Guest Blog Post: The Margaret Fishback Papers by Kathleen Rooney


85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is out for a stroll — of over 10-miles! New York City!! New Year’s Eve, 1984!!! Alone!!!! In the middle of the night!!!!!

Wondering and worrying how the best-seller historical fiction novel would end was plenty to keep me turning the pages of “Lillian Boxwood Takes a Walk.” All the more enticing is that author Kathleen Rooney modeled Boxwood after the country’s real-life highest-paid advertising woman of the 1930s, Margaret Fishback.

Here, with Rooney’s permission for Happiness Between Tails to re-publish her article from this site, she describes the inspiration behind her book…

Kathleen Rooney, poet, professor, and author of “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.”

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Kathleen Rooney

Back in May of 2007, thanks to a tip from my best-friend-from-high-school Angela Ossar, I got to be the first scholar ever to work with the newly acquired papers of the poet and advertising copywriter Margaret Fishback at Duke University’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History in Durham, North Carolina. I didn’t know it at the time, but Fishback would end up being the model on which I based the protagonist, Lillian Boxfish, of my second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, which would end up coming out just slightly less than 10 years after my visit to Fishback’s archive.

Through an internship she held as part of her Library Science degree program, Angela got to be one of the first archivists to process and organize the Fishback materials. As she did so, she quickly realized that Fishback — a proto-feminist who was, at one point, the highest-paid advertising copywoman in the world, as well as a successful and well-published author of light verse — was a figure after my own heart. I love re-examining and rediscovering unjustly obscure figures, so getting a travel-to-collections grant from the university to check out the Fishback material was pretty much a dream come true.

While I was there, I connected with Fishback — her joy in her job and the identity and satisfaction she clearly found from her employment, as well as how she balanced creative pursuits and family demands with monetary ones — immediately. But it took me a long time to figure out what to do with my newfound encyclopedic knowledge of her life and times. In that spirit of not-quite-procrastination, here’s one of the poems from her 1932 collection I Feel Better Now, called “Getting Down to Work”:

Now, almost exactly a decade after I first worked with her archive, my novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk — based loosely on what I learned at Duke back in 2007 — is coming out from St. Martin’s Press. I hope that it will call more attention to this overlooked person and her role in shaping advertising as we know it. As the divisional copywriter at Macy’s, where she first worked in 1926, she revolutionized the house style and the style of advertising generally by adding humor to her ads. The humor of the ads is present in the poetry as well, even as it tends to take a slightly more world-weary and melancholy bent, like in this poem “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow,” also from I Feel Better Now:

Fishback’s books, as one can probably see by the fact that these are photographs of photocopies, are sadly long out of print and almost impossible to get a hold of.

But some of my most treasured acquisitions from my research that are now part of my own archive here at home include bound Xerox copies of every single one of her poetry collections, as well as her etiquette guide and guide to motherhood.

Her etiquette guide came out in 1938 and is called Safe Conduct: How to Behave and Why

And her guide to motherhood came out in 1945 and is called Look Who’s a Mother!

Both of these books, as well as each of her collections of witty verse, including her final one, Poems Made Up to Take Out, dating from 1963 —

— are delightful examples of Fishback’s voice.

Without the spirit and intelligence I found while doing my research in the papers of Margaret Fishback, I would never have been able to create Lillian. These photocopies — along with everything else I discovered in the Fishback archive roughly one decade ago — make me so happy to have gotten the chance to unearth her exceptional life and work thanks to Angela.

About Kathleen Rooney: she is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches in the English Department at DePaul University, and her most recent books include the national best-seller, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte (Spork Press, 2018). Her World War I novel Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey is forthcoming from Penguin in August of 2020, and her criticism appears in The New York Times Magazine, The Poetry Foundation website, The Chicago TribuneThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay. Follow her at @KathleenMrooney
Do walk in your city for fun?…

Guest Blog Post: Paranormal Geezer-Lit Mysteries by Mike Befeler


Anytime, especially n-o-w, is an excellent time to start something! In 2001, when Mike Befeler was 56, he set out to become a novelist. Since then, he’s authored 17!!!! books, including mysteries, a thriller, and a biography of a World War II veteran!

In this post for Happiness Between Tails, Mike discussed geezer-lit. Here he explains the ones he’s written that interlace the paranormal…

Photo of Mike Befeler
Geezer-lit author Mike Befeler

“Writing Paranormal Geezer-Lit Mysteries” by Mike Befeler

Most of my published books are geezer-lit mysteries, featuring older characters. A number of years ago, my agent suggested I consider writing a paranormal mystery. I read several and decided I would give it a shot. The result was The V V Agency, a paranormal private investigator mystery that introduced a new type of shape-shifter called a transvictus.

Then I decided to blend a paranormal mystery with older characters, and The Back Wing was born…

A normal person ends up in the back wing of a retirement home with aging witches, vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters. And don’t believe the myth that vampires don’t age. They get older, move into retirement homes, lose their teeth, and gum people on the throat.

Needless to say, I enjoy writing humor with quirky characters. The sequel, The Front Wing, will be published this month.

 I love stories where older characters aren’t merely life-savants who are sentenced to die by the end of the tale. What do you think about how older characters are usually treated in fiction?

Happy Birthday, Anne Tyler! with a Guest Blog Post by Angela Bell


Anne Tyler deserves all the chocolate cupcakes she could ever want for her birthday!
Anne Tyler deserves all the chocolate cupcakes she could ever want for her birthday! Photo: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” Anne Tyler, novelist.

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors! Who is yours?

For those of you unfamiliar with Tyler’s novels, she won a Pulitzer Prize and has been nominated repeatedly for more. She’s remarkable for writing about life’s nuances that we might otherwise miss. Too often, we’re so busy “doing” that we miss “living.” We can miss ourselves and each other.

Enter Tyler to remind us that each day is happy and sad, selfish and loving, smart and goofy, and everything in between. Families might offer connection. When they make us feel unbearably isolated and misunderstood, we can find solace in friendships and in families of our own making. Now in her late 70s, Tyler writes as prolifically as ever. Several of her stories have been made into Hollywood films and TV movies. Her books and her deeds illustrate how each of us is as vibrant as we choose.

Born in Minnesota and raised by Quaker parents, she was socially and culturally thoughtful from the start. I’m a soon-to-be self-published novelist. Like me, she married a Persian man. They were together until his death and had two daughters, now both accomplished artists.

Tyler has always been media-shy. That must be how she gets so much writing done! Where she lives in Baltimore, Maryland, businesses offer tips on where to see the homes of each of her characters. For more about her, there’s this and this. Fortunately, we also have Wikipedia’s Anne Tyler page to celebrate her — along with writer/blogger Angela Bell’s guest blog post…

Hashtag Retired

I try to be open to new writers and each year read a few debuts or authors I’m unfamiliar with, sometimes on other’s recommendations, sometimes at a writer’s or publisher’s request. Still, for me, there is a clear gold standard reserved for those writers who, over decades of wonderful books, always satisfy me, challenge or teach me, make me laugh, or bring me to tears.

I began reading Anne Tyler in the late 1980s, at the urging of my late dear friend Gerry. Incidentally, my then teen-aged daughter fell for her then, too. Anne Tyler persists today as one of our country’s great novelists. My list of favorites includes but isn’t limited to The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, Saint Maybe, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Digging to America, Ladder of Years, The Beginner’s Goodbye, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. My most recent…

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Guest Blog Post: the multiple lives of author Valeska Réon


How many lives have you lived? Valeska Réon, a German writer who often models with her adorable furry friends, takes creativity to so many levels! Read on for a hint at her fascinating multiple professional and personal personas…

Valeska Réon with a friend.

* * The Multiple Lives of Author Valeska Réon * *

When I started writing back in 1997, the world of literature was not like it is today. Self-publishing wasn’t yet invented, so you first had to find a publisher before the book could see the light of day. The Internet was still in its infancy in Germany, so you had to resort to traditional marketing strategies.

Valeska Réon and her dogs are great models!

In 2012, after three non-fiction books on health and beauty, I took all my courage and wrote my autobiography, “Flowers for a Chameleon.” What happened next — I hadn’t expected that! Perhaps I should tell you that I was not born a woman, but had already worked as a model in Paris before the sex reassignment surgery. Always I was careful that nobody learned of my secret. 1985 was another time, and models like Andrej(a) Pejic and Lea T. did not exist. The reactions to my book were overwhelming, it sold very well, and a filmmaker contacted me to film it (shooting starts in 2020).

But above all, I became aware of one thing – as an author, you market yourself best when you are authentic. Due to my life story, I was suddenly in the focus of the German LBGT community, which I first had to deal with. Countless letters from my readers all had the same core message: “Thank you for giving us such courage with your book!”

Today #beyoubetrue is my favorite hashtag, and I use it not only on Instagram but also on my author portraits.

Valeska Réon wears her favorite hashtag.

After that, I changed my genre to now writing thrillers – and that’s when I had a new marketing idea. In my book, “Double Sacrifice,” the song, “J’aime tellement,” plays such an essential role that once I wrote the lyrics, I then found a singer/composer to set them to music. Finally, it was remixed and is now available for download –- a great compliment to the book.

CD cover for Valeska Réon’s music.

 

My new thriller, “Walking on Sand,” is currently being rewritten into a stage play that will premiere in Düsseldorf, December 2019. Another autobiographical story, this one is about the transsexual children’s book author Lea. After many years, she returns to her hometown to avenge the terrible things her classmates did to her. The children’s book mentioned within it, “Charlotte Inside,” is taken out of the crime plot and made into a book of its own. It is the first children‘s book ever to tell young readers about therapy with the inner child.

What new creative adventure is Valeska Réon conjuring?

My greatest wish is for “Charlotte Inside” to appear internationally so it can bring joy and courage to children everywhere.

Guest Blog Post: Rita Rigby’s art by Mark Rigby


Rita Rigby

Of all the abundant beauty and wonder I experienced on our visit to New Zealand and Australia — from New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens — to Australia’s these exciting birds and these / stunning views / delicious eats / this and this wildlife at Currumbin / some beasts and beauty in Brisbane / and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there — my very favorite part of the trip was meeting terrific family in Gold Coast!

An inspiration at any age, cousin Rita Rigby is lovely and vigorous of mind and body. She’s both fun — and a talented artist! After dinner, on the final night of our visit, she (and her granddaughter, Roshan, too!) played the piano for us! In this photo (from left to right: Mark, me, Khashayar, and Roshan), we’re treated to an impromptu performance by Rita! Read on for a little about Rita and her artwork contributed by her son, Mark Rigby…

Rita Rigby Playing Piano

* * Rita Rigby’s art by Mark Rigby * *

Rita was born in 1927 and grew up in a small Queensland country town called Kilkivan. She loved the country life, which is reflected in her paintings. During her school years art was her favourite subject which has remained to this day.

art by Rita Rigby

Two men (drovers) on horseback are herding sheep in the country where I grew up.

art by Rita Rigby

This is an old Eucalypt tree that is synonymous with the countryside that Rita grew up with. It was struck by lightning with regrowth branching out from the main truck.

art by Rita Rigby

The background to this painting is Mount Warning, a significant landmark on the border between Queensland and New South Wales. It was named by Captain Cook, an English explorer who discovered Australia in 1770, to warn of the dangerous river bar near this location. The man is cutting sleepers to construct a railway in the early settlement times.

Do you like to paint?

Guest Blog Post: The Reinvention of Lee Gale Gruen


Think it’s too late to write a memoir or to take on a new career? Actress/author/blogger/lecturer Lee Gale Gruen describes how, since she retired, she’s reinvented herself many times over…

Self-reinventor Lee Gale Gruen

When I retired from my 37-year career as a probation officer, and I found myself with nothing meaningful in my life and decades looming. I mistakenly enrolled in an acting class at a senior citizens’ program, thinking it was a play discussion group. When I was forced to perform in a scene in front of the class, my lifelong stage fright kicked in. However, my shaky voice strengthened as I became completely immersed in my character, unaware of the sea of eyes watching and judging me. What a high! I became hooked on acting.

After my mother died, my outgoing, charismatic father, Marvin, became depressed and withdrawn. “Come with me to my acting class, Daddy” I blurted out to cheer him up. After some convincing, he agreed.

Midway through the class, the teacher called on Marvin to perform an improv with another class member. He really hammed it up and later asked me, “So, when are you picking me up for our next class?”

That started us on a magical journey attending the class together for three years, bonding more than ever. I wrote the humorous Dad/Daughter scenes we performed in the class showcase every six months.  The audience members loved us; Marvin loved the attention; and I loved acting and making him happy. All six scenes are included in the book.

I transitioned into the world of professional acting.  As my fledgling second career started going uphill, my father’s health started going downhill.  I shared all my new acting experiences with him at the nursing home where he resided in his final years.

My book (available on Amazon.com) is an inspirational father/daughter bonding story with a twist: both of us were seniors at the time.

For more about Lee Gale Gruen and her book…

Email:  gowergulch@yahoo.com

Acting website:  LeeGaleGruen.com

Book website:  AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Public speaking video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cen-dN6SUU&feature=youtu.be

Author interview video:  youtube.com/watch?v=FIUm9e7NRKc

Blog: Reinventing Myself in My Retirement:  LeeGaleGruen.Wordpress.com

Guest Blog Post: On Boy Books and Girl Books by Pernille Ripp


Books allow me to transcend my own experience of the world. In reading, I can assume the skin of people, places, times, and events that I’ll never otherwise inhabit. They make me feel more part of the world and more human.

How has reading shaped you? Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp why she believes children should be exposed to all kinds of books…

Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp.
Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp.

Pernille Ripp

White, Black, Yellow, Lime,  Free Image

I get asked for a lot of book recommendations, I think it comes with the territory when you share the love of books.  And while I love pairing books with potential readers, I have also noticed a pattern that causes me to pause, that should cause all of us to pause.

I get asked for a lot of books featuring male lead characters for male readers.

When I ask why the need for a male lead, I am often told that “they” just don’t think a boy will read a “girl book.”  That a boy will not like a book about feelings.  That a boy only wants books that have action.  That have other boys in it.  That feature characters that look just like them or at the very least think like them.

As if every single boy thinks alike.

When written like this it is easy to see the…

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Guest Blog Post: Geezer-Lit Mysteries by Mike Befeler


Ever heard of geezer-lit? I hadn’t until geezer-lit author Mike Befeler recently spoke at my local public library. He’s an entertaining speaker — plus he writes clever geezer-lit mysteries!…

I write geezer-lit mysteries. These novels feature older characters with a keep-you-guessing mystery to be solved.

My writing journey began in 2001 when I was 56 years old. I made the decision that I wanted to retire into writing and took two fiction writing courses at the University of Colorado to jump-start my writing.  My first mystery novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was published in 2007. There are now six books in this series featuring Paul Jacobson, an octogenarian with short-term memory loss who, in spite of not remembering the day before, becomes an amateur sleuth and even has a romance with a young chick in her seventies.

I enjoy showing a balanced view of the aging process—problems but also the humor and vitality exhibited by older people.

As an author, I get a kick out of some of the emails I receive from readers. Here is one of my favorites: “I have read your books and enjoyed them immensely, but even more fun was listening to my husband read them. He snorted, chuckled and guffawed his way through then. And the idea of geezer-lit tickled the bejabbers out of him.”

I started using the term geezer-lit after my author friend, Christine Goff, gave me this blurb for Retirement Homes Are Murder: “a wonderful debut novel­–a fitting entry in the burgeoning field of geezer-lit.”

The majority of my fourteen published books feature older characters. I used to say I was a geezer in training, but I’m now of an age where I may need to eliminate the “in training.”

Photo of Mike Befeler
Geezer-lit author Mike Befeler

About the author: Two of Mike Befeler’s books in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series were finalists for The Lefty Award for best humorous mystery. Other books include a theater mystery, a historical mystery, a sports mystery, two paranormal mysteries, an international thriller based on inventions of eccentric genius Nikola Tesla and a biography of a World War II soldier. Mike lives in Lakewood, CA, with his wife and when not writing can be seen taking his grandson to the park.

5. Ever been told…? by da-AL


Ever been told that the ultimate tragedy (and crime) for a girl or a woman is not to be regarded as physically attractive?
Ever been told that the ultimate tragedy (and crime) for a girl and a woman is not to be regarded as physically attractive?

Guest Blog Post: A Conversation with Cathi’s New Book!


Writing a book is h-u-g-e ! Publishing it is double that! Bravo to Cathi Turow!

Photo of author Cathi Turow
Cathi Turow

Cathi says of her new book and herself: “When I was on staff at Sesame Street, the show was intentionally written on two levels, for children and adults. I’ve just published an allegorical book which lifts the show’s adult sensibility (its humor, cleverness, and spirituality) and carries it to the other side of life: growing old. The book is based on my blog and can be purchased on amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com “

A conversation between Cathi and her book…

OVER THE HILL on the YELLOW BRICK ROAD

Traveling Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, I’ve had conversations with lots of weird people and things while passing through the Neighborhood of the Empty Nesters, the Avenue of Ages and Stages, climbing over Makover Mountain, visiting the Career Change Cafe, and looking back on my life in Reflecting Ridge. So…I put all those conversations together in a book, along with a story that ties everything together. Here it is! The only problem is, my book is being a hypochondriac.  While I was setting up links to Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, my book screamed at me: 

over_the_hill

BOOK: Ah!!!! Don’t make me travel across the internet!

Why not?

BOOK: Because I’m filled with conversations about growing older. I feel really fragile and responsible. If something happens to me on the way to Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com, I’ll never forgive myself.

What can happen?

BOOK: If someone clicks on me, it…

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