Mill Park Publishing of Eagle, Idaho was created in 2003 by author Elaine Ambrose.
The company facilitates fee-based book publication and marketing for local authors
and organizes writer's retreats.
A simple message on Facebook captured the attention and creative skills of 25 women who spontaneously gathered on August 8th to write their stories about “The Dress.” Mill Park Publishing of Eagle compiled the stories into a book titled Little White Dress – Women Explore the Myth and Meaning of Wedding Dresses. The published book took six weeks to produce and premieres at a festive party and reading with the authors on Thursday, October 20, 20ll at Hillcrest Country Club in Boise from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend, and proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Dress for Success Boise Valley®.
“My friend Liza Long wrote a brief but poignant message on Facebook about observing used wedding dresses in thrift shops,” said Elaine Ambrose, owner of Mill Park Publishing. “The message prompted immediate responses from women who wanted to share their own thoughts about their dresses. The result, six weeks later, is a book full of tender, funny, heart-breaking, and irreverent stories.”
Long, a college professor and single mother of four, designed the cover, edited the stories, and wrote the Foreword to the book. She noted that the little white dress is a symbol of self, and that if a man really wanted to know a woman, he should try to understand her relationship to her wedding dress. Award-winning author Alan Heathcock agreed and wrote this review for the back cover:
“If I learned something about women from this awesome little book, it’s that each has her own dress, her own story; some of hopes fulfilled, some tragic, some funny, all compelling. Little White Dress holds the truths of humanity stitched into every poem and story. It sometimes made me laugh, sometimes made me somber, but always made me consider how the value of the dress has little to do with the fabric.”
I had intended to write about the recent Elizabeth Warren quote that many of my intelligent, creative friends are promoting as “the best thing ever written. Possibly ever.” I had intended to gently but respectfully explain how this Marxist philosophy of class warfare seeks to take from the hard-working job creators, the achievers, the entrepreneurs, the risk-takers, inventors, and major tax-payers and give in larger proportion to the underachievers, the mediocre, the government, the lawyers, and the constant complainers. In my opinion, Comrade Warren is the Pied Piper of the new Proletariat.
But then my brother gave us tickets to see Larry the Cable Guy in Jackpot, Nevada. I laughed until I hurt, and now I feel so good that I don’t care if my friends become dedicated followers of the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung. (Just don’t take away my factory, if I choose to build one.)
The world is bloated with chronic stress, angst, and anger, and the only cure is a massive enema of laughter. It truly is the best medicine. Last night, the audience sat in cheap, plastic chairs in front of a bare stage as a chubby guy in combat shorts and a sleeveless, plaid shirt made them cry and howl for ninety minutes with his irreverent jokes and saucy humor. And, they paid their money in exchange for the joy of being happy. Last night, Larry the Cable Guy made thousands of dollars and flew away in a Lear jet. He earned every penny.
During the show, more than 3,000 people in the audience didn’t care if they were the boss or the employee. They didn’t care that it’s the factory owner who takes the risks to create jobs and pay the salaries that are taxed so that roads and schools can be built. They came to forget the political and social manipulation of organizations on the left (and the right) that seek only to divide, distract, and destroy our country.
I can’t convince my liberal friends to understand why I believe organizations such as MoveOn.org are promoting the Elizabeth Warren speech in order to penalize and diminish entrepreneurship and to advocate dependence upon the government. Conversely, my liberal friends can’t convince me that the individuals who created great inventions and took risks to start businesses should pay even more to those who didn’t try or sacrifice as much.
Instead of wasting time and energy on unproductive debate, friends should go to comedy shows and laugh until milk (wine, beer, water) runs out their noses. Friends who laugh together can acknowledge and honor their individual differences. Then they can walk away lighter, happier, and momentarily stress-free. And, if someone continues to argue, in the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, "Just call 'em a peckerhead."
We took the bus to Noussa, a dusty old fishing village on the Greek island of Paros. The travel guide had warned of primitive conditions, so we weren't shocked when we noticed a group of fishermen casually talking to each other as they urinated off the public dock into the water. Their catch of the day hung from wooden racks: flat silver fish with sharp teeth, round black fish with white eyes, squid with wispy tendrils of upended suction cups.
We walked through the narrow maze of stone streets past whitewashed buildings, tiny shops, lazy cats sleeping in the sun. The air was heavy with the smells of incense, tobacco, and wild roses. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe near the ocean and ordered sharp cheese, crusty bread with olive oil, and beer.
When traveling, I try to locate water closets (bathrooms) with the same zeal that I search for ancient castles and new wine bars. Noussa was becoming a bit of a challenge, and by late afternoon, I regretted the second beer. We entered a small grocery store tended by a matronly, black-toothed woman. "Toilet?" I asked. The woman shook her head, apparently not understanding. to
"Bano?" I implored, holding both palms up. No response. Words from my Greek phrase book were useless.
Finally, with a bit of urgency, I showed my travel packet of toilet paper and plunked down a euro coin on the wooden counter.
"Ah," she replied, nodding her head. She took a broken pencil and drew a simple map on the back of my book. I smiled and hurried to follow the map like an eager explorer with directions to the Holy Grail. I found the water closet, a tiled room with two foot rests and a hole in the ground. I'd seen these before, and can attest that strong thigh muscles are necessary to be successful. There was no sink, so I washed my hand with the wipes I carry - almost as necessary as my passport.
Later, as we hiked back to the port, we passed the woman's shop and I waved to her.
"Good-bye," she called in English. We laughed, and then turned toward the bus stop.
Today with the simple click of the send key, 133 pages of our new book, Little White Dress, are magically traveling through cyberspace to the printer, less than one month from the evening we gathered to write about “the dress.”
Technical details: The book will be 4-3/4 inches by 7-7/16 inches, with a perfect binding, black ink on 60# white paper, and have a four-color cover with gloss UV coating. ISBN is 978-0-9728225-7-2. Price is $10.
Creative details: The book shares cheers, tears and fears from 24 women whose relationship with a wedding dress (or two) made a profound impact on their lives.
The book’s authors include physicians, photographers, television producers, best-selling authors, filmmakers, professors, and stay-at-home moms. We have never-married, divorced, gay, and happily married women, and even a former nun. Ages range from a high school teen to grandmothers. The stories will touch, inspire, and surprise.
Little White Dress will be printed, bound, packed into cartons, and delivered in October, less than two months after Liza Long wrote a post on Facebook about finding used wedding dresses at thrift shops. Liza’s message prompted powerful responses from women who wanted to write about “the dress.” So, of course, we decided to write a book and invite other authors to contribute. With an added hook, we decided to write it in one day and complete publication by October. Done.
Liza set up a Facebook page and sent a call for entries. Then we met at my house on August 8 for the initial writing. Some of the authors are from out of state, so they emailed their stories and poems. Liza formatted the text and designed the cover with a dynamite photo from local photographer Amber Daley. I secured a printing bid and other publication details and then laughed and cried my way through the stories. Our talented friend Amanda Turner assisted with copyediting. We expanded the book by 33 pages, and decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to Dress for Success. We finished the final edit at Liza’s house on September 1.
Our stories and poems about wedding dresses incorporate our passionate dreams, some fulfilled, some destroyed. The stitches of our dresses create significant pieces in the fabric of our lives. (Cue Carole King singing “Tapestry.”) Stay tuned for book signing events and festive holiday parties. Wedding dress, optional.
I survived childhood on an isolated potato farm near Wendell, Idaho (population 1,000) by reading about adventures and faraway places. Back then, it was a big deal to go to Twin Falls, and the 100-mile trip to Boise demanded weeks of preparation. Sometime during those formative years, I made a personal promise to explore the world, and since then I’ve been fortunate to travel to more than thirty countries. Soon I’ll leave on another journey to celebrate six decades of wonder and wander.
My journal is the first priority on my packing list. I used it to write poetry after exploring Coole Park in Ireland and walking in the same woods that inspired William Butler Yeats. My writing is more frantic after riding on the back of a bull elephant and witnessing a tiger kill a water buffalo during a wilderness safari in Nepal. While floating the Nile, I wrote of the breathless excitement I felt descending into the tombs in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Each visit, each discovery is an essential part of my own journey through life.
My journal reminds me of the good times - I’ve swilled beer in Germany, haggled with a jade dealer in Hong Kong, flown through the trees on a zip line in Costa Rica, hiked across a volcano in Hawaii, and sang Handel’s Messiah with a concert choir in the American Cathedral in Paris. Some places I never want to see again: Thailand because I didn’t feel safe, South Africa because it’s just too darned far away, and India where a beggar tried to sell me a baby in the shadow of the opulent Taj Mahal.
I have three favorite places: The Duomo in Florence, Italy stirs my soul. I wept there while standing in Mass and then lit candles for my family members. (Yes, even Presbyterians can attend Catholic Mass.) My second favorite place is Galway, Ireland where somber, intelligent villagers swear that magical fairies live in the trees. I believe them. My third place is home, in Idaho.
Many of my trips were inexpensive. I sang with the Vandaleer Concert Choir at the University of Idaho, and we toured six countries in Europe in 1971. Much to my daughter’s chagrin, in 1995 I volunteered to chaperone her high school tour of Europe. Years later, as the volunteer president for the University’s Alumni Association, I hosted alumni tours through Ireland and Spain. After that, I purchased packaged trips through Egypt and Italy, and yes, I was in a group of gawking tourists that obediently followed the tour guide with the obnoxious flag. But, then it was the best way I could afford to travel. Now I’m grateful for the opportunity to plan and chart my own trips.
As I pack for the next adventure – a two-week excursion of islands in the Mediterranean – it’s easy to pick the regular necessities: comfortable shoes, drip-dry clothes, and my journal. And I’ll make room for my Ipad, digital camera, cell phone and their chargers. Throw in the blow dryer and adapter and I’m ready. This trip will inspire some interesting writing because it’s with my soul mate. After we return, there will be several more pins on my wall map that connect and complete the dots of my personal path.
I was grounded for most of my childhood, mostly for being sassy. I thought my brilliant and clever command of vocabulary and rapier wit should be universally admired, but my parents thought otherwise. I never quite understood their admonition to, “Don’t get smart with me, young lady!” They never appreciated my retort of, “So you prefer I get stupid?”
A typical conversation from my teenage years:
Father: “You're grounded for a month.”
Me: “So what? I never get to do anything anyway.”
Father: “You're grounded for two months.”
Me: “Come on, do I hear three?”
The exchange deteriorated from there. My brothers learned from me and never talked back, so they got to go into town while I stayed back on the farm assigned to random chores or exiled to my room. But, being forever grounded provided plenty of time to write short stories and poems full of anguished souls who struggled for freedom. My 15-minute poem “Revenge” won top honors at the state high school speech declamation competition. (Sorry, Dad.)
Words always have fascinated me, and I’ve used them to make people cry, or laugh, or react with a variety of anticipated responses. I love the word “rejoice” because it inspires a positive eagerness for joy. “Despise” makes me snarl. “Pickle” is just too cute and fun, and the word “fart” brings laughter, especially from the 12-year-old crowd. Other favorite words: suddenly, shudder, gargle, snot. I value the onomatopoeia that links sound to subject, and as writers know, the right word can make all the difference in transforming an average sentence into a splendid one.
Sir Alfred Tennyson integrated onomatopoeia to bring the sounds of birds and insects into the reader’s head. In his poem “Come Down, O Maid” he crafts the lines,
…the moan of doves in immemorial elms,
and murmuring of innumerable bees.
This eloquent example is so much better than tritely writing: Birds and bees moan and buzz in trees.
Several years ago, I spoke at my father’s funeral. I told jokes that made people laugh, and I read a poem that made them cry. Maybe all those turbulent, formative years provided the foundation for my goal to be a writer. Then as now, writing is freedom. Rejoice.
In my collection of vintage books, I have a copy of a children’s book from 1886 titled
Please Tell Me A Tale. One story, Under the Maypole, has the following lines:
“This Mayday morning they will plant the Maypole on the green,
And hang it round with cowslip wreaths and blue bells set between;
With starry thorn, with knotted fern, with chestnut blossoms tall,
And Phil, the bailiff’s son, will bring red roses from the Hall.”
Can’t you just imagine little Phil proudly bringing the roses? The book doesn’t have any illustrations, and there are no batteries required or toys included, but children still love to listen to the lyrical stories.
I use this example in my writing class for local fourth grade students. Then I follow with an excerpt from a current bestselling children’s book, Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. In this particular version, the children rearrange letters on a sign to read: “Please Don’t Fart in a Diaper.” Laughter ensues, but it causes me to doubt the evolution of children’s literature over the last 125 years.
To inspire the students to write, I play a variety of musical selections. We begin with “No Blue Thing” by Ray Lunch. I instruct the children to close their eyes, listen to the music, and then write anything that the music inspires. The responses always are delightful.
“I’m running through the tall grass through a cloud of butterflies,” is a typical comment.
Then I play “Circle of Life” from the Lion King Soundtrack. Their expressions change as their imaginations play with the music. We then discuss how the music prompted images and thoughts. They are instructed to write what they envision.
For the remainder of the class, I play a variety of other songs, but I always end with the same two selections. “Adagio for Strings” by Samual Barber typically elicits strong emotions, even among the teachers. Once at Garfield Elementary, after the song a shy, little boy in the back of the room timidly raised his hand. “I see blue tears flowing down my wall,” he said. “Write about that,” was my response. He seemed pleased.
I end the session with “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. Often, most of the students will sit taller and smile wider as they listen with their eyes closed. The song prompts comments such as, “I fought the dragon, and I won!”
My classes lasts an hour, and I enjoy volunteering my time with the students. It’s my goal that they will use quality music (with an emphasis on quality), to inspire the muse within them. I want to challenge young people to temporarily laugh about Professor Poopypants but to wonder and write about characters as rich and provocative as Phil, the bailiff’s son. No batteries required.
We’re looking for local writers to write a book in one day and have it published in time for holiday sales. And, we’ll donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. All we need are provocative, poignant, and enlightening essays about “The Dress.”
It all started when my friend, Liza Long Walton, wrote a message two weeks ago on Facebook about seeing used wedding dresses in thrift shops. The response came faster than a nervous flower girl. We all have stories about wedding dresses (and some of us have multiple stories.)
So, Liza and I met over coffee and decided to publish a book of essays from women who want to explore the myth and meaning of the wedding dress. Thanks to the magic of social media and the Little White Dress Facebook page, we already have volunteer (meaning: unpaid) writers who want to contribute to the book. They include married, divorced, never married and gay women. We even have liberal, conservative, and lactose intolerant writers!
To make it even more interesting, we decided to write and compile the book in one day. (Liza and I are co-authors of Daily Erotica, and Mill Park Publishing is the publisher, so we’ve been around the writer’s block on publishing books.)
After another cup of coffee, we settled on the “Rules of Engagement” (pun intended) for our contributing writers:
Just think about that dress delicately packed in white acid-free tissue paper, wrapped in unbleached muslin, and sealed in a box with a view window that’s stored in the attic. Why do we save them? Or, are they destined to hang empty and forgotten in some thrift shop, waiting for another chance at the dream wedding? What’s your story?
How does a creative person perform to peak potential when strict deadlines demand 2,000 words by Friday? I know there are writers who have the discipline to rise early, go directly to their offices, and passionately produce a poem, chapter, or short story by lunch. I have the concentration of a deranged ferret, and I’m easily distracted or I'm working on a sassy essay about the humor of elder care while writing a novel about the dramatic angst of greed and betrayal. But, now it’s my goal to focus on producing more coherent content before my eyesight fails, my fingers are too gnarled to fumble on the keys, and I forget where a preposition is at (and to never end a sentence with one.)
During my career, I've written for television news, newspapers, magazines, advertising clients, and corporate communications. The shortest turnaround was for a daily television news program, but the stories were only 30 seconds long so the text wasn't much more to write than who, what, why, and where. The longest assignment was for a non-fiction book, but the intensity and reward were much greater.
My contract in February of 2007 with Adams Media for Menopause Sucks required me to write and submit 70,000 words by June 30. I dabbled and researched through the spring, and didn't begin Chapter One until April. But during May and June of that year, I wrote and edited almost 12 hours a day until I met the deadline. Then I waited, somewhat impatiently, until the book was published and released in August of 2008.
As many students do, I honed my last-minute, burn-the-midnight-oil skills in college when I would start a term paper around midnight before it was due the next day. My manual typewriter was reliable in the wee hours of the morning, and I never had to worry about a power surge erasing all my text. Now I rely on computer features that allow me to check spelling, research synonyms, copy and paste, and find and replace. Also, the word count is always there to remind me to keep going or stop now, please.
I recently enjoyed a short story class taught by local author, poet and film maker Ken Rodgers. We were assigned to write five short stories in five weeks. I proudly presented my story every Monday, but now the class is over and I haven’t written another story. I’m trying to focus on setting my own deadlines so I continue to write. And, who knows what great stories are just waiting to be written if only I would sit down, turn off the worldly interruptions, open my imagination, and connect my brain to my fingers? Today’s goal: 1,000 words before cocktail hour.
Long ago, sometime after the extinction of the dinosaurs, I was a ten-year-old child, and my favorite possession was a transistor radio. Though isolated on a potato farm in southern Idaho, I could connect to civilization through my magical radio. I would sing along to “Duke of Earl” or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” until my exasperated mother told me to go outside and play. My favorite assignment! So, I would climb into my tree house with my radio and an extra 9 volt battery and wail “Crying” along with Roy Orbison. And, I wouldn’t come back inside until I had roamed the back pasture and warbled “Blue Moon” with The Marcels.
Fast forward many, many decades and I notice, with sadness, that children today are complacently mesmerized by animated videos that require no imagination. And, children’s television offers only sanitized, politically-correct programs with plastic, too-cheerful hosts who have turned budding brains and bodies into lumps of lard. At least I got to watch Wile E. Coyote smashed flat by an anvil as he tried in vain to catch and eat The Road Runner. (Literary tidbit: The character was based on a coyote mentioned in Mark Twain’s Roughing It.) At the risk of sounding like an old fart curmudgeon, I wish children could have the freedom and opportunity to go play outside with only a radio and a song to sing.
The power of radio has transformed audiences for more than 100 years. On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles recited his adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. The radio drama was delivered through a series of news bulletins so cleverly broadcast that people panicked and actually believed that Martians were landing in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. During World War II, Winston Churchill encouraged war-weary British citizens with his broadcasts on the BBC. In 1941, he made his famous speech that included the words, “We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire.”
Today, radio provides an efficient forum for the exchange of ideas, news, and music over the airwaves. From the pleasant stories of Garrison Keillor and the late Paul Harvey to extreme political rhetoric, you can find a wide variety of interesting and provocative programming. For local writers, your promotion plans should include radio interviews. Start small, with the intention of obtaining regional and national opportunities. If you have a compelling story to tell, there is an audience wanting to hear.
GRATUITOUS PLUG: I will be the guest on Amanda Turner’s radio show on Thursday, July 21 at noon. Tune into 89.9 FM. www.RadioWritersBlock.com