- I take prescription meds as directed and only as directed.
- For emotional wellbeing, I spend time with upbeat people.
- When I have negative thoughts I counter them with positive ones.
- Even though I have little to give, I still give to others.
- There is at least one plant in my home and I enjoy caring for it.
- To keep my mind active I read and attend social functions.
- I limit television news viewing to one program a day.
- I eat a balanced diet and drink water to stay hydrated.
- Thanks to a bedtime routine, I sleep well most nights.
- Because I’m a spiritual/religious person I’m grateful for each day.
After my father died, my mother moved to Florida to be near her older sister. Two years later her sister died, and Mom felt lost without her. To fill her days, Mom went on a variety of trips, often with a friend. One day she called to tell me she was “out West.”
“What state are you in?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
What town are you in?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, where are you now?”
“I’m in a phone booth!” she replied in an angry voice. (Phone booths still existed then.)
Was my mother with a tour group? Did she have enough money? When would she be home? I didn’t have a chance to ask these questions because Mom blurted, “But I can’t talk to you now because the boat is going down the Colorado.” Then she hung up.
I stood in the kitchen, with the phone in my hand, and started laughing. Always interested in the world, I pictured Mom in a pith helmet, clad in waterproof gear, sitting in an inflatable boat with tourists, and shooting over rapids. Minutes later my laughter turned to tears. During our regular phone calls I realized the intelligent, dependable, funny mother of my childhood had become a different person—confused, impatient, and angry.
On the morning of my father’s funeral Mom had suffered a mini stroke. The strokes continued in Florida. When she was found wandering in a Sears store (Mom was looking for her car) I moved her to my hometown, Rochester, Minnesota. I found an apartment for her in an assisted living community. Mom was quite happy there but, as the years passed, her dementia worsened. According to her doctor, Mom’s mini strokes added up to Alzheimer’s.
He didn’t order cognitive tests for her because, as he noted, “We already know the results.” Cell-by-sell, my mother was dying right before my eyes. Witnessing her decline was heartbreaking. I felt like a black cloud followed me everywhere I went. A friend of mine, who is a certified grief counselor, asked how I was feeling. I told her I was stressed and exhausted. “You’re going through anticipatory grief and it’s very powerful,” she explained.
Her comment led research on anticipatory grief, and my research continues to this day. What is anticipatory grief?
Anticipatory grief is a feeling of loss before a death or dreaded event occurs. Everyone goes through anticipatory grief, yet many have never heard the term. I decided to write a book on the topic, and worked on it for a dozen years. I sent the outline, along with a cover letter, to my New York City publisher, and waited anxiously for a reply. Nothing. Finally, I called the acquisitions editor. Yes, she had read my letter and outline. “I don’t get it,” the editor said. “I just don’t get it.”
From the sound of her voice, I could tell the editor was young, and hadn’t experienced anticipatory grief yet. There was no way I could make her “get it.” Still, the editor gave me some smart advice: get a medical co-author. I followed her advice and contacted Dr. Lois Krahn, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist who lived in my neighborhood. Dr. Krahn was willing to read the manuscript, vet the contents, and contribute to it.
With patience and skill, Dr. Krahn wove her points into the existing manuscript, and we tried to find a publisher. We struck out. The traditional publishers weren’t interested in grief, so we turned to CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing company. After the book was released Dr. Krahn called me. She said she hadn’t thought about anticipatory grief before working on the book. “Now I realize it walks into my office very day.”
Anticipatory grief may have walked into your life. Smiling Through Your Tears may be just the help you need. It focuses on anticipatory grief’s uniqueness, grief of terrorism, anticipatory grief as a reaction to change, factors that shape this grief, symptoms and stages, responses to anticipatory grief, complications, coping tips, and how early grief may help you. Each chapter ends with Healing Steps you may take.
Amazon reviews of the book are rewarding:
- A life changing book.
- Anticipatory grief is very hard. Good guide to get through it.
- They have provided a guide for the emotional dynamic and healing path to wholeness.
- Very good book about a painful subject.
- If you are a long term caregiver, as I am, this book is a must.
You don’t have to go through anticipatory grief alone. Smiling Through Your Tears may serve as your guide and companion. Most important, it can lead you to the future. I give workshops about this form of grief. At the end of a workshop an audience member thanked me for doing it. “I didn’t know what was happening to me,” she admitted. “Now I know and can give it a name.”
Indie book authors need to be marketers. In fact, we need to consider marketing before we even start writing. I’ve studied book marketing for years and, while I’ve acquired new skills, the free books idea surprised me. Why should I buy books and give them away?
You may have the same question. Like me, you may have a limited marketing budget.
“Why Successful Authors are Giving Their Books Away for Free,” an article on the Huffington Post website, explains the free approach. Indie authors typically earn higher royalties, the article notes, and giving away free ebooks doesn’t cost them anything. “Many times, free ebooks actually boost sales of print copies,” the article explains. The article goes on to say that authors who give away free books or sell them at a low price gain the ability to develop a loyal following. And a loyal following can translate into future sales.
“Why You Should Give Away Free Copies of Your Book,” on The Nonfiction Authors Association website, says profits aren’t generated by book sales. “The real money is in the business you generate as a result of your book,” the article explains. In trade parlance, you are generating “buzz.”
I have other reasons for giving books away.
Everyone likes free stuff. People gravitate toward “freebies” and spread the word about them. When they spread the word, more people learn about your book. Word of mouth is excellent advertising.
You gain name recognition. People seem to remember authors who give books away. Your name, and book genre may become the topic of local conversation, and that’s more buzz for you.
Freebies spark interest. After a talk I often a gift bag to an audience member or members who are celebrating their birthdays. The bags contain an autographed book, the publisher’s information sheet, a book mark, and my business card.
Give-aways are low cost ads. Free books are cheaper than magazine, newspaper, and television ads. A small magazine ad can cost thousands of dollars. Free books can cost a few hundred or less.
Almost free books spark interest. An author who sells an ebook for 99 cents can get thousands of orders, which add up to thousands of dollars. According to my publisher, however, you need established online connections (NetGalley, BookBub, etc.) for this to work.
You save time. Instead of creating an ad, or paying a graphic designer to create one, you order books at a discount from your publisher. This takes minutes, whereas creating an ad in the correct format can take hours.
Recently I donated copies of my four-book series for family caregivers to the local Visiting Angels. I received an email from an agency nurse. Visiting Angels is using my books to start a library for its employees. What a marvelous use of my gift!
Radio gives an indie author like me the biggest bang for their bucks. At least, I think so. Whether it’s a national, local, or a blog program, I enjoy being on the radio. Several years ago I contracted with a marketing company to promote one of my books. The agreement included training in writing for radio, and appearing on the radio.
At the time, I didn’t realize how useful this training would be, and I’ve been grateful for it many times.
My 36th book is in production now and slated for release in the spring of 2018. Although the release date seems far away my publisher, WriteLife, says now is the time to generate interest. This includes contacting national organizations, local organizations, and talk radio hosts.
Over the years, I’ve appeared on dozens of talk radio programs. Here are some recent interviews.
I’ve been a freelancer for 37 years. During this time I wrote 36 books, thousands of print/electronic articles, and hundreds of posts for websites. Some of my books were published by traditional publishers, others by a Print on Demand Publisher, and others published by an Indie publisher.
Right now I’m with an Indie publisher. Working with the owner and CEO is a joy because I constantly learn from her. I think Indie authors need six things to be successful.
- You need the drive and will to write. Nobody is going to write books for you; the work is yours. An Indie author’s life is rife with twists, turns, detours, disappointments, obstacles, and successes. Disappointment can’t stop you from working toward your goal. If you fail, accept the fact, change course, and try again.
- You need to develop good work habits. Finding a schedule that suits your lifestyle is the first step. I write new copy in the morning, and keep up with the book publishing industry in the afternoon. This involves email and print correspondence, research, and posting on social media, an ongoing task.
- You need to be professional. To do this, you submit your work to suitable publishers, follow publishing guidelines, format manuscripts correctly, format business letters correctly, send courteous emails, and cooperate with editors. In my experience, Indie authors are kind and always willing to help each other.
- You need to believe in yourself and market our work. Whether traditional, Indie, or Hybrid, these days publishers ask authors to help with marketing. So you need to keep abreast of trends, market nationally, market locally, and use social media. I give free talks and workshops to get the word out about my books. Personally, I think marketing books is harder than writing them.
- You need to be willing to change. Because I have a graduate degree in art, my publisher is interested in my cover suggestions. I have a book in production now, and looked at thousands of royalty-free photos for the cover. I winnowed my choices, and sent them to the CEO. She sent them to the distributor, and he didn’t like any of the photos. However, he shared suggestions with us, and we heeded his input. The cover is done and it’s perfect.
- You need to begin again. After a book is published, you continue to market it month after month, year after year. This can be a challenge if you’ve written several books. You may feel like you’ve living a dual life—author and marketer. Well, you are, and when you add spouse and parent to the list, life becomes super-busy.
Just as Charles Schultz’s cartoon says, good writing is hard work. Being an Indie author is doubly hard. What’s more, the work never seems to get easier. Remember, Indie authors have tough bosses—themselves.
Blog Talk Radio is an inexpensive, efficient marketing conduit—free to listeners, free to members, and free for hosts. You reach people locally or on the other side of the world. Better yet, listeners may post comments and questions about your interview on Twitter. This adds new dimensions to your interview.
I like this format because it’s easy. Stephen C. Trevers lists the pluses of this format in his article, “Three Great Advantages of Blog Talk Radio.” Advantage number one: it’s a revenue friendly format. Advantage number two: Everything is for sale, including your book. Advantage number three: Every listener is a prospective buyer.
Although you may not make an instant sale, weeks from your on air appearance, a listener may remember the interview, and buy your book. I belonged to a radio interview service for a while. Since it yielded only a couple of interviews, I canceled my subscription, and started contacting program producers and hosts directly. You may do this too, and it’s best to contact only the programs that match your genre.If you write in several genres, your research will take more time. A basic umbrella genre may include several sub-categories. Nonfiction is my basic genre, but my books also fit under self-help, spirituality, and grief recovery. I contacted Open to Hope blog talk radio, and have appeared on Dr. Gloria Horsley’s and Dr. Heidi Horsley’s show several times. They’re wonderful interviewers and I’m grateful to be on their program.
Organizations you belong to may send out notices asking for blog talk radio guests. I’m a member of the Rave Reviews Book Club, for example, and was on its radio program. The show lasted a half hour and encouraging comments came in via Twitter. Prepare for your interview before it goes live. Here are a dozen tips from my radio experience.
1. Buy a headset, with an ear piece and microphone.
2. For clarity, use a land line phone. Some programs don’t allow cell phones.
3. Eliminate background noise.
4. Follow all instructions. You may be asked to submit questions prior to the broadcast.
5. If you wear a hearing aid or aids, put in new batteries beforehand.
6. Get a tall glass of water and drink some just before you’re on air.
7. Keep a copy of your book or books in front of you.
8. Put sticky notes on some selected pages so you can find them easily.
9. Make a list of the key points you want to make. The list should be short and help listeners.
10. Thank the interviewer for her or his effort.
11. Relax and have fun on the air. You want to sound natural and like a real person.
12. Email or call another radio host and set up another interview.
Developing a relationship with a new editor takes time and effort. Over the years, I’ve worked with many editors, and all of them had my interests at heart. One editor, however, asked me to make changes that didn’t mesh with the purpose of my book or the research I’d done. I refused to make the changes, and, after a phone discussion, the publisher respected my decision.
Before production begins, you may need an attitude adjustment. Years ago, when I was new to book publishing, I thought every word I wrote was cast in stone. If someone criticized my writing I was hurt. Deeply hurt. Thankfully, I’ve matured as a writer and know a sharp editor can improve my work.
Editors and authors have the same goal—to improve the product. It’s a worthy goal, and these tips will help you reach it.
- Get some info. An experienced editor will probably be more helpful than a brand new editor. What are the editor’s qualifications? Is she or he a published author? Has the editor worked on other books?
- Prepare yourself for rewrites. In addition to correcting mistakes, you may be asked to move copy from one chapter to another, revise a chapter, or add new copy. Being mentally prepared for these changes will make them easier.
- Make notes for the editor. I have a manuscript that is just about to start production. My list includes some questions and explains some of the writing decisions I made. There are nine points on my list.
- Always be courteous. In our fast-paced, high-tech world, courtesy still counts. Business letters, emails, and phone conversations should all be courteous. Respect the editor’s commitment to your book and the hours she or he is spending on it.
- Talk with the editor. Other than meeting face-to-face, the phone is the most personal form of communication. You could also arrange a Skype call. Make a list of comments or questions. Don’t rush the call and be open to suggestions.
- Try some suggestions. Do they improve the manuscript? Is the flow still good? Are the points clear? If the answer to any of these questions is negative, talk with the editor or send an email. Be careful about your word choices and tone. Don’t use caps because they are interpreted as shouting.
- Work out compromises together. Start gently. “I wonder if this might work . . . .” Be brief and state the reasons for your suggestion. Do everything you can to keep your book on schedule. You don’t want to accidentally change the release date.
- Thank the editor. Finishing a book is something to celebrate. You need to celebrate your editor too. Send an email thank you to your editor. Again, be brief and be sincere. You never know when you will work with this editor again.
- Replace eggs with a cholesterol-free egg substitute or whites. According to the American Heart Association, two egg whites may be substituted for a whole egg.
- Use fat-free (skim) milk. This one change saves you calories and lowers your cholesterol.
- Choose non-fat cheese. For better melting, Dr. Richard Collins, author of The Cooking Cardiologist, recommends soaking the cheese in milk for a few minutes before adding it to recipes.
- Add fiber—fresh fruit, dried fruit, vegetables, and grains—whenever possible.
- Cook with plant oils, such as olive, corn, and canola. If you’re sautéing food, add a dab of butter to the oil for flavor.
- Swap unsweetened applesauce for shortening in baking recipes. Cooking is chemistry and, for best results, you may have to add a teaspoon of oil.
- Hold the salt. Excess salt raises your blood pressure. Instead of salt, Mayo Clinic recommends citrus zest, fresh and dried herbs.
- Cut back on sugar. Recipes made with half the sugar may taste just as sweet.
- Go lean on protein. Buy lean cuts of beef, skinless chicken, chops, and fish. Some recipes, such as spaghetti sauce, may not need any protein.
- Eat normal (not supersize) servings. According to the University of Missouri Extension Service, large servings add up to 200-500 calories a day, which can add 20-50 extra pounds a year.
Grandparents, especially those who are raising their grandchildren, have the right to:
· Enjoy your grandkids.
· Feed them nutritious, balanced meals, and normal servings.
· Give your grandkids sandwiches if they reject dinner.
· Make play part of each day.
· Help with homework, but don’t provide answers.
· Teach grandkids basic manners.
· Ask grandkids to help around the house.
· Laugh at your own jokes even if they’re sappy.
· Ask permission to give grandkids hugs.
· Expect teens to provide who, what, when, where, why and how details.
· Set reasonable bedtimes and curfews.
· Use the word “no” when necessary.
· Teach grandkids how to budget and save money.
· Get grandkids to clean up their bedrooms and ignore the “moanie groanies.”
· Require drivers to fill the car gas tank when gauge reads one quarter full.
· Ask drivers to turn the car radio back to your favorite station.
· Stop loud music and phone calls after 9 p.m.
· Repeat stories even if your grandkids roll their eyes.
· Say “I love you” every day.
Copyright © 2017 by Harriet Hodgson
Last year, on impulse, I decided to keep a book marketing log. The idea came to me in February so the log is a month short. Despite 30 missing days, the log is a written record of a freelance writer’s life—my life—filled with facts and odd surprises.
On the first day I only wrote one sentence. By the end of the year, I was entering columns of information. A year later, when I read my log, I was amazed. It had been an amazing year and I had made marketing progress. These are some of the things I learned from my log.
Keeping a log sparks effort. When I started the log I vowed to take two marketing steps a day. I kept this promise. In fact, I exceeded it. Mid-year entries show that I doubled, and in some instances, tripled book marketing efforts. Reading my log makes me proud of myself.
I tapped Twitter’s power. Since I’ve never had any computer training, everything I know about computers and the Net I learned by trial and error. Several months into my log I hired Books Go Social to publicize books on Twitter. This step garnered many followers, and I cite their names/occupations in my log. As the months passed my list of followers grew from several hundred to 1,273 and it’s still growing.
Finally, I see the power of “likes.” I discovered that clicking the like icon shoots my name all over the Internet—good publicity for any author. Now that I know this I’m paying more attention to likes. Still, I’m careful and avoid strange ideas and people. I’m also careful about the comments I post.
A log is a reference document. My log contains information that I might need in the future, such as my Minnesota sales tax number. To be able to sell books at church bazaars and workshops I had to get this number, and it’s highlighted in my log. Organizations, email addresses, and Internet links are also listed.
Celebrations are cited in my log. The release date of my cookbook is written in caps because it’s something to celebrate. I also note when an organization asks me to speak, the date and time of my upcoming presentation. Media coverage is also something I list in my log.
I’m linked to the world. I list the name of every Twitter follower and where they live if this information is shared. My log shows followers in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Scotland, Australia, France, Singapore, Philippines, and other countries. Surprisingly, many followers are writers like me. But the biggest surprise was the extent of my book marketing progress.
Should you keep a log? I can’t answer this question for you, but I can allay your fears. A log isn’t a journal or diary, it’s a concise record, and therefore takes less time. Typing an entry takes only a minute or two. The benefits of keeping a log are listed above and they may lead you to a new path—a journey of self-discovery and progress.
Whether it’s a special holiday meal, or a casual summer picnic, food brings family members together. These gatherings also lead to family stories. “Do you remember when Aunt Ethel dropped the casserole?” “Those were the best steaks we’ve ever had!” “I love this. Would you give me the recipe?”
You may have shared recipes with family members, who prepare them as written, or “tweak” them a bit. Future generations can enjoy these recipes only if they are saved. Compiling a family cookbook gives you the chance to preserve recipes, document family lore, and share photos all at the same time. A family cookbook is an historical document.
When it comes to creating a cookbook you have three options. One, contact a cookbook company and have it do the work for you. While these companies produce professional-looking books, they tend to look the same. Another option is to self-publish via one of the many companies that do this. For more information look on the Internet using the words “self-publish.”
Or you may take the easy route, which I did, and put the recipes in a three-ring binder. Personally, I think this is the easiest route, one that allows you to add more recipes easily. To shield the recipes from drips, I put each page in a plastic protector. So how to you get started on a project like this?
Find the recipes. My sister-in-law and I sorted through our mother-in-law’s recipe boxes and chose the recipes that family members liked most. Gathering recipes can turn into a treasure hunt. You may find recipes tucked inside cookbooks, for example, or hand-written notes beside recipes. I wrote a one-page introduction to the cookbook.
Be accurate. The fun of a family cookbook is reading about family members. My mother-in-laws handwritten recipes contained notes such as, “Recipe from Tuttie.” Include any instructions that you may find. At the end of a fudge recipe my mother-in-law wrote, “Cut, enjoy. Save some for mother and dad. Be a good scout and clean up the kitchen afterwards.”
Be as consistent as possible. It’s best to list the ingredients in the order they are used. This helps the person gather ingredients and get an idea of the steps involved. These days many cookbooks number the recipe steps and I recommend this.
Include extra facts. Historical notes will add to the personal value of the cookbook and make it an enjoyable read. For example, you may add, “This recipe was served at the 10th family reunion at the farm.” You may also add notes about who is related to whom, such as “Louise is Aunt Ethel’s daughter.”
Add family photos. Photos are excellent documentation of heritage. Be sure to add names and dates if you have them. Other family members may be willing to contribute photos to the cookbook. Offer to reproduce photos for family members.
Think about your family tree. By all means, include your family tree if you have one. Before you do this, make sure names and relationships are accurate. Include a contact email or phone number for the family tree.
Although creating a family cookbook involves lots of detail work, family members will appreciate your efforts. Events—and recipes—bind family members together.
Holidays are a challenge for the bereaved. Memories tug you back in time and the thought of future without a loved one is even more painful. These tips may help you get through this difficult time. Start using your kit now!
- Spend time with people who understand my loss.
- Have one meaningful conversation each day.
- Promise to be kind to myself; the holidays don’t have to be perfect.
- Attend a few special events and note them on the calendar.
- Talk about my loved one and find comfort in happy memories.
- Use linking objects—a rolling pin, tools, jewelry, etc.
- Give to others in memory of my loved one.
- Write about my feelings and grief journey in a journal.
- Add physical activity to my daily routine.
- Remember that love lasts forever and is always with me.
Originally featured on Wheelock.edu.
After I graduated from Wheelock, I taught for a dozen years, four as a kindergarten teacher and eight as a preschool teacher. I loved every day in the classroom. I submitted articles to teaching magazines and was thrilled when they were published. During my last teaching job I designed a series of toys and games from throw-away materials. The students tested the toys and games, and the best ideas became my first published book.
To my surprise, the publisher asked me to appear at “New York Is Book Country,” a festival in the heart of New York City. I flew to New York and was escorted to a booth in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. While I was demonstrating toys and games, a man pushed through the crowd, and began, “Years ago, in Germany, there was a man who invented kindergarten. … ”
“Froebel,” I interrupted.
“You know Froebel?” he said in a surprised voice.
“Yes,” I answered, thinking of Wheelock’s wonderful Froebel frieze.
People keep asking me how I transitioned from teaching to writing. The transition was easy, thanks to Wheelock, yet it took more time than anticipated, required new learning, and plain persistence. How did my Wheelock education prepare me for this career change?
At Wheelock I received excellent training in planning units. Today, units are called learning modules, but the basic principles are the same, starting with goals and objectives. I’m a health and wellness writer, and my goal is to connect the dots between research and real life. For example, the purpose of my book The Family Caregiver’s Guide is to make life easier for caregivers. If I can’t summarize the purpose of the book in one sentence, I rethink the project.
Outlining a book can take months. While I’m working on the outline I search for possible cover photos, relying on my art minor at Wheelock, and my M.A. in Art Education from the University of Minnesota. My publisher subscribes to an online, royalty-free photo service. I log in to the website and look for potential cover photos. Finding the right one takes so many hours that I develop eye strain. In fact, I looked at more than 2,000 photos before choosing the mosaic cover for my first caregiving book.
When I was at Wheelock I served as co-editor of “The Key,” the college literary magazine. Writing for the magazine had an impact on me. As my skills developed, I realized that simple words had power. Surprisingly, long book titles work better for the Internet. People are in a hurry and want information in seconds. Long titles provide this information and that’s why my books have explanatory subtitles.
The value of review is something I also learned at Wheelock, so I include a summary at the end of each chapter. In one book I call the summary “Smart Steps.” In another book I call it “What Works.” I add headings to help readers find their way and follow my logic trail. WriteLife, my current publisher, believes in summaries so much that in one of my books it listed the summary pages at the beginning of the chapters.
My Wheelock education helped me most in 2007, when our elder daughter, mother of our twin grandchildren, died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Two days later my father-in-law succumbed to pneumonia. Eight weeks after his death, my brother, and only sibling, died of a heart attack. In the fall my former son-in-law died from the injuries he received in another car crash. His death made my grandchildren orphans and my husband and me their guardians.
Immediately Wheelock’s philosophy of respecting the child came to mind. It didn’t matter that my twin grandchildren were 15 years old when they moved in with us. I vowed to respect them, their intelligence, talents, goals, and grief. One week after my daughter died, I sat down at the computer and poured out my soul in words. These entries grew into eight grief resources. I also wrote a book about raising grandchildren and, in the preface, thank Wheelock for the child development training I received.
Respect came to mind again in 2013 when my husband’s aorta dissected. He was bleeding to death, and surgeons operated on him three times in a desperate attempt to save his life. During the last operation he suffered a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs. After being hospitalized for eight months, my husband was dismissed to my care. Just as I’d done before, I sat down at the computer and started writing about being a family caregiver. This decision led to a series of four books.
Whether it’s respecting the child, reviewing information, writing “grabber” titles, choosing cover photos, or planning books, I’ve benefited greatly from my Wheelock education. I’m 81 years old now, chugging along with my writing career. I’m spreading the word about my books, writing for three websites, posting articles on my website blog, and speaking to community groups about grief, caregiving, compassion fatigue, and personal happiness. On my handwritten application to the College I said each of us has the ability to create our own happiness. I still believe this.
Thank you, Wheelock College, for standing by my side all these years
Originally shared on Grief Healing
Our elder daughter, mother of our twin grandchildren, died from the injuries she received in a car crash. This was bad enough, but six months later, the twin’s father died from the injuries he received in another crash.
His death made our grandchildren orphans and the county court, following our daughter’s will, appointed my husband and me as their guardians. The twins (one boy, one girl) were 15 years old when they moved in with us and lived with us for seven years.
At first, the twins treated family meals like a fuel stop; fill up and head out. My husband is a retired physician and we often talked about medical topics. As time passed, however, my grandson became interested in our conversations, listened intently, and asked questions. The twins graduated from high school and left for college, our grandson to the College of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, our granddaughter to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Both graduated with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa.
Our granddaughter accepted a job with The Salvation Army. Our grandson was interested in becoming a physician, but took a year off to do research in a Mayo Clinic laboratory. He applied to many medical schools and was accepted by the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, a true feat. Mayo receives 5,000 applications a year and accepts only one percent. He just started medical school and invited us to parents’ weekend.
We attended a welcoming dinner, luncheon, and the Commitment to Medicine ceremony. Before the ceremony a speaker told the students they were there because of family support, a sentence that brought tears to my eyes. I thought of the profound sorrow we felt, our efforts to become a family, the twin’s achievements, and the other physicians in the family.
My husband’s father, a specialist in diseases of the chest, was a Mayo Clinic physician and died two days after our daughter died. My husband’s specialties were aviation medicine internal medicine, and public health. Now our grandson was starting his journey. He said the Commitment Pledge to Medicine with others in the class and each student was presented with a stethoscope.
For me, the stethoscope symbolized a family tradition and the desire to help. While attending the ceremony was an emotional experience, I managed to keep my feelings in check until the end of the day. I helped my disabled husband get into bed and went to bed myself. Instead of snuggling under the covers I suddenly burst into tears. I sobbed for my father-in-law and wished he had lived to see this day. I sobbed for my daughter and knew she would have been proud of her son. I sobbed for my former son-in-law and knew he would have been proud too. And I sobbed for my disabled husband’s resolve and courage.
I’ve studied grief for years and knew I was having an anniversary reaction, but wasn’t prepared for its intensity. Deborah Serani Psy.D. writes about “The Anniversary Effect” in a Psychology Today website article. “Make sure you take good care of yourself during these times,” she advises. Her care suggestions include checking the calendar well ahead of time, being aware of public trauma, talking with a family member, journaling, blogging, and using creative expression. A Mayo Clinic website article, “Grief: Coping with Reminders After a Loss,” notes that reminders can be anywhere. Unexpected reminders may be linked to something we see, hear, or smell.
The stethoscope symbolized so many things, among them sorrow, reconciliation, recovery, goal-setting, determination, studiousness, persistence, family pride, and hope. My grandson will be a fine physician and I know he will use his stethoscope compassionately.
Since this recipe isn’t in The Family Caregiver’s Cookbook I decided to post it on my blog. The recipe is a cross between coffee cake and dessert cake. John and I like it so much we eat leftover cake for breakfast. Because rhubarb is seasonal and because I don’t have time to drive to farm stands to find it, I use a frozen product. The original recipe came from a local grocery store. Although it is excellent I felt the recipe needed to be updated, and here’s my healthier version.
- ½ cup butter flavored Crisco (half a stick)
- 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup pre-sifted white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon salt (or reduced sodium salt)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
- 1 ½ cups rhubarb, cut into small pieces
- ½ cup strawberries, quartered (more if you wish)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (or pecans, or sliced almonds)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13” x 9” baking pan with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, cream Crisco and brown sugar together with electric mixer.
- Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.
- In a large bowl, whisk together white flour, wheat flour, salt, and baking soda.
- Add dry ingredients to wet in batches, alternating between buttermilk and flour.
- Fold in rhubarb and strawberries.
- Transfer cake batter to prepared pan.
- Set pan on center oven rack and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake starts to pull away from the pan. Makes 12 servings.
Book Marketing can be as much work as writing. You need to be able to summarize your book in two sentences (an “elevator speech) and print materials to support your book or series. Carry these materials in a shopping bag, large purse, or briefcase. Having materials isn’t enough, however, and you have to distribute them. What do you need?
Business cards. Small as it is, a business card is really a mini biography of you and should be professionally designed. Include your photo, writing genre, contact information, and summary phrase, such as “a romantic mystery.” Your photo should be current, not a shot that was taken 10 years ago. Be sure to include your website address.
Information Cards. A 5 ½-inch by 8-inch card is a good size. Your book cover, or covers, are printed on the front, and “sell copy” on the back. Ask your publisher for help if you haven’t written sell copy before. To encourage people to read both sides of the card, put “over” with an arrow on the bottom, right-hand corner of the front. Include your publisher’s name, logo, logos for the social media you use, and your website address. Inexpensive cards are available online.
Flyers. If you have art training or are familiar with computer graphics, design your own flyer. It should include your book cover, publisher, and some descriptive words. For example, the flyer for my upcoming cookbook says, “easy-fix recipes,” “real-life stories,” and “speed shopping tips.” Four-color flyers are more costly than black, but remember that color sells. To save money, print your flyer in black ink on colored stock.
Author brochures. Although I’m familiar with this idea, I’ve never acted upon it, so it’s still on my “To Do” list. I’m going to wrote the copy, but wait on printing because my marketing budget is strained right now. Tri-fold brochures are common and fairly cheap. Include clear photos only. No photos are better than fuzzy ones that frustrate readers.
A sample book. Nothing takes the place of having an actual book—something you can show top potential readers. Store your book in a plastic zipper bag. To prevent the cover from getting bent, and the corners from getting damaged, put protective cardboard over the front and back.
Bookmarks. Some publishers recommend them and others don’t. I had bookmarks printed for two of my latest books and have given out only a few. The graphic designer’s fee was more than I anticipated, and I had to pay for printing and shipping. If you have bookmarks, store them with your sample book.
Savor at least 15 minutes of quiet a day.
Continue to write articles, books, and speak to groups.
Listen to music when driving around town.
Always have blooming plants in our home.
Feed the birds regularly and observe them.
Wear clothes that feel good and make me happy.
Try new foods, products and recipes.
Be proud of my age and accomplishments.
Read more articles and books for fun.
Continue to learn.
Live mindfully despite my busy schedule.
Volunteer my time and talents.
Say “I love you” every day.
Sorry, but I don’t believe in writer’s block. As a health and wellness writer, I believe in more research, re-thinking points, and revisions. Russian composer and pianist, Igor Stragvinsky, expressed my outlook. “Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning.” When I’m stuck on a word, sentence, or paragraph, I take a short break, have a cup of coffee, and return to work.
In my former house I had a large home office, with a wall of book shelves, a long counter to lay out manuscript pages, and computer desk in front of the window. The window looked out over the back yard, a place of seasonal changes and wonder. Beyond the boundaries of our yard was a wooded area with mature trees, an ideal place for birds to rest.
While I was writing I would see cardinals, junkos, sparrows, blue jays, and other birds. I would check the weather—sun breaking through clouds after rain, a storm blowing in from the Dakotas. Deer passed through the yard, often stopping to eat our roses. I saw several female deer with their fawns, and herds of deer meandering together. Wild turkeys walked by and one winter day I saw a flock of wild pheasants.
Two years ago we moved from the home we had lived in for more than 20 years to a small townhome. It was a forced move. My husband’s aorta dissected and he had three emergency operations. During the third operation he suffered a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs. Although I visited many assisted living communities, none of them had apartments that met our needs, so I built a wheelchair accessible townhome for us.
We’ve lived here for two years. No home office. No long counter. No window overlooking the back yard. Today, my office is a notch cut from the laundry room. The notch is barely wide enough to hold my computer desk and a small filing cabinet. Instead of looking at nature I look at a wall. Although I’ve hung family photos on the wall, looking at them isn’t the same as looking at nature.
Spring finally came to Minnesota, a time when residents rush out to buy bedding plants and seed backyard gardens. Gardening is difficult for me, due to two arthritic hips and knees, so I asked a horticulturalist to plant petunias by our front walk. When the door is open and I’m working, I see the petunias, the large pot of geraniums, and bench I bought. Across the street, I see a lush, green hillside, inhabited by a variety of birds, and deer that traverse secret paths.
Before I sit down to write, I open the door and look at this scene, the bright pink of the petunias, darker pink of the geraniums, and brilliant green shrubs. I am grateful for this connection with nature. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, devotes an entire chapter of his book to the idea of nature nurturing creativity.
Louv describes nature as imperfectly perfect and thinks connecting with it inspires children and adults alike. “Nature—the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful—offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot,” he writes. Connecting with nature connects us with the basics of life, he continues, “earth, water, air, and other living kin, large and small.”
The last few days I’ve been writing like crazy: letters, social media posts, book marketing pieces, and articles for three websites. I think my increased creativity comes from the view outside my door. Yesterday, torrential rain flattened the petunias and I wondered if they would survive. But today, the flowers are upright and thriving. Thank you, pink petunias, for your happy faces, glorious color, and strength. You inspire me.
Whether it’s novels, non-fiction, poetry, plays, stories, essays, or affirmations, each writing form has rules. This is true of cookbooks. Formats may change, terms may change, and it’s wise to be aware of these things before you start writing. These tips will save you time and work.
- First, determine the chapter topics and titles. You may follow current trends or opt for originality.
- Create recipe titles that inform and tantalize. Every title should tell, instantly, what the recipe is about.
- Add personal comments and stories. These comments will make your cookbook original and interesting.
- Check product names. Granular flour, for example, used to be called gravy flour and is now called quick-mixing.
- List necessary tools. A melon baller may be used to make orbs of butter, for example.
- Follow capitalization rules. Names that refer to actual places usually begin with caps.
- Number directions. Reading numbered steps is easier than reading paragraphs.
- Include colored photos. Black and white photos are a turn-off; colored photos spark the appetite.
- Credit the sources you’ve used. This is common courtesy and legal protection for you.
- Make easy-reading your goal. Readers appreciate graphics and larger print.