Blogs · My Thoughts · Writing

Who Sits Beside You?

            As I look at the current statistics on my weekly blog, I’m amazed at its geographic reaches and have pondered the reasoning. People from around the world drop by weekly to taste my words. Today I veer off of my travelogue of our 12 Day British Isles cruise to a poem about this phenomenon and envision us sitting around an international table.

A joyful time together!


We sit at a joyful table
                        Across from each other
            My words dancing between us.
                        We laugh, you point
                                    I nod and we brush shoulders.
           
Hungry eyes from all over the world
             Sit with me and view me through my words!
                                    View my blog
                                                View my thoughts

People I don’t know;
             People who don’t know me!
 
But they come
              To my sumptuous table
                                    Filled with enticing flavor in each word.
They look at the title
               And
                                    Make the choice to partake.
 
Wonder
            Curiosity
                        Spirit speaking to spirit
                                    Deep food nourishes your soul.
I have to admit—
            Your visit to my table surprises me!
                        I serve up words
                                    And you eagerly slurp them up!
           
My blog surprises me!
            Personal topics
                        Ideas
                                    Events
            My life happenings
                        One day at a time
A 66-year-old country girl
            Who loves words and stories
 
Weekly the topic comes.
            I let it percolate for days,
                        Then I write.
 
What surprises me is
            You accept my invitation
                        And come.
                                    You are interested!
 
Why, I wonder—
            Some from
                        Iraq & Indonesia
                        Egypt & Denmark
                        India & China
Yes, mostly from the United States
            With its melting pot of ethnicity.
 
But a spattering
            From around the world
                        A LARGE SPATTERING!
 
Again, I ask
            Who sits beside you
                        as you read my words?
                                    A Christian
                                    A Muslim
                                    A Jew
                                    A Buddhist
 
Who gently nudges your elbow?
            A Caucasian?
                        A Hispanic?
                                    An East Indian?
                                                An African?
 
At this universal table, a cacophony of smells explodes.
            Green chili from New Mexico
                        Curry
                                    Sage
 
I invite all to participate!
            All are welcome
            To sup on my words
                        To feed on my thoughts
                                    To bask in our communal experience
            Because
                        It’s common
                                    Every day
                                                Universal!
 
Welcome!


The round table in Branson, CO
The round table where I heard so many stories!

I have so many memories sitting at our round table in Branson listening to my Dad tell his fascinating stories. Join me here in your mind any time you read one of my blogs–I will be waiting for you!


Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

Two memoirs, a historical fiction, a nonfiction and three cookbooks! It’s your choice! Just be sure to select at least one. Also, I have bundles where you save money when you buy more than one! Also, FREE SHIPPING now in the USA. Visit my Etsy Shop for all my booksLarada’s Reading Loft

Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

I HAVE 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Dancing · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · Writing

Marshall Flippo – A Success Formula That Worked

As I continue to write Marshall Flippo’s authorized biography, I ponder his life and how it unfolded. Flippo’s success as being the most famous square dance caller in the world didn’t just happen. He had friends galore across the United States and internationally, and he treated them fairly and returned to square dance clubs and festivals for decades for repeat performances at numerous places. How did he engineer such a successful career?

He always credited Neeca, his first wife, with his business success. Early on his career, she planned out a successful tour after people became acquainted with him at Kirkwood Lodge at Osage Beach, Missouri where he spent six months of his year. From the clientele that visited there, Neeca lined up a tour across America and the world, and the clubs and festivals were so pleased with Flippo’s performance, that he was repeatedly asked back—some places over thirty to forty years of continuous visitation.

Imagine that—an annual six-month tour filled to the brim with dancers who were anxious for his return every year. Marshall’s supreme memory compelled people to love him dearly because in many cases, he called them by name after his year absence. This can’t be explained or identified at face value—his people skills endeared him to the dancers.

So, what made him so successful? When asked, Flippo said it was luck and being at the right place at the right time, but there was so much more.

He was committed to his craft of square dance calling and practiced extensive hours—Melton Luttrell, his longtime caller friend, remembered him practicing singing calls while he was driving down the highway. Being on the road for six months of the year gave him ample practice time.

Another caller noted Flippo refusing to participate in an after party at a convention so he could practice his calls before the next day’s events.

Flippo’s talent of unique choreography and his wonderful singing voice won him many fans—he was a star in the square dance world to many. To hear him sing “The Auctioneer” which was his first recording and became highly successful, his clear voice and choice of popular music shines through.

Check out a snippet of Flippo’s famous singing call recorded in 1958:

https://squaredancehistory.org/items/show/160

He connected deeply with other callers who helped him. One caller mentor was Betty Casey of Abilene, Texas who had studied with Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw in Colorado Springs, Colorado and influenced Flip with Shaw’s teachings. She is the one who taught Flip to call.

Flip received more of Shaw’s dance philosophy from another mentor, Bob Osgood, the editor of the highly successful square dance magazine, Sets in Order.

Another mentor from Abilene, Texas was J. C. Wilson who took the young Flippo under his wing and help him with his rhythm and shared something unique—Burma Shave jingles that were popular at the time. J. C. used the jingles as fillers as dancers did certain calls or moves. Flip became known for his selection of these jingles and other callers followed suit and “borrowed them” from Flip.

Flippo’s career started in the late 50’s and early 60’s during a time that square dancing flourished, so he had events with record numbers outrageous in size compared to ours today. The large number of dancers increase Flippo’s popularity worldwide and the number of fans increased.

Success formulas are hard to analyze—as Flippo said being at the right place at the right time did have a impact, but his personality, talent and well-planned tour with its connection to Kirkwood put him in a place to become one of the most successful square dance callers in the world.

And, I promise you, as I continue writing this amazing book, I will continue sharing my musing with you!

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

SUMMER SAVINGS UNTIL JULY 15, 2019: 25% off of both paper and digital copies of my book, A Time To Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir, at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance · Writing

What To Do With 258,490 Words?

           Thousands of words! Forty hours plus of interviews! I have a dilemma! I’m realizing I have to make some decisions quickly on the Marshall Flippo biography. I have 258,490 words from the forty hours plus of interviews. I will edit the interviews as I create the chapters and shrink the word count considerably, but. . .

In the first six sections, I have edited it down to 42,000 words, so I know the final version will be much less than almost 260,000 words. If I stay at that number, the book would be 650 pages which is too way long.

As I thought about a possible tool to help me get organized, I created a database and divided the book into sections:

  1. Front Matter
  2. Childhood
  3. Navy
  4. After the Navy
  5. Abilene
  6. Kirkwood
  7. Tours & Festivals
  8. CALLERLAB
  9. Divorced
  10. Tucson Years
  11. End of Career
  12. Flippo’s Stories about Callers
  13. Stories About Flippo
  14. Letters & Notes
  15. Awards
  16. Photographs
  17. Recordings
  18. Epilogue
  19. Appendix A – Chronology of Flippo’s Life
  20. Appendix B – References
  21. Appendix C – Glossary

In this database, I also did a word count and realize now the largest section is “Flippo’s Stories About Callers” at 72,924 words, Yes, it is rough interview material that hasn’t been edited yet, but it’s the biggest section, and it’s not about him.

Flippo shared stories about many of these callers!

He told hilarious stories about 86 different caller friends because they played key roles in his calling career, and he wanted to share his favorite stories. As I have put together the first six sections of Flippo’s biography, I can see the importance of people in his life, so it’s understandable that he spent so much time in our interviews talking about his caller friends.

Early on in the interviews, Flippo listed 67 callers he had known or called with over the many years of his calling career. We used that list as the guide to all his stories and added to it. When we returned to the list for the stories, some names from this list we crossed off because he couldn’t think of a “funny” story—that ended up being the criteria for including someone. He had to have a funny story about that person.

        Flippo really wanted these stories included in his biography. He asked if we could have a section in the book named, “Callers I Have Known or Have Worked With.” He described the chapter as, “We’ll start out with each caller. I’ll have something about each one. It would make a pretty good chapter, I think. Different stories. I’ll try to tell a funny story with each caller. Let’s do that then. That whole section will be about callers.”

         What he didn’t realize was all the stories he told would total up to be over 70,000 words. I was shocked myself when I realized the length of this section.

What should I do?

        Therefore, I have a hard decision to make: have Flippo’s biography be super-lengthy, and he was emphatic about the size of his book, “It couldn’t be as thick as Bob Osgood’s book, As I Saw It.” Or. . . So, what do I do?

        My husband, Lin, came up with a possible solution: write two books—his biography which would be longer and then a shorter book of his stories about callers. Lin laughed, “His biography will be fun, but the stories about the callers will be funny!”

         I could keep a few of the stories in his biography to honor Flippo’s wishes of having stories about his caller friends in his biography, especially the ones about the callers who helped him in his early career.

        As I have gone through Flippo’s interviews and told his story in the early sections, he wanted to tell stories about his Navy friends, the callers he knew, the employees at Kirkwood and the owners of Kirkwood. These stories were a part of his DNA, but I have to make sure that his biography is about him! So, this is a balancing act.

         I’ll keep you posted on my final decision. What do you think I should do? I need your suggestions!

Check out my NEW and IMPROVED web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

MOTHER’S DAY SPECIAL: 25% off of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memois — digital & paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Interesting posts about Flippo’s life.https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · Writing

Are You A Pantser, Plotter or Plantser?

When you write are you pantser, plotter or plantser? If you don’t know what that means, here it is:

Simply put, a plotter is someone who plans out their novel before they write it. A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything, or plan very little. Some people, like me, call themselves “plantsers,” which means they’re in a little of both.”


https://thewritepractice.com/plotters-pantsers/

Normally, I’m a pantser and the story evolves as I’m writing, but I had to be super-organized with this book, so I wrote this outline.  I didn’t write it before interviewing Flippo; I wrote it after we talked and I saw the topics surface, so I guess I’m a plantser!

Here’s the outline for the book I’m writing. It’s organic and changes as I work with the material. The power of the outline is that it gives me direction and an organizational structure to follow—it will fun to see how it finally turns out!

Title: Just Another Square Dance Caller

Subtitle: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

  1. TO THE READER
  2. Prologues
    1. Larada’s
    1. Marshall’s – Blue Star Records, Kirkwood & Neeca
  3. Joke
  4. Callers That Have Passed You Who Helped Flippo

CHILDHOOD  & YOUNG ADULTHOOD SECTION

  1. Childhood & Family
  2. Volunteered for the Navy & War Years
  3. Baseball in the Navy
  4. Early Marriage & Life with Neeca

SQUARE DANCE LIFE SECTION

  1. Square Dance Life
    1. Abilene’s Where It Started
    1. Blue Star Changed Everything
    1. Kirkwood Changed More
      1. John’s birth
    1. Yearly Tours of the United States
      1. Came out of Kirkwood & Neeca organizing – From & to Kirkwood
        1. North
        1. East
        1. South
        1. Home – Christmas
        1. North
        1. West
    1. Yearly Festivals
      1. Asilomar – ahead of and before CALLERLAB
      1. Permian Basin Festival
      1. WASCA
      1. Chula Vista Resort
      1. Others that I will add
    1. CALLERLAB
    1. International Trips & Cruises
      1. Japan – numerous times
      1. Spain
      1. Germany
      1. Caribbean
      1. Hawaii
      1. See Album
    1. Special Weekends
      1. Alaska – 2 events
    1. Recording Companies & Life
      1. Blue Star
      1. Chaparral
      1. Others
    1. Choreography
    1. Tucson Years
  1. End Of An Amazing Career
    1. Celebrations
      1. Chaparral Boys Labor Day, 2016
      1. Farewell to the Road
        1. Abilene, Texas – Wagon Wheel
      1. Houston
      1. Albuquerque
        1. Last contract with ASDC – big celebration
        1. Last NM contract – State Festival – 2016
          1. Agreed for me to write this book
      1. Green Valley, AZ – December 31, 2017
        1. I’m Leaving Here a Better Man
    1. Asilomar Once More
    1. Last CALLERLAB
  • Stories From Callers & Friends About Flippo
  • Stories from Flippo About Callers That Helped Him
  • Letters & Notes from Callers & Dancers
  • Awards
    • Sets In Order Hall of Fame
    • Milestone
    • Texas Hall of Fame
    • Lifetime Achievement
  • Epilogue – Flippo’s Memorial Service

THE BACK MATTER

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Photo Album
  3. Appendices
    1. Appendix A – Chronology of Marshall Flippo’s Life
    1. Appendix B – Recordings
    1. Appendix C – Awards
    1. Appendix D — Reference Books
    1. Appendix E – Glossary of Square Dance Terms
    1. Appendix  F – URL’s of Videos and Audio of Flippo
  4. Copyright Permissions
  5. Endnotes – Any footnotes when I quote a book or web site
  6. Larada’s Reflections – I’m writing this as we talk. I think it will be throughout the book.
  7. About the Author

Flippo and I went over this outline the last time we talked, but he was struggling at that time, so I’m not sure it’s complete. If you’re a Flippo expert, am I missing anything? Let me know.

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · Writing

11 Secrets to Transcribe Audio to Text

In today’s modern world of technology, you’d think that transcribing an audio file into text would be a cinch, a no-brainer. The computer would do all the work for you, and you’d sit back and sip on a cool drink and relax—not so! Transcribing audio to text is quite squirrely at best. I just finished transcribing 37 interviews—well over 40 hours of conversation with Marshall Flippo for his biography. Some one hour interviews took over seven hours to transcribe because of various issues. I’d like to share my frustrations, my pain and my process.

I have arthritis in my thumbs and right index finger so the transcription became a painful chore. I had lots of suggestions from welling mean friends along the way to help me, and I tried them all:

  • Have it professionally transcribed
    • I searched out several sites on the Internet where it could be done technically.
    • I hired a professional transcriber.
  • Google Docs has an audio to text capability, so I ran a couple interviews through it.
  • Microsoft Word has an audio to text capability. Again, I ran a couple interviews through it.
  • My voice came out loud and clear on the audio and worked perfectly on Google Docs & Microsoft Word, so I listened to Flippo then repeated back to these two programs—time consuming for sure.

I tried all of these obvious solutions, but Flippo’s soft spoken Texas drawl was impossible for a professional or a machine to understand. So, in the end, I transcribed over 258,000 words when I finished.

Now I feel like I know what I’m doing, and I’d like to share it with you.

What did I learn in the process?

  1. BACK UP OF AUDIOS: At the end of each interview, IMMEDIATELY, I exported the interview to DropBox. I also backed up my Marshall Flippo folder on DropBox and my laptop on a thumbdrive on a weekly basis. Lastly, I have asbackup program on my laptop that makes backups throughout the day.
  2. I bought Voice Recorder for an iPad. (FREE; Don’t remember what the upgrade price is) http://www.tapmedia.co.uk/voicerecorder-support.htm
    1. It would do a cursory transcription of the first 10 minutes. I used that on interviews from caller friends who told me stories about Flippo, but again it wouldn’t work on his soft voice.
  3. I bought ExpressScribe software for a Mac. ($40) https://www.nch.com.au/scribe/index.html
    1. ExpressScribe plays the audio and has a simple word processor to type the transcription in, all in one app.
    2. Whenever I stopped the audio, it rewound a few seconds to make it easy to find where I was.
    3. In the midst of this project, I had eye surgery on my right eye, so I had trouble seeing font size 10 in the word processor in ExpressScribe, so I learned to magnify the window on my Mac which was an easy fix: Hold down 2 Keys: Fn & Control and using 2 fingers on the track pad, move it up to zoom in and move down to zoom out.
  4. Any time I stopped transcribing, I copied and pasted text from ExpressScribe into Scrivener’s.
    1. In Scrivener’s, I created “Comments” on anything I didn’t understand in the transcription to return to later.
  5. When I finished each transcription, I exported the notes into a file in DropBox.
  6. Watch your laughter, responses and talking over the speaker. We truly had an ongoing conversation over the 37 hours. Flippo told a story; I laughed. I responded to his humor and his stories, but in my enthusiasm, I guffawed right over his next statement. Or we talked over each other. His words being the most important and the softest disappeared with mine being secondary and the loudest. Think about your laughter, responses and habitual talking habits beforehand to control them during the interview.
  7. Add Nuances—Whenever Flippo giggled, I put (Giggles), so when I was writing the biography later I would make sure to add is giggles and laughter to the story. He sang some of his responses, so I noted that. Be sure and note anything you hear in the transcription that you will want to add to the book later. Listen to his cadence, his pronunciation—his personality in voice and make note of it in the transcription.
  8. Hard to Understand Sections—Most of my audio was great, but there were times I had trouble understanding Flippo.
    1. Rewound and slowed the audio play down to 75% or increased it to 105%. Often this helped.
    2. In my transcription documents, I timestamped any spots that are hard to understand so I could easily return.
  9. Each time I stopped transcribing, I marked where we stopped in my notes of that interview with a timestamp.
  10. Organize your interviews beforehand by themes or topics.
    1. A friend told me before I started that Flippo would try to hijack the interviews, and he did quite often.  I didn’t organize all the interviews with a theme, and after transcribing, I realized I had made my job harder in the next step of putting the interviews into chapters.
    2. Granted the organic fluidity of conversation was important, and he told lots of stories he wouldn’t have if I’d been super-rigid about this, but some organization would have helped in the long run.
  11. BIG PLUS—I realized early into the transcribing process that it was to my advantage to hear Flippo’s voice again, go over the details again and submerge myself in his voice and personality in a different way. When I was recording him, I took notes and focused on capturing as much on paper as I could. In transcribing, I had the luxury of listening to him, his voice, and the nuances and made note of them in a different ways.
Flippo and me at CALLERLAB 2018 in Albuquerque

The work is done—whew! I love the interaction Flippo and I enjoyed in the interviews. The transcription, by far, has been the hardest part of this project. Now, I’m ready to actually write the book which is exciting and rewarding.

I hope my suggestions help you in transcribing any interviews you do.

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Blogging · My Thoughts · Words Matter · Writing

What Does Five Years of Blogging Look Like?

Five years ago, I took the advice of writing pundits that I should blog as an author, so I did it sporadically and half-heartedly for four years. I didn’t do regular posts. I wasn’t committed. I didn’t know what to do.

Then in 2017, my husband and I took a fabulous trip to Ireland and England, and it hit me–blog about every day of the trip. We were gone for 23 days, so I had topics for twenty-three posts, and I was off and running. I realized the power in having planned blogs. My statistics changed, and last year, I hit it full tilt. Now I have a database of topics for 2019 already.

I wanted to take this opportunity to look at my statistics and thoughtfully consider what’s working and what needs to be tweaked! Let’s look at my statistics for the last five years:

For the first two years I had 207 views but my visitors increase. In 2016 views more than doubled and visitors increased also. In 2017 again, views increased but visitors more than doubled.

But 2018, my numbers went off the map! My views increased more than six times and the visitors jumped by seven times. Wow! Why?

Over the years I increased my posts, and last year I posted on a regular weekly basis–some weeks I posted twice a week. I more than doubled the number of posts published. What do I take from that? Readers like regular blog posts, and they like more.

Here’s what my posts published statistics look like:

  • 2014 – 7
  • 2015 – 16
  • 2016 – 6
  • 2017 – 22
  • 2018 – 55

Let’s look at specifics from 2018. My most popular post published was “Day 3 – 4 Kissing A Stone and on to Killarney.” I wondered about its popularity for months, then my husband said it was the blog post that came up every time he went to my blog, so is that the reason? Or are people enamored with “Kissing the Blarney Stone?”

“Live Lively, Square Dance” was the second most popular. I shared it on several Facebook square dance pages, and the response was great. Sharing about my personal life seems to spark more interest.

What was your favorite blog post of mine in 2018?

I love the growth statistics this last year, but I do have two disappointing statistics: likes and comments.

Likes:

  • 2014 – 0
  • 2015 – 1
  • 2016 – 8
  • 2017 – 45
  • 2018 – 136

Comments:

  • 2014 – 0
    2015 – 2
    2016 – 77
    2017 – 8
    2018 – 48

I want more interaction with my visitors. I end each blog with questions to stimulate conversation, so help me out. What do I need to do? What would make you like and/or comment more on my blog?

Visitors to my blog come from all over the world which fascinates me, so what countries visited my blog last year and how many did I have for each country?

  • United States – 3962
  • Australia – 108
  • Canada – 103
  • United Kingdom – 69
  • Germany – 36
  • Ireland – 34
  • India – 26
  • Japan – 25
  • Hong Kong (China) – 19
  • Sweden – 8

Other countries listed are Netherlands, Philippines, Qatar, Mexico, Russia, Denmark, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, France, Armenia, Portugal, Belgium, Ukraine, Spain, Lithuania, New Zealand, Finland, Egypt, Romania, Thailand, Italy, China, Cameroon, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Poland, and Colombia. Readers from 29 countries have visited my blog in 2018–Wow!

So, why did you come to my blog from such far-away places? Let me know.

One more change I did these last two years was use a variety of quality photographs and graphics.

Over 84% of all marketing strategies use images, popular GIFs, graphics, animations, and signs among others to pass information. Visual communication has more impact in passing information to people. 

https://www.eztalks.com/unified-communications/why-visual-communicaion-is-important.html

I plan to include these topics this year:

  • Our Travels
  • Square Dancing
  • Marshall Flippo and promoting my new book
  • Personal life stories
  • Being 65 and fully alive
  • Holiday highlights
  • Ranch life in southeastern Colorado

All-in-all, my blog has become a major focus of my writing career, so stick around and see where we go this next year!

I have 4 books and 3 cookbooks to check out on my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

25% Discount on Digital copies of all my books at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · Travel · Writing

I’m Disappointed!

woman looking at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Normally I’m a very positive optimistic person and try not to admit disappointment–look for the sunny, bright side, am a Pollyanna, etc. ad nauseam. Yesterday, at the airport, I wrote a celebratory post highlighting the conference I attended over the weekend, void of my complete experience. Yes, I loved some of the conference’s offerings, but this morning, I decided to be honest.

I left disappointment and discouraged as a writer. I want to tell you why–maybe you’ve had a conference experience like mine.

I have self-published four books and three cookbooks in the last five years. No best sellers but I’ve enjoyed my “retirement job.” I’m also a genre-jumper. I’ve written two memoirs, a historical fiction and a nonfiction about the West. My next project is a biography, and the one after that is woman’s fiction. I write poetry; I write prose. Many writers pledge their allegiance to one genre, one topic–I don’t, but I am a writer–clear fact! This conference challenged that fact to my core.

Every year in October a group of writers who celebrate the west, women and girls through their writing converge on a city west of the Mississippi, connect and reconnect for three days. Last year was my first experience in Tucson, Arizona and was easy for Lin and I to drive to from Albuquerque. I felt this group was “My Tribe.” This year’s event was in Walla Walla,  which is in the southeastern corner of Washington state–not easy to get to from New Mexico. The conference paperwork suggested flying in to Seattle, so I did, but then it was a four and a half hour drive to Walla Walla. That added to the stress for sure.

I looked forward to this conference more so than my first year, because I submitted a proposal to do a workshop, my Memoir Workshop, and it was accepted! I had presented it several times at Albuquerque libraries and felt it was a strong presentation. I imagined selling all of my books–I lugged a second suitcase full of fifteen books and my handouts there and back! My expectations played a big part in my disappointment!

Thursday night, each of the winners and finalists of the Willa awards read a five minute snippet of their work–what an enjoyable evening. The Willa awards are given in memory of Willa Cather and has seven categories: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction. Original Soft Cover Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Scholarly Nonfiction, Poetry and Children’s/Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction. Each of the winners and finalists’ work stood out as strong literary achievements.

I had submitted my latest memoir, A Time to Grow Up, in the Creative Nonfiction category, and it was not selected. I especially listened to those entries to compare them to mine–I understood the selection to a point but still wondered?

I sat next to the president of the organization at that reading. She was friendly and welcoming.

Friday afternoon I attended an agent panel and an editor panel to help the attendees become better acquainted with these powerful people in the publishing world. The sessions helped us decide which ones to pitch our work to during the scheduled pitch sessions. I had scheduled a pitch session with one of the editors, but many attendees wait until the conference to hear from the agent or editor personally at these panels before selecting.

After the panels, I hurried upstairs to the pitch rooms and surprisingly saw lots of openings with all the agents and editors on the schedule, so I signed up with everyone except one agent I met last year. To my credit, I did six pitches in about 1 and 1/2 hours to no avail.

I have self-published all my books, so there was little interest in my published work, and no one was interested in a biography about a 91 year old world famous square dance caller. One agent did give me a great slant to take on this book and then suggested a PBS project to consider.

The most startling rejection was a fiction story I wrote two years ago about two women friends, incest and their healing–an agent and an editor both told me that the publishing work isn’t accepting any work on incest! REALLY! The agent refused matter-of-factly; the editor vehemently refused. Her face flushed and she repeated several times she never accepts work on that topic. I walked away stunned and angry!

Yes, I now understand I was at a conference for writing about the west and women and girls, but the reaction shut me out. Afterwards I realized why there were so few writers signing up to pitch their work. Four of the seven did not do fiction and many of attendees are fiction writers.

This conferenced scheduled three banquets: Friday evening’s banquet celebrated the Laura winners, a short story contest named after Laura Ingalls. Again each author read a short section to give the audience a test of the story–delightful experience!

My Memoir workshop on Saturday afternoon went well even though I had some technical difficulties. The attendees participated, thanked me and seemed appreciative. I had thought that the attendees would buy my books because of me being a presenter–I did not sell one book.

Then add insult to injury, they have a Book Signing time Saturday from 5:00 – 6:00 pm. Supposedly shoppers could still buy books, but no one bought mine. I looked around the room and mostly the winners and finalists of the Willa awards sold books. The rest of us authors–the majority in the room–sat and watched the action happening away from us!

Then the evening ended with another banquet to celebrate the Willa winners–the third banquet of the weekend. Saturday noon’s banquet celebrated the finalists in the Willa awards. I was “banqueted” out.

Today I realize the conference is about celebrating the twenty-one winners and finalists of the Willa awards and the five winners of the Laura awards. I get that now, but it was an expensive lesson. In writing this blog, healing happened: I also realize I’m a successful writer because I write–pure and simple!

I always have to look at the positives in every experience: I met some wonderful, friendly people at the conference. I always learn something helpful at any workshop I attend. I made some connections which could possibly help me on the biography I’m writing. I will continue my membership in this organization and continue to submit entries into their contests because it stretches me.

The drives to and from Walla Walla were breathtaking and stressful. I will tell you about my adventure in my next blog.


Have you ever had an experience like this at a conference? If so, what did you do? Share your comment below.


Check out my books at my web site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Fall specials continue at my Etsy Shop:  Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · Writing

My Memoir Wins Fourth Award

A Time to Grow Up FINAL COVERIndependent Press Awards is proud to announce the 2018 Distinguished Favorites in the Memoir category: A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir. See the listing at the URL below;

http://www.independentpressaward.com/2018distinguishedfavorites

I’m so excited! This is the fourth award this book has earned!

The other three awards are:

~”Official Selection” for 2017 New Apple Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing in the Biography|Autobiography|Memoir category.

~Finalist in 2017 New Mexico-Arizona book awards in 2 categories: Biography (Other) and Ebook Nonfiction.

Have you bought your copy yet? Go to Amazon to get a copy now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0996614427/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1497309604&sr=8-4&keywords=larada+horner-miller

Have you read it? Would love to hear your comments about it!

 

 

 

 

Mom · My Thoughts · Writing

A Mother’s Day Tribute!

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I am veering off Lin and my trip to Ireland and England for one week and sharing a poem I wrote for my Mom for Christmas in 2003. Enjoy and hug your mother real close today! My Mom has been gone for five years and this Mother’s Day has been one of the hardest! This poem celebrates the place she had in my life.

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Have you ever written a poem or story about your Mom? Share it here! I would love to read it.

My Web Site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

My Etsy Shop–Larada’s Reading Loft: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

My Thoughts · Writing

A Break From Our Trip & My New Project

Quiet surrounds me. A canopy of a clear blue Colorado sky covers this warm spring day. I’m in a small ranching community in southeastern Colorado–the home of my childhood.

Since my mom died five years ago, I visit here monthly to check things out. I forgot to bring my Ireland/England travel journal and hard drive that has my pictures, so I’m going to take a break from the travelogue and update you on my current writing project.

I’m writing the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, the most famous square dance caller in the world. He’s 90 years old and visiting Asilomar, CA this week, the site of his favorite square dance weekend and week that he did for years.

How did this project start? My husband and I remember its inception differently, so I’ll tell you my version.

We were at a square dance festival last year in the early spring–it was Saturday night after a jam-packed two days of dancing. A group of friends enjoyed a leisure time late in the evening and Flippo (that’s what we call him) came up.

Someone said, “Someone needs to write his biography.”

My husband, Lin, leaned my way and stated, “You’re the writer in the group. Why don’t you do it?”

Nothing more was said that night, but the reoccurring thought surfaced regularly. I was coming to the ranch about this time last year alone, so I brought up the idea to Lin and shared my serious consideration of taking on this task. I suggested we both pray about it and when I returned, we would share what had come up.

Again the idea intrigued me–in the last four years, I had self-published four books and three cookbooks, but the topics had been personal for me. I wrote two memoirs, a historical fiction from a story I had heard my childhood and a non-fiction about our family ranch. Could I write about someone else?

When I returned home, Lin and I both agreed it would be a worthwhile project. So Flippo was fulfilling his last contract at the New Mexico Square and Round Dance Festival in mid-May in Albuquerque, so I called him in mid-April to query if he was interested.

His first comment was, “No one would want to read a book about me, but I do have a topic of a book that would sell–all the stories of traveling callers, but it would be X-rated.”

Seriously, Flippo said he would give me his answer at the festival in May. Friday evening during a break, he was surrounded by several local callers and dancers. I didn’t have to bring it up–he did.

“Larada wants to write my biography. Who would want to read it?” He queried. They all raised a hand, and I think it shocked him.

In traditional Flippo flirtatious manner, he said, “OK, come over to my hotel room tonight at 1:30 am and we’ll talk about.” Laughter exploded and then he said, “Yes.”

During the summer, I started gathering resources. I talked to several close caller friends of Flippo’s to start gathering their stories and information about him. In October, I went to Tucson, AZ for a Women Writing the West. Flippo lives in Tucson, so we planned to meet together on Thursday night.

He called and wanted to change nights because the Houston Texans were playing in the World Series and he wanted to watch the baseball game, so we moved it to Friday night. Before interviewing him, I didn’t realize Flippo had a strong connection to baseball–he was so good, that’s what he did in the Navy.

Lin and I met him for dinner, and Lin started him talking immediately. I was going to wait until we moved to his home so I could record it, but he was off and running, so I grabbed my notebook and started writing. He picked a the Texan Steakhouse which had TV multiple screens on every wall, so he could watch the baseball game as we talked.

After dinner, we went to Flippo’s house, turned on the TV and muted it, and he continued our first interview, watching the game. He sent me home with three scrapbooks/photo albums and three photo albums as resources.

Since then we have talked weekly for an hour, and I have recorded each interview. What a delightful experience this has been. The hardest part is transcribing the recordings; we talk for one hour, and that one hour takes three to four hours transcribe.

Flippo’s last calling event was a New Year’s Eve square dance in Green Valley, AZ. Several caller friends encouraged Lin and I to go, so we did. Twenty-five professional callers and friends from all over the United State supported Flippo on this monumental evening of his career. He announced from the stage that I was writing his biography, and the chair-woman of CALLERLAB (the international organization for callers) said to me, “How are you going to edit out the X-rated stuff?”

During the night I watched several of the professional callers’ eyes riveted on their hero on the stage–expressions of respect, love and admiration for their mentor and teacher covered their faces. I also witnessed traces of a deep sadness at the loss of such a great caller and friend. He ended his final dance with the song, “I’m Leaving Here a Better Man.” I’m sure he selected that carefully.

I’ve spent the last six months doing the work: weekly interviews, research online and reading books. Flippo stands pivotal in the history of square dancing, and I have had confirmation from many callers and square dance historians that this book needed to be written–I’m glad the muses chose me!

I’m collecting data to see if a hard back book is a viable option. Here’s your opportunity to pre-order the book, go here Pre-Order Flippo Book

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