Sharing Stories



We spent Saturday and Sunday under a white tent at our local mountain golf course. The setting was an annual Art & Wine Festival and many attendees came by to talk about and purchase River of January.

Now this community, at first glance, seems sparse and hidden among the trees and peaks. But promote a fun public event, sell some food and drink, cooperative weather of blue alpine skies, and the crowds materialize. I recognized more people–more than I ever believed I knew here, swapping a story or two and catching up from last time we spoke. Some who passed by shared epic stories of their own about their family members or friends from the past. So many of us have memories that need only a spark to reignite.

It occurs to me that meaningful bonds are forged by shared experiences. One fellow who came by our display has become a real ally in promotion of “River.” We first met him when we moved up from the city in 2007 when we knew no one. My husband and I agreed to host a party for this gentleman at our new cabin, as he was running for public office. Now, between his earlier political campaign and my book, we are friends, we share a past.

Another passerby was a woman I worked with in education, and she was great. She stood under the tent and just beamed at me, repeating, “I’m so proud of you. So proud.” We indeed go way back, fighting the good fight for eradicating ignorance among the young. There is no need to explain, or promote, or sell her on anything, we know each other. She and I are on the same team.

Clearly a shared past binds people together, without the fuss of selling oneself. Sharing a previous experience gives us all a basis to reconnect in a real way. That is why I think family is great. That history is deep and transcends words or behaviors–the family unit goes way back. No explanations, no rationalizing, diapers have been changed here.

America was founded on a shared story. Colonies, Revolution, Constitution, Slavery, Civil War, etc. . . Actually in Lincoln’s first inaugural he appealed to Southerners to recall that shared history with the Union. “Mystic chords of memory,” were the words the new president selected. And perhaps that is the central issue that divides Americans as I write this blog. We struggle to find a common narrative of who we are. Which story is the common connection that brings the American public together? Is it next week on the Fourth? Does that holiday mean the same thing to each American? Or has a common past become too remote and too brittle to bind Americans together as a people?

My book “River” is an attempt to remember. The work is a celebration of Helen and Chum extraordinary story. Even my own family keeps a narrative of who we are which comes up regularly when we gather. I believe we are strengthened and revitalized as individuals when we find our place among others–with family, with friends, and as citizens.

It’s the common stories that gifts to us our perspective, proportion, and place.

Read River of January.



Sailing to Rio

Sailing to Rio

First Chum, then Helen traveled to South America via the Munson Line. A couple of names come to mind, “The Western World,” and the “American Legion.” “River of January” carries the reader back to an earlier glamorous, and wondrous world.

Then There was This One

Standing outside, rain or shine, hot or cold, fire drills were a pain. They interrupted the flow of the lesson, the morning, the afternoon, the day. I especially hated that obnoxious buzz alerting all to evacuate when testing was underway.

But, there was this game we played while getting soaked, or freezing, or scrumming together to shoot the breeze. I called it the ABC Game, and here is how it played out. Someone would pick a category, say World War Two, or Harry Potter and we would take turns filling in the next word.  A is for Azkaban, for example. And it was not only fun, but kept the kids together and occupied till the all-clear bell back to class.

So for your reading enjoyment, and to hopefully sell some books, I shall play the ABC’s of River of January.  Ahem, here goes.


B-Buenos Aires


D-Don Dean Club

E-Mr. Evans


G-Grant Garrett

H-Helen or Hollywood

I-Ile de France

J-Jans & Whalen

K-Mr. Koserin

L-Lartique Agency


N-“Night Flight”


P-Pan American or Palladium

Q-Queen Mary

R-Rio de Janeiro



U-ungent pots

V-“Voila Paris”

W-Harold Whalen

X-who knows, xylophone



Order River of January today.


Increasing Value



I like speaking before crowds. The opportunity to tell stories and explain ideas was how I made my living for thirty odd years in the classroom.

Today, the breadth of my public speaking concerns discussing my book, River of January.

Before each talk my husband and I set up artifacts from the lives of my protagonists, Helen and Chum. For example I have this great picture of Helen in a chorus line dated around 1932, probably in Vienna or perhaps Brussels. There’s another of Chum posing in front of a biplane, a dashing smile exuding pure joy.

Listeners seem to enjoy poking around the display of mementos, especially after I present the slideshow describing a lot of the back story to the book.

Watching faces in the audience is something I particularly enjoy. On the table we also feature a vintage aviation trophy–tarnished, old and rather forgettable. Attendees often bypass this object until I describe the air race the object commemorates. Faces literally shift, expressions of nonchalance becomes enchanted with wonder. This trophy is clearly viewed with new eyes.

That’s the part I love the most. Inspiring a sense of wonder in a tired world weighted with cynicism.


Mont Chumbley receiving trophy for first place in the Darkness Derby.

Actress Helen Hayes hands over the prize publicizing her new movie, “Night Flight.”

Capitol Theater, New York, October, 1933