Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dancing with my Grandmother

First of all, Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft is out! It was #8 on the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Bestsellers list for its opening week. Hurrah and thank you! I'm giving away four copies of that book so leave a comment (including your email so I can reach you to ask for your snail mail address to send you the book) and I'll select four people at random to receive this hardcover book.

Come April, I'll do the same for my novel, A Flickering Light.

Several years ago a reader in Alaska asked for permission to use my book, A Burden Shared, as part of a conference with native American women of the Cauluka tribe called "To Dance with our Grandmothers: a gathering of women for wholeness" Of course I consented. I'd written that little book (that is now called A Simple Gift of Comfort) to bring nurture to people dealing with various kinds of challenges and grief. I loved the title of their conference. The presentors hoped to help these women see the strengths within themselves that had been handed down to them from their grandmothers but they also planned to offer strategies so that memories stirred up would heal rather than hold them hostage. The organization sent me a book bag and a sweatshirt with the title on it and a pin, a symbol of the Cauluka tribe. I treasure them all still.

During these past months of working on A Flickering Light, I've become more aware of my own grandmother and the dance I have with her. I try to gather as much history as I can when I'm researching actual historical women and then speculate about the missing events, or ask myself questions about why she was where she was when and what must she have been thinking?

That last question is especially important as I've asked, "what must my grandmother have been thinking to allow herself to become so enamored with this unavailable man?" or "What was she thinking setting aside her own passion for photography to risk a relationship that had no future?" The questions have morphed into my thinking about the kinds of decisions I've made through the years and wondering why I did what I did. I suppose that's a risk of history, or at least of personal history. I wonder how much like her I am or whether the evidence for her life she left behind is really who she was?
There are discrepancies in this dance of her life. For example, I have tapes of interviews with her and her adult children and some of what she says doesn't jibe with the facts. Did she forget or did she wish to mislead and if the latter, who was she protecting? Herself or someone else?
That led me to think about a story that theologian Deidrich Bonhoffer told, about a teacher who asked a boy if his father had been drunk the night before. The teacher knew the answer: the boy's father had been publically drunk. The boy stood before the class and said his father hadn't been drinking. He told a lie. So the question Bonhoffer posed was whether it was more moral for an honest person to tell a lie, e.g. the boy, than for a dishonest person, e.g. the teacher, to tell the truth.
Bonhoffer's conclusion was that it was more moral for an honest person to tell a lie because usually he/she does so out of love, to protect another; whereas a person who frequently lies uses the truth as power, to control another person just as the teacher had done to the boy, humiliating him before his peers as he let him know that he knew the truth of his father's state.
I've thought about that often as I dance with my grandmother. What would I lie to protect? Have I told the truth in order to control? What legacy did she mean to leave and what will I leave behind?
A Flickering Light explores some of this as I tried to answer the questions my grandmother's life raised. It is also a story I hope that encourages us to ask ourselves why we do what we do, how we sometimes sabatoge our best hopes and what we can learn from those experiences. I hope you'll look for it in April.
Meanwhile I also promised to tell you about the writing process. The galleys were sent well before Christmas; I've sent them back with my corrections and just last week added a few more. Endorsers are being asked to read the book and see if they're willing to have their names attached to it, always stressful as they may just decide it's not up to their standards or the story is so far removed from the kinds of books they write that their endorsement would mislead their readers if it appeared on my title.
We finished the maps for the book and in the process of proofing them I located a photograph of streetcar bridge across Lake Winona. That set me to wondering when that bridge was built and should I have it on my map or was it torn down by then? That discovery led me to make a little change in the text because the bridge did exist then and we also added it to the map. A detail, I know. This is the stage where I have to watch my tendency toward OC (which is not Orange County!). I have to let go and realize there may be errors or mistakes but I've done the very best I could to make it authentic and a worthy read. The best thing to do now is to keep writing the sequel, take my mind off the book that is "finished."
In a few days, I'll post more about this process. Maybe you'll stop by and share a bit of your own. Happy New Year! Don't forget to say hi and in so doing register to win an Aurora book!Jane


wintunancy said...

Thank you Jane for sharing your wit and wisdom with us. I have gotten so much from your books, most recently "Homestead".

Eleree said...

Oh!! I'm so excited about all your new books! I wish I had more time for reading them.:)


Jessie Tanner said...


My grandmother recently passed away. The last few months have been a blending of sorrow and laughter. Remembering the wonderful times, realizing how much she is a part of me, and hoping I can carry on her legacy of living life to the fullest.

I look forward to your newest book and love your grandmothers' name :)

Jess Tanner

Arletta Dawdy said...

Dear Jane,
I always gain new insight when I read your work, especially when you write of the writing process. Your thought about asking ourselves " we sometimes sabotage our best hopes," hit home. I have been mired in melancholy this Fall, slow to work at cutting the wordage on the novel an agent is interested in!
Perhaps your words, and those of others, will help me get moving.
Thank you!

deanna said...

Hello, Jane, and Happy New Year. I'm happy for you and looking forward to reading your latest works. Ah, grandmas; I have one whose story I may try to tell, but what a process that will be. Thanks for going through and sharing your processes.

travelswithwile-e said...

I have read just about all your books and took a detour to Aurora last year just because of Emma! So much inspiration from all your books, I always learn something. thank you. Fran Allen
PO Box 1 Aberdeen, WA 98520

mustangkayla said...

Jane you are an amazing writer! I can't wait to read your new books! I'm so glad I found your blog!

Darcy said...

I really enjoy reading your books too and I have recently gotten my mother into reading them so our collection has quickly expanded. My most recent read was Homestead and I loved it.
Happy New Year

Sharon Perry said...

Hi Jane, I went through Aurora yesterday, stopping by the Colony Museum to visualize the Giesy house, as I am reading "A Tendering in the Storm" now. I live only about 7 miles from Aurora and I have been in the house before, but needed a fresh look. I was suprised to see how low the ceilings were, also how small the doors were. I'm only 5' tall and if I was much taller I would have had to duck my head. The fireplace was amazing, what a beautiful hearth.
I'm looking forward to meeting you in person at the Colony Museum on Feb. 14th.
I'd be so happy to receive a free copy of "Dancing with my Grandmother", so here's my snail mail address:
Sharon Perry Schmidt
1493 Greenview Court
Woodburn, OR 97071

Rannza said...

Hi Jane

I've just discovered your blog and read about Aurora, then I watched the trailer. What a beautiful book!

If you include international readers when you make your selection of four people to receive a copy, please consider me. I'm researching quilts and quilt barns for my WIP, a Christian cozy mystery and would love a copy of your book. Not only would it be an invaluable help, it would also be a book to treasure.

Some of your books are available here (South Africa) and I have The Tender Ties trilogy all lined up ready to read.

With best wishes

Ruth Dell

Eleree said...

You are tops on my list, Jane. Wow, the thought of writing a story about your grandmother starts me thinking about my grandmother. I think there are many grandmothers who have a very interesting story.

Emma's Mom

LC said...

Hi Jane,

I'd love to win a copy of Aurora - 3 reasons:
1, you are a terrific writer
2, I resolved not to buy any books this year and read what I have stockpiled
3, I'm a quilter (remember the little pink heart quilt you bought from me at the InScribe Fall Conference?)

many blessings!

epm.mail.444 @
(remove spaces)

Tiffany Turo said...

I am so excited to read your book, Aurora! I was given the postcard by a friend, and am intrigued with the combination of quilting, history and memory- isn't that what life is all about!!! Thrilling to have a local author to read. Thank you.


The Koala Bear Writer said...

Love the glimpses into the questions you've asked as you're writing your grandmother's story, and the process of writing/publishing historical novels. The story sounds very intriging--can't wait to see it come out! :) BTW, my mother-in-law read "A Simple Gift of Comfort" and really enjoyed it.

Kathy said...

Greetings from your friend in Ohio!
Jane, I'm looking forward to the new book. I venture to say that most of us have interesting, untold stories from all of our grandmoter's. Blessings to you,