Today I’m happy to welcome a dear friend Jean Rosenow, whose wonderful book has just been released. Until work took her away, Jean was a member of our local critique group. We’ve all loved this story from the very first, and we’re so happy that it’s now out. It’s a beautiful story of compassion and love, first chances and ‘at last’ chances.
Thanks, Barb! I’m honored that you’ve asked me to drop by today.
Please tell us a little about the book.
The original title was PERSONALS. It started as a short story, published by Grit Magazine in 2004, and I thought that was the end of it. The characters, however, wouldn’t leave me alone…they had more to tell. When their story began to unfold in my head, I assumed it was simply the tale of Ira and Emma and their introduction through the Personals column, but then Rodney came into the picture and stole the show.
What drew you to this story?
People I’ve known and loved. We are only a generation or two away in history from routinely institutionalizing people with developmental disabilities. Some older adults, especially in rural areas, are still living with and being cared for by aging parents or other family members. Nowadays there are more options for supervised independent living without abrupt separation from family, and I hope that I’ve left the impression that this is the direction Rodney is heading. Also, I don’t feel that enough authors write for people into or past middle age. Many of us Baby Boomers no longer want heroes who are strapping young studs with six-pack abs and an inexhaustible supply of testosterone. We’re seasoned enough to value loyalty, respect, good manners and a gentle heart. Our heroes come with graying hair and a twinkle in their eye and they love us in spite of, or perhaps because of, our own signs of aging.
And I recall your saying how interesting--and rewarding--you found it that men who read the short story in the magazine dropped you notes saying how much they enjoyed Ira’s tale. Would you share an excerpt?
Sure. This scene takes place in the kitchen out at Joe’s farm when Ira first shares his dilemma with his old friend - that he has found a woman who just might be ‘the one’ through his personals ad, but she didn’t include any contact information…identifying herself only as the ‘Plain Woman’.
“Have ya et?” Joe asked. “I’ve got brown beans and light bread. Cooked ‘em yestiddy and there’s plenty left fer the two of us.”
“Sounds good. Why don’t we put them on the stove? I’ve got something I want to show you while they heat up.”
“What is it?” Joe asked as he took a Dutch oven out of the refrigerator and transferred some of its contents to a saucepan. “We’ll let these heat slow so they won’t scorch. Nothin’ worse than scorched beans.”
He shoved a pile of newspapers and machine parts to the far side of the table and then pulled a plastic container of margarine out of the refrigerator and placed it in the middle with a loaf of white bread. He pulled his pocket knife out of his pocket, opened the blade and swiped it on the leg of his overalls before quartering a white onion, which he placed on a saucer and then he opened a can of fruit cocktail. He spooned the contents out in equal portions into custard cups and poured the syrup over the fruit, before asking “Say, do you like the cherries?”
Ira knew that Joe favored the cherries himself and so he said “No. Oh no, I never do eat the cherries.”
Joe poked through the fruit with a spoon and took all of the cherries for himself. “Well, what was it you wanted to show me?” he asked.
Ira felt the letter in his pocket and was suddenly loath to take it out and show it. It had, after all, been written to him alone. He had a sudden intuition that the Plain Woman wouldn’t like to know that he had shown her words to someone else.
“Oh, it wasn’t anything important, now that I think about it. Let’s just eat this feast you’ve set and then go check on those pigs again.”
Joe looked at him sharply and Ira avoided his eyes.
“Oh, look at you,” Joe said. “You’re keepin’ secrets. What’re you up to, anyway?” He pulled the pan of beans off the stove and set it directly on the table, then got a big spoon from the drawer to dip with.
“Help yerself. Maybe you’ll feel more like talkin’ when yer belly’s full. Ya ain’t leavin’ here until ya do, ya know.”
“Are we eating out of the same pan?” Ira asked, annoyed at the rush of heat he felt creeping up his neck.
“Oh, I forgot to get bowls. Here, let me wash a couple.”
“You might get a couple of spoons while you’re at it, too. And a knife for the butter.”
“My, ain’t we fancy today,” Joe sniffed, carrying the still-wet bowls and utensils to the table.
Ira busied himself filling his bowl with beans and then he spread margarine on a piece of bread. He folded it in half and took a bite of it, looking out the window as he chewed.
“Well, will you look at that. I do believe yer blushin’. Now I’d say this ‘unimportant thing’ yer not gonna tell me must have somethin’ to do with a woman to make ya color up like that. Ya ain’t gone and got yerself a galfriend, have ya?” Joe grinned hugely, looking at Ira. He took a bite of his own bread.
“Not exactly,” Ira sighed with resignation. He knew Joe would never let the subject drop until he had ferreted out every last detail.
“Remember those Personals ads we looked at while you were in the hospital?”
“Yep. Don’t tell me ya went and answered one. Ya did, didn’cha?” I knew ya would, ya rascal! I just knew it!” Joe laid his spoon down and gave Ira his undivided attention.
“Well then, exactly what?”
“I wrote one.”
Joe hooted with laughter and slapped his thigh, leaning back on two legs of his chair. “Ya wrote one. If that don’t beat all. And then what happened? Did anybody write back?”
“A few did,” Ira replied cautiously.
“And you’ve picked one out, ain’t cha?”
“I might have.”
Joe’s chair came down on all four legs with a bang.
“So who is she? Have ya called her? Have ya taken her out courtin’?”
“That’s the problem. She didn’t sign her name. I don’t know who she is or how to find her.”
You have definite way of creating memorable--and realistic--characters. I recall someone very like Joe when I was young. What’s your next project?
I’m working on a novel set in the lumber boom of the late 1800’s. The lumber industry has always been an important source of income here in the Ozarks…especially during the westward movement. Cities needed lumber to build homes and businesses and the ever expanding railway system needed ties…lots and lots of ties. Jobs were created and Ozarks families could finally afford what they needed to make their lives a little easier. But what about the eco-system? How would the removal of all that virgin timber affect life for future generations? How did it affect the men and women who worked for the lumber companies? Was it a rape of our native collateral…or did it open the door for management and protection of our natural resources?
This will be a wonderful story. All too often we overlook local history, which is in danger of being lost. Good luck with the novel. What tip would you offer writers?
Keep track of your ideas…even the little ones. I keep a wicker basket on my desk – it’s full of gas receipts, scraps of paper, etc. with clever phrases I’ve heard, memories, sights, expressions – anything I might use later – written on the backs of them.An organized writer would categorize these and keep them in a neat filing system, but this works for me. And it’s fun to reach in sometimes and pull one out just to see what ideas or memories it can evoke.
How do your stories ‘come to you’ at first--through characters, setting, story line?
Usually setting, occasionally a character will come out of nowhere, but without the proper setting, I can’t find their stories.
Is there a special place you like to write?
Curled up in ‘my’ chair in the living room if there’s no one else home, or in my office if there is…I’m easily distracted. LOL
Sounds like you might have some challenges with finding writing time?
Heavens yes! Working five days a week, spending quality time with my husband, the boys and my friends, keeping the house reasonably livable in the midst of a massive remodel, keeping everyone fed so they don’t gnaw off a leg…writing time just has to fit in whenever there’s a minute or two to spare.
LOL. You are so conscientious, and I know your grown men appreciate all you do for them. But we all hope you can find time for your writing and that next story.Thanks so much for being here today. I hope you’ll come back again.
Anytime, Barb. I’m thrilled that you invited me.
Visit Jean website at http://jeanrosenow.com/ and her blog at http://roamingtheozarks.blogspot.com/
Here are buy links for her book.
Or the short version: http://tinyurl.com/d36peu6