A “Book Haul” From One of the Marys

From Mary K:

My daughter Rachel has a blog, “Pursuing the White Whale” where she does book reviews and shares photos of her “book hauls,” essentially giving her readers a tour of her ever-expanding library and unveiling her latest acquisitions. While I revel in her delight of books, my own “book hauls” have evolved and changed over the years and have rarely been shared with others, besides my long-suffering husband.

Both the Marys love stationery and reading, but of the two of us, I am the more apt to purchase books. Perhaps that is to be expected, considering my husband and I homeschool, ran a bookstore, and sold books through the mail and on eBay for several years. As owners of a used bookstore, we began attending library book sales together in November 1995. We thought nothing of bringing fifteen to twenty boxes of books home from some of those sales. And despite my love of children’s books, I kept very few for myself. I knew exactly what would sell and was a whiz at grabbing titles quickly. My daughter Elizabeth was also trained in the art, and with the two of us snatching up treasures, we could collect ten filled boxes in the first twenty minutes of a sale. David was there essentially to carry the boxes, though he would occasionally fill one to our ten, knowing which romances and biographies to pick up for his customers, reselling them for $2-$4 each. I knew the children’s and vintage tomes, knew that the right Lenora Mattingly Weber, Lois Lenski, or Maud Hart Lovelace could sell for $50 or more. In those early days of eBay, the market was not yet glutted with those highly-sought after authors.The same library discards now might net less than $5 each. We had six children at the time, and struggled to make ends meet, so I wasn’t aiming to add to my own library. My dream was to someday own my childhood favorites, a dream that has since come true.

book haul 003But new books? If you are an avid patron of the library, as both Marys are, why buy books? Like the daughter who likely learned it from me, I love being surrounded by books, desire ownership of those with lovely covers and favorites I have read. For me, it isn’t just enough to read a particularly good book, I want to own it. That can get expensive, but in those years that my husband and I sold them, I got into the habit of buying books for less than a dollar each. Even after we no longer had a bookstore, we attended book sales together, and I began adding to my personal collection. We’d also hold huge garage sales every year so I’d pick up $1 sale bags of books specifically for resale, to fund my own book-buying habit. Those days are long gone. Since David’s death, I’ve held very few garage sales and attended only a handful of book sales.

But I do still buy books. I love owning signed copies of books from authors I admire or those I know personally.

book haul 004I also purchase books at thrift stores and HalfPrice Books. And when I am working on a book proposal, I don’t just research the complementary and competing titles, I actually read them. Since I might want to do some underlining, I prefer to own them. That is why you will see Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy, Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking and Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw’s Friendship for the Journey on my bookshelf. I read those books before I worked on my book project on the corresponding subject. I don’t stop there, either. I continue to read narratives on the topics of couponing, caregiving, cancer, grief, memoir, widowhood, and friendship, even after my own book is out. I love research. I thrive on it, and it is a huge part of my writing. Mary H, on the other hand, does not love it, and touches on this difference in her section of our chapter on the topic of jealousy between friends:
“And did I mention she loves research? I envy her ability to grab a subject by its teeth and shake it all over the place until she’s bled so much information from a variety of sources that there’s little left she doesn’t know. How does she do that? Doing research papers in high school and college tried my patience, but Mary thrives on it. I wish I did.” (Mary Jedlicka Humston, page 102, “Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink”)

I admit I buy fewer books since becoming a library director in December 2013, mostly because if I am drawn to a book, I just purchase it for the library collection. I can’t do this with all the books I want to read, however, because there are many obscure titles and topics that none of my patrons would read and it wouldn’t make sense to purchase them for a small-town library. Which is why I will occasionally buy books through Book Outlet, or even Amazon, if it is a brand new book that can’t be found used.

This is the “book haul” that arrived on my doorstep today. Using a special $10 coupon code, I paid $25 for seven books. Two of them will likely be reviewed on this blog: Letters From the Closet by Amy Hollingsworth, and Personal Notes by Sandra E. Lamb. One is a memoir, Naked on God’s Doorstep, and the other four would be considered inspirational and spiritual. Looking at the various titles one could get a clue about what my next research project might entail: The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski, Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher by Chad Norris, Miraculous: A Fascinating History of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles, by Kevin Belmonte, and Touching Heaven: Real Stories of Children, Life, and Eternity, by Leanne Hadley. The latter was purchased with the intent of sharing with my daughter Elizabeth, who lost a son two years ago. And yes, as soon as I have one book completed, and after a period of rest and some distinct angst, I do ponder what my next book will be, because that is the way I am. I am happiest when writing and speaking, or at the very least, thinking about a writing project!

book haul 002This box of books would hardly excite my daughter Rachel (not her type of reading) but I can’t wait to dig in! Stay tuned for more reviews in the days to come~


Book Review: “Letters to My Son” by Mitch Carmody

from Mary K:
I picked up this book at The Compassionate Friends National Conference in Dallas, Texas, where I was presenting a workshop. I’ve been speaking for hospice, church, and grief groups for three years, but this was my first experience speaking at an event where the audience consisted mostly of parents who had lost a child. I found myself drawn to the young women around my daughter Elizabeth’s age and to workshops dealing with the spiritual aspect of grief, as well as signs from our loved ones. Mitch Carmody’s presentation on the topic of signs from those who have died was not only very powerful, but also served as validation for something I have been experiencing since the death of my mother in 2010, husband in 2012, and grandson in 2013.

letters to my son
When I spotted Mitch’s book at the confernce, I was immediately intrigued. First of all, because he’d written letters to his nine-year-old son who had lost his battle with cancer. I am drawn to books that have anything to do with letter-writing. And while I have not written letters to my mother or grandson since their death, I did write one to my husband David after he died, which I then buried in front of his tombstone. I was dealing with a lot of regrets at the time. Why had it taken something as awful as cancer to revitalize our marriage? Why hadn’t I always been the wife I’d become in those five and a half years post-cancer? Why hadn’t I realized his shoulder pain was from a heart attack? Why didn’t I make him see the doctor sooner, or demand an EKG? Why wasn’t I next to him the night he died? Why? Why? Why? There is only so much emotional upheaval a person can handle, and I was making myself sick with worry and regret. A writer by trade, I’d begun journaling the morning after David passed away, but I believe that single handwritten letter to my husband went a long way in helping me heal. For one thing, I could imagine what his reply would have been to most of what I’d written, particularly my regret at not having realized he was having a heart attack. “Mary, it was my body, and I didn’t know. How could you?” So I wrote a letter to my husband and then buried it in the cemetery. Mitch Carmody, however, held onto the letters he wrote to his son, and shared them in his book, Letters to My Son: Turning Loss to Legacy.
Why do I think this is an important addition to the narrative? For the same reason I included actual journal entries and pieces of my blog in my book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace. It is one thing for a non-fiction author to look back and remember a period of time. It is another to re-visit that time through the thoughts that were going through their mind in the midst of grief. What does grief feel like ten days after the loss? What about at ten weeks? Ten months? Will I be okay? Is what I feel normal? In those early, dark days of grief, I wanted (needed) to know the answer to those kinds of questions, as would any parent who has lost a child. By sharing his letters, Mitch returns to that place of raw grief. But don’t let the title fool you~ Letters to My Son is about way more than the letters he wrote to his son during that time. His story is an inspiring one; of faith, hope, and yes, miracles. I was not disappointed~Mitch is as powerful a writer as he is a speaker. He is also a talented artist. You can read more about him at http://heartlightstudios.net/

Say What? Stationery? OR Stationary?

                                               STATIONERY STORAGE? OR STATIONARY STORAGE?



I swear~ I thought the sign on the truck on the side of the road said “Stationery Storage Available Here,” as in paper stationery, not stationary, as in staying in one place. And it made me think of the “Letter-Writing 101” chapter of our book.

From Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink:

Mary and I are addicted to stationery. All kinds of it. We give it as birthday and Christmas gifts (usually in designs we fancy since we’ll eventually be seeing those pages in our mailbox). We love free pens, pencils, and logoed pads from county fairs, businesses, motels, and hotels. Stickers adorn most of my envelopes. I’m also a fan of stamping designs on them. If someone gives me a card with just my name on it and it isn’t sealed, I recycle it, whiting out my last name and inserting Mary’s instead. Cheesy? Maybe. Economical? Yes. Is there ever a time when I think I have too much writing material? I doubt it, though my husband might think otherwise.
Mary Jedlicka Humston, pages 176-177
When Mary mentions our mutual love of paper and pens, I wonder if she knows the extent of my obsession. Would she be shocked at the contents of the cabinet where I store our school and office supplies? Three of the shelves hold paper; there are reams of white copy paper, stacks of colorful notebooks, bins of cute notepads, and brand new boxes of stationery. Then there is the seven-drawer plastic storage unit next to my desk. The bottom drawer holds scratch paper for grandchildren to scribble on, but the other six are crammed with vintage stationery, decorated printer sheets, and a wide assortment of note cards. I do have preferences: smaller stationery to the larger printer size, thinner sheets to the thicker ones, and vintage styles to newer ones. Thin air-mail sheets satisfy nearly all my senses. I feel a thrill of satisfaction when I fold the letter in half and hear the crinkling as I insert it in the envelope. Sometimes I take it out to re-read it just to feel and hear the paper again before mailing.
Mary Potter Kenyon, pages 171-172

When I wrote that previous paragraph, my stationery was stored in a cabinet and a plastic storage unit. Since an office/library re-design, however, I now use woven bins and decorated lidded boxes on a wooden shelf.

stationery truck 029The largest bin on the top shelf holds all my journals and new boxes of stationery. Another woven basket holds loose sheets of the smaller stationery that I prefer, and the smallest one holds my note cards and extra envelopes. The two large decorated bins hold the printer sheet sized paper, stickers, and address labels, and the smallest box holds all my greeting cards.

stationery truck 030stationery truck 031So when I wrote that I wondered if Mary H. had any idea how much stationery I actually own, I suspect the answer is a resounding No.

And this isn’t even counting the large bag of note cards, stationery and envelopes I’ve set aside for our upcoming “Letter-Writing 101” workshops.

stationery truck 035That’s a lot of stationery and note cards. Which is why this sentiment from the end of my “P.S. Postcript” chapter is accurate;

I love Mary. She is one of the first people I turn to in both good and bad times. Cowriting this book with her has drawn us even closer. Yes, I can imagine us living together as two old (much older!) widows. Would we want to continue writing each other even though we lived in the same house?
That would work. I own more than enough stationery already for the both of us.
(page 185)

What’s Up With Mary & Me?

As you recall, we’d submitted our final manuscript to the editors months ago, then labored over revisions and edits for several weeks.  Now, the moment we’d been waiting for, the fruition of all our hard work: we received our advance review copies. Yes, we have had copies of “Mary& Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink” in our possession since June 18, hand-delivered to us by Mary Kenyon’s son Dan, and his wife Lydia, while we were  attending a Christian Writer’s Workshop in Cedar Falls. We opened the box together, at the home of Lyle and Cindy Potter, where we had spent many hours over the winter working on the book. Finally~we could touch it, re-read it, smell it, and revel in the beautiful front and back covers. The dream had become a reality!  Our advance readers copies are in hand and the Sept. 8 release date is not far off.

mary and me open boxmary & me box of booksYou’d think we’d be kicking back and relaxing, right?  It is summer, after all. But for Mary K, that means Summer Reading activities to plan and implement at her library, and for Mary H, an increase in children/grandchildren’s activities to attend. And while we don’t have the book deadlines anymore, we are still very busy with book related endeavors. We presented a workshop on co-writing (including God as a co-writer, as well) at the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop and Mary H also taught a poetry mini-session.

mary & me at conferenceAnd, as Mary K shares in her “I Signed a Book Contract, Now What?” presentation, the work has just begun. Now we have to consider ways to market and promote our book. We and our publisher have sent out advance copies to reviewers. Each of the featured essayists and blurb endorsers have been sent their free copy. We’re also actively setting up and scheduling workshops, presentations, readings, signings, and book launches, beginning with an August 2nd “Friendship Day” tea at a local tearoom, where we will speak about our co-writing venture.

girlfriend teaThe Cedar Rapids Barnes & Noble bookstore has scheduled a “Letter Writing 101” workshop on Saturday, September 19, as have several libraries throughout the state. We have teas, book-signings, and readings already set up for most Saturdays and Sundays in September and many already for October, with even more being finalized.

We are now actively searching for bloggers and reviewers to do reviews of our book. If you have an online presence and an account with Goodreads and/or Amazon, you can request to be added to our list of advance readers. Online reviews are crucial to the success of a book, and our publisher will add you to the e-mail list for reviewers. If you are on Goodreads, don’t miss your chance at winning a free copy of our book by clicking here.

Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink will be available on September 8 through Familius.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through your local bookstore. You can lock in your price on Amazon if you pre-order today. If you’d like us to speak at your local library or bookstore, let us know.  If your book club or women’s group is interested in using “Mary & Me” for their next book club choice, the book does include a discussion section at the back. We will even make arrangements to appear at your club meeting if we are available. Just contact us through our Mary & Me Facebook page or through e-mail: marypotterkenyon@gmail.com or maryjedhum@gmail.com

Let us know if you’d like to book a “Mary & Me” event, because that’s what we Marys are doing now…we’re booking our book!