Nearly every day I receive a picture, an email, or message about someone who is reading my memoir, Monastery to Matrimony.
Joan Buckles, a Board Member of COPE, Children of Pokot Education, sent a picture holding my book at the ICOM, International Conference on Missions in Columbus, OH. She was reading the book while working the COPE booth last weekend. COPE was founded and is directed by Barb O’Donohue. Under her direction, COPE educates and feeds over 650 children. Food is scarce. Books are shared. Donations are always welcome. www.childrenofpokot.org.
Ginger Manley sent a picture from England where she was reading Monastery to Matrimony. Mike, from Impact Publishing in Wisconsin wrote that he enjoyed the book, commenting he learned more about nuns from my memoir than he ever learned from his 90-year old aunt who was a nun ’til she died. The book reveals what it was like behind convent walls in the 50s and 60s. Robin Spychalski sent a Florida beach picture where she enjoyed the read in August. That book gets around.
Where are you as you read Monastery to Matrimony? Send pictures from far and near as you read about my journey.
What a novel idea! If you can’t write a whole novel, why not be part of writing a group novel. What’s a group novel? It is a novel written by several people.
One of the writing groups where I live – in The Villages, FL – have joined together several writers to complete a novel where each individual contributes a chapter to the book.
Allen Watkins wrote the first chapter of a romance novel, but he never wrote the conclusion. No need, since there are 70 other authors from the area writing the rest of the book.
Watkins said, “It was interesting, because you’re writing in the blind. You don’t know what the person before or after you wrote. One person maps out the plot, writes character descriptions, and gives each author direction as to what their chapter is to do for the novel. Then he leaves the rest to them.
Chapters are read and feedback is given at the weekly meeting. Katie Lewis, a reporter for The Villages paper was excited to be invited to join the group for her first novel-writing experience.
I see this as a perfect project for LWC, my previous writing group in Spring Hill, TN, an energetic creative group of serious writers. LWC could be the nucleus of writers while offering an invitation to other authors in the area. Of course, final editing would probably fall to Karen Aldridge, a professional editor and director of LWC.
What an interesting way to introduce writing prompts. It is a continuing exercise in following a plot and developing characters.
Let me know if you try this idea.
WRITE A BOOK IN A MONTH? Not in my lifetime. However, after reading the November/December issue of “Writer’s Digest,” I decided it was time I give this NaNoWriMo write-a-thon a try.
National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to writers to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. Are you serious? That’s nearly 1700 words a day. Considering it took me about eight years to write my just published memoir, Monastery to Matrimony, (and that was my own life, something I knew well) how can I expect to write fiction for 30 days.
Well, of course, it is not meant to be a finished and edited manuscript. If I can get a very rough draft framed, I will be happy. I don’t do fiction easily.
This story has been tripping around my brain for a few years, but I have nary a key stroke to show for it. The story will be historical fiction, sort of a pre-prequel to my memoir. The setting is the same, St. Mary’s Convent in Nauvoo, Illinois. The time frame is 1872 to 1942, the lifespan of Sister Aloysia Beecher, an extroadinary woman whose family is said to have been closely related to Ward and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The completed story will necessitate hours of period research, which I love to do. Obviously, the NaNoWriMo writing will not allow time for research. The bones of the book will come from an archived short story of the life of Sister Aloysia written by Mother Ricarda Gallivan in the mid 1970s.
Merely, writing this blog is a commitment to tackle thirty days of writing a skeleton story. I better get busy. The sun is setting on the second day of the month and the only thing I have written is a 286 word blog.
Feel free to respond and check on my progress.
NATIONALLY KNOWN CONFERENCE
Talk about motivation! The 2014 Florida Writers Conference offered four days of workshops addressing the needs of over 400 writers from all over Florida and beyond who gathered at the Marriot Conference Center in Lake Mary, FL in October, 2014. A conference of this size involves months of planning and hundreds of volunteers.
Agenda Topics: Publishing a Book, Punctuation, Creativity, Editing, Outlining, Financials, Marketing, Contracts, Poetry, LGBT Character, and more.
Many took advantage of scheduling an appointment with one of the attending agents seeking new authors. Volunteers staffed the book store making members’ published books available for sale.
The culminating suspenseful event of the Conference began with a social hour and ended with cheers and jubilation when the results of the Royal Palm Literary Awards competition were announced on Saturday night after a chef’s special meal at a banquet for the hopeful Finalists.
Joy of Joys, I hear my name announced as the winner of a 2nd Place Award in my category of autobiography/memoir. I received a beautiful engraved acrylic plaque for my memoir, Monastery to Matrimony, A Woman’s Journey.
It took years of trial and error to pull this manuscript into an award winning book. Walking up on the stage and receiving the award from Chris Coward, director of my writing group and President of FWA made it all worthwhile.
The taste of success motivates me to sit at my computer and pull out the idea for an historical novel burning in my brain. Tune in to my BLOG next week to see if I have started it.
In the meantime, click on the link to hear an interview on Journey For Truth Radio Show with Tami Urbanek.
I am experiencing many great marketing events lately.
This week a film crew came to my home to shoot a video promoting my book Monastery to Matrimony, A Woman’s Journey. First I was interviewed on camera by Monica who focused on general questions about writing: Is it my passion? What did you hope to accomplish? Why did I choose to self-publish? What advice do you have for those considering publishing? After the interview, Josh, the videographer, filmed me in different settings where I wrote in my home.
They wanted my cat, Sammie in the picture, so I roused her from her sleep on the lanai, brought her in to sit on my lap while I attempted typing on my laptop. Her favorite annoyance when I wrote on my desktop computer was to jump up on the desk and lay across the keyboard. Cats love to be in the center of activity.
Sammie is sometimes exasperating, but I tolerate the old girl’s need for attention because she is TWENTY-ONE years old this month. She came to my rescue after I lost my husband; I needed her company and someone to care for. I rescued her when she had to leave her home after seventeen years with the same family. I figured who else would want such an old cat. We are two seniors enjoying each others company.
Today I will be interviewed on another online radio show. Tami Urbanek, author of Loving Conner, expressed interest in having me on her show, Journey For Truth.
Marketing is an essential part of publishing a book. Writing is gratifying and challenging, but marketing is a necessity. There is no satisfaction in having boxes of books collecting dust in the garage. I actually enjoy promoting my book. I find talking to people at book signings, interviews, and speaking opportunities rewarding. In speaking, I not only talk about writing the book, I also share “The Steps to Moving Forward in Life.”
Watch for my video on my website. Listen to my online radio interview on Tami’s show which will air October 27. http://empowermentthroughhealing.org/?page_id=69
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAMMIE, MY CO-WRITER.
Catholic education has changed in the past fifty years. The scarcity of nuns probably has something to do with it. The content and teachings in Catholic schools is the same, but the face of it is different. No longer are guests greeted with a nun in full habit or even a modified habit. Nuns are no longer on the scene at all in most Catholic schools.
Recently a teacher friend of mine in a Catholic school talked to her class about my book, Monastery to Matrimony, A Woman’s Journey, telling them that I had been a nun. Their response was, “What’s a nun?” We were both surprised. After a brief reflection, we realized that of course they would not know. They had never seen one.
The number of nuns who left their religious communities in the 60s and 70s, including me, resulted in the closure of numerous Catholic schools, especially elementary schools. Some remained open when the laity stepped up to fill the void. They do it with great sacrifice monetarily. They teach for the love of teaching and the love of their faith. People of parishes make sacrifices to support the schools to fill the financial gap left when the cheap labor of the nuns was no longer available.
A religious life as a nun is still a viable vocation. Many women are joining religious communities in their late 20s, 30s, and even 40s. Many are answering a call that they resisted their early years. They come from teaching, the corporate world, legal profession, and other diverse occupations. However, the numbers are not adequate to fill personnel needs in schools, nor does the diversity of their talents fit an education model.
From my perspective of the twenty years I spent in the Benedictine community of St. Mary Monastery, www.smmsisters.org, I can truly say it is a good life, a life of service and one to be considered for women seeking a prayer life and complete dedication in God’s service.
The harsh customs depicted in my book are no longer practiced in todays communities. For example, today sisters would be allowed to spend time with family as needed at the death of a family member.
Catholic education will continue and it will grow thanks to the dedicated laity. The number of Catholic nuns will grow, but they will be participating in various works while standing up for the poor, the neglected, the sick, and those suffering injustice.
Writing a book is a major accomplishment. Getting it published takes a double major effort. Then marketing it once published is a forever project. How many times do you hear of people who self-publish a book, order hundreds of copies, and leave them stacked in their garage or closet never to see the light of day.
I was determined not to do that. I felt if it was worth writing, I had to believe it was worth reading. I knew I could not work hard enough, nor would I live long enough, to give it the exposure it needed, so I solicited the help of public relations personnel. As a result, the book is being recognized far and wide. I am trusting that the recognition will result in sales.
Yesterday, I had the fun experience of being interviewed on the Christian Television Network. I appeared on the show Homekeepers with Arthelene Rippy. She devoted a full eighteen minutes to enthusiastic promotion of my book, Monastery to Matrimony. Her questions were focused and tantalizing to viewers. Her genuine interest and curiosity about my convent life will no doubt prompt people to search for my book. She made it known that it is available through Balboa Press.com, my publisher, Amazon.com, e-books, or directly from me at firstname.lastname@example.org The studio taping was in Largo, FL and will air during the week of October 6, 2014. The program can be seen on the Christian Television Network out of Tampa, FL. It will be readily available to audiences with sattelite reception on the CTN channel. It will also be on my website. See the SCHEDULE page on my website for other marketing activities.
The more books that are sold, the more I can contribute to the COPE Fund. The ministry for educating children in Pokot, Kenya, Africa—Children of Pokot Education—receives a portion of the proceeds from sales of Monastery to Matrimony.
Monastery to Matrimony, my memoir, might be considered a journey through modern times in the Catholic Church. My twenty years in an Illinois convent gave me a perspective not only of how convent rules and practices changed over the years, but also how the Church changed.
Midpoint in my twenty years introduced the first hope for the Church to be in step with the thinking of its people. Pope John XXIII introduced the documents of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. In his wisdom he saw how the Church needed to be open to the people it served. He recognized that nuns could better serve by coming out from behind the heavy gated walls. He urged them to return to the mission of their founders, a mission to work with the poor, the sick, the neglected, the suffering under injustices. He set in motion a refreshing new role for nuns in the institutional Church.
In the years after Pope John XXIII, his legacy dimmed with the succeeding Popes. Not all of them agreed with his foresight. Today the Vatican is underestimating the independence of the intelligent religious women of convents. They are not accepting a return to dominance by the Bishops of the Church.
With the election of Pope Francis in 2013, I have hope once again. He is not cut from the same cloth as his predecessors. First of all, his cloth is that of an Order priest, from the Society of Jesus Order, (Jesuits). He has lived a minimalist life in common with his brother religious. When elected, he immediately rejected the elaborate trappings of previous Popes in everything from his simple clothing, to his car, and living accommodations.
For the future I see a Church that is open and inclusive as evidenced on Sunday, September 15, 2014 when Pope Francis married twenty couples at St. Peters in Rome, including couples who had lived together, which is considered a sin in the Catholic Church. As he has said, “Who am I to judge.”
My friend Father Joseph Breen of Nashville, must be rejoicing at this news. He has long preached the same message of inclusiveness and never judging.
Next, I am hoping that Pope Francis will eliminate the practice of Nullification of first marriages required for a divorced person to marry a Catholic. (See my own experience in Chapter Twenty-Four of Monastery to Matrimony.)
As I wrote on my HOME PAGE, I believe curiosity is a valuable trait to cultivate. It’s a type of gymnastics for the brain. Thankfully, many people expressed a curiosity about what my life was like in the convent. If they hadn’t, I may never have written my memoir. A comment from one reader from Jacksonville Beach, FL confirmed to me that my book responded to those curiosity seekers. “My few brief, casual encounters with nuns made me curious about their lives, and your book gave me so much more insight.”
Many wise folks recognized the importance of curiosity.
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ― Walt Disney Company
Mr. Disney describes my life. I kept moving forward, often out of curiosity, but sometimes out of necessity. There is no point in looking backward. That’s over and done. We should live our life in the present. As for the future, my philosophy is to ASK, EXPECT, and RECEIVE. And don’t worry about the how, when, or what as you focus on the PRESENT.
In my memoir I characterize many of the rules and rituals as “archaic” during my years in the convent, though practices have changed in modern times. Today nuns are recognized as intelligent, thinking, responsible women, capable of making decisions on their own behalf.
While the prayer life in my Illinois convent is the same today, silence may be relaxed a bit, and I don’t think they are required to get on their knees to ask for a penance for accidentally breaking a dish. I doubt that anyone would break it out of frustration or anger. Today their ministries are varied, based on their interests and talents rather than strictly on the needs of the community, whether or not they are suited for it.
Many readers have asked how I could have endured the unnatural silence, the humiliating times I knelt for a penance over insignificant things, the attempt at stripping individuality and personal possessions, and the separation from family.
Though I knew nothing of the reality of living the life of a nun when I entered, I was prepared to accept whatever it entailed. I knew there would probably be sacrifices, but I lacked knowledge as to what kind of sacrifices. Praying the Divine Office several times a day in the chapel was a normal expectation. Just about every other practice was a revelation. The daily silence—even at meals—was the most difficult to understand. I could never get my curiosity satisfied in the couple of hours of recreation allowed for talking each day. If I hadn’t gone to boarding school prior to entering I doubt that I could have accepted the lack of communication with family that the convent required. Being away from home at boarding school conditioned me to some degree.
I continue to look forward and satisfy my curiosity on a daily basis. Other than during the writing of Monastery to Matrimony, which called for considerable revisiting of times past, I don’t look backward. Even the process of writing was a way of looking forward. I had a curiosity for learning the craft of writing. Today in the process of promoting the book, I am delving into the world of media—traditional and social. Mr. Disney was indeed correct when he said, “curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Robin’s comment, “It was hard for me to put it down,” reminds me of why I pursued my dream of writing the story of my twenty years in the convent.
With many friends, business associates, and even strangers, who learned of my former life, I found a recurring curiosity about the convent. To a person, they were surprised that I would have been a nun. Guess I didn’t fit the image—maybe because they knew me as an interior designer. A litany of questions always followed: What was it like? How long were you there? And always ultimately, the tough question—Why did you leave?
Most questions were easy to answer, but the “Why did you leave?” question always left me hedging my response. It was a simple question, but it had a complex answer. One I couldn’t adequately explain in a sound bite. The answer is filled with emotions that needed to be put to rest. It called for soul searching if I was to get it right. I knew it was time for me to share my convent life experiences and address my own feelings about the occurrence that set me on the decision-making path to leave the convent. The answer would be as much for me as for others.
Thus the book was incubated.
Since the publication of Monastery to Matrimony in July, 2014, I can now legitimately say, “The answer to that one is in the book.”