All Write, Columns

Readers make writer’s job enjoyable

While tidying up end-of-the-year paperwork, I dislodged an overflowing folder from the top of the filing cabinet.

It was my reader feedback folder, filled with printed emails, cards and letters I’ve received from newspaper readers this year.

Sifting through them, I’m amazed anew at how columns pounded out from my windowless, basement home office, find their way to readers across the region and prompt response.

Before COVID-19, I did a fair number of writing workshops and speaking events, and at almost every one I’m asked, “Where do you get the ideas for your column?”

After all these years, I still haven’t found a pithy answer, because writing a personal column is well, pretty personal. That’s why it’s such a joy to find something I’ve written resonates with others.

Thumbing through the notes, I found a response to a column I’d written when I discovered what the phrase “Netflix and Chill” means in contemporary culture.

The note was from Dean, 73, who said, “You rascal, you!”

I’ve never been called a rascal before. It was epic!

An email from Stan, a fellow author, and former teacher, said, “You really know your vowels and consonants.”

I immediately forwarded that one to my editor, whom I’m sure has wondered at times.

A column about anticipation drew this response from Gina, who said, “I do have the feeling of your words in my soul today.”

No writer could wish for more.

Publishing a segment of my quarantine diary prompted a comparison to Erma Bombeck that absolutely thrilled me.

When I bemoaned in print that the shutdown order had limited my wardrobe to gray yoga pants or gray sweatpants, Bob wrote, “I look forward to Thursday’s for your articles. Please don’t ever stop. Stay healthy and wear whatever you want at home.”

I’m confident, Bob would approve of today’s usual deadline attire – a fluffy pink bathrobe and matching bunny slippers.

Sometimes reader mail offers important validation on critical issues. When I wrote of my horror at discovering my husband had used MY MONDAY MUG, Marcia wrote, “By the way, the mug thing made sense to me.”

I forwarded that one to Derek.

He didn’t reply, but he hasn’t used my Monday mug since.

Cards and letters sent to me at the newsroom are now forwarded to me at home.

When I wrote about a benefit of pandemic life was discovering the joy of the newspaper crosswords, a thoughtful reader enclosed a pencil with her card.

An elegant typewritten note on gold-trimmed stationery proved delightful, especially since it was written in response to a column about my cats.

Arlene wrote, “When there is so much sadness in these difficult times, you brightened my day on October 22 with your cleverly written article about Thor and Walter Scott.”

I don’t know if the column was clever, but I do know that my cats are.

Jan sent an email that made me smile.

“Thanks for your column – one of the few items I can BELIEVE IN THE SPOKESMAN!! (caps courtesy of the writer). Hang in there.”

I’m hanging in there, and I hope Jan is, too.

Bombeck once wrote, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

It’s a line I’m privileged to walk twice a month.

In fact, the column that generated the most feedback this year blurred those lines a bit.

I wrote about my first masked, socially distant outdoor visit with my 89-year-old mom. She lives in a retirement facility just blocks from my home, but six months had passed since I’d been able to see her in person.

Readers shared their own stories of being separated from family members during the pandemic.

Bill wrote he’d been apart from his bride of 53 years for 22 weeks.

“If some of my friends read your article, they may now have a better understanding of what I’m experiencing,” he said.

Humans weren’t made to live in isolation. This year more than ever, I value the feedback of faithful newspaper readers.

Thank you for reminding me that even in the midst of a global pandemic, our stories can still connect us.

Here’s to a brighter, better, and healthier New Year.

War Bonds

Impromtu book signing!

A few weeks ago, I got a nice email from a lady in regards to a recent column. I thanked her for her kind note and for taking the time to write to me.

Soon I received another note from her.

“I recently sent you a a brief email thanking you for a particularly good article, and you graciously replied, which made my day!

I was inspired to purchase War Bonds for my 89-year-old mother for Mother’s Day.”

She then asked if it was possible for me to sign the copy for her mom. When I found out the writer lived near the grocery store where I do my weekly shopping, I offered to meet her there and sign the book.

She showed up with a lilac bouquet– my favorite flower.

And that my friends, is how you turn grocery shopping from a chore to a delight.

Never forget, readers make a writer’s world go ’round!

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War Bonds

A visit with a reader in Colorado

Yesterday, I got this note from Casemate Publishers.
“We had a reader call, and she would like to thank you for War Bonds. She was a WWII bride, who recently lost her husband.”
So, I called Gloria in Colorado and we had a lovely visit. She said, “I just finished War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation and I wish it was TWICE as long. It just took me back.”

Like so many War Bonds couples, she and her husband met on a blind date. “When he got back to the barracks that night, he told his buddies, ‘I just met the girl I’m going to marry!'” Gloria recalled.

They married only to spend the first year of their life apart as her husband served overseas. “I loved being an Army wife,” she said.”My husband and I lived through all those things you wrote about.He passed away last month at 95. We had 69 happy years together.”

She thanked me for calling. “I just wanted to tell you how much I loved War Bonds. I can’t wait for your next book.”

I hung up the phone, humbled that she’d enjoyed the book enough to call my publisher and tell them. Conversations like this, from people who lived through WWll are a privlege  I don’t take lightly.

Thank you, Gloria.

War Bonds

Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Connecticut, oh my!

What fun to hear from readers across the United States as copies of War Bonds arrive!

11001726_10203518846031682_9073187678075970162_n[1]Jeri in Illinois.

10989956_10205255922333008_5526708086970131987_n[1]Cis in Idaho

IMG_20150222_151959~2Dean and Betty Ratzman, feaured in chapter 18 “Letters From Home.”

I love receiving photos of folks (or their pets!) with the book.  You can email your pictures to dchval@juno.com, I’d love to hear from you!

In addition, please consider posting your reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Goodreads. In today’s competitive book market positive reviews on the sites above really helps to spread the news!