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  • Grandparents Day, a closer look

     We always get excited when our pals from Grandparents.com stop by to share what's new in the land of ... Grandparents! Today, Gary Drevitch, Editor-in-Chief of Grandparents.com is here to share a bit about Grandparents Day (which was last week, did you know that?) and how this young holiday go its start.

    by Gary Drevitch

    Last week was Grandparents Day, did you do anything special for your loved ones? It's a holiday that does not get a lot of attention, partly because it’s somewhat young. Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation creating the first National Grandparents Day in 1979, to recognize "the importance and worth of the 17 million grandparents in our nation." (Today, by the way, there are 70 million.)
     
    Carter's declaration was the culmination of years of grassroots lobbying led not by the nation's greeting-card companies, as some might suspect, but by an Oak Hill, W.V., housewife named Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade. She had worked with senior citizens for many years and had come to conclude that too few were given the attention they deserved. She imagined the holiday as a day that would bring attention to the needs of people living in nursing homes.
     

    Grandparents Day - Founder

    Marian McQuade, Founder National Grandparents Day

    She began her campaign in 1970, and eventually drew the attention of U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV), who introduced a Grandparents Day resolution in Congress in 1973. When neither the House nor the Senate acted on the proposal, McQuade and her growing ranks of supporters turned to the media to bring new attention for their efforts. The pressure paid off – in 1978 Congress passed legislation declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day. The day was first celebrated on September 9, 1979. McQuade, the mother of 15, the grandmother of 43, and the great-grandmother of 15. passed away in September 2008, at age 91.
     
    In his proclamation, Carter wrote that because grandparents "are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations."
     
    Today, millions of grandparents do far more than that. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.7 million grandparents across the country have primary responsibility for raising grandchildren, and 4.9 million children live in a grandparent's home. Of children younger than 5 with a working mother, 30 percent are cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent while their mom works.

    Why do they do it? Grandparents.com readers recently shared with us what they cherish about their role:

    "I love being a grandparent because they love you unconditionally."
     
    "The best is when that child sees you and her face lights up and she flies into your arms! It never gets old."
     
    "Nothing in the world could ever match being a grandma."
     
    "Every moment with her is special … She really is a gift, a gift from God."
     
    "My world is a better place with my grandchildren. They give my life a purpose."
     
    "The best part is hearing them say, 'I want to stay with Gramma!'"
     
    "When I see the smiles on their faces and the light in their eyes, I know we're making memories."
     
    "I know I'll always live in their hearts the way my grandmother still lives in mine."
     
    "I get to do all the things with my grandson I never got to do as a kid."
     
    Or, as Carter put it more than 30 years ago, "Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us."

    Visit Grandparents.com for cards to send Grandparents, coloring pages, great quotes about grandparents, and grandparenting ideas and tips.

    And we'd love to know, what do you love best about being a Grandparent or what are your best memories with your own  Grandparents?

  • Grandparents.com is back with a great offer!

    “When all else fails, ask Grandpa” should be on a wall plaque in my house. My kids adore their grandparents and vice versa! And what’s not to love? We also love the site Grandparents.com dedicated just for, you guessed it, grandparents!

    We like Grandparents.com’s smiling vibe as a resource and haven for today’s grandparents who are more active, more involved and more connected to their grandchildren than any other generation of grandparents.  According to the NY Times, the downturn in our economy has caused the role of grandparents as both caregivers and financial supporters to increase dramatically. We’re glad to see sites like Grandparents.com be a place for grandparents to hang out and share laughs, ideas, gripes, passions and inspiration.

    Our friends at Grandparents.com are all about helping grandparents and fostering and nurturing the relationship between grandkids and their grandparents. They do this in a really fun, lighthearted way. Each day they dish up creative activities, crafts, travel and gift ideas, expert advice, and conversation. They host affinity forums where grandparents can exchange ideas and opinions on whatever’s on their minds. They have groups like “Mothers-in-law Anonymous” where you can dish or ask for advice about the mother/daughter-in-law relationship. “Grandparents Caring for Grandkids” and “Grandparenting from Afar” are super support groups, and there are groups around hobbies, health and wellness, education, money, you name it, they’ve got a group of people talking about it!

    Grandparents.comWe’ve checked out their newest resource, the Benefits Club that serves up great deals that grandparents and their families can use. Membership in the Benefits Club gives access to discounts and incentives on everyday products and services and on bigger items like travel and vacations. Jeffrey Mahl is the president of Grandparents.com and is here with us today for a Q & A and to give our Daily Grommet community a free gift!

    Jeffrey, Grandparents.com is the go-to site for grandparents these days. Can you tell us a little bit about today’s grandparents?

    Today’s grandparents are more dynamic and healthy than those of the past, and there are more of us alive now than at any other point in history. People over the age of 50 control 75% of the wealth in the United States. They tend to spend generously on their families and themselves, but they like to spend wisely, too. That was a primary motivation for us to create the Benefits Club. We think AARP has done a great job but they were created 50 years ago, for seniors of the past – not for the boomer generation. We provide a more modern alternative. We like to think of ourselves as AARP with a smile!

    The Benefits Club looks great, what kinds of deals are included?

    We have more than 160 partners in the Benefits Club and we’re adding new partners every day. Our members can save on travel, with great discounts on cruises, hotels and car rentals, on gifts – whether it’s toys and clothes for the grandkids or flowers and jewelry for a friend. They can enhance their health with vitamins, gym memberships, weight loss programs and spa services. They can buy books and theatre tickets. We also have great giveaways that are available exclusively to our members. And we offer discounts on insurance, too. We just added our first insurance partner – Foremost, which offers great ways for our members to insure RVs, motorcycles and boats, among other things. Basically, we’re focused on creating a place where our members can get discounts on things they need as well as things they want.

    Sounds like the Benefits Club is a pretty good deal for everyone, not just grandparents. Can anyone join and tell us how extended families can use it as well?

    I’m so glad you asked this question! You don’t have to be a grandparent or be any particular age to join the Benefits Club. Membership is open to anyone. Our mission, as you said earlier, is to nurture the relationships between generations. So when you join the Benefits Club, you’re automatically entitled to share that membership – for free – with four additional family members. How’s that for something to smile about?!

    Jeffrey, we’d love to hear about your generous offer to give ourDaily Grommet community a free one-year subscription to the Benefits Club.

    My pleasure. For the next 90 days, anyone in the Daily Grommet community is welcome to sign up for a free one-year membership to the Benefits Club. You don’t need a credit card; just log onto Grandparents.com, click on the Benefits Club and use the promo code GrandGrommet. And you’re welcome to share this offer with your friends and family, too. We’d love to have you as part of the Grandparents.com family.

    Jeffrey, thanks for talking with us about the Grandparents.com Benefits Club and for the free memberships.

    If you have any questions or comments about the Benefits Club, Jeffrey is around to talk with us today.  Just leave a question/comment below. Thanks!

  • Back on the Career Track

    Return to Work - Carol Fishman CohenCarol Fishman Cohen is one of our favorite friends here at Daily Grommet.  We laughed out loud at her post “My So-Called Daily Grommet Life” on Yahoo Shine!   Carol is one busy lady these days.  Like many of us, she left the workforce to raise her kids (4) and after years working part time (5), and years as a stay-at-home mom (6), she successfully made a career re-entry at an investment firm in Boston.  Carol tells us it took some careful planning, strategizing and a bit of creativity to get “back on the career track” and return to work. She and her co-author and fellow-relauncher Vivian Steir Rabin decided to write the book on it.

    Their book Back on the Career Track, A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work is an easy read with lots of well-detailed and practical advice from career counselors and job recruiters along with some really inspiring and candid stories from other successful re-launchers.  I liked its format… it makes you first delve inwardly to realistically assess your skills, needs and options.  It then outlines steps to help you develop a plan to build up your confidence and your marketability, to network and get those interviews and, ultimately to land that job.  With the success of the book, Carol and Vivian have co-founded iRelaunch, a company that produces career reentry programs for employers, schools, groups and individuals who want to relaunch their careers. This year they are holding return to work conferences in Atlanta, Boston, NYC, and Washington, D.C.  Check out their site http://www.irelaunch.com/ for details.  With these tough economic times, Carol’s book and her iRelaunch company are fantastic resources for those relaunchers who want to get back on the career track.
    Continue Reading

  • Some good news from Haiti, one year later

    It was one year ago, January 12, 2010 that the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti struck.   We all remember watching in disbelief the news videos of the utter destruction and suffering of the Haitian people. When Liz Sheehan of Containers2Clinics, one of our most visionary charitable Grommets, saw what was happening there, she sprung into action. She instantly decided to send their first pilot health clinic to Haiti and, after many months of hard work, delivered it to Port au Prince. There C2C is helping to restore basic health services, especially to the very needy Haitian women and children during this overwhelming time.   Since November, C2C has had a fully operating clinic in Port au Prince at the Grace Children’s Hospital.   The hospital was nearly completely destroyed due to the earthquake.  Before C2C arrived, its patients had been receiving care under weathered, unsanitary and unsafe tents on the hospital grounds.   As of today, over 1,000 maternal patients have been receiving care by C2C in clean, safe and healthy conditions.

    Here is an update from Kathleen Fleming, C2C Program Director

    Haiti earthquake news

    Kathleen Fleming

    This is our eleventh operational day, which after a year of planning, feels huge.

    We’ve so far seen a daily average of about forty-five women and their babies, and reports from C2C’s Project Coordinator, Handy Tibert, at Grace Children’s Hospital suggest that everyone’s adapting to the space very well, and vice versa. The clinic was committed as maternal care center, and is staffed by two gynecologists, a midwife and two nurses. The pharmacy space should be fully functional by the end of today and the head laboratory technician continues to transition services into the C2C lab. This is all coordinated in conjunction with the C2C program staff but decisions are made and “actioned” by the leadership of Grace Children’s Hospital. This partnership relationship has been interesting. It’s new for GCH to have a partner as hands-on as C2C: the way we explain ourselves seems almost entirely novel in this environment – we aren’t donors, we’re partners; we don’t do anything for GCH, rather we do everything with them. This isn’t a typical aid relationship, but then again, we aren’t your typical aid organization.

    C2C is committed to expanding access to critical primary care for maternal and pediatric populations, and the clinic is our vehicle. However, we don’t believe it’s enough to provide “access” simply via the facility. We don’t drop a clinic down, dust off our hands, and say “you’re welcome.” Far from it. In fact, having been in the trenches the past few months, I’d actually say that it isn’t until we drop a clinic that the real work begins. Once the clinic is set up and we begin evaluating the systems it absorbs (e.g. medical record keeping, pharmaceutical inventory management, efficiency/comprehensiveness of lab diagnostics), we start making recommendations for improvements. C2C’s entire bent is monitoring and evaluating the quality of the services patients receive at our facilities. This may only be our pilot, but eventually we want the C2C moniker branded with quality standards – marketing both to patient and partner NGO populations.

    We’re in the early, early stages of second site development, and making certain that the emphasis we put on being hands-on around quality assurance is front and center in our preliminary conversations. There’s a sweet spot between micromanaging and donating, and we’re honing in on it. In the meanwhile, check out a few photos taken by our project coordinator, Handy’s phone. Not great quality, and we’ll have to get him to take a break from setting up the lab to capture a few real shots.

    To see Daily Grommet's original feature of Containers 2 Clinics, click here.

  • Facebook advice for parents

    Sara Pacelle

    As summer winds down and back to school approaches, I know my 13 year old daughter will start up asking me again for her own Facebook account.  During the summer I had a slight reprieve as she was busy with lots of activities, but, I have to say that during this past school year she was relentless!  I guess I have been avoiding her request (pleading is more like it) because I myself am not that comfortable with kids being on Facebook.  Sure, she tells me that “all” her friends already have their own accounts, but I know that’s an exaggeration.  Many teenagers do and I know the legal age for a Facebook account is 13, but I am sure there are still some kids who have parents like me who just don’t know whether it’s appropriate.  The Internet can be a scary place and I have heard lots about kids being “cyber bullied” or becoming addicted to sites like Facebook.  Since my own childhood did not include Facebook, I am hesitant to accept the fact that it is part of my children’s lives.   I understand businesses, adults and older teenagers using it, but do kids have the maturity level to navigate such a powerful medium?  When my daughter patted me on the shoulder one day and calmly explained to me that “Don’t worry, Mom, Facebook is fine, if you know how to use it”, I realized that I needed to get educated.

    So, I went on a mission to find an excellent resource for parents like me to get the scoop on the pros and cons of Facebook. What I needed was, Facebook advice for parents.

    I contacted BJ Fogg and Linda Fogg who are co-authors of the book Facebook for Parents and of their website www.facebookforparents.org .  BJ is a Facebook expert, a research psychologist and the Director of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab.  Fortune Magazine named him one of “10 New Gurus You Should Know”.  Linda is a mother of eight children who has the unique vantage point of being a mother of active teens online.  Linda is also a business owner and involved in several overseas humanitarian projects.  In addition to authoring this book, both of them teach a course called “Facebook for Parents” at Stanford University. 

    Linda was kind enough to speak with us about her book.

    Your book is entitled Facebook for Parents, Answers to the Top 25 Questions.  I like how it is concise, clearly written and organized around some very relevant questions.  In fact, your questions were the exact ones my friends and I had, mainly about how to protect our children on Facebook.  How did you choose these particular questions?

    The top 25 questions are clearly the most asked questions that parents have.  This became very obvious as BJ and I taught the class Facebook for Parents at Sanford University. We had a class of 75 parents that we taught over a two month period.  I also have organized a Parents Advisory Council that I get frequent feedback from.   I travel all over the United States teaching workshops and speaking.  It is from these various groups that I am able to continue to keep in touch with what parents really think and what their questions and concerns are regarding Facebook.   I would love to add more parents to my Parents Advisory Council.  Any parent that is interested in participating can email me at [email protected]

    You compare Facebook to an unknown neighborhood, where you wouldn’t let your kid enter unless you knew the pitfalls and potentials first.  I see your book as a great guide to this Facebook neighborhood, all tailored to parents.  Is this book for the pure beginner on Facebook or for someone who has had some experience already?

     This book is written in a way that someone that has never been on Facebook will benefit and learn as well as someone that has been an active user for a long period of time.  We purposely wrote the book to be read according to the reader’s interest.  It does not need to be read cover to cover.  The reader can read just a few chapters or all of them.  They do not even have to be read in order.

    You are both fans and critics of Facebook, what would you say is the best and the worst things about Facebook?

    The best thing about Facebook is that it is a great parenting tool and family strengthening tool.  As a parenting tool it allows you to be more aware of your children’s thoughts and feelings.  It gives you as a parent a window into their lives that  you may not have access to any other way.  Kids sometimes have a hard time expressing their feelings verbally.  They are still developing that skill, but on Facebook they are very comfortable expressing their inner thoughts and feelings in written form.  That can be both good and bad. 

    If a parent is willing to become knowledgeable on how to use Facebook, this can assist him in meeting the needs of his child that may not be obvious otherwise. Facebook has the ability to strengthen family relationships by providing more opportunities to communicate and be vicariously involved in each other’s lives.

    The worst thing about Facebook is the fact that personal privacy can be compromised, especially if you or your child are not familiar with how to lock down the privacy settings.  This is a huge risk factor!  Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, your privacy can be compromised by what other people post about you.  It is critical that every user know how to use the privacy settings as well as use good judgment in what they post.  I continually teach both parents and kids alike to regard Facebook as a public space where anyone can observe what is going on, much like your front lawn.

    What do you say to parents who worry that their children would encounter cyber bullying or identity theft or even, addictive behavior if they joined Facebook?

    I have not seen identity theft be much of a problem with Facebook although it is a risk.  To minimize this risk, parents and kids need to avoid putting too much personal information on their page.  This would include address, city that they live in, phone number, school that they go to, birthday, etc.  Basically avoid putting as much personal information as possible on your page or make it private. 

    Cyberbullying is becoming a concern with not only Facebook, but with texting and emails as well.  This is where the parent needs to teach their child to let them know when this is occurring.  The parent needs to take immediate action to stop any cyber bullying before it gets out of hand.  It is viral and escalates very rapidly.  By being a friend with their child on Facebook, a parent can often recognize the initial signs of cyberbullying and put a quick stop to it.  Some kids get caught up in the bullying process without even being aware that they are contributing.  Parents need to remind their kids of the old adage that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  This applies to texts , emails, wall post and comments.

    Facebook addiction is a risk to not only kids but adults as well.   It is very easy to get consumed.  Setting limits and boundaries and sticking to them is the best defense in this case.

    What if your kid won’t “friend” you?

    This question is so commonly asked that it surprises me! In my house, not friending me is not an option, especially if my children want to eat.  I understand that this is not the policy of every family.  The advice that I give  parents that have children that won’t friend them is to not worry about it.  The parent needs to go ahead and establish an account and become familiar with Facebook.  They need to build their own network of friends and interact with them.  In most cases, once the child feels comfortable that the parent will not embarrass him in front of his Facebook friends and knows what he is doing, then the child will be comfortable in friending the parent.

    It seems like Facebook is changing constantly, how do you recommend parents stay “Facebook hip”?

    Facebook IS constantly changing.  That is just the nature of the beast.  It will continue to change and evolve.  Here are the best ways to stay “Facebook hip:

    1.  use it on a regular basis

    2.  follow @fb4parents on Twitter

    3.  sign up for our newsletter on facebookforparents.org

    4.  read the facebook blog

    5.  use google alerts to notify you of updates and news on Facebook

    Plus, we outline other resources available in our book. 

    We are giving away a free copy of Linda and BJ’s book Facebook for Parents. To enter, leave a comment or question for Linda or share your thoughts about Facebook.

    General contest rules: To enter, you must be a U. S.  resident, and at least 18 years of age and you must leave a comment or question on today’s post. No purchase necessary. The winner will be randomly selected and will win a copy of Facebook for Parents.  Employees, contractors, and the families of employees and contractors of Daily Grommet, Inc. are not eligible to enter. You are not eligible to win if you have received a prize or giveaway from Daily Grommet in the last six months. Void where prohibited. Contest will run from 9:00 am PST September 14, 2010 to 10 pm PST September 15, 2010.

  • Meet Stona Fitch of Concord Free Press, the Robin Hood of Publishing

    I sat down with author Stona Fitch recently, to talk about his brilliantly innovative publishing house called Concord Free Press, www.concordfreepress.com

    Author Stona Fitch

    CFP’s non-profit model is to publish a limited quantity of original books from top-shelf authors and give them away, for FREE. Even shipping anywhere in the world is FREE. The industry calls it generosity-based publishing. In exchange for the book, CFP requests that you make a voluntary donation to a charity or a person in need—your choice. You can chart your donation on the CFP website and then pass the book along to someone else so that the giving can continue. It’s a simple, yet powerful concept, inspiring both reading and giving. It’s all good, all real and pretty amazing.

    DG:  Stona, we know you are an acclaimed author yourself, what gave you the idea to start Concord Free Press?

    Stona: My fourth novel, Give + Take, was orphaned when my editor left the publishing house I was working with. The novel is about a jazz pianist who steals diamonds and BMWs, fences them, and gives the money away. Generosity and its limits is a big theme in Give + Take, so the book really inspired CFP, which publishes beautifully designed, original books and gives them all away in exchange for acts of generosity.

    DG:  OK, this sounds too good to be true. You have an American Revolution-era patriot in your logo. Are you trying to revolutionize the world of traditional publishing?

    Stona:  Yes, if only by showing how a radically simple idea can take hold and work. We’re interested in expanding the core definition of what a book can do, in engaging with readers in new ways, and in inspiring a link between the solitary act of reading and more community-focused acts of generosity. From the start, we suspected that readers were inherently generous. If you can believe in a character made out of words, you’re likely to have empathy for the real, three-dimensional people around you. And our readers have really come through.

    DG:  That’s perceptive of you to know your readers so well.   I see you have some literary Big Guns on your advisory board (e.g., Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, Francine Prose, Megan Abbott, Jess Walter, and more) How did you attract these authors? 

    Stona:             I asked them to join and they said yes, because they were intrigued by the CFP, which is a rare positive note in the overall gloom of publishing. It’s important to note that we’re writers, not publishers. We’re taking control of the machinery and technology of publishing and using it in a new way.

      

    DG:  We know what’s in it for readers (free books), bookstores (store traffic), and the charities (donations). But what’s in it for your authors who submit their work knowing their book will not generate traditional profits?
     
    Stona: When they publish with us, writers get their work to readers via an interesting new channel, one that gets a lot of attention for such a small operation. Plus, our writers retain all rights to their work beyond our inherently limited press run. Being published by us doesn’t preclude having the work republished in a traditional, for-profit edition, either in the U.S. or abroad. Or from selling the film rights. In fact, a CFP edition can encourage these sales. So a book that we publish can go on to bigger, more commercial, and more lucrative things for its author. For example, Thomas Dunne Books just republished Give + Take in a traditional hardcover edition in the US, with foreign editions in the UK, Greece, Taiwan, and beyond. And HarperCollins will be republishing Gregory Maguire’s The Next Queen of Heaven, the third CFP novel, this fall.
     
     
     

     

    DG:  Really interesting.  It sounds like even traditional publishers are benefitting from your concept.  So, what is your business model? How do you support the press?

    Stona:  Like any non-profit, we ask a lot of people for a little money and a few people for more. And it’s working. People believe in what we’re doing and are willing to support us. And since we all work for free, our expenses are very low—mostly just printing and postage.

    DG:  Alrighty then, what’s the bottom line? How much cha ching do your books generate for charities?

    Stona:  Our books generate $40,000 to $50,000 per title in donations, an unheard-of figure for a trade paperback. And that's only the donations people tell us about. Factoring in our costs, that’s an ROI of more than 400%, even though worthy causes and people in need ultimately receive that money. And each book keeps going, generating more generosity along the way. We just launched our fourth book, a multi-genre collection edited by the acclaimed poet/critic Ron Slate called IOU: New Writing on Money and we’re already at about $139,000 in total donations to date.

    DG:  Those numbers are impressive. How do you distribute your books and how often do you publish new books?  

    Stona:  We give away our books through a network of more than fifty great independent bookstores around the country and via worldwide requests on our website www.concordfreepress.com Distribution of our books is strictly first come, first served. We publish new books twice a year, in May and October.

    DG:   Thanks for being with us Stona.  It was a pleasure speaking with you about Concord Free Press. We think you are doing something important here.  Good luck!

    Stona: Thanks for spreading the word about our admittedly unusual approach to publishing. There’s no catch. We promise.

     If you would like to find out more about Concord Free Press, check out their website www.concordfreepress.com. Also, we are giving away four copies of IOU.  It’s a wild collection of writings on money— short fiction, poetry, essays, and memoirs—from a remarkably diverse set of voices.  There are also fascinating interviews by CFP with two people who served prison time for money-related crimes, including Katherine Ann Power, the 70s-era radical who spend more than a decade on the run as America’s top fugitive. Get a copy and see why so many people are talking about the Concord Free Press.

    To Enter: Leave a comment or question below for Stona or share your thoughts on Concord Free Press.

    General contest rules: To enter, you must be a U. S. or Canadian resident, and at least 18 years of age and you must leave a comment or question on today’s post. No purchase necessary. The winner(s) will be randomly selected and will recieve a copy of the bok IOU.  Employees, contractors, and the families of employees and contractors of Daily Grommet, Inc. are not eligible to enter. You are not eligible to win if you have received a prize or giveaway from Daily Grommet in the last six months. Void where prohibited. Contest will run from 11:30 am EST July 19th through 12:00 pm EST July 20th, 2010.

  • Q&A with Tracy Winn, author of Mrs. Somebody Somebody

    I recently had the rare experience of devouring a book called Mrs. Somebody Somebody by Tracy Winn and to sit down and talk with Tracy about her book.  Mrs. Somebody Somebody is a collection of ten linked short stories set between 1947 and 2004 in Lowell, Massachusetts, a historically significant American industrial mill town. Each of the stories is narrated by a stunning variety of characters, who pop in and out of the stories at various stages of their lives.  It’s a wonderful read and today Random House is launching it in paperback form.  Congratulations Tracy!

    So, Tracy, the obvious question, what inspired you to write Mrs. Somebody Somebody?

    I’m driven by something different from wanting to get some large notion onto the page. Usually, the impulse to write comes from a small mystery or a lingering need to understand human (a friend’s or my own) behavior. Each of the stories in Mrs. Somebody Somebody began because I wanted to resolve a question with no available answer. The stories about Mr. and Mrs. Burroughs began with a question: why and how do married people stay together when one of the partners is serially unfaithful? The title story began with a regret I needed to resolve. (The essay in the back of the Reader’s Circle Selection paperback issue of Mrs. Somebody Somebody coming out through Random House in June tells the story behind that story.)

     Mrs. Somebody Somebody is a collection of short stories, but it reads like an engrossing novel.  Why did you choose this format?

     I’m susceptible to linked short story collections the way some people have a weakness for sweets. My favorites, like Alice Munro’s Beggar Maid or Eudora Welty’s Golden Apples, have characters that reappear. I especially like seeing characters from other characters’ points of view. The stories in Mrs. Somebody Somebody are each narrated by a different character and put together so the reader gets to know each of the characters almost from inside their heads and then also through the eyes of another character. Have you ever noticed how much richer your understanding of a friend becomes when a mutual friend shares his/her perceptions of that person? That is what I am playing with here.

     The linked story form also allows for pregnant gaps in time. A lot can be suggested between stories: characters grow, things have happened, even a whole town like Lowell can change over time between one story and another, allowing a larger scope. Also, novels don’t have the satisfying compression that short stories allow. Think of linked short stories as being like beads — each having its own beauty. And when you stand back, wow! A whole necklace.

     I was immediately captivated by your very first line, ”Lucy Mattsen was nobody—like all the women I worked with—until the day the baby fell out the window… like a whole chicken”  -- your ability to combine humor and horror is so skillful. Who are your favorite authors, and how has their writing influenced you?

    Well, you’ve put two sentences together here, the first one in the book and one from page 5 so maybe you are the one who is skillful at combining! My favorite authors change depending on the day, but the ones that have influenced me, along with the two mentioned before are Faulkner, Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, and more recently Stuart Dybek, Alice Mattison, Alistair MacLeod, and Lorrie Moore, just to name a few.

     Your characters are so compelling.  Where do your characters come from?

    Thanks for the compliment. My characters are a blend of memories and imagination. Some of the characters start out being based on someone I’ve known, but because I usually put them into new situations, they end up being influenced by those situations and becoming their own beings with little in common with their origins.

    Many characters appear and re-appear throughout your stories, often in surprising ways.  Did you have this all planned out before you wrote each story, or did the characters re-emerge as the stories unfolded? 

     I didn’t know the first stories I wrote were related to one another, but then one day Noe Hathaway, in the title story, needed a doctor. When Dr. Burroughs from “Blue Tango” walked into “Mrs. Somebody Somebody,” he started a rash of unexpected connections and discoveries that I developed further and further. I made the last link in the final stages of the editing process when it came clear that an officer near retirement in “Cantogallo” was someone the reader had seen before. (I won’t ruin it by revealing any more than that.)

    My book group thinks this book would be a wonderful movie.  If it did become a movie,  what actors would you like to see play Stella, Lucy, Charlie Burroughs, Franklin?

    Don’t you think Ellen Page would make a good Lucy? This is my first casting assignment and thinking this way makes me wish I’d gone into it as a career. I can see someone like Evangeline Lilly as Stella. She would have to be a brunette for this one. She can look both pretty and hard without looking — as my mother says — “cheap.” My heart is set on James MacAvoy playing Franklin; he has just Franklin’s combination of toughness and vulnerability, and he can look so pained by moving his eyes a certain way. What do you think of Colin Firth as Charlie Burroughs and Evan Rachel Wood as Delia? Or maybe Kate Blanchette? Maybe your book club would like to invest in movie rights?

    Thank you Tracy for your delightful answers. We look forward to sharing Mrs. Somebody Somebody with our Daily Grommet community.

    Tracy is generously giving two readers a signed copy of Mrs. Somebody Somebody. Leave a comment or question below to be entered to win. Or if you would like to purchase a copy click here.

    General contest rules: To enter, you must be a U. S. resident, and at least 18 years of age and you must leave a comment or question on today’s post. No purchase necessary. The winner(s) will be randomly selected and will receive a win a copy of  Mrs. Somebody Somebody. Employees, contractors, and the families of employees and contractors of Daily Grommet, Inc. are not eligible to enter. You are not eligible to win if you have received a prize or giveaway from Daily Grommet in the last six months. Void where prohibited. Contest will run from 8:00 am EST June 8th through 10:00 pm EST June 8th, 2010.

  • Containers to Clinics (C2C) in Haiti UPDATE

    We have been closely following the progress of a Grommet we featured over the holidays, Containers to Clinics (C2C) -- they've created a clever solution to providing healthcare services to underserved communities in the developing world. C2C recycles and retrofits outmoded shipping containers into healthcare clinics and plans to send them all over the world as a healthcare delivery system.  Here's a letter from founder Elizabeth Sheehan, with an update about their work in Haiti:

    C2C IN HAITI:

    Hello Daily Grommet!

    As you know, on January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti - nearly 220,000 lives were lost and the country suffered an estimated USD $7.9 billion in damages. But even before the earthquake, Haiti had the worst maternal and infant mortality and morbidity rates in the Western Hemisphere. The health crisis in Haiti presents a unique opportunity for modular, transportable clinics to provide immediate and urgent health services. According to the Haitian government’s Reconstruction and Development Report, 53 public hospitals and clinics have been damaged or destroyed and the population is relying on the efforts of international relief agencies to provide care out of medical tents and on an itinerant basic. The recovery of the health sector will depend heavily on the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure and the establishment of replacement and auxiliary health centers throughout the country. C2C is well positioned to respond to the imperative for immediate and quality primary care facilities.

    PROGRAM TIMELINE:

    The C2C clinic will be shipped to Haiti on June 1st, travel to Brooklyn then arrive in PaP on June 15, hopefully doors open on July 1, all thanks to the generous contribution of A.P. Moller/Masersk and DAMCO. The clinic will operate in partnership with Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and Americares as an extension of Grace Children’s Hospital in central Port-au-Prince. The clinic will be used as an outpatient care center for woman and children. Placed on the property of Grace Children’s Hospital, the C2C clinic will be a family-centered facility complete with playground, benches, and safe drinking water.  Americares will supply all pharmaceuticals and health supplies to the C2C clinic. The clinic will hire only Haitian staff members, with management and operational support from Management Sciences for Health. The C2C clinical model has the endorsement and support of the Haitian Ministry of Health, which has prioritized the reconstruction of health facilities across Haiti. C2C is committed to supporting the Haitian government’s long road to self sufficiency by providing modular health facilities that are positioned for long-term integration into the national system.

    Thanks for for updating us about your progress in Haiti, Elizabeth. We hope to help spread the word and shine some light on such a devastated part of the world.

     For more information on how you can help C2C, go to www.containers2clinics.org

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