Award-winning Author Clare Vanderpool to Speak at KAC 2019

http://clarevanderpool.com/

Clare Vanderpool is the award-winning author of two novels: Moon Over Manifest and Navigating Early.  Moon Over Manifest, her debut novel, was awarded the prestigious 2011 John Newbery Award which is awarded annually by the American Library Association to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Clare is remarkably the first debut author in thirty years to win the Newbery Medal. Her books have both hit the New York Times best seller list as well as the Book Sense best seller list. The recipient of much critical-acclaim, including seven starred reviews, a top ten Historical Fiction Kid’s Book by Instructor Magazine, a Junior Library Guild selection, and a Golden Spur award, Clare’s writing has connected with readers young and old.  Interviews with Clare have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and almost all of the media outlets across the nation have covered her writing career.  Most recently, Clare’s second novel Navigating Early was named a Printz Honor Book for Young Adult Fiction by the American Library Association.

http://www.amazon.com/Moon-Over-Manifest-Clare-Vanderpool/dp/0375858296/
http://www.amazon.com/Navigating-Early-Clare-Vanderpool-2014-12-23/dp/B01F7X93F2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her early years of writing, Clare set out to write a historical novel set in the fictional town of Manifest, Kansas, which is based on the real southeastern Kansas town of Frontenac where her maternal grandparents lived. Drawing on stories she heard as a child, along with research in town newspapers, yearbooks, and graveyards, Clare found a rich and colorful history for her unforgettable novel, Moon Over Manifest. She says “having lived most of my life in the same neighborhood, place is very important and for me true places are rooted in the familiar—the neighborhood pool, the sledding hill, the shortcuts, all the places where memories abound. But I wondered, what would a ‘true place’ be for someone who has never lived anywhere for more than a few weeks or months at a time? Someone like a young girl on the road during the Depression. Someone like Abilene Tucker.”

Clare has been making appearances at schools, libraries, and conferences around the country and abroad.  She enjoys meeting children, educators, librarians, and parents who have embraced her and her writing.  She lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband and four children.

At the Kansas Authors Club convention in Wichita, October 4-6, 2019, Clare will present a seminar, Writing in the Crossroads: Where Craft and Creativity Meet. As writers, we all work at the craft—honing our skills in use of language, imagery, detail, and description.  But is there a risk of focusing on the calculated to the exclusion of the creative?  How do we know when it’s time to loosen the reins on plot, character, and conflict, allowing the creative process room to stretch and pulse and breathe life into the bones of the story?  In this workshop Clare will discuss the synergy and struggle of writing in the crossroads — where craft and creativity meet.

In addition, for those who wish to share a lunch with Clare, she will talk about Books I Have Loved and I Swear Loved Me Back: The Transformative Power of Story. (Luncheon provided by Holiday Inn. Tickets available with registration.) We’ve all heard that to be a writer, you must first be a reader.  And we know from experience that stories have power—to touch, to heal, to transform.  In this talk, we’ll journey into our reading past to the books that provided joy, comfort, even friendship in our younger years, and discover how stories become stepping stones in the writing life.

Like us on Facebook: Kansas Authors Club

Hook ‘Em!

Hotel Information:

KS Authors Club

 

Seminars Offered by Paul Bishop

District 5 of the Kansas Authors is pleased to host Paul Bishop as the featured Keynote speaker at the convention October 4-6, 2019 at the Wichita Holiday Inn, 549 South Rock Road. His planned topic for the Keynote speech is “When Worlds Collide.” For thirty-five years, Paul Bishop pursued two careers—putting villains in jail, and putting words on paper. As a detective with the LAPD, he chased bad guys and solved crimes. Under the cover of darkness, however, he donned his Cloak of Stories, finding cathartic release writing novels…But what happens when the cop and the writer inevitably crash into each other?

In addition, Bishop will offer two seminars at the convention. “Murder and Mayhem for Writers” will explore how to get police procedures right in your next mystery novel.  Veteran LAPD detective Paul Bishop will take you into the world of homicide crime scenes, sex crimes investigations, suspect interrogations, and many other aspects of law enforcement so you can get the details right.

A second seminar, “Getting the Words Right” examines how to trim excess wordage from your drafts. “Do these words make my manuscript look fat?”  Writer, editor, and publisher Paul Bishop shows you how to cut empty calories from your manuscript—words and phrases that will get your stories rejected before the end of the first page. He’ll also explain why putting second things first is important, and how to avoid the deadly sin of info dumps.

A special opportunity for four lucky participants will be a 15-minute private conference with Bishop as a writing coach and editor. District 5 will raffle off chances for these conferences. Win one of four fifteen-minute, one-on-one sessions with writer, editor, and publisher Paul Bishop. Bring the first five pages of your manuscript to battle The Red Pen, scourge of all writers. Get answers to make your manuscript bulletproof. This will be a possibly harsh, but honest experience. However, it could be the fifteen minutes you need to get published.

Contact Paul at http://www.paulbishopbooks.com

Hook ‘Em!

See you in Wichita this October.

 

Like us on Facebook: Kansas Authors Club

Hotel information:

KS Authors Club

2019 Keynote Speaker in Wichita–Paul Bishop!

Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop is a nationally recognized behaviorist and deception detection expert. A 35-year veteran of the LAPD, his high profile Special Assault Units produced the top crime clearance rates in the city. Twice honored as LAPD’s Detective of the Year. Paul is the author of sixteen novels, including five books in his LAPD Detective Fey Croaker series. He has written scripts for episodic television and feature films and starred as the lead interrogator and driving force behind the ABC TV reality show “Take the Money and Run” from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. His book, Lie Catchers, is the first in a new series featuring two top LAPD interrogators. The forthcoming sequel is titled Admit Nothing.

Bishop’s books include:

  • Hot Pursuit
  • Deep Water
  • Penalty Shot
  • Fey Croaker: Kill Me Again
  • Fey Croaker: Grave Sins
  • Fey Croaker: Tequila Mockingbird
  • Fey Croaker: Chalk Whispers 
  • Fey Croaker: Pattern of Behavior 
  • Shroud of Vengeance 
  • Running Wylde 
  • A Bucketful of Bullets
  • Nothing But the Truth (Almost)
  • Suspicious Minds 
  • Felony Fists 
  • Swamp Walloper 
  • Lie Catchers 

Bishop wrote three episodes of the TV Series Diagnosis Murder:

  • The Last Resort (1998)
  • Down Among the Dead Men (1999)
  • Murder at BBQ Bob’s (2000)

He was featured as the Chief Interrogator in the 2011 Reality TV Series Take the Money and Run produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and in the 2004 Unsolved History documentary JFK: Beyond the Magic Bullet where he appeared as himself.

Since his retirement as a full-time detective, Bishop has been a featured speaker at law enforcement conventions and writing conventions across the country, including the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy Conference in Wisconsin.

http://www.paulbishopbooks.com

Book ‘Em!

Don’t miss Kansas Authors Club convention 2019, October 4-6, in Wichita.


 

Hook ‘Em and Book ‘Em!

Calling all writers!

The Wichita-based District 5 of Kansas Authors Club will host a weekend event October 4-6, 2019, at the Holiday Inn, 549 South Rock Road, Wichita, Kansas. Whether you are a beginner or have years of experience, there will be classes for everyone.

Over the coming weeks, various presenters will be featured in a series of posts here. Many of the planned workshops will enhance the theme with suggestions about how you can hook readers into turning every page, tips that are good for poets as well as any prose genre. Several classes will offer in-depth information about mystery and crime fiction genre, some even explore topics that involve research and detective work in historical settings.

There will be opportunities to chat with old friends, and make new ones. Share your writing adventures, successes, and dreams. Participate in a read-around. Find out the winners of the 2019 KAC literary contests. Great food—great fun—great classes!

You won’t want to miss the KAC convention 2019, “Hook ‘Em and Book ‘Em!”

Mark your calendars: Wichita, October 4-6, 2019.

 

There are New Stars Tonight

For Floyd and Heidi

Sometimes words come hard. With only a few days left in this year’s countdown to the big holiday celebration, I am overwhelmed thinking of friends facing Christmas with new holes in their hearts and tears in their eyes. Some of my friends face their first Christmas after the death of a baby. (Kayla) When there should be joy and excitement, there looms silence and sadness. Some of my friends are newly widowed (Don). Some, I learned yesterday, face Christmas in the hospital (Florence). And some have recently made the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize a faithful, but ailing, furry friend. (Floyd and Heidi).

There’s just something wrong when all the joy evaporates from life at Christmas time. When miles separate me from grieving friends, I lie awake at night wishing I could help. In spite of my best wishes the world still crumbles around those with grief-stricken hearts.

The best quote I have found to help with new grief is from Jamie Anderson. “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Sometimes the loss is compounded when your faithful Peppy has been a shining spot in your own physical decline due to ALS. The loss is so devastating you may sink into inconsolable despair.

If you find yourself facing this year’s holiday season with no joy in your heart, please know you are not alone. Along with many others, I wish for you a spark of Hope. The future may weigh heavily today, but all we really need to do is get through the coming minutes, one-by-one. Try to keep on keeping on, one day at a time. If there’s one thing people are good at, it’s finding creative ways to open new windows when a door slams shut in our faces. We find ways to persevere. I wish for Hope and the power of its gentility to find your wounded heart.

May you also feel yourself buoyed in an ocean of invisible Love sent across the miles from everyone who has ever lost a beloved friend. Those who have gazed with compassion and sadness into swollen, bloodshot eyes begging for release—those who may have wept with remorse that they ultimately failed their best little buddy—they understand your pain and send you Love, even if they don’t know your name.

I wish that you will find comfort in cherished memories, those quirky little endearing things. Did Peppy have a favorite game? Warm your feet at night? Sit on your lap while you watched the old movies? Run and hide at the first sound of thunder? Was there a special way he looked at you that spoke of his unconditional love and affection? I wish for Peace to fill your heart as you cherish those memories.

Hope, Love, and Peace. A recipe for the holidays.

Here’s to Peppy, a good dog, a star among all those new stars in the Milky Way.

To the Butterflies Among my Friends

Fly away, my friend.

Follow the map written on your heart.

Let your colors blaze in the sunshine as you skim across the ocean of prairie, its fall blossoms dancing in the breeze.

Dart through the forests until you find a safe harbor for the night, a leaf among the autumn leaves.

In the morning, push on. You have places to go and things to do.

Have no doubts regarding the course of your flight.

Though your path may trace circles and spirals in the air, and double back toward the waving bluestem heads, it is true to your heart.

Flutter on, a dark speck against expanse of the universe, with an occasional flash of fire when the sunlight catches your vigor.

Do not worry if no others follow the path you break. They follow the maps of their own hearts, and none can know what is written for another.

Though destinations are one, it is the journey which paints life with purpose.

Your journey is your own, unique and wonder-filled.

Congregate with others along the way, sharing shelter and sustenance.

And do not despair if their paths depart from yours.

You will have gained strength and stamina during the gatherings.

But follow your own heart. Cling to your purpose.

Stay with your course and Godspeed, my friend.

 

To Trees, with Love

 

Lately, I have been looking at trees with renewed awareness and appreciation-the tips of spruce trees traveling miles in little circles when brushed by the wind; the clone communities of aspen, connected underground in secret companionship; the shade and shelter from blazing mountain sunshine; home to countless wild birds who wake us at first light with their songs; source of fuel, of energy, of life for the rest of the world’s systems.

Aspen in Colorado

Have you ever listened to hear a tree’s gentle message? Weeks now after completing my first read of Richard Powers’ The Overstory, I am practically at a loss to describe the novel’s impact.

“…the word tree and the word truth come from the same root,” Powers writes more than once in the pages of The Overstory. I looked them up. He’s right.

Toward the end, Nick (a character whose family history was wrapped up with American Chestnuts) gestured toward a stand of conifers where he was involved in creating artwork on a scale to be seen from orbiting satellites. “It amazes me how much they say, when you let them. They’re not hard to hear.”

To which his anonymous companion chuckled. “We’ve been trying to tell you that since 1492.”

My own journey with trees in particular and plants in general goes back decades to my own childhood. I had numerous pet plants and I named some of them. There was Katrina, the pea plant, and Elizabeth Mames, a wandering Jew given to me by my 5th grade teacher. Elizabeth Mames fills my summer flower boxes still, purple foliage with small tri-petal blossoms.

Elizabeth Mames around a mailbox.

No stranger to aloneness that is often chosen but sometimes enforced, it never failed to fill me with peace when I worked with plants. I shied away from human crowds. Still do. But I felt at home under the trees. Did they speak to me? Not in words, exactly. Maybe with sensuality.

Here’s a poem I wrote as a young college student.

The Lonely Pine

Alone and lonely I met the Ponderosa pine,

Relaxed beneath its radial limbs,

Savored, in my loneliness, the sigh of wind

Through its thousands of fingers,

Pondered the cylindrical split of each

Cluster of three needles fallen to Earth,

Savored again the lonely whine of each live needle

Brushed by the strong south wind,

And I loved that tree.

None but me had ever noticed

—really noticed—that Ponderosa,

and we were companions in loneliness.

At that moment I sensed

All grasses of the prairies,

All trees of the forests,

All birds of the air,

All fish of the sea,

And all creatures of Earth

Were engulfed in the loneliness I knew.

Then, too, I sensed

That though all life may receive

And respond to love,

Only we humans initiate

The silting in of canyons of loneliness.

And then I loved

The Earth and its life,

So all things might be free of loneliness

Forevermore.

After reading The Overstory, I’m not sure any longer that only humans can make the first move toward reconciliation and community. Maybe the botanical world is trying to tell us something. If you can hear them, listen.

 

A BRAG Medallion for Sundrop

A week ago I received notification that Sundrop Sonata has been awarded a Medallion by indieBRAG (Book Readers Appreciation Group) with consistent “very good” marks in all the reviewed categories, and some encouraging comments by readers. The event was even more meaningful when I looked up the BRAGmedallion website and learned that “April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and World Autism Awareness Month,” an uncanny coincidence since Sundrop Sonata contains elements of both. The conflicts revolve around saving an autistic child from a life of unspeakable abuse.

My evolution as a writer continues. Having aspired and dreamed of writing books since my grade school days, I was convinced the only acceptable way was the traditional way, through an agent and a publishing house. Self-publishing (indie books) has historically received a bad reputation, reserved for those who don’t make the grade. Mediocre quality at best.

Returning to writing after raising a family, as well as years spent polishing a different trade, I began again under the same illusion about indie books. I wrote seriously, studied with successful authors, revised, trimmed, polished the work. And I ended up with products that attracted the attention of some small to mid-level publishing houses. Rather than signing with them, I ended up revising my opinion of indie books. I sought professional formatting guidance and uploaded my work to the e-book industry, where one can also order a print-on-demand copy, if preferred.

Why the change of heart? I learned that the world of publishing has changed drastically with advances in technology. The big houses have to compete with easy access to online books. There are thousands of people writing books, and for publishers what counts is the return on their investment. Since I’m a nobody out in the boonies, the chances that any major publisher would accept my writing are slim to none.

Even when smaller publishers show interest, their contracts reflect expectations that their writers provide a lion’s share of the work for a fraction of any profit. They expect a lot, but offer little in return. If that is the case, why bother? Throw in the recent awareness that any request for me to speak may be channeled through a publisher who insists on high fees. Who needs that? Why make yourself unapproachable to enthusiastic readers? How much of those exorbitant fees are shared with the writer? I can only guess.

Everything revolves around money.

But that’s not why I write. I write because I have stories in me begging for release. I do my best to prepare them for others to enjoy, and to receive those sweet nuggets of appreciation when someone has enjoyed my work. I derive much pleasure from speaking to fellow writers and readers—often for nothing more than the comradery.

Considering the returns on my personal investment in time and effort, the priceless rewards connected with building new friendships, and my innate tendency to shy away from the spotlight, indie publishing makes a lot of sense. It does not have the negative stigma it once carried. Indeed, some best-selling books are indie books. What is important in reaching readers is to write quality books that readers will tell their friends about. Polish, revise, trim, and seek critical readings until you have the best piece of work you are able to provide. Offer it to the world and get started on your next book.

In promoting and spreading the word about Sundrop Sonata, I have found the growing network of readers and writers to be extremely important. One of my respected colleagues suggested I contact BRAG medallion, the Book Readers Appreciation Group. I took her advice. Sundrop Sonata was offered to a group of test readers around the globe. And they liked it. Now I can say I have been awarded the medallion. If you are looking for good books to read, note those adorned with this seal:

A few comments from Sundrop Sonata’s indieBRAG readers:

“This might be my favorite indieBRAG book I’ve reviewed so far! Title: intriguing and right for the story line. Cover: Makes me want to read the back cover. Plot: The plot and sub-plots were creative, elaborate, well-structured, and unpredictable. The fast pace kept me turning the pages, wondering where this was going. Characters: Multi-dimensional, believable, easy to picture, unique. . .”

“. . . I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s fluent writing style. Intriguing opening chapter. Minimal back story. Excellent flow. No information dumps. The change in POV worked well and was easy to follow. Loved the fast pace. . .”

“I really did like this story and it was well-told.”

“Have you ever wondered what would happen if you crossed Indiana Jones with a piano tuner? Neither had I—until I read this thrilling suspense book. . .When she shows up to tune Nola’s piano, Isabel finds herself urgently asked to take Nola’s autistic daughter and protect her from her father. With great uncertainty she agrees, thus beginning a cross country race against time that combines a bit of Indiana Jones, Deliverance, and international terrorism with a healthy dose of music, compassion, and love. I found myself literally unable to put this book down once I began. It was a joy to read and I highly recommend it.”

I am deeply grateful to the indieBRAG organization whose purpose is to highlight quality independent literature. And I feel energized to renew my efforts to wrap up the next story.

It is Time to Get Creative

A Tribute to my Mother

At the women’s rally in Wichita Saturday, a lot of people carried signs that said, “I’m with her” (arrows in all directions); “I March for my Daughter” (granddaughters, sisters); “I March for Her” (picture of the Earth). My mind returned over and over to my mother. I marched for her. Though she’s been gone nearly fifteen years, I’m sure she would have been there in spirit.

Mother was born a hundred years ago today. Speakers at the Wichita rally often made historical references, and I pondered the social changes of the last century.

Helen Peterson, the fourth and last daughter of Frank and Mary Peterson, arrived on this earth January 22, 1918. When she was born the War to End All Wars was raging but would end ten months later on November 11, 1918. At the time of her birth, women had no voting rights, or property rights. The women’s suffrage movement was going strong. The 19th Amendment was ratified two years later, when young Helen was learning to speak her first sentences.

In April 1923, when she was barely five years old, her father Frank died after an emergency surgery to treat a bleeding ulcer. The operation was performed on the kitchen table of their farm house, and that is where he died. Helen’s widowed mother was left with four young daughters, ages 5 to 13. With no rights of inheritance to the farm her husband owned, Mary Peterson was evicted. She moved her girls to town and returned to her pre-nuptial career as a school teacher.

Helen remembered little of her pre-school days when Frank was around. But she had lots to say about growing up with her mother who struggled to keep those girls warm and fed. In the 1920s and 1930s, working mothers were social outcasts. Mothers were supposed to stay home and raise their children. Mary Peterson had no choice, however.

Mary Peterson and her four daughters, 1936

Tutored by her mother, Helen excelled in school. She graduated high school at age 15, went on to college, and had earned a master’s degree in physics before Pearl Harbor was attacked. Helen found employment in the east, as a physicist developing technology that would benefit the war effort. She possibly would have settled in the east.

Quartz crystal sample such as those Helen worked with for US Navy.

Her mother, however, developed severe hearing loss and was dismissed from employment. She sank into an inconsolable depression and Helen returned to Kansas to take care of Mary. Working at KSU in the department of Physics, Helen met the man she would marry. She settled into a new role as supporting wife, and a few years later, mother to three daughters of her own. Having missed out in childhood watching her own mother handle the role of wife, she blazed her own trail and devoted herself totally to the care and nurture of her husband and daughters.

However, Mother never forgot her roots.

A lifelong Republican of the Eisenhower camp, she was never shy of voicing her skepticism in regards to Roosevelt, or Kennedy, or Carter. But she proudly proclaimed herself, “a women’s libber,” and was an active member of the League of Women Voters. She had a big heart and wanted to help those who faced seemingly insurmountable challenges in life, but recognized how easily folks fell into a sense of entitlement with the public welfare system of the 70s and 80s.

I have no doubt Mother would be aghast at events of the past year, with hard-won rights being stripped from some of the most vulnerable citizens, including women. The last thing we need is to regress toward the conditions her mother experienced as a young widow in the 1920s. Helen would have been at the women’s rally chanting with the rest, “Hear Our Votes! Hear Our Votes! Hear Our Votes!”

And she’d say, with a twinkle in her eye, “It’s time to get creative!”

A block from her favorite Sunbonnet Baby quilt, possibly a gift from her grandmother

Mother’s childhood was undoubtedly filled with the necessity of using what was available in new and unexpected ways. True creativity functions well when faced with limitations. Take what you have (or what you are allowed) and from that create, construct, or devise what you need. It’s a skill that comes in handy in many of life’s endeavors, and one we should nurture in our children.

The nullification of many progressive steps over the last year is like a tornado of denials. Our limitations seem to grow daily. We are falling backwards in the progress toward liberty and justice for all. I can almost hear my mother say, “It is time to get creative,” the little suggestion she repeated often when my sisters and I found ourselves run up against limits, absences or lack of resources.

In today’s world, she might even suggest, “It is far past time to get creative.”

When today’s youth express their heart’s deepest desire to be “Make Lots of Money,” I am concerned. When our whole culture revolves around piling up numbers, when violence erupts after one person’s numbers don’t measure up to another’s, there is cause for grave concern.

Money is, after all, an invention of humans. It is a tool to facilitate transfer or acquisition of things a person needs. What are needs? Food, shelter, clothing, companionship, a sense of purpose. When a tool becomes not just the means to an end, but the end itself, it is being utterly misused. Beyond meeting basic needs, the accumulation of personal wealth seems to have become the only measuring stick we value. We measure our lives with something totally artificial.

What about things money can’t buy?

Chris Hedges wrote in Empire of Illusion (2009), “A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power. . .which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death. Morality is the product of a civilization.”

We are regressing to an age that predated civilization.

What would happen if the bulk of us simply quit? Quit craving money for money’s sake. Quit worshipping the power allotted to those with the largest bank accounts. After all, power is proportional to the extent that we covet what others have.

Let’s just quit.

What if, instead, we honor leaders who demonstrate the mature attributes of civilization? Things like compassion, courtesy, kindness, encouragement, respect for others. Things like integrity.

Several of my elders who still breathe, read, and think have expressed grave concerns for the direction we’re heading, unlike anything they’ve ever known. They are truly afraid for our future. When we experience the limitations that nullify programs and institutions which served to provide personal security for generations past, it’s high time to get creative. Let’s think of new ways to care for each other. Let’s re-invent our culture and re-build our government of-the-people, by-the-people, and for-the-people.

I think Mother would heartily agree.

Happy 100th birthday!

Quilt made from Helen’s scrap basket by her daughter.

The Year Came In; The Year Went Out

http://www.amazon.com/Tears-My-Mother-Rashbaum-Burt/dp/145020399X

The year 2017 started for me in Japan. I read on my Kindle during the long flights and the first book of my year was Burt Rashbaum’s Tears for my Mother. It is a vividly graphic account of a family struggling with their mother’s encroaching dementia. Alzheimer’s remains a dreaded word for many families. It spares no group the horrors of mind disintegration.

Rashbaum’s account was deeply personal. The characters were patterned after some in his own family. He tapped vividly into the reality of what it could be like to watch your own self slipping away. Significantly for me, the author is part of my own family, the Jewish cousin who married into one side of my husband’s family. I enjoyed a few days in this cousin’s Nederland, Colorado home last summer, rewarding myself with a writing retreat in the artsy mountain community.  Before I left, Burt and I had swapped books and I came home with another novel of his, the 2015 release of The Ones That I Know.

http://www.amazon.com/Ones-That-I-Know/dp/1511961716

Like Tears, this story is based significantly on events in Rashbaum’s life. One of the characters resembles him a great deal, and another resembles his wife. Through the pages of this book, I again found myself immersed in post-holocaust Jewish reality, which unless you’ve been there is hard to imagine. It tells the story of a group of neighborhood friends, who grew up together in NYC and lost touch as adults. They reunite when one of them publishes a book about their youthful adventures. The book examines how connections of family and friends possibly go beyond the grave and revisit the same group in a fresh incarnation. It explores life’s purpose, as well as its challenges. It is a snapshot view of a variety of contemporary issues that have a basis in historical drama.

At the end, after reading these books, I felt I knew and loved my newly found cousins much better.

The year 2017 was ushered in for me by Rashbaum’s novel Tears for my Mother. It is fitting to conclude this book journey series with The Ones That I Know. Through my reading adventures in 2017, I felt my family expand. My circle of friends has grown as well, and that’s no small matter in today’s uncertain world. We hear much about alternative facts, conspiracy theories, rigged elections, international threats and climate change. The news media is under fire. Our courts are being stacked by extremists. Our constitution itself is on shaky ground. If one thing is clear, I believe that “the ones that I know” have something to say. As long as our constitution stands we need to exercise our right to write, to share our thoughts and ideas, our hopes and dreams, our memories and fears.

Americans consider free speech to be a birthright. It is guaranteed by the first amendment. Free speech serves to hold the powerful accountable and for that reason we must defend it fiercely. Our freedoms and rights will exist only as long as we keep using them.

For all my writing friends and cousins scattered across the country—“the ones that I know”—I say, “Write on!” And may the force be with us all.