Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tributes: Lorraine Stephens and Maureen "Sadie" Dell

This is the time of year that I sadly pay tribute to the writers who left us and also left endearing memories. Lorraine Stephens and Maureen "Sadie" Dell were two very different writers but both were deeply loved by the many people who knew them.

Lorraine was one of the founders of Wings ePress. I've never known anyone who was so deeply devoted to helping struggling writers and giving them a chance in the publishing world. While she wasn't my first publisher, she did publish my first submitted romance novel, A Caribbean Summer. She was also my editor for that book. After I had returned the galley, she e-mailed me with the message that she hoped I had more manuscripts for submission. What a thrill that was! When I sent her my query letter for Amorous Ambush, ending with "May I submit the full manuscript?", she replied one word, "Absolutely!". As with many of the authors at Wings, I shall always be indebted to her.

Maureen "Sadie" Dell was a different kind of writer, an old-fashioned story teller among other things. I met Sadie online in 1999 on the old AOL British message board: Food, Glorious Food! It was in the international section of the message boards. I was planning to go to England that summer to visit my two granddaughters who lived in Cornwall at that time and I wanted to get acquainted with English cuisine. Sadie posted recipes every day and many times had personal stories to go along with them. When AOL began to disband the international boards, I told Sadie about other food message boards, especially Comfort Food. She transferred over and my friends there fell in love with her. When I returned from my England visit, I asked Sadie for her recipe for Cornish pasties, one of my favorites. But over the years she shared many, many recipes from England. She married an American after World War II and lived in Colorado. Her stories of being an English bride living in America were poignant and even hilarious.

Two lovely ladies who made the world a much better place: Lorraine and Sadie.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Popcorn Christmas

When I first started to write this little tale, I thought my first popcorn memories came when my family lived on a farm. However, my mother thought otherwise--that we had moved to town. The house we moved to in town was cold. Rooms were heated with small gas stoves.

Despite the cold my mother was determined to give us a Christmas season that would be traditional and memorable. One cold, dark evening, my little brother Mike and I huddled in the living room admiring the tree that we had just decorated with ornaments that our mother had brought with her when she married our father. However, Mother said there was more that we could do to the tree. We wondered what she meant. It looked lovely to us.

She went out into the kitchen and we huddled together on the divan. Soon, we heard popping sounds and an aroma that still lingers joyfully in my memory. We laughed happily—Mother was popping corn. We ran to the kitchen with anticipation and watched her as she shook an iron skillet full of popping corn on a gas range. We expected her to add butter and salt but to our disappointment she didn’t do so. She poured the popped corn into a bowl and told us to follow her into the living room.

The three of us sat on the divan with Mother between my brother and me, nestled together to keep warm. She handed each of us a needle and a long strand of thread. We looked at each other in puzzlement. Then to our amazement Mother showed us how to thread each piece of popcorn. We were going to decorate the tree with strings of popcorn! On one hand stringing popcorn seemed like a lot of fun but on the other, I wanted to eat that popcorn! Naturally a little girl who was five years old couldn’t resist every once in a while sneaking a bite. I could see that Mike was just as tempted and finally we gave into the temptation, hoping that Mother wouldn’t notice.

Of course now I realize that she noticed and that she didn’t care—that was part of the fun of stringing popcorn, sneaking a bite now and then. Surely my love of popcorn began then and no other popcorn has ever tasted as good as that unsalted, unbuttered popcorn of my childhood that we threaded to adorn our Christmas tree.