Monday, May 30, 2011

New Series on Seniors Writing Novels

Today I’m beginning Part 1-A of what, I hope, will be an interesting series about writers who began their careers late in life, as I myself have done.

Associating with new writers in a variety of writing groups such as the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) Forum, Authonomy, and YouWriteOn, I’ve discovered that, like me, many of my colleagues are senior citizens. Men and women who had the desire to write but somehow life got in the way, until now. One of these is Maura Gallagher who writes under the nom de plume of Clue Gallagher. I am happy to have her as my first guest writer, in this series about senior storytellers. Clu’s book “Shattered Seeds: Sophia’s Story" is currently for sale on Amazon and Kindle.

Betty: Thank you for participating, Clu. You have an interesting story to tell, I know. I understand your name is actually Maura, which has a lovely Irish ring to it; but where did the nickname “Clu” come from?

Clu: I began writing at age 59. At the time, I had just about given up hope of ever having my former life back after being stricken with the devastating effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, which disabled me at age 54. One day, I became inspired after a new adult friend shared her life story with me. Her father had been a NAZI under Hitler. Since early childhood, a story had rattling around in my mind about a girl who became an immigrant to the U.S.A. That girl had no face, no name, no country, and no story.

After talking to my German immigrant friend, I sat down at the keyboard and started to write. The FM and CFS had taken away my memory. I strained to focus, trying to remember the particulars of the English language...then, this amazing thing happened to me. Suddenly, I began to find words and sentences to describe the life of a girl named Sofia Gunter. I used every scrap of energy I could muster to write the first MS, astounding myself more than anyone. I asked my mother to read that first manuscript and she said that she stayed up all night reading it. Shortly afterwards, she saw an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a competition on She told me that I should enter the MS then called “The Quilt.”
After deciding to enter the first ABNA competition in 2008, I used the pen name of ‘R.E. Cluse.’ I arrived at that name by using my beloved father’s initials, “R.I.E.” and the first word that came to mind was “Recluse.” It seemed to fit my new lifestyle, since becoming disabled from my career as an Elementary Art Teacher for almost 28 years.

I met a wonderful group of writers on the ABNA forum and they befriended me. Several—in particular, Shye Mendelsohn and Erica Olsen—helped to give me a new nickname and soon the all the members of the forum started referring to me as ‘CLU.’

Betty: Like myself, you are now a senior and yet this is your debut book. Did you always have it in mind to write a novel?

Clue: The desire to write a novel was my hidden secret starting in childhood; one I had stashed away securely, never really sharing it with anyone. I trained as an artist and became an art teacher in the public school system. However, I always loved to write and, at one point, I was going to go to college to major in English and Creative Writing. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so I waited to go to college until I was able to save enough money. I had good typing and accounting skills and worked as a secretary. Up until then, I had never had an art class in my life, and I had a burning desire to have some instruction in the visual arts. I enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University evening classes and studied painting and drawing. I fell in love with the Arts and knew that I needed to make them my life work. Herbert Olds, a professor at Carnegie took an interest in me and my work and guided me to a state university that I could afford. His teaching showed me how valuable it is to anyone in the Arts to surround themselves with others who want to share their thoughts, their expertise, and their experiences. However, in order to pay the bills with a secure paycheque, I devoted my life to the work of teaching children to appreciate the arts and to foster a wave of creative thinking for them. My dream of writing that “book” was put on the back’s journey seemed to have gotten in the way.

(To be continued: Next week, we’ll learn what motivated Clu to finally write that book and why she decided to self-publish. And I’ll include my Amazon review of Sophia’s Story)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Anniversary #48 Plus Another Great Book to Read

Very busy this week with celebrating our 48th Anniversary and continuing to edit my book plus reviewing for Amazon. So here is a picture from 48 years ago followed by my review of another great and fascinating book:

“Dreams of Joy” is the story of young Joy Louie who leaves her comfortable home in Los Angeles Chinatown for the People’s Republic of China to find both her birth father and what she thinks will be a better way of life. Her association with a communist group at the University of Chicago has led her to believe that socialism isn’t the evil the United States government portrays it to be.

Since her birth father is a well-known artist in Shanghai, in spite of government restrictions, it is fairly easy for her to find him; and after his initial shock of discovering he has a daughter, he seems happy to know her. She travels with him to the village of Green Dragon where she joins the commune and falls in love with a young peasant farmer.

In 1958, Mao announced the” Great Leap Forward,” an attempt to increase agricultural and industrial production. However, three years of floods and bad harvests as well as poor farming methods, severely damaged levels of production. The famine that occurred reportedly resulted in 4.5 million fatalities. The author masterfully transports us to that village and shows us in startling detail the horrors that result from this famine. Her attention to detail is wonderful and, while the book isn’t a page-turner in the sense of a thriller, I was spellbound by the history of a period in China that has always fascinated me.

Although “Dreams of Joy” is actually the sequel to “Shanghai Girls,” which I have never read, I found it stands alone quite well. Now, having discovered Lisa See’s writing, I will certainly go back and read the prequel as well as some of her earlier books. Ms. See is a skilful author who has the ability to transfer the reader to the exotic places she writes about.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Remember Mama

Today I’m going to be a little controversial. Recently I had a discussion with someone who doesn’t believe in spanking children at all anymore. Apparently, in many places, there is actually a law against it. Personally, while I certainly don’t believe in beating a child or being overly harsh with them, I got the odd spanking when I was a kid and I never felt it did me any harm.

This particular F/B acquaintance stated that because I admitted my mom smacked me on the bottom when I was about 14, there was “definitely” something wrong with our relationship. Trust me, the only thing wrong was that I had a “big mouth,” as we used to call being disrespectful; and my mother, an ex schoolteacher, was not about to put up with that. I remembered it but never resented it. In fact, I loved my mother very much and the two of us had an excellent relationship throughout our lives.

Moms tend to get special recognition in the month of May; although they definitely deserve it all year long. While my mother passed away 25 years ago, there is hardly a week goes by that I don’t think about some of the wonderful times we had together. The fact that she was a teacher gave her a special understanding about children, I think. During my teen years, many of my girlfriends would come over to our house to ask my mother questions about things they were reluctant to speak to their own parents about. In those days, mothers didn’t need to work as much as they do today, so she was always there with milk and cookies and good advice.

She was a very spiritual woman and a firm believer in the Bible. She taught me to love and respect our Creator. Even so, she had a wonderful sense of humour and could see the fun in almost any situation.

By the time I married, my mother was a widow, so my husband and I built a house on half of her one acre of land. We lived next door to each for the next twenty years. It was a wonderful arrangement and she never overstayed her welcome or came between my husband and me. In fact, if she happened to be at our place when he drove in from work, she would “sneak” out the back door before he came in the front. “I don’t want him to get tired of me,” she would say.

I remember early in our marriage, when I was particularly angry with him about something, I went over to her house for a cup of tea. When I started to complain about him, she was displeased. “You are fortunate to have such a man,” she stated. “And I don’t EVER want to hear another word against him.” She never did.

In her later years, my mother loved to travel. She had no qualms about going off on her own and even undertook a three-week tour to the orient all by herself. By the time she turned eighty, however, I started to worry about her traipsing around the world alone, and my husband suggested that I go with her on a few trips.

She was born in Scotland but left when she was ten years old and had never been back to her homeland. We went together and what a joy it was to see her delight as we walked down the High Street of her small village with her pointing out where everything should be. It was amazing that in the seventy years since she left, very little had changed.

She lived to be 85 and, because we were right next door, never had to leave her own house. I’ve always been glad that I gave her that privilege. In the spring of 1986, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live. I wanted to be the one to look after her so I resigned from my job as a tour planner and moved into her house. We were together until the week before she died when she needed more care than I could give.

I’m so happy that I had all those wonderful years with my mother and I’m very grateful that she gave me the odd spanking when I needed discipline. I learned obedience and respect; things that are sadly lacking in many young people today.