“Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors” republished in a new anthology from Potomac Books

Fighter pilots.

I’ve written about them often over the years. About their hell-raising good times at the Officers Club, living life to the fullest…on the edge of the envelope at a speed faster than the rest of us.

I’ve written about them at other times, too, when they have slowed down to a snail’s pace. When a hush goes over a squadron of men like a black veil because earth and sky have collided and one of their brothers isn’t coming home. A young wife is widowed, a child left fatherless, an older couple wandering around confused, their future of grandchildren and the good life destroyed in a fireball. “Weren’t we supposed to go first?” they ask.

So when my essay “Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors” first appeared in the pages of Air Force Times, March 16, 1992, I felt a sense of joy mixed with sadness. Joy because I was happy to have another byline in a national publication that treated me like a professional, but the sadness came from the fact that once again I had written about loss­­––the loss of fighter pilots dying in peacetime training missions. This subject would be the driving force behind my debut novel, The Final Salute, first published in 2008.Remembering Forgotten Fliers in AF Times & Red, White & True anthology kathleenmrodgers

Fast-forward twenty-two years later and the republication of my essay in a prestigious new anthology titled “Red, White, & True,” released from Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press. Edited by Tracy Crow, a former Marine Corp officer and an award-winning military journalist and author nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, this provocative and powerful collection presents thirty-two true stories about the enduring impact of U.S. military service from WWII to present. The writers include a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a novelist with a New York Times Notable book award for 2012, and a writer seeing his name in print for the first time.

Today, I take pride in the fact that my story made the final cut as it “passed for review” in front of Tracy Crow and her editors at the University of Nebraska Press. Sometimes my job as a writer is to give a voice to those who are no longer living. In my own small way, I help keep their legacies alive. In Chapter 3 on pages 16 – 20 of “Red, White, & True,” I give a voice to the names of too many good men who flew west before their time.

This collection of powerful true stories would make a great gift.

To order, please visit potomacbooksinc.com or call 800-775-2518

Amazon

Amazon Kindle

Barnes and Noble online and in some bookstores around the country:

 

headlines from anthology and origianlBIO:

Kathleen M. Rodgers is the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA-Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. The novel soared to #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction in 2012 and will be reissued by Deer Hawk Publications July 2014.

Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015.

Besides writing novels, her work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, Family: The Magazine for Military Families, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Albuquerque Journal, Clovis News Journal, Her War Her Voice, Spouse Buzz at Military.com, Women’s Independent Press, and in the following anthologies: “Because I Fly,” McGraw-Hill, “Lessons From Our Children,” Health Communications, Inc., “Stories Of Faith And Courage On The Home Front,” AMG Publishers, “Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand,” Press 53, and “Red, White and True,” Potomac Books, an imprint of University of Nebraska Press.

She is a recipient of a Distinguished Alumna Award from Tarrant County College/NE Campus 2014. She lives in Colleyville, TX with her husband, a retired fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, and their dog, Denton. Her oldest son is a graduate of UNT and resides in Denton, TX with his partner, Brittany McDaniel. Her youngest son graduated from Texas Tech and is deployed to the Middle East.

Kathleen is working on a sequel to Johnnie Come Lately and is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Herod’s Babies

Mary Elizabeth Todd was moved to write “Herod’s Babies” after learning that a woman everyone trusted in the animal rescue world was arrested for ill treatment and neglect.

Herod’s Babies

The stories I heard wretched my heart;

The pictures seared my mind, and

The faces of the survivors scarred my soul.

It is the pictures I see when I close my eyes

Of tiny kitten feet lying in the rooms,

Alone and how their mothers must have hurt for them.

 

I saw the eyes of the mothers who grieved their little ones.

The depth of their loss was so deep

I could not perceive.

I thought of a story I heard- some say it is not true,

These forlorn mother cats and their lost kittens

Reminded me of the baby boys that King Herod killed.

 

King Herod heard that a new king was born;

He could not have that happen.

He sent his men to make sure that it did not occur,

For if this king dies as a toddler or a baby.

He could never be crowned king,

But he forgot about the mothers.

 

Mothers can be fierce when their children

Are at risk. The soldiers did not expect this-

Women obeyed and did what they were told,

But these women fought because they were mothers.

We never hear when the story is told

Of how those mothers had fought.

 

Those mothers whose infant sons were ripped

From their arms, and killed before their eyes.

Mothers who died trying to guard

Their toddler sons from the slicing swords of men.

Men who grew sicker of their task,

And just wanted it to be done.

 

When it was done the soldiers rode from town

With images of mothers weeping over their tiny boys,

Of mothers lying dead beside their infant prince

For in a mother’s heart her son is always her prince.

They reported the job was done but in their heads

The images never went away.

 

It is the images of those kitten feet

And the eyes of their haunted mothers

That stay with me and make me wonder- what went on in that house?

 

Mary Elizabeth Todd

July 1, 2014

 

One of the saddest stories is about Big Boy. He was a big white cat from Greenville County Shelter. He was the staff’s favorite and was a big white hunk of love. The officers there at the house heard noises coming from the underneath the house, and they opened the crawlspace door.  Big Boy walked out and fell down. He died in route to the shelter.

One of the saddest stories is about Big Boy. He was a big white cat from Greenville County Shelter. He was the staff’s favorite and was a big white hunk of love. The officers there at the house heard noises coming from the underneath the house, and they opened the crawlspace door. Big Boy walked out and fell down. He died in route to the shelter.

Mary writes: “On June 19, 2014, the trust we had was shattered. Since she has not been convicted, she allegedly neglected the cats in her care and was arrested and charged with a felony act.  From her house 50 plus dead cats and kittens were removed and 32 were removed alive- four of which died since then. They were starved and had no water. Some were never even removed from the carriers when they were handed over to this woman. The others are now in rescue with various degrees of medical issues. 

I saw these Cats on June 26, 2014 at Anderson County P.A.W.S., the shelter that had them at that time. 

 

There was one mother cat whose eyes haunted me. 

I have seen pictures of her from the shelter. She was a protective mother and had lovely eyes. Now she was battle-scarred and losing one of those lovely eyes but the depth of her sorrow spoke volumes. She had no heart to live for. I believe it was broken.  She died over the weekend. 

Ash Truesdale compiled a massive photo album of these poor creatures rescued from shelters of their photos from the shelter.  There was close to 500 photos from at least 16 shelters over the southeast from approximately April 2013 until June 2014.  One friend had been to what most of us call the house of horrors and took pictures the Sunday after she was arrested with the landlord’s permission. The house and its lovely hardwood floors are ruined. 

It is what I saw in these pictures in almost every room (the deceased cats were removed by this time) that has haunted me: tiny kitten feet. 

Many of the rescued cats have medical issues, and the shelters are full. If anyone wants to help, please send me a private message on Facebook and I will get you information on how you can help.” ~ Mary Elizabeth Todd in Starr, SC.

http://www.examiner.com/article/prominent-anderson-county-animal-advocate-charged-with-ill-treatment-of-animals

Bio:

Mary Elizabeth Todd wrote her first poem when she was ten years old. Her father was also a poet, and she remembers growing up observing him composing and reciting his work. Her poem “Hiding Axes” was published in the Oberon Poetry Journal.  Mary is a retired foster care worker with the Anderson County Department of Social Services. She worked in that capacity for twenty-eight years. A 1974 graduate of Erskine College, she began doing cat rescue work in 2013. She lives in the woods in Starr, South Carolina.

Seven Wings to Glory: My bravest novel yet

 

Display of talismans and symbols for Seven Wings to Glory. I draw inspiration from creating a small still life depicting certain aspects of my novel.

Display of talismans and symbols for Seven Wings to Glory. I draw inspiration from creating a small still life depicting certain aspects of my novel in progress.

The premise:

After sending her youngest son to war in Afghanistan in 2009, Johnnie Kitchen finds herself battling a war of racial injustice in her small hometown of Portion, Texas. Will she back down after being threatened for speaking out? Or will she do the right thing and pursue justice? And will her Army son, who took an oath to protect ALL Americans, return home safely to Portion?

A brief excerpt from Seven Wings to Glory:

“The white goblins in hoods and robes had already vanished, taking their evil laughter with them. They’d done their ugly deed and left Santa Claus dangling from a tree, his charcoal body stripped naked, ‘cept for the furry red Santa hat they left hanging from his head. I peeked through the dry brittle vines from my hiding spot in the woods, too scared to breathe and shaking like a rabid dog. The air smelled of smoke and the promise of snow, but the joy of Christmas was gone. I was covered in my own slime from the snot and tears running down my face.

That’s when I saw them. They flew up out of the water where the town of Glory used to be before the lake came in. Like a dark mist at first, they swirled toward the shore and formed a circle around the body. There were seven of them…I’d just learned to count using my fingers. I cried like a baby when I recognized their faces. They heard me and shushed me ever so gently like Mama had done. Then like a gospel choir, they lifted their sweet voices to the heavens and sang Thurman Blue home.”

Roosevelt Hill, 76, retired truck driver and longtime resident of The Pasture, a neighborhood located on the outskirts of Portion. Mr. Hill is a part-time caretaker of Baby Head Cemetery and lived in Glory as a small child. He was five when he witnessed the lynching.Baby Head Cemetery

 ***

After taking a year off from actively working on a new novel, I finally took the plunge from daydreaming and journaling and started writing scenes. About a week ago, I took out my mechanical pencils and a new legal pad, and I wrote the first sentence of the first scene of the sequel to my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately (forthcoming from Camel Press 2/1/15).

While seated in my favorite reading chair, I scribbled for an hour before I moved into my home office. Surrounded by walls of books and meaningful art in the room where I’ve composed two completed novels and numerous articles for national and local publications, I opened a new document and typed the four words that woke me up in the middle of the night two years ago and demanded I write them down:

Seven Wings to Glory

 

An enjoyable lunch in historic Grapevine, TX this past spring with my agent, Jeanie Loiacono, and my dear friend, Rhonda Revels, turned into an impromptu plotting party for Seven Wings to Glory. The piano plays a role in both novels featuring protagonist Johnnie Kitchen.

An enjoyable lunch in historic Grapevine, TX this past spring with my agent, Jeanie Loiacono, and my dear friend, Rhonda Revels, turned into an impromptu plotting party for Seven Wings to Glory.

Once again I am feeling my way through the story, but this time I already know most of the plot. I’ve never written a sequel before, but I’m upping the stakes and headed into some scary subject matter. At least it’s scary for me because I’m writing about issues that matter to me and keep me up at night. I hope they matter to my readers.

After a week of writing, pacing, discussing plot points with my husband Tom, my agent Jeanie Loiacono, and my dear friends Rhonda Revels and fellow author Drema Berkheimer, I took a deep breath and sent Chapter One to my good friend and beta reader, Bonnie Latino, coauthor of the bestselling and award-winning novel, Your Gift to Me. Bonnie wrote back with a few suggestions and her blessings. She said Chapter One was “compelling.”

Feeling brave, I took one more risk and sent the opening chapter to Joyce Gilmour, my trusted copyeditor and owner of Editing TLC. Here’s the informal text Joyce sent after reading the opening chapter:

“Beautiful start to your new novel. Great introduction to your characters. Way to go setting the reader up for tension. The emotions. The dynamics between characters. Well done.”

To clarify, the excerpt I included above appears later in the book and is not from my opening chapter.

An upright piano similar to the one that plays a role in both novels featuring protagonist Johnnie Kitchen.

An upright piano similar to the one that appears in both novels featuring protagonist Johnnie Kitchen.

Bio:

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and other national and local publications, including several anthologies. Her Air Force Times’ essay, Remembering Forgotten Fliers…Their Survivors, will be republished in the new anthology, Red, White and True, forthcoming August 2014 from University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books. Her debut novel, The Final Salute, has been featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and several other publications. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press Februrary 2015. She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

 

 

 

 

Stories In Uniform: One Editor’s Perspective on Military Short Fiction

Editor Jeffery Hess

Editor Jeffery Hess

I had the pleasure of meeting Jeffery Hess in 2009 at the annual Military Writers Society of America conference in Orlando, FL. Jeff was there to receive a Gold Medal for his anthology of short fiction  Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform published by Press 53. That same year he appeared on The Dennis Miller Show. In 2013, Press 53 released Jeff’s second book Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand. An excerpt from my latest novel Johnnie Come Lately appears in this edition. In the following article, Jeff explains his criteria for selecting the stories that appear in both anthologies. 

 

By Jeffery Hess

cg56 moored bowThe proudest moment of my Navy enlistment came on the morning of December 7, 1989 as I stood in my dress blues on the bow of the USS San Jacinto, looking at the row of other ships pier-side at Norfolk Naval Station. Our ship had only been back a few days from a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Black Seas. I was due to receive my Honorable Discharge the following week and my task that morning was to raise the Union Jack, which I did, as the sailors aboard the other ships did at the same time. All these years later, I’ve never forgotten that moment. It was a routine, daily task, but one that I’d never been assigned until that day. Even then, I knew it was a way of honoring my service while also honoring every sailor at Pearl Harbor forty-eight years earlier.

As I write this, it is June 6, 2014 and I have a similar honor, because as you may know, today happens to be the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. Instead of raising the Union Jack, I’ve been asked to write a few words about how I came to select the stories included in a pair of military-related anthologies. It’s a fitting occasion to discuss all things military, which I’m always happy to do, in a humble effort to honor and remember everyone who has worn a uniform, as well as anyone who has been affected by someone who has.

press 53 logoThat was my hope in publishing the two Home of the Brave anthologies of military short fiction with Press 53.

As a reader, writer, editor, and teacher, some of the most fulfilling work I’ve been lucky enough to have done involves assembling and editing stories for these two anthologies.

Over the years, people have asked why I enjoy sticking to the military theme. For me, it seems the stakes tend to be higher in stories of this sort. Hemingway said, “War is the best subject of all. It groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all kinds of stuff you have to wait a lifetime to get.”

 

2009 Gold Medal Winner from MWSA

2009 Gold Medal Winner from MWSA

I don’t read military journals exclusively, but I do enjoy finding military stories in regular journals and collections. I’m always amazed by the way in which writers interpret the topic.

Writing military fiction, myself, I learned from the stories I read. My stories focus on the Navy, Cold War era, mostly, but as an editor, I was given insight into a world of military experiences I had no way of knowing about first hand. This is another reason people read.

In addition to securing reprint rights to well-known stories by Kurt Vonnegut, Tim O’Brien, James Salter, and Tobias Wolf, I sought out other great stories from writers who aren’t as well known, but should be—writers like Pinckney Benedict, Benjamin Percy, Fred Leebron, Amber Dermont, Tracy Crow, and Court Merrigan, to name a few. But I also worked with up-and-coming writers, some I’ve known for years, many others I’ve never met. For both volumes, I received submissions from all over the country. Not all of them were perfect. Many had potential, but needed polishing. A number of stories I chose needed a lot of work, sometimes, more than I bargained for, but there’s just something magical about the excitement of finding a character in a situation that people need to read, no matter the shape the manuscript might be in, and helping the writer achieve his or her vision and then sharing it with the world.

 

Spring 2014 MWSA Recommended Reading List

Spring 2014 Recommended Reading List from Military Writers Society of America

I put together the second anthology in the aftermath of Seal Team 6’s killing of Osama Bin Laden. There was a lot of “heat of battle” stories flooding in. It seemed battle-front stories were everywhere during this time. But, violence is only one segment of the equation. I’m also curious about the other portions of the conflicts.

Tolstoy famously wrote, “…each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Everyone in uniform has a family and friends and neighbors. I’m interested in a mother’s reaction. In how the wives feel. How new fathers fear what might become of their sons.

During my selection of stories, I recalled favorites I’d read in the past and I contacted the authors to get permission to include their stories, often this involved contacting publishers. I sent emails to every writer I know telling them what I was looking for. Some offered me stories. Others sent people my way. Some did both.

Narrowing the search quickly became an issue. So much material was being generated on this topic, I could pick and choose. My main criteria was based on Interest and Impact.

To gain my Interest, the stories have to convey a sense of authenticity. Whether stories about direct military action or a civilian’s reaction to what they see on the news, I need evidence to prove (or, at least, provide the illusion) that these people and these worlds are absolutely real.

Aristotle said, “For the purposes of story, a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility.”

 

HOTB:SITS launch party in WInston-Salem, NC. Pictured are: Jeffery Hess, Jim Walke, Paul Strobel, Robert Wallace, Tracy Crow, and Joseph Mills.

Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand launch party in WInston-Salem, NC. Pictured are: Jeffery Hess, Jim Walke, Paul Strobel, Robert Wallace, Tracy Crow, and Joseph Mills.

To make an Impact on me, I have to care about the characters. I look for the stakes Hemingway mentioned, as well as how each character deals with their situations. As this is fiction, I willingly grant creative license, because it’s the emotional truth that we’re after. This requires a connection to the characters, their physical, emotional, and intellectual selves.

The stories that received an automatic rejection were the ones that were faked or half-assed.

Ultimately, I looked at how each story made me feel when I finished—if it made me say, Wow, Damn, or Oh no, or if it just left me shrugging and reaching for another one. And, most importantly, did the story make me think about it after I put it down?

The one element I found in common with all the stories I selected is passion. Whether about a wounded warrior or a worried widow, or about a mother or children, or overcoming enemies on either side of the wire, or any of the other scenarios that appear in these stories, each of them separated themselves from a number of stories that lost out due to the writers having a good idea, but not a true passion for the topic. During the process of finding these stories, I came to learn that the passion for the characters and their situations is contagious.

Tell us something, we’ll forget it. Show us something, we’ll see it. Makes us feel something and we’ll remember it.

This approach isn’t limited to stories about military events. The notions of authenticity and specificity make characters memorable no matter if they’re war heroes, gangsters, housewives, siblings, psychopaths, depressed boomers, or a Harry Potter wizard or whatever he is. My goal, with the forty-six stories selected for inclusion in these two volumes, is that they become memorable to readers for years to come, because, as Calvin Coolidge said, “The nation which forgets its heroes will itself be forgotten.” That won’t happen on my watch.

About Jeffery Hess

Jeffery Hess is the editor of the award-winning anthology Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform, and the recent follow-up, Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand (both from Press 53). Prior to earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Florida, he served in the U.S. Navy aboard the fleet’s oldest and then newest ships. He’s published a number of short stories that recall this period of his life in print and online journals. He’s held writing positions at a daily newspaper, a Fortune 500 company, and a university-based research center. He lives in Florida, where he’s completing a novel and has, for the past six years, led the DD-214 Writers’ Workshop for military veterans.

Helpful links:

-Home of the Brave anthologies website:

http://www.press53.com/HomeoftheBrave.html

-Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/HomeOfTheBraveStoriesInUniform

-Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/HomeOfTheBraveSomewhereInTheSand

-Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform – Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Brave-Stories-Jeffery-Hess/dp/0982441606

-Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand – Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Brave-Somewhere-Jeffrey-Hess/dp/1935708856/ref=la_B00DIEBKMM_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401910392&sr=1-1

-DD-214 Writers’ Workshop website:

http://www.dd214writers.org/

 

Jeff appeared on The Dennis Miller show June 10, 2009 and again on June 4, 2013.

Jeff appeared on The Dennis Miller show June 10, 2009 and again on June 4, 2013.

-Dennis Miller Interview – June 10, 2009

https://www.dennismillerradio.com/b/Jeffery-Hess-Interview/6373.html

-Dennis Miller Interview – June 4, 2013

https://www.dennismillerradio.om/blog?action=blogArchive&blogTag=Jeffery%20Hess

-Tampa Tribune article about Anthologies and Workshop:

http://tbo.com/list/military-news/out-of-navy-veterans-labor-of-love-new-anthology-is-born-20130624/

-Interview with Jeffery Hess

http://rkvryquarterly.com/interview-with-jeffery-hess/

Kathleen's author bio as it appears in Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand

Kathleen’s bio as it appears in Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand

Kathleen M. Rodgers  second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, 2/1/15. An excerpt from the novel appears in the pages of Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand. She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Two Steps Forward: A Note of Encouragement to Someone Struggling With Bulimia

 As a recovered bulimic going on twenty-seven years, I have a responsibility to reach out to others and offer hope. I wrote the following note after receiving a message from someone who asked for my help.

Family Circle , bulimia kathleenmrodgers

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ article “Dying To Be Thin” (Family Circle 8/9/94), focused on her fifteen-year battle with bulimia and how she overcame it.

It’s okay if you’ve stumbled after going several days without binging. Remember, you’ve simply taken one step back. The situation is not hopeless and you are not helpless. You pick yourself up and take two steps forward.

Don’t beat yourself up. Clear your head and find the good in yourself and others and keep moving forward.

Another tool to getting better is to reach out to others in some way. Service to others is such a healing balm. Maybe check on someone you know who might be lonely. Or have you ever helped serve food at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen?

Serving food to the needy can help you redirect the way you see food. Again, food is nothing more than fuel for our bodies.

It’s when we turn it into a weapon to use against ourselves that our relationship with food gets all twisted.

Today at this moment, regardless of whether you binged two days ago or two minutes ago, pick yourself up and move two steps forward.

You will get there.

You are worth the journey,

Kathleen

About the author:

 

Author Kathleen M. Rodgers, photo by Clovis High Classmate, Barbra Slater Dutton.

 Kathleen M. Rodgers, photo by Clovis High Classmate Barbra Slater Dutton.

 Kathleen M. Rodgers’ article “Dying To Be Thin” (Family Circle 8/9/94), focused on her fifteen-year battle with bulimia and how she overcame it. After the story ran, she was interviewed by New York City radio personality Joan Hamburg of WOR. Kathleen explores recovery and redemption in her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, forthcoming 2/1/15 from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press. She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Kathleen adapted her Family Circle story for Her War Her Voice:

http://herwarhervoice.com/blog/2011/11/21/dying-to-be-thin-part-i/

http://herwarhervoice.com/blog/2011/11/30/long-road-to-recovery/

Eating Disorder Resources:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com

http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-for-eating-disorders/special-issues/older-women

 

 

 

Bubba’s Last Walk

Bubba's last walk. 5/13/13

Bubba’s last walk. 5/13/13

The night before Bubba died, he trotted into my office and sat at my feet. The look on his face said it all: “Take me for a walk, please.”

I closed my computer and rubbed the top of his head. “Are you sure you feel up to it?  You’ve been lethargic all day.”Our sweet Bubba 5:14:13

After he wagged his tail “yes” we were out the door. No sooner had we crossed the street when something told me to get out my phone camera and capture this moment. I sent the photo in a text message to both of our sons. Looking back, I realize I was trying to reassure them that Bubba was okay. He was out for his walk which meant everything was fine, right?

The next morning Bubba collapsed on the living room floor after going out with Tom to get the newspaper. We didn’t hesitate. We loaded him into our Suburban and rushed him to Dr. Wied’s office.  On the way there, I sent the boys the following text: “Bubba is in distress. Dad and I are taking him to the vet.  We are doing everything we can to help him.”

My youngest son's Facebook post the day Bubba died.

My youngest son’s Facebook post the day Bubba died.

Bubba died on the table, surrounded by Dr. Wied and his staff. They loved Bubba, too, and they did everything they could to save him. He was nine years old and the heartbeat of our home.

My oldest son's FB post.

My oldest son’s FB post.

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in national and local publications and in several anthologies. Her Amazon best-selling novel, The Final Salute, will be republished in e-book and print by Deer Hawk Publications (coming soon). Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. The novel stars a Chocolate Lab named Brother Dog. Kathleen is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Kathleen and Bubba Dog.

Kathleen and Bubba Dog.

 

 

 

To read more about her work, please visit her website: www.kathleenmrodgers.com

Bubba’s final gift: We asked him to lead us to a doggie that needed a loving home. He sent us Denton the Wonder Dog. (To read more about Denton click here: http://siteblog.kathleenmrodgers.com/?p=838

Mama’s Last Church Service

From Kathy Rhodes, editor Muscadine Lines (Southern Literary Review)

Young_Elsa

A young Elsa

“A few weeks ago I accepted a story for Muscadine Lines from Joy Ross Davis of Bessemer, Alabama, who writes a bi-weekly column for her local newspaper titled “Mother, Can You Hear Me?” The column chronicles her experiences on retiring as a college English professor to become a full-time caregiver for her mother who suffered from dementia. On April 29, I got a brief e-mail from Joy letting me know her mother had just passed away unexpectedly and then a few days ago, she sent me her column about her mother’s actions at Palm Sunday service and said to pass it along to anyone facing this weekend without their mom, that it might bring a smile. I asked to use her story as a guest blog on Mother’s Day, in honor of our mothers and for all of us — my sister and my friends and Joy and me — who join hands and hearts this Sunday and remember those strong, beautiful, remarkable women who will always be with us in spirit, but no longer live where we can reach out and touch them or laugh with them or call them just to shoot the breeze. “

Mama’s Last Church Service

By Joy Ross Davis

Palm Sunday was a landmark day for my mother. After a year’s absence, she attended church. Now, going to church is not usually something that will fill a person with dread. But remember, I’ve been going to church with my mother for years, and I can tell you that what happens once she steps in the door is always unpredictable.

Since she can’t hear well, her voice is unusually loud, and she gets distracted easily. Peggy, our friend and helper, agreed to bring Mother in her car so that my son Clint and I could go a little early.

Palm Sunday services begin outside at Trinity Episcopal with the reading of the Passion, but on this Sunday, a heavy downpour forced us inside. I wondered if the worsening weather would make Mother change her mind about coming.

The small congregation gathered in the entry way of the narthex to begin. As is our tradition, each of us received a small hand-fashioned cross and palm branch. Our new priest, Father Bush, began with a prayer. Then, the rest of us joined in with a gospel reading.

Mom

Elsa Frawley passed away April 29, 2010

We had said only a few phrases when the large wooden door flew open. Rain spattered inside. My mother appeared and announced in a loud voice, “Hey there, y’all. I’m Elsa Frawley, Joy’s mother. I’m not gonna stand here, though. I’m gonna go sit down while y’all do your thing.”

I glanced at Clint then at our dear friend, Jay Howton. Both were stifling laughs. But Father Bush seemed unaffected. He gently tried to pin a cross on my mother’s blouse. She brushed his hand away.

“Move so I can go sit down!” she said.

He complied and waited for Peggy and Mother to take their seats before he began again. About halfway through the gospel reading, my mother’s voice rose above that of Father Bush’s and drifted all the way to the narthex.

“Isn’t this a pretty church, Peggy? It’s been here for a hunderd years.”

The priest continued. I’m sure I saw him smile as he read.

He finished the gospel. Then, he led the processional down the centre aisle of the sanctuary. Behind him, Jay carried the ornate gospel book. Clint carried the large golden cross on a staff behind Jay.

As Clint walked by, my mother shouted, “Hey honey! You look like a doll!”

I’m absolutely certain that he cringed as he made his way to his seat near the altar.
During the homily, my mother got restless. Just as we began the Lord’s Prayer, she said loud enough for all to hear.

“Hey, Peggy, you got any gum?”

Mother_and_me_in_Mexico

Elsa and daughter Joy in Mexico

Peggy whispered something to Mother. Clint’s shoulders shook as he tried not to laugh out loud.

About midway through the service, I was certain that Mother would want to leave, just as she’d done years ago in a rather infamous event. After listening to a sermon for a little over twenty minutes, my mother got up, glared at the priest, and stuck out her arm. With her index finger, she tapped several times on her watch, turned around, and walked out.

But this Sunday, she sat through the whole service, and I thought we were home free until it came time for Holy Eucharist. When Mother saw the altar being prepared, she nudged Peggy.
“Come on,” she said in a voice that rang throughout the sanctuary. “It’s just Communion. I’m hungry. Let’s go get a hamburger.”

So, as Father Bush was reciting the Holy Eucharist prayer, my mother and Peggy walked down the aisle and out the door. It banged behind them.

At the service’s end, I shook hands with Father Bush.

“Joy, how’s your mother getting along these days?” he asked.

Before I could answer, he laughed out loud and added, “She’s quite a character!”

Amen.

Author’s note:
In memory of our mother, Elsa Frawley, who passed away on April 29, 2010. The Palm Sunday service was her last church service.
Hans Christian Andersen said, “A life is a story told by God.”
When He told yours, he created quite a character! You stepped on toes, made waves, rocked boats…but you were my mother, and I love you. May God hold you in His arms and delight in all your antics.

Bio

me_Mileybright

Author Joy Ross Davis on the steps of the Mileybright Inn

Joy Ross Davis lives in Bessemer, Alabama. A student of the lore and magic of the back hills of Tennessee, she writes imaginative fiction. She has a Ph.D in Creative Writing and for many years, she taught English at a local community college. She retired to become a caregiver for her mother who suffered from dementia. She documented her experiences with her mother in a series of articles for a local newspaper. The articles titled, “Mother, Can You Hear Me?” have also been featured in Muscadine Lines, a Southern literary magazine. For several months in 2007, she lived in Ireland and worked as a travel writer and photographer for Tourism Ireland. She is currently teaching English online for the University of Phoenix. She lives with her son and three rescue dogs.

Joy is the author of the novel, Countenance, released by Ecanus Publishing in 2013 and represented by Loiacono Literary Agency. Her other works include:
Emalyn’s Treasure (Helping Hands Press 2013)
The Transformation of Bitty Brown (Helping Hands Press 2014)
The Sutler of Petersburg (Helping Hands Press 2014)

Please visit the author at: http://joyrossdavis.com

All are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble:

Novelist: My claim to “fame” at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony at Tarrant County College/NE Campus

TCC:NE Distinguished Alumni 2014I sat through the awards luncheon waiting for the real Kathleen Rodgers to show up. The one that grew up to become the person she’d always wanted to be: a successful writer.  The one that smiles big for photo ops and has tried for thirty-five plus years to “make it” as a writer. I sat through a two-hour luncheon waiting for it to feel real. I looked at the other distinguished alumni and kept asking myself “how did I get here?” I can’t even remember my multiplication tables!

Kathleen on the big screen at TCC:NE campus' Distinugued Alumni ceremonyThen my name was called. When I turned to see my photo and a sample of my professional credits on the big screen, it started to feel real. All at once I was back in my comfort zone, especially when the president of the college asked jokingly if I brought any books to sign. And then when I took my seat and finally stared at my award:

Tarrant County College Northeast Campus

Distinguished Alumni Award

Presented to

Kathleen Rodgers

Novelist

 

(L-R) With former advisor/instructor Anita Peters, best friend Rhonda Revels, and literary agent, Jeanie Loiacono.

(L-R) With former advisor/instructor Anita Peters, best friend Rhonda Revels, and literary agent, Jeanie Loiacono.

It was the word “novelist” that cemented the deal for me, and I got to share it with my agent, Jeanie Loiacono, her daughter, Megan, and my dear friend, Rhonda Revels (the inspiration behind my character Whit Thomas in my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately.)

Rhonda Revels and Kathleen, best friends for 22 years.

Rhonda Revels and Kathleen, best friends for 22 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doris Jones in her office at TCC/NE Campus. Don't you love her bookshelves?

Doris Jones in her office at TCC/NE Campus. Don’t you love her bookshelves?

 

 

* A special note of thanks to my former government professor, Doris Jones, for nominating me. What I respect about Doris is how she respects her students.

 

 

 

 

 

BIO:

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, Family: The Magazine for Military Families, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Albuquerque Journal, Clovis News Journal, and in the following anthologies: Because I Fly, McGraw-Hill, Lessons From Our Children, Health Communications, Inc., Stories Of Faith And Courage On The Home Front, AMG Publishers, Inc., and Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand, Press 53. Her essay, “Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors” will be published in a new anthology Red, White & True forthcoming August 2014 from University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books.Kathleen accepting her Distingusihed Alumni Award at TCC:NE Campus

Leatherneck Publishing released her debut novel, The Final Salute, in paperback in 2008.In 2009 Army Wife Network selected it as their July book club pick and Military Writers Society of America awarded it the Silver Medal. In 2010, USA-Today and The Associated Press ran stories about the author’s sixteen-year journey to bring the novel to life. The novel soared to #2 on Amazon’s Bestselling Military Aviation paperback list. In 2011, Navigator Books released the Kindle edition and the novel hit #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction the following year.

Deer Hawk Publications will reissue The Final Salute in e-book and paperback in the near future.

Kathleen’s second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. In the novel, protagonist Johnnie Kitchen wants desperately to go back to college, but her hardworking husband worries they don’t have the money.

Kathleen is the mother of two grown sons, Thomas (an award-winning artist and graduate of UNT) and J.P. (a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army and graduate of Texas Tech). Both sons attended Tarrant County College/NE Campus before earning their undergraduate degrees. Kathleen lives in Colleyville, TX with her husband, Tom, a retired fighter pilot/commercial pilot, and their rescue dog, Denton.

She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

See the press release about the Wall of Fame at TCC/NE Campus:

http://sites.tccd.edu/tccbuzz/2014/05/08/tcc-northeast-campus-dedicates-alumni-wall-of-fame-2/

 

Author Kathleen M. Rodgers named a Distinguished Alumni for Tarrant County College/NE Campus 2014

kathleenmrodgers:2014 Distinguished Alumni Tarrant County Community College

When I walked across the stage at Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX to receive my diploma in May 2007, I felt ten feet tall in my cap and gown. I was also one of the oldest graduates at 48. With my husband Tom, our two grown sons and my mother looking on, I graduated with highest honors, a total victory considering I feared I would flunk college biology my first day in lecture and lab. Most people complete an AA degree in about two years, but then I’m not most people. It took me 30 years to earn a college degree. In that time, I attended one university, two community colleges, recovered from a life-threating eating disorder, wrote numerous articles for national and local publications, completed one novel, followed my Air Force fighter pilot turned airline pilot husband from base to base, and raised our two sons. I also raised one puppy dog and served as a nanny to my three young boy cousins while their mom worked as an attorney in downtown Dallas.

By the time I earned my associate degree, I’d already enrolled in Southern Methodist University’s noncredit novel writing course. With one completed novel The Final Salute under my belt, a second novel began to take shape. That novel grew up to become Johnnie Come Lately and will be published by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015.

Being named a 2014 Distinguished Alumni for Tarrant County College/Northeast Campus is one more affirmation that I’m on the right track with my new novel. My protagonist, Mrs. Johnnie Kitchen, goes back to college later in life. In my own little way, I’ve tried to shine the spotlight on community colleges. Tarrant County College inspired the fictional Portion Community College in the novel.

Although I didn’t need a college degree to become a writer, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Regardless of my many successes in the writing profession, earning a college degree thirty years after I graduated from high school gave me a boost of confidence like nothing else.

No matter what level of education we all achieve, we are all students of the world. Every day we have a chance to learn something new and to apply it to our lives.

Here’s the announcement I received from the President of Tarrant County College/NE Campus:

Greetings Kathleen Rodgers,

As president of Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, I would like to congratulate you for being named as one of the Distinguished Alumni of the campus for recognition in 2014!

Recognition of graduates who have made a difference in the community is a relatively new endeavor for TCC Northeast.  Twelve years ago I established a committee of faculty members with the goal of developing guidelines for this project.  The committee decided to ask departments to name outstanding former students who had graduated from TCC Northeast at least five years ago with associate degrees or certificates.  In the last few years, we also wanted to include students who had attended TCC Northeast for a substantial portion of their college course work, but who may have transferred to another institution to finish a degree.  Each discipline chose one person to be recognized in a ceremony that will take place on campus in May during the Faculty Luncheon.  As a member of this group of Distinguished Alumni, you will receive a certificate that will be presented during that ceremony.

We have scheduled the recognition ceremony/luncheon to take place in the Center Corner (NSTU 1615A) in the Student Center Building.  You might remember that this is the building with the clock tower.  It will begin at approximately 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 and should be over by 1:00 p.m.

The photo and a short bio will eventually be transferred to our Distinguished Alumni Wall of Recognition housed in the J. Ardis Bell Library on the Northeast Campus.

Again, congratulations, and I look forward to seeing you next month.

Larry Darlage, PhD

President| Tarrant County College Northeast Campus

BIO:

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, Family: The Magazine for Military Families, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Albuquerque Journal, Clovis News Journal, and in the following anthologies: Because I Fly, McGraw-Hill, Lessons From Our Children, Health Communications, Inc., Stories Of Faith And Courage On The Home Front, AMG Publishers, Inc., and Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand, Press 53. Her essay, “Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors” will be published in a new anthology Red, White & True forthcoming August 2014 from University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books.

Leatherneck Publishing released her debut novel, The Final Salute, in paperback in 2008. In 2009 Army Wife Network selected it as their July book club pick and Military Writers Society of America awarded it the Silver Medal. In 2010, USA-Today and The Associated Press ran stories about the author’s sixteen-year journey to bring the novel to life. The novel soared to #2 on Amazon’s Bestselling Military Aviation paperback list. In 2011, Navigator Books released the Kindle edition and the novel hit #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction the following year.

Kathleen’s second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, February 1, 2015.

She is the mother of two grown sons, Thomas (an award-winning artist and graduate of UNT) and J.P. (a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army and graduate of Texas Tech). Both sons attended Tarrant County College/NE Campus before earning their undergraduate degrees. Kathleen lives in Colleyville, TX with her husband, Tom, a retired fighter pilot/commercial pilot, and their rescue dog, Denton.

She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

PRAYER QUILT

Prayer Quilt Tom RodgersPrayer Quilt

 

On the eve of my husband’s surgery to remove a pancreatic cyst, two quilters from our church’s quilt group dropped by the house to present this “prayer quilt” to Tom. Ellen Boston and Pauline McCallum told Tom to wrap himself in its warmth and to know that he is loved and cared for.

 

As we gathered in a small circle in our living room and Ellen began to pray, Tom lifted the quilt to his heart and opened himself to prayer.Prayer Quilt 2

 

Many thanks to so many people who’ve reached out to us these past few weeks.

 

Tom and I are so grateful,

 

Kathleen

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ second novel Johnnie Come Lately is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. Her first novel The Final Salute has been featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency. Her husband Tom is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and also a retired commercial airline pilot.

 

ADVENTURES IN THE PUBLISHING TRADE: An excerpt from Dwight Jon Zimmerman’s new autobiography

Dwight J. Zimmerman, Adventures in the Publishing TradeIn Part I of my interview with Dwight Jon Zimmerman, we discussed his long writing career working with Bill O’Reilly, Marvel Comics, and more.

http://siteblog.kathleenmrodgers.com/?p=1737

In Part II, Dwight exclusively shares here an excerpt from his upcoming autobiography for RED ENGINE PRESS tentatively titled “Adventures in the Publishing Trade: and a Little Bit More about Life, Love, and the Pursuit of a Dream. It’s the story of a young man with a dream and the unlikely and impossible-to-plan path he took to achieve it.

Kathleen: You grew up in North Dakota and started out as a printer. How old were you when you moved to New York City, and where did you get the courage to make such a drastic change?

Dwight Jon Zimmerman: Oh, boy, the question you just asked! Joyce Faulkner and Pat Avery, fellow members of the Military Writers Society of America, own Red Engine Press, a small publishing company. Over the years at the organization’s annual conferences they heard many stories of my experiences in the publishing industry. One thing led to another and I’m presently writing my autobiography for them. With your permission I’d like to answer your question by providing this unedited draft excerpt of the chapter dealing with that event, because there was a lot of history behind making the decision I did. I should warn everyone, it’s not a happy anecdote.

Chapter 3

I Cross My Rubicon

                        “I am not a bum.”

—Dwight Jon Zimmerman, circa. 1976

            The distance between Grand Forks, North Dakota, where I worked, and Devils Lake, where I grew up, is 90 miles. One weekend in July 1976, I headed west from my apartment on a Sunday drive that I didn’t want to make, but had to.

Dad1972

Dwight’s dad 1972

Too many years have passed for me to remember anything about that day except the meeting I had with my father in the living room where I broke the news. I know that it happened sometime after lunch and that dad and I were alone. I had decided to tell the news first to him, because even though I knew he wouldn’t like hearing what I had to say, I thought he’d be a little more sympathetic than my mother. He was in his easy chair and I was sitting nearby on the couch when I said I had something I needed to tell him.

I said I was planning to quit my job at the UND Press in one year and travel to New York City and try to make a go of things at Marvel Comics where Dave [Kraft my high school friend] was working. I explained why I was making this decision—that I was young and single, and that I didn’t want to have the “what would have happened to me if” question hanging over my life. If things didn’t work out, then I’d know and move on with my life as a printer, as that was a skill I could use anywhere. In the meantime, I needed to store my possessions at home.

Dad was sixty-two and his health had been bad for several years, the consequence of alcoholism, bad eating habits, and no exercise. He’d already had one heart attack and two strokes. He was overweight, diabetic, and suffered from high blood pressure; in short, he was a sitting pathology. After I finished my speech he looked at me for a moment. Then he said, “Well, if you want to go out and be a bum, that’s your business.”

That’s all that I remember about what happened that day. I don’t remember telling my mother, and I don’t remember the drive back to Grand Forks that afternoon.

I do remember being hurt—and angry.

 David Anthony Kraft (right) and I (left) showing off the latest issue of our science fiction and fantasy fanzine, OMNIFAN, circa 1970.

David Anthony Kraft (right) and I (left) showing off the latest issue of our science fiction and fantasy fanzine, OMNIFAN, circa 1970.

Since my sophomore year in high school, my relationship with my parents had been essentially a truce punctuated by arguments, invariably about something that I liked and wanted to do. With the exception of my decision to go to North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton where I learned the printing trade, they pretty much opposed everything. NDSSS had a reputation for being a “suitcase college.” On Friday afternoon, almost the entire student body would get in their cars and drive home for the weekend. Not me—home was the last place I wanted to go. I stayed at the near-deserted campus, enjoying the quiet and solitude. In fact the only time I went home was during the holidays. After that first year, I found an apartment with some friends. The habit of not going home carried over after I had moved to Grand Forks. Trips home were usually once-a-month affairs.

I thought that now being on my own, and with my sister recently married to Joel, I wouldn’t have a fight on my hands to do what I wanted to do. It turns out I was right, I didn’t. With his one-liner Dad had done something worse: he threw one of his guilt trips on me.

My father had led a hard life. The oldest of four children, two boys and two girls, he grew up on a small farm in Wells County. He was in his mid-teens when his father committed suicide or was murdered (I’ve heard differing accounts) during the Great Depression. His younger brother Gordon was mentally retarded. (I knew all of dad’s siblings. Gordon died in 1963. Margaret married, lived on a farm near the homestead, and died of accidental self-immolation in 1982. Connie, the youngest, married and moved to Idaho where she still lives.) He quit school after the eighth grade and knocked around the West working at a variety of jobs, one of them being a carnival barker. His first wife was a young woman looking to escape her family. That marriage soon ended in divorce. He married his second wife shortly before he enlisted in the Army about a month after his 28th birthday on April 25, 1942.

His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was Parts Clerk 348. After training in Camp Sutton, North Carolina, he was assigned to Company G, 255th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division, rising to the rank of Tech Sergeant. His campaigns included Tunisia, Southern France, the Rhineland, and Central Europe. He received his honorable discharge on October 8, 1945. In addition to his campaign ribbons, he received the Good Conduct Medal.

Mom1972

Dwight’s mom 1972

Not long after he returned to North Dakota, his second wife divorced him. In a tale all too common during the war, she had married him for his service paycheck and death benefit insurance. When the latter didn’t happen, she was gone. Neither marriage resulted in children. That would come with dad’s third wife, my mother. In March 1953, Morris Zimmerman and Darlene Stolt eloped to South Dakota where they got married. On June 2, 1953, at a hospital in Harvey, North Dakota, I was born. My mother was twenty years old. Dad was thirty-nine. My sister, Mary, was born four years later; and in 1960 my brother, Chris, was prematurely born, delivered by Caesarian section.

Now, with the exception of some general statements about the war, and a couple of passing mentions of minor events, my father rarely talked about his life, and never mentioned the fact that mom was his third wife. The facts recounted here came from his mother, my Grandma Mabel, before she died in the early 1970s, and from his discharge paper, which I saw years after his death in 1981.

(An aside here. The circumstances of my father’s death have proved a constant source of amusement for me whenever I have to fill out the family history section of medical forms. When I get to the father section, after checking the “Deceased” box I proceed to the “Cause of Death” section where I write: “Surgery.” Invariably whenever the doctor gets to that answer, the physician’s brow furrows and I get a quizzical look. I then proceed to explain that while my father suffered from acute coronary disease that caused him in 1981 to undergo high-risk life-saving surgery, when the doctors opened up his chest they discovered there was nothing they could do. His heart was too damaged to repair. So, while the contributing factor of my father’s death was a bad heart, the form wasn’t asking for that information. It was asking for cause. And “cause” was surgery. He went into the operating room alive, and came out dead. QED. None of the doctors have been favorably impressed with me about that.)

So, though gaps existed, I knew things about my father’s life that he didn’t know I knew. Grandma Mabel’s statements about dad explained a lot of why he acted the way he did to us kids, specifically his paternal guilt manipulation of us.

Here I am on my  Honda 100 circa 1972.

Here I am on my Honda 100 circa 1972.

In the past when he played the guilt card, even when I carried through with what I wanted to do (like buying my first motorcycle) it was only after a lot of emotional soul-searching and agonizing. Not this time. Dad had pushed me too far. The emotion I was dealing with wasn’t guilt. It was anger.

Once in my apartment, I grabbed some paper and a pen and began writing him a letter. I began with a short recap of my decision to go to New York City, my reasons why, and his response. I concluded that first paragraph with the sentences: “You called me a bum. I am not a bum.”

With the second paragraph, I let him have it with both barrels. I wasn’t profane, and I didn’t reveal any of the facts about his life I had learned, but years of accumulated fury were behind the sentences that stated this was my life and I was going to live it my way.

Years of accumulated fury were behind my sentences. I had my first attack of nervous exhaustion when I was twelve years old. I remember lying on the couch one evening. Suddenly my heart started racing, my body started trembling, I had repeated heat flashes, and I started crying uncontrollably. I thought I was going to die, and said so. Dad rushed me to the hospital where I stayed for three days. When I got home I asked my mother what had happened to me. She said, “It was just nerves.”

I felt ashamed of myself for being weak. I endured two more attacks in senior high school. The second incident occurred in German class while I was taking a test. Now familiar with the symptoms, I managed to maintain sufficient control to finish the test and exit the class at its conclusion. I rushed home, skipping the rest of the school day. Mom also worked, so I was able to ride the spell out alone. The third bout happened at the end of school one day, so it was easier to for me to go into seclusion.

It was one day near the end of my junior year in high school that my mother kicked the parental support chair out from under me. She had a stock response whenever we complained about something: “You think you have it so bad? The kids in [name of a handy third world country] have it worse.” This time she raised the ante.

My parents and I had been going through a particularly stressful period. I was leaving for school when she looked up from the breakfast table and said, “You know, Dwight, you’re a disappointment to us.”

To use modern parlance, that was when Dwight Jon Zimmerman 1.0 died and Dwight Jon Zimmerman 2.0 was born. Though I still lived at home, from that point on I was both alone and on my own.

As I was writing, I realized a larger reality—that the roles of parent and child had become reversed and that I now had something that put me in control of our relationship from this point on: I had me.

And here I am on my Norton 850 Commando, circa 1978. I'm having a Coors in the front yard of my aunt's house in Idaho (this at a time when Coors was only available in the West). Dave Kraft's Norton 750 Commando is in the background. We were on a road trip to California--one of the best vacations I ever had!

And here I am on my Norton 850 Commando, circa 1978. I’m having a Coors in the front yard of my aunt’s house in Idaho (this at a time when Coors was only available in the West). Dave Kraft’s Norton 750 Commando is in the background. We were on a road trip to California–one of the best vacations I ever had!

Though the statements I was writing of my plans to go forward and the storing of my possessions at home were clear enough, I was also sending a between-the-lines message: “If you fight me any further on this, you will never hear from me again.”

I didn’t want to explicitly state that sentence, because that was the ultimate hammer I held. I didn’t want to use it because if I did, both sides would lose. Also, the threat of using it made it more powerful than its actual use.

The next day I dropped the letter in the mail.

The letter created uproar back home—so much so that my brother-in-law wrote me a blistering letter calling me, amongst other things, an ingrate and demanding I apologize to my “wonderful parents.” My sister’s first husband (she’s now on husband number three) was sticking his nose into business that didn’t concern him. But, knowing that I had made my point, a couple of days later I called home and when my mother answered the phone, apologized.

One year later, I was on a plane flying to New York City to start a new adventure.

BIO:

DWIGHT JON ZIMMERMAN is a bestselling and award-winning author, radio host, television and movie producer, and president of the Military Writers Society of America.Lincoln's Last Days

He co-authored the #1 New York Times bestselling young adult book, Lincoln’s Last Days, an adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s New York Times #1 bestselling history Killing Lincoln. Lincoln’s Last Days won the 2013 Branson Stars and Flags Book Awards Grand Prize. It is the second year in a row Dwight has won the organization’s highest honor.

He penned a series of World War II 70th anniversary articles for the Defense Media Network website that chronologically recount that conflict, available at www.defensemedianetwork.com.

He is the author of Saga of the Sioux, the award winning, critically acclaimed young adult adaptation of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Saga of the Sioux won the 2012 Gold Medal in the Young Adult Non-Fiction category from the Military Writers Society of America and the 2012 Branson Stars and Flags Book Awards Grand Prize, the organization’s highest honor.

Dwight is the co-author, with John D. Gresham of Uncommon Valor: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned It in Afghanistan and Iraq which received the Military Writers Society of America’s most prestigious honor, the MWSA Founder’s Award for 2010.

First CommandHis first book, First Command: Paths to Leadership, which has a foreword by James M. McPherson, presents the pivotal challenges and events that occurred in the early careers of generals from George Washington to Colin Powell and how they overcame them. Dwight was the co-executive producer of the cable television miniseries based on his book. The miniseries debuted on the Military Channel in 2005 and has been regularly aired on the channel ever since. It won the 2005 Aurora Platinum Best of Show Award for Historical Programming. In 2009, the book received the Branson Stars and Flags Gold Medal Award in the Reference/Technical category. First Command is on the U.S. Army Chief of Infantry Recommended Reading List: Junior NCOs.

He’s written two acclaimed popular surveys of wars and weapons through the ages. The Book of War is about pivotal battles, leaders, and strategies from ancient to modern times and received the 2009 Gold Medal Award for Reference by the Military Writers Society of America. The Book of Weapons is a critically acclaimed sequel about important weapons, weapon designers, and arms manufacturers throughout history.

Dwight’s authored two graphic histories. The Vietnam War: A Graphic History, illustrated by Wayne Vansant, is a groundbreaking book that for the first time recounted the entire Vietnam War in the graphic novel format. The Vietnam War: A Graphic History received the 2010 Gold Medal Award: Artistic/Graphic from the Military Writers Society of America and the 2010 Branson Stars and Flags Gold Medal Award in the photography/graphics category. Military Review, the official journal of the U.S. Army, placed it on its recommended reading list. The Hammer and the Anvil, also with art by Wayne Vansant, is the critically acclaimed graphic biography of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Dwight’s young adult biography, Tecumseh: Shooting Star of the Shawnee received the 2010 Bronze Medal Award: Young Adult from the Military Writers Society of America and was a finalist in the young adult category in the 2011 Western Writers of America.

His book The Day the World Exploded is the critically acclaimed young adult adaptation of Simon Winchester’s bestselling Krakatoa.

Dwight is the co-author, with John D. Gresham, of the critically acclaimed history of seven pivotal special operations from the Vietnam War to present day, Beyond Hell and Back.

He’s written numerous articles on military subjects for Faircount Media for its military-themed print publications and its Defense Media Network website, and other publishers. His article, “Maritime Mobility,” for The Shield of Freedom, an annual publication about the Coast Guard, was selected by the Naval War College for use in its curriculum. And his article about a special operations mission during the Korean War led by the theater’s surgeon general that had high-stakes diplomatic consequences, originally published in The Year in Special Operations 2009 was selected for re-publication by the Journal of Special Operations Medicine.

Dwight has lectured at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Naval War College, and has appeared on the FOX programs DEFCON-3 hosted by K.T. McFarland, and AMERICA NEWS HQ discussing military subjects.

“Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Caputo (right) and me holding the 2006 Connecticut Center for the Book award for 10,000 Days of Thunder. I had a great time collaborating with him on that young adult history of the Vietnam War. Since my name couldn't go on the book, he insisted I attend with him the event at Hartford. Thankfully we won.” ~ DJZ

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Caputo (right) and me holding the 2006 Connecticut Center for the Book award for 10,000 Days of Thunder. I had a great time collaborating with him on that young adult history of the Vietnam War. Since my name couldn’t go on the book, he insisted I attend with him the event at Hartford. Thankfully we won.” ~ DJZ

He was the host of “At Ease,” an hour-long program about authors and their projects, part of Veterans Radio Network. Information about the program is available at www.veteransradio.net. Guests on his program have included Rick Atkinson, Robert M. Edsel, Larry Bond, Thomas Fleming, Craig L. Symonds, Jake Tapper, and Stephen Coonts, amongst others.

He was a producer for the independent film, Trooper, which received the Bronze Remi Award at the 2010 Houston International Film Festival.

Dwight was the researcher for the critically acclaimed The New York Times Complete History of the Civil War, edited by Craig L. Symonds and Harold Holzer with a forward by former president Bill Clinton, and The New York Times Complete World War II edited by Richard Overy with a forward by Tom Brokaw.

He collaborated on a series of award winning young adult histories published by Atheneum. The authors of record included such Pulitzer Prize winners and bestselling authors as James M. McPherson’s Fields of Fury (Civil War) and Into the West (Reconstruction and settling of the frontier), Philip Caputo’s 10,000 Days of Thunder (Vietnam War), Stephen Ambrose’s The Good Fight  (World War II), and Benson Bobrick’s Fight for Freedom (the American Revolution).

Dwight with a lot more hair--and darker!--sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

Dwight with a lot more hair–and darker!–sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

Dwight began his career in publishing at Marvel Comics, where he held a variety of editorial and staff positions. Among his Marvel comic book writing credits are stories for Spider-Man, The X-Men, and The Hulk, and other super heroes. In addition to his comic book stories, he has written a wide variety of children’s book adventures based on licensed product toy lines, most notably the Transformers. In 1992, he became executive editor of Topps Comics, a division of The Topps Company, and was responsible for the editorial and art direction of its lines of media tie-in comics based on The X-Files, Mars Attacks, Jurassic Park, Zorro, Xena: Warrior Princess and other movies and programs. In addition, Dwight was the writer, editor, and art director of Princess Diana the graphic novel biography of Diana, Princess of Wales published by Topps.

MWSA_Logo copyDwight is the current president of the Military Writers Society of America. A native of Devils Lake, North Dakota, he presently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Joëlle. They have two adult children.

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

Hometown boy makes good! Dwight was the guest author at his hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota, during their centennial celebration in July 2008. He was front page news on my hometown newspaper.

Hometown boy makes good! Dwight was the guest author at his hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota, during their centennial celebration in July 2008. He was front page news on his hometown newspaper.

A candid interview with Dwight Jon Zimmerman: author, producer, radio host, and former writer/editor at Marvel Comics

Kathleen: Welcome, Dwight.  Congratulations on hitting the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list for LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS. I understand this is a young adult adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling book, KILLING LINCOLN. If you are comfortable, please discuss the details of how you came to work on this project.

Dwight: Thank you, Kathleen—happy to be a guest on your blog! LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS was a great experience. As to how the project happened, Bill O’Reilly and I share the same publisher, he on the adult side, I on the kids’ side. KILLING LINCOLN had been a huge hit for Holt’s adult division and the adult publisher contacted his counterpart on the kids’ side about doing a young adult adaptation. At her next meeting with her editors, the kids’ publisher asked who among their stable of writers was a good candidate to do the adaptation. A year earlier I had written SAGA OF THE SIOUX, an award-winning adaptation of Dee Brown’s American West classic BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. The publisher contacted my agent who contacted me. I got a copy of KILLING LINCOLN to read over the 2011 Christmas holiday. I thought it was an exciting story and signed on.Lincoln's Last Days

Now, the crucial thing was that they wanted the manuscript fast—by April 1, 2012, because they wanted to release the book in August! Yes, that essentially made this an instant book. I had a meeting with the publisher, editor, and head designer in January and discussed work details—I was also asked to do image acquisition.

I got a digital copy of the manuscript and immediately went to work condensing a 93,000-word manuscript down to about 36,000 words. And, because this was for kids, I was asked to write additional material that described life in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. Condensing was a challenge, as you might expect, because in addition to deleting so much text, I then had to revise passages to maintain story flow integrity and make the vocabulary age appropriate.

The publisher also wanted to have at least one image on each two-page spread. One of the things I truly love on projects like this is image acquisition. Most of my books are loaded with photographs. LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS has more than 150 photos, if I remember correctly.

I’m proud to say I submitted the first draft and image package one week before my deadline. LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS debuted in mid-August in the top five on the New York Times bestseller list and by the second week had shot to #1.

KMR: I was honored to read an advanced copy of UNCOMMON VALOR: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned It in Afghanistan and Iraq, the book you coauthored with John D. Gresham. In my review, I led with this question: What makes a person deliberately fall on a grenade, charge into a line of fire, sacrifice his life to save another? Please share what is was like to interview the families of the fallen and to delve into their backgrounds.

DJZ: Writing UNCOMMON VALOR was an extraordinary experience and one of the most difficult books I’ve ever written because of the responsibility of telling the stories of these brave young men as accurately as possible—particularly the stories of those who received their Medals of Honor posthumously.Uncommon Valor

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons neither John nor I were able to interview family members. The one relative we were able to contact (a recipient’s father) demanded $5,000 before he would talk or allow other friends and relatives be interviewed. As the information we could obtain from him and the friends and relatives was about the late recipient’s childhood and pre-service background that had been extensively covered in a series of newspaper articles, we declined. We discovered later he used our interview discussion as leverage to secure his own book contract about his son.

What fascinated us about the stories of the recipients in UNCOMMON VALOR was the diverse background of the recipients. They came from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds. For some, the military turned their lives around. Others, with Ivy League and upper middle class backgrounds chose the military out of a sense of obligation to the nation. And, all were young—the youngest being just nineteen when he died. Doing the research on their lives was one of the most rewarding experiences I had.

One of the most humbling experiences John and I had concerning the book occurred up at West Point where we did some lectures and a book signing. At lunch we were brought up to the poop deck, an elevated platform in the middle of the mess hall. When we were introduced the entire Corps of Cadets, 4,700 strong, gave us a standing ovation. We asked the first captain of the class of 2011 why we received such an enthusiastic reception, he replied, “You tell our stories for us.”

KMR: How many books have you coauthored with John D. Gresham? I understand he worked closely with Tom Clancy on several projects.

DJZ: UNCOMMON VALOR was our second book. BEYOND HELL AND BACK, which is about seven pivotal missions that led to the creation of Special Operations Command, was the first. I’ve known John for several years, and we’ve worked together in a variety of editorial and writing capacities on books and articles. John collaborated with Tom Clancy on the series of guided tour non-fiction books about military units, ships, and airplanes.

KMR: Do you have a literary agent? If so, does this agent represent all of your work?

DJZ: I do have an agent, but he only handles my young adult books.

KMR: You have led many lives in your publishing career. What is your typical day like? Do you keep office hours?

DJZ: If you saw me, you’d think me probably one of the laziest people in the world. And, in one sense you’d be correct. Since I write military history, and have had to write on a variety of subjects ranging from U.S. Navy Dentistry to battles and wars throughout history, I do a lot of research. I’d say the ratio of research to writing is two-thirds research, one-third writing. So, I spend a lot of time reading.

There’s no real typical day, but rather typical periods. Research involves a lot of reading and Internet searching. I will pull out stacks of books from my library and do printouts of documents I’ve found (sometimes entire books) and then, pen and yellow highlighter in hand, will then mark up and highlight passages.

There are periods where I don’t do any writing at all. I grab a notepad and pen and try to put down words, but nothing really happens. I’ve been a professional writer long enough to recognize this sort of situation; that it’s best not to fight it. When it happens I do anything and everything else but physically write. What’s actually happening is that my mind is working on the stories. The longest such period took three weeks, which did start becoming a concern during that third week—when I’m not writing, I’m not making money. Then, one morning, the words just started flowing out and within a week I had written three small and one big article.

I do have an office where I do a lot of my work (and where I’m answering your questions). But when the weather’s nice, I’ll take my reference material and notebook (I handwrite my rough drafts) and sit down at the table in our back yard. Though the yard is small, my wife’s done an excellent job creating a flower garden and it’s a great pleasure to take little breaks looking at the flowers and stretching my legs walking down the backyard path.

KMR: How long did you work at MARVEL COMICS and what did you do there?

Dwight with a lot more hair--and darker!--sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

Dwight with a lot more hair–and darker!–sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

DJZ: I broke into the publishing industry in 1977, working in production at Marvel Comics. And most of my career, about twenty years, was in the comic book industry where I held a variety of staff positions in addition to being a writer. I was a journeyman writer at Marvel, and wrote every major character in the company’s stable, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, amongst others. In 1992 Topps, the sports and entertainment trading card company and manufacturer of Bazooka bubble gum, hired me from Marvel to help start up Topps Comics, their new comic book division. The crowning moment of my career was that of Topps Comics executive editor.

KMR: On September 11, 2001, you were working as an acquisitions editor at a mid-size publishing house in New York City. As a novelist, I am intrigued by the inner workings of a New York publishing house. How long did you work there and would you elaborate on your job? Give us some inside scoop.

DJZ: The comic book industry collapsed in the wake of Marvel’s bankruptcy in 1998. Though Topps Comics was still making money, the company decided to fold the comics division shortly thereafter and I was laid off. I joined Byron Preiss Visual Publications, a mid-size publishing house and book packager, in 1999 as a senior editor, originally responsible for its line of licensed novels based on Marvel Comics characters. I later became responsible for the company’s military history books, and that opened the door to my military history-writing career, starting with ghost writing young adult histories for Stephen Ambrose (THE GOOD FIGHT), James M. McPherson (FIELDS OF FURY and INTO THE WEST) and Phil Caputo (TEN THOUSAND DAYS OF THUNDER).

KMR: What was the hardest part of your job as a book editor? Was it reading proposals, sending out rejections or simply finding the time and energy to read through mounds of manuscripts?

DJZ: Since I edited both comics and books, I’ll include my experiences in both fields. As a comic book editor, my most difficult experiences occurred at comic book conventions. Over time I came to hate doing portfolio reviews.

Aspiring comic book artists would attend comic book conventions hoping to get their work noticed by editors. Showcasing opportunities were usually formalized by convention organizers who arranged with publishers scheduled portfolio review times in a room or area set aside for that purpose, or they were informal with the artist approaching an editor at the publisher’s booth and asking if the editor had a few minutes to conduct a portfolio review.

I saw all kinds of work from artists ranging from high school kids to men in their thirties. The kids were easy to critique because they were obviously just starting out. It was pretty obvious who had talent and who didn’t. Regardless, I stressed the need to practice. A lot of artists with marginal talent became successful in the field more through their persistence than talent, and sometimes that’s what it takes.

There were two types of artists that were real difficult to critique: the ones on the cusp, and the ones incapable of letting go of their dream. The artists on the cusp had to be given specific instruction, a challenge because you could see the disappointment in their eyes because they thought their talent level was ready. The others, usually men in their late twenties or early thirties, had to be lied to. The best example of the latter occurred at a small convention in the South. This guy in his late twenties confidently approached me at the portfolio review table and gave me his portfolio. As he did so he told me to give me an honest appraisal, assuring me that he knew how to take criticism. I opened the portfolio, and saw that this guy would never make it as a professional comic book artist. The quality was that of an artist in his late teens. I pointed to a figure and began a general comment about what was wrong with the anatomy. The man’s expression became one of panic. And, this was a mild negative comment about the figure’s anatomy. So much for him accepting criticism. I immediately went into my set speech about practice and made some nice comments about things that I thought were good in the art samples, and wished him luck.

After a while I found myself seeing too much bad art, I decided I would no longer look at portfolios. Though at one convention I wound up making an exception to that rule. This artist came up to me and asked if I would review his portfolio. Accompanying him was his girlfriend—his exceedingly hot girlfriend. I opened up his portfolio, and saw some of the worst art I had ever seen in my life. How this guy ever thought he had artistic talent is beyond me. But he had this absolute babe of a girlfriend. So, that artist got one of the most detailed critiques I ever gave. He went away walking on a cloud because of my comments. That was the only time I had fun doing a portfolio review.

On the book side, it was editing manuscripts of writers who had contracts to write novels of Marvel Comics characters. My predecessor had given contracts to his science fiction and mystery author friends—and most of them had no feel or knowledge of the Marvel Comics characters. Some were just downright bad writers. This contributed to his being fired. I was hired because of my knowledge of the characters and I found myself tearing my hair out over some of the ridiculous things I encountered. Things like Spider-Man sporting a pistol, and advising a major supporting character in the Spider-Man universe to use it to “shoot to kill.”

Another novel had a morally reprehensible act as its driving element. It was Professor X physically taking over the body of a young man with mental retardation, now called intellectual disability, and repeatedly putting the young man’s body in harm’s way—actions completely out of character for Professor X. While there was nothing I could really do about the “body snatcher” part of the storyline, I did have a trump I could play which the author couldn’t fight. Basically, the author’s depiction of the young man revealed he had no experience with anyone having that condition. And I did—one of my uncles had intellectual disability, as did one of my neighbor’s sons in my hometown. So, I was able to chapter and verse him on what he did wrong in scenes involving that young man and how they had to be rewritten. If the author didn’t, I would rewrite them myself (an advantage I had because it was a licensed product). He did the rewriting as instructed. 

KMR: You currently serve as president of Military Writers Society of America. How long have you served in that capacity and what are your duties?MWSA_Logo copy

DJZ: I’ve been president for almost two years now. My responsibilities include setting the goals and agenda for the organization, managing operations, am the organization’s representative at official functions, oversee the annual conferences, amongst other duties. I particularly like welcoming new members at our annual conference. I’ve recognized that my varied career has given me more experience than what most people in the industry have received, and as such I feel an obligation to give freely to members any and all information that I have to help them in their writing.

KMR: You reside in Brooklyn, NY. Are there advantages to living in the same city where most of your publishers are based?

DJZ: Yes. I can enter the subway and visit editorial offices in Manhattan within an hour. Though the Internet has made contact between writers and editors a lot easier than ever, face-to-face contact is still important. And, it gets me out of the house.

KMR: Please list all the titles of your books and your many awards.

DJZ: You had to do that to me, didn’t you? Okay, here goes:

Books:

LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS (with Bill O’Reilly), Grand Prize 2013 Branson Stars and Flags Book Award

Saga of the SiouxSAGA OF THE SIOUX (with Dee Brown), Grand Prize 2012 Branson Stars and Flags Book Award; 2012 Gold Medal Young Adult Non-Fiction, Military Writers Society of America

THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery in America (art by Wayne Vansant)

UNCOMMON VALOR (with John D. Gresham), 2010 Founder’s Award, Military Writers Society of America; Silver Medal Non-Fiction 2010 Branson Stars and Flags Book Award

THE VIETNAM WAR: A GRAPHIC HISTORY (art by Wayne Vansant), 2010 Gold Medal Photography/Graphics Branson Stars and Flags Book Award, 2010 Gold Medal Artistic/Graphic Military Writers Society of America, Recommended Reading: Military Review, the official journal of the U.S. Army

TECUMSEH: Shooting Star of the Shawnee, 2010 Bronze Medal Young Adult Military Writers Society of America

THE BOOK OF WEAPONS

THE BOOK OF WAR, 2009 Gold Medal for Reference, Military Writers Society of America

BEYOND HELL AND BACK: How America’s Special Operations Forces Became the World’s Greatest Fighting Unit (with John D. Gresham)

THE DAY THE WORLD EXPLODED: The Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa (with Simon Winchester)

First CommandFIRST COMMAND: PATHS TO LEADERSHIP, 2009 Gold Medal Reference/Technical Branson Stars and Flags Book Award; Chief of Infantry Recommended Reading List: Junior NCOs, 2005 Aurora Platinum Best of Show Award for Historical Programming (three-part Military Channel mini-series based on my book, I was co-executive producer)

Chief Researcher:

THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPLETE CIVIL WAR

THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPLETE WORLD WAR II

Faircount Media Group:

Assorted web and print articles on a wide variety of military history subjects. Web articles can be found at www.defensemedianetwork.com. Dwight’s article on “Maritime Mobility” was selected by the Naval War College for use in its curriculum.

Stay tuned for part two of Kathleen’s interview with Dwight where he’ll share an exerpt from a new autobiography he’s writing for Red Engine Press. 


Author Kathleen Rodgers & Agent Jeanie Loiacono on cover of DISPATCHES Magazine

I am humbled and honored to be featured with my agent, Jeanie Loiacono, on the cover of the Spring 2014 issue of DISPATCHES, the magazine from Military Writers Society of America.

Kathleen Rodgers and her literary agent Jeanie Loiacono

Kathleen Rodgers and her literary agent Jeanie Loiacono

 

Story by Pat McGrath Avery.

Story by Pat McGrath Avery.

 

Pat McGrath-Avery did an outstanding job on the article she wrote about my writing journey  (found on page 24).

“When Jeanie Loiacono of Loiacono Literary Agency offered to represent Kathy, she not only found an agent, but also a kindred spirit. Jeanie is an Army veteran and the daughter of a career Air Force veteran.”

My essay about loss, rejection and success appears on page 25. Many thanks also to Joyce Faulkner for her hard work on this issue.

My essay on loss, rejection and success. Originally featured on my blog Dec. 2013.

My essay on loss, rejection and success. Originally featured on my blog Dec. 2013.

 

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ 2nd novel Johnnie Come Lately is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. Her first novel The Final Salute has been featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. 

Day in the Life of a Literary Agent

A  candid  interview  with  Jeanie  Loiacono, President of Loiacono Literary Agency.

Jeanie Loiacono

Jeanie Loiacono

(Kathleen): Welcome, Jeanie.  As a literary agent, what is your typical day like?

Jeanie: Up at 5am, at work by 6am and am glued to it till sometimes after 9pm. I read submissions from 6-8 am  and on the weekends. Being an agent is not a 9-5 job. Any editor will tell you the same thing. It is your life, but it is a chosen passion, not a job. If you think of it as a job, you should change professions. You have to look at each day as “dayclean.” (That is what the Gullah people from Sapelo Island, Georgia call the beginning of each day.) God gives you a clean slate with each sunrise. With each sunset, you are smarter than you were before. I think there should be a “daycleanse” at the end of the day where you take nothing negative to bed with you.

There is a lot of research that goes on throughout every single day. This industry changes by the minute and you have to be on top of things to move forward. Then there is networking, communications, administration, editing (copy only for me, no content unless it makes no sense), submitting (knowing who, when and how many to each house), follow-up, notices, social media, promotions, marketing, etc. Being courteous and professional at all times is essential.

You must be a multi-tasker who needs no one to tell you what to do or how to do it, self-motivated and driven, not for money or your own success, but for your authors. Their success is your success.

I could go on and on. Believe me, I am never bored. I live by my company slogan, “Can’t is not in my vocabulary.”

KMR: According to your agency’s website, you represent over sixty clients. How do you juggle so many authors’ careers?

Tom and Kathleen Rodgers having lunch with Jeanie and Robert Loiacono in historic Grapevine, TX.

Tom and Kathleen Rodgers having lunch with Jeanie and Robert Loiacono in historic Grapevine, TX.

JL: I prioritize minute-by-minute. You have to decide what is most important for that second. Do it right away and go to the next. This is not a position for someone who is indecisive, hesitant, or waits for someone else to tell them what to do. When you take on an author, they are your son or daughter; their books are their babies, your grandbabies. You want nothing but the best for them and their works. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What would Jesus do? His very best, for their very best.

KMR: When it comes to reading queries, can you describe your process? Do you glance at queries certain times of the day or when you have a break in other duties?

JL: First impressions mean the most. For anyone who aspires to be a writer/author, do your research, take classes, go to conferences, make friends with authors, and most importantly READ. The more you read, the better you write. Also, look at the submission guidelines on the LLA website http://www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com/submission-guidelines/. I try to make it as easy as possible for a successful submission. When a writer sends me a submission, I do look at it as soon as it comes in. If it is something that strikes a cord, I read the query. If the query is professionally done, makes sense, gives me all I need to know about the manuscript and the author, I read the synopsis. If it is done correctly (beginning, middle and end; just the facts; one page, single-spaced) and the writing is good, I read the first page of the manuscript. If it is done correctly, there are little or no errors, the grammar is good and it grabs my attention and does not let go until the last page, it is a winner. Don’t think it is an easy thing to do. The hardest part of my day is sending rejections. If you don’t want one, do all the above and submit to me. If it’s good, it’s going to join the LLA family.

KMR: For writers looking for representation, what is the best way for them to grab your attention?

JL: Genre, subject, professional writing, formatting and credentials. Impress me.

KMR: When you are reading a manuscript, at what point do you know you want to take it on? Does it happen on the first page, halfway through the story, or do you read all the way to the end before you contact the author and offer representation?

JL: I never take on a manuscript without falling in love with it, having confidence I can sell it and without reading it to the last word. It has to hold me by the collar and scream, “Take me on! I am damn good!” all the way through. When you look at the list of authors on my website, each one had to pass my tests, and they did so with flying colors.

KMR: How do you keep track of all your correspondence from editors you are pitching to? If a rejection comes in, do you immediately open up that’s client’s file and make the notation?

JL: You bet I do! If you do not respond immediately, note what is said and take action on it, you will be lost. Some rejections are short, “No thanks.” Others are lengthier, which tells you they read some or all of it before responding. Sometimes the constructive criticism goes a long way. I do not send my authors every response. It would be devastating to read all that negativity. Instead, I send them what would improve their work or any “bites” like the editor is reading it or they are interested in offering a contract. You do not want to discourage an author, only empower and motivate.

KMR: When you take on a manuscript that you believe in, how do you handle the rejections when they come in?

JL: Whether you agree with what is said or not you are polite. Remember what Thumper said? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Well, I always thank them as I am ever so appreciative of their taking the time to respond one way or the other. I ask what it is they are most interested in at this time; that I will gladly check my list. One door closes, another opens. “You never know, it just might happen.” That is from JP in Angels in the Outfield.

KMR: How often do you converse with editors by telephone rather than e-mail?

JL: That depends on what needs to be said. Lengthy discussions are better done over the phone. I prefer email for the rest for two reasons: I can answer when it is convenient (it does not take away from what I am in the middle of) and I have documentation of the response that I can refer back to.

KMR: Do you attend writers’ conferences?

L-R Writer Valerie Haight, LLA clients Lin Waterhouse and KD McCrite with Jeanie Loiacono at a writers conference.

L-R Writer Valerie Haight, LLA clients Lin Waterhouse and KD McCrite with Jeanie Loiacono at an Ozarks Writers League  conference a couple of years ago.

JL: I used to do a lot more than I do now. I make the point of attending those where I have authors present, 2-3 a year, and those I am participating in. I am so very proud of them all and like praising them as much as possible.

KMR: This may sound like a funny question, but I’ve often wondered if agents get together and have agent conferences.

JL: No, not much, if any. There are a few in the major cities, but sharing contacts and information can be both positive and negative. I would like to brainstorm with some of the best in the business, but it is so competitive. I met with two agents at different conferences and expressed my desire to do so and they closed-up. I take no offense to this since this is a survival of the fittest business. If any other agents read this and want to give and take, let me know.

KMR: How do you keep up with the changing climate of the publishing industry? In other words, how do you decide which editors and houses to pitch to?

JL: One word: RESEARCH. I cannot emphasize that enough.

KMR: How did you get into this business?

Trixie Belden Series

Trixie Belden Series

JL: I have loved the literary arts since I was a little girl and my sister turned me onto chapter books, the Trixie Belden series. It was a seed that took a long time to germinate, but about seven years ago, I co-founded a writer’s conference and my tree produced good fruit. I met so many great authors, editors, publishers, etc. and one asked me if I would like to be an agent. I jumped at the chance and have been doing it ever since. Everything happens for a reason.

KMR: If you’re comfortable talking about it, can you describe the difference between working in an established agency and going out on your own?

JL: Define “established.” When I started working as a contract agent for the agency I started out in, they had three authors. Two had dropped off the radar years before and the other I took over, Stephen Doster. Oh, how I love his works! Established, no. It had a website. I took the reins and got it back on the map. When I broke off and started my own agency, all but four came with me.  Fifty-five authors stayed with me because they believed in me. I now have one other agent who works with me, Evie Saphire-Bernstein, in NYC. I hope to take on several more agents in the near future. So, if you are an agent and would like to work at LLA, contact me.

The boat that brought Jeanie and Robert together.

The boat that brought Jeanie and Robert together.

KMR: Please tell us about the boat that’s featured prominently on your website.

JL: That is the boat that brought me and my husband together.

At the Grand Canyon after Robert proposed to Jeanie.

At the Grand Canyon after Robert proposed to Jeanie.

My author, Stephen Doster, knew Vic Waters, another of my authors, who knew Jim Grimshaw, who knew Les Pendleton, who became one of my authors, who knew Robert Loiacono. AHHHH! Well, Vic had a book signing for the book I sold, Hogan’s Boat. There I met Jim Grimshaw, Vic’s cousin and also a famous actor, who told me all about Les Pendleton. I took on all six of Les’ manuscripts and sold them in a matter of months. Robert Loiacono sold Wings, now known as TwoPeas, to Les. When Les met him, he said, “I know just the woman for you.” Then Les invited me to go sailing with him and Susanne, his wife, one weekend. As we are gliding out of the marina, he says, “I know just the man for you.” Neither of us took the bait; had every excuse in the world. Then Les sent an email saying, “Jeanie this is Robert. Robert this is Jeanie.” The rest is a story I will write in about twenty years.

                            ***

Author and her Agent

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ 2nd novel Johnnie Come Lately is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. Her first novel The Final Salute has been featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. Despite a long and successful writing career, Kathleen longed for the kind of relationship that legendary author Eudora Welty enjoyed with her agent, Diarmuid Russell. When Jeanie Loiacono offered representation, Kathleen rejoiced, knowing she and her work had finally found a good home. To read Kathleen’s complete bio, please visit http://www.kathleenmrodgers.com/bio.html.

“A Good Story” by Joseph Durepos

 Joseph Durepos, executive editor/trade acquisitions at Loyola Press, has penned a moving essay about his dad. I’m delighted to spotlight Joe on this week’s blog. As an aside, Joe and I both graduated from Clovis High School, Clovis,  New Mexico. 

Joe and his dad
Joe and his dad

A Good Story

by Joseph Durepos

My dad read to me a lot when I was young. We always had a storybook going before bed. Later, I asked him why he read to me so much. He said that if you can find your way into a story, you can often find your way out. That sounded pretty Zen-like coming from Dad. I’m not sure I understood it at the time.

Several years later, I listened to poet Robert Bly talk about fairy tales and why they’re so enduring. He said something very much like my father had. He made his point by talking about certain doctors in Europe who worked with patients in psychiatric wings of hospitals—many of them troubled by bad dreams and feelings of inescapable panic.

Frustrated by their inability to reach these patients, the doctors began reading fairy tales to them before bed. Startlingly, many of the patients reported finding doors in nightmares where there were only walls before. Others saw light where there had been only darkness. Some patients showed marked improvement in moods and a lessening of agitation.

If I’m honest with myself, I didn’t always appreciate my father’s gifts, but I did always love him. He was an orphan, and his childhood had been tough. He lived in a foster home with lots of children moving in and out. The woman who ran the home liked my dad and raised him as her own. But there was nothing easy about growing up as a foster child in an orphanage in rural Maine during the Depression.

When he turned 17, he graduated from high school and immediately joined the military. It was a perfect marriage for him; it offered him structure, a way to find himself in the world, and a good job for almost 30 years.

My dad was a military man. A stoic. He rarely complained, certainly not about personal pain. In his world, unless you were down for the count, you just kept on keeping on.

Late on September 10, 2001, I got a call that my dad wasn’t doing well; I needed to come home right away. I flew to Albuquerque that night, met my two sisters, and drove to Lubbock, Texas, where my father had been taken to the hospital.

We arrived at the Texas Tech University Medical Center early on the morning of September 11. All eyes were on a small TV in the corner. Within five minutes I learned that my father was dying, probably had been for some time but hadn’t sought medical attention until he collapsed under the pain. I learned that all flights had been grounded. I learned about the hijackings, the attacks, and the estimated death counts. It was all too much to process at once. But I realized we were living in a story within a story: my dad’s story and our family story, but also the larger story of that day’s horrible events. This is how my father would have wanted me to make sense of the craziness.

We lost Dad less than four months after that terrible Tuesday. My father wasn’t a religious man, but he believed. As he drew closer to death, he spent quiet moments praying with his prayer book from childhood and reading novels. He told me that stories can make transitions, even difficult ones, possible. Then he winked and said he was simply finding his way out of the story. When he died, he was serene.

My dad never had a chance to read my first published book. It was a book about Saint Paul. In the first chapter, I talk about being part of the larger story of the faith that we live as Christians. It’s a vast, enduring story of salvation and redemption. Each one of us plays our part in the unfolding. It’s a concept I know intimately because of my father.

I’m in publishing today largely because of the love of stories my father nurtured in me. My dad loved that I became an editor and a writer. He would ask about my work and smile proudly. I still see that smile in my dreams, and I wake up happy. It’s a good story.

Bio:Joe Durepos 2013

Joseph Durepos is the executive editor for trade book acquisitions at Loyola Press, where he has worked since 2002. He’s published over 300 books, including New York Times Best Selling authors Fr. James Martin (My Life with the Saints) and Joan Wester Anderson (In the Arms of Angels).

Durepos has also worked as an independent literary agent specializing in religion and spirituality titles.  Titles sold include No Greater Love by Mother Teresa and The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer both with worldwide sales of over 500,000 copies.

As both an agent and editor, his books have been New York Times Best Sellers (The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly) and Publishers Weekly Best Sellers (The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer and I Like Being Catholic by Michael Leach & Theresa Borchard); they have also won Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of the Year awards (Prayer is A Place by Phyllis Tickle and My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J.).

Durepos lives in Woodridge, IL with his 18-year-old American Eskimo, Sasha.

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Clovis High School, class of '76Native New Mexican Kathleen M. Rodgers’ second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. She is represented by the Loiacono Literary Agency. Kathleen started writing for her high school newspaper, The Purple Press, her junior year.  She didn’t take the writing gig seriously until she won First Place for Feature Writing from New Mexico Press Women her senior year. The winning story, “Strange Blobs of Light Whiz Through the Night,” was inspired by the UFO sightings over Clovis in 1976.  http://www.kathleenmrodgers.com