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.

Feb 122015

I said I would use ten obliques without knowing how to choose the ten, so I decided to use every fifth one in the list. Therefore, my considerations are these:

  • What does it look like from above or below?
  • Is it bigger than a breadbox or know what a breadbox is?
  • What is the very first thing to do on it? The seventh?
  • Which season of the year suits it?
  • Who is the villain in the mystery?
  • What do I actively not want to do? Why?
  • Why do I want to do this if I’m struggling with it so?
  • What can I do in the next minute to advance this project?
  • Who do you want to work with you on this from among your family? Why?
  • What has convinced Henny Penny the sky is falling?

And the issue to be resolved using these questions? The focus of the tenth Silver Boomer Books anthology. By definition, the anthology will be a collection of memoir and nostalgia in the form of prose and poetry from a wide variety or authors all over the world. By tradition we will have four editors for the book, and some of those have been from outside for the last three anthologies. Those already published are described in the previous post.

  1. What does it look like from above or below? It’s obvious utilizing arbitrary obliques in a somewhat boxed in context can get interesting. Above? I think of Flashlight Memories where the idea is a child hiding under the covers reading after bedtime. What’s above that? Certainly The Harsh and The Heart – Celebrating the Military with the jets flying in formation on the cover. Ideas coming from those could be other childhood activities that affected adult lives and other honored professions such as teaching and first responders.
  2. Is it bigger than a breadbox or know what a breadbox is? Could the anthology be about items not in normal use in the 21st century but central to our past? Breadboxes perhaps, but record players, typewriters, Green Stamps, the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue, flashbulbs, slide rules, milk bottles on the porch…
  3. What is the first thing to do on it? The seventh?  Find a subject? Find editors? Structure a call for submissions? Actually this is the first thing, looking for a subject. The seventh? Without actually counting, I’ll say a call for submissions. This oblique seems to miss the mark on this issue. On to the next.
  4. Which season of the year suits it? We’ve done an anthology on holidays throughout the year in A Quilt of HolidaysWould one on seasons work? One on months? Weather? Weather-related activities?
  5. Who is the villain in the mystery? Hum. An anthology of real-life mysteries? The grouchiest person I ever knew? Evil people? (Do I get veto power now or must this stay chain of consciousness?) So, good people I didn’t get at first, the good in people I didn’t like?
  6. What do I actively not want to do? Why? Well, if we were to do an anthology around songs that meant a lot to us, there would be a terrible copyright issue to address, and I’d avoid that at all costs because of that cost in time and – perhaps – cash. But we could do one on quotations that touched our lives.
  7. Why do I want to do this if I’m struggling with it so? Well, Cup of Comfort bit the dust but Chicken Soup is going strong – 250+ titles. SBB author Madonna Dries Christensen has a call for submissions for a Serendipity anthology, and NYMB (Not Your Mother’s Book) with SBB author Linda O’Connell has ten titles at his point. Silver Boomer Books is in great company and has a role to play in the genre. Again, no real meat to answer the query.
  8. What can I do in the next minutes to advance this project? I could keep on writing here if I didn’t have to take the dog to the groomers in 22 minutes. Okay, I can finish this post. I can continue with the give-away of SBB books this month. But I need to – and shy away from – reach out to others who can expand the reach of this blog and therefore of Silver Boomer Books.
  9. Who do you want to work with you on this from among your family? Why?  Writing the oblique I didn’t think of calling on the dead, but the first I think of is my grandfather, Rhapherd T. Breedlove. I’ve got some of his writings posted on my genealogy pages. What could I learn from Pop? One thing would be to solicit verbal stories from some people perhaps. Pop wrote some great family history but when he sat down to write for publication, it lost the heart and soul of his just telling the story, orally or in letters or sermons. A collection of letters is a possibility. Or sermons. Nope. Don’t want to read the ones I wouldn’t want to publish. Spontaneity is what comes to mind: Pop telling the stories from the pulpit and Grandmom, from the choir loft, correcting him for what she believed to be factual errors.
  10. What convinced Henny Penny the sky was falling? I’m laughing. I wrote the question but I just now researched the stories and in the nineteenth centuries they had endings totally politically incorrect today. Maybe my answer is stated in #7: “Cup of Comfort bit the dust.” What this is telling me is that the fate of a small publishing company and it’s products in the 21st century may well be an endangered species: i.e., the sky may really be falling. But then again, it will if I quit, and I don’t intend to quit and can’t control the future, so we’ll move on to the next books to be published by Silver Boomer Books and its imprints, ignoring the possibility of annihilation.

The results of the quest: The focus of the tenth Silver Boomer Books anthology might be…

  • childhood activities having lifelong affect
  • teachers
  • first responders
  • items of nostalgia
  • seasons
  • months
  • weather
  • weather-related activities
  • real life mysteries
  • grouchy people
  • evil people
  • good people I didn’t like
  • quotations that touched our lives
  • answers yet to come from readers of this blog post and the prior one
  • oral history passed down or recorded
Feb 052015

Silver Boomer Books has nine anthologies published. The next anthology will probably be done through our imprint Eagle Wings Press, but we’re by no means finished with SBB anthologies. To date we have:

In Silver Boomers, we began as a partnership principally of silver-haired Baby Boomers and invited others of our ilk to remember our lives. We began the two unique features of these anthologies of a crawl line (beginning with the birth of the first Baby Boomer in 1946 and ending with the first Boomer to receive Social Security, with all the pages of the book being part of a continuing block of text telling of our generation and the turning point events and people) and a poem at the end by the “quartet” of four editors. Freckles to Wrinkles expanded the age range as we accepted contributions from authors older than we as well as those born after the end of the Boomer age, 1964. Again, the contributions were poems and prose pieces telling of our lives from childhood freckles to the wrinkles of aging faces and hands.
This Path expanded the scope as we looked back from decades into our lives but included children looking ahead to the future. Few of us could have foreseen at age 10 or 20 where we’d end up at 40 or 50. The subtitle of From the Porch Swing says it all: memories of our grandparents. Like the other anthologies, we had worldwide contributions so our memories differed but were startlingly similar.
 How did you learn to love reading and books? Like many of our authors did your history involve Flashlight Memories as you hid under the covers at night? The memories of our service men and women and their families and powerful and poignant. It was our pleasure and privilege to allow some of these wonderful people to share their stories. and to bring these to our readers.
Our original partnership of four had ended by the time we published the last three anthologies, and we had guest editors who added greatly to these three. On Our Own – Widowhood for Smarties meets a need and is a great gift for those new to the pain as well as those looking forward to life, different. A Quilt of Holidays is just that. A patchwork of days, major holidays and days we notice on some calendars. Labor Day, Flag Day, Passover, Christmas…and many more.
Waiting for hours in a dentist’s office or for months beside the bed of a love one, waiting elongates time. But it passes more easily with Longest Hours – thoughts while waiting. Let’s use ten of the obliques to figure out what the next anthology should be.

I’ll be looking at my list of obliques and selecting ten, at random I hope, to come up with suggestions for the next anthology. You can do this, too! Or just use one or two, or suggest an anthology without dealing with obliques. The comment box awaits your answers.