Category Archives: memoir

NANOWRIMO 2019 dAY 14

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- Big day today. I unlocked the NaNoWriMo 14- day writing badge logging in 2,992 words with a re-worked chapter from the “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir.”

https://www.nanowrimo.org

The memoir about our family immigration saga took us back from the U.S. to hardline communist Czechoslovakia torn by the disappointment from Prague Spring and mom’s separation from dad.

Excerpt: “Our commerce with Tuzex bons”

Mom could exchange dollars for the fake Czech currency called Tuzex “bons.” The Tuzex bons were just papers issued by the International Bank of Commerce in Prague, not backed by any federal reserve or treasury unlike the real currency- Czech crown. Bons were only valid at the state -run Tuzex stores, which did not accept crowns.

The magical “bons” went far. They were used in luxury Tuzex stores sprinkled sporadically around the country like sprinkles on Christmas cookies. 

 Both mom and I sold bons to our friends for Czech crowns. A Tuzex bon sold for 5 crowns. It wasn’t exactly legal, but it wasn’t illegal either. 

I loved going to the Tuzex store located on the sixth floor of the Zlin department store Prior near the Moscow Hotel and the Cinema. 

For nostalgia purposes, I even kept some of the clothes bought in Tuzex and later took them with me to USA. I still have the silver-colored sweater with a huge leaf applique and a jean jacket by the United Colors of Beneton bought in Prague.

Some people like my friend Hannah were friends with me only because I had the bons. Anyone who worked outside the Eastern communist block and got paid in foreign currency could only exchange it for these colorful papers, sort of like vouchers. 

Just like money, bons carried power with them. 

“You got some bons to sell today?” asked Hannah. 

Off course, I always had some bons to sell. I am a dealer by nature. I inherited that from my entrepreneurial grandpa Joseph. So, I traded and sold bons in school and outside of the Zlin Gymnasium.

To be continued….

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NANOWRIMO DAYS 9 &10

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

With a relative warm up of 40 F this morning, I got up early in the dark so I could plug away at the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir about our family immigration saga before church.

This is my 10th writing day in a row in the NaNoWriMo 50K word challenge.

I am using my mom’s timeline from 1959 to present to navigate through the important milestones in the epic tale covering three continents and two generations.

Mom's diary
Mom’s diary

These include: years in Khartoum, Sudan from Nov. 1964 to March 1970, in Saskatoon, CA from April 1970 to Oct. 1970 and in Hawkins, TX from Nov. 1970 to June 1973.

In the book, this timeline transfers into three draft chapters titled: Years in Africa, On the run and Into North America.

I am still working on Save the Cat Beat Sheet (NaNo-style) for the first half of the memoir.

On NaNoWriMo Day 9, Saturday Nov. 9, I pulled together Save the Cat Beat Sheet (NaNo-style) for the second half of the memoir.

Excerpt from chapter “Years in Africa.”

The politics in former Czechoslovakia loosened up and dad pursued a job opportunity in Khartoum, Sudan because he feared the religious prohibition in the socialist country guided by the Marxist philosophy.

In 1961, Sudan gained independence from the British and was opening up to the world. Vice-chancellor Daffala of th University of Khartoum was recruiting experts from Europe to teach at the university. 

“He invited me for an interview, and I was hired,” dad said. 

Dad was hired in 1964 to teach applied mathematics which equals theoretical physics at the university. The university was affiliated with the University of London. 

“The university was the Harvard of Africa, “dad said. “It was the best university on the continent.” 

Dad was allowed to leave Czechoslovakia through the Department of Education, while other experts obtained governmental clearance through the Polytechnic Institute, known as Polytechna. 

Mom, my brother Vaclav and I joined dad in 1965 for what my parents called, “the best time in their lives.” It was a joyful ride that lasted a few years. Among the things that shocked me first, was the fact that we had to be vaccinated against malaria. All I knew were shots against kids’ diseases, and malaria wasn’t one of them in Czechoslovakia. 

A total of 30 families made up the Czech expert community in Khartoum, located amidst the sands of the Sahara Desert. We lived in an apartment complex, Pink Palace that had a palace-like building in the center for the management. 

“There were no food lines like in Czechoslovakia,” said dad. “We had everything: meat, oranges, bananas, olives.” 

The Czech community in Khartoum was like the exotic textiles sold at the souqs or at the exquisite shops on high streets in downtown. It was tightly woven together by the forthcoming freedom of the Prague Spring reformist movement.  

“Unlike back home we felt at ease with other people,” mom said. 

The Czech and Slovak community consisted of ambassadors, members of the Department of Commerce, and the teachers from the Department of Education; a diverse and adventurous bunch.  

“We all lived at the same location, so we got together quite often,” said mom. 

The embassy was a cultural center; it was a formal social outlet nestled in a society that also struggled to find its own identity. On the other hand, the Pink Palace apartment complex served as an informal platform for Czechs and Slovaks to reminisce about home, as well as to weave dreams about the future in a free country. 

“I gained experience, new outlook and knowledge, and I met different people,” dad said. 

To be continued………

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NANAOWRIMO DAY 8

The structure of Greenwich Meridian- Save the Cat! Beat Sheet (NaNo- Style)

By Emma Palova

I woke up in the dark to a freezing morning. The temperature was 23 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re 30 degrees below average November temperatures in Michigan; perfect weather for writing.

I logged in a total of 16,336 words on my NaNo 2019 dashboard that tracks daily writing progress in the National Novel Writing Month 50K challenge. My daily count was only sligthly above 1,000 words, but I organized the structure of the memoir according to Save the Cat! beat sheet for graphic novels.

Structure of Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West NaNo- Style

I introduced my dad math professor Vaclav Konecny as a young man on the brink of his first adventure, unhappy with the status quo in the communist Czechoslovakia in mid 1960s.

Here is an excerpt:

Young math professor Vaclav Konecny feared the communist regime that prohibited the society to practice religion and the teachers were the main target of this religious prohibition in Czechoslovakia under the Marxist philosophy.

Ironically, he studied at an austere seminary in Kromeriz where he acquired his iron-clad discipline that lasts to this day.

He grabbed the opportunity to teach Applied Mathematics in Khartoum, Sudan as a way out of the restrictions that he called the “cage” in 1964.

To be continued

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

nanowrimo Day 7

Mom’s timeline in Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West saga

By Emma Palova

Looking outside the window in my writing studio, I see that the day has melted the morning surreal scenery of white cover with green grass stems sticking through it. The morning frost took down more leaves from my wisteria hanging tight onto the octagon pergola. One frozen morning glory flower managed to freeze in its red beauty in my window boxes. The sun peaked out and chased away some clouds and the darkness of an early morning.

This is the seventh day of the National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo 50K challenge. I unlocked a 7-day in a row writing badge and updated my word count at 15,308 words a few minutes ago closing the writing session with mom’s comprehensive timeline from 1959 to present. Overall the timeline helps me navigate through my parents’ and my own travels between three continents: Europe, Africa and North America.

The other movement in this epic story of love and passion is between historical events that changed the map of Europe; from the reformist Prague Spring in 1968, when the Soviet tanks invaded former Czechoslovakia to Velvet Revolution in 1989 and far beyond into North America.

Some of the highlights of mom’s timeline include: fascinating visits to Egypt and the Middle East, life in Khartoum, Sudan and back to Czechoslovakia.

Mom's diary
Mom’s diary

Excerpt: In her own words

By mom Ella

At the beginning of November, my husband announced his decision that he will be leaving for Sudan on Nov. 20, 1964. I gave him my blessings and never thought for a moment that I would go with him. I continued to work in the pharmacy in Vizovice and my boss who loved to travel kept asking me when was I going to fly to Africa.

In the spring of 1965, when I finally applied for a passport and got my vaccinations, Vaclav wrote me a letter that he was coming home, because it was the end of the school year. The university paid once a year for round trip air tickets for the entire family, regardless that he had just started teaching in November. The school year in Sudan ran from the beginning of July to the end of March; it was followed by a summer break lasting three months.

Those three months were also the worse months in Africa weather-wise filled with sand storms “Habub,” rain and heat. Khartoum lies on the 15th parallel close to the equator; it is the second warmest place in the world. It’s a dry tropical country with very little rain. A road stretched 50 miles north of Khartoum and 50 miles south and dead ended in the Nuba desert.

To be continued………..

I am working on a 4,000 word description to log the upcoming book on Amazon’s kdp publishing platform.

Here is a link:

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

nanowrimo Day 6

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

Excerpt: How professor of math escaped Czechoslovakia

By Emma Palova

It’s snowing and it is freezing cold outside, as I am done with my morning writing session on day 6 of the National Novel Writing Month 50K word challenge. My shrubs in the garden are covered with snowflakes.

For my #NaNoWriMo 2019 project, I am working on the completion of the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S.

Professor Vaclav Konecny at Ferris State University.

This epic tale covers a span of more than 50 years and historic events from Prague Spring in 1968 to Velvet Revolution in 1989 and beyond that propelled the story into an adventure between three continents: Europe, Africa and North America.

Thanks to the prep work that I did in October, the research in previous years, and my parents’ accounts of their experiences, I am moving swiftly between the historic events that have formed our lives.

Here is an excerpt from chapter: “How professor of math escaped Czechoslovakia.”

Different options of escape seemed risky, because the borders were guarded against the people of the country, so they wouldn’t escape, not against some outside enemy. Soldiers and their dogs were dangerous; the life of a Czech or Slovak person meant less than the life of a rabbit. I assumed that the border patrol in other countries would be less dangerous.  

So, I decided to escape either from Rumania or Bulgaria. I diligently analyzed reports from other tourists to these countries. It was interesting that the officials were issuing quickly passports to socialist countries. I applied and to my surprise I was issued a passport in Brno on July 7, 1976. My situation became easier even though the passport was without an exit clause to any capitalist country. So I was free to travel in Eastern Europe.  I used my three-week vacation to get ready for the escape. 

Excerpt from escape to be continued

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NaNoWriMo Days 2 &3

Completion of Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt

By Emma Palova

For my NaNoWriMo 2019 project, I am working on the completion of my memoir Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S.A.

I am averaging 1, 643 words a day. At some point I will have to increase the daily word count to reach 50,000 words by the end of November.

What propelled the saga ahead was my mom’s diary written in Czech in a pretty cursive spiral – bound diary with hard cover with yellow roses and a futuristic dateline: Big Rapids- Florida, 2019- 2020. My parents Ella and Vaclav winterize in Venice, Florida and mom wanted the diary back before they leave. So, I got right on it.

After writing about mom’s experience of the Soviet invasion while she was on a therapeutic spa stay in posh Carlsbad – Karlovy Vary resort in 1968, I made a firm decision that this is movie material. I will write a screenplay and see it to production.

Mom's diary
Mom’s diary

Mom’s writing is very graphic. She is so visual that she could draw the layout of their apartment in Khartoum, Sudan in Africa from their stay until 1969. I remember the large bedroom and the built-in balcony full of sand after the sand storms.

As the writing moves between Africa and Europe, I marvel at mom’s experiences. Sometimes, I am even jealous like today, as I read her memories from Africa and the Middle East. We each have different memories, and I was a mischievious kid with my own agenda.

 Here is an excerpt from the chapter ” In her own words.”

I was a pharmacist, and it wasn’t that the profession was narrow and had nothing to offer, but I didn’t want to nurture vain ideas of travelling. So, Sunday afternoon trips to the dam in Luhacovice or Bystricka were the only means of breaking up the gray of ordinary days. 

The first bigger trip was our honeymoon to the Krkonose mountains with the old Tatra and mother’s comments: “I hope the poor car will make it.” 

When we arrived in Harachov, we sent a message to my parents: “We’ve arrived under Mount Blanc.” At that moment, it never occurred to me that one day I would indeed be looking at the majestic highest mountain in the Alps. 

After five years of marriage, we had two children: Emma and Vasek. I was working part-time in a pharmacy in my hometown Vizovice and my husband Vaclav was teaching physics in Brno. He would come for the weekend to Vizovice, because I couldn’t find a job in Brno and we had no place to stay there. We were on the waiting list for an apartment, that we got in 1965. We didn’t have a car or money to furnish the apartment. My husband found out that the president of the university in Khartoum, Sudan was hiring English-speaking professors to teach different subjects. Vaclav’s English was excellent and he got the job. However, I did not know about this. 

At the beginning of November, Vaclav announced his decision that he will be leaving for Sudan on Nov. 20, 1964. I gave him my blessings and never thought for a moment that I would go with him. I continued to work in the pharmacy and my boss who loved to travel kept asking me when was I going to fly to Africa. 

In the spring of 1965, when I finally applied for a passport and got my vaccinations, Vaclav wrote me a letter that he was coming home, because it was the end of the school year. The university paid once a year for round trip air tickets for the entire family, regardless that he had just started teaching in November. The school year in Sudan ran from the beginning of July to the end of March; it was followed by a summer break lasting three months. 

Those three months were also the worse months in Africa weather-wise filled with sand storms “Habub,” rain and heat. Khartoum lies on the 15th parallel close to the equator; it is the second warmest place in the world. It’s a dry tropical country with very little rain. A road stretched 50 miles north of Khartoum and 50 miles south and dead ended in the Nuba desert. 

Three rivers ran through the city: Nile, Blue Nile and White Nile. We arrived in this city in July of 1965. When we got out of the plane at the airport in Khartoum, a hot wave like coming from an oven, hit me and I couldn’t catch my breath. 

We rented an apartment from the university close to Blue Nile. The apartment was spacious with two built-in balconies, that were not screened, so the kids played there together with lizards and salamanders. The apartment had running water, a refrigerator and basic furniture- beds, table, chairs and two armchairs in light green color. There was no TV or air conditioning. The stores were open in the morning and evening and closed in the afternoon due to heat. Khartoum was a dead town in the afternoon. 

The main boulevard was lined with stores full of merchandise unlike in Czechoslovakia where we always had to stand in line for meat, vegetables and also for toilet paper.

Camp NaNOwrIMO

Writing camp helps complete goals

I have completed goal one for the April Camp NaNoWriMo which serves either as an extension of the novel challenge started in November and/or fuel for new writing.

I penned the core of “Secrets” during the November challenge reaching 56,433 words. The anchor story in the collection is “Silk Nora” inspired by my multiple visits to the Belrockton Museum in Belding.

I going through the stories for content and insights. I will be submitting some of the stories via app Submittable for reviews to magazines.

I am sending the manuscript “Shifting Sands: Secrets” (c) 2019 Emma Palova to the editor this week. Thank you Carol.

Goal 2

Camp goal no. 2 is to recast the Konecny family immigration saga. This includes the title and the cover.

Follow me on my publishing journey.

Shifting Sands: Secrets

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Dad professor Konecny

Contributor Profile

I found my dad Vaclav Konecny’s contributor profile for the Crux Mathematicorum math magazine of the Canadian Mathematical Society on the Internet yesterday.

20181220_1412326910501251751484398.jpg

I am including it in one of the chapters of the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir. The title of the chapter is: Contributor Vaclav Konecny.

Below is a link to the pdf.

ContributorProfile_36_5 Konecny

Dad still contributes to the magazine, either by proposing math & geometry problems or by solving them. He received an honorable mention as one of the six problemists of 1996, who had participated in one-third of the solutions for the year.

My Escape from Czechoslovakia

Another document of great value is his letter: “My Escape from Czechoslovakia” dated Nov. 18, 1976 to the Department of State in Washington D.C.

As a true mathematician, dad, in great detail, describes his journey through various border crossings between four different countries. He even describes his alternative plan. Here is an excerpt:

I made two plans:

  1. To get from Eastern block through some check point
  2. To go to Bulgaria-Micurin- and swim to Turkey. I exercised a lot for this purpose and I was well prepared.

But plan one worked out okay.

Law-abiding citizen Vaclav

What fascinates me the most about his escape story is that he used any means necessary to get to his target; that is a Western country that would give him visa to re-enter USA.  My father is a law-abiding citizen who never breaks any rules. And he definitely never breaks his own tough rules, forged by the years spent at the Archbishop Seminary in Kromeriz.

However, in his escape journey, he had to resort to lying and deception. Dad even came very close to breaking traffic rules in Yugoslavia.

“I went as fast as the traffic rules allowed to Belgrade. I was stopped by police there, but they let me go even if it were just in the opposite direction to Sophia. I reported to Mrs. Julia Cardozo-Neitzke, U.S. Consul on July 27, 1976. No embassy wanted to issue me visa, but after enormous effort of the U.S. Embassy I got German visa.”

His Contributor Profile closes with the following statement:

“Vaclav’s sincerest hope is for world peace.”

Thanks dad for so much inspiration.

Note: Dad Vaclav and mom Ella currently winterize in Venice, FL. I will be joining them for my annual writer’s retreat in February.

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Interview with WGVU Shelley Irwin

Renaissance of the written word

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- While finalizing my interview draft for the WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin in downtown Grand Rapids, I was able to come up with a common theme; renaissance of the written word and literature overall.

That was my final takeaway message for the audience.

“We’re in a renaissance era of the written word,” I said. “Write every day, put together what you have written and send it out. Don’t let dust settle on your manuscripts. If you can’t find an agent or a publishing house, do it yourself. Find a self-publishing platform.”

Over the last two decades, people have been getting increasingly sick of technology and trying to figure everything out on devices, and the ever-changing algorithms.

On the other hand, the renaissance is partly thanks to Google’s keywords, business and product reviews and captioning on TV.

I’ve noticed an explosion of literature on my author’s adventures since I’ve penned “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” Poets are popping up, as well as memoirists and there is a huge demand for historical fiction.

As a true lover of history and artifacts, I brought in with me to the WGVU Studio at the Eberhard Center a remnant of a word processor; a font reel or wheel with my favorite script font 10/12. That’s all I have left of the word processor that had a screen for  three sentences at the max. I bought it in 1990 at, the close to being extinct, Kmart.

“The millennials don’t know what it is, but I used the Smith- Corona word processor to write my first stories,” I said.

Irwin looked at the reel wheel with the script font puzzled.

“I am not a millennial, but I can’t figure this out either,” as she looked at the artifact.

We talked about the “Riddleyville Clown” short story, that is pure fiction. Based on the story, I wrote the screenplay “Riddleyville Clowns” © Emma Palova.

“It was inspired by a hometown parade to the 175th anniversary of fictive Riddleyville, organized by one of the town characters,” I said. “It is about the assassination on the liberal presidential candidates.”

When Irwin asked about my favorite stories out of the collection of 13 short stories, I said: “If I had to choose it would be a toss between “The Death Song” and “The Temptation of Martin Duggan.”

“Why?”

“Because the characters stay with you long after you’re done reading,” I said. “My daughter-in-law Maranda asked me what was wrong with the guys.”

That’s exactly what I want; that resonation with the characters and questions left hanging in the air. That’s why I am writing a sequel to Shifting Sand Short Stories, as well as the Greenwich Meridian memoir.

“iIt’s a balancing act,” I said.

The main character in “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” is a math professor, perfectionist by nature.

By pure coincidence, and with “Back to School” looming in the air, there was also a mathematical conference going on at the Eberhard Center. A girl offered me an AlgebraNation pencil and a flag.

I have to check if it is pencil no.2, that professor Duggan used in the story. It’s got to be just right, not too soft, not too hard.

“Obviously, you have a passion for writing,” said Irwin.

It was a great experience being in the same studio with Irwin and the intern, and other adventurers like  the Iron  Fish Distilleries.

I heard their story driving back to Lowell on WGVU 88.5 FM.

Thank you, Shelley, until we meet again on my next venture.

Books and events

Shifting Sands Short Stories is available locally at Schuler Books in GR and in Lansing, Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, KDL libraries and it is coming to “Epilogue Books” in Rockford. It is on Amazon.

 

Author events @LowellArts

 

July 28 & Aug. 4, 1- 3 p.m. Book signing & discussion

Aug. 6, 7 to 9 p.m. panel discussion with poet Ian Haight

 

To join LowellArts Writer’s Group contact Debra Duiven Dunning at 897-8545

For more info go to https://www.lowellarts.mi.org

 

WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin

 

http://www.tinyurl.com/ycp9cx5k

Copyright © 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Taurus daily info overload

How to fuse ideas into writing projects

By Emma Palova

My Taurus horoscope is 99 percent on target. I truly am on informational overload from all sides: Work, family, nature and summer.

I overwhelm myself and others with infinite ideas, feelings and emotions.

According to my horoscope, I should organize a flow chart. It would be more like the river Mississippi with its sandy bluffs.

Heck, I don’t even use a calendar unless I have to. I’ve never used a watch in my entire life; yet I am always on time.

The fact of the matter is that I am afraid of time; not of aging. I am afraid of time as a physical quantity.

Our Lowell Area Chamber director Liz uses a linear calendar for the entire year.

It drives me nuts to see all those days in a row.

However, I do use outlines for complex writing projects like the memoir Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West, that I am trying to finish.

I have re-worked the outline several times. I have involved my mother Ella in it.

I use journals, both digital and paper. I use apps like One Note to improve my productivity. I have formed a writer’s group on Facebook Writers Loop and joined Lowell Writes.

The most difficult times are when the project ideas fuse together in my head.

Then, I do a drive around to pull it all together and I meditate near a body of water.

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

Don’t forget to pick up the July print issue of The Grand Rapids Magazine and my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories” @Schuler Books in GR and Lansing.

I will have another series of author’s events in the West Michigan region and @LowellArts.

For more info on LowellArts go to https://www.lowellartsmi.org

https://m.tarot.com/daily-horoscope/taurus

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.