Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Meet June McCrary Jacobs

Today I'm hosting an interview with my friend, June McCrary Jacobs. She and I have gotten to know each other because we share the same publisher. She is a friendly and talented Christian woman, and I'm glad to call her my friend. We hope you enjoy my interview with her.

Becky:  You're not only a published author, you're an accomplished seamstress. Tell us about your hobbies and interests.

June:  Thanks for hosting this interview on your blog, Becky. I appreciate the opportunity to share with your readers.
I’ve been reading and writing since before I was in Kindergarten and sewing since I was about eight years old. These activities have brought me so much pleasure and have enriched my life in many ways. I’m fortunate to have had my work published in the fiction-writing and sewing design arenas.
My hobbies are reading, sewing, quilting, hand-embroidery, crafting, cooking, and decorating our home. My interests include spending time with my family and friends, visiting historic homes and sites, visiting art and history museums and art galleries, attending fairs and festivals, and walking through botanical gardens and parks. I love anything to do with antique quilts, clothing, and textiles, so I visit a lot of quilt shows and museum exhibits related to these themes.

One of June's sewing projects

Becky: I love visiting all those kinds of places too (though I'm not much of a seamstress.) How did you end up writing stories?

June:  When I was in sixth grade I decided I wanted to be a published author. I’ve always been a voracious reader, so I suppose it was a natural progression that I’d compose my own stories. I knew I wanted to write a book for readers to enjoy—a story to make people feel good about the people in their lives and their community. Basically, I wanted to write an old-fashioned, inspirational story with love as the nucleus of the plot.
I’ve always made up stories in my mind about people I observe and places I visit. A few years ago I began putting these stories down on paper—or should I say typing these up on my computer! I began writing non-fiction columns and articles for sewing and crafting magazines in 2007. I’m responsible for writing the instructions for the sewing designs I create for books, magazines, and blogs. Eventually I moved on to fiction writing. ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom’ is my first published book.

Becky: What writing projects are you working on now?

June:  I’m polishing my first full-length contemporary inspirational romance novel, and I’m working on a cute, sort of funny contemporary clean romance with characters I absolutely adore. I find I really like most of my characters so much I consider them to be individuals I could be friends with in real life. However, there are a villain and villainess in my new full-length novel who I hope I never cross in real life! They are naughty and not nice.

June McCrary Jacobs

Becky:  Who are your favorite authors?

June:  I read in many different genres, so I’ll break up my list into genres. I’ve learned a lot about writing from these fabulous authors.
Amish Fiction:  Shelley Shepard Gray, Tricia Goyer, Beverly Lewis, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Barbara Cameron, Kelly Long, Rosalind Lauer, and Vanetta Chapman. 
Contemporary Romance:  Debbie Macomber and Lucy Kevin. 
Inspirational Romance:  Jillian Hart and Debra Clopton.
Historical Fiction:  Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tracie Peterson, and Colleen Coble.
Fiction:  Sue Grafton, Earlene Fowler, Jennifer Chiaverini, Marcia Muller, Amy Tan, John Grisham, Adriana Trigiani, and Lisa Scottoline.
Non-fiction Authors and Editors (Sewing, Quilting, Crafting, Cooking):   Wendy Gardiner, Trish Hoskins & Rebecca Yaker, Emma Hardy, Cath Kidston, Alex Anderson, Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman), Martha Stewart & Associates, and many more!

Becky: I'm going to have to take your list to the library with me. Those are some great authors! How did your friends and family react when you told them you’d won the Cedar Fort Holiday Tale Contest in 2013 and that your book was going to be published?

June:  Most of them didn’t know I had written ‘A Holiday Miracle’ and entered it in Cedar Fort’s contest, so they were very surprised to learn I had won! I don’t usually share with others about my writing or sewing submissions until I have a signed contract.
My husband and close friends were ecstatic because they know how hard I’ve worked for years to accomplish the goal of publishing a novel. Others who knew of my sewing design accomplishments were curious about my change from sewing designing to writing.
Everyone has been extremely supportive, especially my husband and my circle of close friends. Other people whom I’ve known for years but who didn’t really know about the sewing publications were shocked and excited when they asked me, ‘What’s new?’, and I responded, ‘I have a book coming out in October.’ It was fun to see the expressions on their faces when what I was sharing with them sank in and they reacted with a huge smile or giggle.
People I don’t even know have followed me on my Author’s Facebook page and have sent me nice emails about the book and my sewing designs. Their kindness and positive reactions to my work have been rewarding.

Becky: Aren't those kind of e-mails the best? I love them too. Since Christmas in Apple Blossom is a Christmas story, I'd like to know some of your favorite Christmas traditions.

June:  As I’ve grown older, I try to concentrate on the true meanings of Christmas during the holiday season. I believe the true meanings of this holiday are love, kindness, God’s great gift to the world, and compassion. I don’t get caught up in the shopping frenzy because it’s too stressful and unnecessary. Instead, I do the things which make my family and me happy.
I enjoy decorating our house for holidays. As you might imagine, many of our decorations are things I’ve sewn or crafted over the years. I love the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke, Christmas books, holiday music, and holiday movies so I set aside some time to enjoy those treasures each holiday season. I especially enjoy watching two different versions of ‘The Nutcracker Ballet’ each season.
I enjoy visiting historic homes decorated for the season in period Christmas d├ęcor. Some of my favorite homes to visit are Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the Stanford Mansion in Sacramento, McConaghy House in Hayward, the Meux Home in Fresno, Patterson House in Newark, and the Elk Grove Stage Stop Hotel in Elk Grove. I especially enjoy seeing the antique and vintage dolls, teddy bears, and toys they display in the various room vignettes at these magnificent homes.
I also like to do some charity sewing for local organizations. For a few years I donated stockings and ornaments to the local hospital foundation for them to pass out to patients who were stuck in the hospital on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’ve also made cloth dolls, doll quilts, and stuffed animals for other organizations to distribute to those families in need. I’ve made quilts and hats and scarves for the elderly and the homeless in our community. Creating a gift for someone in need helps me to feel connected to others and reminds me of God’s gift to our world.
Finally, one event I truly look forward to each year is our annual drive around town to see the Christmas lights and decorations other families have generously prepared for our enjoyment. I anticipate this annual sojourn as much as I did when I was a child!

Becky: How did you get the idea for Christmas in Apple Blossom?

June:  I lived in snow country when I was very young. I remember snow as being white, wet, and cold. It was also scary since the landscape looked so different than when there was no snow on the ground. Since moving to California after Kindergarten, I don’t have a lot of experience with snow except for a weekend ski trip to Lake Tahoe when I was in high school.
I’ve heard people talk and write about snow angels and how much fun they were to make.  I had to look in a book to see what they were talking about! Once I saw illustrations of snow angels and read a few children’s stories about them, I decided to write a story about a little girl who loved angels—snow angels, singing angels, anything to do with angels. The little girl developed into the injured first grader, Mary Noel, in my book. I began with her accident and subsequent depression.
When I saw the call for submissions from Cedar Fort Inc. for their 2013 Holiday Tale Contest, I decided to finish my ‘Mary Noel’ novella and submit it to the contest. I wanted to write a story that would touch people and remind them of the true meaning of Christmas—love.
The story is set in the fictional town of Apple Blossom in Vermont because I wanted a setting where there was lots of snow. The apple is the state tree of Vermont, so I created the town name of Apple Blossom to fit in with that fact.
The heroine, Amber Kellen, is a first grade teacher who is new to Apple Blossom. I taught first grade for nearly twenty years, so I felt I could depict the teaching profession, students, and daily happenings in a first grade classroom with confidence. The hero, Paul Watkins, is a carpenter in honor of my Grandpa John who was a skilled carpenter in the south back in the early and mid-twentieth century.
I’ve heard from other people and in the news about the astronomical medical costs for hospital care, and I decided to make the center of the story about a community project and the families in the area working together to help one of their own families suffering from financial stress. After those things were set, I began the writing and editing cycle until I felt the book was ready to submit to Cedar Fort.

Becky: Your story is about how a community comes together to help a child in need. Do you have any real life examples of service that have brought people together in your neighborhood?

June:  None that I can think of right now, Becky. I am hopeful my book will inspire others to think creatively when trying to help families in need. Organizations to which volunteers give of their time and energy are generally successful in the fundraising arena because these individuals have hope and faith that they can make a positive difference in the lives of others. I find their faith and call to action to be very inspiring.

Becky: I understand you've published articles about sewing. How do you get ideas for sewing projects?

June:  I have several notebooks and sketchbooks filled with ideas, notes, doodling, and sketches. When I’m searching for something to make, many times I’ll pull out these treasure troves and discover the inspiration I need.
In the past editors have contacted me and requested a project using a certain color, fabric, or product. Sometimes I’m requested to make a Christmas gift for a child or a holiday decoration for Independence Day, for example. Other calls for submissions are very specific about colors, fabrics, embellishments, types of projects desired, etc.

June's snail face suitcase

When the call for submission for the ‘Little One-Yard Wonders’ book was posted in early 2012, the call basically stated they were looking for children’s designs using one yard only of fabric. I began thinking back to when I was a child. I asked myself what was my favorite accessory? The answer became so clear to me—it was a small-sized suitcase with a zipper closure that I used for sleepovers, slumber parties, and campouts for several years until it wore out.
I sketched out the suitcase and then wanted to add something special to the front. I love rickrack trim and buttons, and I envisioned a snail’s shell made from sewing rickrack in a circular pattern. I added a button head, etc., and came up with the project that ended up in the book, my ‘Snail Face Suitcase.’
Sometimes when I’m taking photographs to post on my blog I’ll see something in nature that calls to me or touches me, such as a bird or a flower. Then I try to incorporate that element into an ornament or pillow or small table quilt or wall hanging.

June:  I enjoyed sharing with you and your readers today, Becky. Once again, thanks for hosting this interview. If your readers are interested in learning more about my writing and sewing adventures, downloading free monthly sewing designs, or leaving a comment on my blog, please have them visit me at my website:  http://www.junemccraryjacobs.com.  Readers may also contact me on my Author’s Facebook Page and at my email address:  junemccraryjacobs@gmail.com.  All my best wishes to you, Becky, in your journey as an author. Happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, October 17, 2014

My Time in Quarantine and What I Learned From It

As I've listened to the news about Ebola, I've reflected again and again on my own experience with a serious disease. Twelve years ago, I contracted a bad case of Hepatitis A (a food-borne form of Hepatitis) and had to spend three weeks in quarantine. Despite significant damage to my liver, I recovered and am able to live a normal life now. I often reflect on how blessed I am to be healthy.

Lately, I have heard over and over again that African cultural practices are responsible for the spread of Ebola. I agree. However, having experienced quarantine in the U.S., I can also say that American cultural practices could lead to the spread of Ebola. There are three American cultural practices in particular that I wanted to address in this blog post. First, that American medical professionals tend to scoff at self-diagnosis. Second, that health departments generally quarantine individuals only after diagnosis. Third, that Americans tend to perceive quarantining as the equivalent of ostracizing. My personal story illustrates all three of these weaknesses.

If You Self-Diagnose, You Must Be a Hypochondriac
Back in 2003, Hepatitis was the last thing on my mind. All I knew was that I had an incurable desire to lie on the couch watching Oprah. This wasn't something I normally did, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I rationalized that I was really tired of the contractors working on my bathroom. But no matter how much I rested, the fatigue grew worse. Finally one day, I noticed that my hands were yellow. I looked in the mirror. My face was yellow. So were the whites of my eyes. Because I'd served a mission in Africa, I knew I had Hepatitis. I immediately called my doctor. At my appointment, I told him I thought I had Hepatitis A. Like most doctors, he wasn't impressed with my self-diagnosis. He ordered a blood test to appease me, but also scheduled an ultrasound because he was sure I was having trouble with a gall stone.

I've thought about this a lot in the context of Duncan Eric Thomas. What if the doctor had simply asked him, "What do you think might be wrong with you?" Then, what if they had listened and considered that he could be right?

Quarantining After Diagnosis, Instead of Before
By the time my doctor got the results of my blood test, I was already starting to feel better. He immediately called the health department and told me not to go out in public. I remember thinking, "Wait, now that I'm feeling a little better, they're going to quarantine me? Wouldn't it have made more sense to start the quarantine a few days ago when I felt like I was going to die?"

This is a problem that also showed up with the nurses who worked at the hospital in Dallas. They weren't quarantined until after they showed symptoms. It looks like the government might try to reverse this practice by quarantining those who've had contact with the disease. Yesterday, for example, we heard about a nurse from the Dallas hospital who's been quarantined on a cruise ship. The news is making a big deal about her quarantine, but the truth of the matter is that she has no symptoms. It's a precautionary quarantine.

The Stigma of Quarantine
The health department called me the same day of my diagnosis. I provided them with a list of everyone who'd had close contact with me, including the contractors who worked on my bathroom. Every one of those people had to get gamma globulin shots at the health department. (That was pretty embarrassing for me, and in hindsight, it was hard to say everyone's name, knowing they'd all have to get a shot.) After that, it was a long, lonely three weeks at home. I was blessed to have people from my church who helped me shop and prepared meals for my family. I'll admit, though, I felt a little ostracized. I'd never known anyone else who'd been quarantined, and I wondered if people would judge me as someone who had poor hygeine.

We need to turn the stigma of quarantine on its head. People who submit to quarantine are brave and generous. They are protecting their communities. They deserve thank-you notes, phone calls, and applause from the media. No, we don't want to be around them, but we can give them the respect they deserve.

My prayers go out to the West African people and those elsewhere who've been affected by Ebola. I hope as a world, we can find a way to end the suffering.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Falling in love with Fall

I love summer, but now that it's over, I'm really excited about fall. One fabulous thing about living in Utah is that the leaves change colors in the mountains long before they change everywhere else. This picture is of Silver Lake, a really gorgeous place to visit in the fall. 

The leaves are just beginning to change around my neighborhood. We have so many beautiful golden yellow trees around us right now. My favorite, though, are the maple leaves that turn red. I've never posted a poem before, but this is one of my favorites (a sonnet) that I wrote about a maple leaf.

Maple Leaf
by Rebecca Jamison
I saw a silk tiara starched with sun
where once an old clay goddess laid her head
beneath this tree with autumn just begun
and stretched her wind-glazed limbs on grassy bed.
Or here the scale fell off a dragon's tail
engraved with fiery patterns, lines of skin,
to mark this sight where princesses turn pale
while knights, unheeding, thought what might have been.
Perhaps it is an ancient parchment sent
from far-off moons on rippled waves of air
with crooked words to spell a testament
of other peoples, other worlds to share.
But really winter's shiver shook this tree
and rained a witness of infinity.

Another great thing about fall is Halloween. I have been on the look-out for a good knight costume for years, and I finally found one last month at Costco. Whoohoo. Here's the preview:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Meet me in Bountiful

I'm so excited about this Saturday night. I'll be signing books with Jennifer Moore, who wrote Becoming Lady Lockwood. We'll be at the Deseret Book in Bountiful, Utah from 6:00-8:00 p.m. I'll also have chocolate and free bookplates.

It's been a fun week to be an author. My schedule has finally calmed down enough for me to get some writing done. I also got a great review for Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale in the Deseret News. (Click here to read the review.) 

Among other things, the reviewer wrote: Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale is more than a regurgitation of Austen’s classic. It’s almost a supplement meant to enrich an already wholesome, moving story about the strength of sisterhood and family.
Jamison, a Brigham Young University alum, has written a few other Mormon-targeted Austen adaptations, and her storytelling only gets better with each novel."
I hope you have a great weekend!