War Bonds

Seizing serendipity: WWII vet publishes novel

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I was privileged to interview Stan Parks, 92, for this Saturday feature in the Spokesman Review.

Stan Parks, 92, has been many things: sailor, dentist, world traveler, husband, father, grandfather, photographer, sculptor, civic leader. Recently, he added a new title to his resume: author.

In March he published his first novel, “Jakob’s Ladies,” through Gray Dog Press.

Tackling new projects is second nature to Parks, who also serves as president of the Spokane Downtown Kiwanis Club.

“I retired in 1982,” he said. Then he grinned. “But I didn’t really retire.”

 “Serendipity” is a word he uses often to describe the many opportunities he’s been able to embrace during his lifetime.

Born and raised in Chicago, Parks left his studies at Loyola University to join the Navy in 1942.

“Well, they let me finish my year at Loyola because I was part of the V-12 program,” he said.

The V-12 program was designed to supplement the force of commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

The newly commissioned lieutenant junior grade was assigned to the USS LST-53, a tank landing ship, recently returned from the invasion of Normandy. Parks and his crew and were sent to the Pacific theater.

“When the war ended we were given the job of returning occupied troops to Japan,” he recalled. “I saw quite a bit of Japan. We picked up Japanese from outlying islands and brought them home so they could rebuild the country.”

After the war, he resumed his studies at Loyola. One evening a friend invited Parks to join him and his wife for dinner. Unbeknownst to Parks, he wasn’t the only guest.

“Serendipity,” he said, smiling. “I chatted with my friend for awhile and then his wife called us into dinner. I walked into the dining room and saw this beautiful young lady. Her name was Eleanor, but I called her Norie.”

More than six decades have passed since that fateful meeting, but his eyes still light up at the mention of her name.

“We married on Dec. 28, 1947,” he said.

They settled in Aurora where Parks established a thriving dental practice and where they raised their four children.

In 1978, he visited Guatemala, volunteering his time to provide dental services at a medical mission run by the Benedictines. The trip proved eye-opening for Parks, who mostly cared for the students at the mission school.

“They had absolutely nothing,” he said. “No dental care at all.”

He knew he’d have to return, which he did almost every year until 2004. With other dentists, he established a modern dental clinic, complete with everything they’d need to care for patients.

“The office is still there,” said Parks. “And dentists still go.”

When asked why he returned to Guatemala so many times he replied, “The satisfaction of helping those people. You can’t believe how little they had.”

After 32 years, Parks retired and he and Norie moved to Fort Meyers, Florida. His retirement from dentistry allowed him to pursue other passions.

“I did a lot of acting,” he said. “My wife and I joined the Peninsula Players. I really enjoyed it. My wife was a great actress.”

And there were the boats. The Norie 1, 2 and 3.

“They got bigger each time,” Parks said, laughing. “We spent a lot of time in the Bahamas, living on the boat.”

When their son moved to Spokane, Parks and his wife enjoyed visiting the area so much, they purchased a condo so they could spend more time here.

He’s always had an artist’s eye; framed photographs he’s taken throughout the years line the walls of his South Hill home. But he also likes to work with his hands, so when an opportunity to take a sculpting class from Sister Paula Turnbull came, he seized it.

“Talk about serendipity,” he said, pointing to several busts that he created under her tutelage.

One of those pieces is a bas relief featuring the face of his beloved Norie, who died five years ago.

Tears fill his eyes when he says her name.

“We were married 63 years. She was fabulous. As gorgeous as she was physically, she was that way on the inside, too. It’s hard without her.”

After her death, he moved to Spokane permanently to be near his son.

He went to see Turnbull upon his return to find out if she was offering more classes.

“She said she was too busy to teach, but she said I could work in her studio,” said Parks. “I loved it.”

When he heard about a writing class at the Sinto Senior Activity Center he decided to take it. He’d already penned his memoir.

“Well, it’s not really finished,” he said.

But he wanted to try his hand at fiction.

“If you don’t know how to do something, you can learn! It sharpens your mind.”

With encouragement from his writing group, he wrote “Jakob’s Ladies,” a historical novel set in 1895, about a dentist who goes out west to Sheridan, Wyoming, to launch his practice.

Parks did quite a bit of research, even traveling to Sheridan.

“I was in love with my characters. When one of them died – that was the hardest part to write.”

The book is dedicated to Norie, “My lady, my first mate, my only mate.”

He’s pondering a sequel, but he has plenty to keep him busy. He’s always been part of civic groups, so his leadership of the Downtown Kiwanis is a good fit.

“I can’t become a philanthropist and give away a fortune, but I can join a club like Kiwanis and give away pretty big chunks of money.”

At 92, he’s not resting on any laurels.

“There’s so much to be done and so many opportunities to do it,” said Parks. “I need 100 more years to do all the things I want to do.”

War Bonds

The Power of Gratitude

I read a quote from Yoko Ono this morning that’s lingering in my mind. Speaking about her life with John Lennon, she said, “We just accepted what was there for us and lived in grace and appreciation.”

Appreciation. Thankfulness. Gratitude. Powerful words that have the ability to transform our lives.

My story A Wedding and Funeral has been included in the recently released book, Chicken Soup the Soul: The Power of Gratitude.

The story chronicles a memorable day in which my husband and I attended the funeral of a young man who overdosed on his depression medication; and a wedding for longtime single friend who finally said yes to love.

Most days aren’t filled with such epic events, but every day offers us a chance to breathe in grace and breath out appreciation.

Gratitude. It’s powerful.

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War Bonds

Things no one tells you before you write a book: hazards of grocery shopping

I was hot, sweaty and tired after a long afternoon of writing followed by a brisk three-mile walk, but someone has to buy the groceries for my family and that someone is me.

Wearing my favorite emoticon-covered work-out tank and some scruffy shorts, I hopped into the car. I thought about running a brush through my hair, but it was  windy day. Why bother?
I thought about slapping some make-up on, but why would I do that when I just needed a few things from the store?

You know where this is going don’t you?

While I was selecting some Walla Walla sweet onions, a woman near me said, “I like your shirt.” I smiled and thanked her.

That’s when she said, “Oh my gosh! Are you Cindy Hval? Did you write that book of love stories from World War II?”

When I nodded. She grabbed the guy stocking produce and gushed, “Do you know who this is?” And said some very lovely and kind things about War Bonds.

Of course, the produce guy wanted to know more. And then he said, “Hey! I DO know who you are, I read your column in the Spokesman Review!”

There’s a moral here. There’s a lesson to be learned.

For me it’s this: I can’t go grocery shopping anymore, ever again.
The end.

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War Bonds

Spokane Authors and Self Publishers

Happy to be speaking at the meeting of Spokane Authors and Self Publishers tomorrow, July 7 at 2:30 at The Golden Corral, 7117 N Division St.

I wrote about the group several years ago in a feature for the Spokesman Review. Who knew someday I’d be returning as an author?

Copies of War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation will be available for purchase.

Guests are welcome, so I home to see many local writers tomorrow afternoon!

War Bonds

Inland Northwest Writer’s Guild

Happy to speak about writing, publishing and marketing books at the Inland Northwest Writers’ Guild at 7 PM on Wednesday, 6/15 at Auntie’s Bookstore.

All writers are welcome to attend– especially lightly published and beginning authors!

There’s a punctuation and grammar skills class at 6, for those that want to brush up on their skills and then I’ll be speaking at 7 with plenty of time for Q &A.

Hope to see many fellow scribes!

 

War Bonds

A Bookshelf of Our Own

Running my hands along the spines, I can scarcely believe it– 14 books featuring my stories.

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From the first time a writer picks up a pen or pounds out a story on a keyboard we wonder if it will ever be read by more than just a family member, close friend or teacher. Rarely in love with our own words, we weigh, sift, edit and groan over balky transitions and awkward phrases. We look back at our first stories and they sometimes seem like primitive scratches in the sand.

And if we’re really lucky, we find our tribe– a group of supportive readers and writers, who push us to do better and who ask for more

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And we celebrate their publications, adding their books to our shelves, always leaving room for the next volume.

How wonderful to take a moment and realize no matter how arduous the journey from idea to print, it is possible to achieve out what every writer longs for– a shelf of our own.

War Bonds

The thrill ain’t gone

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Even a year after publication, it’s still a thrill to be asked to sign a stack of books! So grateful readers and booksellers are valuing War Bonds and the stories shared within.

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A recent reading at a local Barnes & Noble prompted a slew of interest and phone calls, so I was delighted to stop in and sign more copies.

As we head into Memorial Day weekend I’m even more conscious of the privilege I’ve had in being allowed to share these stories before they were lost.

I feel like “thankful” should be part of my signature.

War Bonds

Writing from the reservoir

I don’t know any writers who haven’t at one time or another thought, Why am I writing this? Is anyone even going to want to read it?

Whether you write memoir, fiction, essays or poetry, the words are or should be, uniquely yours– your voice, your character’s voice,  your story, their story that you’re trying to tell. And there’s the rub,  the risk of the writing life– you feel compelled to tell a story birthed in the isolation of your own mind and heart and send it out into the universe

While wrestling with the organization of my second book, a collection of essays and columns about life, love and raising sons, I’m getting tripped up, and bogged down with second guessing just about everything from the title to the contents of each chapter.It’s hard to have perspective when you’re writing your own life.

Then I remembered something award-winning author Shawn Vestal said at a recent reading of his debut novel Daredevils. Someone asked if it was difficult for him to write from the perspective of Loretta, a 15-year-old girl.  Vestal replied that it was actually quite freeing and then added, “Really, the only reservoir you have is your own life.”

Yes! Everything from our wildest flights of imagination to our earliest childhood memories, comes from the same reservoir.

Don’t be afraid to drop your bucket down into its depths and pour out what you find.

 

War Bonds

Debut Writers Tell All!

Please join me for this panel during which we will dish about the path to publication.

Admittance is free! Saturday April 16, 2016 1:45pm – 3:00pm
Spokane Convention Center 334 W Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99201

During 2015, six female authors in Spokane launched their debut books, leading to the obvious question, What’s in the water? The group was profiled in the Inlander, each with different perspectives on how their book came to be published. During Get Lit!, they will discuss their rising success in publishing, from getting an agent to editing their manuscripts to promoting their books. Sharma Shields explores the mystical side of the Pacific Northwest as she follows her protagonist’s obsession to find Bigfoot in The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac. In War Bonds, Cindy Hval, a columnist for The Spokesman Review, tells the often overlooked stories of couples and their romances during World War II. Stephanie Oakes, author of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, crafts the poetic tale of a young girl coming to terms with her dark past in the Kevinian cult, which cost not only years of her life but also her hands. S.M. Hulse gives hope to graduate students in her MFA-thesis-turned-novel Black River, a modern-day Western set against past violence in its characters’ lives. In the young adult novel You and Me and Him, Kris Dinnison explores the bonds of friendship as two characters struggle to maintain their relationship while interested in the same guy. This panel will be moderated by Chey Scott, writer and listings editor for the Inlander.

GetLit