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Seventeen Years a Vegan – Happy New Year 2017

drawn chicken in a pan

Happy New Year! 2017! Wow. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to see those last two digits change, and with the progression, I look forward to a blank slate–a year filled with possibility and opportunity. I’m also reminded of years past, and I grow nostalgic of certain milestones in my life.

drawn number 17

This New Year’s Eve, I celebrated 17 years as a non-meat eater. The stark revelation of how many years it has been since that cold Illinois night when I looked down at my skillet and decided that I could no longer be a hypocrite nearly overwhelms me. That night, I put a change into motion that forever altered the course of my life. No, it wasn’t the only life-altering moment I’ve ever experienced, but it was a major one.

Growing Up…

My family believed that if you didn’t ingest meat, you weren’t healthy. There were meals where meat was absent, but my parents tried to make sure that a meat was served at least once a day. Meat equaled nutrition to my parents. They did not see it as a bad thing, and they certainly did not have a clue as to what was happening to animals on the slaughter room floor. I never discussed the plight of farm animals with my parents. My father had hunted animals and my mother cleaned and cooked the animals he killed, but as a child, that was as close to a discussion or experience I had with them regarding humane methods of killing animals.

I never cared for meat. Yes, I ate it. I was taught to eat what was placed before me. However, when given the choice, I gravitated toward vegetables and fruits.

Educating Myself and Others…

From the age of 18, I was involved in animal welfare causes and rescue organizations. With each passing year, I became more involved, and I would later begin working with a local humane society and eventually become the vice president of the Board of Directors.

As an animal advocate, I rescued animals from horrific conditions and treatment. I saw behind the curtain of slaughterhouses when I learned how animals raised for human consumption are treated and killed. Once you know these facts, you can never “unknow” them. You can never mute the cries of pain.

I spent a majority of my time educating the public about humane animal treatment.  I opposed dog fighting and worked to enact legislation that would increase the penalties for participating in the activity. I worked diligently to help provide a voice for the animals who had none.

illustration of confused girl

Changing Tastes…

Suddenly, on New Year’s Eve in 1999, as I stood above my skillet filled with popping fried chicken, THE truth hit me, and I could not unring that bell. How could I, in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for abused animals, participate in a fundraiser where I served a meal that included animals who were treated similarly or far worse? I was a hypocrite, and I did not want to be one. The only difference was a label–one is pet and the other is a commodity. Pain and suffering spans all species and labels. I turned off the skillet, and over the next few days, my three dogs would consume the chicken that pushed me into a new year and awareness about my life’s journey.

 

illustration chicken fry

 

I lived in a rural part of Illinois. The small store twelve miles from my house sold pantry staples, but if you wanted something else, you had to travel to one town 45 minutes away, or drive over an hour in the other direction. It was 1999, and meat substitutions weren’t on every store shelf and readily available. I didn’t have a friend who was vegetarian or vegan, so I didn’t have a model from which to learn or emulate. As a lover of food, especially southern foods, I really didn’t know what to do, but I knew that my days of eating meat were over. I became a vegetarian.

I embraced the challenge, and on New Year’s Eve in 2009, I became a vegan.

Seventeen years later…

“I couldn’t live without meat” is a comment I’ve heard many times. Well, look at me, eating a plant-based diet for 17 years and living just fine! Deciding to leave animal products and by-products out of my diet is the best decision I have ever made. Unlike other decisions, I’ve never regretted it.

Happy New Year! May 2017 be a year of growth and success for you.

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Banned Books Week 2015: Celebrating Intellectual Freedom

bannedbooks

 

Banned Books Week – September 27, 2015 – October 3, 2015

I love reading banned books. It encourages the tiny rebel that lives in a dark corner of my psyche. Who are YOU to tell ME what to read?

I don’t know about you, but when I look at the titles on the banned book list, I see books that have made a profound impact on my life. The books are deep, thought-provoking literary guideposts that reflect our culture and experience on this planet. What one person labels “dirty” or “inappropriate” shouldn’t be the deciding factor on whether or not another person has the opportunity to read a book. Parents who protest a book’s inclusion into the school library because it speaks about slavery or homosexuality should be allowed to have their child excluded from reading the book, but they shouldn’t be allowed to speak for every parent and child.

There are those who defend the censorship, but when you show them the banned books list, they are dumbfounded when they realize one of their favorite books is included on the list. Well, some people will have this reaction and others will continue to blindly defend the censorship.

It is hard to believe that in 2015 such a thing exists, but readers and writers must continually be on guard against the myopic view of censorship and continue to fight for intellectual freedoms.

 

Watch this clip from Bill Moyers on September 25 2012The Bane of Banned Books“On the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, Bill explains why censorship is the biggest enemy of truth.”

Celebrate your freedom to read what you want and check out these other pages about banned books and censorship!

100 Most Frequently Challenged Books By Decade

An Interactive Timeline that Celebrates 30 Years of Liberating Literature

Project Censored
National Coalition Against Censorship

Support the ALA and spread the word with these free downloads

banned books poster
“Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.”

 

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New Things and an Update on My Work and World

a single leaf in burnsville nc

a single leaf in burnsville nc

Hi, Y’all!

While things appear to be quiet around the site, my life has been anything but silent and boring.
I really don’t know where 2015 has gone. The stores are filled with all things fall, Halloween, and Christmas. I understand why this is necessary from the retail perspective, but it is also a good illustration of how crowded the end of the year becomes for most of us. I love this time of year, and as a result, I am more creative during this period. This increase in creativity and productivity can sometimes push me to the limits of my energy supply, but as the saying goes, “I can sleep when I’m dead.”

Here are a few updates about my site and my work.

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Shopping

The “Shop” tab isn’t new, but the items in it are new and shiny. Now you can purchase paperbacks of my book (signed, of course), and you can pick up some other awesome items like embroidered wall art, cup cozies, altered notebooks, embroidered key fobs, and more. I have many products in development and hope that you will turn remember to shop with me when you are looking for a little treat for yourself or that perfect gift for someone else. As an illustrator and artist, I’m excited to offer you additional products that reflect other sides of me.

I’ve also added a tab for “Stuff Jeannie Loves at Amazon” below the “About Me” tab. There are links to products I’ve reviewed and products that one could find within the pages of Manual Exposure. I’ve also added categories for the reader or writer in your life. Stay tuned, as this store will continue to grow and expand.

There is a third “shop” option that exists through my Zazzle store. You can purchase items that I’ve personally designed with my illustrations, photographs, and sayings. There are items related directly to Manual Exposure and there are general items that target readers and writers in general.

 

 

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Writing

Events in my personal life, including issues with health and family, have pushed my writing to the back burner. I haven’t stopped promoting and expanding the reach of Manual Exposure, but I haven’t been able to suspend all other activities in my life and focus on completing my second book. I’ve been working on it, and I can’t wait to give you more details, but I haven’t been able to devote the time to it that it deserves. I hope the remaining months of 2015 will be dedicated to bringing more life to the pages of my second book.

I’m focusing on getting Manual Exposure on the shelves of more independent bookstores and creating opportunities to meet you at book signings and readings. My “Events” page is the place to watch for all the latest dates and occasions that may be near you.

There will be new essays coming to the blog, as well as a new segment that follows my travels. I like to take weekend or day trips to little spots near me, and I hope to bring these adventures to your inbox.

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Podcasts

I can simply state that more podcasts are on the way. I love offering you the podcasts, but they do take a good chunk of time to edit. There are more book reviews and author interviews planned, so keep your ears open for a podcast update!

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Newsletter

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to sign up to receive my newsletter. There are giveaways, updates, teasers, and special deals that are either offered exclusively or early to my newsletter subscribers. Don’t worry, I won’t drown your inbox with junk, and you can unsubscribe at any time if you find it is not to your liking.

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Appreciation

Thank you to all who continue to support me by spreading the word about Manual Exposure and those who loyally return to the digital pages of this blog. I appreciate each of you, and I hope that you will continue to send me your notes and comments. I love reading them and responding to you. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me.

Keep Love and Kindness on Repeat,

Jeannie

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Bookmarks Festival in Winston-Salem: An Author Milestone

Manual Exposure at the Bookmarks Festival for Books and Authors

 

Charlotte WNBA at Bookmarks Festival
The WNBA Charlotte booth at the Bookmarks Festival, September 6, 2014.

 

I’ve sold eBook and paperback copies of Manual Exposure, but until the Bookmarks Festival of Authors and Books, my book has never been available for purchase at a local venue where any member of the public could pick up the book, flip through the pages, and feel the weight of my words in their hands. As a child and teenager, I attended book festivals and dreamed of the day I would see my book offered to interested readers. Thanks to the local Charlotte chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, I was able to reach that important milestone.

Fellow members of the local WNBA traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to promote both the organization and member authors at the festival. The volunteers set up a lovely booth that featured published works from the members of the organization. Can you spot Manual Exposure on the table?

WNBA Table in Winston-Salem
WNBA Charlotte members volunteered at the event.

 

Readers Shop for Books at the Festival

Between you and me, I would have happily stayed and watched the people come and go from the booth all day. I enjoy watching them scan the books and pick up the titles that intrigue them. I closely watch their reactions as they read the cover of the book and make a momentary judgement as to whether or not that specific title is destined to go home with them. I am frequently that reader, but I’ve never seen anyone do that with my book, and frankly, I can’t imagine ever growing tired of watching that dance.

WNBA Volunteers in Winston-Salem

I’m a new WNBA member, and I’m so glad to see the local chapter working to expand the name recognition for both the organization and the members. It takes time, money, and a great deal of energy to make it to an event like Bookmarks, and I appreciate the efforts and challenges the volunteers faced during the day. The calendar may have rolled forward to September, but this festival day was hot and humid. The volunteers always had a sweet smile and greeting ready for all who stepped up to the booth, and I can’t thank them enough for the work they did.

 

Women's National Book Association - Charlotte Chapter

I really didn’t anticipate that I would sell any books at the festival. Aside from the big names that drew the crowd to the event, there were hundreds of titles waiting to be gobbled up by excited readers. Just having my book available for purchase was a big deal to me. I am the type of person who celebrates the little moments that others tend to overlook or downplay. When Manual Exposure went live as an eBook, my eyes were filled with tears. I felt the same giddiness when I saw my book on that table at the festival as I did when I hit publish on Amazon. Every step of this journey is a dream come true, and I don’t intend on ever forgetting it or ignoring how it makes me feel.

 

Manual Exposure at the Bookmarks Festival for Books and Authors

“Shut up!” were the first words out of my mouth when I checked back at the booth during a mid-day break. The volunteers told me that I had sold a book, and I couldn’t have been more excited and shocked if they had told me I had won a lottery jackpot. This was my jackpot. They explained that the woman had liked my cover and thought the summary sounded interesting. She loved that I’d signed the book, too.

Just as they were telling me the news, the woman who purchased the book returned to the booth and I was introduced as the author of her new book purchase. Seriously, that alone was enough to make me want to squeal.

She said that the cover of my book was beautiful and the photograph just drew her in. As a photographer, the title and photograph on the cover were big pulls for her. I desperately tried to not burst into tears. I took the cover photograph in Asheville, North Carolina, during the peak of the fall season of 2011. My husband and I had driven our beloved dog, Grandbury, on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Grandbury had such a wonderful day in the sun as he watched the landscape swirl around him. I’m so thankful that I captured that beautiful day and moment. Later that day, Grandbury would have the first of many seizures that indicated the likelihood of a brain tumor.

If it isn’t clear, my love for Asheville runs deep and in every pore of my being. To see someone connect with a photo that I took, a photo that is washed in memories and love, a photo that represents Asheville to me, means the world to me.

Her excitement about reading a book by some unknown author tickles me to no end. I’ve been that reader. I’ve been drawn to a book and purchased it for no other reason than liking the cover or book synopsis. Except now, the book that drew someone in and prompted them to take a gamble with their time and money–is mine. My book, my words, and ultimately me.

I’ll admit that I am not a cool author. I walked to the next discussion panel with tears in my eyes and the goofiest grin on my face. That reader will never know what her purchase meant to me, and I hope that she isn’t disappointed and loves my story and characters. Because of her, I ached to go home and get back to work on my second novel. Seeing a person connect with my book on a personal level is the most addictive part of being a writer. Knowing that I have had an impact on someone as so many authors have had on me is almost impossible to perceive.

You’ve been warned. I’m not a cool author. I may appear shy at your praise because I’m afraid if I open my mouth I may howl with tears of joy. I’ll try to get better; but never doubt that sweet words from a reader go straight to my heart and inspire me to return to the page. I never want to be so cool that I ever forget this feeling and what it means to connect with my readers. I always dreamed of it, but as a child who grew up in many trailer parks, I never knew if I’d ever get to see someone point to my book, choose it over the other selections, and take it home as a new treasure they had discovered.

I’ve now seen that happen in my lifetime. To other writers, young and old, I hope you dare to dream that for yourself. The time it takes to get to that moment doesn’t matter. I just want you to know that it can happen. No matter your circumstance, I encourage you to dream that your work and words will and do matter. The key is never to forget that this is what you wanted and to recognize the moment when it happens. Should a moment like this ever fail to impress you or mean something to you, for your sake and that of the readers, I hope you put the pen down.

As for me, I’m writing. I am uncool and greedy. I want to experience that moment again and again.

Sincerely,

The most uncool author you know-

Jeannie M. Bushnell

 

 

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My Bookshelf: Radcliffe, Blume, Birdman of Alcatraz, Plath, and Olsen

The Birdman of Alcatraz book cover

This is my college reader copy of The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe. This was her third novel, and it was first published in 1791.

Those who love a mystery with elements of the supernatural and impending threats of horror and terror should reach for a Gothic novel.  Radcliffe is a wonderful place to start, as she was the best-selling author of the genre. While she may not be very well known today, she was enormously popular in her day.

Many readers seek out this book because it is referenced in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Interestingly enough, those same readers don’t often enjoy Radcliffe.

Read it online or download it for free. The book is in the public domain.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume should be required reading for every adolescent. Ms. Blume is one of my idols, and I appreciate her ability to write books for children and young adults that are honest and humorous. I bow to Ms. Blume.

Watch Ms. Blume perform the breast-enhancing exercise from the book. Adorable, thy name is Blume.

The Birdman of Alcatraz is a haunting read. Once you’ve been told the story of this man’s life, it will never leave you. Robert Stroud served 54 years in prison, and 43 of them were in solitary confinement.

After  you read the book, watch the 1962 movie of the same name; it is also very good.

The Bell Jar by American poet Sylvia Plath celebrates its 51st year in print. The semi-autobiographical book was published in 1963 in the United Kingdom a month prior to her suicide. She was thirty years old. The first edition was published under Plath’s pseudonym, “Victoria Lucas.” It wouldn’t be published in the United States until 1971. My edition is from 1971.

Her only novel, The Bell Jar is “the heartbreaking story of a talented young woman who descends into madness.”

I think you’ll enjoy reading this interview conducted with Ms. Plath in 1962. I particularly enjoy her answer regarding the types of people she preferred to be around. Writers were not at the top of her list.

This exhibit of photographs features images of Ms. Plath, her family, and her works.

Listen to Ms. Plath read “Tulips” during her  1961 appearance on the BBC radio series, The Poet’s Voice.

 

The Little Locomotive by Ib Spang Olsen, 1976 edition. This little book was/is so dear to me. I loved the personification of the train. I don’t know how I came by this book, but I’m thankful it was always a staple in my room. I’m surprised I was allowed this book, as I’m certain my mother would have viewed it as something more appropriate for a boy. I’d love to know the story behind my coming to own this book.

Watch Ib Spang Olsen, Danish writer and illustrator, draw and paint in this video.

Did you miss the previous peek at my bookshelf?

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My Bookshelf: Alcott, The Goonies, Masters, Armstrong, and Berube

The Goonies book cover

It’s time to take another peek at the items on my bookshelf! I’m having so much fun with this series, and I hope you are enjoying it. Has it encouraged you to go to your bookshelves and rediscover the books you own?

My husband purchased this hardback copy of Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott, edited by Madeleine Stern with stories by Louisa May Alcott. This beautiful Christmas gift thrilled me, as I had never heard of the four stories.

Some of the stories in the book were published anonymously or under the name A.M. Barnard. The stories included are: “Pauline’s Passion and Punishment,” “The Mysterious Key,” “The Abbot’s Ghost,” and “Behind a Mask.”

Six years before she wrote Little Women, Louisa May Alcott was in financial straits. She entered “Pauline’s Passion and Punishment,” a novelette, in a newspaper contest. She published it anonymously, and it won the $100 prize. The subsequent “blood and thunder” tales she published would provide her livelihood for years.

Download a copy of the story from Project Gutenberg.

Listen to the audio recording of the short story “Behind a Mask” by Green Audio Books.

 

Who doesn’t love “The Goonies” movie? I love the artwork on this 1985 edition.

Steven Spielberg presents The Goonies, a novel by James Kahn, story by Steven Spielberg, and screenplay by Chris Columbus. 

“I will never betray my Goon Dock friends,

We will stick together until the whole world ends,

Through heaven and hell and nuclear war,

Good pals like us will stick like tar,

In the city, or the country, or the forest, or the boonies

I am proudly declared a fellow Goony.” — The Goony Oath

If you haven’t heard, they are making a sequel.

I’ve been enamored with Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Less Masters since high school. A teacher read parts of the book to my class, and I found it to be a unique method of telling a story. The stories unfold in a series of epitaphs.

I’ve since purchased the audiobook, and I love to play it in the car for friends who’ve never read it. They are instantly drawn into the tragic and scandalous tales of the people buried in little Spoon River.

The book is in the public domain, and you can download a free version at Project Gutenberg.

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong is a new addition to my bookshelf. If you haven’t done it yet, you should scoot over and give a listen to my podcast. I review this book and share news about the second book in the new trilogy.

Whenever my eyes fall upon Joint Mission by D. Gary Berube, I smile and instantly remember the author. He was my high school janitor. I was a reporter for the high school newspaper, and a teacher thought Mr. Berube’s story would make an interesting article.

Mr. Berube didn’t look like other janitors. His long hair fell just below his shirt collar, and he wore jeans and short-sleeved plaid shirts. I always thought he looked as though he were headed out to a concert. He was easy-going and kind. I remember how tickled he was when I interviewed him for the paper.

He autographed this copy he gave me, and I’ve always cherished it. The cover and internal illustrations are his work, too.

Did you miss the last items on my bookshelf?

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My Bookshelf: Woolf, Hawthorne, King, Rowling, and Immortal Poems

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

I’ve started a new Instagram project for the books I own. I’m taking a photo a day of my books, hoping to both inventory them and inspire others to pick up a book that they may never have considered reading.

I own a lot of books, and this becomes painfully apparent every time I move. I lived in one house for thirteen years, and in the past three years, I’ve moved three times. The first move was cross country. The second move was two hours away, and the last one was across town. My books have taken up the majority of the boxes involved in those moves. Some girls hoard shoes and clothes, but I simply love my books.

I confess that I haven’t read all of the books I own. I own duplicates of certain titles because I have either fooled myself into thinking that I don’t own the title, or I just fell in the love with the cover of the book. It really is an affliction, but considering the variety of issues I could have, I’m content to be the woman with a constant back pain due to the moving of her book collection.

I started my project with A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. This is my college copy. It is highlighted, underlined, and well-loved. Every time I look at this book, I’m reminded of Woolf’s suicide and the great literary loss the world suffered with her passing.

I stumbled across this reading of her suicide note, and I’m haunted by the imagery and sense of desperation her words evoke. I know some people feel her letter should not be available for public consumption, but I disagree. The last words penned by this great author deserve to be remembered. This rare glimpse into the true composition of a writer is breathtakingly beautiful and harrowing.

from A Room of One’s Own:

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point–a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”

I love Nathaniel Hawthorne. I have three stand-alone copies of The House of Seven Gables, and two are the same paperback edition. I’m sure I have other copies of his work in my anthologies.

“Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns, stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely-peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst.”

I love this paperback edition of Carrie by Stephen King. I haven’t watched the movie since I was a small child, but I’m adding it to my Halloween cue this year. Whenever I think of Carrie, I think of Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of the character. She did a wonderful job bringing this tortured soul to the screen.

“Then the laughter, disgusted, contemptuous, horrified, seemed to rise and bloom into something jagged and ugly, and the girls were bombarding her with tampons and sanitary napkins, some from purses, some from the broken dispenser on the wall. They flew like snow and the chant became: ‘Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up, plug it—‘”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling was a featured book at my local library. At the time that I read it, there wasn’t much buzz in the United States about the series, and I felt as though I’d found a great little gem of a book. I told my husband that I really liked the book, and he read it and liked it, too.

Our local Borders bookstore (how can they be gone?) held parties for those who had pre-ordered the new titles in the series. It was great fun to stand in line with other readers who had fallen in love with Harry Potter. That excitement started with this book.

“‘Hagrid,’ he said quietly, ‘I think you must have made a mistake. I don’t think I can be a wizard.'”

Immortal Poems of the English Language: 447 British and American Masterpieces by 150 Poets an anthology edited by Oscar Williams.

This little beauty of a book was published in 1960 and was available for purchase at sixty cents! There are so many beautiful poems in this book. Below is one of my favorites.

“How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints–I love with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

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My Visit to the 2014 South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, South Carolina

Jeannie with Pat Conroy Signature

The third weekend in May, I attended The South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, South Carolina. Held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center,  the festival is a free program of The Humanities Council of South Carolina. The event was blessed with great weather. This was my first visit to Columbia, and the drive down from Charlotte was warm and beautiful.

Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

Sadly, I didn’t make it to the Opening Keynote Address by Christopher Buckley, and I wasn’t able to attend both days of the festival, but my Saturday schedule was packed.

[typography font=”Covered By Your Grace” size=”24″ size_format=”px”] The Old Writer: Working on the Ending[/typography]

Rob Neufeld and Gail Godwin at the South Carolina Book Festival

The first program I attended was with authors Gail Godwin and Rob Neufeld. I haven’t read either of their works, but once they said they were from Asheville, North Carolina, I felt right at home. I have an innate ability to be drawn to anyone or anything that speaks of Asheville.

Gail Godwin and Rob Neufeld at the South Carolina Book Festival

I loved hearing Ms. Godwin speak and read from her work. Further, any writer who takes a photo with her cats rolling around and commanding attention from the camera is someone I’d want to know. I anticipate I’ll learn more about Ms. Godwin, as I have her Making of a Writer: Journals 1961-1963 in my summer reading cue.

Hear Ms. Godwin in her own words in an interview on The Book Show with  Joe Donahue.

Gail Godwin photo by Jerry Bauer
Gail Godwin photo by Jerry Bauer

 

Rob Neufeld is a writer and editor. He edited both volumes of Ms. Godwin’s The Making of a a Writer: The Journals of Gail Godwin. He provided insight into the works of Ms. Godwin, explaining that her journals were never written to be published, that they were indeed true journals filled with private thoughts, dreams, and personal interactions throughout her life. He revealed that Ms. Godwin is dedicated to writing in her journal; she fills 800 pages a year.

As I entered the room for the next program, I overheard two teenage boys talking about Ms. Godwin. They enjoyed listening to her, but once she was introduced as having studied with Kurt Vonnegut, they had hoped she would elaborate on the time spent with Vonnegut. I silently nodded in agreement. I would have loved to hear a few of those stories myself.

[typography font=”Covered By Your Grace” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]”Women of Action: Strong Female Characters” [/typography]

Women of Action Strong Female Characters Panel
Authors: Nina de Gramont, Jeremy Whitley, Suzanne Kamata

 

The trio on the next panel spoke about the need for fictional female characters to possess both strength and intelligence. Each author spoke about how they tackled the idea in their own books.

 Nina de Gramont referenced her book, Every Little Thing in the World, and said that intelligent female characters are also flawed and may make poor choices for themselves or others.

Jeremy Whitley, author of the Princeless comic series, created a self-empowered princess  who’s tired of waiting to be rescued by others. As a father, Mr. Whitley wants his daughter to be inspired by the characters that she reads about, and for him, that means creating a strong female character that isn’t waiting for a prince to arrive and set her world straight.

Suzanne Kamata, author of Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, spoke of the way in which a female character can possess strength while having her vulnerabilities and weaknesses displayed to the reader. Ms. Kamata’s own daughter, who has cerebral palsy and is deaf, was the inspiration for Gadget Girl. The female protagonist, Aiko Cassidy, also has cerebral palsy, and through her story, Ms. Kamata presents the honest journey of a character who is liberated by her art.

The audience for this panel was very interesting, as the ages of the audience members ranged from teenagers to seniors. One senior lady spoke up and said that she loved to read about strong female characters because in her day, “girls weren’t allowed to even sweat.”

[typography font=”Covered By Your Grace” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]A Conroy Family Roundtable[/typography]

I was fortunate to grab a seat in the crowded room that housed the roundtable discussion with Pat Conroy and his siblings. Moderator Aida Rogers asked the family questions about their youth, their parents, and of course, what is like to have Pat Conroy as a brother.  I felt as though I were sitting with old friends, as Jim, Mike, Pat, Tim, and sister Kathy Harvey entertained the crowd with their stories. I didn’t know what to expect when I saw the program on the schedule, but I loved it.

It is a rare event where fans get to experience a beloved author in such an unguarded and familial setting. The intimacy of the hour felt surreal, and I’m certain I’ll never experience such an event like this at any future festival.  Watching the five of them reminisce over their shared past and joke with one another as their authentic personalities bloomed before us was a moment I’ll always treasure.

Columbia, South Carolina, Convention Center

Pat Conroy and family are loved by the audience at the South Carolina Book Festival
At the end of the program, fans lined up to hug and shake hands with the members of the Conroy family.

 

After the program, the family was available to sign Mr. Conroy’s books. I didn’t initially get in line, as it was quite long, and I had a long drive ahead of me. I paused before leaving the building and returned to find the line had shortened and reprimanded myself for thinking I should leave without meeting Mr. Conroy. I shook off my shyness and got in line to have my well-loved copy of The Prince of Tides signed.

It was a great honor to meet and shake hands with Pat Conroy. He and his brothers and sister Kathy were so personable and friendly, and they can’t help but make everyone they encounter feel like an instant friend. I’ve met a number of celebrities, and I’m never impressed by pretentious personalities. The genuineness of the family was endearing, and it only served to solidify my admiration for Mr. Conroy.

Jeannie with Pat Conroy Signature

I will confess that I didn’t participate in my usual routine of cleaning my hands with antibacterial hand soap. I came home and rubbed my “Pat Conroy hand” all over my computer, pens, notebooks, and cat. Yes, even the cat. I’m hoping I absorbed a tiny inkling of Mr. Conroy’s greatness. Don’t judge me; writers must do whatever is necessary to help keep the inspiration train returning to the station, and if believing in the power of a few mixed skin cells achieves that goal, I’m all for it.

Listen to Mr. Conroy speak about his book The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son, and his decision to no longer hide behind fiction to tell his family’s stories.

The book festival was great fun. I loved the people I met, especially the fellow readers and festival attendees. Seriously, everyone was greeted with a smile and a warm hello. The volunteers did an excellent job, and I look forward to future festivals.

The convention center is beautiful and easily accessible. Every meeting room was marked for easy navigation. The snack bar was a hit, and I was happy to see they offered a few vegan items, too!

Maybe I’ll see you next year at the Nineteenth Annual South Carolina Book Festival! Mark your calendars for May 15-17, 2015!

Check out the commercial for the 2014 South Carolina Book Festival.

Facts about Columbia, South Carolina:

Columbia, known by its inhabitants as The City of Dreams, is the state capital and largest city in the State of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. The 2013 United States Census estimates put the city at 133,358. Source: Wikipedia

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Remembering Sweet Tristan

Jeannie's Siberian Husky Tristan in a Mobility Cart

Tristan, the middle dog.

Tristan was our beloved and challenging middle dog. He was an intelligent Siberian Husky who believed he was the leader of our pack, and his dominance issues with our older dog always kept us on our toes.

In the last year of his life, he suffered from Canine Cognitive Disorder and had Degenerative Myelopathy. Essentially, he had a canine version of dementia, and he experienced weakness and instability in his hind quarters. We purchased a mobility cart for him, and he took off with a renewed spirit and vigor.

Jeannie's Siberian Husky Tristan in a Mobility Cart

I was fortunate enough to be with him around the clock.   Most days and nights passed with little sleep, as he was driven to pace and walk. I stayed right by his side as he rolled around the house. He was always the active dog, even in his senior years.

I learned so much from him in the fifteen years I was blessed to share with him. Among so many things, he taught me about forgiveness, patience, and of course, unconditional love. It is hard to imagine that it has been four years since I’ve buried my face in his furry neck. Time is a funny thing. It feels as though it were yesterday when I last held him, and yet in the same heartbeat, it feels like he’s been gone fifteen years.

I miss you, Tristan. I love you.

Jeannie Bushnell with her Siberian Husky, Tristan

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Happy Birthday to Me

Jeannie M. Bushnell and her grandmother

Yes, June 2nd is my birthday. The calendar bumps ahead, and this Gemini turns 39 years old.

I’m neither who or where I thought I would be at this age. I’ve overcome and lived through moments I could never have imagined occurring.

Unto them a child was born, and clearly—as my grandmother adorned in her funeral black gown exhibits—they were pleased.

Jeannie Bushnell and Grandmother

 

Baby Jeannie certainly doesn’t know what to think of all this.

Jeannie M. Bushnell and her grandmother
My face says it all.

 

 

I truly believe that it is a privilege to age, and I can’t wait to see what waits for me 39 years down the road.

Jeannie Hiking