Tag Archives: Nanny on the Run

1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti. Then...

Forty Years Later

It is the time of year when many high school seniors are immersed in college applications. Some have ideas about what they want to pursue after graduation. Others do not.

As I worked my way through my final year of high school forty years ago, I knew I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. A Butte Central classmate, Janet Finn, was planning to study pre-med. Another classmate, Leah Joki, had plans to undertake a fifth year of high school in Belgium, then come back and become a film critic. None of us envisioned that, years later, we would be authors.

1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti.
1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti.

Last month, the three of us took a road trip back to our roots to read from our most recent works. We read at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives at noon and at the Finlen Hotel Copper Bowl Ballroom that evening.

Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Buley.
Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Buley.
MINING CHILDHOOD: GROWING UP IN BUTTE, 1900-1960; JUILLIARD TO JAIL; NANNY ON THE RUN.
MINING CHILDHOOD: GROWING UP IN BUTTE, 1900-1960; JUILLIARD TO JAIL; NANNY ON THE RUN.
Janet, Karen and Leah signing books at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.
Janet, Karen and Leah signing books at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

Our audiences were a mix of people we knew and people we didn’t; of folks with longtime Butte ties and relative newcomers. At our evening reading, a three-generation family whom we did not know sat in the front row. We learned that the grandmother had penned a memoir about growing up in China and the Philippines during WW II. The dad, a Golden Gloves boxer, had coached prison inmates in the sport. The mom had worked as a nurse at Saint Patrick Hospital in Missoula, and their daughters—one in college and one in high school—aspired to become an actor and a writer.

Years have passed since Janet, Leah and I were the ages of those girls, and our lives are different than what we had imagined they would be. Janet teaches in social work, women’s studies, and international development studies at the University of Montana. Leah received an MFA in acting from the University of Montana last spring. She recently wrote and performed her one-woman show, PRISON BOXING, at Missoula’s Downtown Dance Collective. I, after a long and fulfilling nursing career, am working as a library media assistant in a Missoula high school. We all have works in progress.

To the girls who were seated in the front row at the Copper Bowl Ballroom, best of luck as you pursue your dreams. To Leah and Janet, our high school English teachers would be proud.

Play-Doh rainbow

Mirror, Morph, and Make-Believe: Crafting Fiction from Real Life

Play-Doh rainbow

When I tell people that my novel, Nanny on the Run, is based on my summer of 1977, I’m sometimes asked, “What percentage of the book is true?”

The answer is difficult to quantify.

Like Bridget, I was a nanny on the run in New York City in 1977. The guts of my experience are what I used to shape the fiction that is Bridget’s story. And fiction it is. I began the story years ago. Then, in 2002, The Nanny Diaries hit the shelves. Not wanting my work in progress to be viewed as a copycat novel, I started over. I wrote my true story—but changed the names of some of the key players.

I finished the memoir in 2005. After an unsuccessful attempt to find an agent or publisher, I tucked my manuscript away. I hadn’t intended to write the truth anyway, so it seemed fitting to box up the pages and slide them under my bed. The end, I thought.

Instead, it was only a hiatus. In 2010, I began anew. Rather than resurrecting my previous fiction, I started over. That result, Nanny on the Run, was published nearly six months ago.

When I contemplate Bridget’s story, I think about the Play-Doh 3-packs of my youth.

Play-Doh

I envision yellow as my life, blue and red as fiction. Bridget’s story is a patchwork of yellow—those places where her story mirrors mine; green—blue mixed with yellow to symbolize the places where my story undergoes change and morphs into Bridget’s; and purple—a blend of red and blue to signify where Bridget’s story is purely make-believe.

Mirror, morph, and make-believe

My intent to not tell my true story carries through to today. When asked questions about me or my summer, my M.O. is to steer my answers back to Bridget and her story. But I will tell you this. Three parallels between Bridget’s summer and mine are that we each felt like fish out of water. We were treated like servants. And both of us left without saying goodbye.

As for bits of yellow? Bridget and I share the same hula hoop record. We both were candy stripers. And each of our dads were Golden Gloves boxers in their youth. But mine was tougher.

2013 Montana Festival of the Book

One of my annual highlights for the past several years has been attending the Montana Festival of the Book. I love everything about the Festival: readings and panel discussions; chats about the craft of writing and about the publishing industry; films; vendors and the Festival bookstore; and the opportunity to meet and mingle with authors, agents, editors, publishers, and other Festival attendees. As its website states, “The Humanities Montana Festival of the Book is one of the biggest cultural events in the Northwest.”

This year, I am honored to be a guest author at the 2013 Montana Festival of the Book. The kickoff begins Thursday, October 10 with three events, including an evening with Sherman Alexie. I have the privilege of reading from Nanny on the Run October 11 and being on a panel October 12: “Girl Power: Writing the Teenaged Heroine,” with fellow authors Natalie Brown, Janet Fox, Pete Fromm, and Blthye Woolston. I am humbled to be in their company.

Goodreads Giveaway

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In addition, you can sign up for book giveaways.

Right now, you can enter to win one of ten autographed copies of Nanny on the Run.

NANNY ON THE RUN Goodreads giveaway

Not a Goodreads member? Sign up now. There are six days remaining in the Nanny on the Run book giveaway.

Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives

Butte America: Back to My Roots

Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives

Often, one of the getting-to-know-you questions is, “Where are you from?”

I’m from Butte.”

I grew up saying this, even though I was born in Missoula, Montana. We moved to Butte when I was eight, as summer vacation was nearing an end. My parents, Dan and Kay Antonietti, were born and raised there, so we weren’t lacking relatives. But being on the cusp of entering third grade, I wondered if it would be hard to make friends.

It wasn’t.

I made a friend before school started, which felt huge. I wasn’t welcomed as in the words of Teddy Roosevelt below, but to my eight-year-old self, the welcome I did receive on the playground of my Nana’s apartment complex was just as memorable.

Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives

For the next ten years, I lived, studied, played and worked in Butte. I went away for college, came back for the summer, and then after two more quarters on Montana State University’s campus in Bozeman, I was back in Butte to do my nursing clinicals.

Butte was the home I loved. After fifteen months back, though, I was a twenty-year-old ready to get out of Dodge for the summer. In June of 1977, I left to be a mother’s helper in New York City. I had no idea my summer would unfold as it did, nor did I have any awareness that years later I’d be compelled to write a novel based on that summer.

A novel, Nanny on the Run, which I recently read excerpts from in Uptown Butte.

My first reading was at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, partially housed in the old fire station. As a young girl, I had the privilege of sliding down the fireman’s pole, courtesy of my Uncle Joe. It was a thrill to read my work near Uncle Joe’s old digs.

Intro by Ellen Crain at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Intro by Ellen Crain at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Q & A following the reading
Q & A following the reading

Between my two readings, I visited Butte’s indie bookstore, Books & Books. As I relayed the story of my novel’s trajectory to two booksellers, I mentioned that my early working title was Nanny on the Run: a Far Cry from Butte.

“You should’ve called it that,” said one of the women. “We get people asking all the time if we have Butte books.”

Hopefully the book’s description will capture readers who are interested in Butte stories. Though my character Bridget goes to New York City, she’s from Butte, and threads of those deep roots are woven throughout her story.

My second reading was at Headframe Spirits, across the street from the Elks Club. I grew up four blocks away. Bridget didn’t live far from there, either.

Home of Headframe Spirits
Home of Headframe Spirits
Headframe Spirits under the watchful eye—and windowed reflection—of  Our Lady of the Rockies
Headframe Spirits under the watchful eye and windowed reflection of Our Lady of the Rockies

Headframe Spirits is a place for tasty drinks and lively conversations. Owner John McKee was gracious when I asked about doing a book signing, and perhaps an accompanying reading, there. It was the most animated reading I’ve done to date, and I’m grateful I had the chance to read some of Bridget’s story in my old neighborhood.

With my parents at Headframe Spirits
With my parents at Headframe Spirits

I’m grateful, too, that my parents were able to travel to Butte for my readings. They’re still from Butte, even though they moved away nearly thirty-six years ago. I’m from Butte, too, though after having lived in Missoula for the past thirty-five years, I’ve begun to modify my answer.

I was born here, but I’m from Butte.

"This is nothing like Butte,"

Nanny on the Run is Launched!

It’s a thrill to launch a new book into the world. As people gathered at Fact and Fiction prior to my debut reading of Nanny on the Run, I spotted a young boy standing near the back. After chatting with him for a few moments, he asked, “Are you the author?”

“I am,” I said.

The reverence in his voice reminded me of a conversation I had with a long-time friend. Both of us are nurses and avid readers. We both write, too, though my friend hasn’t yet shared her work. We’d asked each other, “Do you think you would’ve considered writing as a career if you would’ve met any authors when you were growing up?”

“I don’t know,” was our echoed reply.

Squeezing in book signings before the reading at Fact and Fiction
Squeezing in book signings before the reading at Fact and Fiction
Chatting with sisters Teresa and Helena
Chatting with sisters Teresa and Helena
Listening to Barbara Theroux's introduction
Listening to Barbara Theroux’s introduction
"This is nothing like Butte."
“This is nothing like Butte.”
A lively Q & A followed the reading
A lively Q & A followed the reading

I do know this. I’ve loved my mother’s nursing stories ever since I was a little girl. I’ve loved to read, too. And having become both a nurse and an author, I feel very fortunate. Very, even though I avoid adverbs whenever possible.

Shakespeare & Co. reading
Shakespeare & Co. reading

Following the Q & A at my Shakespeare & Company reading, a gentleman said, “You didn’t say anything about your nursing.”

So I obliged. While I was sharing a bit about my nursing career, the rest of the audience remained in their seats to listen. A couple who had wandered into the store during the Q & A stopped and took notice as I began my nurse talk.

I learned afterward that the woman was a nurse. Better yet, she wants to become a nursing instructor.

Signing Nurses on the Run
Signing Nurses on the Run

Nearly two weeks have passed since my second book reading. There are more on the horizon.  Last night at a barbeque, I chatted with friends and acquaintances and with people whom I’d never met. More than one said, “You published a novel?”

That question will never get old.

A New Job!

In my first post, I wrote that I’d “be replacing the wonder of birth with the wonder of books.”

That was shorthand for two things. One: My forthcoming novel, Nanny on the Run, which will be out this spring. Two: I hoped to begin work as a library assistant. At the time of my writing, I’d applied for three positions. I’d interviewed for one (which I didn’t get), and I had an interview scheduled for another. I was hoping to be called for the third. I didn’t write about these facts, though, because I didn’t want to jinx my chances of getting hired.

By the time I learned that I didn’t get the second job, I had an interview lined up for the third. The old adage, third time’s a charm, delivered its magic and I got the job!

I was hired as the new media assistant in the Hellgate High School library.

Hellgate High School
Hellgate High School

For the past six years, I served as a library volunteer at Sentinel High School—my son Colin’s alma mater. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the Sentinel library staff, but walking into Hellgate on my first day was another homecoming.

Hellgate High School library
Hellgate High School library

My son Eric graduated from Hellgate in 2006, and I had volunteered in the library for two years. The teacher librarians who were there during my volunteer tenure, Peggy Cordell and Julie Burckhard, welcomed me back.

Hellgate High School library
Hellgate High School library

I’m doing some of the things I did as a volunteer, but I’ve learned—and am learning—to do a lot more. I love my new job.