“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Lowell, MI- I love this quote because it is so true. Yesterday, I completed a brand new mobile app on Swiftic for a client. It took me a long time as the app development companies kept changing.
Once I figured out the last feature, I was ecstatic. It’s a top notch app with eye-catching push notifications and more than 20 features such as loyalty and scratch cards, and catalogs.
I had that same feeling of joy when I uploaded my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories ” to the publisher last year.
I feel happiness today as Ludek and I are about to head out to Mackinac Island to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.
Yes, it’s the same place where Universal Pictures filmed “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour.
It was also the home for the famous fur trade entrepreneur Madame Framboise.
The island will be all dressed up for Halloween. We plan on going to the Haunted Theatre and take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Cars are not allowed on the island, only bicycles and horses.
Even this late into the season, the hotels were sold out. We will take the ferry Star Line across the Straits of Mackinac.
It is also my writer’s retreat, because Mackinac Island inspires me with its history and character. I will include in my new book three historical fiction short stories; one from the island and two from Fallasburg.
Stay tuned for more posts from the island.
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
It is with certain trepidation that I approach the 50th anniversary of Soviet occupation of former Czechoslovakia on the night of Aug. 20 to Aug. 21, 1968.
The milestone seems unbelievable to me. It was such a pivotal moment that influenced the rest of my life. What followed the occupation changed two generations; a massive exodus fleeing from the occupied country to its Western neighbors.
There is an old cliché saying that time heals everything. Decades of other events in history may have put layers of dust over this one. But those whose lives have been touched by the invasion, will never forget.
I’ve only heard other people’s accounts of the invasion; recently a video posted on Facebook stirred my memory.
People reacted to the event in two basic ways: either they stayed in the country or they emigrated to the West. The majority stayed in the country.
My father professor Vaclav Konecny decided for the latter of the two. That is to leave the country rather than endure the regime. Fifty years later, both of my parents have certain regrets. My mother Ella more so than my father.
“I left behind my sick parents against my beliefs,” she said. “That haunted me until the day they died. All those years, I felt guilty.”
The invasion suppressed the Prague Spring liberalization movement led by Alexander Dubcek, and substituted it with hardline communism or dark era of totality.
Those who stayed paid the price. No one could leave the country without exit visa.
Those who left illegally could not return without persecution.
Freedom truly isn’t free. It never has been.
“I think our modern history shows us that freedom isn’t a gift, which the powerful fight for to giveaway; it can be obtained and defended only by those who work to obtain or defend it.” late president Vaclav Havel in his speech on Victory Day May 8, 1994.
A half-a-century of Czech expatriates living outside the old country well beyond the Velvet Revolution in 1989, has shown their adaptability and assimilation into other cultures.
Our own immigration story has been molded by the 1968 Soviet invasion. At the time, my parents left from Sudan, Africa for Canada, and eventually to Hawkins, Texas where dad taught math at Jarvis Christian College.
The story got more complex, when mom Ella decided to return to Czechoslovakia in 1973 followed by dad. The return was both a nightmare and a mistake, as my dad later recollected it many years later. He left Czechoslovakia again in 1976, and after a battle for emigration visa mom joined him in 1980.
It wasn’t until December of 1989 that I was able to leave the country for the USA for good. I became an American citizen in August of 1999 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.
Looking back at this chronology of now historical events, I have to ask myself if I would do it again, much like I have asked my parents.
“Yes. I would do it again. I have no regrets; my entire family is here and I consider this country to be my home.”
The other question that people either ask me or I ask myself, “What is it that I miss about the old country?”
I do miss my friends from school and the university. Whenever, I miss the food, I just cook it myself. My son Jake was naturalized earlier this year, and my husband Ludek will become an American citizen on Aug. 22, 2018 in Detroit.
However, life is not just a chronological sequence of events or it shouldn’t be.
“How would our lives be different if we stayed in the old country?”
Those questions remain hanging in the air unanswered. I don’t expect any answers to them anytime soon or ever.
When I published my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories” last summer, I realized I would not have been able to do that in Czech Republic. If for nothing else, I wouldn’t have been able to do it because of language barriers. There are no English language publishers. Either way, it would have to be translated.
We adhere to Czech traditions and customs, mainly during Christmas and Easter. Our adult children Emma & Jake are fully bilingual. Jake is teaching his kids Czech.
I laugh when I say, “I am 99 percent American and one percent Czech.”
That one percent means; Vaclav Havel remains my hero and we speak Czech at home.
Join me this afternoon at@LowellArts gallery from 1 to 3 pm. I will be signing copies of my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories” during the Captured photo exhibit. Come and chat about your writing projects. We are experiencing renaissance in literature. It’s a great time to be a part of this movement.
While touring with my book around West Michigan, we have discovered the “Creative Endeavor”project at the Michigan News Agency (MNA)in Kalamazoo. In order to keep authors writing, MNA does not keep any profit from the local author book sales.
I will be writing more about this initiative. My son discovered this while looking for the Grand Rapids Magazine.
“To encourage our Creative Endeavor Project Writers, we will sell your books as a pass through and return all of the money to you, the authors. The News hopes this will encourage our writing communities to strive to do your work.”
For more info about this Creative Endeavor project go to:
Lowell, MI -I am really looking forward to this weekend. First of all, it’s going to be hot again, and I love that.
Contrary to what the promoters of “Back to School” pump out, summer is not over. For me summer is over when I have to swap my flip-flops for closed-toed shoes, usually with the first snow.
Summer always stays in my heart year-long.
Other than my author event at the LowellArts gallery tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. during the Captured photo exhibit, I can’t wait to go to the Czech Harvest Festival “Dozinky” in Bannister this Sunday.
This is our annual treat and a tribute to our Czech heritage. Every year, I get my hopes high that I will run into a Czech-speaking person at the festival in the middle of nowhere.
Over the years of going to Bannister, I’ve met probably a total of eight people who knew some Czech. The fun part about this event is that I get to sing three anthems that I know: American, Czech & Slovak.
The third-generation organizers Tom & Diane Bradley of Czech origin have done a fantastic job of preserving the “Dozinky” event as it truly happens in the Moravian and Slovakian villages in the old country. The dancers wear original costumes, the band of accordions plays Czech polka and the singers sing Czech songs.
The Czech & Slovak dance group.
I marvel at this effort, because the festival passes the Czech heritage onto the younger generation. The dance troupe involves kids ages three to unlimited. The festivities open with the shortest parade in the world; it’s even shorter than the parade in Hubbardston on St. Pat’s Day.
The parade route is past the ZCBJ Lodge to the small field with a concrete platform for the dancers. The dancers and singers march in the parade with rakes and scythes, symbolizing the original harvest of wheat.
Usually, a polka band plays inside the hall after the dance troupe is done outside. I’ve never been to that part, because it runs later in the afternoon when we have to head back home for a long drive through the fields.
The best part of the event is the original Czech food. For ten bucks, you get to eat like in a fancy Czech restaurant without leaving USA. The buffet features, ham, chicken, dumplings, sauerkraut, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes, biscuits and a dessert.
However, one thing you will not get here, is the traditional Czech “kolache” pastry. One of the editors of the Fraternity Herald asked me to share the origins of this festive pastry.
So, I asked my mother Ella, while she was still in Venice. Growing up in Moravian small town of Vizovice, she could trace the humble origins to the villagers.
“They used all the ingredients available to them in their households,” she said. “This included the cottage cheese they made themselves, butter or lard and eggs. The only thing they bought was sugar and flour. They had everything else including the plum butter.”
The popularity of “kolache” as a signature pastry at all events and festivities, skyrocketed over the years, as the city folks discovered them while touring villages.
“Kolaches” are to Czechs what pizza is to the Italians,” mom said. “They too use the ingredients available to them; olives, pasta sauce and such.”
There are hundreds of recipes for traditional “kolache” varying according to the region.
However, they all have in common the following: golden crust topped with plum butter with sugary crumbling and filled with cottage cheese mixed with raisins.
I find the Motown Writers Network full of great tips and writing advise. What really caught my eye was the post about author branding.
As I step into the role of an author, I realize more and more how branding is important. What kind of author am I? What is my target audience? How will my title “Shifting Sands Short Stories” stand out among millions of book titles? What does it have in common with my other work?
As a journalist, I ask this question quite often, “What sets you apart from others in your industry?”
Yes, writing is a business. So, it has to be branded.
“Just like me going to work every day,” said #WGVU morning show host Shelley Irwin in last week’s interview.
Regardless the trade, many people struggle with the answer to this question including the campaigning politicians.
As of today, I can say that the following sets me apart from other authors and other titles: I am a Czech-born author who was naturalized as a US citizen on Aug. 19, 1999 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.
At the time I was featured on the front page of the Ionia Sentinel-Standard in the article “U.S. citizenship a ‘natural’ step for Lowell woman. I was a reporter for the paper, and I received hundreds of congratulatory phone calls. The Associated Press syndicated the naturalization story.
I collected and put together the short stories that I have written over a span of more than two decades. So, I call that also a “history preservation” project. I wrote the first stories from the immigration circle of stories on my Smith Corona word processor in Montreal, Canada in the early 1990s.
History is my other love besides writing. Naturally, I plan to include a historical fiction piece in the sequel to Shifting Sands Stories.
I consider the Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia partly a historical piece., although not fictional.
With my passion for languages, I also teach ESL. I am learning Spanish, so I can visit Hemingway’s Finca Vigia in Cuba.
I’ve already visited the Hemingway House in Key West. The descendents of his six-toed cats are there. His writing studio was connected by a catwalk to the main house.
I see myself as a romantic author with Hemingway’s hardiness. I portray every day characters in their struggles; whether in love, disease, aging, under duress or in pursuit of perfection.
Some of the characters like Vadim in “The Death Song” are macho men, totally immersed into themselves.
The struggle for perfection is best portrayed in the character of math professor Martin in “The Temptation of Martin Duggan.” His own son is his only imperfection. Everything else in his life is perfect, otherwise he wouldn’t survive.
As in real life, the endings are not always happy. See “The Death Song” or “Honey Azrael.”
Authors (left to right) Jeanie Mortensen and Emma Palova of Lowell share a giggle.
Following is part of Hemingway’s acceptance speech sent to Stockholm, since he couldn’t travel to accept the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. I find it inspiring.
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is good enough of a writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
I’ve also written a screenplay registered with Writers Guild of America, West. Personally, I consider screenwriting easier than writing novels. I write a short story first and based on that I write the screenplay. Writing has to be very visual.
Join our local LowellArts group #lowellwrites. Contact Debra Dunning Duiven at 897-8545.
A long journey starts with the first step, leaving footprints in Ludington
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – I attended the Ludington Writers’ Rendezvous on the shores of Lake Michigan last Saturday. It was my first encounter with the Ludington Writers group, and my second author’s conference experience after Calvin College in the spring.
It was a great gathering of 28 authors with a total of 80 titles and the tension of 10 million volts.
As the raindrops drummed on the roof of the Arts Center lodged inside the former Methodist Church in beautiful downtown Ludington, I absorbed the energy output of the organizers and fellow authors.
I loved author Carol L. Ochadleus’ poster designed by her son.
“We got the wrong cover on the last one,” Ochadleus laughed. “This time we got it right.”
The rush before the authors’ events is always nerve wrecking. An author, whose name I didn’t catch, stormed in with her pink luggage. Sudanese author Dominic Malual of “Barefoot in the Boot” had a wooden giraffe in front of his table.
In most cases, the conference attendance was the result of teamwork of entire families. The “assistants” were usually the partners of the authors, while the “runners” were book lovers who delivered food from the local restaurants. The extensive menu featured everything from the “Swiss Hammer”, “Ojibway Dip” to “Dirty Russian.”
Since, I missed my dad Vaclav’s birthday lunch, my assistant Ludek personally delivered my grilled chicken wrap from Jamesport Brewing Co., where the international family crew got together.
That fusion of aspirations, dreams and hopes fueled my own author’s drive that sometimes goes into overdrive.
“I want you to have a good experience,” wrote author/organizer Joan H. Young in her final approach to the conference message. “We want this to be the event to come to.”
For many authors it was their first time at anything and everything. Author Joseph Tilton debuted with his “Apocalypse” book here.
I thoroughly enjoyed the “wannabee” authors circulating around the authors’ tables. I didn’t catch their names. One wanted to write a dystopian novel and was seeking some direction. The other one carrying a stack of papers asked me about my book, “Shifting Sands Short Stories.”
“It’s a collection of short stories, that I have written for over two decades,” I said.
“Oh, I would have had a book like this big,” she said pointing to the huge stack of papers.
I smiled, thinking, “So, why didn’t you put it together?”
Today, on my morning walk to the Franciscans, I realized I should have said that out loud:
“Whatever you have written, put it together.”
I sat next to Ludington author Jeanie Mortensen and that was the greatest delight of all. The locals knew her and came to buy her books; both poetry and a novel.
I bought her “Taking in the Seasons” poetry collection, because I can’t handle long chunks of text. Mortensen bought my book; we swapped business cards with other authors.
It was not only an authors’ event, it was also a family deal like I mentioned before.
Mortensen’s daughter Amy stopped by and so did my adult children, Emma & Jake to say hi.
It was an unforgettable rendezvous, both professionally and personally. The survey asked: “Will you come back?”
For me it was a definite, “Yes.”
Thanks to organizers, Joan, Hanne Kelley & Barry Matthews of the Ludington Center for the Arts and the Writer’s Group.
My next author’s events:
July 26 @ 10 a.m. WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin 88.5/95.3
July 28 & Aug. 4 LowellArts, Lowell 1 to 3 p.m.
Aug. 6 panel discussion and reception with poet Ian Haight at LowellArts.
Check out the Grand Rapids Magazine City Guide at your local newsstand for the “Reading Room” article. My book is available at Schuler Books, Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo and on Amazon in paperback and kindle formats.
To join our local Lowell Writer’s group contact Debra Duiven Dunning at 897-8545 at LowellArts.
Lowell, MI – Lowell author Emma Palova will be featured live on WGVU Morning Show with host Shelley Irwin on July 26 at 10 a.m. WGVU is a service of the Grand Valley State University, a PBS member.
Palova will be talking with Irwin about her book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” Palova, a former reporter for the Lowell Ledger, penned the collection of 13 short stories for more than two decades.
The stories are based on her immigration experience from former Czechoslovakia, journalistic and retail experience in the USA.
Author Emma Palova
Most recently, Palova was featured in the Grand Rapids Magazine City Guide 2018-2019 in the life & style section, Reading Room: The long road to resilience.
“I know it might sound cheesy, but even though not all the stories have happy endings, that doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is either good or bad. It isn’t always that clear,” she said. “The real art is in discerning it.”
This Saturday, July 21st, Palova can be found at the Ludington Writer’s Rendezvous along with 28 Michigan authors. The event runs from 10 to 3 p.m., at the Ludington Center for Arts. It is free to the public.
She will be at the Lowell Arts Gallery on July 28th & Aug. 4th from 1 to 3 p.m. to sign books and offer writing and publishing tips during the new “Captured: A Photography Exhibition.”
Palova is a member of the newly-formed LowellArts Writer’s Group which meets every Monday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. Contact Debra Dunning for more information at 897-8545.
Palova is currently working on a sequel to “Shifting Sands” and a memoir about the family immigration saga spanning three generations. Palova has also written a screenplay “Riddleyville Clowns”@Emma Palova.
Shifting Sands Short Stories is available on Amazon, Schuler Books in GR and Lansing and at the Kent District Library branches.
Palova is looking for a publisher for her first novel “Fire on Water” based on her experience from former communist Czechoslovakia.
For more info on the WGVU morning show go to: wgvunews.org.
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Moving forward with author’s events in West Michigan
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI- It’s unbelievable what all can happen in one day; even if it is a Monday.
WGVU Morning Show with host Shelley Irwin
First, I opened my inbox, and there was the response from host Shelley Irwin of the WGVU Morning Show.
“I get to share stories in a talk show format,” she wrote. “I would like to interview you at a time frame of your convenience.”
So, we are scheduling the time frame for the TV segment about my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” I thought it was a radio segment. I freaked out when I found out it was also TV.
As I went into the panic mode, Mr. Self-Doubt introduced himself into my writing studio; what am I going to say and wear?
I jumped on the dreaded treadmill that I have been neglecting because we have a special visitor here. That is our French granddaughter Ella.
I felt like Oprah, who started exercising two days before her birthday. And to make up for the excellent Sunday pork schnitzels, I dined on vanilla SlimFast tonight in front of the computer screen.
“That’s great mom,” said my son Jake about the TV interview. “It’s easy.”
“Yeah, how many times have you been on a live TV show?” I asked Jake, the business man, who made the schnitzels.
“The main thing is you have to know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You know the buzzwords.”
I like to think that after almost 30 years in the writing business, I can offer insights, rather than buzzwords.
And the Monday goodness continued when I discovered the best kept secret on the lakeshore.
3rd Annual Writer’s Rendezvous in Ludington, July 21
I’ve been looking for writers’ and authors’ events in Michigan for years. But, it was only yesterday at the Ionia Free Fair that I found out about the Writer’s Rendezvous in Ludington.
It is my parents’ favorite place on the Michigan lakeshore. They’ve been going to Ludington ever since they moved to Big Rapids in the 1980s. We immigrated to the USA from former Czechoslovakia based on the 1968 Soviet occupation of the country. I am writing a memoir “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West” about the family immigration saga.
Annually, my dad Vaclav celebrates his birthday on Stearns Park Beach.When we couldn’t find a hotel, I told my mom Eliska:”There must be something going on.”
“There’s always something going on there,” she said on the phone in the heat of the Sunday afternoon.
While searching for a hotel on mom’s smart phone, dad came across “some kind of a writing conference.”
I refined the search this morning and found out that the 3rd Annual Writers’ Rendezvous featuring more than 20 Michigan authors will be this Saturday, July 21.
I was ecstatic, hoping to get in at the last minute. Barry Matthews from the Ludington Arts Center immediately responded that there is some space left for $25 for half a table.
“Yes, I am in and I can’t wait to meet the other authors and visitors.”
The goal is to bring cultural and literary perspective to the lakeshore, according to the Visiting Writers group.
Ludington has always inspired me ever since I visited the town in 1990 around the 4th of July holiday. The visit inspired one of my first articles I have written for a publication in the USA. It was also the only time I wrote in my native Czech language for the Czechoslovak Newsweek. I had a regular column for the biweekly newspaper. In spite of the longevity of the print paper, it never made it to digital format.
I remember this opening line of the lead paragraph.
“Thousands of red, white and blue petunias lined the Ludington Ave on the back drop of the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan.”
I went back many times; most recently last year in August for a voyage on the Badger across Lake Michigan.
Now, I am getting ready for it all. I’ve been told a million times; you’re not ready.
Other than the treadmill and Slimfast, I ordered books, brochures and posters for my upcoming author’s events.
And finally from a Facebook friend, I found out about a new local book store in Rockford.
“Shockingly nostalgic entrepreneur opened a book store next to my law office, wow. There is hope,” Genie Eardley, owner of Eardley Law, PC posted.
The name is Epilogue Books.
That’s what life is about: adventures, surprises on Mondays, shocking entrepreneurs, the joys and pains of technology, our lovely French granddaughter Ella and family get togethers on Lake Michigan.
See you at the Writer’s Rendezvous this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
I will be offering writing, marketing, PR and publishing tips, and of course my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.”
It is also available locally at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and Lansing. It will be available at the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and hopefully at Epilogue Books in Rockford.
The long road to resilience
You can pick up an issue of the Grand Rapids Magazine City Guide at your local bookstore or newstand to find out more about me.
My book is now available on Amazon Prime special for the next 30-some hours at a discounted rate.
I encourage readers to buy the book, print or Kindle, ahead of time for signing and discussion. I will have print copies available at my station inside the Ludington Area Center for the Arts located at 107 S. Harrison St.
I am supposed to consolidate my position and clarify my goals, according to today’s horoscope for the determined Taurus.
I especially like the quote from Bruce Lee: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
That’s a pretty heavy quote that has inspired this entire post. To answer the last part of it; I am refining the content of the Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga.
Inspired by Stephen and Owen King’s cooperation on the latest “Sleeping Beauties: A Novel”, I asked my mom Ella to write two chapters for the memoir. I would not be able to write them, because during mom’s second time around in the USA, I wasn’t with her. I was still back in Czechoslovakia.
I wrongfully called Chapter 13, “First years in America.” And surely mom struggled with that, because it was her second time around from 1980 to present. After more than an hour on the phone, we clarified that.
During mom’s writing process, dad discovered a precious document; his bio when he was applying for jobs. It was stored away in old luggage in the basement, where I would have never found it.
This document, probably from the 1970s, and my parents’ involvement will help move the memoir along. For months, I struggled with it. I got stuck halfway through the manuscript.
Lowell, MI- Neil Simon’s dinner theater-Rumors at Larkin’s Other Place is a step back in time into a distant possibility of imagination gone wild.
Presented by the LowellArts Players, the play is fast-paced with characters emerging on stage one after another.
First guests who arrive to the 10th anniversary party find out that one of the hosts attempted suicide-unsuccessfully.
What ensues are hilarious cover-ups and deceptions, lies and twisted truths.
Although funny and ludicrous, one expects that the main characters Charley and Myra will appear on stage anytime.
The four affluent couples know each well from other social gatherings. And are quite critical of each other.
When the officers arrive, someone has to play Charley to cover-up for gun shots.
Who will it be?
The play, which is actually a farce, is directed by Kim Miller. The beautiful set was designed by Ron Wood and Dan Kantorowski. Costumes were designed by Marcia DeVos. Peggy Parrish was in charge of stage management and sound.
“Last year, Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding chronicled the ‘wedding from hell,” Miller said. “This year with Rumors, we are putting on the 10th wedding anniversary ‘party from hell.”
The show dates and times are: April 28 at 2:30 pm, May 3, 4 & 5 with dinner at 6:30 pm and show at 7:30 pm.
The tickets are $16 – $20, dinner is an additional $13. Advanced tickets required for dinner theater, show only tickets also available.