Monday, June 27, 2016

Dear Reese Witherspoon, Do I Have The Book For You?!!

Dear Ms. Witherspoon/Mrs. Toth,

Hi!  I have no idea how else to get your attention in order to tell you about my book.  Since I do have a blog where I rant and rave about my publishing journey and review newly-released memoirs, I thought I would just write an open letter to you on my blog.  I recently read that you have a book club via Instagram.  Okay, just between me and you, a blog and a website are just about as technical as I get without some serious help from my tech guru husband named Bruce.  I am a southern gal born and raised in North Carolina.  Currently, I reside in a little place called Morrisville, North Carolina.  I have my collegiate degrees in Middle School Education, but I decided six years ago to try my hand at writing about real life though I'm not famous or a well-known person.  I read a book by Will Schwalbe entitled The End of Your Life Book Club and it moved me so much that I decided to begin writing about my own crazy life.  In six years I composed four adult manuscripts geared to women and one manuscript geared toward finding happiness from a cat's perspective.  Relentlessly, I tried to find a literary agent, but was continuously rejected.  Finally, I wrote author and editor Will Schwalbe to ask his advice as my publishing dreams were going nowhere quickly.  He suggested I try self-publishing and so I have.  I just self-published my first book entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  I hired my own book cover designer and am in the midst of implementing my marketing plan for the book.  The book is available currently in e-book or paperback format online at Amazon.  Hopefully, it will eventually also be available online at Barnes & Noble.  Following this note is my book summary as well as my bio as I write under the pen name of Grace Sutherlin.  Here's hoping that you find it to be a good read!

Grace Sutherlin (Pen Name)
Real Name:  Amy R. Schmukler

Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life:  Summary

When Does A Woman Discover What She's Really Made Of?

At what point in a woman's life does she discover the values and characteristics that will truly define her for the rest of her life?  Grace Sutherlin will discover the answer to these questions when she is twenty-seven years of age, is married to an abusive con artist, and opts to leave this unhealthy relationship.  In order to support herself, Grace takes a low wage job as a receptionist in corporate America to make ends meet and subsequently finds herself in an abrasive, substandard working environment full of inflated egos and chauvinistic coworkers.  And finally when she is at her lowest depths both personally and professionally, she defies all the odds and accepts a teaching position in a volatile, inner-city middle school where in order to survive she must relinquish the timid, southern small town girl of her youth and become a battle-hardened, no-nonsense woman with the firm belief that no matter the depths of misery in which you might find yourself, you have a choice in defining the person you are and will be as well as the reality of your future.  Grace discovers the two qualities that will define her as an individual for the rest of her life:  tenacity and resilience.  Ultimately, this is a story of a brave soul rising above the fray and a woman who discovers the merits of having lived an uncharmed and unpretentious life.

Author Bio:

Grace Sutherlin is the pen name for Amy R. Schmukler.  She is a native North Carolinian, former middle school English instructor, and an avid reader and writer.  She holds both bachelor and master degrees in Middle Grades Education with a specialty in Communications from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  She has taught in both the public and private educational sectors.  She currently resides in Morrisville, North Carolina with her tech guru husband and their affectionate feline named Chewie.  You may follow her blog at or her website  She is currently at work on her next manuscript. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Observing Father's Day When My Dad Is No Longer Living

Dear Lit Loves,

Well, this is a somber weekend for me in some ways.  I have taken the self-publishing route with my memoir manuscript.  It is available via ebook now.  I am awaiting the arrival of the proof print copy of the book in order to give the okay for it to go on sale.  What is difficult for me now is that June 19th this year is not only Father's Day, but my dad's birthday.  Only he died of complications due to lymphoma on June 9th, 2015.  Last year on Father's Day I felt like someone had embedded an IED in my heart and it exploded.  I also fell apart emotionally in a Hallmark store last year after going to get a thank you card and getting bombarded with the Father's Day advertising.  I found myself leaving the store and sitting on a bench in the mall crying until I could pull myself together.

This year hasn't been easy either.  Just for the record, I bought all the cards I would need to send in the months of May, June and July during the first week of May.  I didn't want to experience the breakdown that I had last year in a Hallmark store.  This year I will remember the picture I have of my dad holding me outside he and mom's first house when I was just a baby.  I will remember him teaching me my vowels and reading to me.  He taught me how to swim, dive into a pool and body surf in the ocean.  He attended all my school performances and piano recitals.  He attended professional wrestling matches with me because I absolutely loved pulling for Ric Flair.  Usually by the end of the match, dad would be standing up screaming for Ric Flair, too.  I miss my dad when our family has a barbecue together as he taught me how to use the grill.  He also drew a picture of the writer O. Henry when I gave my first book and author presentation in ninth grade.  And he taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car.  I don't know who was more excited when I graduated from college:  my dad or me.  Man, he even came to observe me teach a class one day during my student teacher days.

 Dad was there for me when I found myself married to an abusive, manipulative con artist during my first marriage.  He helped me believe that as a woman I deserved better.  He encouraged my independent streak.  He protected my health by getting me to a doctor and hospital at age three when I contracted bacterial meningitis and was in the hospital for a month and survived the ordeal.  He was also the one that accompanied me to UNC-Chapel Hill hospital when I was diagnosed with Meniere's disease at age eighteen.  In later years, dad would come with mom and my brother to visit me for a week during my birthday so we could be together as a family unit once again.  We would often work on my home garden together and plant peony bushes and knockout rose bushes together.  He gave me my first jewelry box that plays the song "You Light Up My Life" when the box is opened.  Last year on my birthday I spent it with him in the critical care unit of a hospital where he was in the final stage of life.  We ate ice cream together because that was the only thing he would willingly eat at the time.  And I was holding his hand by his bedside at Hospice when he took his final breath.  Honestly, at the time I wished God would just take me too so I could journey with him to the great beyond. 

Today I still start sobbing when I see a father and daughter at McDonald's sharing a Happy Meal together as we used to do that as well.  Each time I see a man in his sixties driving around in a convertible Miata I silently say, "Hey Dad.  Miss you, man".  Once I was at a gas station this year and saw a man that looked a lot like my dad wearing an Atlanta Braves cap.  I couldn't buy my gas after that because it hurt so badly emotionally.  I had to get in my car and come back and buy gas later. Sometimes I just pray and ask dad to help me with a decision I have to make.  Anytime I hear an Elvis Presley song or an Alan Jackson song, I think of my dad.  I still hope my phone will ring and I will hear him on the only line facetiously saying, "Hey! This is Joe's Pool Hall and this is the 8 ball speaking.  How ya doin'?"  He was a character and a fine dadio.

So when you are out and about with your dad this weekend, remember he won't always physically be there to enjoy.  He won't always be able to call you.  He won't always be there for you to take him to lunch or supper or to enjoy a barbecue and baseball game with you.  This year on Father's Day and my dad's birthday, I'll just have to keep my dad in my heart along with all my memories.


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Anti-Social Media Memoirist

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings literary lovies!  Well, have you ever heard the song entitled "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister?  (Okay, if you are 35 years of age or younger I'll wait while you toggle through social media to find the song and listen to the lyrics).  It's absolutely one of my favorite songs.  And presently, I'm listening to it on constant rotation for a serious reason:  I had one too many literary agents turn down my memoir manuscript because I "don't have a national media platform and pre-existing audience in the tens or hundreds of thousands via social media."   So I finally have gotten fed up and am throwing down the gauntlet.  You know why I'm throwing down the gauntlet?  Because it used to be that a book was acquired based on the meaningfulness of the story and the strong writing.  Well as far as I'm concerned that should still be the case. 

And agents as well as other acquaintances keep asking me (pestering is more like it) with the questions:  Why don't you do Facebook?  Twitter?  Instagram?  Pinterest?  YouTube?  Tumblr? Flickr? Snapchat?  Simple answer:  I think all social media feeds narcissist tendencies and behaviors.  Truly, I don't want my life or the people in it displayed all over the internet.  If I wish to comment on an issue, I'll write about it via my blog, website or manuscript so I'm not limited to 143 characters.  I have better things to do with my life than tag pictures and people that I like.  That's observing life, not LIVING it.  And honestly, this Facebook thing with people being able to "unlike" you?  Puhleesse!  This is not junior high school, folks!  As a writer I will engage in having a blog and a website.  And that's more than enough to keep up with on a frequent basis.

So here's the deal:  As far as the literary community is concerned I'm going rogue.  Yep, you heard me correctly.  I finished my manuscript, edited it, revised it, and now I'm taking the self-publishing route.  Everything's finished with the exception of the book cover and that's happening right now.  Eventually, you will have access to my books through paperback and ebook.  Now I'm not expecting Julianne Moore who appeared in the movie Still Alice which was originally a self-published work to call me, but if she does, I'll take the call after verifying it is actually her.  I'm not anticipating Reese Witherspoon to even hear of my book, read it or much less call me and ask to purchase the movie rights, but she did star in the movie version of Legally Blonde which was originally a self-published book.  If Reese calls though, I will take the call upon verification that it is actually her.  I'll be looking to hear her southern accent for sure.  My point is this:  sometimes you can't let your dreams linger in the closet or get stuffed in a corner.  No, sometimes you have to go make it all happen by yourself because even though no one else believes in you, it's enough that you believe in yourself and your work.  I'll be posting updates as the self-publishing process takes its course.  And I'll still be posting reviews of memoirs I recommend though I do not read celebrity memoirs.  I read books by real people with real lives and real issues because I like the average person, the underdog, and the alleged "nobodies" (literary agent term not mine).  We will all have to wait patiently and see what this nobody from nowheresville does, okay?  Can you say, MOTIVATED?!

Till my next post,