Wednesday, May 31, 2023

An Interview with Ohio Author & Illustrator Sandra Russell

 


An Interview with Ohio Author & Illustrator Sandra Russell

From southeastern Ohio, Sandra Russell writes of personal experiences, local venues, and more. Her new book Some of Us Are Ghosts explores the possibility that there are some among us who exist but are really not living to their fullest potential. Sandra, an accomplished artist, illustrates beautiful scenarios that correspond with her thoughtful poem.

Besides being an artist and acting in the local theatre group, Sandra is an engaging storyteller. Her wit, whimsy, and total serendipity will keep you entertained.

Welcome, Sandra!

GM: What is the premise for your new book Some of Us Are Ghosts?

SR: The book is meant to suggest we are all living a bit of a 'half-life' in one way or another a good deal of the time. We imagine what we would like to see in our lives, but seldom find an experience to match our expectations. Still we continue to live each day, and have new perspectives and new wishes, and may find ourselves in a life that is even better than our plans. So like the bird that flies between the stanzas of the poem between the pauses and punctuations of our experiences, our spirit continues to fly. In that way; the 'ghost' of us is the part of us that is always with us, is in fact always our self.

GM: It's an engaging poem with beautiful illustrations. What would you like readers to take away from your story?

SR: To keep going...reflect on what worked and what didn't. Find the light in the dark roads, don't murmur the songs of the living, sing out. Be present in the moment and don't wait for life to come to you, be more fully engaged in each day. Don't just stop and smell the roses, pick some, put them into a vase, take a photo of it, paint a picture of it; send it to a friend, give to a rest home or hospital ward, or just stick it on a bulletin board?

I guess it's about taking ownership of your own life and not letting losses become tomorrow's expectation even if there is no guarantee, keep going more boldly.

GM: Your illustrations capture the gist of the poem so well. What are you currently writing, reading, and/or illustrating?

SR:I have been making masks for a puppet show for a community theater event, and am designing some cookies for a play reading in June Lion in Winter still working on a crown that will serve as a set decoration for the reading. I have been reading about quilts and symbols for the "Underground Railroad" hoping to write about some of the local involvement there, that's more or less a study at this point. I recently purchased a number of artist's biographies to deepen my appreciation of their work and historic times.. So many things going on with ceramic sculpture sketches and painting projects too numerous to get them all done, but working on them all.

GM: Describe your workspace and where you like to work...

SR:I like to work from home for the most part, that way I can take breaks or not as the need strikes. I do like to write though when traveling. I get ideas when I'm moving through space, have to pull over sometimes if I'm driving to write things down. A train is the best. I love writing on a train, when Amtrack ran through Athens I would buy a ticket for Cincinnati or Washington D.C. to write my term papers...I also like to sit under a tree on a hill...just depends?

GM: Do you have a muse (maybe a cat?) or other prompt that motivates your creativity?

SR: Not really a muse, I am motivated by admiration. If I see a beautiful thing, or listen to a song that is just the right song for that moment. It can fire up an idea. Also, if I think of an artist or writer I admire, I do use some image or thought of their work as a guide...not to copy what they did, but to say, dang, I want to do something grand like that thing they did. Some characters are admirable for what they stand for in my mind, writers I grew up with, like Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, or Agatha Christie. Illustrators like Arthur Rackham, and many more. I like the early 20th C, it inspires me.

GM: What advice do you have for novice writers and those wanting to write their first poem/story? 

SR: I believe that everyone in a story needs to be in that story (don't use people, animals, characters as filler). I think every person in a story supports the story in some way or they shouldn't be there.  Avoid the temptation to clutter a scene with too many distractions.. That poems are like drums, they have rhythm, they are like songs, they have a melody....write your words, then walk and talk them til the pattern starts to happen, play with the pattern, til the melody comes up, maybe do it with a friend...there will be adjustments probably, but let it be what it is, don't question it too hard at the beginning or you won't find it...write all of it down, read it out loud, have someone else read it out loud and listen...that's my advice.

Connect with Sandra

Barnes & Noble Some of Us Are Ghosts

Sandra’s Bio:

Sandra Russell was born on a dreary rainy December afternoon in the parlor of a farmhouse midway between Athens and Albany Ohio. She started drawing at a young age when her grandmother, a painter herself, gave her charcoal and paints. Sandra holds a BFA in sculpture and painting and a master’s degree in art history from Ohio University. Professional work includes a wax pattern maker for monumental bronze sculptures, and for gold jewelry manufacture. Sandra was chief porcelain painter for Lee Middleton. She recently has been active as parade puppet designer (paper mâché) seen in festival parades and in the recent past given much time to theater work, as a set designer, props master, and performer with local community theater groups. Sandra lives in Southeast Ohio and is the mother of a pharmacist, actress, sculptor, painter, named Chloe.

From the back of the book:

One October night Sandra Russell was driving on a country road, headed for town to meet a friend who was performing at a local nightclub. There was a breeze blowing the treetops and strands of shifting fog low to the ground. Just as she crested a big hill, she saw below what looked like a specter, someone in white. Maybe someone dancing? As the car slowed, she realized it was just a neighbor in a long nightgown, picking up her mail from across the road. When she arrived at the nightclub, she sat at a table near the stage. The energy of the crowd reminded her of how some people seemed so full of life while others were just blanks, like empty jars on a shelf. Suddenly the poem came to her. Sandra asked the waitress for something to write with. With the help of a blue crayon and paper napkins, Sandra wrote Some of Us Are Ghosts. The author entertains the reader through ethereal illustrations, painted less with a brush and more with a diving rod that opens the mystic well of imagination.




Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Tony the Pony: A Short Story by Ohio Author John Williams

 

Tony the Pony

A Short Story by Ohio Author John Williams 

Most people who write about horses have a love affair with the animal that they say gives their lives fulfillment. Mine is not about a horse but a pony and he did not fulfill the life of this individual. I was a young boy when Tony came to my home. We were a family of little wealth but my father must have thought a working animal could make any farming chores easier. So one gloomy day he led Tony from, who knows where, into our driveway. It wasn’t delivered by truck or trailer but by foot. History seems to indicate it was many miles they walked. Tony was a coal mine pony that pulled coal cars and his age indicated he was not a colt. He also seemed neglected as it’s hooves hadn’t been taken care of and turned up really bad.

An incident with Tony happened shortly after his arrival. This story wasn’t yesterday but over seventy years ago. Our family was sucked into the latest rage; Television. Sunday mornings I watched the Golden West Theater movies and saw cowboys and Indians leap onto the backs of horses and ride away. This new pony was put in a small pen that had a shed with an opening just high enough to get out of the rain or sun. I knew zero about what makes a pony do anything you would like it to do but I saw Indians ride bareback so I knew I could too.
The day Tony came into our lives I noticed him walking into and out of the shed checking out his new surroundings. I saw my chance. I climbed on top the shed roof and took up my spot just over the opening. As Tony walked out of the shed I leaped onto his back. Three quick loops around the lot and I was still on top. I was thinking this cowboy stuff was easy when Tony headed for the shed. I realized then that there was a slight misjudgment on my part. I was soon dangling from the roof of the shed. Tony was also a biter. His quickness caught me off guard a few weeks later as he got my hand between his teeth. He never clamped down really hard but he wasn’t about to let go either. We stood face to face for the longest time. We development an agreement but Tony did nothing to fulfill my life or make it “Worth going back.”  

John Williams is the author of Worth Going Back: A Memoir of Alaska.


Monday, May 29, 2023

An Interview with Ohio Author Jerry Snider

An Interview with Ohio Author Jerry Snider

Residing in Lithopolis, Ohio USA, Jerry Snider is the author of Buddy Bloom Wildflower, a children’s book about life. I first met Jerry at the Fairfield County Library, Lancaster. He is a member of the local writer’s group. His endearing book is quality reading for all ages.

From Jerry’s bio, “The first class I registered for at Ohio University was Creative Writing. It was also the first class I failed. In fact, the school had to raise tuition just to cover the cost of all the red markers the instructor was using to correct my essays. But that embarrassment didn't stop me from believing I had talent. A year later I earned a B- in that same class with the same teacher. In time, I earned a degree in communication. 

What followed was a less than stellar career with the federal government. All the while believing I was destined to be called an author, I studied joke writing, screenwriting, short story writing, play writing, and novel writing. I joined writer's groups and participated in workshops.  And I returned to my Alma Mater to take part in classes offered free to the over sixties crowd.

Working, playing, and learning with students slightly younger than my children and slightly older than my grandchildren, I put the finishing touches on Buddy Bloom Wildflower, A Tale of Struggle and Celebration. Written for children ages 8 to 80, it's my biography in kid form. With the goal of creating hope and laughter; the book is a tribute to great friends, gifted teachers, and inspiring role models.”

Welcome, Jerry!

GM: What is the premise for your book Buddy Bloom Wildflower?

JS: Buddy is a seed in a package with other seeds. Waiting to be planted, they look forward to fresh air and gentle rain to help them grow. A storm rips open the package and the seeds are scattered everywhere. Buddy is alone and doesn't know what to do. In time he gets help from George the Ant, Ken the Turtle, and Sadie the Butterfly. They help Buddy find his way and purpose for being a wildflower.

GM: It's an endearing story of Buddy Bloom, a flower seed, trying to find his place. His journey is complex, but simple, with many life lessons. What would you like readers to take away from your story?

JS: The value of struggle, the joy of friendship, and the celebration of life.

GM: The illustrator, Karen Ross Ohlinger, captures Buddy Bloom so well. Was the illustrator given freedom to create, or did you manage the illustrations? What was the process?

JS: She did a great job. I gave her the story and a few suggestions about the clown and the ladybug. Other than that she had the freedom to create her vision. Her goal was for the reader to just look at the pictures and be able to follow the storyline.

GM: What other books have you written?

JS: I've had an essay appear in a devotional for runners, a story in Chicken Soup for the Father Daughter Soul, and another essay in a book called Dear Napoleon about the influence of the classic Think and Grow Rich. I have a blog called The Art of Becoming a Wildflower on my website www.buddybloomwildflower.com. I self-published a short devotional book many years ago titled Going the Distance 

GM: Where is your favorite place to write?

JS: Everywhere! By that I mean I always carry a pen and paper to capture ideas. The final destination is the keyboard at my desk. 

GM: Do you have a muse or other prompt that motivates your creativity?

JS: My wife is my number one muse. She recently decided to raise chickens in our backyard. She sent me to the library to get some books on the subject. I told her it was a waste of time because chickens can't read. I got the books anyway and to make a long story short, she feeds the chickens and at night I read to them. Other ideas coming from life events, a good quote or joke, an encounter with a friend or foe, a childhood memory. The children at the school where I work. The point is ideas are everywhere if you’re looking for them. 

GM: What are you currently writing?

JS: I'm excited about a book I'm calling Rookie in Running Shoes (A Book of Wisdom and Folly). It's a collection of 500 word essays about the things I'm learning in the classroom called Life. Very similar to those Chicken Soup for the Soul books - the difference is the stories are all personal to me.

GM: What advice do you have for novice writers and those looking to write their first manuscript?

JS: Always number one is have fun. If you're not having a good time, it will show in your work. Set a time to write, stick to it, take some classes, join a writer’s group where you'll make friends and get encouragement. And Believe in yourself. The world is waiting. As a wise man once said, "Your life is God's gift to you and what you do with it is your gift to God."

Connect with Jerry…

https://www.buddybloomwildflower.com/

Amazon

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

May 2023 Featured Ohio Author Sandra Russell

 

Featured Author

Sandra Russell


Some of Us Are Ghosts


Amazon


Barnes & Noble


From the Back Cover:

One October night Sandra Russell was driving on a country road, headed for town to meet a friend who was performing at a local nightclub. There was a breeze blowing the treetops and strands of shifting fog low to the ground. Just as she crested a big hill, she saw below what looked like a specter, someone in white. Maybe someone dancing? As the car slowed, she realized it was just a neighbor in a long nightgown, picking up her mail from across the road. When she arrived at the nightclub, she sat at a table near the stage. The energy of the crowd reminded her of how some people seemed so full of life while others were just blanks, like empty jars on a shelf. Suddenly the poem came to her. Sandra asked the waitress for something to write with. With the help of a blue crayon and paper napkins, Sandra wrote Some of us are Ghosts. The author entertains the reader through ethereal illustrations, painted less with a brush and more with a divining rod that opens the mystic well of imagination.


Riding & Writing Stories & Art by Sandra Russell



Monday, May 15, 2023

Milliron Monday: There's No Time for Loneliness

Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"...a lonesome person is a lazy person."
―  Virginia "Meme" Haley

From the March 6, 1987 edition of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a story of Jody's mother, Virginia, written by Amy Truxton:

There's No Time for Loneliness With Cuddles, Cutie in Her Life 


Virginia Haley's cure for loneliness comes in the form of two pathetic-looking pooches with no teeth or lower jaws, and little hair.
    Caring for the couple of old Yorkshire terriers keeps the 81-year-old Haley too busy.
    "How can I be lonely with this?" the Venice East resident asked as she sat on her living room floor, hand-feeding Cuddles and Cutie.
    Their tongues hang out because of their missing mandibles, and before Haley feeds them she spreads paper napkins as tablecloths. She puts morsels of warmed dog food-hamburger-egg mixture into their mouths until a whole can is gone. She feeds them at least once a day; twice a day she squirts a liquid B-complex formula into their mouths with syringes.
    "These two dogs are family," she said. "Everyone over 60 who is lonely should have a dog. It would give them something to do so they wouldn't worry about themselves."
    "Handicapped" pets, rather than more frisky animals that might run off, are perfect for the elderly, Haley said.
    "People ask, 'How do you spend so much time with them?'" said Haley, who estimates it takes 45 minutes to feed the dogs, not to mention the time she takes to accompany them outdoors for sun. "What else do I have to do?"
    Besides, Haley loves her companions. "My friends say, 'How can you stand to look at that?'" she said, holding up Cuddles, who has three legs, no tail and just a tuft of hair on a bony head. "When you love them, you love them."
    Haley, who was widowed in 1984 after being married for 55 years, has had Cuddles for seven years. Her son-in-law, a veterinarian in Ohio, gave her the dog, which had been brought to his office to be put to sleep.
    Her son-in-law thinks Cuddles lost one of her legs when someone stepped on it. Neither he nor Haley are sure how old Cuddles is.
    Cutie, also known as "the Waif," joined the family in December. Two boys found her in Nokomis and took her to Dr. Craig Moore's veterinary office. Pat Miller, a receptionist and technician, introduced Cutie when Haley brought Cuddles in for a checkup. "She (Haley) absolutely fell in love with her," Miller said. "If it has 10 hairs on it, it was a miracle."
    The next day, Haley returned with a blanket to take Cutie home, Miller said. "She's a wonderful, marvelous lady," she added.
    Haley kept Cutie while Moore tried to find her owner. No one claimed her, and now Haley is attached to the dog. "I want to find out more about her, like her name," Haley said. "But there's no way they can have her back."
    Moore thinks Cutie is about 13 years old, Haley said. He also thinks she has arthritis in one hind leg. "My son says Cutie walks just like a little old man," she said. "And my daughter says hers is the longest tongue she's seen. It hangs down clear to her chest."
    Haley marvels at how she's ended up with two Yorkshire terriers that look so much alike. She said poor nutrition probably caused them to lose their teeth and lower jaws. Cutie used to be bald like Cuddles, but has recently developed a scruffy coat of black and gray hair.
    Cuddles, a tan miniature terrier, shivers a lot because she lacks a coat. Haley keeps her wrapped in a wool blanket. Both dogs have soft beds.
    Haley believes a "lonesome person is a lazy person," so she stays active. For instance, there's Candlelight Dining at Venice High School, sponsored by the Senior Friendship Centers of Sarasota County. Not only does Haley dine with others, but she often serves food and carries trays. She also provides transportation for some participants.
    Candlelight regulars know Haley as "The Bell Lady" because she gives them knitted bells each Christmas.
    Haley regularly drives to Ohio to visit her son and daughter, and spends part of each year in North Carolina. Cuddles goes, too, traveling in a special car seat. "Now I'm going to have two babies with me," she said. "They're just like children."


  
Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.

  

 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Milliron Monday: Remembering Jody

 

Jody and StarBoy circa 1958

Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"Upon the horse, the girl was lost in a pounding, surging beat not felt upon her own two feet."
― Bethanne Ragaglia

It was a soggy day, rain pounded the barn roof. Jody and I were having our weekly meeting, sorting through old newspaper clippings and photos from her canvas bag. She was talking, talking, then... I looked up and she was crying. I had never seen Jody cry. Deep sobs and dripping tears were unexpected. Jody was always steadfast and to the point.  

At first, I didn't know why she was crying, but then I saw the faded picture in her trembling hand. It was StarBoy, her beloved gelding. Not knowing what to say, I cried, too. 

If you are a woman who was raised by a horse, you know the bond is real, tight, unbreakable, and "higher than soul can hope or mind can hide."

That moment was important. Jody inspired me to be still; quiet times with friends are the loudest. 

Today we remember Jody on the anniversary of her passing (May 9, 2021). We each remember Jody - like looking at a round column, encircled by family and friends, each one has their own view, each one has their own memories. Take a moment and lift Jody in prayer. Remember what she meant to you; how she inspired your life.  


[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                                     i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

~  ~ 

  
Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.

  

 

Sunday, May 7, 2023

NUBS: A Horse Story by Mark M. Dean

 


Over the years, if you were to ask me what my relationship was with my horses, you would have gotten many different answers. On this blossoming beautiful spring morning, my one-word answer would be “Spiritual”.  

Let me explain a bit. I consider myself somewhat of a novice poet, having recently published my first book, dedicating several poems to those beasts of burden; the ones we love, the ones we nurture, ride, brush, confide in, hate to pay for but would spend anything in the world on them. Yes, those animals who’ll kick you, bite you, nuzzle you when you most need it, fill that hole in your heart, and carry you off into the perfect sunset. Yup, you know what I’m talking about.

So, a few weeks back it was time for Doc to come out for his annual visit to chide me about my “easy keepers”, administer his crazy expensive shots, and float some teeth.  I was dreading his visit like I was the one getting my wolf teeth ground down with that “ginormous” (as my son calls it) drill. But more to the point, I was extremely anxious about what he was going to say after he looked into Gus’ mouth, blinded me with his head lamp, and then delivered the truth.  Which I did not, nor was I willing to hear, about this gorgeous 30 year old red roan, now sleeping on my shoulder like my daughter after a long day at the county fair.

“What’s the deal Doc?”

“Better than I thought.  He’s got some time, but some adjustments will need to be made.”

At that very moment, the wave of raw emotion coursing through my body made me unabashedly realize how much this animal had become a part of me.  A true part of me.  A connection not appreciated on a frigid dark morning, or blistering hot summer days when he needed me. 

That moment was “Spiritual” and one I will never forget.

As Doc’s 2,500 dually pulled away from the barn, the poet in me ran into the house and wrote down the conversation I thought we were going to have and will someday.  And if you’re as blessed as I have been, you too, will have someday.

“Nubs”

© by Mark M. Dean 2023

“Down to the nubs,” he said.

“Damn,” I said.

“Yup, it’s a sad day.”

“Yea, it is,” I gulped.

“End of an era, some would say.”

“Got that right,”  I said.

“I think it’s time.”

“Nubs?”

“Yup, down to the bone,” he breathed.

“I love you Buddy,”  I said forehead to forehead.

“Just let me know.”

“I will, just need a bit more time.”

“I figured,”  he said.

“Down to the nubs?” I asked one last time.

“Yup.”

“Lord give me strength,” I prayed,

“He will,” he said.


Mark M. Dean is an award-winning author, poet, and lyricist from southeastern Ohio USA. Follow Mark on Facebook, Instagram @ mmdean323. For a list of Mark’s books, visit https://mondaycreekpublishing.com/premier-author-mark-m_-dean. To send Mark a message, email mmdean323@gmail.com.


Monday, May 1, 2023

Milliron Monday: The Coverlet

The coverlet photographed in Grandmother Jessie's Mansfield home
 

Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"Security is a thumb and blanket."
― Charles M. Shultz

The 1910 coverlet must have held sentimental value. It's a traditional American jacquard weave with delicate fringe and busy pattern. The photo of the cotton coverlet (below) was one of the first photos I digitized. Then, last week, I found two large photos of Jessie's Mansfield home - one of a bed with the coverlet. 

Why photograph a bedroom? I can only imagine it was to showcase the coverlet. 

Along with the photo of Jessie's bedroom was a photo of her living room parlor. "1910-1911" is written on the back of each photo - I know this is Jessie's house because of the "lamp" and Jody's mother telling the story of how it was the first electric lamp in their neighborhood (Meme's Musings). The oval photos on the wall to the left of the lamp are similar to the photos we found of Jody's ancestors.

What is the story behind the coverlet? I can only speculate the farmhouse primitive's history... it's like piecing a puzzle, sifting through photographs and letters, trying to find origins. There are more letters and photographs to sift through. Maybe I'll find information about the mysterious coverlet. You'll be the first to know if I do.

The mystery of the coverlet; a large black and white photo stored with care.

A 1910 photo of Jessie's Mansfield Ohio living room.

~  ~ 


  
Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.

  

 

Stuff & Nonsense: Introducing Celeste Parsons, Ohio Writer

Greetings from southeastern Ohio! My name is Celeste Parsons, and I live here on a 48-acre former dairy farm with my husband Jim, our Westie...