Lowell, MI – I would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and followers around the globe.
As the tension in Europe intensifies with pending strikes in France and Czech Republic, I am deeply humbled by the Thanksgiving feast of hardiness and determination of our predecessors to survive.
I am thankful for this country’s abundance and the free creative spirit. I look forward to spending the holiday with our family from Big Rapids and Hastings. My deepest unfullfilled wish is for our French family to be here with us as well.
In the creative spirit of this free country, I logged in this morning with 42,578 words doing my personal part in the 50K word marathon.
The short story “40 Hunks” is a part of the new collection of short stories “Secrets” (c) 2018 Emma Palova. This is a sequel to “Shifting Sands: Short Stories” (c) 2017 Emma Palova.
It is my clear intention to see “Secrets” to print in 2019 after the revision months of January and February suppported by the National Novel Writing Month.
The work guide didn’t respond and turned his head away from Jose. He got immediately on the phone with the central farm.
“We’re heading out,” he said. “I need to count the heads. There’s supposed to be 40 men aboard. I need to count them to make sure I don’t have 50. We already looked in the storage; just fuel containers, no extra men.”
Jose decided to mind his own business and ignored the guide who walked to the back of the bus counting the men.
Antonio got up angrily as the guide approached the back of the bus. His shirt was ripped in the back and he had leather bracelets on his wrists. He grabbed the handle bars below the ceiling of the bus, and swayed in front of the work guide.
“How may I help you, gringo?” said Antonio in broken English. “How many times are you going to count us? There are 40 men on this bus. That doesn’t include you and the driver. I want to keep it that way until we get there.”
Antonio looked at the work guide and ripped off his name tag and threw it on the floor.
“There you go,” he laughed. “You’re nobody. You white piece of shit. Remember that.”
Antonio fell back heavily on the torn seat with white fuzz sticking out. He pulled some of the fuss out of the seat.
“I’ll stick this into your mouth, if you don’t stay quiet,” threatened Antonio.
The guide retreated to the front by Jose, who was now whistling to a tune on his cassette player.
you got a rough crowd here,” said the guide. “Who is that big dude?”
“Nobody, just like the rest of them,” said Jose. “Leave me alone. I need some rest.”
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
As Ludek and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on Oct. 7th, I think about all those years spent with one man. We were both born in former Czechoslovakia.
In 1978, that seemed unimaginable to an 18-year-old girl still in the Zlin Gymnasium Prep School with university years of studying ahead of me.
“You’re going to spend the rest of your life with one man?” classmate Zdenek asked me. “I can’t even fathom that.”
Yes, indeed. I spent all those years with one man.
“Boring,” said an acquaintance jokingly some time ago. She herself had been married to one man for a long time.
Just like in everything, there were some great times and some rough times over the four decades. Some of them, I consider historical moments.
Following are some highlights that really stand out:
The birth of our daughter Emma in April of 1979, my graduation from the University of Brno in 1986, the birth of our son Jake in 1987 and the move to the United States of America in 1989. My book Shifting Sands Short Stories came out in 2017. I became an American citizen in 1999. Ludek will have his naturalization ceremony this year.
Our hometown Zlin in Czech Republic.
In between were big, medium and little things; all those elements that make up marriage.
“For better or for worse,” as we said our wows.
Among the big things were: Weddings of our kids. Emma got married in Montrachet, Burgundy, France and Jake in Parnell, MI.
Another big shebang , I consider our celebration of the millennium at Stafford’s Perry Hotel, where Hemingway once stayed. Since, I love history, I love to stay on historical properties.
To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we will be staying in the historical Murray Hotel on Mackinac Island. I find inspiration in history, because it has a tendency to repeat itself. You can predict things based on the past.
We were surfing rough waters when the recession hit in 2007 through 2009, and Ludek lost his job. Ludek had to leave the state of Michigan to work in Prarie-du-Chien, Wisconsin. I stayed in Lowell because we didn’t want to lose the house. Our friends have lost theirs.
He commuted 500 miles to work and he came home for the weekends. When I wrote about it back at the peak of the depression in 2008, I got a response from a publication:
“That’s normal, that’s not a story.”
Yes, maybe for them it wasn’t. But for us it was a big story, as well as for millions of other Americans. I compensated the horror of separation and living by myself with a dog in the country by writing a screenplay. I bought Final Draft software and wrote about the assassination on liberal candidates.
We got through it with scars and hurts. Sometimes, it still hurts.
We still adhere to Czech traditions and customs, but we also have taken on new American traditions. It makes life interesting sharing two different cultures.
People ask me what do I miss the most about the old country?
“Definitely friends, since most of the family members have passed,” I answer.
But, always having a positive outlook, writing and innovation helped us through the good and the bad. Of course there was more good than the bad. It depends on the perspective and interpretation.
The good prevailed in love, passion and belief in each other.
And like talk show host Ripa said on TV, “It always boils down to respect of each other.”
The values we have established have carried us through; first comes our family, then passion for our work and innovation. This philosophy has always worked well throughout the years.
With well wishes for many more years.
Love always, Emma.
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Festival goers, panelists, authors do not shy away from tough topics
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Grand Rapids, MI- From #Me Too movement to women in Christian publishing, everything was up for discussion at the Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College last week.
Publishers, lecturers and authors came from all over the country and represented a diverse cross-section of literature.
The exhibit hall, located in the Prince Conference Center, was home to 46 booths filled with publishing houses, small presses, journals, booksellers, editors and agents.
“The Publicity Confidential: What Authors and Publicists Wish Each Other Knew” was an eye-opening session in an era of publicity stunts and media blitz.
“You have to own it from the very beginning,” said one of the panelists. “Audio magazines or podcasts are taking over.”
Piggybacking off keynote speaker Kwame Alexander, the panel of publicists agreed on one thing: “Say yes to everything.”
In the entire publicity process, the author needs to be herself or himself, fully engaged and present, according to the publicists.
“The goal of publicity is letting the market know that the book exists,” said Kelly Hughes. “Start a podcast to expand your platform. Don’t get hung up on reviews.”
The panelists recommended writing guest blogs, op-ed pieces, radio tours and speaking engagement in church groups, women’s groups and to others within their author’s tribe.
“The ideal author is game for anything, wants to collaborate, thinks big, but realistic, and is accessible,” said Jennifer Grant.
Film & play
This category was represented by producer Abigail Disney & screenwriter and playwright Dorothy Fortenberry. Both women likened the current creative environment in Hollywood to building a new structure out of flawed legos.
“A common lego we use is when someone’s life is endangered,” said Disney. “We have a flawed dynamic. Only 30 percent of writers in Hollywood are women. They have to be tough.”
Fortenberry said she has to spend a lot of time unlearning.”
Dutch screenwriter and director Jaap van Heusden discussed the adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Lame Shall Enter First” in his film “De Verloren Zoon.”
“Writing is the means, not the end,” van Heusden said. “Film is the art of all the things that are not there. My process is finding stories.”
Just because your mother dies, doesn’t mean your relationship ends.
In “Daughters Writing about Mothers,” four writers explored the complex relationships with their mothers, further complicated by a reversal of roles, as the parent ages.
Angela Alaimo tracked the journey of a broken relationship between her young widowed mother to final reconciliation.
Why Don’t Men Read Women Writers? Closing the Gender Gap in Christian Publishing
According to panelist Al Hsu’s doctoral research, women read relatively equally between male and female authors, whereas men are much more likely to read male authors than female authors (90%/10%)
Is it a matter of supply and demand?
Keynote speaker, Edwidge Danticat
Danticat, a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer, took center stage at Van Noord Arena on Friday.
“I create dangerously for people who read dangerously.”
Writing the Wrinkles in Time
Special guests at this conversation were Madeline L’Engle’s granddaughters Lena Roy and Charlotte Jones Voiklis, co-authors of “Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author.
Sarah Arthur, author of the forthcoming “A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, moderated the session.
A movie with the same title “A Wrinkle in Time” (2018) directed by Ava DuVerney is now playing in theatres.
“We were fascinated by the drama of her childhood,” said Roy. “She was dumped off at an austere boarding school in Switzerland.”
The next FFW will take place on April 16-18, 2020 in Grand Rapids, MI.
Featured image: Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughters: Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy.
Big Rapids, MI – Today, my mother Ella Konecny turns 80 in Big Rapids, MI. Together with my father Vaclav, they’ve been living in this small university town, home to Ferris State University, for more than three decades.
Their friends at the Saturday’s birthday party for mom have known both for that long.
“Your parents are great people,” I heard over and over again.
Mom was born Drabkova in former communist Czechoslovakia on Aug. 23, 1937 in Zlin to Anna and Joseph Drabek.
My mother has inspired the memoir Greenwich Meridian, where East meets west about the family immigration saga. She was the one who didn’t want to leave the communist country after the Soviet invasion on the night of August 20-21 in 1968.
Their journey from the Moravian hilly villages of Vizovice and Stipa to Big Rapids in Michigan was tumultuous with many twists and turns.
Some of the milestones included the 1973 return to hardline Czechoslovakia from Texas, and then the escape back into the New World for my dad in 1976. Mom joined him in 1980.
Dad landed the math professor job at the Ferris State University, and that finally anchored them permanently in their new home.
To this day, mom says she loved her bio lab technician job also at the university. The warm friendly welcome atmosphere proved that at the birthday party.
Their true story has also inspired my fiction in the new Shifting Sands Short Stories book. “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” was inspired by some bits and pieces from the early years of immigration.
I wrote that story shortly after my immigration to the USA in 1989. When I compare some of the elements of the short story to the memoir, I consider them Visceral in character, coming from a gut feeling.
The main character in the story is professor Martin Duggan obsessed with his own quest for perfection.
May you both enjoy many more years of love, good health and optimism. Thank you for all your love and support.
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI – I was born with history in my blood in the wee hours on Victory Day, May 9th to the cracking of the fireworks and the fragrance of the blossoming lilacs.
Before the semantics & politics of the new regime, May 9th was the national holiday in my homeland of Czech Republic.
Every year, on this day, my mother Ella lovingly says this sentence:
“I thought they were bombing, but the country was celebrating your birthday. The entire earth blossoms for you.”
Now, my mom Ella is not exactly the most humble person. She loves to show off. She takes that after Grandpa Joseph of Vizovice.
Annually, the country celebrates the anniversary of its freedom from the Nazi occupation in 1945. The holiday has been moved to May 8th based on the age-old dispute, “Who was first, the chicken or the egg?” That is the dispute over which army freed former Czechoslovakia first.
Was it the Soviet or the American army?
The Soviets freed the capital Prague on May 9th, while the Americans freed Plzen in West Bohemia on May 8th. Maybe, the switch was due to the fact that Plzen is home to the famous brewery, Pilsner.
The country boasts its love for beer, and often takes first place in consumption between the top beer consuming trio of Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
However, in our immigration hearts, the holiday will always be on May 9th, even though we love Czech Pilsner.
So, by default, the love for history has been circulating in my blood from the first day of birth.
Our immigration Konecny saga started with the infamous occupation of the country by the Soviets in the Prague Spring of 1968. The era of hardline communism ensued after the invasion for decades to come under President Gustav Husak.
I am also the child of the 1989 Velvet Revolution led by my hero, late president Vaclav Havel who was part of the Prague Spring 1968 reformation movement.
I can trace the origins of my writing to that tumultuous time in our lives.
My paternal grandpa Antonin was the keeper of the “Chronicles of the Stipa JZD” which was the Stipa Agricultural Cooperative, while my late Aunt Martha secretly worked on the Konecny family genealogy. My grandma Anezka was a first grade teacher at ZDS Stipa and a poet.
“You can’t deny genes,” said Martha’s colleague Mrs. Fickova at the funeral wake on Jan. 11th held at the Stipa Senk.
After Aunt Martha’s death on January 7th, 2017, I started the Facebook page Ancestry Konecny on:
Every morning before I start writing, I check social media for inspiration and to get a feeling for the day.
I made me a cup of French Roast coffee and smelled the bouquet of lilacs from our gardens on the ranch. It took 20 years for the fragrant shrubs to come to their full beauty. Not quite like the historical ones on my beloved Mackinac Island, but they’re getting there.
Yesterday, my husband Ludek and I feared for the budding wisteria because of the early morning frost. We had to put out the fan to keep the wisteria, sprawling on the octagon pergola, warm.
Then, as always I gather my thoughts based on analyzing the previous day, and what I have learned from it, that is worth bringing into the future. I always remember the socialist propaganda, “Tomorrow is already yesterday.”
I pinned to the top, “Spring into the Past” museum tour 2017 organized by the Tri-River Historical Museum Network on the new museum page.
I also made sure that the 23rd annual Covered Bridge Bike Tour in Fallasburg is correctly dated for Sunday July 9th.
I looked in the mirror, after finishing most of this post, and I realized I am very fortunate, and that any victory comes at a price. I’ve come to that conclusion not from the image that I see, but by the person I reflect in my writings.
I have a head full of graying hair, a happy smile on my face, a caring husband and family, hundreds of fans and well-wishers from all over the world, and the determination of a Taurus.
My short story collection “Shifting Sands” is ready for June 1st publication on kindle and Amazon.
And speaking about karma or karmic energy.
My friends from the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) Tina Siciliano Cadwallader and Tracy Worthington are planning a book signing event for the “Shifting Sands” fiction short story collection at the Fallasburg one-room schoolhouse museum on June 25th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
I’ve just found out that mom Ella is going to bake a cake for the book signing. And I have received tulips and irises from Doc Em, based in Fixin, France, and a video from Josephine & Dominik Pala of Hastings.
Life is good. As Doc Em says:
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
Everyone is invited to Fallasburg on June 25. Come and enjoy the beautiful Fallasburg Park, the pioneer village, the history and mom’s cake.
With this post, I would like to thank everyone for all the support over the years, especially my neighbor Catherine. Because only Catherine knows who I really am.
“You make me who I am.”
Lowell, May 9th 2017
Copyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
This is one of my most popular posts.; back by demand
Happy May Day
May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.
May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.
May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan
Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.
But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”
May Day in Czech Republic.
The photo was taken at Larkin’s Restaurant in Lowell, MI.
The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”
First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.
And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.
I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.
New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?
Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.
Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like the Czech Republic.
However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.
I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.
I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.
But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.
They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.
It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.
Watch for more upcoming May posts.
Copyright (c) 2017-2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI – As the nature awakens, we celebrate Earth Day today. The first widely recognized Earth Day was held in 1970 when an environmental Teach-In group planned an event for April 22.
But every day is an Earth Day celebration to recognize the greatest resource of all, and that is our planet Earth.
To celebrate the Earth Week, I started my annual walk to the Franciscan Life Process Center (FLPC) on Monday. The 1.8 mile hike on a gravel road has been a staple of my mental and physical sanity since 1995 when we moved out into this northeast corner of Kent County in West Michigan.
I marveled at the untouched nature coming to life; plants vigorously emerging from the wet dirt from yesterday’s rains, robins hopping under the pine trees among the new ground cover.
Crisp morning air and dew covered the new grass and stems.
The area consists of preserved farmland thanks to late philanthropist Peter Wege, apple orchards, woods and streams. Wild flowers are now popping out in the woods, and morel mushrooms are around the corner, or should I say around the stumps.
I love the farm markets with the local produce starting soon with local asparagus.
Different trail systems like the Fred Meijer River Valley trails and Lowell Area trials meet here at the confluence of Grand River and Flat River. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of natural resources from the Bradford Dickinson White Nature Preserve in Lowell Township, Wege Wittenbach AgriScience center, Sessions Lake and Fallasburg Park. Hundreds of inland lakes dot the picturesque region.
The Midwest entices with its variety of seasons, landscapes, Great Lakes and diverse communities.
The Paschal Triduum started tonight with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and it runs through Easter Sunday on April 16.
This week is also known as the Holy Week in the catholic calendar.
The mass at Saint Pat’s included a candle vigil and procession to chapel for repose with washing of the feet. The mass with procession lasted just under two hours.
Tomorrow is Good Friday. Watch for the readings of the Christ’s passion. The Christ’s passion written by several writers has served over the centuries as an inspiration for many literary works due to its powerful message.
Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” stirred some controversy, unlike the 1973 “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Follow me for more Easter coverage through Easter Sunday including Easter traditions in Czech Republic.
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.