Buy the Little Ones a Dolly: A Memoir by Rose E. Bingham Published by HenschelHAUS Publishing (December 1, 2017) Genre: Memoir/Family Relationships/Mental Health Source: Purchased Format: Kindle, 260 pages ASIN: B077KDHXFK
In a small, close-knit Wisconsin community, a mother goes into town and never returns. It’s 1952 and Rose, at 15, is the oldest of seven children, the youngest of whom is only 3. As hard as Rose and her father tried to keep things together on the home front, with the help of kind relatives and sympathetic neighbors, in 1954, the children were ultimately placed in an orphanage, and later split up into five different foster families.
“Buy the little ones a dolly” were some of the last words Rose received from her mother in a Christmas letter, sent without a return address. Rose made it her lifelong mission to maintain contact among the siblings. Rose intimately escorts the reader on her journey through trials, tribulations, joy, and love. The mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance comes to light 59 years later.
The first sentence in the synopsis above is almost unfathomable to most parents, especially mothers. However, it is something that happens more often than we probably know. Given the time frame, it likely happened frequently in a family the size of Rose Bingham’s. It was this sentence that caught my attention because of its similarity to an incident in my mother’s family history.
When I picked up Buy the Little Ones a Dolly, I had no intention of giving up everything else I had on my to-do list. If I remember correctly, I carried it to the kitchen while I prepared our evening meal that day. Yes, it’s that compelling.
Not only is Rose Bingham an exceptional writer, she tells a story of rising up at the age of 15 to the role of mother of six younger siblings, a role which takes courage, strength, faith, and a positive outlook. Rose tells her story with sincerity and authenticity. I continually found myself wanting to sit down and visit with Rose, and since I couldn’t, the book was an excellent substitute for real-time conversation.
In addition to caring for her siblings, often in the absence of their father as well, Rose dreams of solving the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and where she is. Occasional letters bear no return address. Rose is blessed with pluck and hope and eventually, the mystery is unraveled and revealed to her readers.
Be sure to keep tissues handy. They’ll be useful.
Meet the Author:
Rose Bingham is a retired registered nurse. She graduated from St. Francis School of Nursing in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and received her BSN from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. She has always enjoyed writing poetry but has written a memoir. Rose’s memoir is about moving on after the disappearance of her mother. A three year study by Lynn Davidman, a professor of sociology, of men and women who had lost their mothers, discovered many go on to careers such as nursing. There are four nurses in Rose’s family.
Rose and her husband, Mike, reside in Wisconsin Dells, Wi. They have six children, seventeen grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, and a spoiled dog, Rylee.
Drawing on a line from the movie, The Wizard of Oz, I kept running the title for this post over and over in my head to the cadence used in this scene.
No, I haven’t faced anything nearly as frightening or deadly as lions, tigers and bears in recent days. But Microsoft’s Windows 10 soured my technology tastes just before a two-day writing conference. Hurrying home on Saturday, I planned to spend Sunday getting Windows 10 up and running, only to decide the Geek Squad would be my best bet. And then they took longer than first thought.
A Word on Windows 10
My purpose here is not to speak negatively about Windows 10 or Microsoft’s decision to upgrade to a new version of its operating system. Frustrations grew out of my haste in choosing to upgrade before all the bugs were worked out.
Husband Bob and I had upgraded his computer to Windows 10 without a hitch. Only one little problem after the upgrade finished, and it was such a minor issue it only took seconds to correct it. Why would it not go the same on my laptop?
Well, it didn’t. Nobody knows why Windows 10 chose to destroy and almost annihilate my poor Lenovo laptop. Suddenly, in the middle of the upgrade, the screen flashes as if it were a neon sign directing consumers to a favorite local pub or special event.
Nothing would make it stop or clear its throat but shutting down the computer. And nothing I tried that long Thursday evening would bring it back to life.
Earlier in the day, I backed up to a thumb drive all manuscript files as well as other projects not yet completed before attempting the upgrade.
I should have known better than to rush into this the night before my conference began. And I strongly recommend giving it some time to work out all its little issues, obviously some larger than others.
Willamette Writers Conference 2015
Day 1 (Friday)
Despite the events of the night before, the first day of the conference, including a 50th-anniversary celebration for Willamette Writers, dawned glorious and energizing. A keynote speaker Friday morning woke us up with an inspirational sharing of his own story as a writer and the truth of the hard journey writers often face.
My schedule for the day included back-to-back workshops, most focusing on the mysterious world of self-publishing. I met Carla King briefly as she facilitated a panel discussion of three writers who have self-published. Later in the day, I listened carefully to Melissa Hart‘s three-hour presentation on writing and publishing a book-length memoir. Well worth every minute spent with these two women.
I did reserve time for one writing workshop in the morning hours led by the keynote speaker, Bill Kenower, founder and editor-in-chief of Author Magazine. Listening to Bill both in the morning and in the workshop was like an instant makeover of my perspective on the writing life and where I am in my journey. Thank you, Bill!
This doesn’t include nor give credit to three wonderful women writers I met on Friday–Karen Garst, Cecelia Otto and Nikki Martin. We enjoyed conversation and chatter over lunch and drinks, and I hope to continue to connect with each of them.
I went home at the end of the day filled with motivation, encouragement, inspiration, and a notebook stuffed with notes and handouts. I determined not to even cast a glance toward my laptop.
Day 2 (Saturday)
A slight change in my schedule found me sitting in Larry Brooks‘s presentation on getting to that “true final draft.” Larry is a consummate teacher and lover of words and writing. His passion for the subject he’s teaching combined with his own best-selling books make him the perfect writing teacher.
Larry’s genre is fiction, primarily suspense and thriller stories. He has also written nonfiction but instructional nonfiction on the subject of, what else, writing. However, I had heard so much about his teaching that at the last minute I switched workshops to experience him in action firsthand.
I was not disappointed. And as Larry moved through a topic about which he gets excited, humorous, flippant, and sarcastic at times, I knew I was listening to someone who really knew his craft. By the end of the 90 minutes, I saw the connection between what he was teaching and my work in writing memoir. Following the workshop, I told him of the connection I had made and we discussed it for a few moments. I’m glad I attended Larry’s session.
Then another panel but this time with editors who wanted to share how writers should write to please editors. It was a lively and fast-paced panel discussion, including a freelance editor who also works for a local house, a traditional house editor working from home here in Portland, and lastly another traditional house editor working in-house. Their processes were very similar with respect to agents and writers, with the major difference being in their respective proximity to their personal editorial teams.
In that last session on what editors want to see, I may have met a potential writing/critiquing partner, Linda Atwell, also working on a memoir project. Networking and meeting up with new people is a huge benefit to conference attendance.
One last workshop on print design with Cheri Lasota, a young woman well-versed in book design and design software. In fact, Cheri’s knowledge coupled with her enthusiasm for writing and publishing almost demolished the six minds sitting in the room with her. There was no way we could absorb everything she wanted to share, and we were all grateful when she indicated she would email us her slides. Whew!
Another workshop was available but after that last one, it was time to head homeward.
Geek Squad to the Rescue!
After a good night’s rest, I arose on Sunday determined to conquer Windows 10 and resurrect my Lenovo laptop. After preparing breakfast and seeing Husband Bob off to church, I settled into the task. Online I found many sites offering instructions on reverting back to Windows 8.1 and then installing the Windows 10 upgrade again. These were daunting words. They meant others had met a similar problem.
I followed their instructions to the letter multiple times. Not once did I ever get a positive response. Around noon, I caved in and called the Geeks over at the Squad.
The “agent” assigned to “my case” quietly checked the laptop out with a few almost doctoral sounding hmm’s and aah’s. Finally, he tells me he’s keeping my laptop for the next couple of days. With disappointment, I left alone.
Patience has not been a longstanding virtue of mine, so Monday and Tuesday weren’t especially easy for me. I now had all this new knowledge and inspiration to complete my manuscript, but I couldn’t get to a computer to get it done. Finally, late Tuesday afternoon another “agent” called to give a status update. And late Wednesday afternoon, I picked up my laptop and gently brought it home.
But I still had work to do. All applications and software loaded on my laptop after I purchased it were wiped out and needed reloading. Guess how I spent my Thursday? After several hours, I had things back pretty much where I wanted them, and today I typed this post on my newly restored Lenovo laptop upgraded to Windows 10 and operating quite well.
⇒ Never, I say, never again will I rush into a Microsoft upgrade. In an earlier life working in a law firm, I had gone through many such upgrades, always before any bugs were worked out.
⇒ Never again will I attempt such an upgrade the night before the first day of a conference. It causes frustration, loss of sleep, and a bad start to the next morning.
⇒ Never will I miss attending the Willamette Writer’s Annual Conference, if I can help it. Too valuable to miss.
⇒ Beginning now, I will work on exercising greater patience in all areas of my life.
Do you have any similar stories to share about computer failures or upgrades or other crises happening just before a writing conference you’d like to share? Leave them for us in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your stories too.
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted in response to a nonfiction essay I submitted last year. The essay’s status fell to the bottom of my pile when 12 months passed since submission.
Yet, an email popped in explaining the delay and telling me the essay on how my parents met would be published in an anthology in 2016. Still some minor adjustments were needed. These “fixes” sent me digging through boxes of memories. You do keep your memories in boxes, don’t you?
I quickly found what I was looking for, but the minutes and hours slipped by as I got caught up in examining other items in the box. An interesting thing happened while digging the day away. I remembered how things had happened in the past, generally. But I sensed something different.
As I sifted through memories, I sensed a shift, a change. An awareness of something different.
The change is in the value placed on memories when seeing them through a new lens.
For me, the new lens is the passage of time. Cousins, nieces, and nephews look so young and small in the images now yellowing in the box. Handwriting so solid and steady in old letters and cards now looks less solid and steady. Has it been that long?
Sadly, some of the memories are of times spent with family and friends now gone. Images of visits to their homes in the last three decades bring back cherished childhood memories as well. Has it been that long?
Each memory found, seen through a new lens, and tucked back in the box will be the basis for a post here, an essay submitted somewhere, or the genesis for a second book.
An absolute treasure trove awaits us as each few years pass by. We grow older (sorry, but we do!). We grow wiser and sometimes forgetful. We experience the sour taste of losing friends and relatives, yet know they are in a better place. And miraculously, what seemed strange or silly when we were in our teens or young adult years becomes a gift, a treasured memory seen differently.
How about your memories in a box? Have you brought them out lately? Wonder what you would find looking through a new lens? Maybe it’s time to find out!
Archaeologists reach fame, and sometimes fortune, in excavating historical sites. Sometimes their finds are unexpected. Other times they rumors point to the place where an Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb might be located. Often they decide to dig near a historic site “just because.”
Memoirists are akin to archaeologists in the way they mine their memories for the right facts and stories to include in their memoirs. Many people have amazing minds catalogued similarly to a library catalog, even into separate rooms for certain memories. Unfortunately, my memory and/or mind is not so neatly organized. How about yours?
Even with the painful history I’m working from in writing my memoir, sometimes I need help in excavating memories which will make for fact-based, truthful, and interesting reading.
Following are some tips for making your memory work easier:
Look at old photographs. Images evoke memories of special occasions, celebrations, growth, changes. Remember the picture in your high school yearbook taken by the professional photographer? Did it really look like you? What are your memories of that day? The possibilities for good flash memoir, a chapter in your book, or a blog post can be found in a stack of old black-and-whites.
Items passed down through the family. We are in the process of downsizing and getting rid of many years of accumulation. And yet we also continue to receive family items, most recently a rocking chair in which husband Bob’s grandfather always sat. That rocking chair sits silently in our family room, but generates great conversation as Bob shares his memories of life on the farm and his grandpa in that chair. What item of furniture or family history do you have that brings back memories?
What about smells? For me, certain aromas or smells evoke memories of my mother’s kitchen. Mama was a Southern cook to the core with meals consisting of more than could be eaten. But oh, the wonderful aromas as opened the front door after school! Husband Bob uses the aftershave my dad did, and its smell brings back early morning memories of Dad preparing for work. Or the smell of newsprint brings Dad right into the room with me. Is there an aroma that reminds you of someone or something?
Language, dialect, and regional idioms. Growing up in the South, we called every carbonated beverage in the store or gas station “Coke.” Fast forward to 1983, we move to Oregon where the regional nomenclature for carbonated beverages is “pop.” There isn’t a distinct dialect in the Pacific NW so for a time I would stand out in groups because of my Southern drawl. It could make for some embarrassing incidents, and I quickly moved to tame my tongue. [tweetthis]The uniqueness of language, dialect, and regional idioms are excellent memory triggers. [/tweetthis]
Music of a certain period. Music is a powerful tool in evoking memories. Think of a particular song you’ve listened to for decades. Perhaps from your teens, your early years of marriage, or maybe a lullaby sung to you as a child. I remember well the song, “Glow Worm.” A recital piece in my early musical career. I worked hard to use correct fingering, keep the rhythm exact, and incorporate all the dynamics. I’ll never forget that song, or the dress my mother made for that recital, or the smile my dad give me as I took my bow, or the pride I felt in my accomplishment. What song or piece of music brings back memories for you?
As you work on your book or a short piece of memoir, perhaps one or more of these tips will be useful to you in digging up the memories you want to share.
Share another method you may use in your writing to evoke memories. We can have a great discussion in the comment area below.
Writing is solitary. In fact, the singleness of writing can become the elephant in your writing space. So much so, some writers lose the initial spark experienced when beginning that next book, essay, or blog post.
Perhaps you’ve been working on building your platform , and no one seems to be clamoring at your blog or on your Facebook fan page. And all you have for your hard work is a throbbing headache.
What to do to get back in the writing groove and use some of that creativity to work on your memoir, novel or yes, even the dreaded platform?
Look to the writing and blogging community-at-large. After all, this is a business where encouragement and support are readily available. However, despite the abundance of resources and tips, sometimes it’s hard to decide where to look.
Following are six blogs I consistently read. I always find something to reignite the lost spark of creativity or jar loose the stillness in my inspiration:
… where you will find resources to help you write, publish and market your book.
Joanna Penn, best-selling author, shares her own writing journey using both mistakes and lessons learned in the areas of writing, marketing and publishing. Joanna features guest posts from other writers willing to share their experiences and knowledge.
Here’s a full list of all the “self-printing” category posts which chronicle my entire self-publishing adventure. I’ve tried to organize them in some sort of coherent way, but if you want to read them all—and you have, like, a week or so of your life to spare—you can click here to access all posts tagged with “self-printing” instead.
In addition to writing blog posts on “self-printing,” Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer and coffee enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. Her goal at Catherine, Caffeinated is to share with other writers her knowledge gained as self-publisher. A plethora of information is available on her blog, so I suggest a cup of coffee and a comfy place to sit when you’re ready to dig in.
…she writes, speaks and teaches from a place of knowing that what has worked for her will at least provide others with a starting place from which to find what works best for them.
In her blog, How to Blog a Book, Nina Amir shows her readers how to blog a nonfiction book. However, fiction writers may also find many useful tips and ideas here. Nina offers posts based on her experiences as a freelance nonfiction book editor, writing coach, and consultant.
I help writers share their stories and connect with readers.
Founder of We Grow Media, Dan Blank, works with writers through online courses, conferences and events, one-on-one consulting, workshops and speaking, and writing this blog, a weekly newsletter, and ebooks. Additionally, he also works with publishers and publishing agencies.