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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

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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What’s in Store for No. 4?

I always get very excited when I realize I’m done with draft one of a new Fate Series book. I remain excited right up until I face the reality that there’s usually a draft two, three, four and five to go! But as writers that have been producing books longer than my few years no doubt have discovered, the process of research and the ability to see forward and backward in your plot gets easier with experience. Draft one, then, becomes more significant because a lot of the smoothing out and polishing has already occurred.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, it’s time to share our plot and how it came about: As mom has explained at various events, she starts the process with characters. They pop into her head to haunt her night time and grow and expand as her imagination begins to take over. The plot then just happens almost like an internal movie, she says. Although that sounds easy, it’s only the beginning. There are many weeks and months and lunches at Applebee’s and car trips of discussing characters and working out details both before and after I get the book to begin my work.

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With book four, however, readers should realize how much they played a part in the first step. Mom and I used the first few chapters of what became book four: Treasured Fate in exercises at seniors’ communities, church groups and book clubs. The book hadn’t even been written beyond those chapters, but we wrote down and considered many suggestions as far as our characters. We hope some of our readers that attended those sessions will recognize their ideas.

Mom began with Elmer Martin, then came up with Maud Novak as his love interest. It was pretty astounding at those classes how many people had the same idea of who those two people were as Mom did.

Elmer has been farming all his life. He loves what he does, but realizes it’s time to find a wife. Maud has been a caregiver, first for an ailing mother, then for her stepfather. The lives of Elmer and Maud become intertwined when Maud’s stepfather dies and a mysterious birth daughter shows up to kick Maud out of the home she’s lived in most of her life. She answers a classified ad Elmer placed for a wife.

The scenario becomes complicated when someone tries to kill Maud. Sam investigates and realizes that it may have something to do with a mysterious treasure the stepfather has stashed away. Are the treasure and the attempt on her life related? Why did Maud’s beloved stepfather leave everything to a birth daughter who was never a part of his life? Do Elmer and Maud take the unusual leap into instant matrimony despite the fact they’re strangers?

Well, dear readers, you’ll just have to find that out!

I’ll be looking for beta readers for this book if you want to contribute to the plot. My plan is to finish draft two and let a few people get a peek with a hope you can lend some additional guidance. Email me if you’re interested. All I can offer is acknowledgement for your efforts. And a great read of course!

Genilee Swope Parente: swopeparente@gmail.com.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When life gives you plots … and stitches

Sometimes you don’t have to look far to find the mysteries, the wonder, the tragedy or the ironies in life that make a good plot. My readers haven’t heard from me because of a recent tragedy. They are hearing from me now because of an irony.

As my Facebook and local friends know, my family lost my father in February. He has suffered from Advanced Alzheimer’s for several years, went into the hospital with pneumonia, then came out with a diagnosis of lung cancer. After a short, heart-rending struggle to find him a stable environment, we had him in a place that could care for him—he lasted one week before passing away, shocking all of us and providing me one of the greatest sadnesses of my life.

The pain of that loss is too fresh and deep to put into words. And while I’ve lost myself in working on book four to keep my mind off the negative, I’ve been unable to be write down anything personal. A good conk on the head is just the cure.

Last Friday, I kissed my daughter goodnight, climbed the stairs (she has a room in the basement), went to the kitchen for my usual big cup of water and woke up on the kitchen floor. My daughter, her friend and my husband were hovering over me with horrified faces. I just lay there not understanding what was going on until I moved my hand to my head and came back with a very bloody hand. I don’t remember how I tripped; I only knew I was faint when I tried to get up. I spent the next few minutes trying not to pass out with the help of my daughter, my husband, then the EMS personnel. I feel sorry for the poor EMS driver who listened to me babble all the way to the hospital as we worked together to keep me awake.

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My husband and I were in the emergency room for about four and a half hours. I knew I was going to be fine pretty soon after we arrived. The dizziness passed quickly; a cat scan showed no damage; I just had a deep cut to the scalp, which caused the severe bleeding and probably the faintness. But as I lay there so long, chatting with my dear husband, who was trying to get comfortable in a little plastic chair, I couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the reality that after the last few years of being the one in that little plastic chair while mom, then dad lay on the gurney, it was me staring at the ceiling. I have only been to the emergency room once as a patient and that was when I was sixteen. It had been just five weeks since the trip with my dad to the hospital for pneumonia. Mom and I had sat that terrible night for 12 hours trying to keep ourselves positive and awake by doing crossword puzzles and waiting for dad to get a hospital room.

However, that’s not the irony. After everything was stable, I had my stitches and was waiting for release forms, I finally got up from the gurney to visit the ladies room. I realized then as I was shuffling out towards the restroom that not only was I taken to the same emergency facility as dad, I was in the very same room.

Guess I’ll do ANYthing to come with a subject for a blog!!!!

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Spoonful of Sugar as Momentum

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One of the most common questions I get from would-be authors or young people is: what makes you write?

In answering, I usually talk about the love of words and the joy of crafting good stories and creating images in people’s minds. All of that is my basis for writing. But for those of us who have been doing this for a while there’s often another answer: we need to go somewhere besides our daily lives, and writing is the ticket.

I’ve never had a time when that reason was a stronger motivation. Mom and I are going through a really tough time dealing with my father who is currently in a rehab center after going into the hospital and coming out with a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer. Before this hospital visit and the diagnosis, we were at the doctors constantly, waiting for tests to get done and hoping (mostly foolishly) that someone can make my father feel better. We’re having to make some very hard decisions that affect a person we both love dearly. The heartbreak of it all threatens to overwhelm us both. It’s one of the few times in my life where I’m taking it all day by day, hard-pressed to make long-term plans.

As a result, neither one of us is sleeping well. The boogeyman of worry is too often present. But those days when I can, I still get up an hour early in the morning or take a few stolen hours on the weekend or at the end of a long day to write. It’s a vacation from pressures, the stress raining down on every day and the sadness that comes when a loved one is in pain. I’m spending that vacation time helping mom’s characters come to life—giving them the faces mom intended, creating the action that will get them from point A to point B of the plot, and polishing their dialogue and what readers “see” when they read our books.

It doesn’t make what’s happening any less awful. But the fact I choose to write at this point in my life shows me how vital creating these books has become to my psyche.

Our thanks to all the people that have wished us well. Book three (Violet Fate) will be coming out in the next few weeks along with the revamped and improved books one (Twist of Fate) and two (Wretched Fate).

Genilee Swope Parente

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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My own kind of holiday recipe

In keeping with an old tradition of including recipes in columns and blogs, here’s what I believe has gone into giving me a gourmet family.

Take a very large bowl of Upbringing. Family starts with the people who raise you. If they’ve stocked all the ingredients in this recipe, you have a strong backbone for a family that functions mostly in synch and has the ability to get over the bumps in life together. I’ve been feeding off the pantry of basics my parents gave me all my life.DSC02550

Add several cups of Commitment. To be able to stir the ingredients of a family together and make the recipe work, family members have to commit to the cooking process no matter how hot the kitchen gets. My family is devoted to the concept that there is strength in numbers and we will work together to see that our unit and its extensions succeed

Spice it up with several tablespoons of Diversity. A family of Stepford Wives begets a family of Stepford Wives. Families that recognize that reality see the benefits of allowing diversity into the picture. Instead of looking for ways to convert each other to our wide offering of political and religious opinions, and lifestyles, we’ve found ways to embrace the differences and fold them gently into the mix.DSC02574

Add as much Pragmatism as your larder can spare. When we’re working together on a problem, we try to put on our realism aprons, even though that’s sometimes very hard. We list the resources we have to help and discuss how best to use those resources. Pragmatism is a trait more plentiful in certain family members, and too much of it can create an aftertaste. But it’s a powerful ingredient when used right.

Scrape together the Luck your households have had, then add it to the batch. Like yeast in bread, this ingredient depends not so much on amount as patience for what it can do. My family hasn’t had many major bouts of bad luck, nor have any of us hit the lottery. But what we’ve experienced, we’ve been grateful for, and we’ve shared it among family members.

Pour in a few cups of Compassion. We have no one in our family who was born without the gene for compassion, and we all recognize how rare that is. We also know for a recipe to work the best—to accomplish our goal of mixing luck, diversity and commitment and getting a batter that’s not lumpy, we have to have compassion for each other.

Finally, use a big wooden spoon of Humor to blend it all together because if there’s one thing being part of a family requires, it’s the ability to laugh.

leistnersMerry Christmas to the Swopes, Parentes, Leistners, Sauernheimers, Stotz’s, Lesters, Fogels and to all the friends in our truly wide circle of family.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Swope Clan in Edgerton

I don’t think I’ve ever received as many hugs in as short a time as I did during a 48-hour period last weekend. I went to Edgerton, my home town, for a book tour with mom and my sister Allyn. Mom and I weren’t the stars of that show; Allyn has kept in touch with many people and has some really close friends who are her cheerleaders. They became our cheerleaders too. But all of us, including those of us not there as pen-wielding celebrities, but rather as supporters, got a huge dose of Home Town Pride, and it was nice to be a small part of that pride.

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Our hostest Susan Herman of Susan’s Hair Flair and president of the Edgerton Chamber of Commerce

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Verna and mom

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Allyn & Sondra

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Mr. Smith (center)

A few highlights:

We were sitting at breakfast the first morning, already happy to be together and sharing laughs when my nieces walked into the restaurant. They flew in from Texas to surprise grandma and grandpa—arriving at 3 a.m. the previous night after a grueling flight on a cheaper airline. Once I saw them, I knew that—no matter the results of our book events—the weekend had just become something I’d never forget.

Our high school English teacher Richard Smith came to the Edgerton Public Library signing. I am quite certain I never hugged Mr. Smith in high school. Hugs were not so plentiful in those days. But neither Al nor I could help ourselves when we saw him. He is the teacher that got us interested in words. He laughingly explained he doesn’t read fiction (though he read our first book) anymore because his life was so consumed by it when he was a teacher. But he still has that delicious acerbic wit that delighted us as teenagers so much that we paid attention to him in class.

Verna Wortkoetter, the friend mom has remained closest to, not only had the clan and some old neighbors over for lunch, she invited some of mom’s old sorority sisters. The gesture was especially thoughtful because Verna was not part of that club. But she knew how important it was to mom, and she knew they’d all soon be trading memories of the parties they had and what had happened to the rest of the crew. I believe my nieces got a taste of grandma’s (and grandpa’s) wilder days by listening to the stories.

My husband saw his first parade, and (as I expected) instantly transformed into a kid. He kept himself from scrambling into the street after candy, but it couldn’t have been easy.

All of us choked up when grandpa struggled up out of his chair to sing the star spangled banner word for word. Alzheimers has nothing over patriotism!

God seemed to be smiling down on the whole weekend as the weather, which is usually hot and humid and miserable this time of year in Ohio, was gorgeous and sunny and cool.

The number of people who told us they were proud of what we’d done was incredible. It just kept coming and coming from old classmates and neighbors and friends of friends.

One of the signings we had was at Susan’s Hair flair right downtown Edgerton in the building that used to house the Edgerton Public Library. As I looked around at that building, I realized that it all really began there with mom pushing us all to learn to love books. Here it was, 50 plus years later, and we were back, signing books we had written ourselves. Thanks Mom, for getting us started on this path.

 

–Genilee Swope Parente

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Stepping it Up

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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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Want to know what’s in book three?

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Dreamstime

I’m getting close to finishing the third book in the Sam Osborne detective series, and while there’s still a long process before the book goes to press, it occurs to me that mom and I have given very few hints about the plot of this book.

The title, Fate of the Violet Eyes, does not fall off the tongue as smoothly as Twist of Fate or Wretched Fate, but I think the story is our best and the eyes play a major role partly because they affect the lives of several main characters. One of those characters, Maggie, needed special consideration and crafting because we knew we wanted to give her a precious gift: the love of Sam. It’s a gift because, as we’ve brought Sam more and more to life with each new book, we’ve both fallen in love with him. His gentle, but persistent ways, strong personality and inquisitive mind are easy to fall for, and Maggie needed to be worthy of him.

In Fate of the Violet Eyes, readers will learn even more about Sam and meet Maggie for the first time. In our other books, the characters who hire Sam and work with him fall in love with each other. In this book, Maggie is the person who hires him—a mother mourning her child Jenna, who was kidnapped. Even though the police and the FBI have both conducted investigations, her child is still missing so she hires someone who is not constrained by procedures or resources—private investigator Sam Osborne.

My mom has done a terrific job creating both the villain in this book and the victim (the snatched child). She takes us into the mind of a man who has gone from a religious background to a killer. She shares with us her thoughts on how a small child could survive such a heinous crime as being snatched from her own mother’s arms and delivered into a killer’s grips without showing fear or weakness.

The mystery in this plot is sprinkled throughout the story revealing clues and false clues in layers as you read. Mom designed it that way and we both have worked hard to confuse and surprise you.

Meanwhile, Maggie and Sam begin to work together, and as they do, you’ll see them gravitate towards one another. As readers of our first two books know, Sam’s own child was kidnapped many years ago and that plays a role in how Sam reacts.

This book also travels outside the bounds of Lancaster, which is where our first two books took place. Maggie and Sam hit the road to investigate and love happens along the way.

I can’t tell you much more, but I’ll promise this: If you liked Twist of Fate and Wretched Fate, you will love Fate of the Violet Eyes.

Keep tuned to this site to learn the book’s progress.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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If I had a million bucks

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Have you ever played that game with your friends, your siblings, your spouse where you ask yourselves: what would I do if I were rich? It’s a fun game, an exercise of the imagination that usually nets a lot of silliness. But believe it or not, I think it’s good for us. When we stop playing such games, haven’t we’ve stop believing in the impossible?

When I was growing up, in the Beverly Hillbilly days of the world, “rich” meant a millionaire. Nowadays, I’m not sure you’ve even classify someone who had $1 million as  rich, though the person would certainly be considered wealthy. When you watch shows like Extreme RVs, with double-decker, two-story vehicles, two-person soaking tubs and chandeliered living areas, a million bucks feels like pocket change. But I’m choosing that number, because I don’t want to be rich. I just would like to be more comfortable.

So what would I do with my million bucks?

First and foremost, I’d buy peace of mind. That has meant different things in different periods of my life. In the poorer days, it meant paying the bills. Today, there are crunch times, but far fewer of those paydays when I feel good for 10 minutes, only to realize the money is already gone.

These days, peace of mind would mean more money in my retirement account and taking care of my elderly parents. My siblings and I spend a lot of time side by side, swords in our hands, battling old age issues as best we can. But I would love to see my mom and dad in an assisted living place that would shoulder the day to day worries about falls and not eating enough and finding ways to keep from getting bored.

Second, I’d buy delight. One of my favorite things in life—a gift God gave me when he gave me a kid at 41, was to rediscover how pleasurable it is to delight. With a child, it’s a simple task—a giant sucker or a pretty sticker. In my life today, it might mean presenting my husband with a Mediterranean cruise (okay, okay, that’s for me, too), send my daughter on a backpacking trip to Europe with some of her many friends or work a miracle for one of my sisters (yea, you know who you are): a personal introduction to Barbra Streisand.

Third, I’d buy independence for a short time. I am certainly an independent person, but what I mean is … now that I have discovered how truly wonderful it is to pursue your creativity, I absolutely hate the fact that I have one hour in the morning to do so. It is pure heartache to stop at the end of the hour I’ve allotted myself for creative pursuit in order to return to the reality that there are bills to pay. A million bucks might buy me a period of time when I could spend 8 hours being the true me.

I know myself well enough to know that I’d also give a chunk to Nyumbani.org, a charitable foundation I’ve worked with for many years that fascinates me because I’ve been there to see its phenomenal growth. It sprang from the heart and passion of a priest and a nun that wanted badly to help save a few orphans who had HIV/AIDs. But it’s grown into a multi-country-supported effort that reaches more than 4,000 children.

And I also know myself well enough to know that I would have to buy one purely materialistic toy just to experience the thrill of spending money. A fully-restored, baby-blue Thunderbird convertible would do nicely.

Hmmm, maybe I’m going to need more than a million bucks!

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Lights, Camera, Action?

If anyone had told me five years ago that I would be a television star, I would have called them nuts.

Never mind the miracle of finishing three books, getting published twice, getting offered a contract on a third book. And yes, it’s a small miracle that being an author has brought me out of my shell long enough to speak in front of audiences.

But last week, mom and I launched our official road to celebrity-hood by taping the Rich Massabny show—Conversations with Rich (airing times on this page).

How could I have foreseen before all this began that I would be a television star!! Okay, maybe not a star. Just a twinkle in a few fan’s eyes if anyone tunes into the show. But there we were—mom and I—sitting on black plastic chairs, mike’s clipped to our bosoms, chatting with Rich, who is pretty well known in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, like we were old friends. How exciting to experience the heat and blinding bright of the lighting and be with the guys and gals with clipboards saying all sorts of fascinating things like, “1,2,3 check. Production room? What do you mean you can’t hear us? Is mike four even ON?”rich massabny

I just KNEW at that exact moment that we’d made it—fame at last. Okay, maybe not fame and there really wasn’t a lot of guys and gals. Just a friendly fellow with a pony tail, several youngsters who looked like they’d just left diapers behind last week, and a nervous young man who kept clearing his throat.

But it was our first filming crew. The same crew with which we’d just shared the delicious spread produced for the television crew. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a spread or one of those feasts that unions require for movie crews. It was leftovers from the cooking show that went on just before we did, but we could tell it was delicious by the many ums and ooohs. We couldn’t eat because we were too nervous. Okay, really it was because mom and I too often tend to wear what we attempt to put in our mouths, and we didn’t want to spoil our new blouses.

Then there was the excitement leading up to the taping. You know … that room with a star and the makeup girl fussing to make you look just right. Okay, that’s a downright lie. I sat in a waiting room and made conversation with my fellow author―mom. At one point, I ducked into the ladies room and put on lipstick―which I hate in the hopes that it would make me less pale. It didn’t work.

Nevertheless, there we were, “on stage” for the first time, sharing our hopes and dreams with the whole wide world. All right, maybe our hopes are really that just a few people who might happen to be bored with Jimmy Fallon will flip through the channels at the exact moment we’re on.

But back to my original thought. I could not have imagined five years ago that instead of sitting watching the tube next week, I’ll be watching myself.

Oh wait, does that mean I have to look at my double chin? Ah well, the price of fame …

 

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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