Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First celebrity interview: memoir 4

Age 10, as a Brownie
When I was ten, our teacher assigned an essay: "Write about someone important." I knew right where to go!
     After school I walked downtown along the beach to interview my first celebrity: Mr. John V. Meistrall, known to us kids as Mr. Johnnie, the owner of the Manhattan 5 & 10 Variety Store. His shelves and aisles, and wooden floors that creaked, displayed treasures of surf mats and beach pails, toys, comics, and snacks, many costing just a nickel or dime.
     In turquoise ink from a new fountain pen, I wrote a story that barely filled half a page of notebook paper. If someone had told me I'd one day be writing novels, I would not have believed it. Well anyway, here's what I turned in to the teacher:
     When I asked Mr. Johnnie what truth meant in his business he said that it was important to keep the shipments on the candy going so that when a customer purchased some it won't be stale.
     So there it was, my first scoop for the neighborhood kids: We could trust Mr. Johnnie for fresh licorice whips and Chum Gum!
From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First rejection: memoir 3

Poppy & 1st rejection letter
The mailbox in front of our house had an ocean view. I felt excited about the white envelope addressed to me from a publisher in Racine, Wisconsin and held my breath for a moment, hopeful for good news. It was a warm afternoon. I could hear waves and two surfers laughing as they headed to the beach with boards under their arms.
     I hurried into the kitchen, and with a butter-knife sliced the envelope, careful not to rip the typed message inside:
Dear Miss Gregory,
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to examine your material. We have given it our careful consideration and regret that we are unable to use it at the present time ... Sincerely yours, Dorothy Joslyn
     "Hmm," I thought. "Guess I'll try somewhere else." I tucked the letter in a desk drawer and went outside to the sidewalk where my friend waited with our bikes. I was eleven years old.
     We rode down the hill to the pier, the salt breeze in our hair. That sunny day after school, I didn't realize the significance of Ms. Joslyn's words dated March 19, 1963. It was the first rejection for my heartfelt writing, and the first of what would be many hundreds.
     I still have that letter! In the photo [above] Poppy guards it with her paw. She's sympathetic and gentle when it comes to these things.

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall. Have a wonderful day everyone!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A gift to children: memoir 2

one of our MANY jugs of pencils
My brother and I could see whales from our bedroom window, or at least we imagined we could. We lived with our little sister and parents two blocks from the ocean in Manhattan Beach, California. In the 1950s, empty sand lots surrounded our bungalow.

     With windows open to the sound of waves, our home was pleasantly cluttered with books, magazines, and newspapers, pencils and notepads. Shelves of encyclopedias and novels framed our fireplace. Ski posters from Sun Valley and Switzerland were haphazardly nailed into walls, giving the ambiance of a vacation home. Sand from our treks to the beach dusted the floors in between sporadic sweepings. Mom and Dad read to us, took us to the library, and when I said I wanted to write a story all by myself, they listened with adoring interest.
     "That is wonderful, honey. Keep going," they'd say. Undoubtedly my strung-together sentences about cats or sailing ships were out-there, but they made me believe I was capable. Capable of creating a story that someone would want to hear, even if only by my family. 
A gift to children is parents who appreciate the written word, and mine certainly did. I'm grateful to them. I hope you've enjoyed this excerpt from BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, coming this Fall. (p.s. Today is my brother's birthday. He's a terrific 4th-grade teacher so Happy Birthday, Mr. Gregory ... I hope you have extra fun with your students today!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Exciting new work: a memoir

Hello Friends! I'm coming up for air with happy news, a giant love note on my life as a writer. From now until its pub date this Fall, I'll post a weekly excerpt from BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY. And here we go!
     At age sixty-three I'm pleased to hit the pause button for reflection. I've jotted a few memories from writing for the Los Angeles Times and also Scholastic, the world's largest children's book publisher: the rejections, heartbreak, joys, and beloved editors. My privileged career has been intertwined with motherhood, the richest adventure of all.
     A birthday gift when I turned seven was a diary, my first. Pink and palm-sized, it had a brass clasp and tiny keyhole so I could record secrets on the lined paper then lock 'em up. I hid the key in a shoe to keep out sibling spies.
     Thus began a lifelong habit of writing things down. My closet is filled with spiral notebooks, old calendars, moleskins, travel diaries, and thick leather journals. I've culled intimacies from these diaries to better express moments in this memoir.
     The most common question readers ask is, Where do you get your ideas? so herein lie the answers. I hope these behind-the-scenes of book writing might inspire writers starting out and those who love the magic of words.

I'm always happy to hear from readers, and would love to know if any of you keep a diary. You can comment below. Have a lovely day, and stay tuned!