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It's Nice to be Appreciated

Posted by sandi latimer on March 28, 2017 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (0)

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. And for that, I am truly sorry for leaving you all in a lurch. To say I’ve been busy is quite an understatement.

 

Right now my sweeper sits in the middle of the floor. But Heloise says that is O.K. It can be a sign that I am in the midst of cleaning. I’ll buy that. And I was going to say I have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you. But my geography is better than that.

 

This February marked a couple of milestones for me. First of all I’ve been writing for the Columbus Messenger for 16 years. That’s a weekly newspaper with five editions and I write for three of them. I sit through council meetings, school board meetings, trustees meetings, area commission meetings. Meetings where hardly anything is said or done. Meetings where so much is said and done that I hardly know where to begin. But it’s a life I chose some 60 years ago.

 

I was also taught to do some community work. I’ve answered phones at hotlines, the most recent being at HandsOn Central Ohio for the past 16 years. Every Monday for four hours. I answer the Food Line and schedule people to go to food pantries.

 

I also read to children who tour a stop on the Underground Railroad and lead them through a workbook on life in the 1860s.

 

After my husband passed away, and not wanting to be alone on holidays, I borrowed a page from a friend and asked if I could help out at Meals on Wheels. I spend holiday mornings getting paperwork ready for the drivers to deliver meals. At times I have gifts to prepare for those routes.

 

A few weeks ago I discovered what people think of me. I got my mail that evening and found a letter from a local TV station. Why would the station be sending me a letter? Curiosity got the better of me and I quickly opened the envelope. The letter said I had been nominated for the prestigious Jefferson Award that the station gives out for community service. It also said I didn’t win, but hey, it’s an honor to be nominated.

 

What is it you do as volunteer service in your community?

 

 

 

Bunny Bob is My New Love

Posted by sandi latimer on October 26, 2016 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (1)

What happens when you are getting ready for a big event? Surely something will go wrong. Bunny Bob agrees with you.

 

Bunny Bob is a little white rabbit that lives in the field across the fence from farmer Brown and his wife. Easter is a few days away and that means all the bunnies are busy preparing those baskets. Bunny Bob included.

 

He’s not your normal bunny, however. He wants to help but he makes mistakes. That’s why he’s called the Bumbling Easter Bunny. It starts when he wants to help gather the eggs. I’m not going to spoil the story.

 

Bunny Bob: The Bumbling Easter Bunny is the title of my latest book. After a couple of memoirs, I jumped genres and published a children’s book.

 

I submitted the manuscript, and a children’s book guru shared the manuscript with her illustrators. What came back to me almost made me cry. Everyone fell in love with Bunny Bob — his story and the illustrations.

 

I know. It’s not Halloween yet and I’m writing about Easter. Talk about rushing the season. But I’m proud of this project. It’s also given me a little boost to keep trying my hand at children’s books.

 

Meanwhile I’m still writing other works, also. I’m going to be at some holiday craft shows in Franklin County. I’m also trying to set up readings of Bunny Bob at libraries and Easter Egg Hunts come spring.

 

Oh yes, you’ll find a surprise at the end of Bunny Bob: The Bumbling Easter Bunny.

 

You can find Bunny Bob wherever you purchase reading materials online – amazon.com; barnesandnoble.com; booksamillion.com; and schulerbooks.com.

 

While Bunny Bob was being developed, I found a box of Ty’s Beanie Babies and came across Hippy, a bunny that looks like my Bunny Bob at the end of my story.

 

 

A weekend in Wichita

Posted by sandi latimer on September 13, 2016 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I spent much of last week (Sept. 8 to 11) at the NFPW annual conference in Wichita, Kansas. I had a great time – reconnecting with people I see once a year; seeing new sights, learning about communications, and what others are doing. Not to mention the good food.

 

I arrived in the Aviation Capital of the World around noon. The city got its name because of the construction of planes used in general aviation, like Beechcraft and Cessna. The conference was in the hotel across the street from the airport. Could have walked to the hotel, but they wouldn’t let me cross a freeway.

 

After an early-morning meeting we headed to a coffee shop that was in an old five-and-dime. Long and narrow. A partial second floor where financial people used to work, the ones who took the money out of the little cars on a moving track from the clerks. The painted tin ceilings.

 

After a light rain, the two vans then headed through town and some scenic byways to an art glass shop where we watched the workers take molten glass out of the oven at the end of a stick and roll it into a shape. I’m always amazed at their talents.

 

Our last stop was lunch – in another old five-and-dime. What good food. In the evening we went to Olde Town where a public radio station had only recently relocated to what had been an old depot. The chicken on a stick was so tender. A steady rain kept us from walking to a restaurant for dinner. The bus took us back to the hotel.

 

Presentations on reporting on disasters; using websites to your advantage; what to do after retirement; using local history in your work. That was what I got to. Many more were on the schedule.

 

We also have a silent auction which I visit and bid on items, hoping to get at least one. Or more. All of this sandwiched in between meals. We had an opportunity to sell books. I didn’t sell any Poodle Mistress, but I did sell two Newsroom Buddies. I had sold 12 copies of Poodle Mistress the previous two weeks, thanks to my participation in an ad in the New York Times.

 

One from our membership was chosen as Communicator of Achievement and contest winners received their certificates.

 

Did I mention rain? Twice our cell phone alarms went off, telling us of a flash flood warning in our area. We didn’t see that much water.

 

Wow! What fun! Looking forward to next September in Birmingham, Alabama. And hopefully more good food.

 

Pitching books to movie producers

Posted by sandi latimer on June 5, 2016 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I had a couple of work friends always tell me some day I’d be rich and famous. I would laugh at them. Well, now it may not be as funny. I just completed pitching both my books to movie producers. Or since they all looked so young, maybe they were assistants. (Everyone looks young to people my age, but there were at least two people in this group of 100 or so who were in their 80s.)

 

This goes back to last Christmas when I had a surprise phone call from an iUniverse marketing specialist. I didn’t even know they had such people. Poodle Mistress had been out since February 2011, and Newsroom Buddies came out in May 2014 and no such call. I was encouraged to go and pitch Newsroom Buddies. Later Poodle Mistress was added.

 

I searched various places to find out how to do this. I got tips from here and there. I wrote drafts. Revised. Tore up and started anew. Gee, you would have thought I was writing a novel rather than a two-minute spiel. Does Marvin Lewis spend that much time on a two-minute drill for the Bengals?

 

I had a new idea and worked around it at Ohio Writers Guild. We members worked it over the day before I left. I scratched and rescratched when I got here to Las Vegas. I had a practice pitch session and got tips. I rewrote and read it many times.

 

I wanted to make a good impression when I went in to do the speed pitching. Seven tables, two minutes at each table, bell rings, move. The producer is judging me as I talk. Do they want t read my book? Do they think I have a good enough topic that will make a movie?

 

Now I wait. I should know in a few weeks if they want to read my books and how many requests my books get. Then comes an option offer that means someone thinks there is a possibility and it brings a little bit of money. There’s more money if they say they are casting, have a director and budget. And still more money if the movie is made.

 

I’m trying not to get excited, put the cart before the horse and all that. I’m just thrilled that someone thinks my books are worthy of something. I’m just glad to have had the opportunity to come to Las Vegas, even though the temperature is around 108. I can hear Red now – “If you have an opportunity and don’t take advantage of it, you’ll be kicking yourself forever because you never know if it will come again.”

 

What did I think of the whole process? I did thank the practice pitch guy for his tips and encouragement and he apologized for making me tear up, but that’s what happens when you write about losing your best friend, whether it is human or canine. And what did I really think? Stay tuned for DVD being made of our exit interviews.

 

 

 

Having fun in Las Vegas

Posted by sandi latimer on June 3, 2016 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I’m in Las Vegas for a few days. What an excursion so far.

 

I arrived around 9 a.m. local time. Heaven knows what time zone I’m in or how many I crossed. Or how long I’ve been up. But I’m having a good time, even though the temperature was 90 degrees when I arrived and soared to beyond the 100-degree mark by mid-afternoon when I could check in at my hotel room. And it is supposed to be hotter tomorrow. At least we don’t have the 95 percent humidity that plagues my friends back in Columbus, Ohio.

 

I checked my bags at my hotel (Caesar’s Palace) and went sightseeing. I walked across a busy street and found myself adjacent to the Flamingo Hotel and along a lot of shops and eateries. Also the world’s highest observation wheel and a monorail.

 

Since I couldn’t remember when the last time I ate a decent meal, I figured I better find some place to get some food. I chose a buffet. Pancakes, French toast and cheese blintzes next to the corn and macaroni and cheese. Cereal next to the chocolate cake. Who cares? It looked good, tasted good, and I was going to get my $20 worth.

 

Then off to shop – window and otherwise. I bought a birthday gift and a Christmas gift. I can’t buy much because I have to carry this one piece of luggage that will have an 800-page book in it that I finally finished.

 

I watched the World’s Highest Observation Wheel – 550 feet – and saw a monorail. I bought a 24-hour pass for $12 and rode the air-conditioned monorail for an hour. I must go back tonight and ride some more. I also talked myself into a ride on the observation wheel -- $20 for seniors! It was air conditioned, too. It took a half an hour to make a full revolution. And I got a souvenir photo for more than I paid to ride.

 

By this time I could get into my room. What a view! I can see The Mirage Hotel and behind that the Trump Tower. Is that an oxymoron or what?!

 

That’s a lot for one day. Check back tomorrow and I’ll share more experiences with you.

 

Day One of 2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Posted by sandi latimer on April 9, 2016 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

A few weeks ago Igt a phone call from iUniverse/Author Solutions askin me if I’d like to go to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and sign my book Newsroom Buddies. I had never heard of this book fair, so I said ‘Why not.’

 

And a couple days after that I got all that there was one opening for Sunday, would I like to have it to promote Poodle Mistress. As long as I’m going to be there, I might as well.

 

I’m coming to you now from Los Angeles where I spent the day at the festival. Imagine tents erected on a large college campus. So many book publishers and a lot of other exhibitors. Thousands of people. I walked around a lot pulling my bag filled with copies of Newsroom Buddies. I wanted to sell books. I didn’t want to take any home because I was overweight coming out.

 

I traded a book and sold one. Then I had lunch at one of the food trucks. I got a turkey melt and a bottle of Sprite for $15.

The sandwich was good, and also big. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to eat it all, but I did. Then I found a crossword puzzle board with two young women standing on either side with a hand full of Magic Markers. Anyone in the crowd could fill in an answer. The game started slowly but heated up as got further along. And clapping as we got the right answers.

I was all ready for my signing. I was dressed for it. I was wearing the newspaper print vest I got in the silent auction at the NFPW conference last fall. That drew a lot of attention. And I topped it off with a man’s hat where I put my business cards in the band like the old-time male reporters did. I didn’t know how to get that hat out to California, so I wore it. I got a lot of attention along the way.

 

What a day! It rained off and on and I put a plastic poncho on and took it off several times. It’s about done for.

 

Finally it was my turn in the booth for an hour, signing and handing out the books. I had a journalism student or two, sign one for my neighbor who is a journalist. I had one boy who didn't know what the cover was, so I had to explain how a tpewriter worked.

I had fun and ready to go back for Day 2 and sign Poodle Mistress.

 

 

Touring the Steele Mansioh

Posted by sandi latimer on March 4, 2016 at 12:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The last weekend in February I’ve been attending a women’s writer’s retreat. This year the retreat was in Painesville, a new location for us. I thought I’d share with you a story of that mansion.

 

 

One Sunday morning early in 2011, Carol Shamakian of Painesville, Ohio, sent her husband Arthur to the grocery store for a few items. More than an hour later when he hadn’t returned, she began to worry. Soon after, he came home.

 

“Here are the groceries,” he said, putting the bags on the kitchen table. “Ánd here’s the deed to a mansion.”

 

On his mission that morning he passed the George Steele mansion at 384 Mentor Ave. (U.S. Route 20) and saw a sign advertising an auction. He had stopped to find more information and was soon chatting with the man who lived next door.

 

The mansion had been built between 1863 and 1867 for George Steele, a member of a family from the Western Reserve in Connecticut. He had vowed to become rich and powerful and have the biggest house in Painesville, a city northeast of Cleveland.

 

He worked at a variety of jobs and became interested in politics. He was a Republican and entertained such people as Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield and Rutherford B. Hayes. In fact, Garfield, whose home Lawnfield is a few miles down the road in Mentor, delivered campaign speeches from the Steele front porch.

 

The area that supported the circular front porch also served as a safe room on the Underground Railroad.

 

“Harriet Tubman stayed here 11 times,” Carol said.

 

Rumors had it that George’s brother Horace was a banker and embezzled $400,000 in coins. What he did with that many coins was finally confirmed by the family. Carol said that he gave them to the runaways so they’d have something when they got to Canada.

 

After Steele’s death, the money stopped and the house slipped into bankruptcy in 1917 and was foreclosed upon, Carol Shamakian said.

 

Lake Erie College across the street bought the mansion in 1921, using it for the president’s home. The third-floor ballroom became a gymnasium. Some of the rooms, especially in the servants’ headquarters in the two-story addition in back, served as the women’s dormitory.

 

In the basement, one big gathering room held a secret entry for the girls.

 

“There was a door down here that the girls could use to enter late at night,” Carol related on a tour.

 

Another famous visitor was aviatrix Amelia Earhart. She visited when an Aviators’ Club was founded at the college. The Shamakians honored Earhart by naming a room for her.

 

“We don’t know what room she stayed in, we just picked a room and gave it her name,” Carol said.

 

When men were admitted to the college, the house was turned into a men’s dormitory.

 

The college sold the house in 1981 when the upkeep became too much. The new owners converted it to apartments.

 

“In 2001, some repairs were being done to the roof and the worker lost control of the blow torch,” Carol said.

 

Only the top floor was damaged, but the large house sat idle for 10 years. During that time, scavengers stripped the house of metal and wiring, anything they could sell.

 

“This was the home’s most dismal period,” Carol said, noting that the wood was exposed to the elements and rotted.

 

The day Arthur made the commitment to buy the property for what Carol calls “the value of the land” was only weeks away from a scheduled date with a wrecking ball.

 

“We had built houses for 20 years so I guess we needed a fixer upper,” said Carol who was a radiologist. Arthur, who earned his degree in finance, could play with other peoples’ money, she laughed.

 

They hauled away 17 Dumpsters full of debris; reconstructed the servants’ wing and added a third story “because we could.” They replaced 138 windows and enlisted restoration specialists to restore the woodwork and fireplaces.

 

“We don’t have real fire in them” Carol said. “It’s had one fire and that’s enough.”

 

The Shamakians used products from Lake and neighboring Geauga counties. Antiques came from Carol’s visits to estate auctions and other antiquing ventures.

 

“This is my favorite,” she said pointing to a collection of rug beaters hanging on the wall in another basement gathering room.

 

Old-time photos hang in the hallways of the former servants’ wing.

 

“I keep hoping someone will say ‘That’s Grandmother,’ but they haven’t yet, said Carol.

 

While they were working on the house, people who recognized their car would stop and see what we were doing, Carol said.

 

Last June 1,000 people showed up when the Steele Mansion opened as a bed and breakfast and party house. It has 16 guest rooms, some of them with a sitting room.

 

Carol is reluctant to say how many rooms there are overall.

 

“How do you count the sitting rooms off guest rooms? Or what about the little room off the conservatory?”

 

Rooms have names of Steele family members, or perhaps the color scheme. For instance, Room 202 is in the front whose immediate view is the top of the circular porch where a spotlight at night shines onto the house as well as into room. That room offers a view of Lake Erie College. It is also known as The Red Room because of the deep red in the background of the carpeting; the deep red bedspread, the upholstered ottoman (that also helps short people into bed) and the seat cushion on the rocking chair.

 

The continental-style breakfast is ready by 8 a.m. in the basement in the rooms through which the Lake Erie College girls made their late-night escapades. The spread generally includes scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, bacon or sausage, oatmeal, cold cereal choices, yogurt, fresh fruit, breads for toasting, plus juice, coffee, hot water for tea.

 

A variety of other activities find their way to the mansion. One recent weekend, a writers’ group held a retreat and used rooms in the basement while on the main floor a rehearsal was held on Friday night in preparation for the Saturday afternoon wedding ceremony in the conservatory and dinner in the room adjacent to the bar. Writers were advised if they wanted to leave for an evening meal or other activities, they could use the back door without interrupting the wedding party.

 

Some of the mansion’s guests have been speakers who come to the college, said Arthur, taking time to snap a few pictures of a group who visited one weekend.

 

The Shamakians try to promote their community and it isn’t unusual to find locals in for Comfort Food Mondays; Happy Hours on Hump Day Wednesday and Finally Friday; Dessert and Tours on specific dates; a perfume-making class; a Millionaires’ Row Speech and Dinner; or even a craft show.

 

The back door has a ramp which makes the huge building handicap accessible. That entrance winds past the kitchen to the elevator that makes stops on all three floors.

 

“The bed and breakfast is payback for all we’ve put into it,” Carol said “We’re trying to make it pay for itself. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll turn it into assisted living.”

 

If You Go

 

The Steele Mansion is a bed and breakfast located at 348 Mentor Avenue which is also U.S. Route 20 in Painesville, Ohio, in Lake County. Besides the 16 guest rooms, the mansion has a parlor, library, conservatory and gathering room for public use.

 

Rooms rent for $199 a night, breakfast included. Rooms with a sitting room are $229. Rates are expected to be adjusted in April 2016. Wifi is complimentary.

 

Further information is available by calling 440-639-7948 or visiting www.SteeleMansion.com


 

 

 

 

 

Food for Freddie

Posted by sandi latimer on January 30, 2016 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Poodle Mistress is the story of my husband and me raising nine toy poodles in the first 27 years of our marriage.

 

I didn’t start writing this until about eight years after we had lost the last dog. Perhaps I had started it 30 years before that when I had a creative writing class. The assignment was to write a character description. I described one of the dogs as a person.

 

The article got set aside and I lost contact with my Muse. She found her way back into my life around 2008.

 

I decided to tell the story chronologically. I worked my way through the life-and-death cycle of nine dogs, their antics, their effects on us. I wondered how to end the book.

 

What did we do after the dogs? I chose the story of my husband building a house for the squirrels that we had been feeding for years.

 

I had learned where the directions were for a squirrel house and printed them out for him. One day I heard him pounding away in the basement. I went down to check on him. He was making a squirrel house. After he hung it on the tree in the front yard, we had much enjoyment watching the squirintrels.

 

I set up an author appearance in the area where my husband grew up. The librarian who was hosting me purchased two copies of the book, one for each branch. She read the book. She gave me a thank you gift the night of the appearance.

 

How surprised I was to pull some squirrel food out of the bag.

 

Oh yes, my small audience was so alive that night, asked a lot of questions, and laughed a lot. I also sold two books.

 

Now that I’ve piqued your interest, you’ll want to buy it. The book is available in both paperback and ebook, from the publisher iUniverse, also www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Here Comes the Bride

Posted by sandi latimer on November 8, 2015 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Did I tell you I lead an interesting life? And that I do things on the spur of the moment? I also have a fun quotient – what is the fun thing I did today.

 

Sunday, Nov. 8, was one of those days. I was slicing an apple for a mid-afternoon snack around 2:30 when I got a phone call. It was someone I know from covering meetings. His church was having a ceremony where “about 30 of us old people are renewing our wedding vows and I thought you’d like to come.”

 

That’s something you don’t see every day. Usually when a couple renews their vows, it is in a private ceremony generally for family. Three hours after the call I walked into the church and learned 23 couples had chosen to participate.

 

One couple had been married only eight years. About a half dozen or had been married more than 50 years. I spoke with one couple who had been married for 62!

 

An elementary-school aged boy and girl – ring bearer and flower girl – led the 23 couples, arm in arm, down the center aisle of the church as the organist played “Here Comes the Bride.”

 

“Brides” attired in dresses that covered the spectrum of the rainbow and somewhere in between. Hemlines that tickled the knees to tickling the shoe top. Some “brides” sported flowers on their wrist or a small white corsage on their dress. “Grooms” in business suits or casual in slacks, a shirt open at the neck and a sport coat. A boutonniere could be seen here and there.

 

They repeated vows read by the church’s pastor who was attired in a tuxedo. He and his wife, married 37 years, had renewed their vows at 25 years. He was finishing a six-week series of sermons on marriage and the family and thought the renewal of vows would be a nice way to end the series.

 

At the end of the vows, the pastor told the “grooms” they could kiss their “brides.”

 

A traditional reception followed in the church gym – cake, mints, nuts, coffee and punch. Couples, church members and guests ate, looked at wedding photos the couple brought for a display, and chatted among themselves.

 

I knew one couple, the one who invited me, but I knew three of the servers at the reception.

 

I have to admit wedding cake beats tomato soup and grilled ham and cheese sandwich I had planned for dinner.

 

Wonder what next I can drop in the fun bucket next?

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering a Classmate

Posted by sandi latimer on September 29, 2015 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I’m not a poetry lover, although I’ve tried over the years.

 

Back in the fourth grade, our classroom had a small blackboard. Each Monday the teacher put a short poem on that board. Her handwriting mirrored the cards that hung around the room trying to help us with our penmanship.

 

Each day as part of our opening exercises, we would recite that poem. On Friday, we copied it into our composition books. After we had a few in our books, we had a recitation period.

 

One boy in the class was a slow learner and it affected his speech. Or was it vice versa? He finally learned a poem and was proud to stand and recite it on Fridays. I was proud of his progress. I knew how hard he struggled to stand beside his desk and say:

 

“Before God’s footstool to confess

A poor soul knelt and bowed his head

“I failed,” he cried.

The Master said

“Thou didst thy best, that is success.”

 

Last week while perusing the obituaries in my hometown newspaper, I came across the one of this young man. He was with my class for six years. In the sixth grade we had a teacher who was not familiar with the way other teachers had treated him. She had her own techniques. He was held back at that time to repeat the work of the sixth grade. Or was it to develop better skills, thanks to that teacher.

 

He no longer lived in our community. He was in a home in another part of the state. Was he close to his family, which now consisted of a brother-in-law and his children?

 

What I remembered of him—he was called “Doc” (which was left out of the obituary), he wore blue jeans and sport shirts, he would also say “Larry Doby.”

 

Rest in Peace, Larry Carmean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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