For Mother’s Day…..Reminiscing about Uncle Willie’s Farm

me and mom backyard Meramec002 crop

Growing up, my best memories were the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of South St. Louis.

The corner confectionary sold rainbow-colored candy buttons and chunk chocolate. Housed in a shiny glass case, the candy was the main act, on show for all to see.

The brick five-and-dime store on Meramec Street, about three blocks from my house, sold everything imaginable. The same store where my cousin Carol, pounded her fists and kicked her feet in a full-out temper tantrum, because my Aunt Katie refused to buy her what she wanted.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Grand Avenue, still standing to this day, made superb lemon floats. I remember many reflective walks to the custard stand with my friend and neighbor Cindy Winschel.

As an adult, I loved hearing Mom’s childhood stories. She frequented Uncle Willie’s Illinois farm as a young girl, and spent lazy weekends exploring with sisters Georgia Lee and Isabella, often getting into trouble with her cousins, the Wagner kids.

What I remember most about Mom is that she was tough. Tough as nails. And funny.

So here’s a tribute to my Mom ‘Gladys’, and to all moms everywhere.

It’s a story that was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on October 13, 2010 titled Visiting Uncle Willie’s Farm. I hope you like it.

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010001Happy Mother’s Day…no matter what kind of mom you are….even moms of animal children.

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010002

Silver Springs and the Summer of ‘61

One of the best things about summer as a kid, were family vacations with Mom and Dad.  Vacations allowed me to (1) be a free spirit, (2) explore, and (3) wade in the tepid waters of the Gulf or Atlantic, and sometimes tip-toe in the Great Lakes’ frigid waters.

Oh how Mom and Dad embraced Florida! From Jacksonville’s soft sand beaches and Aunt Mary’s crab boils, to St. Petersburg’s old forts, and Miami Beach’s Art Deco District. Mom and Dad loved it all.

Recently, I found a black and white photo of Mom and me posing on a concrete bench at Silver Springs, Florida.  A glass-bottom boat was the background scenery.  Mom and I wore matching white leather huarache sandals. I loved those sandals.  (My brown leather softies purchased as an adult, even outlasted my first marriage.

Mom and me- silver springs001I was eager to discover the underwater world at Silver Springs, a popular tourist attraction.  My white huaraches and I stepped foot onto a glass-bottom boat for a tour of the Silver River, lead by an official ‘Captain’.  With glistening views of the sandy bottom and sea shells, the day was unforgettable.

Shortly after I discovered the snapshot in my cardboard box of memories, I read a story the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran by Alan Youngblood of the Ocala Star Banner.

The exact same boats I remember in their heyday, appeared as the backdrop for the photo in the Post, with cypress trees, bushes and a park bench in the foreground.

copyright Ocala Star Banner

copyright Alan Youngblood, Ocala Star Banner

In the 1960’s the popular TV show Sea Hunt was filmed at Silver Springs, as well as countless movies. The attraction recently reopened as a state park. The article mentioned the glass-bottom boats are still a feature for park visitors.

Over the past year, millions were spent to preserve the springs with different anti-pollution projects.  Apparently, the water clarity disspated due to nitrates infiltrating the spring water.

I’m curious to see now, if the springs are pristine, clean and full of interesting fish and bird life — the way I remembered them as a child.

And I’d like to think that the same concrete bench — the one Mom and I sat on, decades ago – is still waiting for me….to make new memories.

(I’ll need to buy a new pair of huaraches for the trip.)

 

 

 

 

Pitches, Lit and Conversation at the MWG Conference

MWG contest winnersThis weekend I attended the Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference in St. Louis.  I met some really cool writers, talked to friends, and collected helpful information from the workshops I attended.

Nightcap sessions on Friday evening writers mingled with lit agents and speakers. I sat at a round table with others and Jita Fumich, of Folio Literary.  Jita welcomed questions from the group, and answered eloquently throughout the session.

Saturday morning I attended breakouts and pitched my project to agents.

My pitch with Jennifer Stewart at Blank Slate Press went quite well – she even commended me for my well-thought out pitch and platform – however, the press wasn’t taking essay collections at this time.

Two ladies visiting St. Louis seated outside the conference room helped me prepare for my pitch.  Though they weren’t authors, they certainly were positive, upbeat and cheered me on.

Breakouts included:

ebooks 101 by Jita Fumich.  Stepping through the process of e-publishing models, and how to create professional eBooks.

How to Parse a Press by Steve Yates where we learned about keys to publishing with University Presses and what genres they’re accepting.

Query 101 with Pam van Hylckama Vlieg.  Pam’s presentation was so entertaining.  I found her fresh, funny and informative.  A great look into an agent’s mind as they peruse author queries.

I skipped the first afternoon session as I needed desperately needed caffeine, and spent a quiet time at Starbucks sipping a wet cappuccino.

Back to the breakouts and Robin Colucci Hoffman’s session titled Bestseller Blueprints where she stepped attendees through the elements in spotting a NYT Bestselling book.

Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post Dispatch, certainly made the banquet lively.  She’s seen it all when it comes to book reviews.  Jane touched on interesting, if not strange ways, authors attract attention when submitting books for her to to review.

Awards for contest entries were next on the agenda. I placed Third in the Missouri Writer’s Guild President’s Contest last night for Best Article in a Magazine, Anthology, or Journal for my AAA Traveler article titled Inside the Bahamas Out Islands.  Other writer friends from Saturday Writers and St. Louis Writers were also recognized.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A comedian, a novelist who writes post apocalyptic works, a couple of gals from Kansas City, a paranormal romance author, and a movie producer became new acquaintances.

But, the evening’s highlight was winning the Lit Ladies silent auction gift basket and four tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Dodgers game in August, with seats behind the first base dugout. A plethora of other goodies such as autographed books from local women authors, some earrings, a journal rounded out the basket.DSC_1441 silent auction basket

Thanks Missouri Writer’s Guild for a fun time and the camaraderie of writers.  See you same time, next year.