Life, Time and other Non-renewable Resources

Sometimes I still write in a journal. And every now and then that entry takes shape as a poem.

Here is one such poem written on July 11, 2014.

Life, Time & other Non-Renewable Resources

No ticking clocks
change the passage of time
Not one whit
Limited minutes
roll into hours
Carefully spend them
they can’t be regained.
Soon hours are days
Days, months
until years of time
sucked down the drain of
procrastination,
Broken promises,
reveal a life
past its prime
still waiting for a dream
Regretting the conservation of time
Neglected
In this non-renewable
resource know as
Life

What are some other non-renewable resources you wish you had conserved more wisely?

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Jana Begovic talks about POISONOUS WHISPERS

If you’ve followed my site for very long, you know I love books and authors. And I’m especially fond of fantasy.

Although POISONOUS WHISPERS isn’t a traditional fantasy romance, it does have fantastical elements.

Today, I’ve invited author Jana Begovic to talk to you about her debut novel.

PoisonousWhispers_Cvr

Jana, thanks for coming today. Reincarnation plays an important part in POISONOUS WHISPERS. How did you become interested in this idea?

Thank you, Sharon for your excellent questions and willingness to feature my novel. The first time I found myself mesmerized by the concept of reincarnation was when my uncle, who is a psychiatrist, told a story about a patient whom he’d hypnotized, and who under hypnosis started speaking in a language he couldn’t recognize. He recorded her and later discovered she was speaking ancient Greek even though she never studied any foreign language and had never visited Greece. My interest in the topic continued through my reading of books on Buddhism, but it culminated with my discovery of Dr. Brian Weiss’ books on past life regression therapy. His work was the main inspiration for Poisonous Whispers.

Jana, you are from Europe and this novel takes place in several European countries. Have you visited all the places in your novel?

The only place mentioned in my novel that I have not visited is Ireland. I have always felt drawn to that country, to its music, dance and lore, and it is an attraction I simply cannot explain.  It is a seductive thought to think I may have lived there in one of my past lives.

Your settings are quite real. Readers want to know: is it difficult to translate the culture and ambiance of a place onto the page?

It is difficult to translate the culture and ambiance into fiction if you have not lived in that place. I believe the portrayal may stay somewhat superficial as there is so much invisible culture, which is difficult to convey unless it is a part of who we are.

When we first talked about your novel, you said it didn’t fit neatly into the romance genre. What would you say to compel readers of traditional romances to try out your novel?

 I would say that most readers would agree that the universal themes of love, romance, loss, heartbreak, suffering etc. cannot and should not be confined within the rigidly defined boundaries of any genre. Readers want quality books, novels that will give them reading pleasure and perhaps, teach them something new, or make them reflect on their own life and experiences.

By breaking out of the traditional romance parameters my novel aims to offer a multi-layered story, with characters that are flawed, like we all are, characters that make bad and morally dubious choices, suffer profound heartbreak as consequence, and become better versions of themselves along the way.

I also believe very few readers are strictly devoted to one genre exclusively, and are willing to venture out and try something different. In short, I’d tell them, please give it a try, and I promise you will not be disappointed. Like ice cream, romance comes in many flavours, from commercial to literary, traditional to less traditional.

I decided to feature you here because I see this novel as a fantasy/paranormal romance (and I’m more about fantasy than romance around here). What elements of fantasy are present in this story? How would you interest fantasy readers in your novel?

 Fantasy elements in Poisonous Whispers are the supernatural forces, or malevolent gods who play with the heroine’s fate across several incarnations. She hears their voices in her dreams and in a state of wakefulness and wonders if we humans are the objects gods use for their own amusement. In one of her past incarnations, the heroine also has special powers she uses to protect herself. Readers who are mostly interested in fantasy may not find enough of it in Poisonous Whispers, unless they consider reincarnation as part of fantasy.

You have an academic background. What inspired you to write a fiction novel?

I’ve always been intoxicated with the written word, and I’ve always been an avid reader. My decision to pursue literary studies was an easy and natural one. My writing attempts began in elementary school. I wrote a Western story, then a collection of poems and fables. I always wanted to write a novel, but never trusted my ability to write one.

My inspiration for writing novels comes mostly from the stories friends and acquaintances tell me. I am fascinated both by storytelling and human stories. For that reason, my novel is full of sub-plots.

There are many historical elements in your novel. Did you do research on those time periods? Why did you choose the times you did?

 I researched the historical periods trying to reflect them as credibly as I could. For example, I researched witch trials in Ireland and opera in Italy. Because the novel describes past life incarnations, I selected the times in which the heroine could have lived before her current incarnation. I selected Ireland and England because I find both countries highly alluring, and I chose Italy because I’ve visited it many times and could never get enough of it. I’d like to mention that most of my research was spent on the psychology of adultery, which is one of the main themes of the book.

Now that you’ve published a novel, what’s next for your writing career? Any hints about what you’re working on now?

I have written two short stories and am writing a third one. I have started a sequel to Poisonous Whispers, in which I plan to show what happened from the perspective of other characters. Most of us have heard about the Rashomon effect, that is, everyone’ perception is subjective. In Poisonous Whispers the reader sees the events through the eyes of Leandra, the heroine. In the sequel, the male protagonists will give their account of the same events. I also plan to write another scholarly article based on a project I have been leading as part of my regular job.

Thanks so much, Jana.

Readers, do you have questions for Jana?

Be sure to check out the giveaway for a $10 gift card. All the purchase links for Poisonous Whispers can be found here.

2015: My Year in Review

Image from mustang-times.com

The ball will drop in Times Square. Another countdown with celebratory kisses and confetti is only four days away. But where, oh where, has 2015 gone?

This is my year in review…

January

  • Crazy revisions on two separate manuscripts to get them off to beta readers.
  • Two deadlines made. Two deadlines met.
  • (This seems so long ago that I’m having trouble remembering)
  • Researched short story markets and agents for YA fantasy

February

  • My fiction debut. I become a published author with the appearance of “Dream Architect” in the romance anthology Accidental Valentine. *Happy Dance*
  • Manuscripts come back for my fictionalized novella.
  • Wrote and submitted two short stories. One is accepted (in April) the other rejected.

March

  • I seek and employ a freelance editor to line edit my manuscript, Reflections from a Amazon PH CoverPondering Heart.
  • A cover designer is contracted and we shoot ideas back and forth over Facebook messaging.
  • All but one of my beta manuscripts for Doomsday Dragons is returned, but since that one is coming from an actual published YA fantasy author, I decide to hold off on making revisions.

April

  • Wrestled with the CreateSpace publishing platform for the first time.
  • Uploaded my cover and interior with weeks to spare before the release.
  • Put the Kindle up for pre-order
  • Wrote another short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

May

  • Release day for my independently published women’s fiction Reflections from a Pondering Heart
  • Hosted my first ever release party on Facebook
  • Successfully generated hundreds of adds on Goodreads by running a giveaway
  • Mailed out nearly fifty signed copies of the book
  • Wrote a 20,000-word novella for a ten-author collaboration

June

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality to beta readers
  • Wept bitterly when my image of Doomsday Dragons was shattered by my good friend and beta reader
  • Went to work revising according to the feedback
  • Received two thumbs up on the rewritten first fifty pages

Willamette-Writers2July

  • Purchased tickets for Willamette Writer’s Conference
  • Purchased two pitch sessions at the event (to pitch Doomsday Dragons)
  • Perfected the pitches
  • Finished polishing the complete manuscript and proofread it
  • Had a wonderful visit with my cousin from Oklahoma
  • Brainstormed a dragon story and an origin story

August

  • Attended the conference
  • Pitched the book twice – got two requests for pages
  • Sent out a batch of ten queries to agents and the pages requested at the conference
  • Finished Matchmaker: Reality (the novella mentioned in May which was supposed to release in an indie collection in October)
  • Heard from a publisher of a SHH-secret short story anthology that they might be interested in a novel in the same universe
  • Wrote an origin story for this universe

September

  • Wrote a military themed short story and submitted it
  • Worked out a ten-point outline of a novel to present to the publisher who expressed interest
  • Experienced vertigo from mood swings of fear, anxiety, excitement and disbelief
  • Finished writing a study book and devotional based on Psalm 119
  • Short story was accepted for publication in a January anthologyHeartsofValor_eBook_CVR
  • Polished the origin short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

October

  • Wrote the study guide for an updated version of Reflections
  • Scrambled to research settings and characters for the novel my editor was pitching to the publisher
  • First round of edits accomplished on “Hero of her Heart” (the romance accepted in September
  • Outline and character sketches ready for November
  • Organized scene cards in the new Scrivener file
  • Hired a cover artist for the study book
  • Completed author bio, blurb and excerpt for “Hero of her Heart”
  • Prepared a presentation for National Novel Writing Month to give to local writers in November

November

  • Wrote the first draft of a 68,000-word young adult dystopian with sci-fi and fantasy elements in 20 days
  • Completed second-round edits on “Hero of her Heart”
  • Logged rejections from eight of twelve agents regarding Doomsday Dragons
  • Began classes to become a licensed substitute teacher
  • Edited and uploaded the manuscript for the study book
  • Uploaded the cover
  • Wrote parts for a Christmas program at church
  • Spent a week at the coast with my husband and a wonderful Thanksgiving with my sister
  • Wrestled with CreateSpace over cover specs and interior issues on the study book, Poet Inspired

PoetInspired3DDecember

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality for editing
  • Released a second edition of Reflections
  • Finished training for sub teaching and jumped through licensing hoops
  • Ordered and approved proof of Poet Inspired
  • Worked on the Christmas program parts (my first foray into voice acting – I think I’ll stick with writing)
  • Released Poet Inspired in print only
  • Worked on marketing tasks for these releases and the upcoming January release
  • Editor notes on Matchmaker: Reality asked for extensive additions and changes
  • Wrote a (15,000-word) fantasy romance for a future anthology (to be revised, edited, polished, and submitted in January 2016)
  • Added to and revised Matchmaker:Reality
  • Somehow managed to get ready for my son’s wedding

Don’t forget that I publish original blogs bi-weekly on my personal website and weekly on my church’s blog. So I wrote all of these every month amidst all the other work.

I would like to say I’m reaping huge benefits from all this writing and submitting. Monetarily, it hasn’t happened yet. All of my contracts are “royalties only.”

As for my independently published title, I have sold around 55 print books, and 100 e-books were downloaded during promotional periods when it was free.

I’m still an unknown. But I’m pushing forward, closer to meriting the title I give myself “full-time author.”

Looking forward to 2016

A new calendar year is about to dawn.

I’ll have new goals. They’ll be written in my business plan.

Among them:

  1. Increase my newsletter mailing list (not sure how to accomplish this at the moment, since I follow all the industry advice and have 22 subscribers after a year)
  2. Submit the dystopian novel to the publisher by May
  3. Write another study book (or two) and publish them for print on demand
  4. Write and submit six short stories to anthologies (one is written for a February 2016 deadline)
  5. Work on the grief memoir/Bible study I’ve outlined (possibly ready to pitch by the summer)
  6. Write the rest of the dystopian series
  7. Land a book publishing contract

What accomplishments from 2015 do you want to shout about? What’s on your list for 2016?

Banning Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations about body image

In a society where expectations rule decision-making processes, it’s past time to understand the difference between those that are realistic and unrealistic. We owe it to ourselves and our families to put a ban on setting unreachable standards.

Beginning on March 10, a series of posts about expectations has been featured on this blog. The links will be provided here, but for those of you joining discussion today, let’s recap.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize unrealistic expectations are dangerous. They derail dreams and avalanche over hopes. Not just for young people either, but the danger to them is greater because they are still forming their values and personalities.

One expectation that seems to be gaining momentum is the idea that everyone needs to go to college. Even human resources department feed this fiery craze by making a college degree required for an entry-level position. Nothing is more damaging to a person than to have a boatload of student loans for a costly degree that doesn’t net a career placement.

A high school diploma is essential. Unfortunately, bureaucrats making exit exams a requirement to attain one have boarded the crazy train. Too many courses required for a high school diploma have no practical value. It’s time to return to the basics of education rather than making high school all about preparing for college (see previous paragraph about college expectations).

Another thing that discourages many teenagers is the push toward knowing what they want to do as an adult. Some high schools build four years of education around what a 14-year-old says he wants to be after he graduates.

How old were you when you knew what you wanted to do for a living? Are you doing that thing you first dreamed was so awesome? It took me right at 40 years to finally follow my dream.

Along with all these unrealistic expectations, I wrote a post about things we should expect. None of these have to do with the economy; all have to do with character. Every human on earth should be expected to work hard, be responsible and accountable for their choices and actions, and show respect to others.

Unfortunately in our world, decisions about graduation requirements and acquiring a college degree to sort mail are above our pay-grade. In our push to have everything handed to us, we’ve handed the control to government and industry.

If we really want to keep unrealistic expectations from ruling our lives, we need to take back control. I’m not talking about a revolution. Let’s start small, bucking the system by becoming involved.

Maybe attending a school board meeting to share your views about ridiculous standards is a start. Everyone pushes you to write or call your congressman. How many do it? How many have well-constructed, reasonable arguments to present?

If you’re a parent, you can start by teaching your kids about responsibility. Theirs. Don’t perpetuate the fallacy that government will fix all their problems. Those bozos on Capitol Hill have demonstrated how to make mountains out of molehills and accomplish very little that benefits the average citizen.

Don’t let the media convince you to look a certain way, buy certain clothes, or drive a certain car. Check out those Hollywood icons and athletic superstars. An unhappier bunch of people you may never find. These are the trendsetters we want marking the path for us to follow?

 Can we ban unrealistic expectations in our world? Share your thoughts. Let’s talk it over.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

When I first started school I wanted to be a teacher. Who wouldn’t want to boss everyone around? By fourth grade, I loved making up stories, so I decided I wanted to be a novelist. Later…solving mysteries seemed exciting, so how about becoming an FBI agent?

Like most kids, my thoughts about the future vacillated from one end of the realistic spectrum to the other end of unrealistic. Dreams are grand. Dreams inspire us to reach higher.

Dreams are dreams. Expectations are a 1000-pound weight on a tired swimmers back. Throw them into the sea of swarming high school students who think they know everything. Is it any wonder kids drown?

When you know your purpose

I wrote my first “book” when I was nine years old. I filled dozens of spiral notebooks with short stories, longer stories, poetry and general musings from that time until after I graduated from high school.

Writing has always helped me express my emotions and sort out my problems. It’s safer to bleed your secrets on a sheet of paper than divulge them to people. A pen ranting on notebook paper gets a person in much less trouble than a verbal confrontation.

My yearning has always been to write. I used that yearning to write copy for a non-profit newsletter, lessons for classes I taught at church, and plays and skits for the youth group to perform.

I submitted a few stories to contests when I was younger. Tried my hand at writing articles and even wrote a novel. Rejection letters deterred me. My family needed me to be present in the moment rather than rattling around my make-believe worlds.

Most people don’t know what they want to do until they’re at least in high school. Some people don’t discover their “calling” until the age of 40, 50 or beyond.

If you’re 18 and don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, big deal. Don’t decide you won’t grow up until you do know. Follow a path. Experiment with different things. Purposelessness has a purpose when you’re using it as a barometer.

How to find your purpose

Some people volunteer at the animal shelter and they know they want to be a veterinarian. Others volunteer at the veterinarian office and decide they love animals, but doctoring the four-legged creatures isn’t how to express it.

The only way to find your niche is by doing. Try sports. Try theater. Try writing for the school newspaper (I did). Sing in the choir. Play in the band. Sell lemonade and deliver newspapers.

My oldest son found out he didn’t want a manual labor job after he worked at one for the summer. It inspired him to work hard in school so he could go to college. How did he know he wanted to be a computer programmer? You’ll have to ask him. His dad is and he always wanted to follow that path. Go figure.

My husband went to college to be an electrician. Yep and he ended up as a computer engineer. Electrical engineer or computer engineer. Slight difference, right? He’s been happy with the choice.

Some people like to do many different things. That could mean they would be happy in multiple fields. It might involve tons of experimentation before they find the right fit. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

You never know until you try. Words to live by – just saying.

What stands in the way

Let’s face it, when you’re a teenager, plenty of things stand in the way of finding out your genuine heart’s calling.

A short list:

  • Teachers: you know the one’s I’m talking about “You’re the best artist I’ve had in years”
  • Parents: “Writing? But what will your day job be?” “You’re going to take over the family business, right?”
  • Friends: “You should go to Western because I’m going there.”
  • Money: You either have it or you don’t. Don’t let that limit your vision.
  • Locale: If you live a million miles from nowhere, it’s hard to know if you’d like a career in the city or some other more urbanized setting.
  • Other nay-sayers: “What can you do with a degree in history?” “If you don’t go to college, you’ll never amount to anything.”

What other things have you heard that made it difficult to find your true calling? If you have advice or experience, please share it in the comments.

I’m Thankful

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’ve mentioned this several times, but it bears repeating. I’m even looking forward to it this year when I’m going to be the hostess.

I’m not the hostess with the mostest, I can tell you. I’m the hostess who serves crunchy baked potatoes. Or doesn’t have enough of the main dish to go around. Or stresses out so much about every little thing that she can’t enjoy the moment.

Not this time. This time, I’m counting on my sister to bring her awesome cornbread stuffing and taco dip. My mom will bring green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. My husband will help me hoist the hefty turkey into the oven at the appropriate hour so it finishes cooking by 2:30, when everything else can then go in the oven to be cooked.

It’s not about the stuffing. I love stuffing. I could eat turkey and stuffing slathered in homemade gravy and nothing else and feel extremely thankful. I repeat: it’s not about the stuffing.

I love Thanksgiving because it reminds me to be thankful. I may be thankful to the many people in my life who love me, but most of my thanks go heavenward. After all, I wouldn’t even be breathing if it weren’t for the Almighty God who holds creation in the palm of His hand.

I’m thankful for my husband. He’s a great provider for our family: financially, spiritually, and physically. That’s why I call him Mr. Wonderful.

I’m thankful for my sons. They work hard in their endeavors. They have brilliant minds and entertaining personalities. Watching them conquer the world makes every sacrifice I made for them worthwhile.

I’m thankful for my sister. After all, she’s the one bringing the stuffing. No, kidding aside, she inspires me to be my best, to try things that scare me and most of all to follow my dream of becoming a published author.

I’m thankful for my mother and stepfather. Mom has been fighting cancer for several years and she inspires me to keep going forward when things seem impossible. Her strong personality is the cornerstone of my own willfulness. (Really, that’s a good thing.) My stepfather has stood by her and loved her through all of these trials. Thank you.

I’m thankful for my nephews and niece. They’ve faced difficult times these past few years and it hasn’t stopped them from becoming the people God wants them to be. They make me proud to be an aunt.

I’m thankful for my home. It’s big enough to host this host for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m thankful for more than I could list in this post without losing the interest of my readers. Suffice it to say, I’m thankful that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I’m thankful that God plays an important role in my everyday life.

I’m thankful that I can pursue my dream to be a published author. I pray every day: “Lord, let me use this gift for your glory.”

What are you thankful for today?

Words of Power

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” – Proverbs 18:21

Langston Hughes spoke to me in his poem “A Dream Deferred.”  Many other words, written and spoken, altered my chosen path on the highway of life.

A similar conversation happened on the phone recently. I took a class from WANA International, which I recommend to those looking for inexpensive ways to learn more about the craft of writing. Part of the price was a one-to-one telephone conversation with Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA and instructor for the class I took.

Anticipation of the call is a mild understatement. “MY WRITING JEDI MASTER IS GOING TO TALK TO ME ON THE PHONE AND WAVE HER LIGHT SABER OVER MY MANUSCRIPT AND IT WILL BE PERFECT.”

Have I mentioned what happens when we have high expectations? If so, it bears repeating. High expectations can only be dashed while low expectations might be met or exceeded.

Boy, that Kristen has a powerful light saber. She filled my ears with wonderful advice and my head with plausible options for the fantasy world I had created. My idea was good and the theme (once we found it) will be a powerful one.

Bottom line: scrap that manuscript.

Okay, there goes the months of writing and the weeks of revising. I knew there were problems. I begged her to reconsider and give me ways to fix my hours of blood, sweat and fears (not a typo).

The woman is a rock. “You don’t want Bond-o holding it all together,” not exactly Yoda-speak, but true nonetheless. The infrastructure was shaky and too many patch jobs were needed. In the end, it still might not be something that an agent would buy.

I pulled out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and skipped the first 50 pages. Actually, I skipped directly to the plotting portion. I promise to go back on read about character and theme. After all, according to Brooks, there are six elements in successful fiction and I want to master them all.

At this point, my job at the school district is looking better and better. Oh, right. I quit and they’ve hired my replacement.

Fine. All those emails I get from Career Builder and indeed.com will lead me to a new job. Instead of writing, I’ll fill out some online applications and send out my resume.

Writing is the dream. I’ve deferred it for too many years to list here and maintain the façade surrounding my true age.

I knew it would be work. The learning curve is steep. I thought college coursework was difficult? Ha! This is Mt. Everest to that Bunker Hill.

Kristen believes I have the foundation and that I’ll do the work. To encourage me, she offered to give me some names of people who could read and blurb my book ONCE IT’S READY TO PUBLISH.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Master Yoda and Master Lamb, I bow to your knowledge of The Force. Time to get back to work writing.

The Book, the Key or the Goblet

Dewy cedar mingles with brisk pine as I inhale deeply the fragrant woods.  A familiar path stretches before me, yet the mist that hovers near the ground lends a mysterious, unknown quality to the hard-packed dirt track under my feet.  Light from the rising sun filters through the treetops, a slight breeze sends the branches overhead into applause and whisks the mist around my ankles like a friendly feline.  Turning to the left, the path begins to rise, and ahead I see the outline of a cabin.

Immediately, I sense that no structure was in evidence the last time I walked this way.  I quicken my pace, up
the slight incline, breath quickening and calves burning.  Aside from the clapping branches, the woods are strangely silent; no birds twitter a greeting to the rising sun and no bugs hum in the pre-dawn coolness.

Cresting the hill, the cabin comes completely into view, a small one-room shack resembling the pump house at my grandmother’s retirement home in Idaho. Painted hunter green, just like that one, the exterior blends with the surrounding foliage.  As I pause to catch my breath, it seems as if the trees shrink away from the little building.  The sound of running water reaches my ears, but there isn’t a creek nearby and the sound is out-of-place.

While I glance around and puzzle over the sound of rushing water, the door of the house swings open,
creaking on its hinges and scraping against the wooden floorboards in the same manner Gram’s pump house door always did.  A woman with a wicker basket over her arm emerges from within.  Strangely, a veil covers her face, clashing with the light blue polyester slacks and black rain slicker she’s wearing.  Even though she moves confidently, her shoulders are slightly hunched which gives the impression that she’s older. Her
figure is full, soft, and grandmotherly even though she’s several inches shorter than I am.

When she is just a few feet away, she stops and speaks.  Holding the basket out toward me, I see lying within it on a scrap of red silk a dusty tome, an antique key and a simple pottery goblet.  She invites me to take one, or all, of the items from her basket, promising they will give me special knowledge about myself.

My fingers itch to touch the hardbound book.  It appears to be a journal with a faded navy leather cover.  Red ribbon peeps from the top indicating a silky bookmark inside.  My eyes rest upon the antique key briefly.  It’s small, somewhat discolored from age and so old-fashioned I can’t fathom what it would open.  The goblet is fired to a pearly sheen; marbled purple, lavender and ivory clay gives the cup shape and appeal.

Reaching with my right hand, I gently lift the book from the basket, which tilts and sways as I remove the small volume. My eyes sweep over the other two items again, but instead of reaching for anything else, I clutch the book with both hands, pulling it protectively toward my chest.  The cover feels warm and supple beneath my fingers.

The woman commends my choice. When her hands cover mine, they are rough and calloused but warm in the cool morning air.  Her knuckles , wrinkled and spotted with age, are knobby from arthritis.  After releasing my hands, she steps closer until we are only inches apart and pulls the veil away from her face.

Tears prick the back of my eyes because the face belongs to my much-loved grandmother.  Every wrinkle, every smile line, the silver, wire-framed glasses, the white hair in its short, wind-tousled style belongs to my Gram.  Every inch of the face is just as I remember, and then she smiles – angelic. The clearing brightens and I’m sure I hear musical calls of several birds.  Even as I return her smile, I feel the hot moisture on my face. I’ve missed her so much!

“Ask me one question about your life so far,” she says.  “Any question you want and I’ll answer you the best I know how.”

I’m speechless with joy and sorrow, overwhelmed that I’m getting another opportunity to talk to her.  I really just want one of her hugs.  I’ve missed them more than anything.  Only Gram could hug me in a way that made me feel cherished and accepted. Who knew a hug could say so much?

“Did you write this book?” I finally ask, holding the thin volume up slightly.

“You’re asking me about the book when you could ask me about anything?”

I nod, my eyes memorizing her every feature, knowing she’ll be gone soon. I don’t want to forget anything about this moment.

She shakes her head slightly, “I didn’t write the book,” she says quietly. “You did.”

Author’s Note: I wrote this story as part of an assignment for my nonfiction workshop in February 2011. My grandmother had been gone just over a year and I cried the whole time I wrote it. Gram believed in my dream. I’m pursuing my writing career with gusto now – in honor of her unfailing support and unconditional love.