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Picking the Right Dreams

Kathleen Schmitt Author Interview

Kathleen Schmitt Author Interview

The Grand Trek follows a unique journey to Arizona and the people encountered on the way. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thought provoking memoir?

(WIth the caveat that Arizona was the original idea but the actual Trek turned out differently) The seed for what I came to call The Grand Trek was planted over the breakfast table one morning just after I graduated from high school while living at Horst and Harriet’s farm in Scales Mound, Illinois. Harriet speculated that one of their horses looked like he might not make it through another tough northern Illinois winter. As a (bad) joke, I suggested she ride him to her sister’s place in Arizona. Most folks would have taken this as a jest. Instead, Harriet went to get an atlas.

I found this story to be energetic, engaging and evocative. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing this story?

The main theme is fulfilling the dreams we have for our lives, and picking the right dreams to follow. Another theme is the contrast between urban and rural life, which is something that has been part of my life story. A third is the connections with my horses and dogs and the natural environment. Perhaps increasingly relevant these days is how basic is the need for water. Not a theme as such, but frequently having only a general idea of where I was and where I was heading came up a lot! That is to say that I spent a lot of time basically lost, and learned not to worry about that as long as I kept heading west.

I enjoyed the interesting and varied characters introduced throughout your novel. What were some ideas that you wanted to explore with your characters?

I wanted to relay the way folks I encountered go about their lives, which is more interesting than may be obvious at first sight because it isn’t always dramatic or extraordinary. For example, a lot to think about arose when asking for some water from a mother hanging out laundry to dry. On the face of it, that encounter seems mundane in comparison with the time I asked for some water from a fellow who kept exotic animals like yaks. On reflection, though, the apparently more mundane encounter told worlds about how thoughtfully and innovatively that family approached their lifestyle. I didn’t have a particular plan about what to explore about my encounters. They each had their own significance.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The Best That Can Happen: The Grand Trek wraps up with my stepping off the corporate ladder to re-open a horse training operation at a once well-known facility in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. I’m deciding on how best to approach it. I’m presently leaning toward researching the lives of the people who have occupied that property over the years. The property has some historical relevance, as it was part of the Fairfax Grant of over 5 million acres in the mid-1600’s. There are no doubt a wealth of interesting characters and social development themes to explore, including how America looked pre- and post-European settlement! Lots to research, so it’ll be a while before that’s done. I’m also considering a fictional murder mystery at the farm. That could be fun!

Author Links: Website | GoodReads

The Best That Can Happen: The Grand TrekStories of a journey of discovery traveling cross-country by Kathleen, her horse, Murphy, and her Boxer dog, Country Boy. Unusual for travel memoirs, it explores preparing for the Trek (including catching Murphy and training Country Boy as a protection dog) and what follows such an adventure. It is an entertaining ramble along America’s backroads meeting a very special cast of characters; a humorous and occasionally terrifying roadmap of Americana and pursuing the dreams of one’s youth.

Available at TheGrandTrek.com

Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist

Grandma's Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by [JohnEgreek]A chance encounter in the park leads Yianni to develop a relationship with a family similar to the one in which he grew up and in need of the same love, unconditional support, and unfailing guidance provided him by his grandmother once upon a time. His recurring meetings with little Christina, her parents, grandmother, and brothers reveal more interesting and, sometimes, amazing coincidences between their family and his own. Eager to share the stories of his youth and finding more reasons all the time to reveal his most troubling and painful secrets, Yianni begins to save his newfound family while he saves himself in the process.

Right out of the gate, JohneEgreek strikes a powerful chord in Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist with his emotional reaction to his first encounter with three-year-old Christina. Yianni is clearly missing a piece of his heart due to the strained relationship with his son. The fact that he has never met his young granddaughter, Aubrey Rose, eats away at his soul, and the warm reaction he feels from Christina’s mother and brothers begins to fill that tremendous void. It is difficult to read without becoming overwhelmed with emotion at Yianni’s thoughtful reflections upon each of their storytelling sessions.

There exists an entire demographic of readers who will relate to Yianni’s description of his childhood. The abuse and unrelenting savagery with which his father throws his way from a tender age is unbelievably horrific. To find that Yianni is able to grow, thrive, and find a way to cope with his past is truly amazing. His story gives readers hope and provides them with a virtual shoulder on which to lean as they battle their own childhood demons.

Yianni’s grandmother, the basis for his strength, is a phenomenal woman indeed. She provides young Yianni with all the love and protection he needs once he loses his grandfather, his idol. The advice flows freely from her day after day, and she builds Yianni’s self-esteem when his father has beaten him down. Her words alone are enough to heal Yianni’s spirit.

The regular meetings Yianni has with Christina’s family are fascinating to say the least. I was stunned at the coincidences he discovered week after week between his own lineage and theirs. I felt as though the story was leading to an aha moment in which a secret relationship was revealed–that’s how coincidental and numerous the connections are. Story after story, Yianni builds a life with Christina and her parents–even her reluctant father, Ray. I have to say, I was more than pleased to see the final turn of events involving Ray and Yianni.

I give Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by JohneEgreek 5 out of 5 stars. To have so freely opened his life to the eyes and ears of the world is an admirable thing indeed. The years he spent being abused by his father and the time he spent living as the one sibling his father refused to love shaped JohneEgreek into a man who can heal others with his own stories.

Pages: 316 | ASIN: B077PLR98B

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