Sunday, June 2, 2013

GRANDMA MOSES AND ME by Jackie Taylor Zortman

The first time a friend compared me to Grandma Moses, I didn't think too much about it because he is in his 60s and not much younger than myself.  But it happened again and this time the man is the age of my children.  This analogy seems to be sort of a knee-jerk reaction with some people when they find out that I'm having a book published.  Granted, I am a "mature" senior citizen, but I didn't just start out writing during the last year, albeit my book "We Are Different Now" is the first actual stand alone book that I've even attempted to have published.

The reality is that I began writing back in 1990, which gives me experience of 23 years now and puts me about 25 years ahead of the launch of the paintings of Grandma Moses whose art popularity began in her late 70s.  However, she was known as an individual successfully beginning a career at an advanced age who inspired housewives, widows and retirees, so she's definitely not a bad person to be compared to.  Then when you factor in her fame and the millions of dollars she made, I should be so lucky.  Therefore, I'll just consider those comparisons as what they were intended to be,  compliments.

When I first began writing, I wrote poetry.  Poems would come to me, completely intact, usually in the wee hours of the morning..  I could never simply sit down and create a poem because I wanted to.  A few of them were published, but it wasn't long before my writing evolved into short stores and articles, mostly in the law enforcement genre.

Then my writing took a huge turn in 1994 when I wrote an angry and cathartic article after a citizen telephoned my husband, the chief of police, while he was home on sick leave following abdominal surgery.  We live at 8000 feet in the Colorado mountains and this happened at night in the midst of a blinding blizzard.  As I watched my husband gingerly dress into street clothes and summon one of his officers to drive him downtown to the police department, merely to negotiate a petty complaint about another officer, I opted to sit down and express my fury on paper.  I was livid because this little matter could easily have been settled over the phone.  Afterwards, I put my quasi-editorial away and didn't see it again for months.  At that time, I read it once more with every intention of pitching it into the trash and decided, instead, that it was pretty darn good.

So, I punched it up a bit and submitted it to the editor of the Colorado Police Protective Association's journal and it was published!  As soon as it appeared in print, I received numerous calls from officers and their families from all across the state.  I had managed to pluck at the heart strings of some truly street tough cops and I had the writing "bug" big-time.  More importantly, I'd now been published in the field of law enforcement, which opened the door for me to join The Police Writers Club, where I was warmly welcomed.  When that organization evolved into the Public Safety Writers Association in 2005, I went right along and remain a proud member of that wonderful organization today.

Though I've had chapters in a few anthologies, my first book "We Are Different Now" was born when our 21-year-old grandson, Pete, fell 100 feet from a mountain ledge to the canyon floor below in the pitch black of night while celebrating July 4, 2010.  He died instantly from a skull fracture and he was the apple of my eye.  After that, I simply could not longer journal, though I'd done it daily for many years. My emotions swung like a pendulum between numb and blinding grief.  Seeking solace, I could not find any books to help grandparents cope with such sorrow, so my daughter, Pete's mother, suggested that I just sit down and write something every day about what I was feeling and later put it into a book.  It took me 16 months after Pete's death before I could even start and that is when I regretted the fact that I did not journal the whole experience.  It also took another full year to finish what turned out to be my manuscript.

Via PSWA I had my manuscript reviewed by Keith Bettinger, who is an author, retired police officer and a grief counselor with many years of experience.  He told me that my book absolutely needed to be available, so I submitted it to Oak Tree Press and it was accepted.  To my surprise and delight, my book has crossed over from my original  target readers and is going to sell to people of all ages and in all walks of life, whether they've experienced such a loss in their own life or not.  Pete wrote poetry and he was also a talented artist.  Perhaps Grandma Moses and Pete are up there plotting the course of my book together.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Great post, Jackie, and I lost a son to, mine to cancer. Hard, no matter what. We also lost a son-in-law, deputy, killed in the line of duty. Not sure if I've met you or not, but I certainly know your name.

Shalanna said...

Of course they're guiding your writing path! The lamp shines down from Heaven and we can only see a little sliver of it, and it's tough sometimes to follow it, but we do, and we must. Congratulations on debuting with Oak Tree Press! Come on over and do a guest post on my blog, whenever you like (we'll set it up on the OTP authors mailing list, if you want to do one.)