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It’s a Small World After All

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In the blog I wrote following my emergency hospital visit, I talked about an unhappy coincidence: ending up in the same room where my dad was taken when he was first diagnosed with what would eventually take his life. It was a chilling incident. This week, mom and I experienced a more positive kind of “it’s a small world” situation.

We were attending the first book event of this year: an arts and crafts fair at Ft. Belvoir. After the terrible beginning to 2015, it felt great just to be out, talking to people about how much we love writing books. I kept glancing at the woman whose booth was catty corner to ours. She was friendly and had smiled our way several times as she painstakingly dragged out pillows and stuffed animals and other goods she’d handcrafted. I almost offered to help her because I felt so sorry for how hard she was working to set up her extensive collection. She also seemed so familiar to me that I could visualize what her voice sounded like. When we did finally stop in our preparations for the fair and approached each other, she sounded just like I’d imagined. Within minutes of exchanging pleasantries, I found out that she does extensive volunteer work, including taking her dog around to medical facilities. Then I knew.

“Where do you visit?” I asked too loudly.

Her eyes widened slightly, but she rattled off a few places. They included the rest home where Dad spent just a little over a week before passing.

“I knew it. I knew it. I met you.”

Then she remembered as well. In fact, she remembered what room we were in when she and two other volunteers brought their dogs through and stopped to cheer mom and I, and my two sisters up. We had gathered to talk to the administrator who had gone to bat to get dad admitted and were awaiting an appointment to finalize details.

We were very much in need of some cheer and the dogs and the friendly ladies showing them provided a moment of respite from sorrow.

In a metropolitan area like ours, that kind of coincidence is pretty shocking. The rest home was 30 miles away from where we live, which is another 15 miles away from where the arts and crafts fair was held. And there are millions of people in all those miles. Yet here was a woman I’d met by chance and even shared a hug at the door as we said our goodbyes at the rest home. She’d promised to pray for our family that dad would be admitted. I guess it worked.

When I told my little sister and fellow author Allyn Stotz this story, she was amazed, but wasn’t surprised. Allyn is also from a large metropolitan area—Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She’d been to her first book event several weeks before. She was talking to a woman who loved Allyn’s current books and mentioned that her neighbor, an illustrator, had just had her first picture book published. When the woman shared what that book was about, the two discovered the illustrator was the very same woman who is helping Allyn with her next book!

It truly is a small world … or at least it feels that way sometimes. It makes you wonder how many times you bump into someone whose path may have crossed yours at some point without either of you knowing it!

Genilee Swope Parente

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Getting Back to Edgerton

125th

Some of the Swopes at the 125th town birthday

Despite the fact we haven’t lived in our hometown for years, Edgerton remains a deep part of who the Swope family is. For that reason, we’re going back there this summer carting boxes of books and hoping to meet up with some of the best supporters we’ve had.

Allyn’s current connection with the hometown runs deepest because she has family there from her marriage to Brad Stotz.  For those of you who don’t know that name, Allyn Stotz is my sister, a children’s book author (www.allynstotz.blogspot.com) who will be carting boxes of The Pea in Peanut Butter and the recently released Kailee Finds Magic IN Words with her to Edgerton. Allyn has kept in contact with many of her friends from high school and made some new ones in the years since she and Brad moved to Louisiana. Allyn, Mom and I all feel strongly that Edgerton is part of who we are, and we often talk about what a wonderful environment Edgerton provided for our family. Mom was a substitute teacher there and wrote a local column for the newspaper that my dad ran (the Edgerton Earth). I developed a nucleus of high school friends so strong that when I celebrated my 60th this year, my husband invited a couple of them to travel great distances so that I can have a truly wonderful surprise. I have tried to reconnect with some of my friends from the awesome years of high school through facebook and to follow what’s happening with some of the other people of Edgerton.

Many of the good people of Edgerton have already bought our books and wrote to cheer us on. Allyn had a book signing and reading when The Pea was released. Still, we’re all packing up the cars and heading that way, dragging not only boxes, but our husbands and Mark, a major supporter for Allyn and for us and a researcher for Mom and I (not to mention our dearly beloved brother/son).

Verna

Verna and dad at the old Edgerton Earth

Mom is 86; dad is 88 and ailing from Alzheimers. Mark, Allyn and I are still young enough NOT to want to mention how very old we are. So why are we traveling 12 and 15 hours for book signings?  Because it’s part of who we are. Mom and I acknowledged Edgerton and one of our great cheerleaders, Verna Wortkoetter in our last book. Mom and Verna developed a relationship early in the years when we first moved to Edgerton. Verna showed mom quickly what the town was like when she made sure mom felt comfortable in Edgerton and knew that if the Swopes needed help in any way, the Wortkoetters were there. I still feel thrilled when Verna’s daughter Jane Jacobs, who I became close to growing up, announces another grandchild. And I still go through the Edgerton Earth each week looking for the names of the families we knew.

And we all try to stay in touch. I’ve learned that Facebook’s greatest strength is that it allows people to maintain links with their past, and it has been a great tool for the Swopes.  Several of my high school buddies pop up almost every day and when I read about their lives, it reconnects me with who I am.

It’s a long way back to Edgerton. Not only in miles, but in years. But I’m very much looking forward to the trip.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Stepping it Up

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dreamstime

One reality prospective authors need to face is that getting published is not winning a sweepstakes. No one is going to show up at your door with a giant check, flash you a brilliant smile, shake your hand and shout: Congratulations, you’re a winner!

Getting published is a series of steps. If you can keep your momentum, the steps go upward—working towards bigger and better goals and often getting easier as you climb. Some of those steps are major ones: my sister, children’s book author Allyn Stotz (http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/), took a giant hop up this week: she saw her second book, Kailee Finds Magic IN Words, in final form—ready for press. I know that seeing the heroin of her first book, The Pea in Peanut Butter, come to life again on the pages and knowing people will soon hold her creation in their admiring hands has to be a wonderful feeling: in this case, it’s enough of a leap up to carry her past some challenges to come.

I took a big step this week, too, though it wasn’t that golden glow event of seeing my name on a printed page. My step was that I submitted our first draft of Fate of the Violet Eyes, book three of the Sam Osborne series, to our publisher. That means for just a moment, I can sit back, take a deep breath, and realize I’ve done all I could to make this book better than the last two. Having been through this twice already, it also means that I can finally let the experts at Spectacle Publishing Media Group, tell me how to make it even greater.

While it’s vital to our sanity as authors for us to acknowledge and feel our accomplishments—pat ourselves on the back for the steps we overcome, Allyn, as well as Mom and I, will not rest long in this heaven. That’s because as authors of more than one book, we know there are many steps ahead, even after the book is in print. The hardest part about becoming an author is the reality that getting to the point where your book populates the crowded lists on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is much easier than what comes next: getting someone to notice it. And having tracked the blogs of several major writers, I know that, unless you’re James Patterson, you have to direct and participate in how well your book goes over. You have to force yourself to become what you may not be: a marketer. And I bet even Mr. Patterson sometimes dreads putting on a suit or combing his hair to give a speech, an interview or to make a video to post on his official website. We are writers―our art is creation of stories and the alignment of words in such a way that we lead readers down a path we want them to travel. The reality is that, even if you’re shy, you have to believe in your own work enough to want others to feel what you felt when you were creating it.

My intention in saying this is not to throw water in prospective author’s face. While Allyn, Mom and I have been learning how tough it is, we’ve also seen the rewards. Every time you lift a foot and climb up another step, you gain a little strength; you make the next stage of the climb a little easier because you have one thing going for you that you didn’t have before. Whenever you need it, you can turn and gaze back down the staircase and see yourself on that first little stair. You can remember that you are climbing towards your dream—which is a brave step not many people do in their lives. You can feel what it’s like to have recognized what you want enough to have built the staircase in the first place.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Getting a Jump Start

How did you ever get started writing a book?

That’s the single most often-asked question mom and I get at book club meetings and signings and other events where we’re gathered around a table gabbing with readers and potential book buyers.

I usually turn that question over to mom since she was 82 when she started writing. [Okay, okay, I admit it’s also because I’m slightly ashamed that I am probably the person besides my newspaper editor father who has written the most words in our family. And yet, I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write—fiction.]

To answer the question, mom usually picks up The Pea in Peanut Butter to show people that she has a daughter who is a successful children’s author. Allyn Stotz, my sis and her daughter, also started fairly late in life pursuing her passion for story-telling. She’s about to publish a sequel to that first book, has three others in the works or at a publisher, and her stories have appeared in many children’s magazines and one compendium of short stories. None of us in the family knew Al was even pursuing writing for children until she was well into it—attending classes, hooking up with online writer’s groups. Like with everything she does, she pursued it with passion.

“I figured if she could do this, so should I,” mom always says.

Before I knew it, mom was writing, writing, writing away. I was amazed at how much she put into the art with no formal training. I knew she had always been an avid reader, and I knew that like Al, she was a good story teller. But I was as shocked by mom’s zeal as I was when I found out that Allyn was not only interested in writing, but well into it, with many stories already done and being fine-tuned.

And so we come to me … I don’t even know when mom and I had the initial discussion about the possibility of collaborating on the writing. I am an editor by trade so I volunteered to take a look at what she was doing. However, it’s a scary thing for an editor to look at a family member’s work. And so I must refer back to Allyn. I looked at her first works with the same trepidation. What if I hated what my sister or my mom were doing?

I’m an idiot.

Both Al and Mom have always been very creative and that creativity comes shining through in the stories they tell. Allyn was lucky to have worked with talented artist Valerie Bouthyette on that first book who could bring the words to life visually. But the ideas are pure Allyn, and I know she’ll go on to create many more ideas and books. And the same is true of Mom’s characters and plots. Her books (ahem, our books) are just plain fun to read. Like Allyn, mom and I love to lose ourselves in a good story, and to be able to create those stories is a pleasure.

So how did I get started writing? It was a jump-start provided by my family. But now, I’m zooming away down a fun highway, and I don’t intend to ever stop!

Mom and I send our thanks out for the inspiration provided by the Seniors Lunch Bunch from St. Francis of Assisi, Triangle, VA. Thanks to my friend Francia Salguero for introducing us to the group and to Anne Tunney for inviting us.

St. Francis

St. Francis Lunch Bunch

The group asked the question above, but they also asked many more and gave both mom and me the inspiration that makes creative writing and publishing a book so much fun.

 –Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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