Memoirs, Selection Process, Silver Boomer Books Specific  Comments Off on Who Needs to Read WRITING TOWARD THE LIGHT?
Mar 152015

Of course my answer is, “Everybody!” But let me tell you about the book and you can see if you and yours are in the group who need to read Writing Toward the Light – A Grief Journey by Laura Flett. No, let Laura tell you in her preface:


My precious son Carlton died. He was the Light of my life, and I was plunged into darkness. I desperately needed to know what happened to him. His life force was no longer contained in an earth body. Where did he go? Who am I now? What is our relationship to be? I began an intense search for him, myself, and the life energy I call God. It was not a thirty-day course with a step-by-step process. I couldn’t put it in neat little categories. I know because I spent a lot of time trying.

I could only pick up my pen and journal. My pen drew a medium black line from point A (what I knew) to point B (something nearby that seemed similar) – a gathering of scattered bits of light, flickers of safety, connection, new life. I didn’t understand this process. When I stopped to analyze it, I only spun in frustration. All I knew to do was gather up the tiny sparks of my past life and hope it would become more illuminating with time.

This was the way I stayed on Earth and did not permanently leave to find my son. As I put one anxious word in front of the other, the pen continued to tell me that I was writing towards greater light and understanding.

I wrote for a while, looking for those flashes and building a bit of courage to venture out for groceries. I bought necessary items at the familiar neighborhood store, then hurried home to write what I had just experienced.

As the pen showed me my successes and progress, I became braver. Its ink began connecting more familiar dots as they appeared: friends, events, places, and ideas. Each connection gave me strength, reminding me who I had been and what I was doing, describing who I am and what I am doing now. I put together this new foundation based on past knowledge and present experiences as I watched, listened, and wrote of my life.

This preface was to be the last piece I wrote for this book before a self-imposed deadline to finish by November 28, 2005. It would have been my son’s

Laura Flett, author of Writing Toward the Light

Laura Flett, author of Writing Toward the Light

thirtieth birthday. I scrambled, wanting to complete the journey. But the harder I tried to finish, the more unfinished I felt. I had so much yet to learn.In August 2005 before going to Taos, New Mexico, for a writing workshop, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t understand. It was not in my family; I was not supposed to have breast cancer. But after a biopsy on a suspicious shadow that appeared on my yearly mammogram, the surgeon called to tell me it was a “favorable cancer.” A favorable cancer? I heard that as an oxymoron. Then he offered me the choice of a lumpectomy with radiation therapy or a radical mastectomy.

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“Not much. It’s just personal preference. One way is as effective as the other,” he told me.

I felt like I was at Baskin-Robbins, choosing between pistachio almond and chocolate mint, and selected the lumpectomy only because he assured me I could postpone radiation until I got back from Taos. I also began taking Tamoxifen. Ah, the favorable part was becoming more apparent: there would be no chemotherapy.

The workshop in Taos was everything I wanted it to be. Twenty writers burning with stories to tell and eager to find a way to do it. We left New Mexico full of enthusiasm with plans to keep in touch.

But once I was back home I began six and one-half weeks of radiation treatments and soon discovered I hadn’t dealt with the reality of this disease. Every day as I sat in a waiting room at the Cancer Treatment Center with patients in various stages of the illness, I was facing my own mortality. So much of my energy had been spent coming to terms with Carlton’s death. It was now time to look at my own.

“Wait, God,” I scribbled in my notebook, “I’m not ready. I’ve still got a lot of stuff I want to do here. Oh? You’re just checking? To see how serious I am? God, I am.”

The importance of my Taos connection became clearer. I stayed in touch with other writers as we shared weekly experiences and insights. The practice kept me focused and trusting that this was my way to greater understanding.

Then at the beginning of November, four weeks before my manuscript deadline, my mother and brother and I visited my ninety-year-old dad at the War Veterans Nursing Home in Monroe, Louisiana, a hundred miles away. He has Alzheimer’s and we are never sure how coherent he will be when we visit, so Mother showed him family pictures hoping to help him connect to his own bits of light. This only seemed to frustrate him. He had a hard time completing sentences. While we sat in the day room with other men much like him, I listened to his struggle. Then I asked him what was going on. He talked about his mother and father and trying to get home.

“But they tell me not to come the regular way,” he said. “Something’s wrong with that, isn’t it?”

“Your mother and dad are dead,” I said.

He looked a bit surprised, then told me he was afraid the doctors would think he sounded crazy.

“No, Dad,” I assured him. “You’re just watching your home movies. The collection that makes up the unique story of Deane Flett.”

He became calmer and more articulate. Before we left, I bent down to kiss him and he grabbed my hand. His pale blue eyes looked straight into my hazel ones.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

It was a powerful link. I let Dad show me where he was and I understood it. It was his life in review. The same thing I was experiencing, as I wrote my way through this grief journey. I, too, was talking with the dead and reliving my past. I, too, often worried that I sounded crazy. So now I must “finish” this book and let it go. I know that even in published form, it’s still not complete. It becomes, at best, a sharing of my experiences. This part of my journey offered as compassion for others looking for safety, or connection, or new life. I may not be in charge of anything more than that.

I poured out my heart as I worked to be as honest and thorough as I could. With much love, then, I release the book. It is much like my own son. It will go where it needs to go and connect with what it needs to connect.

I know now why I chose his birthday, the date that sometimes fell on Thanksgiving Day, as my deadline to complete this manuscript. I approached this year’s designated-day-to-be-thankful and realized with tears in my eyes that November 28 will always be Thanksgiving Day for me.

And that’s why you need to read  Writing Toward the Light. Because you, too, will have a time, or have had times already, when you are talking with the dead and reliving your past. You will worry that you sound crazy. But Laura can walk the path with you because she’s been along it before. Walk with her toward the light on your own grief journey.

Links to buy on Amazon:

Buy the paperback version from Silver Boomer Books.



Feb 282015

Not everyone who filled out the survey as an entry to win the book of their choice asked questions. But some did. These are their questions and our answers.

The original “quartet” – Barbara Rollins, Becky Haigler, Karen Greene (Kerin Riley-Bishop) and Ginny Greene, November 15, 2011

How did you all begin the process of writing these amazing stories?

The beginning was not in writing stories but a decision to collect them from other writers and to become editors of a book of nostalgia/memoirs. It all began Saturday, October 21, 2006, about noon. Dusty Richards had presented a workshop for Abilene Writers Guild in Abilene, Texas. Ginny Greene, the then-current AWG president and I, Barbara Rollins, immediate past president, were at the end of the buffet line. And we were inspired by Dusty to get busy. I’d written some things, even had five books published, my juvenile novel a month earlier. Ginny had been writing columns for small-town newspapers for a while. But we wanted to do something together and quickly decided on an anthology by and about baby boomers. We tossed around some names of people who might also solicit, select, and edit the book as well as names for the collection. We came up with two:  Silver Boomers and Freckles to Wrinkles. But the titles were equally attractive and didn’t fit well as title and subtitle.

By the time we’d asked among the other members of a poetry critique group we participated in and recruited our others partners, Becky Haigler and Karen Greene (Ginny’s daughter who edited as Kerin Riley-Bishop) we put out calls for submissions for the two books simultaneously.

By October of the next year we’d put together Silver Boomers – a collection of poetry and prose by and about baby boomers with authors from Indonesia to England, Canada and many of the United States. And I had it set up as a book. We’d chosen a publisher and gave it to him at the 2007 AWG workshop. The book was set out in the size we intended using poems to fill pages, a short poem at the end of a prose piece that ended a third of the way down a page.

But our pride and joy was the crawl line which remains a beloved characteristic of all our anthologies. The continuous block of text stretches from the front of the book to the last page like a line rolling across the bottom of the television. When we described it and showed it to the publisher, he said it couldn’t be done. My partners, in unison, said, “Barbara did it.” They, of course, knew I’d struggled mightily with it, but by that point I did have a functional way to do it. The editor disagreed. After spending a weekend on it he gave us a draft with all poems, no matter how brief, starting like the prose pieces at the top of the page. And the crawl line had been deleted.

We took the project back and soon decided to become a publishing company ourselves. It took a while, and there were a lot of mistakes, but we published Silver Boomers in March of 2008 and Freckles to Wrinkles in July of that year. Seven more have followed, besides the seventeen single-author books.

(If you want to know how a particular book came to be, feel free to ask that in the comments or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.)

How do you decide which of the three presses to use for each book?

This is the second time this week someone I would have thought understood the difference has asked this question. Obviously the real message is that we don’t communicate that well enough! So thanks for the question!

As I’ve just described, the idea of doing anthologies was to do them as memoir and nostalgia. We’ve gone from the generalized Silver Boomers, Freckles to Wrinkles and This Path to more specific topics, but they all remain memoir and nostalgia — about grandparents, early reading experiences, the military, holidays, widowhood and waiting. The two non-anthologies published as Silver Boomer Books volumes are single-author memoir and nostalgia, still like the anthologies in the form of prose pieces and poetry. Those are Song of County Roads by Ginny Greene and Crazy Lady in the Mirror by Madelyn Kamen.

Laura Flett, author of Writing Toward the Light

Laura Flett, author of Writing Toward the Light

By the time we had published Silver Boomers and Freckles to Wrinkles we had been asked to publish two other books that were not memoir/nostalgia. Instead, they were inspirational and we knew of others we were interested in publishing. To keep the company name from becoming a mishmash, we decided to add Eagle Wings Press as an imprint for 12-Step Recovery and Spiritual materials. Those two books were Slender Steps to Sanity – Twelve-Step Notes of Hope by OAStepper and Writing Toward the Light – A Grief Journey by Laura Flett.

Since that time Eagle Wings Press has published A Time for Verse – Poetic Ponderings on Ecclesiastes by Barbara B. Rollins, Survived to Love by Ed H (identified that way while he was a living member of A.A., now Edward L. Hennessy), White Elephants – a memoir by Chynna T. Laird, A Cloud of Witnesses – Two Big Books and Us by Barbara B. Rollins with OAStepper, Insights from the Jobsite by Robyn Conley, and The Innkeeper’s Christmas Eve by Barbara B. Rollins, illustrated by Sandy Carter.

When Jim Wilson asked us to publish Poetry Floats – New and selected Philosophy-lite it didn’t fit either Silver Boomer Books nor Eagle Wings Press so Laughing Cactus Press was born for fiction and poetry.

The original question, though, was how do we decide which one to use for a proposed book. Some of course are obvious. Becky identified Innkeeper as poetry fiting in Laughing Cactus Press. I thought the correct imprint was Eagle Wings Press because it’s the Christmas story, so spiritual.  The subtitle of White Elephants is “a memoir” but we felt the recovery part of it, surviving childhood with an addict mother, made it spiritual and recovery (Eagle Wings) rather than a memoir (Silver Boomer Books). Haiku Elvis – A Life in 17 Syllables (or Less) could have been memoir/nostalgia, for we would also include biography there, but they’re poems, so Laughing Cactus Press.

That’s a whole lot of words when the answer is, “We put it where we think it fits!”

Did you ever get United (Supermarket) to take the books?

Sigh. No, Suanna, I didn’t. I’d love to tell you it was not for lack of trying, and I would. But it’s not the truth. I never got up the nerve to make the pitch outside of the Toastmasters meeting where you heard it. Do you think my making it this public will get me to try it now?

When is your next writing/poetry contest?

Our next writing/poetry contest will be our first. At least with that nomenclature. Actually every call for submissions for an anthology is a writing/poetry contest, and the prize is getting published in our anthologies. If you look back at the last few blog posts here, you’ll see the exploration for the subject matter of the next anthology. However, we do have the Twelve-Step Recovery anthology open for submissions. (You can see in one of the editors’ poems in an anthology years ago that were were privately calling it the furtive recovery anthology. But it really is moving towards fruition but needs some more good work submitted.)

In response to the question of choosing imprints, we had to discuss whether a recovery anthology was Silver Boomer Books or Eagle Wings Press.

More questions? Ask and they shall be answered.

Reading and Writing

 Memoirs  Comments Off on Reading and Writing
Jun 072012

I visited with Rudy “Fearless” Fernandez and Pete Beretta this morning on KEAN radio about reading, and we discussed Flashlight Memories. The last time we were together Fearless had told me several stories from his childhood including as a pre-schooler running away from home, walking along the Rio Grande, a “one-armed kid” carrying a parakeet. He told of badly wanting the status symbol du jore of his childhood, a Daniel Boone coonskin cap. His family had no extra money to buy him one, and Fearless as adult said, “I still want one.” Today I remedied the deficiency.

Fearless had flashlight memories, not of hiding under the covers with the illumination but in a closet. I never needed to hide my reading, being blessed to come from a home where my parents read, both to me and my sisters, and as a chosen pastime. I did have one reading memory in which my father’s demeanor led me to read a book I wasn’t sure he actually approved. I told of that in Flashlight Memories:

The Joshua Tree
A yucca growing as a tree,
native to the arid west.
A book by Cabot, a U2 album —
but before that.
A random novel from library shelves
for Mrs. Holloway’s assignment.
Daddy picked it up, idly inquired.
“Your teacher assigned this?!!
“No, any novel.”
“Oh. Okay.”
I don’t recall the plot.
Only that it wasn’t nearly so racy
as his tone led me to hope.
Fearless has fascinating memories, childhood, with famous people, and dare-devil fundraising. For months I’ve urged him to write them down, joining a queue of others urging him to write. Like so many people, “one day” he’ll write a book. I hope unlike 99% of those people, one day he really will! I’ve encouraged him and others, though, to take steps that actually lead to producing a manuscript, where those fantasies of “one day” usually stay ephemeral.
Just write! Pick a story and commit it to pixels – or to ink on paper. Don’t start with “I was born….” That’s an awful beginning for something you want anyone to read! Instead, talk about a memorable moment, a character in your life and her influence on you, how you came to make a life-changing decision, or whatever you’re thinking about! When you’ve done that, whether it’s three hundred words or a pile of pages, set it aside. Then, the next time you have time to write (which you have to make!), choose another memory and memorialize it. Whether the result ever becomes a manuscript or not, you’ve created something of value to you and your family and friends. When the pile of saved writing justifies it, organize it (not necessarily chronologically) and make it as strong as you can. Recruit others to read it, making recommendations. Few people can do this with a family member, though you may be the exception, but you have friends who will be both objective and bold enough to suggest needed edits. Then, when you have the courage actually to put your heart and soul before the reading world, you’ll be an author!

An author, editor, and publisher with Silver Boomer Books, “Barbara B. Rollins” appears on thirteen books. Her most recent, A Cloud of Witnesses – Two Big Books and Us, written with OAStepper, matches each verse in the book of Hebrews with a quotation from the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, and responds in poetry and prayer. It is the sequel to A Time for Verse – Poetic Ponderings on Ecclesiastes which lacks the Big Book quotes. The six Silver Boomer Books anthologies are edited in part by Barbara, and she has a forensic crime solvers series for children from Capstone Press and the young adult novel,  Syncopated SummerA retired judge, Barbara still sits occasionally but more often sits in her car, going or coming from wherever she chooses.

Just Fine

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Feb 262012

Bettsy has beed kind enough to welcome me into her home after I cut myself severely on my right arm. She picked out this as ideal for me – and means more than the graphic fits. Bettsy stands beside me and keeps hers hands off the struggle of the moment, muttering, “She’ll ask for help when she wants it.”

I must admit it’s not a new phenomena. Hospitalized at three and again at five with pneumonia, I’m not sure which time led to the story, but my parents would talk as long as they were telling tales on me of my reporting from the hospital bed with a temperature of something like 105, “I’m fine. I’m just fine.”

I come by it naturally. Mother, Alma Ellen Anderson Breedlove, at the time of the age-five pneumonia, had Mary Ellen who was nine and Carol, two, when the visitors left my fifth birthday party and Mary Ellen broke out with measles. Carol and I got that as well as chicken pox and mumps brought home from school, someone being sick from January until Easter. Daddy travelled West Texas and New Mexico, leaving Mother with her hands full. Only when I was hospitalized and Carol was home with the illness du jour AND a heart murmur did Mother call in Grandmother for backup.

The self-reliant women didn’t start with Mother, either. While she was playing hospital, Texas saw women as not strong enough to sit on juries, and wouldn’t allow that for three more years. Grandmother, more educated than her husband (who would become a phenomena in his profession) could mother Aunt Lorice and Mother while keeping books for her husband, but until 1918 couldn’t vote – and that only in the Texas primary, not the general election.

Women in the family stood strong long before that. Maria Pells, wife of Allert Heymans Roosa petitioned the English occupying army in New Netherlands as reported in court records: (Allert and Maria were 5th great grandparents to Grandmother’s husband, Joe Holt Anderson, Sr., I think. It’s hard to count generations with just one hand. See further at my genealogy, http://sharpwriters.com/genealogy/dutch.html#roosa).

The wife of Allert Heymans requests that Mr. Berrisfort be pleased to relieve her of the people he brought into her house. To which Mr. Berrisfort answers, saying, as soon as her husband Allert Heymans will again allow himself to be found at home, he will then relieve her of this trouble. And he intends to arrest her husband and to take him to the redoubt until the arrival of a yacht then to send him to the Manhatans to the Governor General, for the purposes of there answering any accusation which they, the soldiers, may make against him.

The hon. court proposes to adjust the affair between Allert Heymans and his soldier here before the court, as per instructions, and in the mean time, to keep him under arrest in his own house, with orders for him to keep silent and quiet until the arival of a vessel, then to go to the Manhatans to answer there, in case the difference cannot be adjusted here, and in case he does not keep still and quiet during his arrest, that he shall be handcuffed and sent to the redoubt.

 Anyway, to Bettsy, my sons, Dezi, and others, I know of your frustration. I felt it at Rotary Friday when I was going to start early to “discretely” half put on and half wrap a sweater around me – and JoHan Green got up from the next table where she was sitting with her back to me to help. I do understand, but I could add tales of ancestors like Rosa Berryman Talliaffero Loving, moving west and raising soldiers and preachers after being widowed in the War of 1812, Mary Dudley McKendree raising doctors and the first American-born Methodist bishop from an invalid’s bed, Nancy Spence and her mother fighting off a Comanche raid in a log cabin…. Independent women run in my blood, what’s left of it after spilling a good pile.

An author, editor, and publisher with Silver Boomer Books, “Barbara B. Rollins” appears on thirteen books. Her most recent, A Cloud of Witnesses – Two Big Books and Us, written with OAStepper, matches each verse in the book of Hebrews with a quotation from the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, and responds in poetry and prayer. It is the sequel to A Time for Verse – Poetic Ponderings on Ecclesiastes which lacks the Big Book quotes. The six Silver Boomer Books anthologies are edited in part by Barbara, and she has a forensic crime solvers series for children from Capstone Press and the young adult novel,  Syncopated SummerA retired judge, Barbara still sits occasionally but more often sits in her car, going or coming from wherever she chooses.

Magic Numbers

 Memoirs  Comments Off on Magic Numbers
Jan 202012

One, two, three… we’ve known the progression for years. When applied to age mile markers, what makes some matter more than others? Which do we pick out for emphasis? Certainly one, a unique, special number. And two, three, four, five – small ones carry power, for they mark significant increments. Two is one doubled, five is a whole handful of fingers, etc. Then we start skipping. Ten, fifteen, sixteen – is that just because of the quinceaneras? – twenty, twenty-one… After that it’s decades, until we get to sixty-five, which I do in two days.

I remember some of the earlier “big” years. After the little girls left my fifth birthday party, my older sister broke out in measles, and she, my younger sister and I all went through those and mumps and chicken pox, someone ill the whole time, until Easter. In addition, Carol had a heart murmur and I was hospitalized with pneumonia. Mother soldiered on with Daddy traveling West Texas and New Mexico Mondays through Fridays, though with the heart murmur at home and pneumonia in the hospital, she called in her mother to help. My twenty-first, I was in Roswell, New Mexico, with Betty Ely Nichols and her family. I ate sopaipillas for the first time. When I tore one into pieces rather than biting off a corner to pour in honey, someone (Mrs. Ely, I think) gave up hers so I could try it the right way. My twenty-fifth birthday, I had driven from Nashville, Tennessee to Newport News, Virginia, staying up all night and too tired to rest when we got there. When I got up from the fruitless effort, I found my first wrinkle. All in my circle of friends know Beth Weaver was getting married on my birthday, but only one remembered and wished happiness.

Number thirty was a dreaded number welcomed. A could of months earlier, I’d confirmed I was finally pregnant. Forty? I decided if I didn’t grow up by the time I was forty, I never would. I set out to lose weight, to get organized, to fix a lot of broken parts of me, doing a decent job. At the end of that year I got up the nerve to run for office as judge of a newly created court. I call 1997 my hell year. It started before, in October, with younger son’s surgery. The big fifty happened in January, then in the Spring my dad was hospitalized with ARSD for seven weeks, two in intensive care on a ventilator. Because of the October injury and surgery, an arrogant, asinine, stupid coach set up a chain of events that caused my younger son to graduate from high school at that quoinceanera year. I’d told him he could not move out until reaching the next birthday because as juvenile judge I didn’t want to be the mother of a runaway. But he’d had the birthday and was at home with his father and I was afraid he’d leave or somebody would kill the other one. As tense as a body could get, I got my fifty-year-old body out of the bathtub, reaching up for balance, and severed my rotator cuff. Surgery for that, then a blood clot, then surgery on my older son before we could drive 250 miles to get there. The fiftieth year was memorable, all through.

I reached sixty a month after I found a fellowship, a family, a home in a recovery. More comfortable and carefree than I’d ever been, no trauma attached. Later that year, though, when my sister reached sixty-five, I felt old. Now, as I attain that number? The significance is my insurance cost lowering! That despite the fact I was confused for someone else yesterday, and I happen to know she’s considerably older than I. We don’t look like each other, do we? How could anybody confuse is?

Numbers are just numbers. Years are just years. And time to be savored, to be counted one-by-one, lived one day at a time in the fullest and most joyous way possible. Come run with me!

An author, editor, and publisher with Silver Boomer Books, “Barbara B. Rollins” appears on thirteen books. Her most recent, A Cloud of Witnesses – Two Big Books and Us, written with OAStepper, matches each verse in the book of Hebrews with a quotation from the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, and responds in poetry and prayer. It is the sequel to A Time for Verse – Poetic Ponderings on Ecclesiastes which lacks the Big Book quotes. The six Silver Boomer Books anthologies are edited in part by Barbara, and she has a forensic crime solvers series for children from Capstone Press and the young adult novel,  Syncopated SummerA retired judge, Barbara still sits occasionally but more often sits in her car, going or coming from wherever she chooses.