Cultural and Literary Events for June 2013

Check with your library, college, government agencies, or community groups for activities in your area. Listings are for the United States unless noted.

Audiobook Awareness Month

Bathroom Reading Month


Caribbean-American Heritage Month

Effective Communications Month

Other Observances in June
Accordion Awareness Month
Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month
African-American Music Appreciation Month
Aphasia Awareness Month
Cancer from the Sun Month
Cataract Awareness Month
Child Vision Awareness Month
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Children's Awareness Month
Dairy Alternatives Month
Entrepreneurs Do-it-yourself Marketing Month
Great Outdoors Month
Dairy Month
Perennial Gardening Month
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month
Men's Month
Migraine Awareness Month
Pharmacists Declare War on Alcoholism Month
Rebuild Your Life Month
Rivers Month
Safety Month
Skyscraper Month
Soul Food Month
Sports America Kids Month
Student Safety Month
Surf Music Month

June-July
Fireworks Safety Months, June 1-July 31

Leave your comments on what is going on in your area this month and how you are celebrating.

Image courtesy National Caribbean-American Heritage Month

No Paved Road to Freedom: Truth in My Fiction, Part 3 of 3

Sharon Rushton
Guest article by Sharon Rushton

Now comes the hard part

After finishing the interviews and research, my next step in writing was to develop a chronology; then came flow, character, tone, and atmosphere. I needed help with the ambiance and was open to constructive criticism on any aspect of the book. Fortunately, some of my friends are award-winning authors. Every person I shared the manuscript with made suggestions that improved the story. The knowledge I gained through their ideas and criticisms were more valuable than a college course.

Help from the pros
Kenny Kieser, an outdoor and western writer who has won numerous awards, helped create emotion and presence throughout my story. Kent Hayes, whose books were turned into Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, suggested I give names rather than titles to government officials. I originally made the communist government the villain and used only nondescript titles for authorities, such as policeman. Kent said using only titles would cause readers to see a government as bad, but not as villainous. When I asked Cornel he remembered the government officials’ names, which added authenticity, credibility, and the effect I wanted.

I hired an amazing editor, Deb Johnson. In the book I acknowledged her as my angel. She made sure the voice was correct and consistent, helped with the flow, and improved the descriptive flavor of the book. She developed a style sheet which included a glossary of correct spellings of characters’ names and who they were, places, government agencies, and non-English words. Wow! Why didn’t I think of doing something like that from the start? I will from now on. She also included words that needed some explanation and words I used inconsistently. For example, the word communism, which some writers always capitalize. After my research, I chose to capitalize communism only when it was used as an official name, such as Communist Party.

Family dogs and jailed for reading
Dr. Andy Cline, a journalism professor at Missouri State University, suggested I take out anything that didn’t move the story forward. I had been hanging on to information from Cornel I didn’t want to lose. When I realized I could put that information on my website, I felt free to cut and it significantly improved the flow of the story.

I continued to rewrite and fine tune. I knew the beginning sixty pages were the most critical and I probably rewrote those pages more than seventy-five times.

Cornel reviewed the manuscript in progress and corrected anything that wasn’t representative. Three years into the book’s development, Cornel moved to Florida and I moved to Missouri. Three times I flew to Florida and worked with him for a solid week each time refining the book. Over dinner, Cornel would say something like “Did I not tell you …,” or “Where is the story about …,” and I would say, “You never mentioned it.” I had to rewrite the first one-third of the book when he told me what communists did to his dogs, a story with tremendous emotional impact. I couldn’t simply add the story of the dogs; I had to bring the dogs into the beginning and make them part of the family.

The story of police throwing Cornel into jail for reading Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea was one of the last added to the book. Fortunately, it didn’t take a lot of rewriting of other chapters to meld with this new one.

The finish line in sight
I decided to set up my own publishing company, Soaring Reader Press, which meant I had to pay professionals to design, layout, print, and distribute. I chose Litho Printers & Bindery, Cassville, Missouri for design, layout, and printing, and Lightening Source for distribution. I had the book reviewed by five more people including my niece Kaeli West who is an award-winning writer. Their suggestions caused me to rewrite the beginning and tighten up some passages.

After I received PDFs of the formatted pages, I found minor errors, mostly punctuations, which I corrected and then went to press. Finally, after seven years, I held the finished book in my hands.

Sharon Rushton is an award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and conservationist. No Paved Road to Freedom was selected as the Book of the Month for February 2012 by the Military Writers Society of America (MWRSA). In its annual awards, MWRSA presented the book a Bronze Medal. In November 2012, Stars and Flags Book Awards gave the book a Gold Medal.
 

Sharon may be reached at www.nopavedroadtofreedom.com.
 

Images courtesy Sharon Rushton.

To share how you wrote your memoir, biography, or helped someone else, or to write a review, visit my guidelines.

No Paved Road to Freedom: Truth in My Fiction, Part 2 of 3

Sharon Rushton
Guest article by Sharon Rushton

No underwear, no shoes

The morning of my scheduled first interview with Cornel, I awoke with a pounding migraine headache. I thought about rescheduling, but my tight schedule reminded me if I didn’t start now I might put it off and never make time for it. I had demanding contracts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies that required a lot of time and travel.

I kept the interview appointment and welcomed Cornel into my home, my head still pounding. We made ourselves comfortable at the kitchen table. I pushed the record button on the tape recorder, placed my hands on the keys of my laptop, and asked him to describe the home and area where he grew up. He talked about the cold dirt floors of his house, no electricity or running water, and the wooden outhouse that held decades of aromas. His clothes consisted of two long shirts, a pair of socks, and a wool coat—no underwear, no shoes. My headache miraculously disappeared as I put my seemingly stressful life into perspective.

In the next interview, I asked why he wanted to escape and soon realized the why would become the soul of the book, not the escape. It took several weeks of interviews to understand the basics of how the Soviets moved into Romania after WWII and took away rights, freedoms and possessions a little at a time until the people had nothing. It took interviews over several months to get details of how those actions affected the lives of Cornel and his family.

Nightmares and secrets
Throughout the years, Cornel enjoyed telling portions of his story to friends and family. When I asked questions during our interviews he reverted to one of his regular stories. “We’ve already covered that,” I told him and I rephrased my questions. I believe it was psychologically difficult for him to dig into his brain and talk about aspects of his life that were buried deep, but the memories were there and the details remarkable. Cornel’s wife told me that every time we worked on the book Cornel would have nightmares that evening. Memories that triggered nightmares included secret police breaking into their home and beating and taking away his father; Cornel put into jail in Romania, chased and shot at by Romanian militia, jailed in Yugoslavia, and chased and beaten by guards in Yugoslavia. When the book came out, his family realized they only knew about one-third of his life in Romania.

Cornel could not always give me specific dates, so I researched extensively and amazingly matched most of his stories to widely reported historical events. Researching what actually took place in Romania was not easy. When the Soviets took over and imposed communism they destroyed many records of Romanian history and controlled much of what was written while they were in power. The records, many of them firsthand accounts, would have been the primary means to find out what truly happened.

I asked Cornel why no one had turned his accounts into a book. He said he arrived in the U.S. in the sixties and couldn’t put his story into writing until after the nineties when communism fell in Romania. If he had told his story sooner, his family and others mentioned would have been persecuted or killed.

Next week: Now comes the hard part

Sharon Rushton is an award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and conservationist. No Paved Road to Freedom was selected as the Book of the Month for February 2012 by the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA). In its annual awards, MWSA presented the book a Bronze Medal. In November 2012, Stars and Flags Book Awards gave the book a Gold Medal.

Sharon may be reached at www.nopavedroadtofreedom.com.


Images courtesy Sharon Rushton.

No Paved Road to Freedom: Truth in My Fiction, Part I of 3

Sharon Rushton
Guest article by Sharon Rushton

My book is 98% true based on my interviews with Cornel Dolana, his family members, and on my research. I chose to write it like a novel in third person to bring the story to life. The dialogue is representative rather than actual and I struggled for a long time whether to call the book biography or fiction. I decided on fiction with the subtitle: A Dramatic and Inspiring Story of Human Struggle Against Overwhelming Odds – Based On A True Story.

A story that had to be told
If a fortuneteller told me I was going to write a book someday about a man from Romania, I would have said that fortuneteller was a fake. I never dreamed of writing a novel or biography.

Writing articles and developing books in the field of fish and wildlife was part of my job for more than twenty-five years. My first book—more of a booklet, actually—was Fishing Fun for Kids, which sold more than two million copies. I coordinated the development of a student handbook on sport fishing and aquatic resources, which sold more than 200,000 copies. I also developed the Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs® program and with it teachers’ guides and supportive publications. It became the flagship youth education program of the Future Fisherman Foundation where I was founding executive director. The program received accolades from three U.S. presidents, the prime minister of Norway, U.S. Department of Justice and American School Board Journal. It became an official program of twenty-five state fish and wildlife agencies and was implemented in numerous schools throughout the United States. My interests did not include Romania. So what changed?

I heard a story that had to be told.

No Paved Road to Freedom is based on the life of Cornel Dolana. I first heard about Cornel from his son Corey. We met Corey and his wife the summer of 2004 at a marina in Clinton, Connecticut where we had a boat. One weekend they invited us and three other couples to their boat to get better acquainted. When Corey mentioned he was Romanian, I asked if he or his parents had immigrated. He answered with one of the most penetrating stories I ever heard. All on the boat turned their attention to Corey as he told how his father risked his life to find freedom. Jaws remained dropped as he shared story after story of the setbacks his father went through in his attempts to escape communist Romania.

When he finished, I asked if he had any of this written down. Corey pointed to his head and said, “It’s all up here.” I responded, “You need to record these stories because you’ll begin to forget the details.” At the time, I thought his father had passed away. When he said he was alive and living in Connecticut, I asked if I could meet him.

Out of my comfort zone
A few days later Corey introduced me to his father. I had expected to meet an introverted, almost angry man because of what he went through. Instead, Cornel greeted me with a big smile and a positive attitude. Handsome and silver-haired, he spoke with a thick Romanian accent as he summarized his escape attempts. His determination captured my soul and it was if God touched me on the shoulder and said, “You have to tell this man’s story.”

I had to step out of my comfort zone to follow God’s will. Most of my previous writing experiences didn’t involve dialogue or the need to make someone see, feel, and smell the surroundings. I had written one article, which required such elements. It ran as the cover story in Outdoor Life Magazine and was about two hunters in Alaska who were attacked by a grizzly bear. The article described their day-and-a-half journey into the wilderness, the bear grasping in its mouth one of the hunter’s heads and shaking the man’s entire body like a rag doll, and the other hunter shooting the bear and trying to get his buddy out of the wilderness to receive medical care. The experience of writing this one descriptive story wasn’t much, but it was enough to give me some confidence.

Did I really have the talent and commitment to write an entire book about the incredible bravery and sacrifices of Cornel and his family? I believed if God had confidence in me that He would provide guidance along the way.

When I asked Cornel if he would work with me to tell his story in a book, he threw his hands into the air and his face brightened with a smile. We worked with a lawyer to draw up a contract and I set a date to conduct the first interview.

Our seven-year journey began.

Next week: Nightmares and secrets 

Sharon Rushton is an award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and conservationist. No Paved Road to Freedom was selected as the Book of the Month for February 2012 by the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA). In its annual awards, MWSA presented the book a Bronze Medal. In November 2012, Stars and Flags Book Awards gave the book a Gold Medal.

Sharon may be reached at www.nopavedroadtofreedom.com.  

Images courtesy Sharon Rushton.


Cultural and Literary Events for May 2013

Queen Latifah gets caught reading.
Check with your library, college,
government agencies, or community
groups for activities in your area.
Listings are for the United States unless noted.

Asian Pacific-American
History Month

Get Caught Reading Month

Haitian Heritage Month

International Civility
Awareness Month

Jewish-American Heritage Month

Latino Books Month

Other Observances in May
Allergy/Asthma Awareness Month
Arthritis Awareness Month
Awareness of Medical Orphans Month
Barbecue Month
Better Hearing and Speech Month
Bike Month
Fibromyalgia Education and Awareness Month
Foster Care Month
Gardening for Wildlife Month
Gifts from the Garden Month
Good Car-Keeping Month
Hamburger Month
Heal the Children Month
Healthy Vision Month
Hepatitis Awareness Month
Huntington's Disease Awareness Month
Inventor's Month
Meditation Month
Mediterranean Diet Month
Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month  
Mental Health Month
Military Appreciation Month
Motorcycle Safety Month
Moving Month
Older Americans Month
Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month
Photo Month
Physical Fitness and Sports Month
Prader-Willi Syndrome Awareness Month 
Preservation Month
REACT Month
Salad Month
Salsa Month
Smile Month
Strike Out Strokes Month
Stroke Awareness Month
Sweet Vidalia Onion Month
Teen CEO Month
Tennis Month
Ultraviolet Awareness Month
Victorious Woman Month International
Vinegar Month
Women's Health Care Month
Young Achievers/Leaders of Tomorrow Month

May-June
Family Month, May 12-June 16
Prepare Tomorrow's Parents Month, May 12-June 16

What is going on in your area this month?

Get Caught Reading poster courtesy Association of American Publishers.