Archive for April, 2009


Part V – Writing Your Memoir

Posted in Excerpts at 12:44 pm by admin


During this same time, my husband was trying to contact old Navy friends from a destroyer he had been assigned to almost 50 years ago.  By some miracle, he was able to connect with a fellow officer from the “The USS Miller.”  When Art asked Bill what he was doing and found out about our decision to publish independently, he informed Bill that he was retired, but had been in the publishing business. He referred Bill to one of the leading self-publishing consultants in the U.S., Brian Jud.

Brian Jud gave us names and recommended two or three people in each of the areas of publishing, so that we were able to select a marketable name for the book, design the cover, do all the filings, and have the book professionally proofread. We had to choose pictures, choose type, paper, and hire a printer. Then we sent advance copies to reviewers and with the help of experts we designed our website site,  This was not an easy task but we learned by diving in and doing it.  At the same time we were working with outstanding and very creative people, who helped us accomplish our goals.


Then we needed to decide how many copies of the book to print—a thousand? 10,000? 100,000?   And also, what were the best methods of distribution and sales for us?

 Overcoming fears

One of the greatest fears was – REJECTION.  What if we printed a thousand copies and sold twenty to our family only? What if our garage remained full of cartons of books and mailers?  I had nightmares about this.


We decided first to let our friends and business acquaintances know that Divine Betrayal was published and easily available.  We were able to sell copies through our web site, and then acquired distribution through the major venues like, Barnes and Noble, Borders and the rest.

 Then Bill embarked on the task of arranging radio and television interviews for me.  In the meantime I needed some training for the execution of exciting and informative interviews.  All of this takes time, money and energy.  We do not expect this to be a gold mine, as our expenses have been unbelievable, but we are doing this mainly because we feel the story needs to be told. This story may help inspire someone to think for themselves, or to gather the strength and courage to break out of a confining and autocratic situation. Above all, I hope it’s entertaining. (more…)


Part IV – Writing Your Memoir

Posted in Excerpts at 10:46 am by admin

Reaction from my friends

Some of my friends loved the story and found it interesting and moving.  Some could not get themselves to say a word about it, positive or negative.  Some found it very disturbing, and said they never could have shared so much of their life with strangers. And in a few instances I sensed that they were hurt that I had not shared my life’s experiences with them. I understand their feelings, but it may be difficult for them to understand that I felt no need to tell them my stories. I was initially surprised that my children and others found my life unusual and interesting.  If my friends had asked about my life in Brazil, I would have been happy to answer their questions and share my experiences.

 Reaction from my readers

Before my book was printed, I gave my manuscript to over forty different people.  Most of them were book club members, who did not know anything about me.  I gave them a sheet with an evaluation chart with a place to comment on their reaction to Divine Betrayal.  This was done anonymously, and the results were of great value to me.

The evaluation chart was on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest).  The average score was 8.  The range went from 3 to 10.  All of the suggestions and comments were extremely valuable for me, and I strongly recommend that, if possible, you do this kind of research when writing a memoir.

Some of the negative comments had to do with questioning the validity of my experiences.  A few wondered how I could remember every detail.  One person felt threatened and disagreed with my religious experience.  Some simply said it was not their kind of book.  It is interesting to note that one of my favorite books is a bestseller from Oprah’s book club list–The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Her book is a novel, not a memoir, but it inspired me to write my memoir.  When I mentioned this to an agent, she said she wanted nothing to do with my book, because she hated The Poisonwood Bible.  It is impossible to please everyone, and this is an important fact to remember when writing a memoir.  Write your story as it happened, from your experience, without trying to please the readers or an editor.

The positive comments from the readers were overwhelming. They gave me the assurance to continue with my chosen course-to publish my story.  Most of all, many readers said that my experience was helpful to them, and my book was not only entertaining, but inspirational.  Some felt it made a positive impact on their lives.  (more…)


Part III – Writing Your Memoir

Posted in Excerpts at 10:34 am by admin


Anyone who has written a memoir has to decide, for each story and person involved, whether or not it is advisable to use the person’s real name. We are all human and make mistakes, and we all hope that these will not be exposed. Yet there are times when real names have to be used to tell the truth.

 I have a dear friend who has been writing her memoir for 15 years.  She said that, although she believes her life story would be helpful to some people, she cannot have it published until all the people in her story are dead, as she can not bear to have them hurt.  Also, the publishers are often afraid that someone will be so angry that they will attempt to bring a lawsuit.  So, there are major decisions the writer has to make.

In my story, I chose to use a pseudonym only once.  I chose to do this because I felt the person would be hurt if they recognized their radical behavior, after many years were past.  The other names, to the best of my knowledge, are real. 

 It is important to understand the difference between a memoir and a biography. These terms are often confused. Gore Vidal, in his own memoir “Palimpsest,” gave a personal definition of these two terms which clarifies them for me.  He said a memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history–requiring research, dates, and facts that are double-checked. A memoir is more about what can be learned from a section of one’s life than about the outcome of the life as a whole.  The section of my memoir is my life from age three to eighteen years of age.


Reaction from my family

My family is very private. They believe in keeping family secrets. Many of them, after reading my memoir, felt that it was unnecessary and even wrong for me to divulge secrets that had been kept for so long.

Some questioned my memory of events.  It is interesting that if two or three persons see an accident or any major event, each one of them experiences it differently, based on their personal make up and past experiences.  This happened with my story.  I received e-mails and telephone calls by angry family members who said that I made up a lot of things, because they were there also and didn’t feel that way.  For instance, one person questioned my feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide. She said, “I don’t remember you being depressed or sad.”  My response was, “It was my experience, and no, I did not feel safe sharing my feelings with you, but I did with my parents.”  Another cousin was very upset because I didn’t like my Grandma Kolenda.   She wrote that she loved Grandma, and thought Grandma was a wonderful person.  My response to this was, “My relationship with Grandma was my experience, and on some level I envy your wonderful feelings towards her, and I wish I had that experience.  But remember this is my memoir, not yours.”  One very disturbed cousin wrote, “I think what you are doing is sick!”  I expected these reactions and had to prepare myself to accept them, and also to accept and love my family for who they are. (more…)


Part II – Writing Your Memoir

Posted in Excerpts at 08:32 am by admin


 I am often asked, “How do you remember the exact dates? How do you remember the places you were?  How can you remember all of those names?” My sister Dorothy helped me to remember names and details of the first six years we lived in Brazil. And I was fortunate that my parents saved letters they received from friends and relatives. They also retained copies of letters they wrote to friends and relatives while living in Brazil.  Rollin and Henrietta Severance were large supporters of my parent’s mission.  Mother kept them informed weekly, sometime several times during the week, with long, single spaced letters, sharing every detail of our life in Brazil. Years later, the Severances returned all of these letters to my parents.

Though my memory did bring back much of this information, I was able to verify most things by checking the letters. It’s too bad the art of letter writing is now lost.  I don’t save my e-mails, and since most of my correspondence with friends and relatives is through the computer, this information will be lost to future generations.  


Then I had to make an important decision.  Do I want to give this information to my children only or should I share it with the world?  I am not an expert writer.  I have only taken basic, mandatory college English classes.  English is my second language–I still dream in Portuguese and find it very difficult to write and express my thoughts in English.  So I decided to search for a ghost writer, someone who would make sense out of my stories and bring them to life.  I was fortunate to connect with Jeannine Ouellette through a web site advertising “ghost writers.”  I sent one of my chapters to three candidate ghost writers and when I read Jeannine’s sample, I broke into tears! She had brought the story to life and I immediately felt a real connection with her writing. I describe our relationship as “I gave her a black and white sketch and Jeannine added the background and the color, making it a work of art.”

I sent Divine Betrayal to two proof readers and both said they felt I had an excellent story and one that deserves to be published.  This caused me to think seriously about the implications of having my story out there for all to read.  Was it really that interesting?  I always felt my childhood was normal and mundane. Why would anyone want to read about me?  Did I want to expose myself to criticism, as I knew many would object to what I wrote? These are all questions you have to ask yourself if you are going to write a memoir.



Part I – Writing Your Memoir

Posted in Memoir Writing at 09:06 am by admin


Five years ago, I had no idea what writing my memoir, Divine Betrayal, would mean to me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t set out to write a book at first.  My daughters had asked me to write down some of the stories I told them, such as the death of my little lamb Becky and the beheading at the marketplace.  I thought I would jot down a few of these stories and have about ten pages. But once I started, I couldn’t stop and 100 pages later my stories still came, flowing like an uncontrollable rushing river.


Unfortunately for my sleep schedule, most of this happened in the middle of the night, when everything was quiet and my mind could focus. I had no problem getting to sleep, but it seemed that about 1:00 or 2:00 A.M. I would wake up, and become extremely alert.  My thoughts would invariably go to what I was writing about that day.  I kept a writing pad and pen next to my bed, and often started writing things down in order not to forget what came up during the night. 

One vivid example of this was when my ghost writer asked me who was Vadica, and she wanted to know more about her.  I told Jeannine that I couldn’t remember much about Vadica and in all of mother’s letters her name was never mentioned.  During the night it came to me why mother never wrote about Vadica.  We were poor missionaries, supported by the friends and family in America and it might have been difficult for them to accept the fact that mother had a “maid.”  Yet Vadica was a very important part of our life in the first six years in Brazil.  As I started to think of Vadica, I could not stop.  I remembered what she looked like, how hard she worked, her bubbly personality, her great stories, and how much I loved her.  I had no idea that Vadica played such an important role in our lives.  We never talked about her when we were in America.

So whenever I needed to actively find a memory I thought was lost, it would appear when I was rested, and in the middle of the night.  The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to come up from somewhere deep inside.  Sometimes I felt sad with some memories, and in the quiet of the night it seemed easier to get in touch with my feeling, and tears flowed for seemingly no reason.  But writing a memoir was very cathartic and healing for me.  I found that the more I delved into deep memories, the more emotional healing took place, so the physical and emotional demands on me were ultimately worthwhile.

There were spiritual challenges and rewards, too. Writing down the memories of my teenage years was especially difficult for me. During those years, I was questioning the beliefs of my parents and the church. How would it affect others if I told the truth? I knew that if I shared my true feelings, the present day church members (including my relatives) might criticize and reject my story, or even deny the facts.  In a fundamentalist organization there is no room for doubt, or questioning of any doctrine or strict rules I had to live by in the Brazilian church.  (more…)



Posted in Prayer at 01:22 pm by admin


When you read Divine Betrayal you will be very conscious of little Gracie praying at every possible occasion. When she wishes a doll for Christmas she prays, when she argues with her sister, Gracie prays, when she is disobedient and needs forgiveness she prays, etc… But it isn’t the traditional prayer, where she kneels by her bed or in church, Graceann is really having a conversation with Jesus and she has no doubt that she is being heard. This type of prayer is not the only kind, and I believe prayer is very personal.
The definition of prayer is: an attempt to communicate with the higher power which created the universe. This is something that many people share in common, yet they may differ in the way they pray. Their purpose in praying may be the same, to give thanks, or to ask for something.
There have been a multitude of books written on this subject, and people may differ, many times having to do with their beliefs. Some religions may need a lot of preparation before praying, such as fasting, ringing of bells, burning candles or burning incense, etc… Others feel that praying should only be done in a church or temple. Whatever the method, the goal is the same,” to communicate with the higher power.”
For me, prayer has always been an integral part of my life. I could not function without it. I am a Christian and my prayers are directed at Jesus and God. My prayers seem to be more like a conversation, no matter where I am or what I am doing. I may be on a walk, or driving a car, or in the kitchen cooking, I am constantly praying. My prayers are mostly “thank you” even when I’m asking for a specific result. For instance, if I am praying for a sick friend I may say “Thank you Jesus for healing ——..” I seldom ask, and most of my prayers are “Thank you —-.” I may repeat the same prayer many times during the day. This sometimes may even seem similar to chanting. I find this relaxing and also comforting.
There is no right or wrong, and I don’t believe anyone has the correct formula for reaching God. It is a very personal thing, no matter how you believe, be it; Catholic, Buddhist, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, etc… (more…)


From Excerpts to Blogs

Posted in Excerpts at 01:11 pm by admin


Now that my book is published and readily available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and also on this web site I am going to switch my headings from EXCERPTS to BLOGS.
I want to encourage everyone to add your comments also. You may not always agree with what I’m saying and I would like to know that. Also, you may have a very important point to add, which I may have overlooked.


Courting Rules

Posted in Excerpts at 08:55 am by admin

EXCERPT – Chapter Twenty Three – Courting Rules   


Ramona and Virgil Smith

Ramona and Virgil Smith

     In May of 1950, right after I had turned sixteen, I received a warning letter from an American missionary named Virgil Smith.  Missionary Smith was at least as charismatic as my father.  He was known as a handsome man, forty-six years old, and highly intelligent.  He’d trained as a dentist in the United States before becoming an Assemblies of God missionary.  Missionary Smith’s wife, Ramona, was as beautiful as he was handsome, but was tragically crippled by a long and deadly battle with Parkinson’s disease.—     

     Missionary Smith’s letter to me was apparently prompted by a complaint he had received from one of his church members about a young girl named Dulcinea.  It seemed that Dulcinea was having a relationship with a boy who was not a member of the church.  The tattletale member and Missionary Smith both remembered that Dulcinea and I had been good friends during my stays in Joinville.  Undoubtedly, they said, I was the one who had influenced Dulcinea to sin. —     (more…)

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