Tag Archives: writing

Happy Birthday to Joe; Lessons Learned from a Sparrow’s Journey

5 Jul
Sparrow in prison book cover

Still a Good Summer Read!

This week we celebrate a birthday, of sorts, as my baby, “Caged Sparrow” is officially one year old. I suspect that’s about 20 in book years, judging by how much of my energy went into raising it.

Although completing one book hardly qualifies me as an expert in anything, I would like to share a few lessons I’ve learned over the past few years, because I know my dream was just one in a sea of dreams still to be fulfilled in the world.

It’s been two and a half years since I walked away from my “day job,” a job that paid quite well, where I loved my co-workers and needed to invest only three more years to qualify for retirement benefits.

But I couldn’t shake the pull to write full time.

I tried to ignore it, working 8-hour days during the week and spending my nights and weekends juggling responsibilities as wife and mother. Stories and characters filled my head until I thought I might burst. Every once in a while I’d have to steal away to a quiet corner and dash off a few pages of one project or another. Rarely did I finish anything. I did create a collection of short stories, but had no idea how to market them.

My one annual indulgence was to escape every May to attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference near Asheville, NC. Although I felt like a phony there, a pretend writer surrounded by real writers, I couldn’t stay away. Something about the creativity flowing through everyone I met wrapped around me like a lasso of possibility and just kept tugging.

This IS where I belong.

I drank in the writing seminars and workshops, basked in the warm writing talk at every meal, and left the conference on fire to keep writing, even though nobody wanted to read my short stories.

“Short stories just don’t sell,” said the experts.

Then “Caged Sparrow” fell into my lap in a most unconventional manner, during small talk in a lounge area at the writers’ conference with two women I’d never met. When I mentioned I liked to write people’s stories, the first, Linda Rondeau, became quite animated.

“I know someone with a story!” She then described this former undercover cop who had been framed and sent to prison among the very people he’d been putting in jail for nearly 20 years. As she finished telling me about Joe Tuttolomondo, the second woman, Diana Flegal, leaned over and said, “If you write it, I’ll take a look at it.”

She’s an agent! Who knew?

The rest is history. I started planning my departure from the typical work force almost immediately. Most of my co-workers expressed incredulous encouragement. I couldn’t blame them for the incredulous part, as I felt the same.

Am I really going to do this?
Why yes, I really am.

Today I’m barely making a living, editing documents and writing short stories to cover the cost of gas and groceries so I can write my own stories on the side. Both family cars will need to be replaced soon, the front porch is falling down, and there’s this barely perceptible drip, drip, drip coming from the pipes above the kitchen ceiling. But I’m not worried. As with everything else over the past two years, somehow, the Lord will ensure those issues are taken care of.

joe

Who could say no to someone filled with this much joy for the Lord?

I may go back to work at some point, but I haven’t regretted leaving for a minute, because Caged Sparrow is an actual book, available in book stores. And because Joe is so gosh darned tickled pink to have his story in print, it makes me giggle inside. And because I am a “real” writer and have been since I was 14. (To anyone who feels the same as I did during my early writers’ conference years, know that you’re a writer because you write, not because you sell.)

 

I will wrap up by telling you some of the advice I heard along my journey:

 

It’s irresponsible to quit your day job for a dream. To that I say, humbug. If it’s really your passion, you’ll find a way to make it work. I’d trade 12 “safe” years for two years of living on the edge while doing what I love. Oh, wait, that’s what I did.

Nobody reads memoirs. Humbug again. These are real stories about real people. Memoirs can inspire, uplift, encourage, and enable others to dream. Perhaps if we could get our young generations to read more memoirs, we’d need fewer animated cartoon heroes. Oh, and did I mention, at this year’s writing conference, it took first place in the 2016 Selah awards for best memoir, and overall director’s choice for best non-fiction book of the year! Not bad for something nobody wants to read.

Self-publishing is risky business. So is crossing the street. Sometimes, however, self-publishing is the only way to go. Although Ms Flegal did take on my book, she met up against a brick wall of “nobody reads memoirs” publishers, so I took it back. I’m glad I did, because Joe’s story needed to be told. Of course, if you’re planning to go this route, ensure your book is professionally edited, make sure you’re linking up with a reputable company, and get yourself a kick-butt cover designer, but then, by all means, go for it.

Without a publisher, you can probably hope to sell about 300 copies. To that I say, 1,300 copies later, wait, what?

If you’re going to autograph your books with a reference, make sure you memorize it. Okay, this I have to agree with. I chose the encouraging, hope-filled verse from Proverbs 16:9, which states, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps,” because it’s the story of my life. However, somewhere around the 30th copy I noticed I was referring people to Proverbs 19:6, which is NOT my life verse at all. In fact, it states, “Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.” No doubt, the recipients of those autographs are still confused. (NOTE: If you’re one of those lucky few, consider yours a special “error copy,” which will no doubt be worth something one day.)

So here I am, about to release my second book, “From the Remnants,” and still clutching my collection of short stories that some expert has told me won’t sell. Considering all the advice I’ve received recently, what do you think I’m going to do with these?

You are correct…which is why I’m now resuming work on “The Perfect Parent, Parables for the New Believer.”  Details coming soon.

——-

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God – Ecclesiastes 2:24

Great News for Caged Sparrow

4 May
Sparrow in prison book cover

Get your copy now!

Okay, so it’s not a Pullitzer, and it’s not even a super big deal, but it’s a ray of hope, so I’m going with it.

Caged Sparrow has been named a finalist in the 2016 Selah Awards for the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Not too shabby!

We’ll have to wait until May 25 to learn how the book fares overall, and while I haven’t read the competing books, this is a group of writers I admire and respect very much for their professionalism and dedication to Christian writing. As such, Joe and I are far from expecting to win. However, just being a finalist gives the book a greater chance of getting picked up by book stores, so I’m more than thrilled.

Those of you who have read Caged Sparrow have surely noticed its potential to lift the spirits of those imprisoned, whether by real iron bars or bars of their own making. If you’re the praying type, please pray with me that, win or lose, this event will catapault Joe’s story onto a new level of readership, and into the hands of those whose hearts would be filled with hope if they read it.

To those of you who have yet to read it, what are you waiting for?

Tiny Tea Cups and a Girl Long Gone

26 Feb

What is truly of great worth?

NOTE: Today’s blog is made possible by a book of writing prompts given to me by my husband on our anniversary, and also by a cold, lazy day that turned out to be good for nothing but sitting by the fire and avoiding work. I will have to write tonight to make up for the lost time, but my brain has decreed this a day for musings.

So, the prompt?
Write about an item you own that is not worth much money but is of great value to you.

My mind immediately brings forth The Tea Set. It represents, not only a bygone era, but a mystery, and, as I think of it, a challenge.

Child's porcelain tea set

Toys? My how things have changed. (By the way, they’re a lot smaller than they look.)

It’s a child’s tea set, made of china, from a pre-plastic era—1885 or so, judging from what I know of the girl I believe was its earliest owner. I cannot determine its manufacturer, as it has no markings, but its design is eclectic at best. The delicate blue and white tea pot is merely four inches tall, wrapped in a rural Asia-like scene of pagoda-topped buildings nestled in the hills and a multi-domed city scape in the distance. My thumb and forefinger look monstrously large as I gingerly grasp the fragile handles on the tiny cups, noting what appears to be a fading fairy sprite hiding in its lush flowery field.

I’m almost afraid to hold the accompanying saucers, which have worn thin and are warped with age, but I can’t resist. They are the same blue and white colors, yet their design seems to be of sparrows darting through a garden.

I try to picture this beautiful, dainty tea service being casually tossed about by some 5-year-old girl; she sitting at a child’s table, pouring imaginary refreshment for the blue-eyed china doll across from her. Why aren’t these dishes cracked and broken? Perhaps children played more calmly back then. Perhaps it was her only toy and she handled it with great care. Or, perhaps, in reverence, she kept them on a shelf, knowing that a woman with a girl’s heart would one day take great joy in their elegance. I’ll always wonder. . .

I know who she was, though, that little girl. But I know so little about her it’s almost shameful. She was my great grandmother, Grace Leahy Craig, who grew up in Wausau, Wisconsin and married Angus Craig, my great grandfather, in June of 1904. When we were children, we were told she linked us to Admiral William Leahy, the Navy’s first five-star admiral, who served during World War II as Roosevelt’s Chief of Staff even before the title had been created, and before that as Chief of Naval Operations, and as governor of Puerto Rico. Sadly, today he is typically only mentioned in jest, for his famous quote about the atomic bomb: “That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The atomic bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.”

grace and arthur 54

Grace and Angus in a Newspaper Clipping from 1954.

But as I dig, I’m more and more convinced Grace’s ancestry did not spring from that shoot of the tree. She was raised by Civil War Capt. John E. Leahy and his wife, Mary. However, their death notices do not name her as a daughter. William Leahy’s father was Michael, possibly John’s brother, who does bear that name, which would make her a cousin by adoption at best. Family lore speaks of a terrible ship explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia that left her an orphan, but I cannot connect those dots yet. Perhaps one day when I’m a famous author I’ll hire an agency to solve this mystery.

 

Grace lived until her 90s, and I do remember visiting her with my grandfather when I was quite young, in the early 60s. We didn’t call her Grace or Grandma, but Dearie. Not sure why. I remember her in the 70s as a frail old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. Never would I have believed she once played with toys.

I first saw this tea set when my mom inherited it from her mother, sometime around 1995, and I scoffed at its primitiveness. Even then, the plates were warped and the design had faded. However, each time I saw these little pretties I became more intrigued about child who played with them. And when the set came into my possession upon Mom’s death, I fell in love, and today I’d never part with it. I yearn for the simpler time it represents, a time when children played using their imaginations, when it was socially acceptable for girls to play tea party, when one or two toys was considered sufficient.

So what is of great worth? It’s certainly not our possessions, or I’d know more about this set; it’s not in beauty, or I’d feel sad at the faded design; and it’s not our heritage, although that’s interesting — not knowing our past doesn’t make us less amazing people. Great worth is found in the heart. It’s that which makes us care about each other, feel for each other, remember each other. The value is in the loving.

And the challenge? It occurred to me as I started writing this, my mother’s twin brothers still live in Rhode Island. I don’t know why I haven’t thought to contact them about their grandmother. Surely they have a few pieces of the puzzle that I don’t. Of course, this is going to require a trip “up east,” to the land of sandy shores and stone walls, but I’m willing to endure the heartache. Rhode Island-ho!

Thank you, book of prompts, for this trip down memory lane, and for the potential trip ahead.

So tell me, dear readers, what do you have that holds great worth, if only to you?

———–

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. –Prov. 11:24-25

 

State of the Portrait Writer Report

31 Dec

How Did We Fare in 2015?

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time for the now-annual State of the Portrait Writer report, in which I will examine my writing progress thus far. In re-reading my year-old journal entry of expectations for 2015, I’m amazed at how many of the events I planned or promised last year (to myself and others) never materialized. This is to be expected because, as I’ve learned and re-learned throughout the year, I’m not in charge. In fact, if everything had turned out as I planned, it would have been quite the boring year. Instead, it’s been a year of victory and surprises, and a wee bit of sadness. However, it’s also been a year of seeing first-hand what God can do in our lives if we step aside.

Many of you who have been with me from the start might be bored by this list, but in celebration of the 130 new readers I picked up in 2015 (yay, and thank you!), for today’s blog I will recap the highlights of the Portrait Writer’s year:

In January, the hubby and I celebrated 31 years of marriage, which translates into 30 years of him listening to me yammer about being a “real writer” and one year of watching me in action. By that time I’d been working from home for 11 months and still had nothing to show for my efforts. After a financially challenging and emotionally frustrating year, however, he was, and miraculously still is, my greatest supporter, without whom there would be no Portrait Writer…and no cheesecake.

February was a month of learning to listen, or to discern exactly what I should be listening to. I was fooled by imitation voices in I Got Screwed!, and later fooled by lovely noises, in Ask Not for Whom the Phone Rings, both of which brought much frustration, until I wizened up. I sure hope I’m smarter now, but it’s a daily battle.

Willa

Love

March brought sadness and a greater appreciation for love and family, when Willa, the Fitzsimmons’ matriarch, left us for a far better place. Although her four children are still reeling from the loss, and miss her more with every Bronco victory they wish she could be sharing with them this year, they are finding solace in knowing she’s no longer in pain. One beautiful ray of light that has emerged from this cloud, her children—the Fitzsimmons Four, who seemed to have been drifting apart, have created new, tighter bonds. Despite the California/Virginia divide, they spent more time together and kept in e-touch more in 2015 than they have in many years, and we’re all praying this trend will continue.

Food staring

Livin’ in the Fridge…

April started in a delightfully silly way with a foolish fridge, and then devolved into a month of contemplation. We examined the need for sports-fan-like loyalty for one’s spouse in Married for Life, and hubby tackled school lunches in No Fishy Business.

In May I shared with you my love/hate relationship with lists in My Ship Will Float, and I finished out the month on an overwhelming high with the cover reveal for my first book, “Caged Sparrow.” I also made promises I couldn’t keep for June, but that’s an entry for…

…in June, I realized I couldn’t make my self-appointed deadline for “Caged Sparrow,” and contemplated cutting corners, which gave me a new appreciation for my Best Boss Ever, in Deadlines and Rocket Surgery. I chose my next writing project in Who Says you Can’t Go Home Again?” That project quickly fell to the sidelines to make room for another and to show me that, once again, I’m not in charge. Rest assured, the project is still on the horizon.

Sparrow in prison book cover

Caged Sparrow

In July, “Caged Sparrow” became a reality, bringing to fruition my life-long dream of becoming a PUBLISHED AUTHOR. I gave my first Totally Made-up Interview in Let the Caged Sparrow Fly! And, while the book is not exactly flying off the shelves—more like falling off—sales are progressing as expected. Reviews on Amazon are quite kind, and some aren’t even from friends and family. Joe and I wanted only to hear that people’s perspective changed upon reading his story, and we received many notes and comments that this, indeed, is happening. Also in July, Hubby and I hit the open road and all the open doughnut stores between San Francisco and Pittsburgh, in Down Home America. This saga turned out to be so great it rolled into…

Corn and bean field: Succotash

Succotash, get it? Corn and beans? Nevermind.

…August, with Salt, Bugs and Doughnuts, which lulled me into inertia, nearly bringing my writing career to a halt with its Dangerously Pleasant Anchor. I’d say the biggest revelation of August was that not everyone gets my sense of humor. The succotash field pic is a joke. Get with it folks!

In September we explored the undervalue of Teachers (If You Can Read This…) and canines (Treat Each Other like Dogs), both of whom improve our lives significantly.

October was just plain fun. After examining the light in the darkness in Storms May be Brewing, I took you on a somewhat scary journey through a typical ADD writer’s sleep-deprived night in Left Brain, Right Brain. Then I took you to Naples, Florida for a book signing and interview with the now famous Joe Tuttolomondo. What a blast that was, and I haven’t even shared about it yet…hmmm…could be a January blog…

In November and December, I let my blog wind down, paying tribute to my friend Michele in Five Years Strong and Counting, remembering my non-Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings of long ago, and ending the year contemplating the preposterousness of Peace on Earth.

Last year the Portrait Writer published one book, edited two others, wrote 20 short stories and about 30 blog posts—all fulfilling, fun work. The short stories provided enough income to keep me writing, and I’m excited about what’s around the corner. More on that in 2016.

Have a happy and blessed new year, everyone. And remember, you’re not in charge.

————–

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. — Proverbs 16:9

Inertia, a Writer’s Dangerously Pleasant Anchor

26 Aug

I just don’t feel like writing today. This makes no sense because I love to write. However, today I just want to lie here, wrapped in this cozy blanket of summer memories, and watch the world pass me by.

Corn and bean field: Succotash

Have you ever wondered where succotash grows? Well, here’s a crop just outside Lancaster PA. 🙂

It has been a wonderful summer, filled with travel and family, good food, and idleness out the wazoo. I played in the salt, hung out with Marine buddies I haven’t seen in nearly ten years, and stumbled upon a succotash field—all adventures that would not have been possible if I hadn’t left my writing chair. All the while, my trusty laptop has sat idle by my side. Sure, I checked email and played a few crossword puzzles with the thing, but I wrote only two blog posts in six weeks. I thought about writing. I pondered various blog topics. I felt inspired to write on many occasions by my surroundings. But somehow, no words actually made it to the page.

Regrettably, I’ll bet that if I were to add up all the moments between actual adventures, I’d probably realize that I spent much of my summer doing absolutely nothing…staring at the miles upon miles of Iowa cornfields as we drove past, sitting in hotel rooms gazing at mindless television just because the thing was on, watching other people go about their lives. Prime, inspiration-filled writing days down the drain.

Boats on the Trent River

Watching the boats at sunrise. What would I name my boat? That could be an entire blog…

On my most recent trip to a U.S. Marine Combat Correspondents conference in New Bern, NC, I spent much of our non-meeting time looking out the hotel window at the lovely Trent River Harbor, a relaxed and peaceful boat-packed city where time practically stands still. By my third day there I’d given names to the two SCUBA divers who leave every morning on what are surely the most amazing quests I’ll never know about; to the dog walker and her Westie, who stopped to greet everyone on the path; and to the man with the bucket and hose, who moved methodically from one pier to the next, scrubbing yachts in preparation for weekend voyages. But instead of writing about them, I just stared and thought.

I wasted nearly an hour one morning trying to catch a train bridge in motion. Every time I looked out the window, it would be either opened to boat traffic or closed to let a train chug across the river…yet I could never catch it in the act of rotating.  I’d leave my post for only a second and, bam, it would change.

I wasted more time wondering how many copies of Caged Sparrow I’d have to sell to afford a yacht of my own, what I’d name my yacht if I had one (so far, I’m leaning toward Page Turner), and wondering what I’d actually do on it because I wouldn’t want to sail it myself. I think that if I couldn’t convince my hubby to skipper the thing, I’d just keep it moored and spend every waking minute on the shaded deck enjoying the rhythmic rocking and smell of salt water while I write…or think about writing.

I told myself it’s okay.

You’re on vacation. You can write when you get home.

But I didn’t. I kept watching the world. It feels terrible to not write, as if there’s an anchor pulling my creativity to the bottom of the river, and potential beauty is just sinking away…but I’m lying here, letting it happen.

This morning, after being back four days and finding myself still in idle mode, it struck me. I’ve inertia-ed myself into a state of mind atrophy. I liked doing nothing. I liked it too much. I think our minds react to laziness the same way our bodies do, and the only way to get back on the writing track is to actually write. So here I am, with nothing special to say but the urge to say it anyway. We’ll call this blog my stretching exercise, and hopefully I’ll be back running next week.

Hey, would you like to help? Let’s try a writing experiment. Give me a topic, any topic…preferably something that’s not math-related. Either add it to the comment box below or send me an email at RoseFitz.portraitwriter@gmail.com. I’ll blog about the top three suggestions throughout September (right after I tell you why I think retired Marines are the greatest people on earth.)

Who knows, perhaps you’re the one who will wake me up, for which I thank you in advance, or I will after my nap.

______________________________________

How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. — Proverbs 6:9-11

Deadlines & Rocket Surgery: Lessons Learned from a Lil’ Ball O’ Hate

16 Jun

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” — Douglas Adams

So, the big Caged Sparrow debut date came and went, and I’m still staring at a not-quite finished project. I tried so hard to make the promised deadline, but life had other plans. Good plans, mind you…purposeful and fruitful disruptions, but disruptions nonetheless.

I am reminded of something Carrie, my former boss and now great friend, used to say whenever someone would complain that we’d missed an arbitrary deadline because of changing priorities. Usually some self-appointed informant would storm into her office all purple and blustery and announce, “That document! It’s LATE!”

As if we didn’t know.

Carrie would calmly look him in the eyes and ask, “Late for what?”

Best boss ever.

Lil' Ball O' Hate

Tony-the-illustrator’s rendition of Ms Carrie in Mother Hen mode

Carrie has more common sense than anyone I know. She’s a tiny thing, who can tie a belt around an NFL jersey and still look ready for a Vogue cover shoot (not an exaggeration—I’ve seen her do it), yet she packs a lot of spitfire in that little frame, particularly if someone tries to strong-arm one of her Quality and Dissemination chicks. You’ve never seen a more effective mother hen. (Heheh,that’s why we lovingly nicknamed her Lil’ Ball O’ Hate.)

I loved working for Carrie for many reasons; she’s not only wise, but also funny, brilliant, calm in the face of (our) perceived calamity, and she can do some amazing things with chicken and a can of Cheez Whiz. Working with Carrie taught me to focus on the larger picture—what’s really important here? That may be why so many of her words of wisdom are echoing around my brain this week.

Carrie is full of…wisdom. (Missed opportunity, Q&D Gang, I know.) My favorite Carrie-ism, although least relevant to this post is, “It’s not rocket surgery, you know.” Logically, I should have omitted that for the sake of flow here, but I couldn’t NOT share. So there you go.

Carrie also taught me that one of the most important steps in a project is the final “quality control” check. I was so tempted to skip this step in Joe’s book, because I was THAT close to making the deadline, and I’d told so many people it would be ready. I didn’t want the book to be late.

Then I heard, “Late for what?”

…and I realized I’m only shooting for June 15th because I set a June 15th deadline.

Yes, I could actually hit the “go live” button right now if I really wanted to. All the parts are there. Joe has given his final thumbs up; Tony, the illustrator, has patiently tweaked the cover so often the words, “just one more time, I swear” no longer carry meaning (but it’s exactly the right cover now!); and I’ve received excellent feedback from my beta readers, Mary, Becky, and Michele, who noticed a few missing words, some awkward phrasing, and one extremely improbable juxtaposition in the space-time continuum.

Which brings me to another Carrie-ism. Having people find mistakes in my writing doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, particularly mistakes found before final print. I think of the beta readers as angels who, knowing what a klutz I am, walk ahead of me clearing tree branches and stones from path so I don’t fall on my face. At the office, on the rare occasion when a typo did slip through the cracks and make it to print, we could count on some arrogant know-it-all to toss a copy of the manuscript on her desk, offending typo circled thirty times in thick black marker.

“Sure, I see it,” she’d say, and then grin. “But did ya happen to notice the seven thousand words here that we got right?”

So, yes, I could have rushed through the last few steps and uploaded the final version, but as my hand hovered over that button, I thought of Carrie again.

I remembered her more than once staring down a petulant customer, usually someone who thought an editor can zip through a 75-page passive-voice nightmare between the two-hour staff meeting and the mandatory pot luck luncheon and have enough time left over to design a cover for it. After all, editing is just reading, right?

“Look, Bud,” Carrie would say, “you can have it right or you can have it right now, but not both.”

Page One edits

One day when I’m famous, I’ll tell the story of how I rewrote the first page of Caged Sparrow a gazillion times and it will be funny, somehow.

So I’m not going to rush this. I’m going to finish these last changes unhurried, and then get one more proof copy so I can see for myself that the cover looks exactly the same in hand as it does on the screen, and THEN, I’ll hit the button.

New arbitrary deadline: 27 June.

Carrie would be proud of me, I think. If she’s still talking to me, that is…

You see, Carrie is such a great boss, she once left a card on my desk that posed the question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

…at which time I decided to quit my editing job.

So, essentially, this book is pretty much her fault

Best boss ever.

—————————————————-

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. – Psalm 145:15

Story of a Story: Caged Sparrow Announcement

15 May

It’s hard to say when Caged Sparrow became a book.

The Event occurred in Buffalo, NY in the late ’70s, when Joseph Tuttolomondo was convicted and sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.

The idea to write about it began even earlier, when he and his wife started collecting newspaper accounts of his arrest and recording details of his story in case “one day” ever came.

He thought “one day” had arrived many times, but the timing was never right, so he got on with his life. Then he met someone named Linda at a dinner in Florida. Linda, a writer, showed an interest in his story, but biographies were not her genre.

A year later, Linda met me, by chance, some would say, at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, NC. I had been trying to tell people about my writing projects, hoping to find some backing. The conference was nearly over. I’d given up telling people I write contemporary parables and sat moping in a lobby area of the hotel, thinking the entire week had been a bust. It didn’t make sense, considering how many people were praying for me to find my direction. I had a whole team of friends praying, because I’d honestly believed something was going to happen at the conference that would enable me to quit my “day job” and write for a living.

Linda sat down across from me and just started talking. “And what do you write?”

A harmless question. I’d answered it many times that week. I didn’t know her, and I didn’t particularly want to chat, but manners suggested I should at least be polite.

“Personality stories,” I answered. Where did that come from? I’d not written personalities since my Marine Corps days, when I wrote for the base paper. They’d always been my favorite assignments.

“Oh, you do?” She beamed. “I have a story for you!”

Next thing I know, I’m flying to Naples, FL to meet quite possibly the sweetest, most humble man I’ve ever known. He told me his fascinating story and I brought it to Virginia as a box of letters & documents, and about 12 hours of recorded interviews.

I quit my day job.

Since then the project has gone from data to text, to chapters, to completed story. It became a proposal a year ago, and was picked up by a wonderful agent. The agent tried for months to find a publisher for it, to no avail. Undeterred, I decided to publish it myself. After many revisions, this month I uploaded it into a template and received a proof copy of what it will look like. I will make one final revision, after I hear from Mary, a friend and editor who is reviewing it for grammar and flow.

So, is it technically a book? I think so. Although you can’t order it yet, the critical elements are all there: Story…check; ISBN…check; author bio…check; UPC code…check; and, to my absolute joy, an incredible cover…CHECK!!!  Here’s where I give a shout out to Anthony Cash, who can hear pictures and transform them to paper. He listened to Joe’s story and made the most remarkable cover anyone could hope for.

Next week will mark two years since that day in the lobby. I estimate it took about a year longer than necessary because of all I had to learn along the way. Then again, I think the timing is perfect. I hereby announce that Caged Sparrow will be available for purchase June 15, via a link on this website and as many other venues as I can find.

But for now, I’ll give you a sneak peek at the cover…

Sparrow in prison book cover

Coming soon!