Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jane Kirkpatrick interviews Meg Moseley

Meg Mosely has come into my life as a new author with a writing style that is spirited and warm. I invited her to be my next guest author and to talk a little about her first novel When Sparrows Fall with WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, (May 2011). I reviewed the book in my Story Sparks newsletter last month. We share a publisher and much more. The publisher will provide a free copy of When Sparrows Fall to someone who comments on this blog so comment at the end for a chance at Meg's great book.

JK: Please tell us a little about who you are, Meg? Where do you live now? What landscapes have touched your life the most?

MM: The rolling hills of California will always feel like home, but I’ve also lived in Michigan, Alabama, and now Georgia. I’m always drawn to landscapes that have something haunted and haunting about them—the desolate beauty of California’s Carrizo Plains, the endless vistas of the Blue Ridge, or the lonely forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Each wilderness has its unique appeal.

JK: I've been to Upper Michigan and can see those forests and there is a haunting feel to them.

You chose a difficult subject for a first novel and you infused it with heart, humor and wisdom. How did you decide to write your first novel about homeschooling gone awry and dominance within a church setting?

MM: I loved the freedom of teaching my own children at home. In the early years of homeschooling, the movement felt like the Wild West. We were a bunch of happy non-conformists, high on the love of learning and enjoying our independence. But as time went on, some strange beliefs crept in from various sources. I didn’t appreciate being told that my daughter mustn’t work outside the home or go to college, or that she shouldn’t date because “courtship” was good and dating was evil. My research led me to a steaming heap of legalism and spiritual abuse. Then Miranda wandered into my imagination, and I had to write about her journey to freedom.

JK: Your many references from favorite books were great -- books the children of When Sparrows Fall weren't exposed to but that are considered classics. You must be a big reader. What are some of the titles that affected you as a child? How did they do that?

MM: I still love children’s books. As Jack says in the novel, “That’s where everybody starts.” I have fond memories of everything from Mother Goose to every horse story the library owned. Some of my favorite books were Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” “Sara Crewe” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and “I Am David” by Anne Holm. I loved them for the way they let me know I wasn’t the only one who sometimes felt lost in loneliness or bedazzled with happiness. Then I enjoyed them all over again with my own children.

JK: I know you're a home schooling parent yourself and that enriched the interplay of mom, Jack and kids. How did Miranda come to be so…obsessive in her life as a home school parent? I'm sure that isn't you! Have you encountered parents like her though? What are her strengths and what do you see as detriments in her desire to raise her children as faithful people?

MM: Miranda’s obsessive choices originated with her late husband, who isolated the family in order to protect them. I have met overprotective parents with beliefs very similar to his. I’ve even run into parents who don’t trust their teenagers to pick novels for themselves. I can’t wrap my mind around the kind of control that won’t let kids learn discernment by enjoying age-appropriate freedom.

One of Miranda’s failings is her tendency to over-protect her children. To her credit, though, she wants to prepare her children to face the real world with real faith. I think her shining qualities are her love for God and family, her integrity that won’t let her live a lie, and the humility that allows her to admit she has made big mistakes—as all parents do, one way or another.

JK: My Change and Cherish series about a communal society of the 1800s made me think often about the individual versus the group and the power of a leader or rather the power the group gives him/her. In one scene, Miranda is thinking of the other women in the church wondering if there are any who would stand up to him. What do you think gets in the way of people seeing the negativity that such a leader presents to the lives of his congregants? (I'm especially interested in your answer because of recent reading about a woman having this affect on a small religious group in the late 1800s in Texas).

MM: Good people who’ve been caught up in a bad situation tend to hang onto their love and loyalty for a group and its leader, even when there’s evidence of an abuse of power. Maybe the problems are compounded when the leader is put on a pedestal. His flaws are harder to see if you’re looking up to him instead of assessing him as an equal.

JK: Great response. I think that image of the pedestal says much. Mason is a dominant character in the book and we learn of him first through others which has a way of building suspense. How did you decide to approach the antagonist that way?

MM: I don’t remember making a conscious decision about approaching him that way. Actually, Mason is one of the characters I wish I’d fleshed out more completely. Even a villain has his reasons for being villainous, and I could have explored his motivations in more depth.

JK: Memory played a role in this story. I'm intrigued by how our memories can help transform us or hold us hostage. How did you come to employ memory as part of the suspense of your story?

MM:I like to wonder about a character’s past and ask myself where his emotional scars came from. Sometimes I don’t have the answers until I’ve finished writing the story, so I’m in suspense too. It wasn’t until I’d finished writing the story that I fully understood how the main characters had been shaped by long-ago experiences.

JK: That happens to me too when I write. I like the suspense of not knowing for sure what's going to happen. I loved the interplay between freedom and safety in this story and the way love helped cover them. Could you talk a little more about that?

MM: I think all parents struggle with the balance between freedom and safety. Loving parents want to keep their children from harm, but loving parents also want their children to become capable, independent adults someday. In the novel, of course, Miranda is bent on keeping her children safe, while Jack is determined to drag the whole family to freedom. They’re both motivated by love for the children.

JK: I loved your back country wisdom like "if you obey God with your whole heart you'll usually scare off the folks who want you to obey them." Were those phrases you'd heard or are they lovely imaginative phrases perfect for your characters to say?

MM:Thanks! The phrase about obeying God came out of my own head, and probably most of the others did too. I’ll admit to eavesdropping in public places, though. Sometimes a few interesting words of an overheard conversation will find their way into a story, if they’re a good fit.

JK: I love your fresh metaphors and similes, like the one when Miranda starts talking more "like a spring that had been paved over and broken open again.” Are you like a lot of writers who use their spare moments of time to think of new similes? Have you always been interested in words?

MM: I tend to scribble things down as they hit me. When I go searching for new similes, I usually find clich├ęs instead. Yes, I’m a word geek. I can get lost in a dictionary, reading the etymologies.

JK: Me too! Finding out that family came from the Latin word famalus meaning servant changed an entire storyline for me. Is there anything more you'd like to tell us about being a novelist?

MM: Writing novels is a mixture of hard work and sheer joy. I remember laughing out loud at Joshilyn Jackson’s wonderful description of the thrill of having finished writing one. She wrote on her blog: “I made that! I MADE THAT WITH MY BRAIN!” I love that feeling, and I love to hear from readers who’ve connected with the characters who started out in my brain.

JK: Ah, the magnificent brain! How exciting that the first novel of your brain, When Sparrows Fall, is getting rave reviews. That means there'll be many more, right? What are you working on now?

MM: I never want to stop writing. I’m working on a novel about a young woman who lost her father to a deep mountain lake when she was a teenager. His body was never recovered. Now it seems he might have faked his drowning and fled to the hills. Her search for answers might explain everything but might break her heart.

JK: I'll look for that one, too! Thank so much for being a part of my blog as a guest author. I look forward to meeting you one day and until then, our paths will cross within our hearts as we tell the stories. You can visit Meg's website at and keep up with book signings and events. Read reviews of this great novel at

And don't forget to sign up for my Story Sparks newsletter so you don't miss out discovering some of these great new authors! Meg's publisher is also giving away a free book. The name will be drawn at random from those who comment on the blog. Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stepping Into Our Lives

My Portraits of the Heart novels grew out of a desire to discover my grandmother and what I call memory DNA, how we shared more than eye color or a love of the arts.  She too married a man with three children.  She too grieved with her husband at the death of a son.  My grandmother shared time with her step-children’s mother and found a way through the mine field of powerful adult relationships keeping children from being further wounded by the choices adults had made.

She stepped up well.  I was an adult before I realized that people I called Aunt Winnie, Uncle Bob or Uncle Russell were actually my mother’s half-siblings, my grandmother’s step-sons and daughter.  Somehow she raised her children to understand the connection between each of them as children cherished by their shared father and children loved by God.  Descendants of those half-sibs tell stories of my grandmother as someone who cared for them, someone they liked being around and adored.

She must have stepped over those moments of disappointment with a forgotten Mother’s Day card focusing instead on creating new memories.  She must have cherished  shared laughter over a bedtime story or stepped aside allowing her step-children to have alone time with their father accepting that these were requirements in a marriage not just between her and her husband but with his children as well.  I know she stepped in at times of their mother’s illnesses, sharing her comforting love.

Thirty-four years ago, when I took on the challenge of becoming a step-mother, I was buttressed by great loves, too:  mine for my husband; his for me and his children; and our shared love of God.   I confess, though, I had a pretty romanticized view.  I dreamed of erasing the image of Hansel and Gretel’s shrewish step-mom. I had high hopes like any new bride and any new mom had.

What I hadn’t prepared for, despite my background in mental health, was reality!  The painful moments of confusion and exclusion and lack of recognition.  I wasn’t  their mother and yet I performed motherly duties, often.  I didn’t share my husband’s memories with his children so easily spoken at the dinner table often leaving me shadowed in the kitchen.  I was frustrated when we discovered the kids had managed to get the two of us arguing while they skipped out the door.  This wasn’t fun at all!

Thank goodness for good friends who stepped in to offer counsel and prayer.  They reminded me that what our three children and I had in common was a shared love for this man and a desire to heal the wounds of past decisions while growing new flesh to form a new family. When their mother lay dying, I knew my stepping and stumbling as a step parent had been worthy work as she told me: “You’ve been a friend to me. I leave my children in the best of hands.”

Our kids are grown now yet Mother's Day is still a celebration of stepping:  Stepping over hurts, to find the loving core within each of us.  Stepping forward, to assert the importance of marriage to model for our children what caring and commitment look like.  And stepping aside without feeling displaced knowing my step-children share with me a desire to be accepted, to know that we are loved both by the man in our lives and the Creator of us all.  It’s a day when I count the steps we’ve taken together to weather the storms and celebrate the many more days of sailing calmer seas.

The word “family” comes from the Latin word Famalus meaning servant.  I think that’s what my grandmother must have figured out. To have a servant’s heart as a step-mother is to live the story of how God steps into our lives to bring healing and grace every day of the year. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother-Daughter Stories of Secrets, Reflections, Life lessons #6

A Mother’s Tough Love
photo credit
from Missy
My mom is an amazing woman. Her and my Dad were divorced when I was eight years old and my sister was eleven years old. She had no job, no education or anything to take care of my sister and I. We were the last two of eight kids from my Dad, I've only met two of my half siblings. My Dad was an absentee father, so my mom was on her own. We moved in with my grandparents while my mom went to work at a daycare. She was able to go to nursing school through a program for unwed mothers. My mom worked full-time and went to shool part-time while trying to raise two girls on her own. We eventually moved out of my grandparents' house and were able to get our own apartment. My sister started using drugs by the end of her Junior High years. My mom fought hard to get her the help she needed, It took years, but my sister finally cleaned up in her early 20s. My mom had to show her tough love several times! , but she never trned her back on my sister. I cannot imagine how hard it must of been for my mother, especially the time my sister tried to kill me with a butcher knife when she was high. My mom was able to hold my sister accountable for her actions, protect me from her influence all while still loving both of us. I never touched drugs or alcohol thanks to the church bus ministry my mom sent me to growing up. My sister is now clean and sober with two children, I am happily married although the Lord has never blessed me with children. My mom is married to a man who started drinking again after they were married four years ago and she has to work full time at a nursing home and she is 64 years old. I don't know how she does it. I have an amaing mother!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother-Daughter Stories of Secrets, Reflections, Life lessons #5

from Trish Jorgenson
photo credit
My little story is about my daughter Lisa and her mom, me. My daughter lived in Kona, Hawaii for 8 years while my hubby Doug and I moved into my parents home to take care of them s they were failing. Daddy ended up in foster care as I simply could not give him the kind of 24 hour care that he needed and still take care of mom. Then the bottom fell out for me as my hubby Doug contracted MRSA (an infection that NEVER goes away) while having a back surgery for a on-the-job injury. Lisa flew back and forth from Kona 13 times in one year to be there for me as her daddy went through 26 surgeries and to help me with her grammy as she went downhill. The final straw was May 9, 2002 when my mom had just a few hours left and Doug has a massive heart attack and I didn't know what direfction to take. I wanted to be with my precious hubby but I also wanted to be my mom in her final moments on this earth. Lisa flew ! over again and just took over. The fog I was in was incredible and I was so very grateful for Lisa and her calm sense of purpose, her blanket of love for all of us but moist of all for her take charge attitude. Mom went to be with Jesus that night with me having the privilege of being by her side, something that I will always be grateful for. This would not have happened had it not been for Lisa and her willingness to be there once again for me. She is an amazing woman and I love her deeply.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother-Daughter Stories of Secrets, Reflections, Life lessons #4

 A story about Family Secrets:
photo credit

The Secret Brother 
I’m about 11 and we have traveled by train from Oregon to the Mid-West to visit relatives. We’ve visited my grandparents and others, the typical family gatherings. But today feels different, something secret is in the air. We are walking up the steps of a boarding house and a man greets us there. Mother tells my little sister and I that he is her brother, but I had no idea my mother had a brother. Dad often tells stories about his childhood with his brother and sister. I’d assumed everyone did. Yet here he was, my mother’s secret brother? It feels so strange, like a dream.

I’m 15. Mother got a phone call a few minutes ago. She is crying so hard as my dad is explaining to me that her brother has died. I feel sad, confused and helpless. I can only stand and watch my mother. It seems odd that she is so distressed for the loss of someone she had never mentioned over the years. I don’t know what to say or do as she talks about how he never had a happy life. She is grieving for his life unlived.

I’m in my 40s. Mom and I are chatting and I’ve wondered for so long. So I ask about her brother. She talks about how they played together as children, him being only two years older. She even tells a funny story of how they’d explore their father’s furniture making business. Once they looked in a casket and found a body there. They ran away in terror and most certainly didn’t do that again!

But I push her, wanting to know more about him. All she shares is that when he was older her parents were disappointed in him because he wasn’t good in math. I wonder if he might have been retarded but she says no, that he was an avid reader of history.

I know there is more but let it go. I can tell she has told what she will. I’m left wondering. She seemed to have loved him so. I remind myself it was another time in history, a time when family secrets were kept.

Judy Breneman 2011
Womenfolk: The Art of Quilting
Quilts and Quiltmaking Yesterday and Today

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mother-Daughter Stories of secrets, Reflections, Life lessons #3

On my facebook page last month I announced a story contest in honor of The Daughter's Walk my novel about an 1896 mother-daughter journey  walking from Spokane to New York City and the years after. The winners have been chosen!  Each of three will receive a special prize as well as a signed copy of my book.  Runners up were also chosen and their stories will be posted here during the first week in May. They'll receive a signed copy ofThe Daughter's Walk.  Thank you for participating and making this Mother-daughter Day a great story occasion!

A Mother’s Life-Lessons:
By Patsy Bell
My family, by today's standards, was poor. But we did not know it. We were raised in the mountains of West Virginia surrounded by black berry bushes, wild roses and rows and rows of pastel colored Irises. The roads were sandy and arched with saplings that let the sun peeped thru. I loved living in the "country" and my mom hated it.
My mother worked very hard to provide me and my three sisters. She was creative, thrifty, wise and a true artist.

There three bits of wisdom I heard repeatedly over the years and I have passed them on to all who will listed and doing them has changed my life.

"You can't always have new, but you can always have clean".

"If you want new, but can't have new, move items around in your home, it will feel like a new place".

"Do the task you dislike the most first, master it, and get it out of the way. 

Mama, I love you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mother-Daughter Stories of secrets, Reflections, Life lessons #2

On my facebook page last month I announced a story contest in honor of The Daughter's Walk my novel about an 1896 mother-daughter journey  walking from Spokane to New York City and the years after. The winners have been chosen!  Each of three will receive a special prize as well as a signed copy of my book.  Runners up were also chosen and their stories will be posted here during the first week in May. They'll receive a signed copy ofThe Daughter's Walk.  Thank you for participating and making this Mother-daughter Day a great story occasion!

A Mother’s reflection on her daughter: by Jill Dyer 

My daughter.  She is a whirlwind of gentleness, boomer-rang emotions, and girlish beauty.  She is a 7 year-old adult in training who is at times wiser than her years and at other moments younger than those same years.  I have a picture hanging in my library of her as an infant.  Actually, it is of us both and I think the thing I adore about the picture is not only the contentedness in my face, but what I remember feeling as that picture was taken.  I am lying back on our old cream couch (bought before I had children or dogs and didn’t know the idiocy of buying a cream couch).  My pregnancy blessed hair falls around me and she is lying, covered in pink, on my chest.  Her eyes are closed and her puckered lips pressed together, pink and perfect.  Her little fist is tightly closed by her chin.  Maybe there have been a thousand other little girl babies who have lain thus on their mother’s chests.  But this time, this moment was mine.  This contentment was born out of always wanting a girl and finding that I was undeservedly given one.  This photograph captured an unusual moment of new-motherhood bliss.  Amidst constant feedings, tug-of-war sibling duties, and sleeplessness, found here is the joy of my journey of the heart expanded to love a tiny someone I am just getting to know. 

I never had a sister.   I always wanted one.  I still do truth be told, although it is a little late for that.  In raising my daughter, my second-born, I wanted to give her a sister.  Someone who would have that easy familial bond that knows the same jokes and can’t help buying her favorite dark chocolate just to make delight her.  Someone whose laugh makes her day brighter and who she’d call at 2 in the morning when life felt like it was bigger than she is.

We had two children after my daughter.  Both boys.  I wouldn’t trade them for any girl I know.  I am smitten with all my children.  However, when I found out my last little baby bump was indeed a boy, I was sad.  I knew full well I would love him for who he is.  But I felt that leaden loss that my daughter didn’t have a sister.  And truly, I felt pressure.  Now I am it.  No sister to lighten the load of female family relationships. No feminine cohort to enjoy Hannah Montana or tea parties.  It’s all on me.  I am not the girliest of girls and maybe that is part of what weights that worry I occasionally carry.

However, I do see the lining in these clouds.  I also get to have a relationship with my magical daughter that is ours alone.  No sister rivalry.  No competition.  We are the girls in this home and we better band together to face our testosterone laden family life.  How thrilling it will be to discover ourselves together.  What does it look like to be mom and daughter?  How will we love and live and have our being together?  What captivating adventures do our lives hold?  As we paint our toes and hike in the woods, what sorts of rare beasts shall we encounter?

Whether you are a mom, a daughter, a sister or a friend, we women have some beautiful sort of life together.  The way our hearts draw threads of intimacy and connection between those we love, as well as the way we plumb our own lives for meaning and significance, displays the heart of God.  O yes, we were certainly made in his image.   Let us live out that image in a charming girlish dance together.
Photo Credit

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mother-Daughter Stories of secrets, Reflections, Life lessons #1

On my facebook page last month I announced a story contest in honor of The Daughter's Walk my novel about an 1896 mother-daughter journey  walking from Spokane to New York City and the years after. The winners have been chosen!  Each of three will receive a special prize as well as a signed copy of my book.  Runners up were also chosen and their stories will be posted here during the first week in May. They'll receive a signed copy of The Daughter's Walk.  Thank you for participating and making this Mother-daughter Day a great story occasion!

Mountain Mama by Mary Anna Swinnerton
                Anna Montgomery, 23 years old, boarded the train in Reidsville, N.C., headed to Harrisonburg, VA for her first job working in a church. Met by the pastor, he immediately presented a whole new possibility, working with people on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. in a small development known as “Crab Bottom”. The pastor asked if Anna might be willing to go to and serve for a year, replacing a woman who had become ill. Anna said “Yes”.

Clouds breaking up after a rainy morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains

                Riding in a truck to the top of Hardscrabble Mountain, she was met by “Mister Ike” and his 3 sons on horseback (leading another horse). It was January, there was a cold wind, scattered snowflakes were beginning to fall and it was getting dark. In her heels and suit for railway travel, Anna was not dressed for an outdoor trip, but she was tough, and had grown up around horses in North Carolina. After loading her luggage on the horses, they went slowly down the mountain. Little did Anna know that this trip was just the beginning of a 5 year “adventure” caring for the people in the valleys and “hollows” around Crab Bottom (today known as Bluegrass). She would teach Sunday school, preach, play the piano, sew, teach 6 grades in one-room, and even conduct funeral services. Chamberlain Cottage, where she lived, provided a gathering place for the mountain folk. Years later, on Anna’s 100th birthday, one of the young girls from that area (then in her 90s) would reme! mber how Anna had taught her to play hymns on the piano and made her a blue dress.
                Anna later took each of her four daughters back to Crab Bottom, where they observed first-hand the difference she had made in the lives of so many. It was a special legacy she passed on, the knowledge that life is about giving to others. You never know how saying “Yes” to another possibility may enrich your life forever. We were blessed to have a “Mountain Mama”.
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