At times I carted board books and picture books to class, one for each student to peruse as I pitched our public library and its special children’s offerings. I hoped those efforts resulted in some library visits, not only because of my lifelong love of reading and libraries, but because one of my parenting highlights involved my lap, two boys, and good books, which segued to sitting on the couch, bookended by Eric and Colin reading “a page and a page.”
My days and nights of Lamaze classes, OB nursing, and read-alouds are long behind me. I miss the magic of birth, but I love the magic of books. Last week a teacher shared a conversation she’d had with her four-year-old grandson about a “chapter book” he’d recently finished, and about his pride at listening to longer books. We talked about Imagination Library, which prompted me to take another look at its website. Two days ago, the number of U.S. children (birth-age five) registered was 900,712. Today, that number has morphed to 939,462. Beautiful. I hope stories and books continue to thrill those kiddos into high school and beyond.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 theRun, 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.
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 fromButte, 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.
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.
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.
In the past several months, YouTube has become one of my go-to sources for information. My old website, created more than six years ago, was in desperate need of being updated. YouTube videos, along with books from the Missoula Public Library, schooled me on how to create a website using WordPress.
As you peruse this site, you can judge for yourself the value of my self-taught lessons. I admit, I am pleased with the results.
I also learned how to use Windows Live Movie Maker by watching YouTube videos. Not only did I learn how to make a movie, I learned how to create snapshots from existing footage. Again, after looking at the picture that follows, you can be the judge.
Nearly three weeks ago, I was introduced to the Prancercise video on YouTube. Then, it had more than three million views. I later learned that’s not so many, though to me, three million is a lot.
Days later as we joined thousands of Seattle Sounders fans marching into Century Link Field, my goal was to start a prancercising contingent. My accompanying friend and family told me they’d watch, and scooted away as I began my mission. I didn’t think it would be hard to find others who were willing to Prancercise with me.
I was wrong. It wasn’t that the three people I asked were unwilling, it was that none of them had seen the video nor knew what I was talking about. My three strikes reinforced what I’d been told earlier that day. Three million really isn’t that many in the YouTube world.
Perhaps if I had tried to rally some fans to dance Gagnam Style, I would’ve had better luck. The problem was, though I’d watched P S Y’s video, as have—I recently learned—more than 1.6 billion others, I don’t know his dance. I don’t know how to Prancercise, either, but I was willing to give it a try.
Since I’ve learned what I needed to about WordPress and Windows Live Movie Maker, it might be time to resurrect P S Y’s video.
YouTube, thanks for giving me the opportunity to laugh. To learn. And to share.
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 theRun, 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.
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.
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.
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?”