Creaking Open That Old Shed Door…

Creaking Open That Old Shed Door…

Why – hello everyone. Are you still here? Are you all really STILL here? Wow! Thank you for sticking around. It’s so wonderful to be able to engage with you again!

If you’ve forgotten, it’s me, Francine LaSala. You may remember me / my words from such quirky novels as Rita Hayworth’s Shoes and The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything and as the publisher and co-editor of the anthology A Kind of Mad Courage. (You may also remember me as the author whose book somehow had the same cover as one by Margaret Atwood – my biggest post to date.)

Margaret Atwood's "ripoff" cover.
Margaret Atwood’s “ripoff” cover. (Click on image to read post.)

Actually, you may not remember me at all – or that you even subscribed to this blog – as it’s been so long since I published anything. Since I’ve written anything of my own. Somehow in the madness of the past two years, I have abandoned my poor “Shed” and somehow managed to lose track of my identity as a writer. Very Mina-esque for anyone who gets the reference.

Before…?

Well, no more or that. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been working to whack away the weeds that have grown over the “Shed” (otherwise known as my creativity). I’ve WD-40’d the hinges of the rickety old door and finally pushed it open. It’s a little musty in here, and there are some cobwebs and spiders hanging around, but give me a few weeks and I’ll have it all spic-and-span again.

I’ve already started to redecorate aesthetically – giving the blog a new look. (What do you think?) Now I’m working on “redecorating” content. I don’t think I’ll be able to commit to regular features, like Wassup Wednesday and Five for Friday anymore, but I will try and post regularly.

I still want to hear from you guys as well. While I haven’t been around all that much, I’ve really missed the sense of community having a regular blog gives a gal.

In the time that I’ve been away, I lost my mother. I became estranged from my father, and made my peace with him.

I became a dog person.

The three "musketeers" (or "stooges" - depending on the day/hour).)
The three “musketeers” (or “stooges” – depending on the day/hour).)

I took a couple of winter trips to a California beach house with writer pals Eileen Goudge, Samantha Stroh Bailey, Julie Valerie, Jen Tucker, Meredith Schorr, and Josie Brown and enriched my soul.

I went to France with my ten-year-old daughter and left here there with her grandparents – to fly home on her own. The most terrifying experience of my life, but she was awesome!

Yep, I’ve done a lot of growing these past months. How about you? Please leave me a comment about the biggest thing that’s happened to you in the past two years. (And if you’re not subscribed, do it now – it’s so easy!)

I look forward to welcoming you all back into the Shed again – maybe when it looks like more this…?

The Goal!
The Goal!

Till next time,

Francine

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

Chick Lit ‘n’ Charity

Chick Lit ‘n’ Charity

rockingAs many of you may already know, I, along with five author pals, got together this Holiday Season and released a charming, heartwarming Christmas-themed short story collection for a very cool charity called Rocking the Road for a Cure. I had the opportunity to interview Dawn Frey, founder of Rocking the Road for a Cure, and I’m excited to be able to share some very cool info I learned about the charity with you. Please read the interview and see how you can get involved with what this very cool charity is doing. And please… Buy the book! Just 99 cents for the ebook and less than $10 for the paperback!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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(Learn more about RTRFAC by clicking here.)

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Can you give us some background about Rocking the Road for a Cure? What inspired you to start it?

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was working as a therapeutic consultant with MS (multiple-sclerosis) clients, and wanted to start a non-profit organization to help MS patients get free in-home services.  Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and during my treatment, I went to a wellness retreat in Rhinebeck, NY sponsored by the Libby Ross Foundation. There I did rehabilitative yoga and got health and nutritional counseling in a group setting with other breast cancer patients going through treatment, and with survivors.  I enjoyed the retreat, but at the time, because of my treatment, my immune system was compromised, so I asked if I could get these services at home.  They told me they only had offices in Manhattan, and I was not comfortable with making the trip into the city and the exposure to so many other people.  I felt that even if the yoga at their center helped for an hour, the stress of the travel and finding parking, and the potential exposure to all those people when my immunity was low could set me back much more.

I researched getting these services at home, but nobody was providing them.  I decided that once I got better, I would start an organization to provide wellness services at home for others.  People going through cancer treatment should be able to have the benefits of these kinds of things without the stress of having to get to an appointment, the stress on their immune systems, or having to deal with not being comfortable in public if they’ve lost their hair, or other issues like that.

How many women have you worked with since you started?

Rocking The Road For A Cure has now helped 50 patients.  49 women and 1 man.

How is this organization different than other breast cancer focused organizations?

We provide some of the same services as other organizations, but patients don’t have to go someplace to get them.  They don’t have to make an errand out of getting them.  Our service providers are certified and licensed professionals, not volunteers.  One unique thing about RTRFAC is our nurse case manager service.  We have a licensed, certified nurse case manager contact each patient and make a home visit within a week of first contact to assess each patient’s individual needs and their home environment.  The nurse case manager can then recommend services that might help the patient, but that the patient might not have requested themselves, like nutritional counseling.

Another thing that’s different about us is that we don’t look at patients’ financial information.  We provide services to anyone, regardless of financial status, and treat all patients the same that way.

What types of things do you do for women with breast cancer?

Our website and brochure have a full list of our services, and there are a lot of things we do.  In the wellness services category, we provide in-home yoga, reiki, massage, meditation.  Lymphedema is something that happens to many breast cancer patients when their lymph nodes are affected or removed, so we have a licensed massage therapist who specializes in lymphedema and breast cancer and makes home visits.

Under support services, we have the nurse case managers, a recreational therapist, childcare specialists and counselors, transportation to and from medical appointments.  For household help, we have a nutritionist who helps shop for and prepare healthy foods, and teaches patients how to do this.  We also provide housecleaning and laundry help, and professional organizing, and we have beauty consultants who will take our clients wig shopping and we pay for their wig.

For any services we don’t currently provide, we have a wide range of resources we can use for referral.  We’re also open to and willing to do whatever a patient needs help with.  For example, we recently got a client who’s elderly and whose daughter is wheelchair bound and can’t accompany her to her cancer treatments.  We got her a companion who not only takes her to and from, but stays with her during her appointments.  Chemo can take several hours, so this way the client isn’t alone during that time, and there’s someone to report back to family members as well.

Are there any specific requirements for women to use your services?

Our clients must be going through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, and they have to have an official cancer diagnosis from a doctor.  For any services that require physical contact, like yoga or massage, we require a physician’s release form and medical release from their doctor on the doctor’s letterhead.

What are some goals for Rocking the Road for a Cure in the coming years?

We really want to expand our services to more people in a larger geographic area. We also want to be able to provide more services and service hours per client…to increase the allotted funding per client.  Our services are free to clients, but our licensed, professional service providers are paid competitively.  So we need to increase our funding to be able to give more to clients.  Most of our funding so far has come from fundraising events and individual donations.  More recently, we’ve started applying for grants to help us grow at the rate we’d like.

How do you find women to help? Do you have relationships with cancer centers? Doctors? Word of mouth?

Actually, all of the above.  We have partnerships with Adelphi University’s New York State Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program, and with other women’s health service organizations in our area.  We do cross-referencing and referrals with other local breast cancer organizations.  We get referrals from local oncologists, plastic surgeons and physical therapists that specialize in treating breast cancer patients.  We’ve done community outreach, speaking at local civic organizations.  And we get word of mouth referrals too.

How can people get involved?

We welcome involvement!  Anyone interested can make a donation through our website, www.rockingtheroadforacure.org, and they can contact us through there as well if they’re interested in volunteering.  We have long- and short-term volunteer opportunities, like if someone is interested in helping us with a specific fundraising event.  We’d welcome some help with marketing and website maintenance.  And we always welcome promotion of our organization on your websites and Facebook pages.

We’re very lucky and grateful to have become involved with the creators of Merry Chick Lit, so THANK YOU to all the authors who donated their time and talent to helping us!

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Learn more about RTRFAC by clicking here.

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Buy MERRY CHICK LIT

merry chicklit coverIn the spirit of giving, six chick-lit authors “present” a charming collection of seasonal shorts sure to inspire holiday cheer-plus love and hope throughout the year, with all proceeds donated to Rocking the Road for a Cure! Featured authors & stories include:

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson
In “Santa’s Gift,” journalist Jessica thinks Santa’s just a silly myth for children, so when he asks what she most wants for Christmas she tells him the one thing she knows he can’t deliver–true love. Or can he…?

Sarah Hitchcock
In “The Christmas Lights,” one competition pits two families against each other…who will win this war?

Francine LaSala
Pretty Izzy knows exactly what she wants for Christmas: hunky sales manager Jake Harrington wrapped up with a shiny silver bow–and nothing else. Except Santa may have other plans in “Carol of the Belles.”

Nikki Mahood
In “Spinster Christmas,” Cara’s looking forward to spending Christmas alone until she learns her old–and she believes very gay–crush needs a place to stay. Though it soon becomes clear that while still hot, Ronan isn’t gay after all…

Holly Martin
Ella’s dreams of making a better life for her and her daughter seem further away than ever in “Iced Dreams.” But as Christmas approaches, and she wishes for a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand to fix her life, things begin to change in ways she never imagined!

K.C. Wilder
In “The Mermaid,” Allie’s content to spend Christmas by herself at a vacant beach house to make good on a promise made to her true love lost, Jeff. Until Jeff’s gorgeous college roommate Tim crashes in on her with his own promise to keep…

So snuggle up near the fire with a glass of wine or a cup of cocoa and enjoy these festive holiday shorts, knowing your purchase of this book is helping women with breast cancer.

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

“I’m A Mommy Author,” by Samantha Stroh Bailey

“I’m A Mommy Author,” by Samantha Stroh Bailey

samheadshotauthorcentralI used to have this kickass job where I worked from 12:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. and had six weeks’ paid vacation. I spent my nights and mornings (though morning might be pushing it because I would get up at 10:00 a.m. after going to bed at 2:00 a.m.) and write. I knew I had it good, but didn’t realize how good until I had kids. And I had that incredible, leisurely schedule  for almost eight years until my son was born. The wee hours of the night no longer meant writing; now, they were about breastfeeding and watching Millionaire Matchmaker. I had to arrange my work schedule to suit my new life as a mom and suddenly had to be at work at 7:30 a.m. My writing took a backseat, but though I missed it, I was so happy being a mom.

I started writing again until I got pregnant with my daughter, and nausea, exhaustion and a toddler took precedence over my characters. In Canada, we get one year’s maternity leave (we’re so lucky, I know), and when my mat leave was almost up, I had to take a good look at the kind of life I envisioned for my family. The idea of being jolted awake by a screeching alarm, racing around the house like a crazy person and shuttling the kids to two different places before I’d even had my second cup of coffee didn’t sound like a recipe for happiness. And with the inevitable sicknesses my kids would pass back and forth because they’re always on top of each other, how was I going to take that much time off work? And join parents’ council and really be there for my kids the way I wanted to? Oh, and pay the bills?

Well, I was actually tired of teaching after over 15 years and had always wanted to start my own business so when my daughter was a year old, I opened Perfect Pen Communications, my freelance writing/editing company. Having my own business and being able to work from home and write and edit all day was something I had only dreamed about. And when clients started pouring in, I was quite stunned. I’d never been up on the latest technology and hadn’t realized that working virtually was going to be the success it is. I now had exactly what I wanted—my own business, I could stay home with my daughter for another year and a half and was able to pick my son up early and spend serious quality time with my kids. What I hadn’t realized was how hard it was going to be to juggle being a mom and a business owner.

And then there was my writing. I’ve been writing for thirty years, and the time had come for me to put myself out there again. I was terrified and excited and when I looked at my kids’ beautiful faces, I knew that I wanted to show them that you have to follow your dreams. So, in 2011, I wrote up an article about my unfortunate identify theft and sent it off to one of Toronto’s most read newspapers. Shockingly, they accepted it and so began my career as a journalist. I was writing for magazines, websites and newspapers and the editing jobs were coming fast and furious. All of which made me so happy, but I had to do it while being a stay-at-home mom. I worked during my daughter’s naps and at night, running around until the last bit of weight fell off my boobs, and I looked like a strangled chicken.

I loved having the time for my kids and doing my own thing, but if I kept up the pace I was working at, I would surely have tossed myself out of a window. So, we hired a caregiver to help us two days a week, and I took on more jobs. At the same time, I decided to finally publish Finding Lucas, a novel that I’d been working on for a long time and was very proud of.

Fast forward a couple of years, and now both of my kids are in school and daycare. I have my days to work and write, though I never quite seem to be able to get enough writing done. My time consists of answering emails and promoting Finding Lucas, connecting with my beloved Twitter and Facebook friends, working on my clients’ projects (many of which are manuscripts, which I love to edit) and writing blog posts, articles and revising Everything But, my second novel. I also clean the house, make dinner, do the laundry, arrange doctor, dentist and eye appointments, schedule birthday parties and playdates, all with my phone at my side at all times lest the school call.

I love every bit of it. But, I am, of course, exhausted and you can hide snacks in the circles under my eyes. I’m a night owl so even though I wake up early to get the kids ready for school, make breakfasts and lunches and do some dishes, it is rare to find me in bed before midnight. I want my relaxation and reading time and to cuddle up with my husband, too. As more people read Finding Lucas, I’m invited to evening events and have a trip planned to New York City (where I will finally get to meet my amazing friend, Francine LaSala!), which will be the longest I have ever been away from my kids. As happy as I am to have my own thing, my kids will always come first. I am a mom, an author and a business owner, and it is all I ever wanted. More coffee, please!

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Keep Up With Samantha on the Web!

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Can you ever really go back to the past? After five long years of living with Derek, her former bad-boy-turned-metrosexual boyfriend, Jamie Ross finally reaches her breaking point. She’s had enough of his sneering disdain for her second hand wardrobe, unusual family and low-paying job as the associate producer of Chicago’s sleaziest daytime talk show. When her new boss plans a segment on reuniting lost loves, Jamie remembers Lucas, her first love and the boy she’d lost ten years earlier. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, Jamie goes on a hilarious, disastrous and life changing hunt to track Lucas down. But are some loves best left behind?

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Samantha Stroh Bailey has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen. In fact, she even sent her first manuscript, Freddy the Flame, to publishers when she was ten years old. After 15 years of teaching ESL to adults, including at the University of Toronto, she decided to live her dreams of being a ful-ltime writer and editor. Now the owner of Perfect Pen Communications, she not only gets to write novels, but also writes and edits for magazines, websites, businesses, students and other authors. Her work has appeared in Now Magazine, The Village Post, Oxford University Press, Abilities Magazine, on mommyish.com and many other publications. Samantha also has a Masters of Education in Applied Linguistics. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children. Finding Lucas is her first novel.

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Let’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com