Tuesday, April 29, 2014



to Mary Maresh of Caldwell, Texas, who celebrated her 105th birthday Monday April 28.

Her long life makes her special, but so does the fact that, at age two, she rode the Orphan Train from New York to Texas. There a loving family adopted her.

Latest statistics imply that as many as 400,000 children rode the trains to almost every state in the Union. Today, it's estimated that fewer than 50 of those children remain alive.

So Mary Maresh is also to be congratulated for being a member of that diminishing group.

from Marilyn June Coffey, MAIL-ORDER KID

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Tale in Three Parts

A Tale in Three Parts

Part 1: The Invitation

Melany Wilks, Library Director, Pioneer Memorial Library in Colby, KS, asked me to come speak and sell my books at her library during National Library Week.  I would be one of several writers who spoke at her luncheons during the April 14-18 week. Typically 35 to 70 people attend each presentation.

"Our audience loves to have authors share about their books, themselves and other interesting tidbits," Ms. Wilks wrote. "They like to purchase books and get them signed as well." 

I accepted.

Part 2: The Journey

When my straw boss, Paco Keopanya, and I set out from Omaha Monday morning for our 350-mile journey, the rain pelted the windshield.  

Somewhere near Lincoln, sheets of rain became sleet. Paco slowed down.  

Along about Grand Island, the sleet became a torrent of snow. The windshield wipers flapped wildly. Traffic slowed. Visibility plummeted. 

Rather than risk passing the Brown Transfer semi creeping in front of us, Paco followed it. He flipped on warning lights, and we inched along. Hardly anyone passed us. The few cars that did slipped in the growing piles of slush covering the left lane. 

The truck rolled slower and slower. Finally it, and we, stopped. After we sat for 15 minutes or so, Paco eased into the left lane. Trucks and cars lined up ahead of us as far as we could see. On either side of us, wet snow fell in lacy curtains in the silent afternoon. The sight took my breath away.

When the two-truck accident cleared ahead of us, we moved on into Kearney for gas. As we stepped out of the car, slush piled up around our ankles. "Shall we stop?" I asked Paco, and we nearly did, but instead pushed south on Highway 183. 

South of the Interstate, the blizzard broke. Big state trucks cleared the highway. We thought we'd stay over night in Alma, Nebraska, and drive to Colby in the morning. Food strengthened us. After a late lunch, we pushed on gratefully along a clear road through beautiful country. Snow? No one had seen it.

Part 3: The Insight

I'm used to public speaking. Since 1967, I've given more than 200 presentations in a variety of places: coffee houses, colleges, libraries, galleries, etc.  But this time, I decided to try a new way of warming up my audience.

I handed out sheets listing 10 possible questions audience members might ask about me as a writer. I answered one, as a sample, then asked people to call out the number of a question they wanted me to answer.

This worked well. I answered about three or four before I went on to other topics. These questions seemed to make people comfortable asking their own questions during my presentation.

Here are the ten questions I used.

About the Author 
Marilyn June Coffey 

Curious? Ask me to tell you about any of these topics.

1. My decision to become a writer.

2. My first publication.

3. My Saturday Evening Post publication.

4. Interviewing my dad when he was a senator.

5. Why I quit working for a liquor magazine in Denver.

6. Covering a murder for the Hastings Daily Tribune.

7. Getting in trouble working as a typist in San Diego.

8. Should I be a strikebreaker for the Portland newspaper?

9. Two weeks in New York City, already working as a tour guide.

10. Getting fired from Good Housekeeping.

11. Search for news reporting job in New York's major papers.

12. Helping Associated Press publish a book on Kennedy's death.

Or how I wrote any of my books: Marcella, a novel; Great Plains Patchwork, essays; Pricksongs, poetry; or Mail-Order Kid, biography.