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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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Dreamstime

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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Dreamstime

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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© Librakv | Dreamstime.com

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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