Author. Teacher. Coach. Counselor. Therapist. Mother. Wife. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Pet Mother. Human. Not in any particular order. Sometimes all at the same time.
Here is where I blog about writing and mental health, which, if you are a writer, you understand the connection. I also run an interview series featuring a variety of authors who talk about their books and the realities of publishing.
Friday, June 07, 2019
9 Questions with Myrtle Brooks
This week's featured author is Myrtle Brooks from Brooklyn, N.Y. and her literary fantasy-memoir Stories from the Mother Bear.
message are you hoping people will receive when they read your book?
I sought to
make this a book readers can identify with at least in part or in parts.
This is the fictional historical autobiography of a journalist from childhood
to old age, filled with joys, triumphs, utter tragedy and failures, with an
ever-present backdrop of the Vietnam War, its casualties and its aftermath.
Other current events are threaded throughout the main story.
It is the story
of many families: one, the saga of a family of black cowboy-pioneers who
traveled cross-country to settle in Grand Teton before it became a national
park. There are mountaineers, scientists and settlers in Jackson, Wyoming.
There are the Shoshone and Arapaho nations, driven by force into the Wind River
reservation, who are there to this day. All these intersect with the
journalist, his wife and family.
centuries, the same vision recurs: a mother grizzly bear with her three cubs, who
appears in Teton and imparts wisdom and empathy; herself creating many more
stories. Each time she does, her presence enriches the lives of those she
visits: whose journals, diaries and letters are preserved in the attic of a deceased family member of the black cowboys, among the Shoshone and among
Each vision is
a message, as is the path of the journalist, Bill Larkin’s, life; and each
growth the characters experience a life lesson.
did you write this book?
I had written
my first novel, The Geyser Girl of Yellowstone Park, also published by Black
Rose Writing. As a reward, my family and I packed up our 1999, road-worthy
Dodge Caravan, and we traveled from Brooklyn to spend two nights in Yellowstone
Park’s Old Faithful Inn and two more nights in Grand Teton’s Colter Bay cabins.
Teton is south of Yellowstone; a small stretch of road connects the two parks.
Years ago, when
I was 15, I went on a camping trip cross-country with two counselors- husband
and wife-and enough teenage kids to fill two Volkswagen buses. I remembered
Teton as having been an exquisite place, spending the night outside the
tent in a sleeping bag, and not much more.
When I returned
43 years later, it was as I described at the end of Chapter 8:
A little ways along the main road after the
Teton entrance, I pulled the bus over to the curb, opened the door and emerged
to look around me. The passenger’s side door opened soon after, followed by the
rear doors, and the family gathered around me. I embraced them all.
“What is it, Daddy?” Anna was first to
enquire of me.
“Did you see the bear?” Susanna tugged at my
I shook my head slowly. “It’s… that I feel
I’ve been here my whole life. As though it’s a place I’ve known for all time.”
“Is it because it’s scenic?” Jesse sought me
“It’s because… I’ve returned home.”
New York City
will always be my first home. But there is room in our hearts for second ones.
And when I returned home to Brooklyn, I remembered that warm, welcoming embrace
and exclaimed: “Just like a big, old mother bear.” Followed by “…That’s it!”
throughout the book and on the book cover are mine from yet another visit.
It took nine
years to write and edit this labor of love.
In 2015, I
returned to spend the night at Colter Bay on a book signing tour for Geyser
Girl in the Greater Yellowstone region. Imagine business-commuting through
Yellowstone and Teton to bookstores in Jackson, the library in Cody, Wyoming,
and Bozeman and Gardiner, Montana! A win-win working vacation.
I found myself wondering how much longer I had on this earth and
worrying more than I had in my younger years. And as I spent time among
the Teton mountains, lakes and meadows, thinking on this, I got the
overwhelming sense of nature’s upward continuation towards life. God’s animals
and trees and flowers don’t think on death. They don’t ask how long. They grow,
they produce, they serve as our exemplary teachers.
This, I have
sought to reflect in Stories of the Mother Bear:
my beloved was buried in the Sacramento City Cemetery, having selflessly given
his life for his country. It was only the summer past when he enlisted in the
U.S. Army, leaving behind the vineyard in my keeping and that of his older
brother, James, from San Francisco.
I realize how impregnated the acres of vines and the hewn stone structure
housing the winery are with his memory. Torn within beyond all thought, I long
to flee from this place and run home to Jackson. But, how can I leave what is
so much my own as well, and the more ingrained in our children; which now has
become the estate of my beloved?
and Derrick come to me seeking answers of which I possess but little knowledge.
I tell them the world is fraught with violence and inhumanity of man against
man. They tell me they learned of such things in history class, but that never
once could they have imagined their own father being taken from us in that way.
when my children ask me how we will go on without him, I will take them by the
hand and lead them out upon the land. I will show them how, amid the oak tree
beyond our property, once luxuriant, now felled by lightning’s cruel blow, the
larkspur insist on blooming perennially at the base of its massive trunk. And
beside it, the birch and the sycamore neither cease from stretching their
branches towards heaven, nor forbear to hug the earth with their roots and take
their meat and drink in its season.
will tell them to live and bear the fruits of goodness and kindness; that their
lives be enriched, and they, in turn, enrich the lives of others.
this is all manner of evil brought to nothing.
has been the hardest part of the publishing process?
undoubtedly the hardest. Editing is all part of the love of it: to me, anyway.
But there is much competition out there, and an author must do his/her best to
draw attention to his/her work. You must believe in yourself at all times, even
when you feel at your worst, and without a doubt believe in your work as
has been the biggest (pleasant) surprise in your publishing journey?
The Mom and Pop
bookstores are sheer joy when you do a book signing. They are sweet,
hospitable, advertise your coming and will sometimes set a vase of flowers on
your table for you to take home. And, too, I had a wonderful CRM in Barnes
& Noble, Bronx, now closed (tears), and a terrific manager, both of whom
were people of vision who appreciated and welcomed local authors.
critical, impartial reviewer raves over your book and wants to read the next
you write a sequel to your book? Why or why not?
incorporated enough family sagas into this one already. The prime legacies are
defined, both spiritual and material, their inheritors, and the whys and
wherefores. I would like for the readers to continue the journey themselves.
author or book has influenced your writing?
The Bible, to which I’m devoted as a believer. And, too, I feel that every
well-written book I have ever read from childhood on has leaned itself to my
inspiration: good literature never vacates the heart and mind.
are stranded on an island with only 3 books. What are their titles? The
Bible, a complete set of Shakespeare’s works, and the old Montgomery Ward’s
Atlas a good friend left me as a legacy. (Ummm... hopefully the island is on
one of those maps. LOL)
is your philosophy about rejection? I cannot afford to allow rejection to
define the path of my life. To stop living my life, to stop writing, to stop
doing what I love would be an empty, meaningless existence. I can, however,
afford to use rejection to become a stronger, more committed, self-disciplined
individual. For the record, though, I have received very kind letters from
agents in my lifetime praising my writing capabilities, but stating my work
“did not fit.” It served to give me hope; hey, at least they liked it.
you have a day job? What is it?
I am a retired
clerk with the United States Postal Service and still an active member and on
the Board of Trustees of my labor union. I also enjoy spending my time reaching
out to others with encouragement and help whenever I can.