Storytelling joy

I’m taking a MasterClass that’s inspired me to do what I set out to do many years ago, when mom and I started writing: focus on the fun of telling a story.

Author Neil Gaiman, who’s won multiple awards and accolades for his graphic novels (the Sandman series), young adult books (Coraline) and fantasy stories and books, is an inspiring speaker who focuses on how writers come up with ideas. One of his lessons suggests taking the known and twisting it around to see it from different perspectives.

His idea pushed me to open an old file and dust off a book of stories I started many years ago, before I even considered trying to get published. I began the book as an exercise in fun.

Click here to find out what really happened to the Hare who was beaten by the Tortoise.


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Posted by on July 26, 2021 in Uncategorized


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Lifting the shades of the last year

Some people call me a pessimist when I imagine and discuss worst case scenarios, but what I’m really trying to do is glimpse into the dark side long enough to see any light that comes through as a beacon of hope. Others think of me an optimist because I am always digging for the good in a situation or a person, even in times like this past year when I was often tempted to throw down my shovel, lay on the dirt and give up.

2020 was a year of so many dark layers, none of us could quite believe how much piled up on us—from racial tensions to dramatic weather crises to a disease that killed more people than world war II and a presidential election that seemed like it would never end.

It did end and so will the pandemic that has held us all hostage. Buildings destroyed by wind and fire will be rebuilt. Families will smooth over disagreements that bubbled up over politics and race. New solutions will be found to help us deal with all of this.

But we have a long hard journey ahead of us.

So I’m packing a bag for the trip. Here’s what I’m taking.

The hope that a country divided more dramatically than I’ve seen in my lifetime can have a few years of breathing before we have to address again how different we all are in our beliefs. Oh heck, I’m going to add a sprinkle of divine optimism—maybe we’ll find a way to bring the two sides closer together.

The relief that our nation is now back within the World Health Organization so the countries of the world can work together on the solutions needed to battle a global pandemic and other crises that stretch beyond one country’s border.

A prayer that whatever is going on with Earth’s wacky weather of late will give us a break and that we can study together what’s happening with the environment and find ways to battle the dangers.

The belief that while we still don’t live in a world where the color of your skin doesn’t matter, we may find better ways to fight against those who remain ignorant by choice or who use violence to make their point or benefit from the situation.

On top of all this, I’ll pack my personal effects—those things that help me deal with problems. That includes my family, who keep my heart pumping; the friends I have who open my eyes to what’s going on and help me deal; a job I love that exposes me to knowledge; the time to use the skill I’ve enjoyed since I was little (writing); and a belief that there is much more to this universe that what humans understand to be true.

So I’m turning my cap around from the back that reads, “pessimist” to face the front, which reads “optimist.” I’m putting that cap on my head and entering 2021 with blinds drawn up in an effort to abolish the dark. And I’m picking up my shiny new trowel, ready to plant spring’s flowers and knowing they’ll be gorgeous. — Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on January 22, 2021 in Uncategorized


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Waiting for a New Year

This year felt like being trapped in stagnation. We were brought down by a virus like none our generation has seen. We were beaten down further by racial tensions, natural disasters that never stopped coming, a crushing economy and an election that ripped this country apart. By the time the holidays hit, we felt like we just couldn’t win. That we’d repeated the phrase: “it has to get better now, right?” so many times that we were afraid to even whisper it.

Hope flickered (again) in early December when vaccines were approved, Congress started talking about a second wave of help, the election was over and scientists began to talk about when vaccinations could occur. Yet many of us, including those who write books, looked around and suddenly realized the year was nearly over.

Did we use this time stuck at home to finish our novel, finally learn French or Spanish, create the perfect garden, fine-tune our cooking skills? I would venture a guess that many of us would answer “no.” Somehow the extra time we had on our hands, the elimination of stresses like traffic or pet peeves like crowds and lines, did not translate into productivity. I think part of the reason is that we also felt helplessness like we haven’t felt since the days following 911; the world looked different and it both frightened and angered us. We spent many hours wondering how we got here and when it would ever end.

As far as what happened to me personally, I’m disappointed that I could not make myself find a way to get my first solo novel into print. What was the point? There was no way to sell it; the arts and crafts markets and book fairs where mom and I sold many Fate Series books, the author events giving me advice on how to get published, the writer’s group meetings that kept me inspired. None of that happened in 2020. I did manage to reach the end of the book—to finish a first draft. But I cannot seem to get it polished to my standards. I can’t seem to make myself spend countless hours researching publishers or potential agents or sending it out to beta readers and friends.

But I’m determined to change in 2021. As with many aspects of my current life, my husband is one of my inspirations. He suggested I take a writing course, which brought me right back to the beginning of this wonderful journey with mom that began in 2012. Before I ever started working with her; before I ever considered trying to write a whole novel, I took online courses to learn how to make the transition from freelance writer to fiction writer. I did it for fun and because it helped my writer sister Allyn Stotz get started. But it turned into the path to make one of my dreams in life a reality: writing books. That dream blossomed quickly as Mom and I put out five novels in our series and another two books of stories. Along the way, we appeared on television, had magazine and newspaper features done on our mother/daughter writing experience, attended dozens of events where we were asked to speak and met hundreds of people who love books and share our passion for the written word.

My mom can’t write anymore. Loss of vision and mobility have made that impossible. But our dreams were reached together, and I’ll take our achievements and our enjoyment into my solo act. I also hope that I’ll have my writer sister Al at my side, kicking me into action (as I intend to kick her).

It’s time to get 2021 rolling and leave 2020 behind. Will you join me?

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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in Uncategorized


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The book club blessing

You would think someone who writes books and loves words would always have been active in book clubs. It took a move cross-country for me to finally join book glasses

Part of the reason I finally took action is convenience; I now live in a large community where many people are retired, and while being around people with time on their hands when I’m working full-time has been difficult, I knew there would be several book clubs nearby. I also needed a new place to interact socially and decided it was time to focus some free time on getting to know readers better.

What I didn’t expect when I joined was how much I would enjoy it. I sat myself down on my new back porch with a glass of wine (my favorite way to mull over the whys of life) after the wonderful last meeting of the club and analyzed the situation. Here’s what I came up with:

I needed to share. You know that feeling you get when your mind wanders into the pages of a good book and gets lost completely in the story only to come crashing into a wall as you reach the end and are forced back to the real world of laundry, cat litter, dust bunnies, work stresses? You still feel the abruptness and disappointment when you finish a good book selected for a club; however, you get the relief of knowing other people have been lost inside that same fictional world for a short while, and you can look forward to sharing your experience together at the next meeting.

The club I joined was not a “club” at all before the first meeting. Someone put out a call on the local Nextdoor newsletter to start a new organization and ten “hungry” women answered the call. I could tell at that very first meeting that these ladies were craving what I was: an expansion of what they read and an audience for their thoughts about the story. As a brand-new group, we set our own rules, determined our own direction as far as what to read and left room for flexibility. I also lucked out and got a group of fun women who had no expectations of formalness and no pre-determined level of intellectual conversation that was “acceptable.” No one dominated the conversation, and no one had determined beforehand what being in a book club required.

Our members are a mixed bag. We come from different parts of the U.S. with different career backgrounds and levels of wealth. While we are mostly white bread and mostly older women, we have one youngster who brings fresh ideas, several members who have lived all over the U.S. and both conservative and more progressive thinkers. We are also getting to know gradually how different our upbringings were as we explain why we think about plot direction and characters the way we do.

I’m getting a better grasp of what’s behind how readers get to certain points in their analysis of a story. There have been several “surprises” from my own readers over the years about how they think: People expressing shock at who ended up being the villain when I thought it was too obvious; readers who loved one book over another when I thought I knew which of our plots was strongest. The conclusion I’m drawing from being part of a group of people coming at the book as a reader is this: how you react to what’s happening in the books; why you choose certain types of books as favorites; why you react emotionally to events in the book has to do with the lighting system your own life experiences provided you.

I’ve also come to this conclusion: Belonging to a club is fun because it lets you look over the shoulders of your new friends to see a book in a new light.—Genilee Swope Parente

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Posted by on February 28, 2020 in Uncategorized


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Reflections of a new life

Kelly shows off her kingdom to a new friend: her Mommy’s 96-year-young Uncle Bill Perkett

Many splendid things have happened to me since last spring: a move cross country, the first time I purchased a home for love, moving near family I’ve seen too little of over the years. I feel released from the last decade of  facing old age—not only the hardship of caring for elderly parents but realizing I’ve arrived on the senior doorstep myself. With this move to Texas, I feel like a new woman. The wonder of what I feel in this newness is reflected in a little canine face: the face of my beagle Kelly.

Kelly lost her sister Laney just before we made this move. It’s not that the loss seemed to depress her; we’ve only had her a short time and adjusting to a bigger dog who picked on her was tough. She’s a timid little being, though she musters through most of what life throws her way without too much complaint. She doesn’t bay; she doesn’t bark or chew, and she whines only a little. But I wouldn’t have said she had a lot of personality until we moved to Texas.

Our new home holds as much fascination for Kelly as it does for the two humans who purchased it. Unlike us, she isn’t in awe of the crown molding, tile floors, big rooms or the newness of the community. For Kelly, it’s all about the back yard. I get up every morning and make a cup of coffee, then sit on the back patio. At first I was there to appreciate the weather, which happened to be beautiful the first weeks we moved, and the pecan trees, which are huge and leafy and grand. The weather got hot, the yard got muggy and buggy, but I still go out there and sit, and I still enjoy the heck out of it … for another reason. I let Kelly out and she races to the end of a short stone pathway, then plops her little butt down to survey her kingdom. Those beautiful trees are home to dozens of squirrels and birds and bugs. There are neighborhood canines that occasionally come out to visit at the fence.

She’ll wait until she sees action—a squirrel travelling a branch, a deer in the neighbor’s yard. Then she races close to the action and squats to watch her doggy movies. Then, something will distract her across the yard and she’ll run to that spot as if she’d decided to change channels or flip a page in the “book” she’s reading. We have a very tough time getting her to come back into the house at all. When she’s in the yard, she’s entered her own little world where I’m sure she sees things and reacts to things in ways we mere humans cannot comprehend.

I never thought of a dog as having an imagination. But I can see her mind creating a world in our backyard that exists only for her. When she comes to us finally after repeatedly calling her, she has a smile on her face. “Okay Mom and Dad. I’m here. Let’s get this eating or hydration or nap time thing out of the way so I can get back out there and play.” She’s usually all by herself out there in the yard, but she’s never alone.

After this experience, no one can tell me that a dog doesn’t smile, doesn’t dream, doesn’t create. My pup, like me, is filled with the possibilities this new world presents.–Genilee Swope Parente





Posted by on September 5, 2019 in Uncategorized


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When being shocked is a good thing

Unlike some people I know, I like surprises; the further down my jaw drops, the better the experience.

I’m hard to surprise because I’ve done enough sneaking around planning how to bowl over someone on their special occasion (ask my daughter what an excellent Santa Claus I was). I notice when something is out of whack or someone is trying to cover up what’s really happening. It makes it difficult to be a mystery reader because I figure out the plot way too soon.

A special night of celebration

In fact, there’ve been only a few times when someone really shocked me: My 60th birthday (thank you handsome and clever husband and those who traveled the country to participate) and the night I received the top award from my professional communications association (oh, okay, I admit. I was very suspicious when my husband got dressed up and wanted to sit through a stiff-collared banquet).

Now I can add the night of April 11, 2019, when Luke Haas, the leader of the association whose magazine I do, gave me his president’s award.

Why was I surprised? Because I have spent my entire career working on improving the communications that associations send out to their members; I’m paid to do it. Very few people have ever thought to thank me for my effort and why should they have to? I’m accomplishing exactly what I set out to do.

I already knew that many people in this association, the International Cast Polymer Association, appreciated what I was contributing—I’ve had a good support system from the start. It’s a wonderful group of people, and they believe in their industry and what they do. They also recognize those who make things happen. But to be honored by them was not something I could have foreseen. That’s why it was something that shocked me. Okay, I’ll admit, it amazed, astonished, astounded, dumbfounded, floored, rocked, thunderstruck me (Thank you Merriam Webster’s thesaurus).

I find it deliciously ironic that the speakers at the conference where I received the honor seemed to be returning again and again to the same theme: engaging employees by showing them you appreciate and recognize what they do. The main speaker at the conference, a dynamic woman by the name of Lisa Ryan, calls it Grategy (gratitude as a strategy). What she said made sense to me because too much of life goes by with all of us running our little hamster wheels whispering: I gotta get this done because it’s my job; I gotta get this done because I’m on a deadline. I’m not just talking about corporate people because many of us are also in the business of taking care of children or family members or homes that need our time. We don’t take the time to find a way to recognize what it is that get’s done, and it’s partly because no one else notices.

By giving me this award, Luke stopped my hamster wheel and showed me that what I accomplished in the last few years was noticed and appreciated.

But he also gets the golden star because he successfully surprised me!!

Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on April 23, 2019 in Uncategorized


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A not-so-starved artist

A not-so-starved artist

I don’t usually associate terms such as “crisis of epic proportions” and “extinction” with what I do as a passion: write books. However, I came across both terms this week in the analysis of a recent survey looking into the status of author income in the U.S.

The study is done periodically by the Author’s Guild. Results of the 2018 update were released early this year, and the guild states up front that one of the significant changes in methodology with the most recent study was that it was opened up to non-members of the guild to get a much broader picture of all authors. But what the guild and the analysis had to say was disheartening, though hardly a surprise to any of us that are working full time in a money-making gig while scratching out time after-hours to write.

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Sadly, the “extinction” term in the analysis was used to describe what’s happening to writers who pursue literary fiction: fiction created as an art form, not just for entertainment. All of us have a bit of literary fiction in us or we would not do what we do. So, I’m hoping that term itself is not going the way of the dinosaurs.

The crisis terminology, on the other, was used to describe the overall situation for authors of all genres of both fiction and nonfiction. That situation is this: income for anyone who writes books is down 3% overall from 2014 (the last survey) and down considerably from 2009 ($10,500 average for all writers, including those who consider themselves full-time, down to $6,080 in 2018.) That’s income in general, which means any income generated from being an author; when income from book-related only activities was measured (royalties, direct sales, advances, rights), the numbers are bleaker: down 21%.

So you see my friends, those of us writing books aren’t exactly in it to get rich.

Instead, we’re in it to enrich others.

Most people who write are avid readers. I’m not talking in terms of quantity of books. Some people don’t have much extra time. I’m talking in terms of choice. When my husband is called away from home for the evening, I don’t automatically go in search of the remote, rubbing my hands together and cackling, excited that finally I am in control.

I go in search of my kindle, crossing my fingers that I remembered to charge it this morning, then settling in my favorite chair and reveling in the quiet of the house.

This does not make me a better person. I am not choosing to spend my time volunteering to feed the homeless or cleaning out the attic. I’m choosing to lose myself and my thoughts in words—to take a trip in my head.

But the feeling I get is power nonetheless. Unlike when I watch television, I am in control of the picture and the sound. I get to decide just how handsome my hero is, if an action makes the character in my book a villain or a victim or whether what’s happening might be caused by the past or a sign of what’s to come.

Nothing relaxes me more, and I want to give that feeling to other people. If fact, I have given that feeling if I listen to my own readers when they tell me how much they love my stories.

Which brings me back to rich versus enrich.

I have never judged a person’s worth by how big their house is or how much stuff they fill it up with or what’s parked in the driveway. I wasn’t brought up that way. So while it saddens me that it’s next to impossible to make any money creating a good plot, I’ve learned to file that thought away when I sit down to let my fingers fly across the keyboard. Writing is an art form, a creative outlet that like other art forms, is hard to justify as a career.

But easy to use to measure whether you consider yourself a success.–Genilee Swope Parente

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Posted by on February 13, 2019 in Uncategorized


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To Max and Laney and All My Furry Friends

I once had a veterinarian who sent me a sympathy card with a sentiment that has stayed with me through the ups and downs of having animals: As painful as it is to us, pet owners can do something for our loved ones we can never do for our human companions. We can give them a dignified, pain-free departure.

This week I found out that my canine baby Laney has cancer and that my beautiful niece had to put down her beloved dog. Why does it always seem like these things happen in bunches? Is it to ensure we devote a chunk of time delving into the issues, crying out our eyes, coming to grips with how we really feel about dying or taking care of pets or making decisions that weigh resources against the reality of a few more months granted to us (usually not to them) to deal with what we know is coming?

I don’t need that chunk of time; I’ve been through this enough to know how I feel, and it’s this: every pet is unique; every situation different. And all of death sucks majorly. But it’s been worth it to me to suffer the pain of loss. If I could count up every time I’ve walked through a door to be greeted by an animal anxious to see me, every time a cat or dog has made me laugh because they’ve done something ridiculous that somehow makes sense; every expression I’ve tried to “interpret” and every picture I’ve taken and gone “aw” and shoved in someone else’s face to admire, I’d be a miracle worker; no one can (or should) keep track. Taking care of animals is about learning to live in the moment—both the moments when we are amazed and the moments when we are challenged.

It’s not easy cleaning up dog poo or kitty spray or vomit especially since pets just love to leave you little “gifts” most often first thing in the morning. It’s not hard creating running commentary for your pet when they crash into something, then try to act like they intended to be such a klutz. (“I was just testing that coffee table to see how tough it is, Mom. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.”)

It’s just plain bliss to be stroking a dog or cat, not even concentrating on what you’re doing, then suddenly feel a tongue on your skin.

That tongue and that expression and that bark at the door is the thank you that people who never have pets can’t understand. It’s a language I’ve enjoyed learning and one that has continued to evolve over the years. It will get me through the next few hard months with Laney, and I intend to make it part of the rest of my life.

Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Uncategorized


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What I wish for you this holiday season

I asked myself this morning: if you could give your readers a Christmas present, what would it be?

If I was a better businesswoman, I would answer that question with: a new book all of you would pay gobs of money to get. But this is the season of giving, not taking. Since I’m not looking to get coal in my stocking, I’ll skip that idea. If I was a magician or genie, I might conjure up a wad of cash to hand over to everyone; who doesn’t need a wad of cash?  Sorry to disappoint you, dear readers—I have no special powers.

So I’m left with wishes, and those wishes have to be based on what I appreciate most in my own life right now.

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I’d start with time. My two best friends in this area are running particularly short on this commodity. One is caring for grandkids almost full time, a development she could not have for foreseen a decade ago when her biggest worry in life was her own adult child. The other is about to pick up roots and move across country, in the middle of an already hectic work schedule. And these are just my own friends: I see the shortage of time to do things on the faces of every person who hurries by my table at arts and crafts events or collides with other shoppers in the aisles of stores.

Meanwhile, I have more time on my hands than I could have envisioned just a year ago. With both my husband and I losing the responsibility of caregiving for elderly parents recently, we have more minutes and hours than we’ve had in many years. I’m savoring this holiday season simply because I have the time to do so. I wish the same for you.

Second would be that all of you have family close to you. It’s funny I would say that now since both my mom and my daughter moved and my father-in-law passed away. The size of the family around me shrank this year. But what this has done is make me appreciate the minutes I’ve had with all of them, draw closer to those who still live close by and look forward to the time when I’ll reside close to my sisters and nieces and their families, as well as Mom and my daughter and nephew.

The third is that this family also includes friends. Again, one of my friends is moving cross-country and the other is so busy we find it hard to get together. They are both in my heart this season and though we didn’t have much holiday time this year, it’s their friendship and the friendship of other good friends that is one of the blessings I’ve appreciated most all the years of my life.

So readers, I wish you family and friends and the time to savor it all. Merry Christmas.

Genilee Swope Parente



Posted by on December 19, 2018 in Uncategorized


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A Tribute to Teachers and Storytelling

A Tribute to Teachers and Storytelling

Robert Bausch and my daughter Christina

I’d like to thank a perfect stranger this morning: Robert Bausch.

I never met this man, but I regret that fact. My daughter Christina tried for years to get me to take one of his writing or literature classes. He is the only college teacher that made a huge impression on her: she took his classes multiple times just because she enjoyed them so much: he was a great storyteller that inspired her to want more from words. Granted, my daughter always loved school, but there was only one other teacher that affected her on that level: her fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Owens, who turned her from a problem child with mid-road grades to a kid with goals, the desire to learn and the ability to get the good grades she wanted.

What more important profession can there be than a teacher? Personally, I couldn’t do it: I haven’t the patience. But I admire those who have chosen to do so, and I’ve been deeply affected by several of my teachers. The right instructor can completely turn around how a student feels about a class subject or school in general, and can help a student find a new passion in life.

With Bob Bausch, it’s also personal. Robert Bausch is an acclaimed novelist with a host of books under his name and a twin brother, Richard, who is also a recognized novelist. Robert’s recent death elicited publicity that showed me how deeply respected he was. He received awards not only for his writing, but for his teaching. Robert was a professor at George Mason and several other Virginia universities, as well as Northern Virginia Community College, where my daughter went to school. Robert also helped to found writers’ retreats and workshops that made a difference in many other creative wordsmiths’ lives. Robert’s books and works are an eclectic collection of history, a lot of humor and a study of human nature and tragedy.

But what his students knew him best for was storytelling. His tales were legendary, leaving students always wondering if he was pulling their leg or telling the truth. Most concluded it was probably a little of both. What he taught my daughter is how to use words to create illusions and leave an impression on a reader. As an author myself, how could I not adore him for giving my daughter that wonderful gift; I would have loved to have been the one to inspire her that way. But I am not a teacher, and I’m not great at spinning a yarn verbally. I can appreciate the talent there is in having those abilities, and I have seen in my child how it’s taught her to appreciate the craft of writing.

Thank you, Bob Bausch, for giving my baby a passion I share. Your students and admirers will miss you.

Christina’s story, “Dream Date,” is dedicated to Robert Bausch. It’s included in our collection of short stories, “Relative Connections,” which is this year’s holiday book release. Look for it in early November.


Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Uncategorized


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