Publication credits can be hard to come by for budding authors, but The Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise offers a smorgasbord of publishing opportunities for writers to offer the world a taste of their work.
The franchise produces dozens of volumes each year, offering a paying market for novice and experienced writers alike
My stories have been featured in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and I’m delighted to share my recipe for a good soup story.
Learn how to get your writing published by this franchise and increase your publication credits on Saturday, October 29, at this free workshop sponsored by the Spokane County Library District’s 6th annual Spokane Writers Conference.
Please join author Mark Cronk Farrell and me, Wednesday, April 13, for a discussion of her latest book, “Close-Up on War.” It’s the amazing story of Catherine Leroy, who documented the war in Vietnam through compelling photos.
Military spouses are experts at saying goodbye. Separation is a fact of life, and no one knew this better than the men and women featured in my book “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation.”
During World War II, these couples’ farewells were fraught with fear. There would be no emails. No texts. No FaceTime with the family. Letters and scant phone calls or occasional telegrams had to suffice.
But, oh, the reunions! Most of the 36 couples profiled in “War Bonds,” vividly remembered and described the moment they saw their spouses when they finally came home.
In the past six weeks, three of those brides experienced their final reunions with their husbands. This time they won’t have to say goodbye again.
Melba Jeanne Barton died Nov. 30. She and Don were married 67 years before he died in 2013. That eight-year separation marks the longest time they’d spent apart.
She’d met Don at a Grange dance two months after he’d returned from flying B-29s in the Pacific theater. He’d endured a horrific loss when the plane he piloted was hit in battle, and his young navigator was killed. Decades after the experience his eyes still filled with tears when he spoke of it.
“He was a nice kid – a real nice kid,” he’d said.
You might think Melba Jeanne would be immediately smitten by the dashing pilot. After all, he shared her Christian faith, and he was a great dancer. But Don was a farmer, and Melba Jeanne swore she’d never marry a farmer.
“Feeding chickens and milking cows – none of that stuff appealed to me,” she said.
But Don’s patient persistence and promises that she’d never have to do farm chores won her hand and her heart.
They raised three daughters on their family farm. And Melba Jeanne discovered the best benefit to being a farmer’s wife.
“On the farm, your husband is never far away. We’ve always done everything together,” she’d said.
Bonnie Shaw died on Dec. 5. She met her husband, Harvey at Central Valley High School when he was home on leave and visiting his siblings.
Despite his uniform, Harvey was just a boy himself. “I got stupid and quit school right in the middle of my sophomore year,” he recalled. “I just didn’t think. A few months later, I was in the Navy.”
He said goodbye to his family and set sail on the USS Kwajalein, but Bonnie didn’t forget about him. He returned home in 1946, and when Bonnie and her boyfriend broke up, Harvey wasted no time.
“When we finally got together, we just really fell in love,” she recalled.
And just like sailing the Pacific, their courtship wasn’t without bumps. Bonnie was a devout Catholic and Harvey was not. Unbeknownst to her, he began taking instruction at St. John Vianney, and they wed there in August 1950.
They spent 64 years together. Harvey died in 2014, not long before “War Bonds” was published.
When I’d called Bonnie shortly before his death she said. “He’s not doing very well, but he asks me to read him your column, and every time I do, he smiles.”
We both cried a bit then.
Bonnie gave Harvey nightly back rubs and the last words they whispered before falling asleep were “I love you.”
“Harvey is my heart,” she said.
Lastly, Betty Ratzman died Dec. 26.
To know Betty was to love her. A prolific writer and avid letter-writer, Betty’s fierce intelligence and sharp wit delighted all who knew her. I treasure the letters I received from her.
In fact, she won her husband’s heart through the mail.
They’d met on a blind date in 1943, and when Dean Ratzman shipped out with the Navy, she told him not to get his hopes up.
He ignored her warning and treasured both her photo and the letters she wrote to him while he was at sea.
“You can find so much more about someone in letters,” he’d said.
They married in 1946 and spent 73 years together until Dean died in 2019.
Fit and active, the couple attended many “War Bonds” events, gladly meeting folks who marveled at their lasting love.
The last time I spoke with Betty shortly after Dean’s death, she wanted to know all about my sons and my cats. Then her quavery voice broke a bit.
“Oh, I miss Dean. I miss him so much,” she said.
I miss Betty, and Bonnie and Melba Jeanne.
The “War Bonds” brides are at the heart of what made our country great. They endured separations and rationing. They tackled nontraditional jobs and learned new skills, to keep our country going during the war. They gave their husbands something to fight for and a reason to come home.
While I celebrate each couple’s heavenly reunion, I can’t help but think our world is diminished by their absence. I know my little corner of it is.
Things you forget when it’s been 20 years since you’ve had a toddler in the house: they like to climb into things.
Two weeks ago, we traveled to Ohio to visit our 23-month-old twin grandsons Adam and Nick. (Well, we visited their parents and big sister, too.)
As usual, we rented a small Airbnb home, so we could care for the twins each day and give their parents a break.
One afternoon, Adam was busily playing with a wooden dinosaur puzzle, but Nick was nowhere to be seen. I heard a sound in the kitchen and quietly sneaked into the room to see what he was up to–but I didn’t see him. Then I noticed the dryer door was ajar, and as I watched it slowly swung open.
“Nick!” I called.
Sure enough, he poked his head of the dryer and grinned. Thankfully, he was unable to secure the door.
I texted our son a photo and said, “We’re bringing him home freshly dried.”
With their second birthday looming next month, the World’s Most Beautiful Boys are busier and faster than ever. They’re nonstop perpetual motion machines, just like their father was at this age.
On the first full day of our visit, the temps in Newark, Ohio, soared to 85 degrees. Our rental featured a lovely fenced backyard, so Derek bought the boys a T-ball set, and we spent lots of time playing outside.
This brings me to something else I’d forgotten about toddlers: they put everything in their mouths–including handfuls of dirt. We found they’d drop the dirt when offered a more healthful option, like frozen fruit bars.
We enjoyed several firsts with the twins, including eating outdoors at the neighborhood Dairy Queen, and a visit to a park with baby swings and big kid slides. The boys enjoyed the swings and the smaller slides, but it didn’t take long until Adam was scampering up the ladder to the tallest slide.
Derek and I no longer scamper, so with their sister Farrah’s help, we rounded them up and headed for home before my hair turned any grayer.
They enjoyed their first visit to a pet store, pressing their noses against the fish tanks, and chattering back at the birds. Sadly, it was nap time for the kittens. It’s probably just as well that they were asleep, because I’m not allowed to have any more cats, and I don’t think unauthorized pet purchases would endear me to the twins’ parents.
Jumbo-size crayons and sketch pads proved a safer purchase, but one that still required vigilant supervision. (See toddlers put everything in their mouths note above.)
Despite their amazing energy and boundless curiosity, both boys still enjoy cuddling and being read to, which makes this Nana’s heart soar. It makes Papa Derek happy too because if one of the boys nods off while cuddling, Papa can nap right along.
We packed in all the adventure and affection we could because we won’t be able to visit again until spring. By then Adam and Nick will be well into the Terrific Twos (there is nothing terrible about my grandsons) and we can’t wait to see what excitement and escapades their second year will hold.
Because that’s one thing I haven’t forgotten about toddlers – they soak up love and return it effusively – provided you can catch them.
I am absolutely not going to tell you how many years ago I took English 101.
For one thing, I’m not good at math – something my college transcript verifies. For another thing, it was a really long time ago. How long ago? Well, let’s just say all of my essays were handwritten. In cursive. In pen. No, not with quill and ink.
Memories of that class were triggered when our youngest son headed out the door to Eastern Washington University last week. He’s not taking 101 – he’s teaching it.
Sam is in the final year of his graduate degree and is a composition instructor in the English Graduate Student Assistantship Program. His 22nd birthday was Friday, but he’s already teaching a class of 24 students.
He’s relishing his new role, and I’m sure his students will benefit from his enthusiasm. For many of them, English 101 will be just another required class to get out of the way, but perhaps for some the class will trigger a desire to learn more about writing.
That’s exactly what happened to me at Spokane Falls Community College.
At 18, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. The career aptitude tests I took my senior year of high school pointed me toward fashion merchandising. I’m pretty sure that’s just a fancy way to say retail sales clerk, but I could be wrong.
Dad said college would be a better place to discover my aptitudes and paid for my first quarter at SFCC. I’d been the editor of our school newspaper and co-editor of the yearbook, so English classes didn’t scare me. I was far more terrified of classes involving math – a justified fear as evidenced in the above-mentioned transcripts.
I’m sorry to say, I don’t remember the name of my English 101 instructor. I do remember he was also the tennis coach and often wore his tennis whites to class. Maybe fashion merchandising should have been my thing, after all.
Yet, he’s the one who lit the spark of interest – who first made me wonder if perhaps writing was something I could actually be good at. To be sure, 101 is the most basic of college classes. Students typically learn the different stages of writing: gathering material, drafting ideas, revising drafts, editing and proofreading.
Sitting on my desk is one of the first essays I wrote for that class. The title? “From Duckling to Swan,” in which I related my middle school to high school transformation.
Honestly, reading it now is cringe-inducing, but I’ve saved it all these years because of the comment the instructor wrote in pencil on the title page.
“An essay like this can keep you afloat in the pond of 101.”
When that paper landed on my desk, after he first read it to the class, it was an a-ha moment for me. I thought, “This is it! This is what I want to do. I want to write and I want people to read what I’ve written.”
And here we are.
Now, it’s Sam’s turn to make a difference.
Who knows? Maybe someday a writer will sit down to pen a newspaper column or write a book, and remember an English 101 class at EWU, and the instructor who encouraged her to believe that she had a way with words. And perhaps that teacher’s name will be Sam Hval.
In my previous column, I wondered if a love of literacy was hardwired in our family DNA. All four of my sons are book lovers like me. I invited readers to share their bookish memories, and it seems that many of you also caught the reading bug young and have no desire to be cured.
Christy Himmelright of the Tri-Cities wrote “I have all the Little Golden Books that my parents bought and read to me. My very favorite was ‘All Aboard!’ about a train trip from home to see Grandma. The protagonist was a girl, and that was almost impossible to find in any adventure story. Also, it appeared that she was an only child (as I am), so identifying with her happened on a very personal level.”
Like me, Himmelright eagerly anticipated trips to the library.
“The best time was summer vacation when I could go to our little town library and check out the maximum number of books that I could read in two weeks. It seems that I was trudging back there often before the two weeks were up and loading up again with the next selection. I also participated in the summer reading contests, and clearly remember the ‘trail’ that wound through the Reading Forest. It started at the checkout desk and meandered along the top of the walls that showed above the box shelves. To go each time I went into the library and find my marker as it moved along the trail was a thrill that I still feel in my long-ago child’s heart.”
Her lifelong love of the written word endures.
“To this day, I have at least two or three books at my living room chair-side, and one on my nightstand for bedtime relaxation,” she wrote. “I cannot imagine life without books, especially the real ones of paper and binding and covers.”
Patricia Garvin of Spokane recalled the magical moment when words came alive for her.
“In 1948, I was in the first grade. We students had a workbook in which there was a story; we were to remove the pages, which folded on dotted lines, into a small booklet. I vividly recall sitting next to my mother and reading the story to her. I still see the line drawings and remember reading to her, ‘…and down the hill came Wee Woman.’ She was as delighted as I!”
Beverly Gibb of Spokane still has a copy of the first book she remembers her mother reading to her.
“My first reading experience was Mom reading me ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ We both loved Piglet the best,” she wrote. “My favorite books were ‘Anne of Green Gables.’ I’m guessing your boys didn’t read those!”
She guessed correctly. My sons didn’t embrace Anne, but on Christmas morning a couple of years ago, my oldest gave me the complete “Anne of Green Gables” collection. He knows how to delight his mama.
Sometimes literature love leads to book-custody issues. That’s what happened to Bernadette Powers of Helena.
She recalled parents joining the Weekly Readers Book Club, which delivered books directly to their door.
“I was in hog heaven getting books in the mail. I still have most of them including my all-time favorite, ‘Half Magic’ by Edward Eager,” she wrote. “The story is delightful and the illustrations are amazing. It also became a favorite of my son, Gannon. He appropriated it when he went off to college. When I went to visit him I appropriated it back. We’ve been stealing it back and forth ever since. He moved from Seattle to California a few years ago. There’s a small part of me that suspects he made the move so it would be harder for me to steal my book.”
Joan Becker, who grew up in Spokane, wrote of her eagerness to start first grade, so she could learn to read. Her best friend was a year older and would read comics to her as long as they were getting along, but if they disagreed? No more comics for Joan.
When she could decipher words by herself, the material the school provided proved disappointing.
“Dick and Jane stories comprised the love and hate relationship of others selecting my reading agenda,” she wrote. “After Dick and Jane made their debut, their interactions were way too repetitive to be captivating. I couldn’t wait to purchase my own comic books and go to the library.”
All who responded still retain their passion for the written word.
“As my 90th birthday approaches, I remember as a 9- or 10- year- old growing up in Capitol Hill in Seattle, going on the bus by myself downtown to the library. In those days there were no branch libraries, and it also seemed OK for a little girl to go alone on the bus,” wrote Muriel Rubens. “My parents read to me as I was growing up, as did my two older brothers and sister. I learned to read at an early age, and I loved it and haven’t stopped since,”
As I write, my suitcase sits open beside me. I’m packing for a trip to Ohio to see my twin grandsons, aka “The World’s Most Beautiful Boys.”
My husband glanced at the mound of stuff I intend to pack. Board books for the boys and a paperback for their big sister lay scattered among clothes. My own stack of reading material teetered nearby.
“You’re never going to fit all that in your suitcase,” he said.
He may be right.
However, one thing is certain, even if I have to wear the same outfit every day for a week; the books are coming with me.
“Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss opens across Alex’s lap. He beams because he’s the designated reader. Ethan clutches 6-week-old Sam. Ethan smiles because he’s the chosen baby-holder. With neither baby nor book to hold, Zach sits glumly chin in hand, pondering his new role as middle child.
As far as I can tell, it’s the earliest picture with all four of our sons together – and of course, someone is holding a book.
Lest you worry about Zach, another snapshot shows he’s finally achieved story-reader status. A toddler Sam leans against him as Zach reads, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Bookish moms tend to have bookish kids, which led to unforeseen consequences. More on that later.
Perhaps a love of reading is genetic, imprinted in our DNA. All I know is my parents were readers and my siblings are readers. As soon as we could print our names we all got library cards.
I still remember the thrilling moment when I realized I could read. I huddled in the children’s area of the South Hill Library with a picture book in my lap. Suddenly, the letters became words. I was reading! I was reading “Fun with Dick and Jane!” I haven’t been without a book nearby since.
Few things are as magical as picking up a good book and finding yourself transported to another world, another time, another life.
From the moment I knew I was expecting, I read to my unborn children. I wasn’t hoping for a baby Einstein, I just wanted them to learn the rhythm and flow of language.
Cloth books and board books filled our nursery – as indispensable as the stacks of diapers and wipes on the changing table.
Bedtime rituals always included stories, songs and prayers – each offering a different experience of the wonder of words.
As the boys grew, storytime at the Shadle and later Indian Trail libraries became a weekly outing we all eagerly anticipated. Soon my sons could sound out words, choose books by themselves, and discover favorite authors and series independently.
Even as the three oldest approached adolescence and outgrew the bedtime ritual, I’d frequently read aloud to them after dinner. When Sam discovered Patricia Polacco books and brought home “Pink and Say” from the school library, I read it to the family. The book is based on a true story of two teenage boys, one Black and one white, who fought during the Civil War. Every single one of us cried at the ending – even the teenagers.
That’s the power of reading aloud – it offers a shared experience that television and movies cannot replicate.
Often the boys would read to me, especially Ethan and Sam. In fact, Sam 21, and I recently read “A Monster Calls” aloud together as he prepared a lesson plan on the book for a college class. He loves literature so much; he’s halfway through earning a master’s degree in English at EWU.
All of our adult sons are readers, which resulted in the aforementioned consequences – they tell me about books they’ve enjoyed and loan them to me. Now, a stack of their recommendations teeters next to my pile of library books.
When I mentioned I wanted to read “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell, Ethan said, “I have it. You can borrow it.”
Zach read a book about modern media he thought I’d enjoy and brought it over. Derek started reading it before I got to it.
Sam buys books like the printed page might grow obsolete. My son-stack grew when he added another book by Patrick Ness, the author of “A Monster Calls,” and a book of short stories by Ted Chiang.
With twin toddler sons, Alex doesn’t have much time to read, but he loved Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” so I’m currently 100 pages into the 849-page volume.
I couldn’t have imagined all those Dr. Seuss books ago, that my grown-up sons would aid and abet my reading addiction, but at this rate my to-read stack won’t shrink any time soon. And that’s a consequence I’m happily enjoying.