Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Writing a book that people want to read

In the early days of writing White Shadow, a historical novel, I remember wondering if there would be anyone interested in reading about a revolution in a faraway African country. It didn’t matter really, because I was going to write it anyway.

Mozambique is a country that doesn’t get much press.  In 2004 when I had a chance to live there for a while, I had to look it up to see where it was. All I knew was that at one time it had been the poorest country in the world.

White Shadow came out a few months ago. With some trepidation and after several years of writing and rewriting, I finally let loose of it, for better or worse. I hadn’t realized how downright scary it was to send it out into the world, but I knew I had to do it.

Much to my surprise, people are actually reading it. Several of them have taken the time to call or write. They let me know that they were interested to learn about the traumatic end to the colonial era in a country they knew nothing about. One reader said that during those days she was so consumed with raising children and returning to graduate school as a young widow that she knew nothing of what was going on in much of Africa in the 1960s and 70s.

Perhaps the story appeals because it is a human drama focused on the lives of a couple of incredible people caught up in a changing world that demanded much of them. Maybe it doesn’t matter that the story takes place in a faraway country they know little about.

Whatever it is, I have been pleasantly surprised at the response to the story.  Those little checks from Amazon keep coming and it has found a spot in several local outlets.

I’m now at work on a book about running, a long-time passion of mine. And I’m wondering who in the world will be interested in reading it.  But I’m writing it anyway.

Sometimes I think this business of applying words to the page is a difficult and silly endeavor that takes hold of you and won’t let go.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The power of community

My friend and neighbor has a new knee and I have a new appreciation for the value of community, or is the word simply friendship?

From Saturday through Friday nights last week, I stayed at my friend’s house as she began the road to recovery following her Thursday morning knee replacement surgery. All went well and she was able to put some weight on her knee that very day. But getting back to a normal routine, doing the things that need to be done to keep body and soul together, takes some time and a bit of help.

That’s where her friends came in. One person organized a “meal train” and every night a lovely meal appeared. Other friends volunteered to take her to physical therapy every other day. Still others provided a whole array of medical equipment ranging from a stationery bicycle to a slick little plastic envelope that made it much easier to put on a long supportive stocking—and everything in-between. A fat envelope came from her church with a stack of get-well greetings.  People called on the phone, sent emails and stopped by to check on her.

Much has written about the positive effect created by having a sense of community. This week I saw it in action. My friend is a giver and she has been helping others in big and small ways for a long time, never with the anticipation of getting anything in return. People notice and they remember. And when it is their turn to step up, they do.

My friend has enough good food in her house to last her for a long time. And for the next several weeks, she will have a free and friendly ride to the physical therapist. Every little gesture is contributing to her healing and lightening the task of getting her new knee to function normally. I predict that, because of her friends, it will happen sooner rather than later.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Getting out the door

After a couple of surprisingly warm February days, cold, damp and, gray set in today with the temperature hovering in the 20s. It was a day that I found myself wanting to stay inside my cozy house, but I could not. I had an interview scheduled for the morning, at noon a plan to visit my friend who had her knee replaced yesterday and, early in the afternoon, a reporter from the Rocky Mountain Collegian was to interview me about my White Shadow book.

So off I set, opting to drive instead of walk to the offices of No Barriers, a national organization based a mile from my house that I’d never heard of until last week-end. In casual conversation at a church-related event on Sunday morning, I had questioned a woman sitting at my table about what she did. “I’m the education director for No Barriers,” she explained.

“What’s that?” I asked. “I’ve never heard of it.” When she explained that it was a non-profit organization with a mission to change the lives of wounded warriors, those with physical disabilities and youth through organized outdoor experiences, I got curious enough to ask if I could interview her for a North Forty News article. I had no idea what I was getting into.

After an hour, I learned that the organization employs 35 people and offers diverse experiences all over the world that not only change the lives of those who participate, but encourages participants to give back to others as a result of what they have learned. The article will not be an easy one to write. There are too many amazing stories to tell. One no-barrier example: founder Erik Weihenmayer was the first blind person to summit Mt. Everest.

At the hospital, my friend was laughing with her physical therapist, had already mounted a stationery bike and was about to walk back to her room. Really? Just a little more than 24 hours after getting a new knee! She was busy ordering chicken marsala for lunch and planning to watch the Olympics on television in the afternoon when I left her.

On the other end of the interview this time, I tried to explain why I’d taken more than a decade to write about Janet Mondlane’s courageous and challenging life. Not so easy to do without spoiling the story for a reader.

It turned out to be a good way to spend an otherwise dreary day.