four ounces and five pounds thirteen ounces each. Today, at seven weeks, they are both inching up on ten pounds. Charley and I are astounded by the miracle of TWO healthy births at once, following the succession of three healthy granddaughters' arrivals within the last five years. We have spent a total of ten days with the boys and their sister, and can't wait to return.

There has never been a happier time in our lives! Charley and I are still enjoying each other's company after forty-five years(!), active on the golf course and tennis courts, seeing old friends and making new ones, and ENJOYING each opportunity to have granddaughters jump into our arms in a pool or zoom over and over again into our arms down a slide, collect periwinkles with us at the beach, play miniature golf together, or put on singing and dancing performances any time the urge arises (which is frequently!). Although I have not accomplished as much writing on my next book as I'd hoped, what's more important than LIFE? Who knows what will happen next!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Awaiting the News

We are expecting twin grandsons in N.J. sometime between now and early August. Our son (the expectant father) has told me to keep my phone charged and with me at all times. He is going down a list of "Things to do before the boys arrive," and is, understandably, edgy. So far it seems the list is getting accomplished: the upstairs floors have been refinished and walls painted, cribs are set up, baby clothes (received as gifts) are washed and put away, double stroller is on loan from a friend, car seats are installed in the new mini-van, his wife is registered at the hospital, and the doctor's appointments have gone by without incident. Each grandson is already five ++ pounds at thirty-five weeks.

Our daughter-in-law is calm and asserts she is still feeling reasonably comfortable, thanks to air-conditioning in the 90 to 100-degree temperatures they've been having. She is even going into the lab a couple of days a week.

We all have our assignments. The neighbor next door has agreed to take the two-and-one-half year old sister, who will be deposited there with the neighbor's four children when mom and dad take off for the hospital. The other grandma has the assignment to retrieve our granddaughter from the neighbor when she gets the call. She lives just fifty minutes away. "When will you see the boys?" I asked.

"When you arrive," she answered. Since we are six hours away, our assignment will be to notify those not yet given the call, then to hop in the car and begin driving. I asked our son if we could stay in a hotel near the hospital, since grandma #1 will be unpacked in the guest room. "We have made room for all of you!" was the answer. Fortunately, we get along famously with grandma #1, since we will be bonding closely.

We will visit briefly while mom and babies are in the hospital, then head home when they are released. Next assignment: to return indefinitely when grandma #1 wants some rest! We are on an alternating schedule for the remainder of the summer. With our son taking time off from work, there will be at least three of us to help while Charley and I are there. Fatigue will gradually diminish the excitement, I'm sure. But for now, we're all busy trying to stay busy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Serenity

Since my husband and I will be travelling for several weeks, I thought I'd post a last-minute blog before signing off till the end of this month.

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, we had the entire family with us at the beach in Massachusetts. There were our two sons, our two daughters-in-law, three granddaughters, and two EXPECTED twin boys, due in early August.

The weather was idyllic - hot sun, with no humidity. Definitely beach weather, which is where we sat for two out of three days. In-between, of course, three little girls, ages five and under, sampled swingsets and slides, supplied the bird feeder and hosed the perennial beds, had LOTS of wagon rides in the yard while licking ice cream with sprinkles, and sat over-looking boats, sliding across the water, while we waited...and waited...and waited at a restaurant for our dinner.

One of our sons was getting over a sinus infection; a daughter-in-law had an ear infection; the other son and a granddaughter had chest coughs. Charley and I prayed we wouldn't get sick just before leaving for a college reunion and a European trip. All of that was forgotten in an instant.

The perfect moment - the moment that will be etched in my memory bank for a long, long time - was when three little girls all cooperated to build a sand castle, collecting rocks for windows and turrets, while their dads scooped the sand into buckets and their moms in beach chairs supervised, amid their chatting. This was the moment of serenity when I thought to myself, "Life can get no better than this!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reentry

We have finished our "snowbird" move from Florida to Massachusetts. The older we get, the more effort it takes! We will remain in Massachusetts for four months, but the transition has taken a week.

I am certainly not complaining!! We are among the fortunate ones to have two residences to enjoy, especially in this economy. We try to forget our age in the process.

But there are way too many boxes and suitcases to unpack from the SUV. I still have not learned to bring the minimal amount of clothes for each location. Charley (my husband) claims he is brought along simply to drive his shifts and to load and unload the car! The files, papers, folders, computer equipment, and everything related to my book sales took up half the space in the car and then we have to find locations for all of it once we arrive. Which means throwing out a lot of stuff I never look at, just to put the other stuff from the car away. The floors are littered.

Then there are the things that don't work when we walk in. This time, there was no hot water, no water pressure in the master shower, no cable, and the floodlight outside our bedroom kept going on and off all night. Oh yes, we also had (and still do) a running toilet. So we take turns waiting for the plumber, electrician, and cable guy.

Did I mention that my beloved husband of forty-five years (next month) left the trunk door up on the SUV as he drove it into the garage, after we had driven 1500 miles? And smashed the entire back window? And claimed it was NOT because he was tired? Mind you, this is MY car that I drive every day, but THANK GOODNESS it wasn't me pulling into the garage! There were tiny fragments of glass in every crevice of the car, all over the garage, and scattered out onto the driveway. We are still tracking them into the house. The windshield wiper was torn off and its motor disabled. The entire first afternoon after our arrival we spent with the dealer and insurance adjuster. Fortunately, we got a loaner and four days later (and almost $500 later, after deductible) I got my car back.

Summer is wonderful...truly!! I look at the green expanse of golf course leading down to Buzzard's Bay, and every time am convinced that I've never seen anything so beautiful. Not to mention that we are now just over an hour away from two of our adorable granddaughters! So now that the first week's reentry is over, I'll shut up and enjoy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Writer's Hardest Task

I am looking out the window of our Florida condo and seeing a glistening aqua pool that beckons. Since it is ninety-something degrees in early May, the beach is packed. I'm retired from the interior design business and from teaching high school. So what am I doing sitting at a computer instead of enjoying the Florida sunshine?

I am making myself sit here to work on some chapters on the new book I started. It is about my parents, who lived to be ninety and ninety-five, with sound minds and bodies. This memoir will reconstruct the last three months of each of their lives, the months when our roles reversed and I became the caregiver for all the surgeries, hospitalizations, rehab unit, and nursing homes.

But this memoir will also reconstruct some of the hilarious things my parents did...some of the idiosyncrasies that we as their kids used to make fun of, and are now repeating...some of the reasons we remember them so well and loved them so deeply, despite what happened during the last ninety days.

A writer's hardest task? To make myself sit down every day and produce something on the computer screen, despite the distractions and the temptations. I know that almost every job takes self-discipline, and being a writer most certainly does. It is the satisfaction of production that far outweighs lounging on the beach or swimming a few laps. Those relaxing moments come eventually, after I know I've put in a good morning/afternoon of work. Self-discipline comes after years of practice. I taught my classrooms of kids the tricks, and I taught our own kids. It's a great leveller, too, since a lot of people without superb talent have the self-discipline to work harder to even the playing field.

Bottom line? I love what I'm doing, so I don't mind putting in the effort and missing out on a few things. The product is definitely worth the sacrifice. In other words, put the butt on the seat, and make something happen!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Question Most Often Asked





I was recently honored to be on a panel in Cambridge, Mass., with our younger son Todd and Tom Brady, Sr., along with Nancy Brady (Patriot quarterback's father and sister). We had lots of things in common and the audience learned some insider stories about the famous quarterback and the support group that is his family. During the question and answer session, an audience member asked the question that I am most frequently asked after publishing MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS(the story of Todd and his brother in the minor league system from rookie team through "AAA"). We were asked, "When did you know your sons were elite athletes?"

My answer is always the same. As a mom, you keep hoping that your kids have the skills to simply make the team at the next level! Never once did it cross our minds while they were growing up that they would enter the ranks of the pros. After all, we lived in a small town in Rhode Island, and although Tim and Todd were both on all-star baseball and ice-hockey teams, we had a rather small circle of comparison. Our goals athletically never looked beyond the team at the next higher level. Finally, when Tim and Todd were in college and playing intercollegiate ball, we had a more legitimate basis for comparison. At that point, when college coaches were telling us they might be good enough to play professionally, we listened. The major league scouts at the game were tracking them, but they were tracking a lot of other players, too.

Of course, we facilitated our sons' wishes to play at each new level. They attended baseball camp at the University of Maine and hockey camp at Providence College during the summers, and still played all-star baseball and hockey eleven months a year. When college coaches began recruiting them, we took them to a selection of schools to meet the coaches. It was instant like or dislike.

Tom Brady, Sr., agreed with me. He had no idea if Tom would ever continue to play after a disappointing freshman year in high school. Tom was the backup freshman quarterback in San Mateo, California. "Tommy rarely made it off the bench, never threw a touchdown, and his team never even won a game that season," he said. But Dad hired private coaches, sent him to camps, and produced a recruiting video so Tom, Jr., would earn a scholarship to the University of Michigan.

Tom, Jr., was in love with football, just like Tim and Todd loved baseball. Tom was a back-up quarterback at Michigan with big-league dreams. "You don't limit their horizons because of your horizons," Tom, Sr., told the audience. "We got our chance. Now they get their chance."

I added a P.S. to that story: have a back-up plan! In our home, education was the top priority. That was one of my jobs as a mom: to make sure they stayed focused on their studies. Our expectations as parents became their expectations. My other job was always to support their performance on the field, and not to criticize. There were coaches to do that.

In Tom Brady, Jr.'s, case, he probably won't need a back-up plan. But when the seven years of minor league ball were over, Tim and Todd did. By that time, Charley and I knew our kids were gifted athletes, but there were lots of other things they had gifts for, too.
...with thanks to Brooke deLench for her blog on MomsTeam.com

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ripples of Connection

There's a quote from a memoir I read entitled TALES FROM THE BED by Jenifer Estess, as told to Valerie Estess. It goes like this: "It isn't what you know, but how you perform. Skills are the essential piece of the puzzle. They help you deliver the goods."

During the last year, I have been consumed with my book that was published in April, '09, entitled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. I thought I had "delivered the goods" by writing a unique story and a readable one, then finding a publisher interested in getting it on the market. Turns out that was only step one! Marketing the book became a full-time job - book signings, radio and tv appearances, etc., etc. All of which was new to me, fun, and certainly interesting. The marketing took on a life of its own (and overtook mine in the process) and proved to be another challenge in which I had to (and still am) "delivering the goods."

The impact of publishing a book cannot be imagined beforehand. In a previous blog, I described reconnecting with a former minor league player who was on the Red Sox with our two sons in the '90's. I had written about this player, who is now a Little League coach in Florida. He's coaching a kid whose mom had read my book and contacted us. We surprised the coach with a visit.

This past week more ripples surfaced. I heard from two of my former high school English students, both from Old Town, Maine. They had heard about the book and tracked me down on the internet. Their sentiments and compliments about turning them on to the written word in the classroom (and making them memorize Shakespeare!)touched me greatly after all these years. As I told them, a teacher can remember his/her failures in the classroom with great clarity, so it is hugely satisfying to learn of the successes, as well. I guess at some point during my teaching years I had "delivered the goods."

I sincerely hope the ripples continue, not only about the first book of mine, but about the next memoir that I am now starting. Let's hope I can "deliver the goods!"

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sustaining an Injury

On April 22nd at 6:30 p.m. I will participate in a panel discussion in Cambridge, Mass., with our son Todd and Tom Brady's (the Patriot quarterback's) dad and, hopefully, his mom. Our son Todd, along with his older brother, were the subjects of my book published last April entitled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS (on Amazon). The subject of the panel discussion will be, "Parenting Elite Athletes."

I'm sure that somewhere in the discussion the topic of injuries will arise, particularly injuries in the pros, where jobs are at stake. Although I am not in that category, I would like to relate my recent experience with a back injury.

I am a grandmother who works fairly hard to stay in shape. I have played on a tennis team at a rather high level for twenty years. We compete all around South Palm Beach County, Florida, from September till the middle of May. I have worked out at a fitness center twice a week for the same number of years, and I play golf twice a week. Sevven days a week I am running off to compete or exercise, including four-mile walks with my husband. I live to play sports, which are a huge component of my life, along with my family, and writing/marketing my book. Many of our current friendships today were made on the courts.

When my mother was in her eighties, she suffered from osteoporosis, then dislocated and herniated discs. Her will power enabled her to exercise faithfully for three months in a pool. This was a godsend, which kept her free of surgery till she was ninety. At that time, she cracked a vertebra, and the angioplasty (gluing procedure) which had worked for my father, unfortunately, had unforeseen consequences for my mother. After a piece of vertebra fractured off into the spinal column during angioplasty, she sustained two emergency surgeries and could not regain her strength. Ninety-two days after entering the hospital for the first operation, she passed away.

I have just experienced my first back problem, and it is purely a result of my mother's genes. Fortunately, I don't have osteoporosis, but I have a herniated and dislocated disc which has put me out of action for five weeks already.

When people say they experience back pain from stenosis or sciatica, I now know what they are suffering. The back is so fragile, and yet we put so much pressure on it with gigantic purses, books, cartons, groceries, even children and grandchildren that are too heavy for us. We do not lift with our legs, but instead with our backs. Women's heels put the back at an unnatural angle. I have learned that any treatment for the back is a matter of TIME and exercise, and the mending cannot be rushed.

I refused cortisone shots (a stopgap measure, in my view, and dangerous if too many) and stopped all activity. I entered five weeks of physical therapy; I wore a brace; I used a heating pad and always wore (and still do) sneakers for support. In order to sleep with the pain going down my leg, I bought a hard, contoured foam pillow to put between my legs to keep my spine straight. I swam laps five-six days/week. And I succumbed to taking an anti-inflammatory pill for one week, before I discontinued it because of warnings about stroke, cardio-vascular disease, and bleeding ulcerations.

Did I have withdrawal symptoms while I couldn't play team tennis? NO! I was too busy swimming laps in the pool; reading books I had piled up for months; and starting to organize the writing of my second manuscript. I actually loved the time off from the treadmill! Of course, I'm counting down the days till I step back on the court, but it will be a friendly social tennis game, not a competitive match. The matches might return eventually. One thing I've learned: you can't rush the mending of your body. Oh yes, I learned another thing: to get off the treadmill and do some things that are on your "bucket list."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reconnecting after 17 Years

The phone rang and my husband answered. "Yes," he said, "I am the husband of Pam Carey. Who is this?"

(Pause.) "Sorry, I don't recognize the name."

We were getting used to that kind of call, since the publication of my book, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Community events people called to book a signing/presentation; publicists called to enlist me as a client.

"Just a minute," Charley said, "I'll give her the phone."

"Hello?" I inquired.

"Hi! This is Becky Kaczman, and you don't know me, but I have just read your book and have a boy playing Little League on Hillsboro Boulevard. I wanted to connect with you because my son's team is coached by Marty Durkin, and he is mentioned in your book!"

Here's what happened next: Charley and I made a trip to the baseball fields down Hillsboro Boulevard, in Florida, about thirty minutes from where we live. We wanted to see the coach of a kid we didn't even know. Why? Because of our fond memories of the years our two sons played pro baseball with Marty Durkin during Red Sox spring training and Fla. State games; because of the many hours we spent in the stands with his parents, huge baseball nuts and supportive parents; because of the memory of one huge spread, complete with Honeybaked Ham and all the fixinigs, his mom put out at their house in Ft. Lauderdale for our Red Sox team; and because of this mom, Becky, who was now living my life and trying to surprise her son's coach by our appearance.

Marty's team got clobbered, but we didn't care. Our surprise visit was special - seeing his wife again, meeting his middle son, talking about minor league days and where everyone was now. We threw names of former players around that we've seen or kept in touch with. We talked about Marty's three sons, who all play baseball, and about his parents, who still live in the same house and are allowing Marty's oldest son to live with them so he can attend Cardinal Gibbons High School, to play on the same team as his dad.

If anyone were to ask me the benefits of our kids' participation on a sports team, I would probably not list reunions high on the list. But for several hours last weekend, it was right up there at the top. And Marty had even purchased his own copy of the book! Thanks, Becky!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Life's Evershifting Focus

As Judith Barrington wrote in Writing the Memoir, "life doesn't have a shapely plot in the way that fiction often does. It goes on day by day with an ever-shifting focus as various themes unfold over time."

The plan I had laid out for myself this winter was to begin to shape my next book, a memoir about my parents. I had all the material in journals (an old writing and teaching habit), as well as the memories of my parents' funny habits and the caregiving decisions that became necessary during their last several months.

When I sat down to organize the notes, I realized I was not ready. I had more caregivers' memoirs to read and research to do; I had a data base to collect from the sales of my previous book (Minor League Mom: A Mother's Journey through the Red Sox Farm Teams). My new writing project still waits for a narrative.

Then, suddenly, I was in pain. The bulging discs in my back had erupted and one had moved one-half inch. I had trouble walking, let alone competing in tennis and golf matches or going through my routines at the fitness center. So began the rounds of doctor's appointment, x-rays, physical therapy, and swimming laps....

Interrupted by a trip to New Jersey to celebrate a granddaughter's belated second birthday and on to Massachusetts to celebrate another's belated fifth birthday.
Life didn't have a shapely plot. I had trouble picking the three little girls up, and went to bed with heating pad, Advil, and Stop-Pain for my aches. But oh, it was so worth the effort!

I have another memory bank to draw from now - one of little girls putting on a "Disney on Ice" show complete with three changes of costume; a two-year-old getting up from her crib in the morning yelling, "Grandmaw, where are u?"; a beach party in the middle of the kitchen floor with sunblock, cardgames, towels, and snacks; a pre-school breakfast for parents, etc., etc.

The pain had to wait, and so did my writing project. Day by day there was an ever-shifting focus, one that I didn't want to miss.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

HOMEWORK: Reading, 'Rithmetic, Then 'Riting





Like any other project, I cannot just dive right into it. It's the same with studying Italian or building a shed or learning to drive. There's homework that comes first to build up my skills and to learn how to structure the project.

My new project is writing another book. It will be about my parents, who lived into their nineties with healthy minds and bodies. The focus will be the funny, idiosyncratic things they did that made us laugh and remember them, before the caregiving started. That last part will have to be in there too, since the point of the book will be that I had a memory bank to draw from when the tables reversed themselves and things got rough.

I thought I was ready to begin writing. I have all the notes and journals I kept for those last years of their lives, right up until they passed away almost exactly one year apart. But I wasn't ready. I hadn't done all my homework.

I had not READ some of the books published about caring for elderly parents. Naturally, I don't intend to read them all, but at least some, that deal with the same subject about making difficult decisions with two remaining parents, then one. So I ordered a couple of them to see how they were structured and whether I had anything new to say. So far, my story and my viewpoint will be unique, as it should be. I am different, and so were my parents, from any of the other characters whose stories I have read. A publisher wants a new twist, even if it is an old story.

I had also not done the 'RITHMETIC necessary before starting this project. I had records from my previous publisher about the sales and expenses of my first book(MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS, published by Barking Cat Books, a division of New River Press). I knew I had to sell virtually the entire first printing of that book before we broke even. We are well on the way.

But the preparation for writing involved creating a data base ('RITHMETIC) for the next book. I have now spent a month and a half putting lists together: names, addresses, emails of people who bought the book; names, addresses, emails of group members I have had the opportunity to speak before; contacts for bookstores, libraries, clubs, colleges, where I have appeared and where I hope to appear; invitation lists for book signings, etc., etc. There are over 1,000 listings so far.

Finally, when these homework steps are complete, I will begin 'RITING. 'RITING the first draft from the journals I kept will be fun. I anticipate that the storytelling will flow easily. After all, I knew the subjects intimately, since it will be a memoir. Revisions and redrafts will follow.

When the manuscript is complete, that's when the hard work really begins. Finding a publisher interested in the story is like finding a needle in a haystack. Only perseverance and luck will make it happen. And then comes the marketing, after I sign on the dotted line. That's when all the homework will pay off.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT: be different




Why, I ask myself, would anyone want to read a book about a mother with two sons in the Red Sox minor leagues (MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS)? But they did! After ten months, my book has sold half of the first printing. I am astounded by this, so I analyze. I had read everything in print on the subject of minor league baseball before I started writing and discovered that I had a unique story to tell...a story of a family with two sons playing for the same pro team, with the same goal: becoming a major leaguer. Neither of them ever made it. There would be no instant name recognition to this story. Still, a mother's point-of-view was unique in the world of pro sports.

But my story also had to be readable. So I wrote my memoir in the best way I knew how. As a former writing teacher, I knew the pitfalls. I needed to have my sons, the two main characters, grab the reader's attention and sympathy. They are likable kids, smart and motivated, so that was no problem. There was plenty of family history to write about. Both boys worked so hard through the seven years in the Red Sox system, yet they were so different.

Now I am at a crossroads before beginning another memoir, this time about my elderly parents in their nineties - their funny habits and idiosyncracies, before the caregiving started. They were each healthy in mind and body until the last several months. However, I plan to chronicle the caregiving, too, since that lasted only a short time for each of them, and Ev and Walt died almost exactly a year apart. They would have passed together, if there was any way they could have planned it. I am still reading memoirs and essays published about caregiving for aging parents. I don't want to repeat what is already out there.

Here is the point. In order to do something different that a publisher will want to print and that readers will want to pick up, I've got to have a new twist, a new hook. And I do. Why? Because I am different from all those other caregivers, and my parents were different from all the other parents - loving toward their children and each other, set in their ways, yet able to charm and joke. They were fun to be around, and Walt's blue eyes created instant girlfriends among the women he met. My mom was sweet and smart, but had a real adamant streak when she decided someone had tried to get away with something. The memory bank I have is different from anyone else's.

It is this memory bank of funny stories that I will recount in order to show how I got through the end of the story. That is my twist. It is difficult enough to hold your parents in your arms while they make the transition. Without the memory bank, it would have been nearly impossible. I am different because my story is different. Isn't everyone's?

Friday, January 8, 2010

A NEW BEGINNING

HAPPY NEW YEAR! A new year, a new decade, a new lease on life after spending the holidays looking at things from the perspective of a toddler. Always puts the important things right back in front of my nose! What else? A new job for some, and certainly for me...a new book to start.

I'll begin something I look forward to - writing - just as others look forward to beginning a new task at work, or perhaps sowing the seeds of a new relationship. Why? Since the publication of my first memoir, MINOR LEAGUE MOM, part of my self-definition is that of a writer. I really enjoy the process. The other reason is that I like to challenge myself, like during a team tennis match or while travelling to a different part of the globe.

I don't agonize over what's ahead. I'm not nervous about how to begin, or what the theme of the writing will be. I've been collecting material my whole life, so there is no great abyss. I'm not staring at a blank page, wondering when the ideas will come. I don't create a huge block of granite in my mind that I must chip away at (though I do) by constant, steady work. Nor do I create a complicated outline (though I've got a rough outline in my mind). I just begin.

Where? At the farthest place back in the notes I have kept about my parents, the subjects of my next memoir. They lived into their nineties, healthy in mind and body. I have so many journals about the funny things they did, the things that gave us barrels of laughter and pleasure before the caregiving started, that I can jump in almost anywhere. I'll give as much background as necessary during the telling.

Everybody's got a memory bank to draw from. Some of it may be disposable, some of it precious. But we've all got talents and successes that make us unique. Or memories! Maybe it was a childhood friend who stood by us, maybe a family member we could confide in, maybe a mentor or teacher who believed in us. Everyone's got a reservoir to draw from to start over or redo. Dig down and take a look, even if you didn't keep notes!

I'm excited, and why not? I'm a grandmother who takes one look at our granddaughters and falls in love every time. I have a husband of forty-three years I still adore. I'm fortunate enough to be healthy and involved in activites I enjoy. I have long-standing friendships with people I love, who love me back.

Getting the jitters about beginning a new book? No way! I'm lucky to get the chance to start over. There have been other, far more daunting phases of life when starting over involved a lot more than just looking at a blank page.