Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Reading, Writing and Why did I do That?



By Wednesday I still didn’t know what I wanted to write about for my Saturday blog post. I had no choice but to hope my attendance at book club the next day would give me a theme and if not, I planned on taking myself out to lunch afterward for some good old fashioned people watching. That's always good for a few paragraphs. Living alone means nothing remotely interesting ever happens here unless I want to bet with myself on which chair the dog will sleep in next. He’s got three. I’ve got one so that tells you something about the hierarchy in this household. 

The Invention of Wings by Susan Monk Kidd was up for discussion in book club and we all liked it, with one woman saying she loved the book. For her, a book passes over into the “love” category when it inspires her to research the subject matter after reading the final chapter. And she brought in some photos of the mansion in Charleston, South Carolina, where much of the story was set. It's a fictionalized depiction of the Grimke sisters---Sarah and Angelina---who were raised in a household that owned slaves and who ended up becoming the first female abolition agents. They were also among the first Suffragettes. The author used their actual letters, diaries, speeches and newspaper reports to research for the book and to flesh out these real-life social justice pioneers. It’s estimated that over forty thousand people heard the sisters lecture on the evils of slavery in just one year and they dedicated their adult lives to the cause. The book starts out on Sarah’s twelfth birthday when she was given a ten-eleven year old slave to be her maid and from then on every other chapter is written from the slave’s point of view with the opposite chapters written from Sarah’s viewpoint.  

Our discussion was going along great with everyone offering up answers to the official book discussion guide questionnaire. Questions like: Did your opinion of slavery change while reading the book? Has women’s achievements in history been lost or overlooked? What do you think it takes to be a reformer today? It wasn’t until we got to the very last question in the last five minutes of book club that things went off the rails. The question was: How has slavery left its mark on American life? Everyone tippy-toed around racism---yadda, yadda, yadda---until someone said, “Our president is making it worse.” Another lady jumped in milliseconds later with, “No, he’s not! He’s doing everything just right!” Silence fell over the room before the facilitator recovered enough to say something to placate both ladies. In my head I was yelling, “Are you crazy!?” 

Speaking of books, a new member in our club recently self-published a book and she put us in an awkward position when she asked us all to read and discuss it. We agreed but she didn’t tell us that we’d have to pay full price for the ‘privilege.’ Okay, that sounds snotty but I have self-published five trade size books and I know they didn’t cost her anywhere near the $20 each that she charged us. That was last month. No one in the club knew until this week that I also write and have self-published. Why did I make the scary decision to out myself? Probably because I was jealous? But of what---that she was getting a lot of attention or that she found it so easy to brag about her accomplishment? Who knows why, but I am sure that I didn’t like how she was carrying on about the "amazing experience of being a published author." Give it a rest, lady, I was thinking, SELF-publishing isn’t such a big deal. Anyone can with the desire and a few bucks can do it.

I outed myself this week by bringing in a copy of one of my books to give to our facilitator. She reads to a group in the assisted living place where she works and she had mentioned they love stories about dogs. The book I gave her (before the other club members got there) is written in the voices of two dogs---one on earth and one who resides at the Rainbow Bridge. It’s not book club material, but it’s filled with humor and a few tears. I have no idea what I expect to gain from my boldest in giving her the book, but I do know that my writing can hold its own against the other self-published writer in our group. God, am I petty or competitive or what? I'm at a loss to explain my reactions to that woman. She makes me feel like I'm living in Lee Ann Womack's country western song: "She may be an angel who spends all winter bringin' the homeless blankets and dinner, a regular Nobel Peace Prize winner. But I really hate her. I'll think of a reason later."

It will be a whole month before I find out how my book was received at the assisted living place and if the facilitator will mention it in front of the whole club, but she seemed thrilled to give it a try. I admire her skill at deescalating touchy discussions and inspiring positive conversations so I’m pretty sure she won’t pan my book just for the fun of seeing my self-esteem crumb in front of her eyes. ©

33 comments:

  1. I think I probably would have liked the book club book, but don't think I'd want to discuss my opinions of the contents. Wow, that could have gotten really ugly!
    I know what you mean about people who self publish. $20? The most she should have charged was her cost, but being a group thing (mainly, I believe for her benefit) she should have given the books outright. The most I paid the publisher was $7.50@! You must tell me how wonderful her book was, haha.
    There are a lot of writers on the blogs and a lot of them self publish, it's not a new concept.
    I'll bet your book was cute ... Was Levi in it?
    Have a nice weekend!

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    1. Someone in the club told me the woman had joined several book clubs and did the same thing. Not sure if that's true but my self-published books all cost under $8.00, too, and it really didn't set well to pay her $20. I've only skip read parts of it because we aren't going to discuss it until spring because she went south for the winter. Self publishing really is easy and it's even easy to get your book listed on Amazon, if you want. Mine are just for me and a few relatives that I've given them to. Though I used to have my dog book up for sale to the public. I had given the trainer at Levi's obedience class a copy and she bought a lot of copies for Christmas gifts. Yes, Levi was in it. The book was a collection of my blog entries arranged differently, but the stories are all the same and can be found here: http://cooperthedogs.blogspot.com/ If you read it, start at the first blog in 2008 and read them forward from there because it makes more sense in order that they were written.

      The book club book was good and everyone was on their best behavior discussing the touchy subject until the very end when it went bad. The two ladies hugged on the way out so no harm done.

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  2. I didn't like the self-publisher woman either! i thought it was a scam to get money out of a captive audience (her fellow book club members). I've read posts of your blog written in a dog's voice and thought it excellent. Good on you for passing your dog book along. I hope it catches NYT attention and becomes a runaway bestseller!

    I LOL-ed at the lyrics of the western sonf! I fully agree with the sentiment - have met people like that woman and I think: "I defn don't like you, and will think of the specific reason later!"

    Needless to say, of course Dotard Donnie is making racism worse. I despise him. But even more, I despise his enablers, and his stupid fans. ~ Libby

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    1. We would have a great time agreeing with each other over #45. LOL I'm always amazed, though, that an Australian like you seems to follow American politic closer than many Americans do.

      No chance that my dog book will be a runaway bestseller but thanks for the sentiment. It was fun writing in a dog's voice and the dog blog community was full of great people doing the same. I ended that blog when my husband died and I started this one.

      One of my major flaws is judging people---whether or not I'll like them---before I've gotten to really know them. To the song plays in my head a lot. LOL

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  3. Politics is a touchy subject these days. Everyone is edgy. It sounds like you have a skilled facilitator.

    I'm glad you gave your book to the facilitator. Older people enjoy animal stories. So do kids and a lot of people in between.

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    1. Politics sure is a touchy subject and racism even more, I think. The more I see of our facilitator the more I admire her skill.

      I re-read my dog book twice before giving it to the facilitator to make sure it didn't contain anything that wouldn't be suitable or would be too revealing should it end up getting passed around the book club. I decided anyone who'd ever had a dog would relate to the stories in it.

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  4. I haven't read this book yet but have read really good reviews for it, it appears that it was a hit at your book club.

    I can understand your dislike for the self publisher and with her placing that type of price on a captive audience makes me wonder if her writing is worth it or not.

    I am so glad that you didn't hear that same country song when you first read my comments ha ha.

    Politics and racism are really touchy subjects and anyone who can retain control of a group discussing them is definitely someone to look up to.

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    1. I actually have something in common with the self-published club member. Her book is about dealing with the death of her daughter and my first book was about dealing with the death of my husband. I'm not looking forward to reading it because it's not going to be an easy read, I think.

      I'll have to think about the country song that played in my head when we first met in the blogs. LOL

      Our facilitator has a characteristic that reminds me of my dad...he could always defuse a touchy conversation, too, with a well place, quiet sentence. It's a gift I wish I had.

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  5. Can't believe she charged you so much for her book. If it had been me, I'd have given the copies out.
    I have read "The Invention of Wings" and thought it quite powerful and moving.
    Today, politics can really unleash a hornets nest in a hurry. I have to bite my tongue often about #45 in this red state. Fortunately I have enough sane friends to talk to.

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    1. Me too. If I had really wanted the group to read my book, I would have handed out the copies for free. To me, it was the wrong venue anyway. She should have done it in a writing group, not a reading group if she was going to do it at all.

      I knew someone would come along who'd read the "Wings" book. It was on Oprah's list and a best seller for months.

      'Hornet's nest' is a apt description.

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  6. What a scam artist! A donation of your choice, maybe. I might have to miss that club discussion ... just on the principle of the thing ...

    I've enjoyed two of Kidd's books. Sure wish I could get back into reading....

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    1. She's very proud of her accomplishment, I get that but I sure wouldn't have done anything like that.

      I've read a few of Kidd's books, too. She's very good. Do you think you can't read because your time is filled up with the boys, now, or because you can't concentrate? It took my a good 3 1/2 years after Don died before I could concentrate enough to read.

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  7. A woman in our band was self publishing books and asked for volunteers to read and critique them. I read the first and it was awful, poorly written and dull. I read a second because I thought...surely it can't be!!! But the second was awful and that was when I realized that anyone can self publish and call themselves an author,
    I think your self published author had a lot of nerve and I'm guessing the book club will be very wary if a second person has a similar request.
    And the woman who can't see anything wrong in this administration: while I am trying to remain somewhat optimistic while so many articles and reports are mentioning the decline and fall of our very civilization. I seriously wonder how people can be so blind to reality.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. People think if you self-publish a book it gets edited and/or read by someone at the publishing house but that's not true. There is no oversight what so ever. Human eyes probably don't even read anything but the cover and order.

      Every time I run across someone who supports #45 so strongly I keep trying to understand how they can see things so differently than me. In one situation I've been in I know it's because the woman likes that #45 wants to back-tracked on allowing gay marriages and wants to stop all abortions---at least she thinks he will. To me, those are such small fry issues compared to the rest of the stuff he's destroying.

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  8. I think she should have passed the books out for free if she wanted some feedback on it. You all were the ones to do her a favor and shouldn't have had to pay anything. Love your comment about the country song--made me laugh out loud!
    BL

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    1. BL, that's what I would have done, just loaned the books out. If I wasn't pressured to buy it, I never would have bought a book with the theme she wrote about plus our club uses the library books-in-a-bag program for free.

      I'm trying to develop a more charitable attitude towards her before we have to talk about her book. I, too, wrote as a way of dealing with loss---me with my husband, her losing her daughter to cancer. I understand the need to spill pain on paper. BUT there will also be a heavy Christian theme in the book plus the mother-daughter theme neither of which are themes I would pay money to read.

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  9. I'm a little surprised your facilitator didn't put the kibosh on the woman charging for her book after she asked you to read and critique!! It's the height of gall.

    I've entered into thoughtful discussions with a couple of people who voted for Trump and think he's doing an outstanding job. It'll take some kind of personal hurt to come from his policies to change their minds and even then, they may try to blame Congress or the 'fake news'
    for the outcome. Denial and the willingness to believe 'alternate facts' is a scary phenomenon to see in this country.

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    1. In the beginning the facilitator thought we could get it from the library because woman didn't tell us it was self-published. Then they approached the library about buying them, since she's a local 'author' but that didn't work out. By then we'd blocked out a month to discuss the book.

      Your last paragraph about believing 'alternate facts' is indeed a very scary phenomenon and I don't know how we fix that.

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  10. That's a dirty trick from the book club member, I think. If she really wants an unvarnished opinion and some valuable feedback, then comp the books. "Self-publishing" used to be called Vanity Press/Vanity Publishing back in the day, and in many cases, that's still what it is. No slam against you, Jean, truly, but Amazon is full of eBooks written by people who just sat down and started hammering the keys. I should know: I'm always meeting former students who gleefully tell me "I am a published author now! Just search for my book on Amazon!" The latest was a young man who had a brain injury in middle school and simply drifts around, unable to do anything with any structure, so he is an aide for his father who is a paraplegic. His "books" remain unsold/not downloaded, and the "Look Inside" feature shows why. I'm sure you can imagine.

    An extreme example, to be sure, but your colleague in book club who was so amazed about being a self-published author is in some pretty varied company.

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    1. I honestly wonder if some people who self-publish have a clue how different/difficult that is from when you go through the process of submitting a manuscript to a publisher, how hard it is to get truly published. I think that is true with this woman. I don't think feedback is what she's after as much as it is bragging. The only book I had up for public sale was through the self-publisher's own bookstore but I know people who have listed their books on Amazon. I even mistakenly bought a self-published e-book. Never again. Fifty Shades of Grey actually started out as an e-book and was taken down and re-wrote before a publisher bought the rights to publish, but I think that is rare for that to happen. I self-publish because I want a hard copy to read in case I get to old to remember how to use the computer. LOL

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  11. I would have had the same reaction to the "author" as you did. I might even had mentioned that I was a published author of 3 books, published by a "real" publishing house and not self-published, which anyone can do. She obviously was trying for sales--I think I might have either given a discount or free copies to the group. I hope you get the recognition you deserve at the next meeting!!!!!

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    1. Getting published, especially in the category you are published in, is an accomplished! She wanted the sales. She even charged her closest family members the $20 to read her book.

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  12. The first year I taught my Senior College course on women's activism in the 19th century, one of the students recommended The Invention of Wings as a book I might enjoy. She was right; I did. My book group is reading Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy this month, which is a real eye-opener about how being black and/or poor can shape people's lives in the US today. -Jean

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    1. A lot of people don't believe in White Privilege but it's a real thing. Race and poverty does shape lives in the form of opportunities available or not, expectations for children, etc. Sounds like a good book to inspire interesting conversations in the right book club.

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  13. I'm not sure my comment "took" -- this is just a test to see if I get the usual message.

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  14. Hummm.... if there's not a comment about Virginia Woolf, I'll repost. No need to post these comments.

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    1. I published them before I read them but I'll delete them if a post about Virginia Woolf shows up which so far, hasn't. But what's funny is I just finished writing a post about how comments end up in the spam folder...which yours didn't.

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  15. I think the comment flew off into the ether. I can't remember all of what I said, of course, but one thing I did think worth sharing was this piece about the literary friendship and jealousy between Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf.

    It's always been intriguing to me to watch or read about these rivalries. One of the best quotations in the world is what Flannery O'Connor said about Faulkner: "The presence alone of Faulkner in our midst makes a great difference in what the writer can and cannot permit himself to do. Nobody wants his mule and wagon stalled on the same track the Dixie Limited is roaring down."

    And of course there's that wonderful bit from Mark Twain, talking about Jane Austen in a letter to Joseph Twichell in 1898:

    "I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

    The grin, of course, is that phrase: "Every time I read..." There are literary fights, and then there are pretend literary fights. But both are fun to watch.

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  16. I think I agree with Mark Twain. The image of him digging her up is hilarious.

    I'm glad great mind than mine had/have "literary jealous" as I'm sure that's what is going on with me. LOL

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  17. I get competitive with my writing sometimes too...especially when it's someone who I believe to be an inferior writer tooting a loud horn. But I also feel hesitant to put my own work out there for judgment and I assume, ridicule, so I'm also jealous of their ability to be bold and take the risk to public their work. Guess I have work to do on my confidence and risk-taking! Tell me more about self-publishing.

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    1. I've found my twin in you regarding this topic. Competitive and jealous at the same time.

      I use Blurb Publishing. You can do one to thousands of copies on demand and you control every aspect, from cover design, paper weights, fonts, size books, etc. Nice quality. Quick turn around. https://www.google.com/search?q=blurb+publishing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 The only thing you have to be careful about is their default books are hardcover, full color so you have to make choices to get the books down to a reasonable cost. I can't believe you haven't done a poetry book yet! You don't load their software, put your content in it and then upload it for them to publish. You can choose to put it in their bookstore for sale or keep it for yourself and to send links out to friends to view the first 15 pages. I've learned to order the first copy all by itself, make sure it's okay then by then they send you a discount coupon for orders over 10 copies.

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    2. Correction: You download their software, not don't load.

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    3. Thank you!!!! One outcome of the weekend retreat was my commitment to be more serious and intentional about writing and to self-publish. So...stay tuned!

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