I am so excited to see this little story on one of the top-rated blogs for writers. Dreamers is the beginning of a book that will eventually be a collaboration with a fellow writer from my critique circle, Caden St. Claire.
When presenting those research results, or meeting with prospective new clients, I gradually became aware that my voice was sounding different. It cracked and was slightly shaky. It resembled Katharine Hepburn’s. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember her. She was a very famous actor with a career that began in the 1930s and lasted seven decades. I used to watch old movies late at night with my mom and grandmother when I was a kid on our twelve-inch black and white TV. The African Queen, starring Katharine and Humphrey Bogart, was one of our favorites. She, along with Lauren Bacall, were two of my idols. My goal was to grow up to be as sophisticated and glamorous as they were in those films from years gone by. Although Hepburn was one of my much-loved actors, I most certainly did not want to sound like her. Lauren Bacall, by comparison, sounded much better, with a deep, sultry voice. Unfortunately, I never had a sultry voice, and alas, I wound up sounding like Katharine did in her later years.
Around the same time, I noticed the vocal crack and hand shaking, I also perceived a change in my handwriting. It just didn’t look as good as it had, with the letters appearing somewhat shaky. When I first started to write something, it was really bad; fortunately, it diminished a bit as I wrote more. When I signed my name, either on a check or a charge slip, the Ms (and I had two of them—Mary and Martin) would be particularly squiggly. I’d always written well in longhand, although it was not as beautiful as my mother’s. She learned to write in the heyday of gorgeous penmanship. As a kid in the 1950s, sitting at our little flip-top desks, we learned The Palmer Method for cursive writing. Woe unto you if you did not reproduce those letters correctly. Worse, if you were unlucky enough to go to Catholic school, the nuns would crack your knuckles with a ruler for that infraction. Kids now have no idea what cursive is, and even our teenaged grandchildren struggle with trying to write anything in longhand. It makes you wonder how their signatures for legal purposes will be handled in the future. Like hieroglyphics, our cursive writing will someday be studied by archeologists attempting to understand
Finally, I began to have problems holding drinking containers like coffee cups or glasses. When I attempted to hold something with one hand, a very obvious tremor would start. This was worse in my left hand, so whatever was in the glass or cup would spill. This is not good in business situations when you’re juggling a cup of coffee or an adult beverage in your left hand, keeping your right hand free to shake hands (in a good way) with clients or prospects.
People would see this and say, “Are you OK?”
I’d smile and say, “Of course. I’ve probably just had too much caffeine (or had a rough day, if I was holding a glass of wine).”
I found it horribly embarrassing. In addition, the more it was brought to my attention, or the more stressed I was, the worse it got. Since I was a kid, I never liked to draw attention to myself, particularly if I felt I was being different or weird in some way. Those tremors were most definitely different. The only people I’d seen with anything remotely resembling them were old people or people with something horrible like Parkinson’s disease. I certainly did not consider myself old and hoped with all my heart that I did not have Parkinson’s.
The following is an unsolicited review from a former business colleague who also served as a beta reader for my memoir. I am pleased and humbled by this. Ron Bitto is himself an author (here’s his author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ron-Bitto/e/B009HB4400/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1527949219&sr=1-2-ent.)
“Mary Jo Latham-Martin’s book Sibling Revelries is an unusual memoir, which starts in 2003 with the author learning – at age 57 –that she has a neurological condition which may be genetic. Raised by a single mother, she never knew her biological father. Could he have passed this condition on to her? She begins a journey to track him down, or at least find his medical records. Along the way, she finds out that her father, Clarence, had another five children with three other women. With detective work, curiosity and an open heart, Mary Jo finds all her siblings and forges relationships with all of them. After being raised as an only child and having a successful career in business, she was thrilled to discover that she was one of six brothers and sisters, hence the book’s title.
The book also reconstructs her father’s path through life, and tells the story of each of the four mothers whom Clarence met in Los Angeles, Honolulu and San Diego while serving in the U.S. Navy. Of all the women, Mary Jo’s mother Irene is the most impressive; she served as a Marine during World War II and raised Mary Jo in Philadelphia with her own mother’s help. The other four mothers’ stories are presented with sensitivity and respect.
In addition to telling Mary Jo’s story, the memoir includes many details and memories of the youth of an early baby-boomer, including details of what it was like to grow up in Philadelphia in the 1950s. After reading the book, I felt I’d had a conversation with a close friend. If I had been in her position, I would have been angry with Clarence for his irresponsible behavior and shoddy treatment of his wives and lovers. But Mary Jo Latham-Martin’s generous and forgiving spirit enables her to tell this complex story without judging him too harshly.”
To continue the saga of my discoveries, I’ve decided to do more than one paragraph at a time. I’m not sure I’d live long enough to get to the end of the book if I keep going at that rate.
So, here’s the next installment (continuing the story of doing market research at a small ad agency):
We also frequently unearthed some tidbits that could have major financial consequences, and it was wonderful to be able to tell clients how much money they could save or gain in additional revenues. We did a number of projects where clients had double-digit returns on the money they spent on research. That turned a research spend into an investment, something any decent businessperson would appreciate. Those were the best assignments we had, and they usually led to repeat business for us.
One of our most memorable projects involved a commercial feasibility test for an engineering firm. During the presentation of the results, the president of the client company jumped up, banged his fist on the table, and shouted, “Holy shit! I knew it!”
He was a large, florid man, who looked like he might have a bad temper, and I wasn’t sure if he was pleased or planned to hit me. Fortunately, as it turned out, he was extremely pleased. His company of left-brained engineers had convinced him that a new idea they had would make them all rich and famous. Our research showed that interest in it among companies that might be likely to buy it was lukewarm at best.
The results of the research saved his company at least a million dollars in development costs. That man was one happy client. This is the kind of
experience market researchers live for.
His project and others provided extraordinary case histories when we prospected for new business, and we loved telling those stories. Although the work was a passion for me, I did not initially enjoy sharing the results with clients. Eventually, after years of practice, my skills improved, and those presentations even became somewhat pleasurable. Like many ad agencies, ours was a culture of being somewhat intimidated by our clients—since in their minds they were always right. Of course, they pay the bills. As someone with a less than robust dose of self-confidence, I fit into that culture easily, so it took some time for me to relax enough to enjoy what I did well. I liked the prospecting even less until I learned to let the prospects talk first and then explain to them how we could help them. It was like telling a story. Then it became fun.
Perhaps this was a hint that I might be good at telling stories?
About a month ago, I posted the first paragraph of the first chapter of my newly-published memoir. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, Here’s the quote which foretells the story:
“Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”
Without further ado, here’s the next paragraph (see Teaser for the first):
I was working at a small business-to-business ad agency, running the Research and Database Marketing group. My job was to manage the efforts of this team, ensure the studies were done correctly and on time, then present the results to our clients. Being a left-brained, analytical, by-nature curious type, helping our clients solve their business challenges was a great deal of fun for me. After years of holding down marketing communications roles, I’d finally found my specialty, and I loved the work. Although their dilemmas might not have been as compelling as a good murder whodunit, we usually uncovered some surprises.
Hopefully, this will pique your interest enough to make you visit Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sibling-Revelries-Finding-Family-After-ebook/dp/B07B7B43WD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521120573&sr=8-1&keywords=mary+jo+latham-martin.
It was the Martinis that caused it. Once I began my discoveries of my new family, I had to share the story. It was just too good to keep to myself. Other than family, who heard agonizing blow-by-blow descriptions of the breakthroughs, my client @MyraJolivet, also a writer, was the first to learn about it. We had drinks after work one night and following a few sips to loosen me up, I began to relate the story which subsequently became Sibling Revelries. This was back in 2012 or so. I was still working, so didn’t have as much spare time as I do now.
The first words out of Myra’s mouth, which opened in surprise with every new tidbit, were, “You have to write this! What’s more, it would make a fantastic screenplay.”
I just laughed and said, “Sure, in my spare time. Maybe when I retire.”
Time passed, and I began to divert my clients to a fellow market researcher. This freed me up for doing other things – like writing a book. It began as the stories of the common father and the mothers. Then Myra stepped in again and connected me to a writing coach with whom she’d worked.
@MaxRegan and I had several telephone conversations, after which he looked at my first feeble efforts and said, “No, this has to be a memoir – the whole story of you and how you found your siblings. And the impact it had on all of you. But especially you. It is your memoir. It can’t be just about the parents.”
Thus, in January 2013, I began my education as an author. From a background of creating market research reports and doing business writing, I had a lot to learn. Like what a memoir is. There have been many people who helped me along the way. They are blamed in the acknowledgments.
After much introspection, the manuscript grew to 26,000 words. I was thrilled. Until someone with much more knowledge than I told me, “You need many more words – at least 40,000.”
I hit that goal, then pitched to an agent, @JohnnieBernhard. She told me, “You need many more words – at least 60,000.”
So, I wrote and wrote and wrote to achieve that elusive goal. Thanks to my Critique Circle, my writing actually got better – and longer. I even spent some time writing some short stories, one of which was published! That gave me more self-confidence than I deserved. But it felt good.
After numerous agent rejections, I decided to self-publish. This started an entirely new education. Thanks to @FernBrady, @ManonLavoie, and @Dylan Drake, the masterpiece was formatted, and a cover designed.
The next steps are to market it. So, tell all your friends!
Books are live and selling on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Sibling-Revelries-Find…/…/ref=sr_1_1….
And I have a small number of reviews.
I thought you all might like to see the start of chapter one:
It started with a quiver in my voice, a shaky hand, and a worried heart. I first noticed it in 2003, when I was fifty-seven. That quiver in my voice and my shaky hand didn’t fit well with my image as a self-confident, competent, take-charge professional. It also scared me. I began to imagine that it was due to some kind of horrible condition, from a brain tumor to Parkinson’s disease. The more I worried, the worse it got.
So very happy to say that both the eBook and hard copy versions of Sibling Revelries are now live on Amazon.
This has been a five-year journey, filled with angst, editing, more angst, and yet more editing. After being rejected by more agents than I would have cared to, I made the decision to self-publish.
This was not a simple thing to do. The writing is perhaps a quarter of the work involved in publishing a book. Someone who may know how to write (after five years I kind of learned that), now has to become skilled at formatting a manuscript correctly and designing a cover. I chose to reach out for help.
Thanks to @FernBrady at Houston Writers Guild, I found two pros to do the heavy lifting @ManonLavoie, formatter par excellence, and @DylanDrake, who did a bang-up job of designing the cover you see here.
It’s been quite a journey. Now I have to market it!
Oh, so very close… Uploaded the Kindle version of the book to Amazon today. Once they review it etc, it will be live. Also, visit my Facebook Author page to see what the full cover of the hard-copy book looks like.
Getting so excited!