Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Coming to Terms

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Such a great time yesterday celebrating our fifteenth birthday! We still can’t believe it. Thank you to everyone who comments and cheered—it brought tears to our eyes! We should have counted how many books we wrote during that time. 

One thing that was especially rewarding was seeing how many people said they enjoyed our blogs from other authors! So yay, today I am so delighted to begin our  sixteenth year (!!) by introducing you to the fabulous Maggie Smith. And listen to this—perfect timing--Maggie hosts the podcast “Hear Us Roar” for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association! 

She’s also got a brand new novel—her debut TRUTH AND OTHER LIES.  And as she mined the book’s characters—one in particular—she found something the surprised her and changed her. And her discovery might change you, too.



Coming to Terms

   by Maggie Smith

What does a writer do when a character hits too close to home?

I knew my younger self would inevitably creep into Truth and Other Lies, my debut women’s fiction novel. After all, my 25-year old protagonist Megan Barnes is a journalist, a profession I aspired to during my college years, and she’s both naïve and ambitious, two qualities I definitely recognized in myself at that age. What I didn’t anticipate was that, in creating Megan’s mother Helen, I’d unconsciously begin channeling my own and more importantly, the long-buried feelings that would dredge up.

It happened so subtly I didn’t recognize it at first.  It wasn’t until an early editor pointed out that Helen, a pro-life activist who’s running for US Congress, was veering into a caricature—a character who lacked nuance and depth and ran the risk of coming across as very black-and-white. 

Let me back up and give you a bit of background. My mother didn’t go to college. She didn’t learn to drive until after I did. She didn’t work outside the home until she became a widow at 47. Her ego was tied up in her kids and their accomplishments and as the oldest and a girl, I felt the pressure every day to succeed first in school and later in a profession she could brag about to her friends. 

So when I looked around for a role model in my mid-twenties, I looked elsewhere. This was the era when women were coming into their own—breaking into traditional male professions, forging ahead both politically and socially and the females I chose to pattern myself after were not mothers so much as mentors.  They might have children but they certainly didn’t live vicariously through them. Instead they were busy carving out a place for themselves in the wider world.

The Helen in the early drafts of my novel was overprotective, judgmental, and cold to her daughter. And because the book is written from Megan’s point of view, we view Helen through her daughter’s lens, just as the story I’ve told about my own mother above is skewed by my own perspective.   

But something didn’t ring true. Helen is running for an important political post. She’s the spokesperson of a controversial movement and she’s holding rallies and giving interviews. She had to have more complexity, perhaps even a backstory that might help the reader better understand the dynamics playing out between mother and daughter. I needed to dig deeper. And with the help of an insightful editor, I was able to.  In fact, even though I disagreed with her political ideology, by the end of the novel Helen wound up being my favorite character.

When I read those early pages now, what I see are all the feelings going on beneath the surface between the mother and daughter. Tension, yes, but also a bond that, as the story progresses, evolves and changes. And at the end, the story has become less about a millennial who goes to bat for her hero and more about a young woman who comes to a new understanding of her mother and vice versa. 

At one point, Megan is asked why she is defending her mentor so vigorously and here’s her answer: Because she treated me as though I was special, and I loved how that felt. And then the realization hits her like a blow. She’d been looking for that kind of validation from her mother her whole life and never got it. But she doesn’t say that last part out loud. She can barely admit it to herself.


When I read those lines today, it’s with tears in my eyes.
Because not only do they ring true to me and the relationship I had with my mother, but also with many readers who have shared their stories with me. Why is it so hard sometimes for parents and their grown children to connect in a deep and meaningful way? Why is it that young women often don’t feel valued and loved by our own mothers?

I never had a role model like Megan’s famous journalist. And I never mended my relationship with my mother, who died a decade ago.  So in some ways writing this novel was my attempt to come to terms with both those facts. Through the power of fiction, I was able to write a story where my 25-year-old protagonist was able to achieve what I could not. To give my own life story a happier ending. 

Truth and Other Lies, released March 8, 2022, is my debut novel – it’s considered women’s fiction and at its heart, is a story of three women: A world-famous journalist at the end of her career, at risk of losing everything because of a vicious online troll; a neophyte politician knee-deep in a run for Congress who longs to reconnect with her estranged daughters; and a young reporter, desperate to reboot her stalled career, who must choose between the two when she uncovers a decades-old lie. 

I don’t pull punches in my narrative. Yes, potential hot buttons are woven in, including pro-choice, political disagreements, the #MeToo movement, climate change, and the generation gap. It’s an adult novel written for adults. I treat my readers as intelligent, socially aware, tolerant human beings who aren’t afraid of reading about what some consider controversial topics. The book is not a rant and it’s not a sermon – but if reading about real-world issues braided into a fast-paced narrative about women and their relationships isn’t for you, I totally understand.

What about you, Jungle Red Writers? Did you pattern yourself after your own mother or did you have a different role model in mind when you started your career? 

Drop your comments below for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Truth and Other Lies!  U.S. entries only. 


HANK: What a great question! Reds and readers? My answer is: yes and no. My mother was perfectionist and had very strong feelings about...everything. I'm not sure I had a role model, actually. Hmmm. Except maybe Katharine Hepburn.

How about you all?



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Maggie Smith founded ArtSource, a leading art consulting company, but when her business was acquired in 2017, she pursued her dream to became a full-time writer. The result is her debut novel, Truth and Other Lies, which will published March 8, 2022, by Ten16 Press. In addition to writing, Maggie hosts the podcast Hear Us Roar for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, which boasts over 110 episodes and is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, IHeartRadio, and Amazon Music. 

Her short story, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, was published in the 2018 anthology False Faces and she’s a monthly blogger for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. A board member of the Chicago Writer’s Association, she serves as Managing Editor of their on-line literary publication The Write City Magazine. She makes her home in Milwaukee with her husband Scott and her aging but adorable dog Colt.





123 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Maggie, on your debut novel. Your story sounds intriguing . . . I’m looking forward to meeting Megan and Helen . . . .

    My mom was an amazing woman who never hesitated to tell us how much she loved us . . . we never doubted that her family was important we were to her. She would tell you what she thought, but she’d also listen to you; she never shied away from hard work. She was a wonderful role model and I continue to try to live up to the standard she set.

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    1. My father was the listener in our family… It really taught me a lot. Listening makes such a difference! Xxx

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    2. Joan - your mother sounds like a wonderful role model. You were lucky, having someone like her to pattern yourself after.

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  2. MAGGIE: Congratulations on your debut novel!

    My mom was a strong woman who had a challenging, difficult life. Growing up in WWII Japan, she was the eldest of 4 children. When my grandmother died from TB at 39, my mom raised her 3 younger siblings until my grandfather set up an arranged marriage. My mom emigrated to Toronto, Canada in the early 1960s where she learned English and how to be a North American stay-at-home wife in a strange country. I am the only child since she had severe kidney disease and needed kidney dialysis, 10+ hours/3 times a week for 4 years. Luckily, my mom got a kidney transplant in the mid-1970s and led a much more vibrant, healthy life. When I left Toronto for university, my mom shocked us by getting (her first) full-time job working for a haute couture Japanese designer in posh Yorkville. She worked that job until she suddenly died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 66.

    My mom supported my decision to go to university (my dad was opposed) and also encouraged my love of solo world travel. She was never able to do either things on her own. I got my strong work ethic and kind tendencies from my mom but it took a while to shed those perfectionistic tendencies. I also learned not to wait (until I retired) to have fun since both she (and my grandmother) died way too young.

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    1. Grace, thanks for sharing so much of your mom's story! You've mentioned her very often, but I've never seen as much of her story at one time. Thank heaven she was the strong balance to your strict, traditional dad.

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    2. JUDY: Thanks, I do miss her greatly. I have also mentioned before that my mom was mostly responsible for my love of reading from an early age. We spent many hours waiting for her to complete her dialysis treatment at the hospital, and later at home. And I benefited from her learning how to create customized patterns and sew my unique business attire.

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    3. What a completely unique and fascinating story! I know you have talked about your sewing, and have a great style, but had no idea of derivation of it! Amazing. (That is a really good idea for a novels, I might add…)

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    4. Grace, thanks so much for sharing this! Wow.

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    5. Grace, your mother sounds like a fascinating woman. I love how she later in life worked for that Japanese designer. Very interesting. Did she ever share how she made that decision and how she was able to land that job?

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    6. MAGGIE: Well, I left home at 19 so my mom figured she had done her duty as a parent. And perhaps she was a bit inspired by my defying my father's wishes and going off to university to stand up for herself, too? Not sure how she found out about the Yorkville designer. Probably word-of-mouth. The Japanese-Canadian community in Toronto is small (about 22,000 in a city of 3+ million).

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  3. I'm touched by your analysis of how the process of writing your novel made you reexamine your relationship with your mother, Maggie. What you've told us makes so much sense. As for MY mother, I think she was a wonderful parent--loving, an interesting companion, and very supportive--so I tried to model much of my own mothering on her. But as I grew older, I could see how anxious and self-doubting her own parents had made her, so I wanted to be a different kind of woman. Luckily, she and my father had given my sister and me the tools to be more independent and self-confident than she was able to be. Isn't it interesting (and sometimes sad) that no matter how old we are and how hard we may try, we never completely outgrow the influences of our upbringings?

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    1. That is so true! But sometimes when we realize it, it can help. The self-confidence element is really elusive…xx

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    2. Exactly. I wound up getting a Ph.D. in Psychology so my studies helped me understand what might have been going on with my mother a bit more. She was the last of 12 children and her own mother (my grandmother) lived to be 98 years old but was also pretty withdrawn and not affectionate. I'm sure both those facts contributed to my mother's personality.

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  4. Maggie, good for you for not pulling the punches in your story. The book sounds amazing.

    My mother stayed home with us until we were in high school. She was an accomplished seamstress and baker, and a dedicated scout leader for four of us. I didn't want any of that after I went off to college. She thought I should wear sweater sets and join a sorority. I bought my clothes in a thrift store and chose a college that didn't have Greek associations. We had quite a rift for a few years.

    After I had children myself (and started to work on my cake decorating skills...), we became much closer again, for which I'm grateful. I credit her love of books in general and crime fiction in particular with my current last (and successful) career as a mystery author.

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    1. That is so fascinating and of the time, Edith! I love what you said about cake decorating :-)… And the love of books that connect to do. So interesting!

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    2. You brought back old memories when you mentioned sweater sets, Edith! A blast from the past. And I love that you were able to bond later in your life - sometimes I think when the daughter has her own children, that's a good opportunity to heal some of the breaks in a relationship with her own mother.

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  5. Congratulations, Maggie! I will look for Truth and Other Lies. A mother-daughter relationship being explored in a thoughtful way? Count me in!

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  6. Welcome to the Reds Maggie, this sounds like a wonderful book! I will enjoy reading about these characters. I find it fascinating that you're warning your readers ahead of time about what they might encounter...

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    1. Yes, I think that is such an interesting choice! Eager to hear from Maggie about that!

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    2. I was finding on podcasts that I was being asked about having the courage to write about controversial subjects and I found myself rebelling a bit. I write adult fiction and my readers are adults, for the most part women. We routinely handle lots more serious real-life stuff than will ever appear in a book. And if we aren't willing to talk about tough life issues, who will? The only way to understand another person is to delve deep into what makes them tick. That's what I was trying to do in my novel and readers seem to think it worked, for which I'm very glad.

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  7. Maggie, congratulations on your new book, and new career.

    Family relationships are complex and it's easy to misunderstand the motivations of others. My mother died when I was just 18. She had been ill with a painful and physically restrictive disease for my entire life. I can truthfully say that she loved me but had a very short fuse. Things I've remembered since she has been gone have not always been flattering and when I became a mother, I decided that she could not be my role model in any way other than that she read to me a lot.

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    1. Oh my goodness, what perspective you have gained! And reading is a crucial thing, too…

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    2. Judy, I can identify with that last part. As for losing a parent that young, even one you didn't necessarily always get along with, is rough. I lost my father when I was 21 from a sudden heart attack. He was only 49. In fact, I dedicated this book to him. When I reached 49, I realized how short his life had actually been. My dedication reads "to my father, who died too young. You deserved more." Still brings me to tears.

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  8. I can't wait to read your debut novel! Yes, my mother, my sisters, these were my models! I did not get an MLS, but I knew I wanted to work in a library. My marketing degree is helping me as our adult programmer, but what I really learned from my librarian family was helping everyone brings the most rewards!

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    1. Very cool! My parents were both librarians and despite the difficulties our family had in some areas, I am extremely grateful to have grown up with their love, their books, and their ideas about education and service.

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    2. So wait, others in your families were librarians, too? What was that like?

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    3. A family of librarians. Oh, that would have been such a great family to grow up in!

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  9. How wonderful, Maggie, to have a debut novel after a long career in another field. It sounds like a ripping good read, too! Much success to you.

    Mothers and daughters are complicated beings, aren't they? My own relationship with my mother has always been fraught, but having three daughters has both given me new insight and lent its own set of frustrations. It's made my bond with my mom stronger.

    A young woman who was very dear to our family passed away yesterday, after a frantic few days of mending fences and making goodbyes, most particularly with her mother. They had been estranged for almost eight years, including through the last nearly four years of her struggles with cancer. She could not rest until her mother stopped ignoring her and stepped up. Life is too damned short, isn't it?

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    1. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Karen, and glad she was able to mend fences. My sisters and I tried hard to get my brother to do the same before our mother died ten years ago, and he wouldn't/wasn't able. I was angry for a few years, and then realized it was his ongoing loss.

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    2. Stubborn fools, Edith. They choose their own drama, then have to live with the consequences.

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    3. That is so touching, and so sad, and interesting how you view it from outside the battle, you know? You can see how unfortunate it is…

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    4. My cousin wouldn't make up with his sister before she died. It broke her heart.

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    5. My surviving sibling is my 81 year old sister who had a destructive relationship with our mother. I haven't been able to get my sister to address this with counseling and she continues to suffer from the internal torment.

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    6. Family rifts are so major, aren't they? And so fraught wth so many emotions. It's no wonder novelists love writing about family relationships. So much to dissect. I am glad your young friend was able to make peace at the end.

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    7. Thank you. This woman is someone I've known very well for almost 37 years, my oldest daughter's stepsister, and they were very close. So a little more than a friend, but not quite a relative. And yes, Hank, watching her relationship with her (crazy, and alcoholic) mother has been difficult over that time.

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  10. Congratulations on the debut novel, Maggie!

    As you described your mother, I felt my throat begin to constrict, as it sounded so much like my own -- at first. Like yours, my mother had no college education and never worked outside the home or drove a car until she was widowed in her late 40's. But my mother was actually very supportive of me and my dreams and always believed in me. Unfortunately that did not keep me from looking at her life with some disdain, and seeking role models elsewhere. I was always close to my mother in some ways, but I never really began to respect and admire her until I was mid-life. While she didn't pursue external accomplishments, I think of her now as one of the bravest, strongest and certainly most loving people I have known. I am grateful that I had the luxury of having her with us until just before her 91st birthday, giving me the chance to figure out a lot of that.

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    1. Yes, we realize it is about context a bit, too, isn't is? And the times?

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    2. Susan - I'm glad your story had a happier ending than mine. I think you would really appreciate the journey my mother and daughter characters go on in this novel, as it kind of charts the progress of two people who at first are estranged but slowly find their way back to one another.

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  11. Maggie, interesting how our characters can take on a life and mind of their own, isn't it? Congratulations on your debut novel--looks to be a timely and thought-provoking read.

    There was never any doubt that our mother loved us. She was not able to work outside the home, but her work ethic is the standard all her daughters use in our own working lives. She was nurturing, loving, fun, a voracious reader, and supportive. She read all my angsty teenage poetry, for example, and encouraged me in everything I wanted to try.

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    1. Oh, that is so sweet… I can just imagine her reading your poetry. Lovely lovely lovely.

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    2. I love the memory you have of her reading your poetry and encouraging your writing. Have you ever published any poems?

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    3. Maggie, I actually did, but not the angsty teenage-years' stuff!

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  12. Congratulations on your debut! I remember meeting you at an all-day Columbus Sisters in Crime event.

    My mother used to ask me when I was going to "put my writing skills to good use." After she died, I did.

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    1. Good for you! I bet you thought of her when you saw your first publication.

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  13. Congratulations, Maggie!

    I did not deliberately pattern myself after my mother. I don't think she really wanted me to. She wanted me to forge my own path, knowing she loved me for me - not because I believed or acted as she did, but because I stayed true to my beliefs. She gave me the platform and I built. Mom died 20 years ago, when my daughter was an infant. Now that my two are grown, I wonder what she'd think of me.

    I've tried to do the same for my daughter. I'm here. I gave you the tools - now build. Surprisingly, I think maybe I got it right. She sees how her friends' mothers act, and she's horrified (very focused on appearance, etc.). She says in some ways I'm more supportive of her friends than their own mothers (she told me of one girl whose mother always criticized her weight - the girl is athletic, not a stick - "but you tell her she's perfect the way she is.").

    So maybe my mom would approve. I hope so.

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    1. You are fabulous, Liz! so wise of you…xx

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    2. Liz, that reminds me of my son in high school. His friends would often gather at our house and sometimes I'd visit with them. I remember one of them saying during a particularly raucous conversation, "Oooo, I have the wrong parents!"

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    3. Liz, you should like you're a natural at this mothering thing. What a gift. Yes, giving your children the tools to make their own way is essential. In my novel, Helen (the mother) says "that's a mother's job after all. To prepare the person you love most in the world to leave you." It's hard to see them make mistakes but if you've raised them right, they will learn and grow.

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  14. I patterned myself as OPPOSITE as I could from my mother. She was deeply unhappy and dysfunctional... except that she was a brilliant writer. So I insisted that I was NOT a writer and didn't start writing until my kids were older than I was when my mother died ... but of course she's still in my rearview mirror because how cam she not be?

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    1. Fascinating! You turned out perfectly, though, darling Hallie. Xxxx

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    2. 'she's still in my rearview mirror'--I had a grandfather like that. Luckily, we didn't see him often and at least he mellowed a little in his old age.

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    3. Hallie, some mothers just can't support their kids in the way they need. I sure felt that way and looking back now, I was justified feeling that way. The key was to see it and change it before it hurt the next generation. I do not doubt the love, but support means just as much.

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    4. Judy, what a great statement--"see it and change it before it hurt the next generation." That's exactly what I have tried to do after being raised by a seriously dysfunctional mother and a caring but non-proactive father.

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    5. Precisely! We carry them with us all our lives, for good or bad. In fact, I wrote a line years ago that I still believe: "you don't become an adult until you bury your parents."

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    6. Whoa, Hallie, that "rearview mirror" resonates with me, too. Except my mother, at 92, is more in the backseat.

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  15. Happy belated birthday, Reds. I missed yesterday's post.

    Er, no, like Hallie, I have consciously patterned myself as far from my mother as possible. It took me a long time to realize that parents as people are not always equipped for the job, but even then, they do the best they can with the tools they have.

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    1. Exactly. When I got to be about 40, I realized that I was a happy person in a career, and at the same time in HER life, my mother had five children. Oh my gosh, how on earth did she have even a clue about what to do? I wouldn't have. It was quite a realization.

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    2. So many different life paths, right? If we all had perfect parents, they'd be no need for psychologists or novelists!

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  16. I am very similar in every way to my mother. She was a wonderful and devoted mother and was old fashioned as am I. I miss her terribly and wish that I could thank her for her help, love and wise ways.

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    1. I'm sure she knew how much you loved her. Love isn't expressed in just words; it's there in daily actions as well.

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  17. My mother was very warm and helpful to everyone. She was a depression child so her whole life was lived in that manner. She believed we work hard and help ourselves. She never complained but got on with life. She was brave and put up with a great deal of tsouris.

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    1. Oh, yes the depression was so formative. Jonathan's mom saved *everything.*

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    2. Many of us had parents who lived through major trauma, whether the Depression or the World War or Korean War. It's only when we become older adults that we're able to see how that might have affected them.

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  18. They say that I'm my mom's twin - being independent and doing things on my own, not accepting other's negativity. And as she got more senior, I took on her attitude of "not caring" what others think.

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  19. My siblings and I were blessed with a wonderful mom, who was such a loving and caring person, and accepting of all of us, that our friends envied us. When I was growing up, things were tough for our family financially, and she found ways to make do on my dad’s salary. At one point she was an Avon lady, back when they went door-to-door. I think she gave it up when she became pregnant with my second youngest sibling. (There were five of us; I’m the oldest.) When I was in eighth grade she took a part-time job in an office. My dad had taken a leap of faith and joined some coworkers in opening their own business. It took time before he had a steady income again. My mom’s work hours gradually increased, and she began working full-time when I was in college.She was quite intelligent and had a couple of promotions, despite not having a college education. Both she and my dad were avid readers, and read to us when we were little, and encouraged us to read. Our favorite gifts were books! My dad died suddenly when my youngest sister was in college. My mom was a lost soul for a couple of years but then emerged from mourning into still another beautiful person. It was like watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. She and my dad had both been active in church. She continued those activities. And then she channeled all her energy into volunteer work after she retired, volunteering for church and at the local hospital. While supervising a volunteer project for the church, she had a heart attack. She died a week later, the day after Christmas in 1997. I still miss her. One of my sisters told me recently that there are still times when she wants to pick up the phone and call Mom for advice.

    DebRo

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    1. Aw, DebRo. That is a lovely and inspirational story...and yes, I know that feeling of wanting to make a phone call. It was so sweet for you to be able to watch her emerge. Aww.

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    2. It sounds like your mom was very resilient - being able to cope with whatever life threw her way. I'm glad she got the chance to blossom later in life - and I'm sure her volunteer work gave her a lot of satisfaction.

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  20. Congratulations on the new release. I will read any book that "treat(s) my readers as intelligent, socially aware, tolerant human beings who aren’t afraid of reading about what some consider controversial topics." I try to have conversations with people on this basis, with varying degrees of success.

    I resemble My Mother in many ways and I hope they are mostly the good ones -- though perhaps she could have not shared her metabolism or her arthritis. Still, we weren't friends or even, by the end, really family. There was a lot to like about her. She was loyal, hard working, responsible, ground breaking in our own small pond and a proto-feminist though she would deny that vehemently. Mothering, however, was not part of her skill set, exemplified perhaps by the horror that my sisters and I feel when one of us "opens our mouth and Mother falls out." Finally, around the age of 30, I came to understand that I did not need to meet My Mother's expectations nor achieve her approval and that I could appreciate Dixie, the woman while not really caring for Dixie, My Mother. We were then able to be in the same room together and when she died we were at peace with one another. I watch women with good relationships with their mothers like a foreign language film. I need subtitles. I look forward to this book and its appreciation of complex women.

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    1. That is very thought-provoking, and so revealing of your insight and awareness! To separate the mom from the person... And I laughed at "mother falls out." I have had that experience! My mother used to say "I'm not criticizing, I'm observing." xxxx

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    2. So much rich material in what you've written. I too had a laugh at the "mother falls out" line (definitely belongs in a novel - Hank and I will have to fight it out as to which of us gets there first). And the analogy of a foreign language film - perfect. The women friends I've had who call their mother every day are amazing - I used to dread calling my mother on special occasions because I knew I'd come away not feeling okay. The passive-aggressive remarks were so subtle, it was hard to even identify them but they were there - my whole body responded with a prickly, ugly feeling.

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    3. Maggie: Been there. Learning not to care was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. It took 5 years of self-imposed separation but being able see her as just another person was the only thing that allowed me to empathize with her at all.

      Chalk up the "mother falls out" to my younger sister who has a talent for a bon mot.

      Hank: Yeah, right, mother. Or is that too cynical?

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    4. I look in the mirror and Mother falls out!

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    5. DEAUN: That is tough but I am glad you were able to find a way to appreciate and make peace with Dixie. As close as I was with my mom, I could never be close to my dad in the same way. My defiance in early adulthood pretty much strained our relationship until the end.

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    6. Edith: That too.

      Grace: Thanks. I know that you are still struggling with Father stuff. It is so hard. By the way, have a good time in Albuquerque. I have spent a lot of time there. And the conference program looks quite nice.

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  21. I took a different tack - I put a side character in my novels who basically WAS my mother. Since my mom passed away in '18, it's like spending time with her again when I write those scenes.

    I do, however, think most of us write out our traumas, hidden wounds and unresolved issues in our fiction, even if we're not fully aware of it at the time.

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  22. How can we help it? It's part of who we are at a deep, essential level. I like your idea of having your "mother" be a side characters. Very creative solution and one that I'm sure brings you great comfort as you write her.

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  23. Hi, Maggie, and congrats on your novel! (Fabulous cover, by the way, so arresting!) I know I've worked through a lot of my own relationships in my novels, but I never want to examine that too closely. I think I do better letting my subconscious bubble along under the surface, rather than poking it with a stick. I did put my grandmother very deliberately in my very first book, however. I missed her and it's a very affectionate portrait.

    I am horrified by the idea that readers have become so delicate that they need to be forewarned that a book might contain something controversial...

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    1. Yes, that is such an intriguing topic… Probably a whole other blog! Don’t you think?

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  24. Sounds like several authors have paid homage to loved ones by writing them as minor characters. I love that idea.

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  25. Congratulations, Maggie! Your debut novel sounds fantastic! I had no idea how complicated the parent child relationship was until I became a parent. Writing has definitely given me an outlet for the many relationships in my life that were more complicated than I realized at the time.

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  26. Maybe it's also a matter of getting a bit older so you've had more experiences and perhaps more perspective and dare I say it, wisdom.

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  27. Congratulations on your debut novel, Maggie! It sounds like a wonderfully layered read with relationships at the heart of it.

    I'm fascinated by the mother/daughter relationship. I had a mother who loved me and believed in me, so that was a great advantage in growing up. However, she was not a risk taker, and I felt her influence to play it safe lots of times. That doesn't mean I've had a limited life, and it doesn't mean that the chances I didn't take were my mother's fault. I dislike hearing people blame their parents on missteps or missed opportunities in life. At some point, you're a grown-ass adult and responsible for yourself and your choices.

    What I regret about the relationship with my mother is that I got married and left home right after college, at age 22. I wasn't mature enough to have appreciated my mother as a person other than my mother. I was born to her when she was 43, almost 44, and she had a lot of living she'd done before that, before she married at 32. I know some of her history--going to college when she was just 17, becoming an elementary school teacher, having six pregnancies and four surviving children, being nine years younger than my father, being an only child who was especially close to your widowed mother, being a star basketball player when she was young, and more. I know lots about her, but I never had those conversations where she was able to tell me how she felt as a young woman, a mother, a woman in love with one man that ended sadly and how she ended up with my father. I was 40 when she died, and although I was mature enough to start appreciating my mother as a separate being from the family, I had small children and hadn't reached the point where we could share adulthood together. I'm still learning things about this dear lady. She taught my kindergarten class, and some of my classmates, with whom I still stay in touch, have told me some telling things about my mother at that time and about her character. One told me that at the Halloween party that year she (my friend) came dressed as a witch and all the other girls were princesses. My friend was upset/sad, and my mother told her that being a witch wasn't a bad thing, that she was a good witch. My friend never forgot that. Another friend just told me recently that my mother taught her in kindergarten about losing graciously and getting on with it after losing. Gee, I think I had my head stuck in the pencil sharpener, not realizing these life lessons my mother was handing out. Anyway, if you still have your mother around, please talk to her and let her tell you about how it felt at different stages of her life and about herself as a person.

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    1. Aww, Kathy that is so touching! I love you even more!

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    2. No, sadly my mother died almost ten years ago but I appreciate you sharing the story of YOUR mother and those things you were told about her from your friends - I can tell what a wonderful person she must have been to take the time to bolster up those girls when they were young. I was also struck by the fact you said she was a basketball star - imagine what that was like back in her day before women's sports was definitely not valued. She probably had stories to share about that experience.

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    3. Oh, that is so heartbreakingly wonderful. We can so learn from that! And yes, you are so wise. I had one of those- "Oh, NOW I get it" conversations, and I am glad I did.

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    4. You ladies are so sweet. I swear I'm getting weepy in my old age. Your lovely thoughts brought tears to my eyes.

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  28. Congratulations, Maggie. I'm the oldest and only daughter of 3 kids, so I was "mother's lil helper" at a very young age. She(along with Dad)taught me to read and write very early. Then came age 12 or 13 when my rebellious stage began, and it irritated me when she reminded me that her own mother died the year Mom was 16,and she dropped out of high school in her senior year to take care of her dad and 3 younger sisters, by getting a job and also doing housework,cooking and looking after the younger siblings. (I learned to cook dinners around age 9-10) But she always supported me in my creative endeavours. After she had a hysterectomy, and my husband and I (now of 49 yrs.) had a short engagement, she became a totally different person, back to being so loving and fun to be around! Like she was young again, but wiser and such a world traveler, went back to work and once again loved entertaining and meeting new people. I could carry on for ages, but want most to say she became one of my best friends and gave good advice. For several years my husband & I were permanent caregivers to my elderly parents, but the weird thing was when I was stressed after she developed dementia, I often wanted to call my younger version of Mom to complain and ask for advice. She was much more a perfectionist and Martha Stewarty than I when younger,but especially now she's been gone for over a year I find myself sometimes saying or doing things just as she did. Mother-daughter relationships are indeed complicated.

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    1. It's so fascinating, isn't it? Whenever I wipe the counters, I hear my mom saying "clean off all horizontal surfaces." SO funny.

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    2. Oh, Lynn, and now I love you even more. I'm so happy for you that you got to have a friend relationship with your mother, as well as a mother/daughter one. I know you must miss her so after only a year. I'm glad you have so many great times to look back on.

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  29. I hope you will read my book but I also have another recommendation for you and that's One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle. She gets a chance to go on a trip to Italy that she and her mother had planned, even though her mother died before they could go and in a trick of magical realism, gets to meet her mother at a younger age. I think it would be one you'd enjoy though it might also bring about a tear or two.

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  30. I’m happy for you, Maggie, that your debut novel is out in the world and I wish you much success with it. My mom was not my role model because she was verbally and physically abusive. I recall vividly her telling me how ugly I was and I needed to plan to attend college and get a good job because no man would ever love me. So, I did take her advice, attended college and had almost a forty year teaching career. I also met my husband there and we have been married almost 49 years. My parents did not attend my college graduation but my new husband did. My mentor was a high school Spanish teacher who encouraged me to achieve and I followed in her footsteps. She was kind and loving, even hugging me when I needed a touch from a loving mom. I will always remember Sra. Smith with love and still feel bad for my mom. That’s been especially true since I’ve aged and everyone tells me how much I resemble mama. So her problem was not just accepting me but herself. She passed away almost forty years ago and I’ve long since forgiven her for her cruelty. But I also made it a point to practice positivity with our children.

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    1. I'm so sorry you had to go through that early verbal and physical abuse but also so glad you had that teacher in your life and later, your supportive husband. Parents are such major influencers in our lives, for both good and bad. I'm glad you broke the cycle and learned from her issues and didn't subject your own children to the same. Thank you for commenting.

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    2. Oh, yo are so brave and strong--and as Maggie said, we are so honored you are here today. Thank you.

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  31. Congratulations on your book. I take after my dad. He always was there for me growing up and he loved to help people

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    1. SO wonderful! I think of my Dad all the time, too.

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  32. I took after my Dad as well. Unfortunately he died when I was only 20 but I was able to dedicate my book to him.

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  33. This looks fantastic! Can't wait to read it!

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  34. My mom is a very private person so I know that she would hate to be featured in a book but she does have a fabulous story to tell. I'm very intrigued by this book.

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  35. I hope you get a chance to read it. And thanks for joining the conversation.

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  36. Congrats on your book! I always had a...complicated relationship with my mother. It definitely improved after I moved out. Towards the end of her life, we grew closer than we had ever been. Growing up, I was sort of the lost daughter. Most days she barely remembered my name. She herself was a trailblazer during WWII and held those positions that immediately went back to the men home from war. My dad always called her The Arm Chair General as she had an opinion about everything and everyone. But she was always true to herself, no matter who stood in her way. I grew up loving to tease her - not sure I ever called her "Ma" unless I was frustrated; I always used her name. Drove her crazy! My work was done. :) She's been gone almost 25 years and I still miss her!

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    1. Your work was done! xx But oh, the lost daughter. SO touching...xxx

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  37. I was struck by your characterization of yourself as "The Lost Daughter." I'm sure someone has used that as a title somewhere along the way but it's very evocative. Your mother sounds like a fascinating woman, as you said - a trailblazer. She no doubt had lots of stories to tell. She'd make for a rich character in a novel.

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  38. Jasmine Avalos-RodriguezMarch 23, 2022 at 7:40 PM

    Yes! I would really love to see a book about my mom or written by my mom. The older I get the more I want to know about her.

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    1. I so agree with you! I can think of so many questions I wish I would have asked…

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  39. My mom and I have had so many wonderful conversations and it would be lovely to re read them in the future and keep them forever.

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  40. Yaayyy! Thank you all so much for a wonderful day! And the winner is B BUTLER! Email your address to hank@hankpryan.com and I will send to Maggie!

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  41. Hi Maggie! Congratulations on your book! It has a beautiful cover! My mom is hardworking and it has set the tone for my life.

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  42. My mother was a wonderful loving kind mother who raised nine children.
    However I only had one child and ended up having a career as a secretary most of my life. And married three times. This one is definitely a keeper going on married 23 years next week.

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