Posted in A Stone's Throw, Cloudy Rainbow, Monday Blog, Writing

Have you been to your High School or College Reunion Recently?

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I graduated from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at C.W. Post/Long Island University in 1989 with a Masters in Library and Information Science and a Bachelors in English.

I came up with the idea for this post after I was asked to submit some memories of my time on Long Island University’s C.W. Post College newspaper, the Pioneer, for an article their current advisor, Carolyn Schurr Levin is writing. It was a pleasure to speak to Ms. Levin who is helping arrange a 60th anniversary for the student paper. While collecting my thoughts for this project, I felt it would be helpful to write a blog post about the process of recalling events from over 30 years ago and why some of you might also want to reminisce about your own school days and even plan a reunion with fellow classmates or club members.

I was involved on the Pioneer from 1983 until I graduated C.W. Post in 1989. I came to Post as a slightly “older” student who returned to college after working a year as a secretary. I enrolled part-time as an English major to test the waters before I made the full-time commitment.

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I was hired as secretary by Adam Pardonek in 1983 and later became Features Editor.

One of the first things I did was to seek a way to familiarize myself with and participate in campus activities. I remember that September day when I walked down the second-floor corridor of Hillwood Commons to the activity wing where the newspaper office was located. Adam Pardonek, the Editor-in-Chief at that time, spoke to me in his office about my interests in working for the student paper. I explained my situation as a new student who had prior experience as a secretary and also enjoyed writing. He suggested that my skills could be put to good use on the Pioneer. Many of the writers and editors could use help in having their stories typed. There was also an opening for a Features writer on that year’s paper. I accepted both positions.
My part-time job as a secretary was approved by the administration, and I was paid a small wage. The workload sometimes became intense, especially close to deadlines. At that time, I used WordPerfect to input the stories into a computer.

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Editors in the 1980’s laid out the student paper by hand and then brought it to a printer to be printed. (Left to right: Editor-in-Chief Tim Votapka works with Sports Editor, Mike Gannon, in the Production Room laying out the week’s Pioneer.)
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The Pioneer staff members were like a family and, besides production night dinners, we celebrated other special occasions and staff member birthdays.

Unlike today’s technology, the paper’s layout was done in-house in a production room and brought to a printer for copying. My memories of Production night dinners on Wednesdays are still clear after all these years. The advertising manager had an agreement with the local Fireside restaurant where the editors could have dinner each week in exchange for advertising copy in the paper. We all looked forward to these meals. Thinking back about eating with the editors as we discussed our stories, I can still taste the fried mozzarella sticks and recall the comradery and some of the jokes that were told. We also celebrated birthdays and special occasions of staff members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I received the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, Jr. Memorial Award in 1984 for my work as Features Editor on the Pioneer. The award was given in memory of a Pioneer editor who died in his Sophomore year at Post.

I still have my desk plaque that reads “Debbie Smiloff” and fond memories of my time on the Pioneer. I also received a special award for my feature writing my first year on the paper, the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, jr. Memorial Award in Journalism. Along with a plaque that is displayed in the Great Hall, I was given an engraved medal. I was the last Pioneer person to receive this award because the donor passed away that year. The award had been given in memory of his son who had served on the Pioneer and died much too young. It was quite an honor to receive this award, and I have treasured the medal for 32 years.

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I saw many editor-in-chiefs come and go after Adam who graduated that year. I remained staff secretary but also advanced to Features editor with my own group of writers. Through my interviews for feature articles, I also met professors, students, and school administrators. The experience I gained from working on the paper led me to publish articles in magazines and, after I married, a few books, as well. My first published novel, Cloudy Rainbow, actually features some chapters that take place at the Pioneer. My current book, A Stone’s Throw, includes a librarian, like myself, who is a Post graduate from the Palmer School. One of the book’s settings is Brookville where C.W. Post is located.

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Mike Gannon, the Sports Editor I worked with for several years on the Pioneer, surprised me recently by attending one of my local book signings.

Many people say that college is the best years of one’s life. I agree. Even though classes can be tough and there are many additional stresses as one faces impending adulthood, the opportunity for friendships and extracurricular experiences such as those I gained from the Pioneer, can’t be duplicated. I look back on those days and the person I once was and realize how much my participation at the paper made a difference in my life. I am also happy that, as the Internet and social media has developed ways of staying in touch, that I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my fellow Pioneer friends. Over the summer, I did a book signing at the Levittown Library and was pleasantly surprised when Mike Gannon, a previous Sports Editor on the Pioneer, dropped by. He saw my Facebook post about the event and wanted to surprise me. It was the highlight of my day. I hadn’t seen Mike since he attended a Pioneer reunion during Homecoming in 2000, 16 years ago.

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Pioneer alums gathered at Homecoming 2000 during a Pioneer Reunion in the News Office. (Sitting L to R: Mike Gannon, Adam Pardonek). (Standing: L to R: Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Bob McGee, Tim Votapka, Mela Gerbasi Stevens, Cheryl Turi Coutts, and Debbie Smiloff De Louise)

I believe the bond formed among Pioneer people remains strong despite time and distance because of the special experiences we shared on the paper. Not all the times were happy or fun, but we were all in them together. We worked to create a product that served the entire campus body. We were proud of our individual achievements but also realized it was a team effort. I imagine that those who belonged to other campus clubs, sports teams, or sororities/fraternities feel a similar bond.

As I complete my notes for Ms. Levin, I’ve formed a Facebook group for previous Pioneer staff to keep in touch. I’ve also scanned some old photos from those days. As people grow older, they realize the importance of preserving these memories. There are also more opportunities to locate old friends and schoolmates today.

debbiescan18 (1)I know some people avoid reunions for fear that don’t look as attractive as they did in their twenties or because they’ve put on weight or simply because they are uncomfortable in social situations. However, as people age, they realize that these are not the important things to care about. Since college, I’ve had many changes in my life. I’ve married, had a daughter, lost my father, mother-in-law, and a close friend. No one knows how long he or she will be around, in good health, and with clear memories. My father had Alzheimers and my 89-year old mother has poor short-term memory. While it’s important to consider the future and live in the present, it’s also nice to look back and find your past and the people who were in it. Homecomings, reunions, and social media are great ways to do this.

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Posted in Monday Blog

Lost and Sometimes Found

lobaughawardI’d like to share an experience I had recently of locating a very special item that I thought was lost, my 1984 Laurence C. Lobaugh Memorial Award for Journalism from Long Island University/C.W. Post Campus. For those, like me, who are constantly losing or misplacing belongings, I’m also providing some tips for keeping them safe or finding them when they are missing.

Most people realize that, like a detective, you have to follow your last steps of where you last had an item in order to try to trace it. In my opinion, there are three types of things that go missing. The first we can refer to as Only Misplaced  (OM). This is something you put away either for safekeeping and then forget where you put it or something you left in a place it didn’t belong because you were either in a hurry putting it away or didn’t have a good place for it. This was the case with my journalism award. I could’ve sworn I’d put it in my jewelry box in a special section, but it turned up in a small box in my closet that was not even the box it originally came in. This forgetfulness loss is the easiest to remedy, as items are usually eventually found ironically often when looking for something else.

EarringThe second type of missing item is more difficult to find. We can refer to it as the Unknown Missing  (UM). It’s when you realize something is missing like an earring or other type of jewelry, but you did not put it anywhere. It may have fallen off and, because you usually don’t know exactly when you lost it, it’s hard to trace your steps leading up to its loss. This happened to me with one of my favorite earrings and an anniversary ring. This loss is usually permanent, as the objects which are usually small, either get vacuumed up, thrown in the garbage, or blown away by the wind if lost outside. Occasionally they are found, but the person finding them has no way of matching them up with you.

The last type of missing item is something that is just misplaced temporarily such as keys, water bottles, cell phones. In most cases, the person just forgets where they left these items. Sometimes this happens on a regular basis. I’m a big water bottle misplacer. I usually leave them in doctor offices and in various places around the library where I work. We refer to this type of missing item as the Commonly Misplaced (CM).

Here are some tips to dealing with all 3 types of lost items:

jewelryboxFor OM’s, the best course of action is to not lose these items in the first place. If they are valuable to you either financially or emotionally, set aside a place for them. Put them in a firesafe box or a jewelry box you can lock (but make sure not to lose the key). If you’ve already lost the item and are sure it’s in your house, don’t panic. It will turn up eventually when you are looking for something else. If you’re in a rush to find it for some reason, you can try cleaning the room where you have similar objects. For instance, if it’s jewelry, you might look through all your jewelry boxes or in the room where you normally keep your jewelry. If it’s an item of clothing, you might look through your drawers and closet or even where you store your out-of-season clothes.

For UM’s, all you can do is try to retrace your steps. If you’re not even sure where and when you lost it, you will have to look everywhere. The sooner you do that after you discover it missing, the better your chance of finding it. To prevent losing this type of item, you should make sure your jewelry fits well. For earrings, you should check that the backs are secure. For those that dangle, like the one I lost, be sure that you use the tiny plastic back to secure it. Also, if you are wearing a coat, check that it might have fallen inside or to the floor when you’ve put it on or taken it off and especially check the place you put the jewelry on in the first place. If it’s a ring, make sure it’s not too loose, as mine was. Items like these can fall off without you feeling them drop.

bottleFor CM’s, you just have to be more aware of where you place things. However, there are now apps and devices you can buy to track your objects. My husband got the whole family a  Tile tracking devices for Christmas that can attach to your keys and other items so that you can track them with a cell phone app (and you can track that too as long as you keep it signed into the program). I actually find this more of a nuisance, although I have to admit it helped me find my keys once.

When all else fails, you can say a prayer to St. Anthony, the saint of lost items.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Authors, Books, Cats, Cozies, Cozy Chat, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery, Cozy Series

Cozy Chat with Ali Brandon (Diane A.S. Stuckart)

cozycatpicAlthough I consider myself a romantic suspense author and fan, I also used to be an avid reader of cozy mysteries especially those featuring cats. For those of you who also share that interest, I will be featuring Cozy Chats with cozy mystery authors on this blog. If you are an author who writes a cozy series and would like to participate in a future Cozy Chat, please contact me.

di pink pink headshotToday, I have the pleasure of speaking with Diane A.S. Stuckart (pen name Ali Brandon) about her Black Cat Bookshop mystery series.

Hi, Diane. Thanks for joining us on Cozy Chat. Have a seat and help yourself to some tea while we talk.
plot boiler largeCan you tell us a little bit about your Black Cat Bookshop mystery series? What gave you the idea for it and what is your latest book in it?

PLOT BOILER, my November 2015 release, is Number 5 in the series which features Hamlet the Cat and his human, Darla Pettistone. Here’s the series in a nutshell: Texas transplant Darla Pettistone inherited a Brooklyn brownstone from her late great-aunt, complete with a quirky independent bookstore known as Pettistone’s Fine Books. What Darla didn’t expect was that she’d also be the new caretaker of Hamlet, a big black cat with a cat-itude to match. But Darla soon finds that she and the ornery feline make a purr-fectly paw-some sleuthing team. As for the original idea, the premise of Hamlet came from my first editor, but the bookstore and all the other characters are mine. We wanted to give readers a return to the neighborhood bookstore, which unfortunately is an endangered species these days.

I know excactly what you mean. Your series sounds great. I’m a sucker for anything mysterious with cats and books in it, so I definitely have to add some of these books to my TBR pile. In my own novels, that some consider cozy mysteries but I think of as romantic suspense, I always try to feature at least one cat. In A STONE’S THROW, my November release and the first of my Cobble Cove novels, I have Sneaky the library cat as one of the characters. He’s Siamese like my own Oliver. I also have a dog in the book, Fido. Both pets play important yet minor roles.

Do you have any advice to other authors about writing cozies or writing in general?

In my opinion, a successful cozy series must have good “bones”—a likable protagonist, a series “hook”, and a cast of characters that readers come to know and see as friends. While the mystery portion of the book (including its solving) is obviously a vital element, in my opinion what matters most is the interaction among the characters and how the murder affects them.

That’s a good point. I agree that cozy mysteries are character-driven. I feel my books are very much like that, as well. My main character, Alicia, is a librarian who moves to the small town of Cobble Cove and meets newspaper publisher, John, and the town’s other quirky residents. I feel the murders and other crimes that take place as the book progresses and those I hope will follow are interesting, but, as you said, it’s the characters’ interactions that feed the plot and that I believe will appeal to readers.

What are you currently working on?

After the release of Plot Boiler, I’m taking a break for the time being, but I am playing with an idea for another historical mystery series set during the Renaissance. And I still have a couple of my vintage historical romances that I intend to republish on Kindle. Hopefully we will be seeing more Hamlet mysteries to come.

Sounds good. Do you write any other genres than cozies? You mentioned historical mysteries.

Yes. I started out writing historical romance under the names Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard. After that, I contributed short fiction to several anthologies with themes ranging from mystery to fantasy. My first foray into the mystery genre was writing the (unfortunately short-lived) Leonardo da Vinci mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. And from there I started writing the Black Cat Bookshop mysteries.

Very interesting. My first published work besides the cat articles I still write was  a short mystery for Cat Crimes Through Time back when the Cat Crimes anthologies by Martin Greenberg and Ed Gorman were popular. I wrote “Stitches in Time” about Betsy Ross’ cat which I guess you would consider a historical mystery. I was so excited to have my story featured with some already famous cat mystery authors such as Carole Nelson Douglas, who I’m still in contact with today and hope to feature on a future cozy chat.

Can you tell me how you got started in writing?

I was a journalism major in college, but before that I was on the high school newspaper and was always at the top of the class when it came to writing papers for English class. I figured I had a knack for putting words to paper and decided to give book writing a try once I left school.

Wow, Diane, we have a lot in common. I was an English major in college and Features Editor on the college newspaper, The Pioneer, at C.W. Post. I think journalism training is a great way to gain experience in writing.

What are your hobbies besides writing?

I’m a founding member of the Gold Coast Paranormal Society, a volunteer organization of “ghost hunters” here in South Florida. I also collect Tarot and Lenormand card decks, and I enjoy doing “crafty” things. And, of course, I love to read.

We have even more similarities. I used to enjoy astrology and occult arts including Tarot when I was younger. I don’t dabble much in it anymore, but I always found it fun. I also used to crochet, but I don’t have much time for hobbies besides reading and writing today since I work full-time as a librarian and have a daughter now.

Is there anything else you’d like readers of this blog to know about you and/or your books?

Rescue cats (and dogs!) make the greatest pets, a subject I try to mention in all the Hamlet books. Keep on reading, and consider adopting!

Great advice. Do you have any links you’d like to share with our readers?

www.alibrandon.com

facebook.com/blackcatbookshopmysteries

Thank you so much for joining us on Cozy Chat today, and good luck with your future books.