A note from Onisha
I enjoy reading novels based on family histories. It probably comes from my insatiable curiosity about how and why people make their life decisions. Author Fred Wascura. my husband’s cousin wrote Winds from the Mountains which tells the story of his family and their emigration to America from the Rusyn village of Osturna by the Tatra Mountains. Even though I have known Fred for decades, I had no idea of his family history, so I really enjoyed reading the book and look forward to reading the next installment, Gosenhoppen
When my friend and fellow blogger, DiVoran Lites, recently told me about a short book her husband’s cousin Gerry Lites Watkins had written about her life in rural Arkansas during the Depression, I had to check it out. Its title, The Palmetto House, intrigued me so I took a look at it on Amazon and decided instantly to download it. I was not familiar with life in Arkansas during the Depression years and I was pleased to learn of it, especially how families coped under trying conditions.
I wanted to know more about the author and asked DiVoran to request an interview and Gerry, graciously agreed. DiVoran asked some excellent questions. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.
- What inspired you to write The Palmetto House?
My younger brother was born in Arkansas two years before we moved away. Over the years he heard us mention events from this period and he would always ask us what it was like to live there. “I don’t remember living there,” he would say. “Why don’t you all tell me what it was like?” We heard this so often I began to write down some of the things that happened while we lived there, and what the climate and surroundings were like. He liked to read them so much I decided to put them all in a book. It was only this year that I decided to publish them.
- Did you have any special techniques that helped you remember events you remember from these seven years you wrote about?
Only the questions he asked that stirred memories of those years. The more I wrote the more I remembered.
- How much and what kind of research did you do for the book?
None. The memories were so clear I didn’t feel a need to do further research.
Did it take a long time to write it or did it seem to write itself?
I wrote the memoir over a period of years. Months or years would pass before I wrote another chapter until I decided to publish it.
- What did you enjoy most about writing The Palmetto House?
Oh, the memories…the memories!
- Would you tell us some of the things you had to overcome in order to get the book written?
I am a 92 year old woman, a recent cancer survivor and my heart doesn’t always want to act right, so my strength is limited. Some days I didn’t feel like writing at all. Other days I wanted to keep writing, but my body said no you can’t.
- Did you start to write when you were a child or did it come later?
I started writing early. In middle school I published a newsletter (hand written) about my classmates. In college I edited and published a Baptist Student Union newspaper. I continued to write privately, but it was in the 1980s that I began my travel writing career. That lasted 27 years. Since we’ve lived in a retirement center, I have written speeches that I’ve given on the subject of my travels.
- What other kinds of writing do you like to do?
I love writing about history and unusual places and people.
- What kinds of publications and authors do you like to read now?
I like mysteries. The Jewish writer, Daniel Silva, is one of my favorites. James Lee Burke is a great writer, but I wish he would leave out some of the words he uses. He could still write well without them. He writes about South Louisiana and since I have spent so much time there, he makes the scenes live for me. Ann Perry is another favorite. I especially liked her William Monk series and her little Christmas mysteries.
10. How do your spiritual practices aid in your writing and in your life?
My faith is a daily walk. It influences every action, decision and goal. I pray that my writing will encourage others, allow them to escape problems they face, enjoy a few moments of entertainment, and inspire them spiritually.
Remember, I mentioned my curiosity issues? After reading the interview, I had to know if Gerry ever returned to the Palmetto House.
I was never available most times when my parents went back. I did go with them to visit our other family in Arkansas but we didn’t go to The Homestead. The one time I went there we couldn’t get in because of the muddy road. My sister and father walked in, but at that time my mother had Alzheimer’s and some other health problems. She couldn’t walk that far so I stayed with her while they went in. Actually, by that time there was nothing to see, but I have always regretted that I didn’t see it again.
The Palmetto House is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.
Gerry Watkins is an award winning writer, and with her photographer husband, George, they have published hundreds of stories and photographs during the past twenty-four years. They have edited and photographed two on-line travel magazines, Travel Destinations and Trails West. The magazines attracted more than 350,000 surfers per month during the time the Watkins edited them. The Watkins are founding members of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). Both have held various offices in the organization.