Memory Writing for Everyone!

One doesn’t have to be a successful author to write their memoirs! Think of the times that have meant the most in your life! Make a list. Write down these times. Start with ten memories that really touch your soul!

Then, pick one! Answer these ten questions:
•    When did this happen?
•    Where did this happen?
•    How old was I?
•    Who was with me in this memory?
•    What can I see?
•    What can I hear?
•    What can I smell?
•    What can I taste?
•    How does this memory make me feel?
•    What else can I remember about this memory?

Start writing! Don’t stop! Don’t edit. Just write! Leave it alone for a few hours. Then read it aloud. Share it with someone you love!

A Fine State of Affairs!

The exciting news is that A Tree Grows in Trout Creek, my new book of memoirs—a collection of stories about growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—is only one week old, but copies have already gone out to 31 out of 50 U.S. states! The author couldn’t be more excited!

Book orders have been received from and shipped to: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia.

States yet to be heard from: Alabama, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming.

Know anyone in any of these states? Tell them to go to and click on ORDER BOOKS. Pay with credit cards through our PayPal system! What could be easier than that?

Rescuing Bonnie – The Whole Story!


BonniejpgThis adventure started with an email from our friend Bob who had received an email from his friend Nancy who worked in a veterinary office. An elderly couple, both in ill health, was looking for a home for their tiny two year-old Shetland sheepdog. My friend wanted to know if I knew of anyone who wanted a very nice very small female sheltie.

Heart pounding, I wrote back immediately, “I want her!”

What was I thinking? Jim just shook his head. We already had two shelties. Two were a couple; three would be a crowd!

A few days later, we traveled an hour away to the elderly couple’s condo to “interview” the pup. Invited in, we were met with a frenzy of barking and circling. “She’s a real sweetheart,” the husband told us. “Our neighbors won’t even talk to us anymore, she makes so much noise,” his wife said, shaking her head.

Maybe that should have been a clue for us to leave, but we didn’t.

“Maybe she’ll sit with me, “ I said.

“Oh, she doesn’t like people,” the couple chimed in together.


“Well, let’s just see about that,” I said. “How about if you pick her up and set her over here next to me?” I sat down on the sofa. He picked up the terrorizer and placed her next to me. The sheltie settled down at once. “Well, well,” I said to her. “How about that?”

The dog had been purchased by their son who feared they were too lonely in their retirement and needed company. This little live wire was the last thing these folks needed; they could barely get a lease snapped onto the kid’s collar.

“What’s her name?” I asked.

“I named her Bonnie Lass,” the husband said. “You know, like ‘my bonnie lies over the ocean’!” It was obvious he loved the little kid a lot.

“We’ll give her a good home,” I promised.

We’d barely left the condo when little sable and white Bonnie Lass—predictably—became extremely anxious. Outside of a scary ride as a tiny pup in a plane from her breeder in Kansas to her condo home in Michigan, she had not been inside a vehicle. Here she was in a strange vehicle with two strange people. I tried to comfort her, holding her in my lap, but she just couldn’t be still. The hour-long ride felt like an all-day event. But, finally, we made it back home.

Our two shelties at home, Ginger and Carrie, were just happy to have us back. Another mouth to feed? No problem. They could see we’d brought in yet another crate for the new kid. They nosed her gently, sort of looked at each other and figured out she was no big threat to the pecking order. This little pooch was no Alpha Dog! (So they thought…)

We’d managed to eat up most of the day with our adventure, so it was TV time and then to bed for everyone. But what about Bonnie? They—the condo couple—told us she was used to a crate so sleeping should be no problem. Hmmm…one wouldn’t think elderly folks would fib, would they?

It was only a few hours after we’d all gone to bed that she started. I wouldn’t call it howling exactly. Whining maybe? No, more like barking. Yes, that was it! Barking. All night long!

We had purchased a nice big brand-new crate just for her and set it in the dining room where there seemed to be the most available open space. The other two shelties had their individual crates in the kitchen, but there just didn’t seem to be enough room for a third crate. On day two, however, when push came to shove, we pushed and shoved until we could finally add in a third crate. Surely now Bonnie would feel better being side by side with her new “siblings.” Wrong!

“I don’t know what you’re going to do,” Jim said, “but three dogs are just too many!” This, after a week of all-night hullabalooing from the kitchen.

Ginger and Carrie just looked at me with sad eyes and kind of slunk off to quiet corners where they could lie down in peace…get some rest. Forget trying to get any shut-eye once the sun went down and the night terrors began again!

Not only was my husband looking groggy, but so were the resident shelties, Ginger and Carrie. I wasn’t feeling too chipper myself. And, Bonnie? Well, Bonnie was happy as a lark…once morning came! Smiling! Sleeping! Settling in!

“What in the world am I going to do?” I agonized…not wanting to face the inevitable.

Not only was the whole family—except Bonnie—tired, they were also getting ornery. Not getting enough sleep will do that, we all quickly learned. Jim’s long face was nothing compared with the long-nosed stares I kept getting from the resident shelties, Ginger and Carrie.

I was beside myself. Finding a new home for Bonnie Lass started to creep into my thoughts. But even as the second week of all-night barking came to a close, I knew that I just couldn’t do that. I’d promised the condo couple I’d take good care of her, didn’t I? And, besides, she was only two years old…and so so sweet…during the day!

That’s when she bit me!

I’d discovered her on the sofa in the living room, shredding a piece of tissue she’s obviously “found” in the bathroom trash.

“No, you don’t!” I said, taking the tissue away from her.

Snap! Ouch! What?

We had a brief stare-down contest and, since she was winning, I decided to just forget the whole thing.

Rationalizing the situation, I told myself that Bonnie and I barely knew each. We could easily part, couldn’t we? If I found a good home for her, everyone would get back to normal. Everyone would be happier, wouldn’t they?

Against that inner voice that kept telling me not to, I called my friend Carol who had sadly lost her 14 year-old dog two weeks earlier.

“She’s a wonderful little dog,” I told my friend. “And you need a new pet around the house.” I was such a scammer. (Well Bonnie was a wonderful little dog and my friend did need a new pet. Still, I felt my nose growing long and fast as I left out the part about the all-night barking.)

But Carol wasn’t ready for a new dog. However, she had a friend—Mary from work—who already had an eight year-old sheltie, who might be willing to take Bonnie.

After a phone call to Carol’s friend Mary, I learned the following:
1) Mary already knew my daughter since her son and my daughter had been in a musical theater production together.
2) She’d even brought my daughter flowers on opening night!
3) Whew!
4) Mary was not some stranger off the street!
5) And, best of all, she knew shelties!
6) She would provide the perfect home for my little Bonnie.

When Mary arrived to pick up little Bonnie Lass, the little sheltie was delighted to see her. I must admit I felt a little jealous about that. But I had to remember that Bonnie would soon be Mary’s dog—not mine anymore. I’d picked the perfect home.

“Remember,” Mary said as she was leading little Bonnie to the door on her leash, “you can have her back, if you need her.”

“Oh, I don’t think that will happen,” I said, my heart starting to break just a little. “Everyone around here needs a good rest.” (I’d been a good person. I’d told the truth about the night barking and Mary wanted her anyway. She was a good woman!)

“Well, you never know,” Mary said. “I once gave a cat away and had to go back and get her a week later.”

“Thanks, Mary,” I said, sadly watching the two of them prance out my door. “I appreciate that.”

“You did the right thing,” Jim said.

“Sure…” I sat silently watching the news on TV. The local Stop and Go’s were being bought by some big grocery chain. A 3-car pile-up had occurred out on 94. A cat had been rescued from a tree by a fire-fighting team. An airport official reported another strike could raise costs even higher. The Humane Society was having a walkathon for people and their dogs.

My little dog was gone!

I kept telling myself it was for the best. She would be better off. We would be better off. Jim and the “big dogs” would get some rest. We would all get some sleep!

I crawled into bed and listened to the silence.

Bonnie was gone!

I didn’t sleep a wink all night.

Tired and sad the next day, I tried to keep busy, think of other things—anything but Bonnie Lass. But that was impossible. No matter how hard I tried, my thoughts kept going back again and again to the little pooch that so recently pranced into—and out of—my life.

The second day was the same. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I picked up the phone and called Mary.

“How’s Bonnie doing?” I asked.

“Oh, she doing fine,” Mary responded. “She’s a real sweetheart!”

What was I hoping to hear? Of course, I wanted to hear she was doing fine. Then, why did that bother me?

“Yes, she is,” I answered. “What about at night?” I asked. (That would tell the tale!)

“Oh she sleeps like a log,” Mary laughed. (What?)

“She doesn’t bark all night?” I was astonished.

“Well, no she doesn’t,” Mary answered. (What was going on here?)

“Does she sleep in her crate?” I asked. (The detective in me was getting close to the truth and I knew it!)

“Nope,” Mary announced. “She sleeps in bed with me.”

“Oh…” What else could I say? Bonnie belonged to Mary now. It wasn’t up to me where she slept. “Well, I’m glad everything’s okay,” I managed to get out.

“Coralie, are you missing her?” Mary asked suddenly.

“Oh, I guess I am, but I’ll get over it,” I answered, not so sure this was true.

“Well, just remember what I said. If you need her back, you just have to say so,” Mary offered.

“Thanks,” I hung up, knowing I had to stop this nonsense.

“Mary said we could have Bonnie back, if we need to,” I told Jim that evening.

“Well, I don’t think that’s a good idea, do you?” he answered. He was finally getting some rest!

“No, I suppose not,” I said glumly. No one cared if my dog was gone…no one, but me.!

I promised myself I would not call Mary again, at least for a while. But, after a few days, I just had to know how Bonnie Lass was doing.

“Hi Mary,” I said into the phone. “How’s she doing?”

“Oh, she’s just wonderful!” Mary answered. “She’s an absolute sweetheart.”

“How about at night?” I hated to ask, but I couldn’t help myself.

“Sleeps all night,” Mary answered.

“That’s good…sorry to keep bothering you,” I said lamely.

“Oh, it’s no bother at all!” Mary laughed. Sure, she was happy. Why wouldn’t she be happy! She had my dog!

My dog…

“Are you crying,” Jim asked. “You’re not crying about this are you?” We were watching some ridiculous Dr. Phil segment about what not to say and do on your first date.

“No, of course not!” That he would even ask such a silly question was way too funny, but I was in no mood for funny.

“Well, what, then?” he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I miss Bonnie!” I wailed.

“You hardly know that dog,” he said.

“I know everything about her! And I miss her!” I couldn’t stop crying. “I can’t help it!”

Jim took a deep breath. “Well, maybe you’d better give Mary another call.”

“I can’t take her away from Mary!” I cried even harder.

I held off calling for two more days. Bonnie had been gone a whole week. Then, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to know how she was.

“How is she?” I asked sheepishly, knowing all too well I was being a pest.

“She’s fine, Coralie,” Mary answered. “But I think we both know what has to happen.”

“Oh, Mary…” I said, relief flooding in, “I’m sorry…”

“It’s okay. I’ll bring her by tomorrow evening,” Mary said.

They were barely in the door, when Bonnie bounded across the room, leaped into my lap and started licking my face. But before I could even get my arms around her, she was gone! She had bounced up into Jim’s lap and was burrowing her head under his arm with her snoot and rolling over while wagging her tail the whole time.

“I guess we know whose dog she really is.” Mary couldn’t help but laugh.

I didn’t care whose dog she thought she was! She was mine and she was home!

The End.

Preserving a Family Memoir!

Here’s some hometown news from Joanne Coffin Ilkin, an old friend from Stambaugh High School. To both preserve a family memory and give her daughter Pinar a gift at the same time, she wrote the following play:

Real life characters:
Cecelia: Joanne’s friend.
Pinar: Joanne’s daughter.

The action takes place at a 2006 All-School Reunion in Iron River, Michigan.

CECELIA:  You must be Joanne’s daughter.

PINAR: Oh? Who?

CECELIA:  Joanne Coffin, of course.

PINAR: Oh…yes, I am.

CECELIA: Come sit with me! I have something to tell you about your grandmother Kata (Katherine Kruzich) and your mother Joanne.

PINAR: Okay.

CECELIA:  I have a little story to tell you about when your mother was a baby.

PINAR: Go on.

CECELIA:  My mother offered Kata my baby carriage because she did not have one and she accepted it graciously. Your mother, Joanne, rode and slept in my carriage until she was able to walk and no longer needed it.  Kata returned the carriage to my mother along with the most beautiful handmade dress she had made for me and told my mother that this was all she had to give except great love and gratitude. I still have the dress your grandmother made for me and it is one of my most precious possessions.

PINAR: Wow! Thank you for sharing my grandmother and mother with me!

CECELIA: The pleasure is all mine, dear.

“A Tree Grows in Trout Creek” – The Books Have Arrived!

The new book, A Tree Grows in Trout Creek, (which has been in publication for the past six weeks) is finally in print! And it’s beautiful! Copies are here and ready for shipping. I’m getting them autographed and to the post office as fast as I can. So hang on…yours (if you ordered) will be on its ways shortly. I can’t wait to hear how you like the stories! Sweet memories!!!

If you haven’t had a chance to order yet, go to ORDER BOOKS on this website and send in your order (credit cards accepted)!

Not For Ourselves Alone

In the online women’s studies classes I teach, we are studying the suffrage movement through the work of Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Women owe them a huge dept of gratitude! Not For Ourselves Alone is a wonderful PBS film that tells the entire story of how they paved the way for us all to have the vote. Hard to believe it’s been less than 100 years since we gained the vote! Knowing how difficult suffrage was to achieve, women will hopefully take every opportunity to cast their votes in elections! If the film is not available at your local library, you can also view this historical information at

Pardon Me, You’re Stepping On My Paws!

Sometimes, I forget these TV couch potatoes of mine were actually bred for working. But, when they decide I’m the only thing around here that even remotely resembles a sheep, they remind me that they really are working dogs by going directly to work. It happens every day! When I try to get from one room to another, all three of my Shetland sheepdogs, Ginger, Carrie and Bonnie Lass, sit up, perk their ears and decide to herd me along the way.

[Read more…]

Reading: Armchair Travel for Writers

I believe that before one can write with genuine understanding of the nature of the common experience of writers or a community of writers, one must read—everything—novels, best sellers, documentaries, biographies, mysteries, true stories, short stories, poetry, classics, journals, plays, history, philosophy, psychology, newspapers, and magazines. I learned to be an avid reader as a child and have continued through adulthood. I have acquired the ability to travel the world over, through time and space, happiness and tears—through reading—that marvelous gift.

[Read more…]

From Paradise to Hell: One Man’s Journey

Yesterday I received a letter from my dear friend Clayton Klein, author of seven books and former owner and publisher of Wilderness Adventure Books. I first met Clayton and his late wife Marjorie after I had submitted some stories for possible publication back in 1992. I’d barely put them in the mail, when three days later the phone rang at our house and Clayton told me how much he’d enjoyed them. He asked me if I could write a book! And, without even thinking too much about it, I said, “Yes!” The thrill of this writing adventure continued over the next several years as I submitted story after story to Clayton and received his excited responses.

My first book, The Wishing Years, published in 1995, came to be because of Clayton [Read more…]

Finnish Summer Soup

4 c. water
1 T. salt
2 c. cubed potatoes
1 c. diced carrots
1 c. fresh or frozen peas
1 c. diced cauliflower
½ c. chopped spinach
2 T. flour
3-½ c. milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat water & salt in saucepan. Add carrots & potatoes. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes then add cauliflower, peas & spinach. Blend flour with small amount of cold milk & add to vegetables, stirring constantly. Add remaining milk. Simmer for 10 minutes more. Season to taste. (8 servings.)