Archive for the ‘Author Notes’ Category

Lunching with Juanita

June 19, 2009

A surprise phone call this week resulted in a lunch date with Juanita Carr Rush, Paul Henry Carr’s youngest sister. If you’ve read my book, It Wasn’t Much: True Tales of Ten Oklahoma Heroes, you’ll know that Chapter 4 is devoted to Carr’s harrowing story aboard the Samuel B. Roberts,  a WWII destroyer escort, and his tragic, untimely death.

Chauffeured by her son Mike, Juanita was delighted that her brother’s story had been told in a way that appealed to children. She had lots of questions about how the book came to be published and about FortySixth Star Press in general. In turn, we had questions for her about what she remembered about Paul.

“For one thing, we always called him Brother,” she told us over a delicious meal of Thai food. Even now, Mike said, the surviving sisters refer to him in that way, rather than by his given name. Paul was the only boy in a family of 8 sisters, so he wasn’t likely to be confused with anybody else.

Juanita also had a gripping memory of the day the telegram was delivered. Her sisters and mother clung to each other in a group, while she sat on the couch, taking it all in. Later, she remembered her mother heading out to hang the wash on the line. Gut-wrenching sobs came from outdoors, and Juanita didn’t know what to do. There’s was nothing she could do, really. The loss of her only son was a devastating blow for Juanita’s mother.

Years later, Juanita was able to process the grief her mother felt by reading letters she had written to Paul when he was stationed on the Sammy B. It was a healing process for her, since she felt she’d never really grieved properly.

It was truly delightful to meet Juanita and hear about Paul from her firsthand accounts. She has also had an interesting life as the wife of a Navy man, with stints in both Iran and Italy. What a nice surprise it was to get that phone call and lunch with the sister of an Oklahoma hero!

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Hausburg Inked for Author Visit at Overholser Elementary in OKC

January 13, 2009

Jana Hausburg will make an author visit at Putnam City’s Overholser Elementary on February 26th. Fourth and fifth graders will be treated to the stories of really heroic Oklahomans, including OKC socialite Felicia Daughtery who almost single-handedly orchestrated the Red Cross’ rescue of ill and recuperative Oklahoma Cityans during the Spanish influenza epidemic in the fall of 1918 and Rufiono Rodrigues who saved almost 150 miners form a fire in Lehigh. Rufino’s story is currently showcased in a show case at the Oklahoma History Center, where a few momentos of Oklahoma mining days so well explained in Jana’s book. 20% of book sales will to help fund resources for Overholser’s school library.

The Great Fall Break Road Trip, part 1

October 20, 2008

Leaving husbands and children behind, Publisher Pam and I loaded up the station wagon with boxes of books, determined to peddle our wares along historic Route 66. First stop — Chandler — where the librarian was so excited about It Wasn’t Much she purchased a copy out of her petty cash reserves. Love the enthusiasm!

Next stop was Stroud, where we hit a gold mine in the basement of the Carnegie-built library. Marsha introduced us to Martha, and between the four of us, we came up with the idea of developing a consortium for locally-published materials on Oklahoma, designing curriculum for 4th-9th graders, and practically solved the global warming crisis as well! Publisher Pam put it on her to-do list (which is gradually developing into a volume the size of a Russian novel) and we were back in the car and headed northeast to the Tulsa City-County system.

Sarah was generous enough to take us on a tour of the cataloging department, stopping us in at the head of acquisitions who assured us that an order had been placed weeks ago, but she’d “check again and get that taken care of.”  After visiting with our pal Tim, we jumped back in the car with Wagoner in mind.

Majic gave us a warm welcome and immediately got permission to send us a P.O. for my book and the newest Forty-Sixth Star Press publication, The Ghost of Mingo Creek. Author Greg Rodgers will be doing a program for her library on November 1 and she was eager to thumb through his book.

What we learned:

  • Librarians along Route 66 are dedicated to quality service and are enthusiastic about supporting local publishers and building up their Oklahoma collections.
  • If you run into a woman named Martha in a library basement, ask her a question. You will likely get 4 amazing ideas.
  • Onion rings are a greasy, yummy treat and will tide you over until a late, 3 o’clock lunch!

ACEI, curriculum integration, and bean dip

September 10, 2008

After receiving an invitation from ACEI president Christy Boggs to speak, I lugged a box full of books to the UCO classroom and checked my supplies: money bag, receipt book, calculator, pen. Everything was in order. I arranged my stack of notecards neatly on the podium as the classroom of future teachers visited with one another and attacked the table of snacks. To my left was an enticing can of bean dip and salty Fritos. Mouth watering, I tried to focus.

Dr. Cassel fired up the projector, and soon I was talking about It Wasn’t Much and the different ways the book could be integrated into the curriculum for 4th to 9th graders. I only had about 15 minutes to speak, so I hit as many of the Extra Credit links on our website as I could while throwing out some of our ideas:

  • Creative writing opportunities for older students. By incorporating the chapter about the Oklahoma City flu pandemic, students could be asked to write out what they would do if their entire family were struck by illness. What would their emergency plan be?
  • Journaling. After reading the chapter about the mining accident, students could spend a week writing as if they were coal miners. What would a day be like? What kind of conditions exist in the mines? How would they deal with the dark and cramped quarters?
  • Plays. Students could be given an assignment to change one of the chapters into a play.
  • Extra credit links. On the website, teachers can make use of the extra credit options available for each chapter.
  • Crossword puzzles and word search pages. Also available on the website
  • Discussions questions are provided for each chapter as well.

 I’d like each child to leave the classroom wondering, “What would I have done?”

After the meeting, Dr. Cassel spoke to me about using math activities as well as creative writing. I’d never thought of that, and was happy for her input. And, I was also happy to finally get at that bean dip. Yummy.

Bartlesville Public Library author event

August 10, 2008

The promise of rain greeted me on Thursday as I loaded up supplies and my 10-year-old son for the drive to Bartlesville. I had been invited to do a Meet The Author program by assistant director Beth DeGeer. The clouds kept us from getting too hot, and we made it through Tulsa without getting lost. Soon, we saw the Price Tower in the distance and found Bartlesville Public Library. We were early, so we ate at One Tiny Deli (it was tiny) and then peeked into the famous skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Taking the elevator to the 15th floor, we got a great view of the city.

Then, it was back to the library to unload our things, set up our table, and hope for a large crowd. Attendance was sparse, but the ladies who did attend were really enthusiastic and we spent 45 minutes talking about the writing process and the 10 people in It Wasn’t Much.

Ruth Brown, of course, was our main topic of discussion, but there was much interest in all of the biographies. I appreciated everyone for coming and for purchasing multiple copies of the book!

What I learned:

  • When purchasing an easel, assemble as early as possible, instead of the night before and finding that two key pieces are missing, therefore rendering it inoperable.
  • Have a price sheet made up so if someone buys 4 copies of the book, I won’t have to do math in my head.
  • Make sure the digital camera is charged before attempting to take a picture next to the bust of my hero, Ruth Brown, and running out of batteries.

One of the women who came to hear me speak was a docent at the Price Tower and she offered to give us a short tour before we had to leave for Oklahoma City. It was wonderful! And very unexpected. I’d like to go back again and take the rest of my family.

Guts and gumption

June 27, 2008

Forty-Sixth Star Press has asked me to work on another volume in the Oklahoma Portraits series. With two historical figures researched and written about, I finally put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and wrote the biography for the third on Sunday. I’d finished the research weeks ago and he’s been bobbing around in my brain for at least that long.

I think any writer will confess that the most difficult part of writing is the first paragraph. I’d written an outline and toyed with an opening sentence, but couldn’t get anything going. And then out it came. I wrote from 1:30 to 5:00 and it hardly seemed as if any time had passed.

The creative process strikes everyone in a different way. I seem to get hit with great ideas when I’m most relaxed. A “brilliant” idea tends to ruin any chances for rest because my heart will start racing and I’ve got to get up and write the idea down or lose it. The key to inspiration, at least in my case, is to capture the essence of that person.

I believe that when writing nonficiton for children, the writer has to grab hold of a kid and yank her into the story. The pace has to be quick, and the historical figure has to come to life fairly quickly.

When researching Ruth Brown, what I found so compelling was her dignified attempt to be served at the drugstore, along with her African-American companions. In 1950, attempting to break the traditional rules of segregation in that Oklahoma town took guts and gumption. I just had to begin her biography with this particular event. For me, it was her defining moment.

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