Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2019 All rights reserved

My Photo
Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Out and About with Books

Warning: Blatant promo for my books!

When you're a self-published author, there aren't a lot of ways to sell books. Bookstores don't carry self-dubbed books because they (pick one or several): aren't returnable, don't have a distributor, don't have a deep discount, have no quality control, etc. While my books are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, few people know they're there. Hence, self-pubbed authors usually sell their books in person. That's what I'll be doing for the next month.

This spring, I'll be making a few appearances to promote my books. On Saturday, April 22, from 10 AM until 2 PM, I'll join two dozen other authors at Brewed Awakening in Danville. Because of the weather, I don't know yet if we authors will be inside or outside. I've been to Brewed Awakening author events a couple of times in the past and really enjoyed them. My picture from last summer even appeared in a news article about the event.

On Tuesday, April 25, from 10 AM until 2 PM, I'll be among another couple dozen of authors at Westlake Library's Local Author Expo. Several members of Lake Writers will participate.

On Thursday, May 11, from 4 until 6 PM, Linda Kay Simmons and I will present "Down-Home Writers" at the Moneta/SML Library. Both Linda and I write Appalachian fiction, so our work complements each other. We'll discuss how our homespun stories were woven from scraps of family lore, childhood recollections, regional history, folklore, familiar places, and maybe a few out-right lies. I'll have a Powerpoint presentation showing some of the places and people who have influenced my stories.

On May 20, I'll join another twenty or so local authors who'll sell and sign at the Salem Museum's "Read Local" event. Some are self-published; some are commercially published.

The museum is a neat place and the exhibits are well worth seeing, too.

Meanwhile, if you want to buy my books in advance, click the titles to go to their Amazon page:

I'd like to do a few more events this summer if any opportunities arise. Because I have some mobility issues, I can only accept invitations that are within a hundred miles of home, are handicapped accessible, and don't require a lot of walking.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Beowulf Rap

I was going through an old filing cabinet and found something that gave me flashbacks to my English-teaching days—a rap I wrote in 1988 so my 8th graders would understand Beowulf better. Granted some with more literary talent than I possess have done translations, but I figured mine might work for 8th graders. Plus the movie version of Beowulf wouldn't come out until 2007, and even the animated version wasn't available back then:

Anyhow, here's my rap version. If you're an English teacher desperate to get your students more involved, feel free to use it: 

The Beowulf Rap
By Becky Mushko © 1988

Old King Hrothgar built Heorot Hall,
And him and his homeboys had a ball
’Til Grendel came upon the scene.
Man! This dude was big and mean—
Big red eyes, twelve feet tall—
Listen to what I’m tellin’ y’all!
Grendel chowed down on twenty guys—
Only a snack for a dude his size!
Every night he came again
And chomped and crunched up more and more men.
Poor old Hrothgr was reallin illin’
’Cause Grendel really got into killin’.

This went on for twelve years long
Until Mr. Beowulf came along.
Now Beowulf was one cool cat,
And he wondered where old Grendel was at.
A dude named Unferth put him down,
But Beowulf would prove he ain’t no clown.
Hrothgar said, Get it on, Man,
But you got to kill him with your own bare hand!”

They feasted and drank and went to sleep drunk,
And along came Grendel, the ugly punk.
He chomped one dude and slurped his blood
And said to himself, “Mmm-mmm, that’s good!”
But as he reached for another to harm,
Beowulf grabbed him by his arm
And slung him back and forth like a rocket
’Til he ripped his arm right outta its socket.

Grendel ran back to his bloody lake
’Cause he’d had about all that he could take.
Beowulf nailed his arm to the wall,
And they partied and boogied in Heorot Hall.
Hrothgar gave him gold and stuff
’Cause that’s what you get when you’re good and tough.

I hope you understand the poem of Beowulf
’Cause I think I’ve done rapped enough.

I can't guarantee that it'll work, though.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 07, 2017

Lilacs and Connections

My lilac bush is blooming. Brought from a slip off the bush on Smith Farm, it is an old-timey lilac with a wonderful fragrance. The original lilac bush was planted by the old kitchen house near the cabin, but what's left of the kitchen has been just a pile of rocks for nearly a century.

My Aunt Belva—who died in 2003—once told me that when she was a child, she and her younger sister Virgie—who is 99—were playing in the old kitchen when it fell in. I'd always thought of the kitchen—and lilac—as my Granny Sallie's, but now I realize the kitchen was Gillie Anne Bernard's. It's likely Gillie Ann planted the lilac. Gillie Ann died in 1897 and was the first resident of the cemetery up on the hill. 

Her husband William had a window cut in the cabin wall so he could sit by the fireplace and see her grave. This window also provided a view of the lilac bush. William joined Gillie Ann on the hill in 1907. (I blogged about that cemetery in my "Vines and Stones" post in 2011 and again in 2014 in "Special Delivery.")

Until recently, I didn't know I had a connection to Gillie Ann, but it turns out that she's my first cousin. three times removed.  Here's how: Gillie Ann Bernard is the daughter of Gwin—or Gwynn—Dudley (1810-1846) and Nancy Eliza Smith (1815-1890). Nancy Eliza is the daughter of my 3rd-great-grandfather, John Wood Smith (?-1842), who lived just down the road apiece from where Smith Farm is. John Wood Smith was married to Lucy English (1791-abt. 1850), daughter of George Lewis English and Ann (Nancy) Smith, the daughter of Col. John Smith and his wife Frances. It is likely that Col. John Smith (1735-1820) is also the grandfather of John Wood Smith, so Gillie and I might be kin in another way, too. All of these folks lived within a few miles of each other in Union Hall. 

Anyhow, Gillie Ann Dudley Bernard and my great-grandfather, Henry Silas Smith (1854-1923) are both grandchildren of John Wood Smith—and that's my connection. 

In long-ago Aprils, my distant cousin must have enjoyed the smell of lilac blossoms outside her kitchen door. Over a century later, I'm enjoying them too.

Labels: , , , , ,