Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What If We Could Do Something That Helped?

As I dropped my 10 year-old off at school Monday morning, I hoped he couldn’t hear how hollow my words sounded to me when I said “Don’t worry. You go to a very safe school.” I imagine others had similar experiences.
 

My town, Needham, MA, is so much like Newtown, CT in so many ways: affluent New England suburb with close proximity to a major city; many of the working population commute to that nearby city; people move to the town because of the school system; gun owners and enthusiasts are welcome and abide by the laws. When I first wrote this post in December, I thought the one now-glaring difference between the towns was that Newtown is located in a state without a ban on assault weapons and Needham is located in a state with such a ban. Well, Massachusetts does have a ban on assault weapons. But what I have now learned is that there are many qualifiers in that ban, leaving room for residents to legally own certain assault weapons, including the gun used in Newtown.
 

Originally having felt fortunate to live under that ban, I now see with new clarity the need to strengthen our gun control laws at the state or town level to make an assault weapons ban truly a ban. I wonder if we, as a community, are doing all we can to protect our children while they are in school. Having made that statement to my child on Monday, I know for a fact that a gunman could force his way into any Needham school, public or private, and inflict great harm – with one of the approved assault weapons or any weapon designed to kill.
 

What if we came together as a community and enhanced our current school safety protocol to be the best it could be? What if other cities and towns could look to us as a blueprint when they try to do what they can on gun control and mental health on the Town/City and State levels? What if we filled the holes in our gun control laws at the Town level, rather than wait for the State to act? What if other states looked at Massachusetts and realized they could outlaw assault weapons at the State level and not have to wait for the NRA lobby to soften? What if we started a formal dialog or coalition with Public Safety, Public Health, Mental Health experts, School Administration, Youth Services, Town Government, Clergy, and private citizens to enhance our school safety protocol and to address mental health issues as they relate to gun control? The goal would not be to make a foolproof plan, but to make, implement and enforce a plan that gives our children the safest school environment we can create without sacrificing their quality of life.
 

Needham is a special place to live because of the intelligent and talented people who live here who are willing to give their time and talents to further an important cause. I know there are many more towns and cities like Needham. With our talent pool, we could make a difference locally, and perhaps more broadly – so that a tragedy like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happens again, here or elsewhere.

I know the problem is not just about gun laws. I know it is complex and involves a long hard look at mental health issues. But I believe it is something that cannot wait to be addressed. Mental health issues have, for too long, not received the attention they deserve. And you may be surprised to discover how many households contain guns in your neighborhood. As an example, there are three household on my street of 30 houses that own guns – and those are just the ones I know about. There must be a way to ensure that those guns never fall into the wrong hands.
 

As gun stores in New Hampshire (less than 45 miles away from me) post record sales of assault weapons over the last 5 days, it is a sickening feeling to recognize that whatever can be done, can't be done fast enough.

If you live in Needham, watch for an email and a letter to the editor in our town paper from me in early January with a similar note, with a call to action. We have all had enough.

p.s. Please do not comment if your comment includes an unrelated link. I review all comments before they are posted and do not post ones containing unrelated links. Thank you!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Publishing Preacher Kid

Front cover - More on back!
I took a month off from blogging to finally push my big writing project over the waterfall. So here I am, back again, ready to apply and expand my social media skills in the effort of marketing a self-published book. I fully expect that everything I learn about marketing a book via social media will have relevancy in the world of small business marketing. So I hope my followers will continue with me on this journey of developing social media skills! It should be interesting!

I’ve been writing this book for six years – ever since my parents sat in my family room six autumns ago and I commented to my mom that she should write a story about her mom. Her response was “Oh no. You should write it.” So I did. I had been wanting to try my hand at writing a book for some time but knew I really didn’t have the creativity to write a novel. My favorite genre is historical fiction. And I’m a research geek. My mom and her sister knew the story they lived with my grandma and there was the 12-page, handwritten account she wrote one year for my sister’s school project. But there were many holes in her childhood story and in her known ancestry. All of her descendants recognized the amazing qualities of her life and no one wanted the story to fade away over time. Writing the story of my maternal grandmother’s life was the perfect fit for me.


So the research and the writing was a long journey which I won’t go into here. The last piece, the publishing piece, was a learning experience all along the way. I wanted to, and was encouraged by some people “in the know,” to find a commercial publisher for the book. That is a very single-threaded task and covered the good part of a year and a half before I finally realized my book has very little mass appeal (now that admission is not good marketing!), but tremendous value to a certain audience. Although, honestly, I think a screenwriter could take the basics and make a terrific movie out of it! Hmmm. Project 342?!


I self-published with CreateSpace which is owned or partnered with Amazon.com. It was a great experience until it came to the formatting. But I’m going to throw Microsoft under the bus on that one. Translating it to Kindle is turning into another headache. But I will get it there eventually.
 

The best part about the self-publishing process was the cover design. Going back to my earlier mention of my “lack of creativity,” the end product I designed is one I love. I spread a map of Ohio on my dining room table (a table which just so happens to have belonged to my grandma), put an old photo of my grandma on it, and walked around my house gathering an armful of items that once belonged to her. The end result is my cover: an antiqued photo of a framed St. Francis of Assisi prayer, a ring she wore, a sweater she knitted and wore, a fine bone china teacup and saucer from her collection, decorated with her favorite flower, violets, and a photograph of Esther Miller.

It made me wonder: After I’m gone, what armful of treasures will my granddaughter collect on a table to visualize her ties to me? Well, maybe the book, Preacher Kid: A Story from the Heartland, will be one of them. And probably the ring. And on it goes. Keep the connections. Preserve the stories.


If you are interested enough in my book to read it, I hope you will let me know how you like it! Here is where you can find it: