Wichita Public Library Book Sales

On Saturday I was at the library early.  Too early, in fact.  First Mom and I had to leave to go eat breakfast.  Then I came by, and the library was open but the room where we were selling the books was closed.  However, one of the staff was kind enough to let me into the room where it would be held, and I left the books and other supplies (posters and bookmarks) in that room.  Then at 1:00 PM I went into the room and set up: 2 posters on the table; the books on top of them; and the bookmarks in front of them.

            At first I felt dejected: there were no sales.  However, one person who ran the place assured me that most sales were not done at the place itself.  And in fact I made more than one sale: one woman was so taken with the four-book set of The Bible According to Eve that she told me she wanted to buy it on-line.  She could not buy it there because she did not have cash or a check book.  So I directed her to Barnes & Noble.  The Sunflower (the W.S.U. newspaper) also took a picture of my book.  And many people took bookmarks, in fact, all of my bookmarks and one poster I gave away for free were gone when I left.

            So I am glad that I went to the book sale for local Kansas authors.

            In the meantime, I will write that at Book-o-Holic in Wichita has accepted a few books to sell at full price, and I have a contract with Watermark—a local bookstore—to do the same.  I will sign the contract and give Watermark the copies of the book on September 3.  The price for the consumer at both bookstores shall be same time.  I am hoping I can get my book at Barnes & Noble in Wichita, too.  Alas, I don’t think for now it is possible for me to ship the books out-of-town.

            I also—but this was on Friday—sent 20+ copies of my flier to different libraries in Kansas.  My eventual goal is to run off more copies of the letter I sent, get more fliers if necessary, and get them to every library in Kansas and a few to Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska.  Perhaps I shall get a list for Colorado.

The Business of Writing Continues

I have stuffed 31 or so envelopes of the letters I ran off yesterday to send to the different libraries of Kansas advertising my book.  This was only into about 2 or 3 pages into my list of names, but it included all of the copies of the letter I ran off.  Then I sent them off in the mail.  Mom and I are celebrating by eating out this evening.

            However, there is more: this evening Mom and I are going out this evening to celebrate my “work.”  Technically we ate out last night, but I guess we are doing it again, and I am hoping for Red Rocks, expensive though it is.

            Tomorrow for Local Author Day, I shall take eight volumes of The Bible According to Eve: The Torah to the Wichita library, and one copy each of:

The Bible According to Eve: Nevi’im I: The Histories: Eve in Search of Adam;

The Bible According to Eve: Nevi’im II: The Seers: Eve Supplants Lilith;

The Bible According to Eve: Ketuvim: The Writings: Eve Wrestles with God and Man and Prevails;

 Faust in Love.

I will have to be at the library at 10:00 AM but will shoot for 9:30 AM.  Then I will try to figure out where to put my stuff or whose help to get set up.  I am still a little fuzzy on the details.  The sales will begin around 1:00 PM.

The Business of Writing

Today has been a day in which I spent doing the necessary but least interesting part of being a writing: the business part.

I got up early.  Mom and I went to Panera Bread and ate there.  Then we went to the Nature Center.  Mom was kind enough to buy me two books: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (a Newberry Awards book) and Archeology on the Great Plains.  Then we went to Watermark.  I have a card that I am going to use to sign a contract so that for $50, Watermark will sell my book (The Bible According to Eve: Women of the Torah)—5 copies of it.  I can sell multiple books I have published if I want, and I can sell more than one book under that rubric, so long as it is published. I want to sell multiple sets of three.  I will have to ask if that is publishable. However, I will not be able to run off the contract for a while, because I have already been to FedEx today and Mom probably doesn’t want to go back.  More, as I will describe later, my only copies of The Bible According to Eve may be sold another way, God willing. After Watermark, I went to Book-o-Holic and they are selling three copies of my book.  I donated one of my books to the library and sent a cover letter to the library asking to take part in Local Author Day, admitting that I only have remaining 4 soft cover copies of my book and 4 hard cover copies of my book.  I do however have posters and bookmarks to hand out alongside selling The Bible According to Eve: The Women of the Torah

            At FedEx I took a list of names of libraries I had cut and pasted last night: every library in Kansas.  I had taken the zip codes late at night last night and placed them next to the appropriate addresses.  Afterwards I made a one-page cover letter, and I have a stack of fliers I shall send each library.  Alas, last night I ended up with 10 pages of 42 addresses per page.  Though I will be getting work on stuffing envelopes tomorrow (100 manilla envelopes only—I got the envelopes at Office Depot); I will have to wait till next month to stuff more envelopes after the first batch.  I do hope, however, that I shall eventually get one letter to each library in Kansas, and then I have some addresses for Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

            I have looked at Watermark’s website and contract, but will not sign it till September, because I will need $50 and am using the 8 copies of The Bible According to Eve: Women of the Torah for Local Author Day this coming Saturday–God willing.  Tomorrow I shall stuff and send my first 100 envelopes.  However, for now I am taking a break with a root beer.  I shall read some of The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History with a root beer… perhaps Mom and I shall eat out tonight—I am letting Mom decide where. 

            The business side of writing is the least interesting, most tedious part.  Yet it has to be done if a person wants to be a serious writing, getting their work published and sold.  At the risk of sounding desperate, I hope some of the people who read my Blog will look into the books I wrote to see if there are one or two worth buying.

Recalling Grandma W.

I finished reading Russian Fairy Tales: A Collection of Muscovite Folktales this last week. It was not that long, but I had troubles concentrating. I also went to a movie today… I started thinking about the Holocaust, and about the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg, who saved 100,000 Jews from the Holocaust before being captured by the Russians (then supposedly our allies) because he worked for the O.S.S. (the organization which would later be replaced by the CIA) and the whereabouts of his death remain unnamed. I came to find myself wondering if I couldn’t do a Holocaust series at my synagogue–I haven’t asked the rabbi, next. Part of it would be listening and then discussing music from Theresienstadt–though I seldom listen to them they are beautiful, dark and mysterious, harsh as the fate of the inmates. Theresienstadt, for the initiated, was a “model concentration camp” window dressing for the Red Cross and the World, where educated, affluent Jews were taken till very close to the War’s end. Most of these people–particularly the children–died the same way as their peers who traveled to the camps before them. However, while at Theresienstadt, the adults tried to ease the suffering of the children by having them produce children’s art and children’s theater. Some people see this as collaborating. Regardless, the adults had little choice but to comply. So it was that out of this the books I Never Saw Another Butterfly and Ela Stein’s The Cat with the Yellow Star about Brundibar, a popular children’s opera during the time before the adults and children were finally sent to the camps.

Naturally enough, I thinking about Wallenberg made me think of my Swedish ancestry… and I got out some of my things… I was planning on writing a book A Biography of Frances Westin Williams. I am thinking perhaps I can somehow work on both it and work on Tales of the Land of the Firebird. Perhaps I shall read The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History. After that I shall read the histories of:

A Warrior Dynasty;
Gustav Adolphus;
Christina, Queen of Sweden;
King Carl XII;

I have some other books on Swedish American History, but most of these I shall read over weekends. In the meantime, after finishing the books about Sweden, I shall read:

Moscow and Muscovites;

The Chronicles of Novgorod;
Medieval Russia;
Peter the Great: His Life and World;
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman;

Das Kapital;
Main Currents of Marxism;

Russian Philosophy Vol. 1-3;

Russia: Under the Recent Regime;
Revolutionary Russia (Figgs);
Stalin’s War;
A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution (Figgs);
The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union;
From Cold War to Hot Peace;
The Plot to Hack America;
The Plot to Hack Democracy;
Central European History
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe;
Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland’s Present;
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine;
Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine;

Surviving Katyn: Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Proof.

I have other “to-read’s” (I know the list is long) but because my book list for Grandma William’s biography is smaller, I think I can slug through them both at the same time. I feel guilty but torn: I must get all of what I want to get read for my book read. And: Mom is feeling ill and I want to make sure she sees Grandma’s book at all costs. So it is current day tragedies (like the War in Ukraine, but also the ones in Afghanistan) comingle with the primacy of honoring the woman we all treasured and loved in my mother’s family: Grandma. Luckily (?) Swedish at it’s zenith played a major role in Russia’s history and vice versa: they fought several major wars against each other. It was Peter who destroyed Sweden’s position as a world power, and it was Catherine who reduced Poland (I know; a different country) to a puppet state. Later one, scores of Swedes travelled across the Atlantic for a new home–including my Grandma’s parents and one set of her grandparents. Around that time and afterwards, the Napoleonic Wars took place. During that time I had two grandparents fighting for Sweden against Napoleon, whereas in America, I have ancestry that fought both the British (in my Grandma Alderson’s ancestry) and later one (in 1812 in my Grandpa Williams’) the British. Though my book A History of Frances Westin Williams, focuses on my Grandma Williams and her family, I will mention some of these facts in the book.

A Modern Midrash on David

Yesterday I typed two pieces, one of which I wrote Sunday (“The Magic of Elena the Beautiful”) and the other which I wrote and typed up on Monday, “The Woman Who Loved David.”  It is a story about a fictive woman plausibly could have existed but whom we had no evidence did exist. Her feelings for David resemble a woman in love, and yet the folk stories she collects about her king are supposed to be patriotic and religious only. In the short story–and I admit it is very short, a mere 7 pages–her stories are collected for a larger work The Annals of King David, which is referred to in 2nd Chronicles but is now lost to people who are familiar with the Bible today.

“The Woman Who Loved David” leaves it open to the reader how much of the unnamed narrator’s lore is actually true: What was David’s real relation to Saul?  Did David fight on other king’s (outside Israel’s) side who might have hired him to fight Israel?  Did David have a relationship with Bathsheba and was that the true reason Solomon was David’s heir?  And how much of the “real” David does the Biblical reader—or the fictive narrator—know?  Yet I also try to indicate that in a sense believing in Biblical faith makes it, so the “real” David matters less than our experience of him.  It doesn’t matter if the “real” man let us down all those years ago in Israel. We love our David.  

Our David is the David not just of 1st and 2nd Samuel, but of the Psalms and the Midrashim. He is “the Sweet Singer of the Lord,” but also a military figure. In Isaiah he is declared to be the ancestor of the messiah. In Ruth he is declared to be the descendent of a Moabite. Though the Great Hero of the Jews, Christians try to claim him, too, using him in their genealogies to prove Jesus was of Davidic descent. Of course, if he is the Great Hero, he is the Great Sinner, too: he slept with Bathsheba, his soldier Uriah’s wife. Faced with his guilt by the prophet Nathan, he shows the appropriate remorse but too late. He loses control of his own family, and his own sons Amnon and Absalom die as a result, with the previous raping his daughter Tamar and the latter raping his father’s harem. Yet David grieves for his children. In this repentance he shows us what it is like to be a human being.

Someday I hope to write about the scripture’s mystic spark which makes it live. Perhaps the stories are not the truth that fundamentalists want to believe in declaring the Bible “inerrant” but, after all, perhaps the truth of scripture mediated in the heart as well as the head. Without knowing if she died believing in God, I will quote Emily Dickinson,

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

To Write or Not to Write

I am very proud of myself for what may seem a middling accomplishment: I wrote two stories between yesterday and today. For yesterday I wrote out a story “The Magic of Elena the Beautiful” longhand. I typed it up this morning and got 10 pages. Then this evening, I wrote out another story “The Woman Who Loved David” and typed it up and got 7 pages. “The Magic of Elena the Beautiful” is a retelling of a Russian folktale, “Ondrei the Shooter,” about a hunter who accidently comes across a bird that turns out to be a beautiful and resourceful wife. I retold the story from Elena’s perspective, beginning in the magical world where she is from.

I placed “The Magic of Elena the Beautiful” in my book Fraud on the Fairies. Charles Dickens wrote the article titled “Fraud on the Fairies” defending Fairy Tales from the abuse of overly didactic tales for children. My fairy tales will be of two varieties: retellings from a “different perspective” (“Mirror of Jealousy” or “Vasilisa’s Doll”) or ones totally made up by myself (like “The Nixie” or “Imogene’s Dilemma”) or ones inspired by traditional tales but whose retelling is far enough from the original that perhaps they deserve their own category (“The Modern Bluebird” or “The Sixth Swan”). I hope by the time I am finished with Fraud on the Fairies, it will be quite large, and I will have a good idea for an Introduction, perhaps mentioning Dickens’ views on fairy tales and social criticism.

“The Woman Who Loved David” started with the odd insight that there may have been other ancient Israelite women who were physically attracted to King David. After all, he was said to be physically attractive, and in his youth he cut such a dashing figure. My fictive admirer never tells David she is in love with him. She simply collects stories about David and tells them to the author of The Annals of David–a book mentioned in the Bible but which no longer exists today. We only know it once was because it is referred to in 1st Chronicles (I think in 1st Chronicles).

Grandparents’ Day

I have often thought that there ought to be two days on our calendar, and two days everyone knows like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day: Grandparent’s Day and Children’s Day. They have such days in Europe, and I will dwell on the first. I feel like our culture today is nihilistic in that it is anti-tradition and suffers from “agism” against the elderly. It starts by seeing the views of people a generation or two and regarding them as “irrelevant.” Now, first, no person who is alive should be regarded as “irrelevant.” Not even a thug in his jail cell because he committed a crime deserves to be somebody nobody talks to or listens to. Yet it goes deeper than that: society ought to honor the elderly. Their labors are what gave us what we have, and sharing their experiences with them can make us wise.

That is why one of the Holy texts of Judaism is the Pirkei Avot, the Sayings of the Fathers. It is a tractate of a larger section, the Mishna. Reading the Mishna–I have done it once–it is easy to miss the tractate and its significance, but reading it by itself in the prayer book, a person is struck by its ageless wisdom. Judaism is a faith that stresses tradition and honoring the elderly. Of course everyone knows that one of the Ten Commandments is “Honor your father and your mother, in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you.” The lengthening of one’s own days is the stated reward for honoring one’s parents. Although it might not be literally true that those who honor the aged will always get that reward, it is true that those who honor their elders are more likely to live without regrets when they are older.

I remember hearing a story of a man in danger of being sent off to the death camps of the Holocaust, and had a ticket for himself but not his parents. He did not know what to do. How could he leave them? Well, he prayed to God, and part of the copy of the Ten Commandments fell beside him from a truck driving by. He looked at it and it said, “Honor thy Father and Mother.” He decided it was God’s will, and he went with them. Nobody knows whatever happened to that man or his parents.

Most of us, thank goodness, are never tested in our love for our parents that way. I know there are even Jews who would doubt if they could do what that man did, and I am one. Yet he exemplifies that holy love which is described in the Bible, “Be Holy for I the Lord your God am Holy.” To be Holy means to love the sick, the weak–and the elderly.

I think about this a lot because my mom is aging–she is in her seventies–and she talks a lot about Grandma Williams. Mom has her regrets and the things that didn’t turn out the way she hoped. I hope before she dies, I will have made myself a success as an author (at least a Midlist author even if not on the Best Seller list), so she can be proud of me. I want her to die believing I lived up to the love she always gave me.

The Need to Rest

I am one of those creatures that experienced workaholics look down on: I am a late sleeper. In Biblical times,

The slothful man saith,

There is a lion without,

I shall be slain in the streets.

Proverbs 22:13

I do have an excuse, inadequate though it is. I spoke to my doctor yesterday, and though I take pills I still suffer from a “minor depressive disorder.” The symptoms include getting tired or sad easily. It is not as extreme as my symptoms become when I do not take my pills–which is why at this point in my life I have no trouble taking them. Anyway, yesterday I went out to eat and then we went to the doctor’s office… before and after traveling to the doctor I read 90 pages of An Anthology of Russian Folktales, finishing the book. However, I made a mistake afterwards: I read 12 pages of another book.

I started developing a kind of nervous agitation. I listened to some music… talked to a few friends… but realized I wasn’t feeling any better and went to bed. It was earlier than usual I think… but probably I ought to go to bed earlier than I usually do.

My carpool buddy called this morning while I was in the shower to tell me that she wasn’t going to shul today… So I didn’t go either, and slept in. Mom and I ate out… I suppose I could have gone to shul, or recognized Shabbat by not eating out, but oh well. I read the first 48 pages of Russian Fairy Tales: A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folklore. I have already read quite a few of them. And I read pages 12-42 of my other book.

I fixed supper, a Tomato and Basil Tarte.

Tomorrow I shall rewrite “Ondrei the Shooter” as “The Magic of Elena the Beautiful” for Fraud on the Fairies.  “Ondrei the Shooter” is a story from An Anthology of Russian Fairy Tales.  It is told from (naturally) Ondrei’s point of view, but my story will be from his wife’s (Elena’s) perspective.  I may think about looking at those stories I have read for Fraud on the Fairies and see if I have ones for “Ivan Tsarevich and the Wolf and the Firebird” and “Vasilisa the Beautiful.”  If not I may try to write some soon… though I am not sure how because I need to plow through my reading for Tales of the Land of the Firebird.

Yet I will do no more “work” today: I do not want to overexert myself. Despite the fact that COVID-19 is still real—Mom thinks we should get another booster shot—things are much better than they were two years ago.  Eventually we shall all look back on being terrorized indoors and say, “Thank Goodness, it’s over.”

Kansas Primaries 2022

I just wanted to comment on yesterday’s election.  I am glad that for once I bothered research the primaries before voting—that is what everyone ought to do.  Of course, I could not, on such short notice do all the research in local news before voting.  I am ashamed I do not at least read the Wichita Eagle for that.  However, I got on-line and read up on the different candidates, and found one I particularly liked on the Democratic slate.  I found Mark Holland.  I like him firstly for personal reasons: he said that he believed in service, had been a pastor, was a Kansas native four generations back, and was against extremism in politics.  There is nothing there not to like, as far as I am concerned.

Next he talked about the importance of the economy—a big issue these days—public education—another big issue—and healthcare.  He said he was basically pro-choice, and though I am ambivalent on the issue I am basically okay with that.  I am pleased that along with these hot-button issues he also said that he mentioned both the environment and the fact that environmental concerns could be good for the environment.  I am glad that he says there is no widespread fraud in the American voting system: I believe it is the truth.  I am glad that when he talks about history he balances “living in the greatest state, in the greatest nation in the world” with “honest history about how far we have come and where we fall short.”

I agree with him about campaign finance laws needing reformed.

I also basically agree that we need to “stop criminalizing social issues.”  I am reminded of a story Mr. Chacko, a college professor, told us in class once.  He said that once when he was visiting some cousins he smoked a cigarette secretly with a few of the younger members of the family.  Then he said that his aunt, who saw them, walked all the way to his home village to tell his mother.  He was in big trouble because of that.  He has never smoked a cigarette since.  We need to have a common understanding of right and wrong as a culture that goes beyond law and involves social norms which are enforced by the approval and disapproval of our peers.  It is not possible, I don’t think, to outlaw adultery.  It is possible to create an attitude in the people that it is wrong so that people think twice before doing it.  I don’t know if that is what Mark Holland meant, but it is what I took from what he said. 

Reading Anne Frank

I thought of that old friend of mine whom I have not visited in a while. Perhaps some weekend before Tish B’Av I shall read her diary along with Renia’s Diary: A Holocaust Journal; Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Live in a Concentration Camp; The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister; The Girls of the Room: Friendship, Hope and Survival in Theresienstadt; and The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin. The “her” is of course the mother of all Holocaust diarists: Anne Frank.

I was nine or ten when I first read The Diary of Anne Frank. I remember thinking she was the friend I wished I could have. I was lonely as a child in grade school, and while I certainly was not suffering the way she did in her attic, I felt a kind of kinship with somebody who was so isolated, who truly was a rival to her sister Margot and in love–for part of the book–with Peter. I remember feeling crestfallen that Peter and Anne’s love did not last till the end of the diary… but more broken hearted when I read the fate of Anne in the center of the diary, written as the subtext of pictures. I learned that Anne died peacefully, after Margot, “as though nothing bad was happening to her.” The book said that Anne did not lose her humanity in the camps: she pitied gypsy children on their way to the gas chambers… And I cried for Anne, because though we never met she was my true friend. It did not matter–it still doesn’t–that she was a “liberal” Jew, whereas when I did convert I was a “Conservative” who kept Kosher. No, all that mattered was that she was a little girl and I was a little girl, and I kept her secrets.

Learning about Anne was my first experience with knowledge of the Holocaust. I would eventually read and see Schindler’s List. Later I would read Sheltering the Jews… and I hope to read another larger book on the Holocaust which I have upstairs. I’ve seen films and heard speeches as a Jew about the Holocaust, usually on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I even have a book, Ester and Ruzya, about two women, one who was a victim of the Nazis and the other a hapless collaborator of Stalin–or at least, that is what I believe it is.

This last may be helpful to create a fictional story between two people–not necessarily two women–who survived Stalin’s and Hitler’s camps before they met. I am not sure they would both have to be Jewish, though it would make sense with Hitler’s death camp. Perhaps the person on the Jewish person went to Russia to find a relative, and meets the person who was in Stalin’s camp instead. Perhaps the one in Hitler’s camps “saw a boy, Yuri, and the guards said he was Stalin’s son. I wondered how he could be there, but the guard laughed and said–somebody else among the guards thought to ask him–that Hitler generously offered to swap him and some other prisoners for Hitler’s nephew, who had also been captured. Yet neither man would make the swap without other prisoners involved, and neither would say they would give other prisoners for their relative. I kept watch on Yuri, though he said under interrogation that he and all Russians hated Jews, and then tried to stop him from trying to escape. Alas, he died on the fencing trying to escape. I cried for Yuri. It was not his fault he was Stalin’s son. He was a good boy at heart.”

I maybe shouldn’t reveal this much about my story based on Ester and Ruzya. Yet I hope it will exist in Tales of the Land of the Firebird Part I.