One of the joys of my annual pilgrimages to my Southern California birthplace involves wandering around some of the few remaining brick-and-mortar bookstores with old friends. I'm not-so-secretly pleased when I can tug a book off a shelf and flip to one of my stories.
"Look," I'll say, feigning modesty. "This book has one of my stories!"
My friends fake astonishment. "How impressive!"
There's not a lot of financial gain in writing true stories about one's life for these books. So why not accept the emotional payoff one gets from preening when one has the chance? Even if one has to stage the scene.
Where I live now, in Stevens County, 70 miles from Spokane, I've never had the opportunity to spy a book with one of my stories in any store. Wal-Mart did carry Chicken Soup for the Soul's Messages from Heaven several months ago...a friend spotted it. By the time I dropped by the store a day later, there were no copies left. I'm hoping a few local readers got to learn how my husband planned to stage a comeback from the afterlife in my story, "The Unforgotten."
But last night, on the way to a jewelry party at a friend's house, I dropped by Safeway to pick up some lettuce and some dog chews. I wandered down the book and magazine aisle and idly cast a glance at the shelves. Lo and behold...Safeway had stocked not one, but TWO, of the new Chicken Soup for the Soul books on health, edited by doctors from Harvard Medical School: Say Goodbye to Back Pain, with my story "Twist and Shout," and Say Hello to a Better Body, with my story "Running Like Sixty."
I scurried over to the checker and asked if I could borrow her assistant who was bagging groceries. The pretty young woman who snapped this photo looked suitably impressed. I basked in my momentary glory, relieved that I was wearing my dressy Marks and Spencer black coat rather my scruffy snow-scene fleece.
Someday I'll get my 15 minutes of fame. Last night I got 15 seconds, but it was sufficient. I'm back at the keyboard today, ego deflated to its normal size, working on editing stories for the upcoming Publishing Syndicate's Not Your Mother's Book...On Travel. This one, due out in late January, will have my name on the cover! One can hardly wait. One plans to splurge with shameless self-promotion.
Yesterday Natty woofed me awake at 4:30, desperate to go outdoors. My diabetic mutt might be having trouble with his blood sugar again. I notice he's drinking more water and wanting to urinate more frequently. His system might be as out-of-whack as the seasons. But I can take Natty in for a checkup. I can't do anything to halt the wackiness of the weather.
I'm savvy enough about the environment not to confuse weather with global warming or climate change. But I know that it's not normal, even in this far corner of Northeast Washington, to see snow a full week before Halloween. Yet I'm expecting some tonight. Yesterday, driving home from a variety show at the Kettle Falls Woodland Theater, my friend and I noticed sleet among the raindrops peppering my windshield. And when Natty bounded outdoors yesterday morning, I checked the thermometer. It read 23 degrees! That's normal for Thanksgiving. But a week and a half before Halloween?
Last night my nightgown simply would not suffice to keep me snug. Instead I donned makeshift pajamas: an old shaker-knit pullover and a pair of loose cord slacks. My October Avista bill is going to look more like the ones I usually get in January and February. My thermostat is set for 62, and my arthritis tells me I can't turn it down much lower. And it's barely a month into autumn, let alone winter.
Tending Your Inner Garden recently sent me my contributor's copies of its latest volume, Spring: Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings. I'd read a few of the entries, the poems and stories celebrating renewal. But I've put it aside, and begun to revisit Winter: Women's Stories, Poems and Inspiration for the Season of Rest and Renewal.
Winter contains my story, "Tombstone Territory," and Spring, "Maybe Tuesday Will Be My Good News Day." I'm hoping my contributions may be selected for the Summer and Autumn volumes to be released next year.
In the meantime, I'm trying to reconcile myself to the idea that the World Series may very well drift into November. The National League has yet to determine a contender...one game left to go! I guess it's time for me to forget the notion of one holiday at a time or one seasonal event in perfect order. Maybe it's time to start planning an Easter outfit or a summer holiday. Seems as if seasonal sequence is a thing of the past, a relic of my youth.
When I learned that Publishing Syndicate planned a book for its new anthology series, Not Your Mother's Book, called On Being a Stupid Kid, I struggled to hit on something that I could contribute. I'd been a sensible kid in many respects...didn't play hookey until high school, and then, only once. Didn't smoke until high school. Didn't stay out past curfew until high school. My really dumb and rebellious misdemeanors I'd committed in my late teens, as I edged from adolescence into young adulthood...too old and too big to be considered a kid.
And I'd already published several stories about my earlier years...being adopted, seeing my birth mom for the last time, saving the family home from burning down...so what was there left to write about? The stories had to be true...no fudging on that. I thought of a lot of stupid acts I'd witnessed, but I couldn't claim them as my own when they really were committed by my sister, my brother or my cousins.
Then I remembered junior high! Oh, yes. I'd innocently accompanied a master shoplifter on a tour of department stores, and had been fingered, if only momentarily, as a perpetrator. I'd lined up at a party with a passel of other eighth-grade girls for a chance to kiss Billy Jeffers. We'd wearied of Spin the Bottle, so just asked Billy to sit on a stool in the closet and let us take turns. None of us wanted to kiss any of the other boys.
I'd thought about my babysitting adventures, and how I'd read my employer's racy books...Forever Amber was the first bodice-ripping historical romance I'd ever zipped through...and the last. Not quite enough material there for an entire story.
Then, instead of honing in on incidents, I started to recall certain friendships, and how much making friends meant to me. I remember some of the other kids who were struggling along with me to make sense of our newly pubescent selves. And the story ideas started to flow.
Two of my stories, "Why Did Cynthia Slap Me?" and "Fevers" have been accepted for this book. I've changed some names to protect the guilty, as well as the innocent. Both stories involve teachers, as well as my fellow students. I can't really put faces on these two particular teachers. I only remember that both had certain classroom rules. And both my stories involve how I violated those rules.
These days I claim to be a law-abiding citizen. Well, I did file my automobile registration three days late this past month. But aside from that infraction, I can't recall any recent outlaw behavior. But in junior high? I erred at least twice, and that's not counting chewing gum and throwing spitballs. Blush.
Fortunately, I've read all the other stories in this book, as I proofread it for Publishing Syndicate. It's comforting to learn I wasn't the only youthful law-flouter. Grab this book when it comes out on November 6, and you'll see just what a bunch of desperadoes so many of us were, back when we were stupid kids!
The book will be available for pre-order soon on Amazon. You're not going to want to miss this one!