2020 Debut Book Feature and Author Interview: Megan Walker, Lakeshire Park

Megan Walker was raised on a berry farm in Poplar Bluff, MO, where her imagination took her to times past and worlds away. While earning her degree in Early Childhood Education from Brigham Young University, she married her one true love and started a family. But her imaginings wouldn’t leave her alone, so she picked up a pen. And the rest is history. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and three children.

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Author Interview

Q: What inspired you to write Lakeshire Park?

A: I always hesitate to answer this question because my answer is so personal. We as a society generally shrink away from talking about child loss, but I actually started writing after a therapist told me to. My son Simon passed away at five months old, and I was dealing with the pain of bereavement mixed with PTSD, and struggling with sleep. After writing about Simon’s life, I wanted to escape to a world in my imagination. I wanted to write about a heroine who’d lost everything, whose circumstances seemed hopeless and were out of her control, so I could give her the world. And that’s how I met Amelia. 

Q: Did you have to do any particular research for this book?

A: Well the first thing I had to do was research how to write a book! I attended an awesome writing conference, made some incredible friends, and learned my craft. And because Lakeshire Park is a historical romance set in the Regency era, I spent countless hours studying dresses, hairstyles, forms of speech, titles, everything from curling papers to lip salves, and proper etiquette to what a lady could get away with during a parlor game. The reality of their lives is often a far stretch from what movies portray.

Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

A: I have three living children who keep me busy! Currently we’re getting creative with our time home during COVID19. I love baking, which there never seems to be enough time for, and photography–so cliche, I know. But when you capture the light just right…I have so many pictures of my kids!!

Q: What does your writing routine look like?

A: Right now it’s scattered. Usually I write in the late evening hours when my house is quiet. I’m hoping to get better at waking up early to write before my kids wake up. But with my 9 month old Henry, that seems impossible. Plus, I love my bed too much. My best writing actually comes by using the Google Docs app on my phone. I steal minutes cuddling my kids when they’re watching tv, or after rocking Henry to sleep.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?

A: I couldn’t have made it without my critique partners who are all amazing writers (Arlem Hawks, Joanna Barker, Heidi Kimball, and Sally Britton). They taught me how to be a better writer and a better human, and they gave me tips on where to start after I finished my first draft. It takes a village. I’m lucky to have such a supportive one. We talk every day.

But I ultimately got to pick between two wonderful publishers, and I think Lakeshire Park fits perfectly with Shadow Mountain. 

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From the publisher, Shadow Mountain:

Brighton, England 1820 Amelia Moore wants only one thing–to secure the future happiness of her younger sister, Clara. With their stepfather’s looming death, the two sisters will soon be on their own–without family, a home, or a penny to their names. When an invitation arrives to join a house party at Lakeshire Park, Amelia grasps at the chance. If she can encourage a match between Clara and their host, Sir Ronald, then at least her sister will be taken care of.  

Little does she know that another guest, the arrogant and overconfident Mr. Peter Wood, is after the same goal for his own sister. Amelia and Peter begin a rivalry that Amelia has no choice but to win. But competing against Peter–and eventually playing by his rules–makes Amelia vulnerable to losing the only thing she has left to claim: her heart.

2020 Debut Book Feature and Author Interview: Rashi Rohatgi, Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

In an attempt to help some of my fellow 2020 debut authors who have had book launches and events cancelled because of the coronavirus, I am featuring several of them and their books over the coming weeks and months. The hope and intent is to help build awareness for new authors and their titles releasing this year. Up today, Rashi Rohatgi and her novel, Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow.

Rashi lives in Norway with her partner and son. When she’s not writing, reading, or teaching, you can find her at one of the glorious Arctic beaches she insists are perfect in any weather.

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From the publisher, Galaxy Galloper Press

It’s 1905, and the Japanese victory over the Russians has shocked the British and their imperial subjects. Sixteen-year-old Leela and her younger sister, Maya, are spurred on to wear homespun to show the British that the Indians won’t be oppressed for much longer, either, but when Leela’s betrothed, Nash, asks her to circulate a petition amongst her classmates to desegregate the girls’ school in Chadrapur, she’s wary. She needs to remind Maya that the old ways are not all bad, for soon Maya will have to join her own betrothed and his family in their quiet village. When she discovers that Maya has embarked on a forbidden romance, Leela’s response shocks her family, her town, and her country firmly into the new century.

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Author Interview

Q: What inspired you to write Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow?

A: Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow is the story of a girl’s estrangement from her community, and the extreme consequences that has. Growing up in Pennsylvania, we were often encouraged to leave town in two ways: firstly, by people telling us to ‘go home’ (because we didn’t look the part) but also by well-intentioned people suggesting that once we left our small town we’d find where we ‘truly belonged.’ Both were extremely frustrating, and when I returned to my hometown as an adult to teach at a local university and saw that this two-fold refrain was still going strong, I felt moved to write about it. I’d spent the past several years in London, where the news had recently been dominated by three young women who’d left school to join ISIS, and so overall I really wanted to write about what it means to be a teenage girl about to leave. Leela and Maya aren’t based on specific people per se, but Leela is a little bit based on Beyoncé’s ‘Becky with the good hair.’  

Q: Did you have to do any special or particular research for this book?

A: The novel is set in a fictionalized version of my mother’s hometown and so I did a lot of the research before I conceived of the novel, just out of personal interest. When I sat down to write, I realize I’d never talked to my mom about turn-of-the-century Patna, and so I called and asked her and found she’d never learned about it in school. I’m not sure why I was surprised – at this very time in my life, my husband was writing a book about an author who’d gone to the same small school I attended and while we’d spent a lot of time on local history in grade school she hadn’t made it onto the syllabus at all – but it made me want to include the characters’ thoughts about how and what they’d teach their pasts and their present. I was also a bit surprised by how much research I felt compelled to do to write a novel that does not purport to be historically accurate. If Leela was alone somewhere she’d never have been left alone in 1905, I still wanted that anachronistic experience to sound right, smell right, feel right. 

Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

A: I teach world literature in English in Arctic Norway. Like many other colleges and universities around the world, my workplace has gone fully online for the rest of the semester, so I’ve recently spent a lot of time getting my courses up and running. I don’t mind working online, but I already miss the rewards of campus life – particularly unplanned conversations. On the other hand, like many other parents, I’m getting to spend a lot more time having unplanned conversations with my kid and I’m not going to lie, I think he’s great. He’s not old enough to care about WHERE THE SUN WILL RISE TOMORROW, but he’s got great taste in picture books. Recently, he’s gotten really into The Story Orchestra’s Swan Lake. Jessica Courtney Tickle’s drawn the story with a diverse cast, which I appreciate. So now we spend about three hours a day listening to it and dancing along and discussing whether or not Odette should have forgiven Siegfried for dancing with the nefarious imposter.

Q: What does your writing routine look like?

A: Right now it’s fallen apart! WHERE THE SUN WILL RISE TOMORROW centers, in part, on Leela’s desire to have a conventional life at a time when global events are destabilising conventions in her corner of the world. She’s living in the aftermath of her mother’s death, but also the death of her boyfriend’s sisters, to what in real life is known as the Bombay plague epidemic of the 1890s; when the British started using really intrusive methods to block the spread of the plague, lots of Indians were furious and ten years later, when the novel takes place, that revolutionary spirit is still alive. Today most of us are not colonial subjects, and I hope we’re all helping to flatten the curve. Yet I hope that we are furious at the systems we have in place in the USA that make this pandemic particularly awful for Americans: lack of universal healthcare, lack of worker protections, and politicians who are more passionate about their investments than their constituents, and I hope that in ten years – when, with any luck, I will have a writing routine again – we have channeled our anger into positive change. 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?

A: Living in Europe, I’d gotten very into reading novellas, which are more widely published there. As I revised my novel drafts, I found myself making the story shorter and shorter – if anyone’s interested, I can tell them what happens to Leela and her descendants for the next 100 years, but ultimately it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. But as an American, I wanted a US publisher. When I found out that Galaxy Galloper was trying to bring novella culture to the States, I jumped at the chance and applied for their contest. 

2020 Debut Book Feature and Author Interview: Tracey Enerson Wood, The Engineer’s Wife

In an attempt to help some of my fellow 2020 debut authors who have had book launches and events cancelled because of the coronavirus, I am featuring several of them and their books over the coming weeks and months. The hope and intent is to help build awareness for new authors and their titles releasing this year. Up today, Tracey Enerson Wood and her novel, The Engineer’s Wife. Release date April 7th, 2020.

Tracey Enerson Wood has always had a writing bug. While working as a Registered Nurse, starting her own Interior Design company, raising two children, and bouncing around the world as a military wife, she indulged in her passion as a playwright, screenwriter and novelist. She has authored magazine columns and other non-fiction, written and directed plays of all lengths, including Grits, Fleas and Carrots, Rocks and Other Hard Places, Alone, and Fog. A New Jersey native, she now lives with her family in Florida and Germany.

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Reviews and Praise for The Engineer’s Wife

“Well-researched with great attention to detail, The Engineer’s Wife is based on the true story about the exceptional woman who was tasked to build the Brooklyn Bridge. Though the great bridge would connect a city, it would also cause division and great loss for many. Tracey Enerson Wood delivers an absorbing and poignant tale of struggle, self-sacrifice and the family transformed by the building of the legendary American landmark during the volatile time of women’s suffrage, riots and corruption. A triumphant debut not to be missed!” – Kim Michele Richardson, bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

“The Engineer’s Wife is just the sort of novel I love and-I hope-write. Against all odds, a dynamic, historic woman builds a monument and changes history as she and her surrounding cast leap off the page. What a life and what a beautifully written and inspiring story! ” – Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Secret

“This important work of historical fiction brings to life the strength and resolve of a nineteenth-century woman overshadowed by men and overlooked by history books.” – Booklist

“Wood’s satisfying historical feels true to its era yet powerfully relevant to women’s lives today.” – Publishers Weekly

From the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark

She built a monument for all time. Then she was lost in its shadow.

Emily Warren Roebling refuses to live conventionally—she knows who she is and what she wants, and she’s determined to make change. But then her husband Wash asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible.

Emily’s fight for women’s suffrage is put on hold, and her life transformed when Wash, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. Lines blur as Wash’s vision becomes her own, and when he is unable to return to the job, Emily is consumed by it. But as the project takes shape under Emily’s direction, she wonders whose legacy she is building—hers, or her husband’s. As the monument rises, Emily’s marriage, principles, and identity threaten to collapse. When the bridge finally stands finished, will she recognize the woman who built it?

Based on the true story of the Brooklyn Bridge, The Engineer’s Wife delivers an emotional portrait of a woman transformed by a project of unfathomable scale, which takes her into the bowels of the East River, suffragette riots, the halls of Manhattan’s elite, and the heady, freewheeling temptations of P.T. Barnum. It’s the story of a husband and wife determined to build something that lasts—even at the risk of losing each other.

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Mini Interview with Tracey Enerson Wood

Q: What inspired you to write The Engineer’s Wife?

A: Some years ago, I was writing theatrical plays, and had a concept in need of a story. Coming from a multi-generational military family, the theme I wanted to explore was: What family dynamics are in play, when the very occupation that sustains them, and binds them together, may also kill them?

I wanted to write a fictionalized version of a real family, from the female perspective, and wanted to stray from the well-worn path of military and war. In my research, I discovered the Roebling family, and most especially, Emily Warren Roebling. 

I was immediately fascinated by this woman, and the times she lived in. Her pluck, bravery, and sheer determination, in the midst of an enormous task that was destroying her beloved family, was irresistible. I was driven to write her story.

Q: Did you have to do any particular research for this book?

A: Not knowing much about bridge construction, I had a steep learning curve there. I also dove deep into the era, the fashion, politics, current events, and of course New York City history of the time. Having had an excellent college course in Women‘s Studies, which delved into issues such as how fashion affected women‘s progress, I knew this had to be included. And so much more-the history of suffrage, of P.T. Barnum, the Civil War experiences of my historical characters. I looked up the etymology of many words to ensure they were in use at the time, and that the meaning was the same as today. I had to make sure every business and product mentioned was around at the time.

Luckily for me, I grew up in the surrounding area, so at least the geographic features, flora and fauna were familiar to me.

2020 Debut Book Feature and Author Interview: Jennifer Rosner, The Yellow Bird Sings

In an attempt to help some of my fellow 2020 debut authors who have had book launches and events cancelled because of the coronavirus, I am featuring several of them and their books over the coming weeks and months. The hope and intent is to help build awareness for new authors and their titles releasing this year. Up today, Jennifer Rosner and her book, The Yellow Bird Sings.

Connect with Jennifer Rosner

Praise for The Yellow Bird Sings

“Desperately moving and exquisitely written. If you only read one book this year, make it The Yellow Bird Sings. A beautiful story with achingly memorable characters, for me Jennifer Rosner’s novel stands alongside The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Code Name Verity as one of those profoundly special World War Two novels you know you will never forget.”
–AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs Bird

“Music and love course through this beautiful novel, twin rivers of wonder. The Yellow Bird Sings is a powerful hymn to the resilience and determination of a mother’s love in the face of the inhuman horrors of war. Jennifer Rosner has written a book that will break your heart, and then put it back together again, a little larger than before.”
–Alex George, author of the #1 Indie Next pick A Good American

The Yellow Bird Sings is a beautiful book in so many ways. Like Shira’s imaginary bird, Jennifer Rosner’s prose is lilting and musical, yet her tale of war’s grave personal reality is gripping, heartrending, and so very real. Told beneath an overarching sky of the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter, this is a story readers will continue to ponder long afterward.”
–Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours and Before and After

Room meets Schindler’s List in The Yellow Bird Sings, a beautifully written tale of mothers and daughters, war and love, the music of the living and the silence of the dead. Jennifer Rosner is a writer to watch.”
–Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network

“Imagine a mother hiding in fear of her life.  Then imagine she is also hiding her lively daughter whose smallest sound may betray them. With wonderful tenderness and imagination, Jennifer Rosner evokes the dangers Roza and Shira face and how, in the midst of those dangers, love and music survive.  A brilliant and transporting novel.”
–Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Yellow Bird Sings is a captivating novel about the power of music, the human voice and what we sacrifice in order to survive extraordinary circumstances. Absolutely riveting.”
–Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One is Here Except All of Us

From the publisher, Flatiron Books

In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope―a whispered story, a bird’s song―in even the darkest of times.

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Interview with the author.

Interview was conducted by, and originally posted at www.sissireads.com. Reposted with permission granted from Sissi Reads via the author Jennifer Rosner.

Q: The Yellow Bird Sings is your debut novel, following on the heels of your memoir, If a Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard, about raising two deaf daughters in a hearing, speaking world. How was the process of writing a novel different from writing about your own experiences?

A: My memoir-writing began as a way to process my feelings, thoughts, and experiences as a mother raising our girls. It was—obviously!—deeply personal; it was creative, too, and demanded my imaginings of the lives of my deaf ancestors in the 1800s.  The Yellow Bird Sings is wholly fictional, yet I identified very closely with both Roza and Shira (especially their longings for connection), and felt tied to the yellow bird and to the music running through the work. Writing fiction and writing memoir bring different freedoms and different constraints. For me, both tapped into personal material and were extremely nourishing to write. 

Q: In your novel, a mother and daughter struggle to survive in wartime Poland. What drew you to this time in history, and these characters in particular?

A: Years ago I met a woman who, as a child, hid with her mother during WWII. Her story stuck with me; I became fascinated by the notion of a child’s hiding (and also: a mother’s challenge, keeping her child hidden). I began interviewing other “hidden children” of the Holocaust, amazed by their resilience and ingenuity. My novel project grew from there.

Q: What inspired you to include the “character” of the yellow bird in your story?

A: As a mother of two children, I’ve been well-versed in the world of attachment objects (special stuffed animals, blankets) and of “imaginary friends.” My eldest daughter had three such “friends” who would often pop up while she played on the swings. One day I heard of a little girl who, in response to a trauma, ceased speaking and cupped her hands around empty air. I imagined that the girl conjured a pet bird to soothe herself. The image stuck with me. When Shira’s character began to form, having a little bird to bring comfort and to sing her music felt right.

The yellow bird expanded my writing process too. It provided me a device for deeper sub-textual expression and for the introduction of certain magical elements.

Some readers express uncertainty as to whether the yellow bird is “real”—I think this is because Shira conjures him so richly in her imagination, and the stories her mother tells validate Shira’s imagination, and her coping strategies.

Q: This story, written from the perspectives of Roza and Shira, is about the deep love and unbreakable bond between a mother and a child. What was the most difficult part in writing it?

A: The most difficult part in writing had to do with the content of certain scenes; these were challenging because of the terror and pain involved. I had less difficulty inhabiting each character’s perspective (mother and daughter), as I felt deeply identified with both. At the heart of the story is a profound longing for closeness, and I have personal roots to this. As a child I longed for a steady closeness with my mother; but for various reasons my mother could be present to me only intermittently. When I became a mother myself, I was determined to be steadfastly attentive and bonded to my daughters (especially in light of what I’d longed for and missed). So, in a visceral way, I understood the basic need of both Shira and Roza to stay connected throughout.

Q: While I was reading it, it felt like music was another character in Shira and Roza’s story. Why music and why did it play such an instrumental part in this book?

A: From my extensive reading and research, I came to believe that creativity (and the recognition of beauty wherever it could be found) was a key to survival in hiding. In the face of crushing silence and the absolute need to vanish, music—even if never expressed aloud—asserted an aspect of one’s experience, one’s expression, that could not be stolen, silenced, or stopped.

On a more personal note, my childhood was marked daily by the sound of my father practicing the violin. I studied voice (opera, specifically). My mother loved to listen to me sing; she was at her most attentive then. I grew up steeped in the transportive, connective power of music, so it seemed natural for Shira to be musical, for her to connect with Roza through music, and for music to play a role in connecting them even when apart.

Q: What are some of your favorite books?

A: Some recent ones:

  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson – because she renders the ordinary extraordinary and makes even the quietest moments sing.
  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – because with his amazing word choices, he makes language new.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison – because she showed that magic, woven into reality, shakes loose fresh truth.

Q: Do you have any special writing rituals? Snacks? Playlists?

A: Tea and chocolate. Tea and chocolate. Tea and chocolate…..

Q: What’s up next for you?

A: I’m at work on a new novel!  It’s at the earliest stages—exciting and also daunting. All I can say for now is, it’s taking the form of a fable, and it is about truth-telling, rising waters, and a girl trying to find home.

2020 Debut Book Feature: Nicole Mabry, Past this Point

In an attempt to help some of my fellow 2020 debut authors, I will be featuring several of them and their books over the coming weeks and months. The hope and intent is to help build awareness for new authors and their titles releasing this year. First up is Nicole Mabry, author of Past this Point.

Nicole Mabry is an award winning photographer, retoucher, and writer who lives in New York City. She manages photography post production at NBCUniversal, working on USA Network, Syfy and Bravo. Nicole’s photography has graced the covers of books internationally and has been featured in shows throughout the city. Nicole is an animal lover, avid book reader and horror movie junkie. Her love of the macabre led her to write Past This Point, an apocalyptic women’s fiction novel.

Connect with Nicole:

Reviews and Praise for

Past this Point

“Past This Point is realistic and terrifying, sad and rewarding. Pour yourself a glass of wine and snuggle up in front of a cozy fire and prepare to read this perfectly chilling novel from cover to cover in one sitting. You absolutely can’t put Nicole Mabry’s book down!” –Indies Today

“What an incredible story. It is truly a hidden gem and needs to be more widely read.” –Wine Cellar Library

“Engaging and profoundly riveting.” – R.C. Gibson, Editorial Reviewer

“The best book I have read in a long, long time.” – Steve Quade, Editorial Reviewer

“I loved this book, it was emotional and heart-poundingly thrilling. This is in my top three for apocalyptic genre along with Z for Zachariah and The Wolf Road.” —Hannah’s Words

From the Publisher, Red Adept Publishing

Karis Hylen has been through the New York City dating wringer. After years of failed relationships, she abandons her social life and whittles her days down to work and spending time with her dog, Zeke. Her self-imposed exile ends up saving her life when an untreatable virus sweeps the east coast, killing millions.Alone in her apartment building, Karis survives with only Zeke, phone calls to her mom, and conversations with two young girls living across the courtyard. With the city in a state of martial law, violence and the smell of rotting corpses surround her every day. But her biggest enemy is her own mind. As cabin fever sets in, vivid hallucinations make her question her sanity. In addition to her dwindling food and water stash, Karis must now struggle to keep her mind in check. When a mysterious man enters the scene, she hopes she can convince him to help her make it to the quarantine border. With the world crumbling around her, Karis discovers her inner strength but may find that she needs people after all.

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Indi Bound

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce and a Walk

Prior to virus life, I was gifted several tomatoes that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Seeing as how I’m am not a huge tomato eater, I decided they would be best used to make homemade spaghetti sauce.

Now, I don’t really know how to make homemade spaghetti sauce…but not knowing how to do things rarely stops me from doing anything. So, I combined information from google with some of my own, “Yeah, that sounds good.”

  1. I boiled some water

2. I placed the whole tomatoes in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes

3. I transferred the whole tomatoes from the boiling water to an ice bath in my sink I had prepared ahead of time. I left them in the ice water for another 4-5 minutes

4. I peeled the whole tomatoes then chopped them into 8ths

5. I sautéed half a white onion, 1 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of minced garlic in 3 Tbsp of olive oil until the onions were soft

6. I added the cut tomatoes, 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of basil, and mixed everything together. I let it cook covered and over medium heat until the sauce was the consistency I wanted–maybe 30 minutes. Sorry, I didn’t time it. But stir it every so often and see if it looks right

7. Finally, I poured it over some whole wheat spaghetti noodles and I swear, it’s the best sauce I’ve ever had EXCEPT for pretty much every dish I’ve had in Italy. Not sure I could ever recreate that!

As for today, I did some work then managed to get outside for a walk in the fresh air. It felt really, really good. If you’re not under house arrest yet…please think about going outside for a little movement. Your body will thank you. So will your mind.

Inappropriate Snowman

Yesterday we had our first Skype based IEP meeting and, after only a couple glitches: a dropped connection, incessant barking dog, not yet being fluent on how to share a document from your own screen–it went really well. Considering. More importantly, it was really great to see my co-worker’s faces. To know that they are doing well, are healthy, and that we’re pulling it together under these very different circumstances.

I didn’t end up getting over to see my grandfather and meet some of the other members of his hospice team like I had planned. My aunt called me and said that they had arrived early (while I was still in my meeting) and had just left. His nurse case manager had advised earlier in the week that my aunt limit visitors to only those that have been self-quarantined and symptom free for at least five days–I don’t qualify. But my aunt did send me the social worker’s number so I could call and ask my questions. Mainly I’d like to learn more about what resources might be available for my grandmother with dementia. Some good news, my grandfather was able to get out of bed yesterday and spend some time upstairs on the main floor with grandma, my aunt, and her husband.

I didn’t get as much written yesterday as I would have liked. The day was spent doing mostly job related things–today might end up being much the same. But we’ll see how much I can get done after I write and post this. One thing: so many of my fellow 2020 debut authors have had events and book signings cancelled due to our current circumstances. Everyone is scrambling to try to find ways to connect with readers online and still bring awareness to their titles without being able to have signings. I have offered to host some of the 2020 debut authors here on my blog. So far seventeen have raised their hands and said they’d like me to either do a feature on their book and/or a short author interview. So that will be happening here over the coming months in an attempt to support them as much as I can beyond buying their books myself. I’m really looking forward to doing this!

As for Beth and Matthew, they have been sticking close to the house, staying up late, waking up late, and pretty much doing their best to keep themselves entertained. Nothing with roll out with regards to online school until April 1, so they have time to revel in this state of nearly zero responsibility. We got gobs of snow yesterday and they both went outside to make a snowman in the front yard. Which filled my heart with warmth and joy and made me remember back when they were little and we would spend hours together out behind our house sledding, building lopsided igloos, and misshapen snowmen. My heart was nearly full to bursting from these, now idyllic and not completely accurate, memories when both my teens came running up to the front door and shouted at me to come see their creation. So I shoved on some boots and went outside.

At the very front of my yard, right next to the mailbox, they had constructed a snowman with a wide grin, a lopsided and upside down sun-visor, who was holding an empty beer bottle and smoking a fat joint–WITH the end burnt, you know, for authenticity.

He’s still sitting out there this morning, having a great substance induced time while I worry about what sort of message this is sending and what the neighbors will think as they walk their dogs and take their own, still innocent, young children out to make appropriate snowmen.

I DID manage to take his keys–so at least he won’t be a hazard to anyone on the roads!

Day to Day

Here in Colorado, it was originally decided that schools would be closed until March, 30th. Although I feel like none of us were really thinking anyone would be heading back into the buildings, and my principal said as much on Monday when we were allowed back into our building to gather belongings and anything we thought we would need for the next two weeks. Then yesterday, the Governor announced that, yes, schools will now be closed through April 17th, which would put the kids return date at Monday April 20th.

No one was surprised. All the schools are scrambling to find ways to still provide some online solutions for this time–and possibly for the rest of the year. As a school psychologist, and part of the special education team, we are working to start holding distance IEP meetings (probably with Zoom or Skype) and those first meetings are starting today. I’m sure it will take some figuring out, and hopefully everyone will be patient with us as we get our feet back under us on this new-to-us territory. The next big hurtle will be trying to figure out how to provide special education services and conduct assessments when we are not in the same room with the kids.

There will for sure be some problem solving that needs to happen over the course of the next few weeks; but I honestly have confidence that we will figure it out together. The team I work with is amazing–I’m grateful for them every day.

And speaking of gratitude, here is a list of a few other things I’m grateful for this morning.

  1. I’m healthy
  2. My family is healthy
  3. Billy (our malshee)
  4. Chloe (our new pug monster)
  5. Our home
  6. The food in our fridge and cupboard
  7. The sunny warm day we had yesterday and the time I spent in my back yard feeling that warmth (because I think a winter storm is heading for us today)
  8. The, reasonable, amount of toilet paper we have (I know you may be scared, but please don’t hoard things. It just contributes to herd panic)
  9. I am sleeping really well, super deep, but very weird and vivid dreams
  10. For every positive thing I see, read, and feel that helps raise the emotions into the optimism range

Beth and Matthew are aware that they will be participating in online learning starting April 1–we all have no idea what to expect or how this will look. But again, day by day problem solving is the only plan we can really make with regards to this.

One major disappointment for Beth is that she’ll for sure be losing prom this year. It was scheduled for April 11th. We imagine it will be unlikely they will reschedule this.

Other than that, everyone is staying connected to their friends much as they always have, through snapchat. So at least that probably doesn’t feel too different. Although I know they both miss seeing friends in real life.

As for the rest of today, I plan on writing this morning. Tidying the house (because damn it gets unhinged quick with everyone home all day every day). I have my first virtual IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting at 11:30 followed by our special education team virtual meeting at 1:00. Then I’ll be working on IEP reports and scoring any evaluations I had completed prior to the shut down.

At 3:30 I’m heading to my grandparents house to meet with the hospice social worker and spiritual advisor as we also navigate my grandfather’s current health situation. He does not have the virus, but he does appear to be reaching the end of his life. As a family, we are working through what this looks like, feels like, and means for my grandmother who has dementia and is unable to care for herself.

It’s more day by day problem solving and decision making, but I can not express how grateful I am for the hospice team that is providing amazing support and guidance for both my grandfather and the family.

I know life is crazy and stressful under even the best of circumstances, but I really do believe that now is the time to dig deep and find the good that is still all around us every day. At least that’s how I choose to live during uncertain and unsettling moments.

When Your Wish Comes True?

Like everyone else, I’m home right now as we try to get a handle on slowing the spread of the Coronavirus. If you didn’t already know, I work in schools as psychologist. Last Thursday we got the message: Don’t come in tomorrow, or next week. In fact, don’t come back until after spring break on March 30th.

School is closed.

I can’t tell you how often during this school year I’ve wished for extra time off to finish my current book (that is due to my publisher this spring). But I can honestly say, I didn’t wish it like this. In my mind, the extra time off to focus on my book was more a fantasy. Fun to dream about but in no way a reality to be had. Never, not once, did pandemic circumstances play a role.

And yet, here we are.

So now, a few days into staying home as much as possible, I’m trying to find a new routine that is both pragmatic and, let’s face it, fear reducing. Because, like many people, between checking the news, facebook, and twitter (BTW, stay off this platform as much as possible) I have found it incredibly hard to focus on much other than a rising tide of worry.

And worry, I have learned, is the antithesis to creativity. Yesterday I realized I needed to get a grip otherwise the next few weeks would float by on a sea of cortisol induced paralysis.

So here is what I did–and it worked:

  1. I woke up and did not (DID NOT) check the news, my email, or social media first thing
  2. I went downstairs, made a pot of tea, and drank my first cup while sitting in my backyard with my dogs
  3. With a second cup of tea, I went into my office, lit a candle, and meditated for fifteen minutes
  4. I folded some laundry that has been sitting in my bedroom for days
  5. I spent five minutes (5 minutes!) quickly checking for any recent Colorado coronavirus updates and need-to-knows
  6. I took my laptop to the couch in our loft area and decided this was the area I would be writing in today (moving to a different location seemed to help me focus on that project and avoid obsessively checking social media and/or the news
  7. Over the course of the day, I managed to write 1800 words. Which, let me tell you, felt like a miracle.

I’m making an active effort to keep my emotions in the hopefulness-optimism-positive expectations range. I don’t like our current circumstances any more than the next person, but I’ll keep trying my best to focus on what I can control right now and the belief that, when we all get on board with doing our part of staying away from each other to “flatten the curve”, in a couple months we’ll be able to get back to some normalcy.

So here’s my current plan: stay healthy, stay calm, stay sane, stay productive; and try to avoid any negative thought spirals.

Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Anita Kushwaha

My most recent read was Anita Kushwaha’s Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters. A multigenerational novel that is expertly told, Kushwaha masterfully juggles multiple points of views and intersecting story lines. I was deeply moved by both Asha and Mala’s life events, choices, and their individual burdens: personal, cultural, and traditional, that shaped their thinking, emotions, and choices. Peopled with characters both flawed and relatable, Kushwaha displays a deep understanding of character craft and how to translate inner experiences and outer choices into a narrative that is both heart breaking and redemptive. Anita Kushwaha’s Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters is a must read from a talented new voice in women’s fiction.

From the publisher: A breathtaking novel about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together and the secrets that tear them apart.

Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—because the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly for Asha, a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, who links them together.

After her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness, leaving Asha with only a letter.

Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.

Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.

Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life.

Three mothers—each bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.