Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Happens Next?


At church this morning, I got a nice compliment from a friend. Well, actually a couple of nice comments. One, she said she'd finished my book, Angel Sister in the wee hours of the morning. True, she does have trouble sleeping sometimes, but at least I didn't put her to sleep. But before she told me that she looked over at me - we're pew sharers - and said "Where did she, that woman live? Their house was gone, wasn't it? And what about Lorena? Where did she live?" At first I didn't know what she was talking about. What woman? Then I realized she meant Fern in my story. But she was asking the questions like Fern and Lorena were neighbors down the road and they had kept on living after she read "The End." And that's a good thing for me.
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Of course the characters were very real to me and I still find myself thinking about their story, replaying it and living it over with them. And I did imagine what happened to them later after the story I wrote down was through. And no, I'm not telling what that was. First, who knows? I might still get the chance to write the "rest of their story." Second, once you as a reader have read the story and taken the characters into your minds and hearts, then you can have the fun of deciding what happens next.
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I visited a book club a year or so ago. The readers were discussing The Believer. It was so interesting to sit there hearing the conversation going on around me about what Ethan and Elizabeth did next. They were delving into motivations, possibilities, and consequences that I hadn't pulled out into the open in my own mind. I could see what they meant, but I hadn't really consciously thought about it in the way they were. Again, that's a good thing for a writer. Especially a writer like me who does a lot of story navigating by instinct.
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People will ask me what's the theme of my story. I rarely know what to say. Maybe a good answer would be life. Of course a need to forgive or get forgiveness often runs through my stories, but that's a major part of living life. Forgiveness, love, dreams, faith, sorrow, hope, joy - all part of life.
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Somebody once told me that I was a storyteller, and I think that is what I am. I'm telling a story and if in that story I can show how faith and hope and forgiveness makes a difference in my characters' lives, then that's a bonus. Some of you may think that's awful. That I should be thinking more about my theme, my message, but I believe that shows up in the life stories. That it will show up in anybody's story - fictional or actual. Our faith journeys are important and what's important to us needs to be important to our characters. I like being able to write about that part of my characters' lives. And I feel blessed when readers tell me that one of my stories has them taking a closer look at their own faith journey. But I don't plan it out. I just write the story and trust the Lord to do the rest.
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So I'm glad my friend wanted to know what was going to happen next to Lorena and Fern. My story ended but life stories don't. Even when someone passes on, so much of that person is left behind with his or her family. Their influence, their love, their story continues on. So Lorena is out there, living the rest of her story in my imagination and maybe in yours. One thing sure, every night before she goes to bed she says, "My name is Lorena Birdsong."
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What do you think? Do the characters you read about live on? Do you give them futures in your imagination?
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Thank you so much for reading. Talk to you again on Wednesday. I'll have drawn for a winner for the gift cards by then. But if you send me an e-mail right away you can still get your name in the hat.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Writing and Reading Friends at Joseph-Beth's



A writer spends a lot of time alone with her keyboard. Well, not exactly alone. She's surrounded by characters. Sometimes those characters are chatty and ready to get on with their stories, and other times, the characters are obstinate as old mules in going through the gate of an author's story. But in spite of the imaginary madness spinning around an author, she's still the one staring at the computer screen or the blank page and wondering if the words are going to start flowing. It takes a long time for most of us writers to write a book. Some are faster at spilling out the words than others. Me, it takes me anywhere from six months to a year to write a book. Right now I'm hoping on the six month side since my next deadline is going to show up before very many more months go by. So that's a lot of time alone with my keyboard.
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Actually I don't mind being alone with my keyboard. I much prefer to write when I'm alone in my office and it's good to be alone in the house without the distraction of a television in the other room or doors slamming. But most writers don't live alone and we have to learn to adjust to a little interfering noise. I have heard of some writers who go check themselves into a hotel for a few days to get that alone I've-got-to-get-it-done time. I'd probably just be distracted by the noise out in the hallways then.
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But I'm not talking about writing tonight. I know, it sure seemed like it, didn't it? But what I'm really wanting to talk about is our book launch at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. You see, a night like we were able to enjoy with our friends and family last night, well, that's the reward for all those many other days sitting in front of that computer and trying to dig words out of our brains. Virginia (Ginny) Smith and I launched our newest releases - hers A Deadly Game with a KY background and mine Angel Sister with a Depression era KY background - at the best bookstore in Lexington, maybe the state last night. It's the kind of bookstore where you can get lost in the stacks and wouldn't mind staying a few days if they didn't push you out at closing time.
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They have famous folks there all the time signing books. Now they've had me and Ginny. And we took advantage of the opportunity and had a great time. It was fun to see so many of our friends and readers show up and carry away some of our books. I posted a bunch of pictures on my Facebook page of both the night at J-Beth's and the one at Corinth Christian Bookstore.
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And what a surprise to see Brandilyn Collins show up with her beautiful mom, Ruth. Ruth is in our Bluegrass Christian Writers Group. We've met twice at her home in Wilmore. She's one of those gracious hostesses who makes you feel at home from the minute you walk through her door. When we grabbed Brandilyn for a picture with us, Ginny was worried she was making rabbit ears behind our heads, but she was actually pointing at us to show it was our event. She didn't want to take our limelight. But I'm sure the people would have loved to hear Brandilyn talk too. Including me and Ginny.
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But we did the talking. So take a couple of writers and plop them down inside a two-story bookstore and hang a banner about their books up on the rafters with all the famous writers getting ready to show up for a signing in the next few weeks, and you've got a couple of writers who are glad they kept staring at their computer screens until the right words surfaced.
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One more Angel Sister book launch to go. This one's a solo affair since Ginny has to be off to other fun events in other states. March 6 at 2 p.m. I'll be doing a Hometown launch for Angel Sister at the Anderson Co. Public Library. But can you believe I forgot to check the UK basketball schedule before I picked a time? KY plays TN that day at high noon. Last game of the regular season! I should have known better. I mean we live in a state where brides don't schedule weddings without checking the UK basketball schedule. Oh well, maybe there will be a few hometown readers who won't care about missing the last few minutes of the ballgame and come listen to me talk about this new book.
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I'll be drawing for my latest contest winner next week, but you still have time to enter. Check out the ways to enter on my Event page on my website. http://www.annhgabhart.com/. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Everybody needs a Sister









"You can kid the world. But not your sister." (Charlotte Gray)



Did you ever read a quote that carried any more truth? Sisters know us and we know them in a way no one else can. Here I am with my mom and my sisters a year or so ago before Mom's health went downhill last summer. My mother had three sisters, no brothers. I have two sisters, no brothers. We know about sisters. That's why I focused in on the sisters in my book, Angel Sister. I wanted to share that special bond sisters have for one another.

"Sisters are different flowers from the same garden." (Author Unknown)

You can see we look alike and we look different too. But one thing I know. I can count on my sisters to be there for me.


"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost." (Marion C. Garretty)

When you're kids living in the same house, you're sometimes ready to choke one another, but the sister bond changes as the years go by. The older sister who tormented you with her superior everything is now the sister you can count on to tell you the truth and point you in the right direction when a decision needs to be made. The younger sister who spilled your favorite bottle of perfume or was always eavesdropping on you and your boyfriend is now the sister who will hold your hand through the worst doctor's visits or will come help you clean your house before the in-laws visit. And the middle sister - she has always been the glue that held the sisters together. She's the one with the ready ear and the shoulder to cry on when things aren't going well. In Angel Sister, I have Kate, the middle sister be the responsible one - the one who wants to make sure things turn out right for her family.
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But our sisters do know us. They shared the same experiences growing up. They know about that first cake you made that the dogs wouldn't even eat. They know about the snake that showed up in the inner tube with you when you were swimming in the pond. They know how you cried when your favorite cat died. They know about the time you got hit in the head with a rock and they're still sure you deserved it. They were there at the beginning when you first took up a pen to write a story. They probably laughed. But some things you don't want to remember. They know exactly who you are and they kept loving you even when they didn't like you so much.
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"You keep your past by having sisters. As you get older, they're the only ones who don't get bored if you talk about your memories." (Deborah Moggach)

Thank goodness, my mother and her sisters never got tired of talking about their "good old days." And that I never got tired of listening to them. Without those much repeated stories, I might never have been able to write Angel Sister. My sisters and I don't do the "remember when" as much as Mom and her sisters did. But maybe we should - where our kids can hear. Our pasts are a gift of experiences and love that we should pass along to the younger generation whether they think it's boring or not. And then eventually they will do the same. That's what families do.
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I've received some fun sister stories in my gift card giveaway so far. You 've still got time to send me an e-mail with your sister story to get your name in the drawing hat. You could get four chances to win. See my Event page on my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/ to find out how.
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If you're in the area, I'll be doing a booksigning at JosephBeth Booksellers in Lexington on Tuesday night, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. Virginia Smith will be signing her new book, A Deadly Game, too. We'd love to talk to you there. It's a fantastic bookstore. I love shopping there.
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Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be Careful What You Imagine



Because my book, Angel Sister is fresh off the presses and onto bookstore shelves I've been doing some book launches, library speeches and internet interviews with bloggers. I've got one up right now with Favorite PASTimes, a blog that focuses on historical fiction and the writers behind the stories. They've got quite the line up of authors who make regular visits to the blog page to share their views and expertise. http://www.favoritepastimes.blogspot.com/
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It was a fun interview. I always enjoy talking about writing. Sometimes - maybe all the time - it's easier to talk about writing than to write. I'm struggling with my work in progress right now. But I think I'm gaining on it. I hope I'm gaining on it.
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I enjoy doing blog interviews because you never know exactly what the blogger is going to ask you. One of the questions asked by Favorite PASTimes was about where I do my writing. They even told me I could send them a picture of my office or work area. My desk was a disaster then and unfortunately still is. There was no way I was going to snap a picture of that messy desk for everybody to see. Instead of a real picture, I made up a word picture. One that wasn't completely realistic. You know I do write fiction. Parts of it were right. I do have double windows on two walls to look out over the farm. I do have an old oak desk in the center of the room. I do stare at my computer screen a lot of hours everyday and I do have a tendency to just dump everything on my desktop until I have time to sort and store or dispose. Some days simply aren't picture-my-desk days. So I added a few touches that were completely imaginary. The polished desk top with no dust. The bouquet of beautiful roses on the corner of my desk. I even described the exact type of rose. Those beautiful yellow roses with the pink highlights. I haven't had roses on my desk since I nearly fainted when I saw the flower shop bill the last time my husband had roses delivered to me for Valentine's Day a few years back. I know. I know. I don't deserve flowers if I'm going to complain about the price. But imaginary roses on my desk seemed perfect.
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Now comes the really odd part. The very night I finished answering the interview questions and after I hit the send button, my husband came home with two dozen roses that exactly matched the roses I'd imagined on my desk corner. The very exact ones. I took pictures of them for proof. One of the singers in his quartet drives a flower delivery truck and his boss told him to throw out all these roses that were past their prime and couldn't be sold. Instead he gave his wife some and brought the others to their singing practice session to let the other guys have roses for their wives. There were other colors, but my husband ended up with the creamy yellow and pink ones. It seemed almost magical or even better a smile from above. I imagined these beautiful roses and then two hours later there they were sitting right on my desk.
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So I'm thinking maybe I should imagine flowers more often. But I imagine a lot of things that I wouldn't want to ever come true. I certainly don't want to go through the trials and troubles some of my characters have to go through. I'll let those things stay in my imagination.
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Of course there is that quote of Norman Vincent Peale. At least I thought it was his. I went out to search for it but couldn't find the exact quote. It's says something about being careful to imagine right because we tend to become what we imagine. I did find the one that says we get what we expect. So imagine good things and expect blessings. And just maybe you'll get roses.
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You've still got time to enter my gift card giveaway. Just go to my website, read how to enter and send me a message telling me about your special sister. I've got two wonderful sisters. I'm for sure blogging about sisters Sunday. Couldn't pass up the neat flower story tonight. Thanks for reading. Oh, one last thing. I'll be at the Grant County Library this Saturday giving a book talk. If you're in the area, come on out and say hello. Or ask me what I'm imagining. What are you imagining that you'd like to see happen?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Angel Sister's First Book Launch


For a writer, when your book is finally out there for the public to read is a time to savor. The reward for all those days sitting in front of the computer trying to force words out of your brain and wondering if the story would ever get told. It's the bonus for waiting through the year as your book goes through the publishing process - accceptance, edits, cover designs, more edits, marketing plans and waiting for the story to turn into a real book you can hold in your hands. Even better, a book that readers can hold in their hands. Or maybe see on their Kindles or Nooks or whatever electronic device.
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One of the best parts of that new book being out is the opportunity to share the fun with your friends. So writers have book parties. They go to stores or wherever they can find a willing host and they invite everybody they know to come listen to them talk about the new book and maybe, just maybe decide to buy an autographed copy. So that's what I'm doing in the picture along with my friend, fellow author Virginia Smith. Ginny and I both have a new book out this month. Mine is Angel Sister, a historical novel set in the 1930s about a family getting through some hard times with love. Hers is A Deadly Game, a contemporary romantic suspense that will keep you on pins and needles. Both books have a Kentucky setting.
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Ginny and I teamed up for a book signing a year or so ago and had a great time. So when the people at Corinth Book Store suggested a team book launch, we jumped at the chance to share a book party. And as you can see in the picture, we had a great time. There is always plenty to laugh about when you talk about writing books. Maybe it's so easy to laugh at book launches because writers with newly published books are just so happy the laughter just bubbles up and out. This is the good time. The time when you can believe that everybody, and I mean everybody, is going to like your story. It's early for reviews. You've maybe seen a couple. So far I've liked the ones I've seen. The book was a Top Pick and earned 4 1/2 stars in the RT Book Review Magazine. That's the kind of review that can keep a writer smiling for a while.
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Of course you know there will be some people, some reviewers who might not like your book as much as you hope they will, but at a book launch you don't think about them. You see all the smiling faces of your friends and those who have come to hear you talk about writing this book that is going to entertain them and make them glad they came out on a cold February night to hear a couple of writers talk about writing and laugh with them. And we did talk and laugh and have a good time with our friends.
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A special thanks to Steve, Bonnie, Mickey and the staff at Corinth Christian Book Store for hosting our book party. It's great to have a Christian book store that goes above and beyond to support local writers. It was also great of the Bluegrass Christian Writers group to come out in support of Ginny and me. If you missed our tag team book talk in Frankfort, you'll have another chance to meet us at JosephBeth Book Store in Lexington on Tuesday night, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. Then I'll have a solo hometown book launch here in Lawrenceburg at the Anderson County Public Library on Sunday March 6 at 2 p.m. I'll have door prizes there so that's always fun.
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Since I'm talking about prizes, don't forget to check out my February giveaway. You can win a gift card to Amazon or Christianbook.com or if you're nervous about internet gift cards, you can choose to have me send you a couple of books. Just send me an e-mail. You get extra chances to win by telling me about a sister. She can be a sister of the heart. I'd love to hear your story.
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Have you ever been to a book launch? Have a good time? Maybe you launched your own book. Tell us about it.
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Uh-oh. Looks like it's midnight so Happy Valentine's Day and thanks so much for reading. .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowglobes and Stories


When I was a child, I had a great uncle that seemed ancient to me. When we went to visit him he was always sitting in a chair in a room with bookshelves loaded with books and snowglobes. I was amazed by all the books and fascinated by the snowglobes, but of course, not allowed to play with them. Occasionally the uncle would show me one and let me turn it over and then right side up again so that the snow would fall down on the scene inside the globe. I was an extremely shy child and a bit afraid of my gruff uncle but I would have sat right there by his feet and studied those snowglobe if I had been allowed to do so.
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Fast forward a lot of years and get to this winter of the snows in Kentucky. Other places too, but we've had more snows this year than I can ever remember. Not deep snows. We've had snows that piled up more inches in one storm, but this winter the snows just keep coming. An inch here, two inches there until they say we've gotten over 25 inches altogether. I know that doesn't seem like much to you folks up north, but our average snowfall up to this time of the year is 10 inches. I'm getting used to the snow. I just go out and get in my car like I'm driving a 4-wheel drive truck and take off. So far I've stayed out of the ditch. So far.
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The snow we had the other day was a beautiful snow. One of those where the snowflakes gather in clumps in the air and drift down to cover everything. No wind much. Just thick snowflakes falling. So I told my Facebook friends that it looked like we were in a snowglobe. My dog, Oscar is looking out at you from the globe in the picture above. Anyway that got me to thinking about snowglobes and then that got me thinking about stories. All right, there's no logical bridge between those thoughts, but sometimes a person has to make her own bridge.
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Once I threw down that bridge, I got to thinking how stories can be so much like the scenes in those snowglobes. A creation of places and events by the writer. The writer comes up with an idea. He or she gathers the characters and designs the setting. Then she sprinkles in a liberal amount of snow (problems or challenges) and turns that snow/story globe upside down to get everything started. Perhaps that's why I'm a storyteller because I want to watch the snow drift down on my imaginary world. I want to be as fascinated with my created world as I used to be with those glass-enclosed worlds from my childhood days.
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I have to admit that it's a little disappointing to shake a snowglobe that doesn't have enough snow inside the globe. You feel cheated somehow. The same can be true with stories. Without enough story then you don't have the snow to keep the reader turning pages. That's why I'm struggling a little with my work in progress. I don't think I've given my heroine enough challenges. We love cheering for characters or maybe hoping they get their just deserts. (Google it - it's deserts - not desserts. It uses a meaning of desert - to get what is deserved.) So I'm shaking my story globe, trying to stir up the words so I can make a new story. A good story. A story that will captivate readers as they let the words fall down into their imaginations.
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If you live in my area, you can come meet me and Virginia Smith, a fellow Kentucky author, at Corinth Christian Book Store in Frankfort, KY this Friday, Feb. 11th at 7 p.m. I'll be talking about how I put the story of Angel Sister in a story globe book. Ginny will be talking about her new book, A Deadly Game. Then we'll be ready to field questions. One of us will be sure to have an answer - right or wrong. We'll have fun and no doubt do some laughing too.
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You still have plenty of time to enter my new giveaway described on my website's Event page. If some of you would rather win a couple of books than a gift card, that can be arranged if you turn out to be the winner. I've gotten some sister stories, but I'd love to hear more.
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Thanks for reading and I'm hoping we'll have some sunshine on our scenes in the next few days. Oh, yeah, and for the rest of the story, my uncle's house burned down and he lost all those wonderful snow globes to the fire.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Birthday Dinner for My Baby



I love birthdays.I didn't say I liked counting them, but I do like having them. I love helping others celebrate their birthdays. I'm glad that at my little church we sing happy birthday to our members on their special days. And I'm glad I have one child who still lives close by so that I can cook him a birthday dinner every year. When the kids were little I decorated cakes. Not fancy decorations. My icing was usually a little soft and the letters of the kids' names ran together, but it was still fun. Now I let the kid who comes home to eat around his or her birthday pick the dessert. So today we had cherry pie. And peach pie for extra. The birthday boy ate the cherry pie. One of his favorites and mine too if you have the right cherries. You know those you picked off a tree yourself and stood in front of the sink for a few hours pitting them. But cherries are worth it. Even when my kids were little I'd let them pick the menu for dinner on their big days.
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As you can tell from the picture, my baby's not much of a baby anymore. He has a house full of babies of his own. One of those babies asked me today if her daddy was still my baby. Of course I said yes. He'll always be my baby the same as I'll always be my mother's baby. Age has nothing whatsoever to do with that. I could tell by the look on her face that she couldn't exactly imagine her daddy as my baby, but I have no problem imagining that at all. Just zoom back a few years to his first birthday. We thought he might have the mumps that day and just to make things a little crazier, we moved into our new house with the sky spitting cold snow. A great birthday present. On his second birthday I blew up this huge balloon for him. It popped soon afterward to his great distress. After that the birthdays are harder to separate into individual memories. There was the year we invited ten little boys to the house for a party. That was interesting. Then we survived the teen years when we wondered if we'd make it to another birthday. At least with any kind of sanity. But he found a beautiful girl and settled down. He was an extra lovable baby, a great kid and now is an even better man - a good husband and father and son. This mother is blessed and that's why I love birthdays.
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I've got a couple of internet interviews up this week. One on A Sequence of Continuous Delights, www.continuousdelights.com, and another on Suzanne Woods Fisher's Author Spotlight, www.suzannewoodsfisher.blogspot.com. Both gave readers a chance to win an autographed copy of Angel Sister. They asked some great questions too. And if you're in the area, I'll be doing a booksigning at Corinth Christian Book Store in Frankfort, KY along with Virginia Smith, author of A Deadly Game on Friday, February 11. We're going to do some talking, some question answering and have a great time. So come on out and join us. If you need directions the store's number is on my Event & News Page on the website. That's where you can find out about the current giveaway too if you're interested.
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Thanks so much for reading.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Fun of Storytelling


"History is nothing but a series of stories, whether it be world history or family history." (Bill Mooney & David Holt in The Storyteller's Guide)
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My book, Angel Sister, is about a family with four sisters - sort of. You'll have to read the story to find out what I mean. But here are the first four sisters - my mom's on the left, Bill, the youngest sister next, then Margaret and finally Evelyn, the oldest sister. I love this picture of them because it's how I remember them when they were all together. Laughing. Having a good time. Telling stories about when they were kids. All the sisters are gone now except Mom and she misses them. Sometimes she can't believe it's true and with her dementia she wants to go back to a time when they were still beside her, still laughing, still remembering.
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Somebody asked me what I meant by the "fun of storytelling." I had told her she could join in the fun of storytelling by entering my website giveaway. An e-mail qualifies you for one entry. Never having won anything from me qualifies for a second entry and telling me a story about a sister or a friend who's like a sister means you get a couple of extra chances to win one of four $25 gift certificates to either Christianbook.com or Amazon.com. Not big prizes, but enough to buy a couple of books or more if you bargain hunt. Two of my Shaker books are bargain priced right now. I had fun with the Christmas gift stories I got in my last contest and so thought this would be a great time to talk about sisters. Because of Angel Sister, of course. But when my reading friend asked me about the fun of storytelling, the phrase stuck in my head.
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What is the fun of storytelling? That's what I do. Tell stories. Mine are written down, but I also love listening to oral storytellers. I like reading other people's stories. I enjoy hearing my family tell stories I've heard a dozen times. And I enjoyed hearing my mother and her sisters tell their stories. Those stories were the seed of the idea that grew into my story, Angel Sister. Those stories gave me the background of my story. Those sisters were the shadowy beginnings of the characters I created. Two of the odd characters that kept them laughing and made them surely believe their little community of the Alton had more than its share of peculiar people stepped into my story.
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I couldn't use all the odd characters. I didn't use the man, reputed to be brilliant, yet wore nothing but bib overalls and went barefoot winter and summer while walking everywhere he went. I didn't use the man who liked to torment my grandmother by showing up at her door with snakes in his pockets or curled up on his head so that when he lifted his hat up to say good day she would see the snake. My grandmother did not like snakes. I didn't use my own odd great aunt who wore nothing but black from the time she was a young woman including a black cap she pulled down over one ear to keep the wind out of it.
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I had to pick and choose my stories. But once I had my cast assembled on the set, then I had to forget their real stories and get them to play pretend with me. The background of Angel Sister is as true as I could make it from absorbing the stories they told me. But the story and characters are from my imagination. And that to me is the fun of storytelling. Letting the characters I invent tell me their stories so that I can share them with readers like you. The writing is sometimes hard, but the storytelling is always fun.
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Hope you think storytelling is fun too. Don't forget to tell me a story about your sister or friend to enter my giveaway. I'm looking forward to your stories.
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Storytelling is what lights my fire. (Hope Davis)