Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Friday, July 20, 2012

STORY BECAME MY SANCTUARY


Her big, soft lap, wide welcoming arms, and gentle voice were made for stories. Every morning, I crawled up onto the couch below the portrait of my Great Great Grandmother Mary Ann Mitchell and listened to Grandmother Lovejoy tell stories of our family.

Then Grandmother tied my shoes and took me by the hand. We walked through her bountiful, old-fashioned garden, and she named the plants, told me the stories of their life, how they were used, and what critters liked to visit them. I listened, and the stories seemed to pour into my mind and lodge in my soul.


At lunch time, we went indoors and sat in Grandmother's sunny breakfast nook where we watched the birds at her busy feeders. Grandmother Lovejoy's stories taught me where the Mockingbird babies were hidden in the boysenberries, how the hummer licks at her nest with her long, long tongue, and that the jays were the easiest birds to tame.

Before nap time, I crawled up into Grandmother's lap and curled into her arms. She read Little Lame Prince, Heidi, The Secret Garden, Little Women, Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses and Treasure Island, and so many books that still hold a place in my heart.


When Grandmother died my family sold her house and ours. I was torn from the hillside neighborhood and the friends and family I loved. Hardest for me was leaving Grandmother's garden. But, I found refuge in stories. Refuge in the books she left behind. Like so many of you reading this, I hid books in my bed and read under the covers until my flashlight dimmed and went dark. Stories kept me sane, gave me hope, assuaged my homesickness, and led me to a dream world of possibilities.

Throughout my life, stories and story telling have remained my sanctuary. That is why I so love to write, to create books, and to tell stories to children who are eager to merge with and become a part of the words.


Yesterday I welcomed some of my favorite women-writer friends to my home for the read of the final four chapters of my new children's novel. I was scared to my toes. Would they like it, despise it, think that the plot and climax were clunky or unbelievable? All these things were worrying me as they sat and listened to me read for almost an hour. They oohed and ached at all the right places, urged me onward, and at the end of the story, they sighed and applauded. But the applause wasn't the end of the meeting. Then they helped me pick out tiny inconsistencies, checked on the time line of the book, made sure that my main character's voice fit, and checked on how a man mounted a horse. Tiny little details that merge seamlessly when one tells a believable story.


Some critiques are written. I save all the papers and comb through my manuscript to make necessary additions and adjustments. But, I don't always agree with everyone and any writer must feel things are right with himself/herself.





Afterward we feasted on my freshly harvested fruit, toasted each other with champagne, and celebrated how much we all love being writers and love sharing books.




Blueberries, grapes, a bumper crop of nectarines, and a few Sequoia strawberries, sprinkled with rosemary, menthe citrate, and chocolate mint.




I use limoncello as a tart/sweet dressing.


Author Elizabeth Spurr, next to her is author Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, my Jeff, author Lori Peelen, Red Fox Literary agent Karen Grencik (others are cut out of photo) out under our grape laden arbor.


Lori, Karen, author Roni De Coster, and illustrator Helen K. Davie


Two Elizabeths on a bench! A toast!


And me toasting these FABULOUS and creative friends (and editor-agent husband).
Thank you for being such an important part of my life!

When we finished our dessert and champagne toasts, we returned to the living room to listen to the readings of Elizabeth Spurr, Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, and Veronica De Coster. We missed Lori's reading because she had to leave early. We also got to hear the good news of Karen Grencik's recent sales of many more books. Her literary agency is thriving and connecting more authors to publishers. Hurrah Karen and Red Fox Literary!

Missing from this meeting due to schedule conflicts were authors Sherry Shahan, Cindy Rankin, Cynthia Bates, and author-illustrator Stephanie Roth Sisson. Next time girls!

I send love across the miles-and keep on creating, keep on reading, and cherish your friends,

Love,

Sharon

P.S. Jeff caught me tending the hollyhock this morning. Of course, I was in my nightgown. This hollyhock towers almost to the top of the little, blue window upstairs in Mockingbird Studio. You can see the pink blooms, but the tight, green buds are up there a few feet above the blooms. This is the tallest hollyhock I've ever grown. Lovely. 

53 comments:

Debs said...

I love you Sharon...and I love the wealth of special memories that you bless us with every time you write or speak!

Hugs,
Debs

Vee said...

So much about this post makes me grin. Completely random observations here...I love the fact that Elizabeth Spurr's shirt matches the tablecloth so perfectly; I love the fact that this group assembles to support one another; I love the fact that one must think how a man mounts a horse...how does a man mount a horse? I love the fruit and the green bottle of champagne. And what's not to love about the giant hollyhock and a gal who gardens in her nightgown?!

Larkrise garden girl said...

Oh Sharon I love your Life. Your grandmother sounds like a grandmother all of us would love to have met. The best part of ourselves are left in the memories of others,You were blessed by your childhood and by your treasure of friends.Hugs Cheri keep writing!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

what a fun time and all my favorite books! maybe you should consider wintering in california this winter since it seems to be the only cool place in the country except for seattle!

Elizabeth Ann said...

You should write about about your grandmother.... I can just see the pictures in my head of the whole book now. Lovely. Congratulations on your new book, sounds wonderful. I love that hollyhock (it could be on the cover of your grandmothers book, but I would not paint in the lady with her nightie on....)

Casa Mariposa said...

Pajama gardening is the best!! You're hollyhock is incredible! How wonderful to have such supportive friends. Every child needs someone to read to them. Before I left elementary school for middle school, the littlest students would climb onto me so they could snuggle while I read. In middle school we're told not to touch the students. I just hope they have memories as fond as yours.

Diana said...

Your memories of your grandmother are achingly beautiful -- if I can be remembered in such a way I know I will have had a life well lived.

I can't wait to read your children's novel when it comes out. I will read it with my grandchildren.

Susan said...

Dearest friend, what a perfectly lovely post--where do I begin. Your grandma sounds like a story to be told. I love your holyhocks and they remind me of my grandma. XOXO

Birds, Bees, Berries, and Blooms said...

Your post made me miss my grandmothers. I will call my grandma tomorrow, thanks to you, as she is the one who also had a love of books. She gave my mother some encyclopedias from the 1930's. They are beautifully written, like stories. I read them over and over as a child. I am glad my husband isn't the only one that sneaks around taking photos. That hollyhock is amazing. Thanks for sharing such wonderful stories.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Friends,

I've received a few comments and some e-mails about my memories of Grandmother Lovejoy. Yes, I DID write about her in a book called My Mother's Garden. It came out a few years ago and was a collection of short stories about people who influenced our lives. Barbara Kingsolver, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and a few other notables are included. You might find the book at a library or used bookstore.

All joys,

Sharon

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Reading was always a solace for me and I remember many nights sneaking a light on and hoping I didn't get caught. Your grandmother sounds lovely. My paternal grandmother was so special to me--she did not share books or gardening, but a love for beautiful things and family history.
You are SO right about friendships--I will be getting together with my little book club group tomorrow evening--hopefully with champagne and strawberries!

Lorrie Orr said...

This post is full of wonderful things - memories of my own childhood books, grandmothers, and the delightful thought of being surrounded by all those supportive writers. And to top it all off, gardening in your jammies - perfect!

Michelle said...

Yes, gardening in the PJ's is the BEST! lol I do it often myself. I agree with the other folk commenting that a book about your grandmother would be lovely.

Lori ann said...

dear sharon, i agree with what deb said. you are a true gem. when i see all the talent sitting around your table, it makes me wish i had a book inside of me.
:)

Susan Ernst said...

So wonderfully written! I hope your novel has some of the elements of this post - Grandmother's garden, author's readings, the wonderful setting and the fruit! I have been a fan since "Sunflower Houses" and look forward to reading your novel. Congratulations!

Pondside said...

A beautiful post to open up early on a cloudy Saturday. You are, indeed, blessed to have such supportive and gifted women in your life.
I enjoyed looking at the covers of the old books. Two that I remember are Girl of the Limberlost and Mrs Mike. I was at a stage where I loved adventure!

Low Tide High Style said...

I wish my great grandmother and grandmother who lived just down the street had told more stories about their childhoods. So glad you finished your latest book and that you were able to share it with such a wonderful and talented group of friends. Your Hollyhock is amazing!

Kat

GRACE PETERSON said...

Hi Sharon, What a fun post. Congratulations on completing (at least the first draft, right?) your novel. With all of the inspiration you've been blessed with, both past and present, I believe you have a best seller on your capable hands. Love the sunflower and the pretty nightgown! :)

jaz@octoberfarm said...

that is exactly what i thought when i opened the box. why did i buy this? then i ordered a second one. i just cleaned my husband's office and took out 12 large black lawn bags so i guess 2 little bracelets shouldn't clutter me too much. plus, my suppressed design urges always end up popping out somewhere!

From the Kitchen said...

Such pleasure reading your lovely post! It brought back sweet memories of my grandmother reading to me--books that I have now read to my children and, hopefully, will read to my grandchildren. I love your gathering at the beautiful table. Thanks so much for sharing.

Best,
Bonnie

country girl said...

Dearest Sharon,
I really enjoyed reading this post, and seeing all of those old children's books.
I wonder who owns your grandmother's house and garden now...did you ever go back? It must have been so painful to lose her, and the garden where you had so many beautiful memories. It makes me very sad to think about it. But, at least you have those memories, and no one can take them from you!
It's also so lovely to think, you are creating those kinds of memories for your own Grands. :)
I miss you...I wish I was better at being in touch...it's hard now, so many things to do, so many days just trying to keep up with this growing little sunshine of a boy! But my friendships are suffering a little, I think....
That hollyhock is incredible! Every time you mention them, I think back to the story of your childhood, when you stumbled upon a man's garden in the middle of no where, with so many hollyhocks, and he chased you off his property. He would be jealouse of that gorgeous giant you've got!
So much love to you,
Dawn

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

This post makes me want to be a woman writer who lives in your area and comes to lunch!

Story was my sanctuary from an unhappy youth after my father passed away. :)

(((HUGS)))

LindaCTG said...

Grandmothers are so special and I hardly go a day without thinking of mine. But your grandchildren get a special gift from you, always. These days, I wake up in the morning to say,"Today, I'm going to be Sharon." Kind, smart, intelligent, diligent, and so very loving to everyone. Thank you (and Jeff)for being part of my life.

lemonverbenalady said...

I cried (good tears) when I read about your visits with your grandmothers. I only have memories of one grandmother and I just remember her lemon meringue pie. Maybe that's why I love lemon so much. Thanks for sharing your life with us, Sharon and how about that hollyhock! Sending love from the 'Burgh. Nancy

Farm Girl said...

I love reading about your life with your grandmother and I love seeing the copies of your books. I am excited about your new story. Your books continue to inspire me everyday and I think that as a new Mommy long ago, you inspired me to garden with my young children, now I have the joy of gardening with my grand children. Isn't it wonderful how your grandmother's love of gardening has been passed on to so many other generations.
Thank you for sharing your day.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

What a cute cottage, and a huge hollyhock, I so would love to have some here.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Never thought about writers gathering that way to help each other fine tune a piece. What a lovely day it sounds like you all enjoyed.
Amazing hollyhock height!

Kay's flowers said...

Oh Sharon, what a beautiful memory of your grandmother and her garden. I would love to read more about her. I am so excited about your young adult book. When will it be coming out? I've so missed your postings and was so excited to see you.
Blessings,
Kay

Pam Gardner said...

love the fruit-yum and hollyhocks are my favorite flower-almost. I remember all those books and still miss my Nana after over 40 yrs. She died young. My mom died 10 days ago and my daughters paid beautiful tribute to her yesterday at her memorial service. I try to be a Nana like mine and my mom were to my granddaughter Maddie and now Alex my wee grandson. I am so sad with a huge hole in my heart but time marches on and each generation continues to pass on from the last. Life is certainly bittersweet.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Pam Gardner,

I would write you directly, but can't find a link to you.

I am sorry that you've just lost your mom. This is such a tough passage in our lives.

Yes, be a good Nana to Alex and Maddie. They'll fill your life with love and carry on your teachings through the years.

Love,

Sharon

Jeri Landers said...

I never had a gramma, and met my grampa only once. I know that I missed out on so much.
Since my biggest customers ARE grandmothers buying books for their little people, I see it is they, who continue the great tradition of reading. God Bless Grand others everywhere!

Kristina said...

What lovely memories of your grandmother. I'm about to become a first-time grandma in September and hope I can be the type of grandma that creates fantastic memories!

Kristina

P.S. I hang laundry out on the clothesline in my pj's nearly every morning! ;)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

"You may have tangible wealth untold; Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be -- I had a mother who read to me."

-Strickland Gillilan

Stumbled across this poem today and had to share it!

S

Terra said...

The event looks like a lot of fun, and I liked hearing about how your love of story and books began.
Amazing hollyhock!

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

A lovely story. I so enjoyed listening to you voice in my head as you told it.~~Dee

Bernideen said...

That is one giant hollyhock - a record breaker. I took all my Tea In the Garden photos in my bathrobe this morning. When I was a teenager 2 old ladies lived down the street and one always wore her "girdle" in the garden!

LindaCTG said...

You connect us so beautifully to the past and present that makes us who we are. And I wish I'd been there to see you your nightgown pruning! Sounds like me, though not nearly so cute. Love you to pieces.

Marlynne said...

Wow! that is a tall Hollyhock! What a wonderful tradition to gather your writing friends together and read your current work to each other and share food and fellowship!

Privet and Holly said...

I loved hearing
the story of young
Sharon and the
influence those
years continue to
have on our life.

I know your grandma
would be so proud!

Happy Day,
xo Suzanne

From the Kitchen said...

Sharon:

I have read A Thousand Days in Venice and A Thousand Days in Tuscany as well. Loved them!

Best,
Bonnie

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Bonnie dear,

Now it is TIME FOR YOU to write your thousand days!

Love,

S

Storybook Woods said...

Dear Sharon,
I know your book will be charming. But it takes a lot to share your work with others. Not an easy thing to do. You are so brave xoxo Clarice

kj said...

My friend:

I've found the best memories make me cry. Yours bring those years and tears so close. xo

What a gathering at your house! What a way to finish and give birth to your new book. What a privilege to support the talent and passion of women and writers and folks who know astonishment

Thinking of you, honeybun

Love
kj

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Just finished reading your entry.
I am breathless, smile on my face and tears in my eyes.
What a legacy you are creating.
Wish I was hidden away in your garden to have been closer to
all that was going on.
The Hollyhock - can I be envious.
Love to you
you are a special person....

Nan said...

That is one TALL hollyhock!!
So loved your post, but it does make me sad. You lived in a little Eden before she died. I look forward to your novel. I thought the comments were very funny. You have a fun, fun life, Miss Sharon.

Gabby said...

Your grandma sounds like she was a very loving, special lady. Good luck with your book. I just joined your follower list. That's a heck of a holly hock!
Gabby

Lydia said...

I hope that should I ever be a grandmother that I am remembered as preciously as you do yours.

Rebecca said...

I enjoyed reading about your introduction to and nurturing in children's literature. I'm sure your grandmother would be proud of you...

What a lovely gathering of friends and colleagues! I would have loved to have been an "ant" at the picnic to hear the conversation (and maybe even have a nibble of that delicious fruit)!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

his name was buddy.

Joy said...

Sharon, thank you for telling me about Kary. I had e-mailed her earlier in the year, and she had written and said she was battling cancer. She was going to try to get back to the blog and let her readers know what was going on. I am so sorry that she passed away. I offer my condolences. Her blog was such a visual and mental treat to read. I feel sad for her husband. I left a comment for him on her blog. I hate losing good people. Joy

Lili said...

It's been far too long since my last visit. I sighed throughout this lovely post. You convey so much with your words and I've missed you! I'm going to enjoy getting all caught up on here tonight. Wonder if there will be a clue as to when you will return for a visit to Maine. Love to you and Jeff. ~Lili

Sharon Lovejoy said...

JAZ at October Farm,

I ALWAYS called him Butters. K-bird shortened it as the years passed, but he was Butters to me.

S

vicki said...

Sharon-- I'm late reading this beautiful post--- ( too many irons in the fire right now--- translation-- Harvest Nests--)

Your Grandmother instilled a beautiful legacy for both gardening and writing into your soul. Her love of reading and gardening has shaped you into the person that you are today-- in all that you do- you continually carry a bit of her legacy with you everyday.

I think we all have "grandmother" stories that are priceless to us. No matter how old we are-- we still remember our Grandmothers. This post is lovely in so many ways-/

Xo
Vicki

Ps- I just want to take a moment and say that I am so very sorry for the loss of your dear friend-/ your tribute was beautiful.