post

New Year. New Website: YourBiography2.com

Illustration by: suriko

Illustration by: suriko

Dear Followers,

I’m still blogging, but I’m doing it on my new website, YourBiography2.com.

I still believe change is a constant, both stimulating and rewarding, if sometimes disruptive. We go on vacation for a change of pace and travel to faraway destinations for a change of scenery. We change jobs to broaden our experience and change places to get a better view. We change our minds when circumstances warrant it. And then change them back.

I’m still interested in history, her story, and true stories, considering the quirky, crazy things we once did compared to the quirky, crazy way we live today. But now I encourage you to write them down.

More than ever I believe our stories make us who we are. As a personal historian, I offer a range of services to help you write your life or family history. On my website, I recommend techniques for you to get started on your own. I search out popular memoirs from yesteryear and today, and I quote famous authors on reading, writing, and remembering.

“What is past is prologue,” said William Shakespeare, and it’s worth exploring. Please join me on the journey on YourBiography2.com.

Advertisements
post

‘Tis the Season: Bake a Fruitcake 2

Jay Leno bestowed Marie Rudisill with the name “The Fruitcake Lady,” when she appeared with him on The Tonight Show.

Having just published her latest cookbook, Fruitcake: Memories of Truman Capote and Sook, Marie was sick and tired of Leno denigrating fruitcakes. His jokes went from bad to worse.

Photo by: sarsmis

Photo by: sarsmis

Q. What do you do with a Christmas fruitcake?

A. Try eating it! Hey! It’s one way to get rid of it!

Then, there was this one:

Q. How many fruitcakes are there in the world?

A. Just one, and it keeps being passed around and around from person to person.

All fired up, like a wood-burning oven on a cold winter morning, Marie wrote Leno a letter. “You’ve got a hell of a nerve,” she lectured. “A good fruitcake is a labor of love, a work of art. You don’t have any idea how good a fruitcake can be.” Well, she caught someone’s attention, and the next thing she knew she was mixing nuts and sifting flour on the fruit in front of a live studio audience.

As funny as the Fruitcake Lady is, she’s serious about fruitcakes, calling them “true ambrosia – the queen of cakes.” In her cookbook, she includes over twenty recipes. Can’t wait to get started? Here’s one Martha Washington is said to have used.

Cream together a 1/2 pound butter and 1-1/2 pounds sugar. Gradually add six beaten egg yolks until creamy; then dissolve one teaspoon of soda in one pint of sour cream and add, alternating with 1-1/2 pounds of flour. Next, add the whites of the six eggs, beaten stiff.

For the final steps, add one pound of raisins, one pound of currants, a 1/2 pound citron dredged with a 1/4 pound of flour. Add the juice of one lemon and the rind of two lemons, one grated nutmeg, and a sprinkling of mace.

Bake in a greased ten-inch tube pan for five hours at a slow, steady heat. Cover with buttered paper while baking.

A fruitcake makes a nice addition to your Christmas table. Or you can always pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend…

If you don’t have neighbors or friends who are keen on fruitcakes (I know, it’s hard to believe, but not everyone is), they might enjoy the Fruitcake Lady’s memoir, Ask Me Anything. It’s a special treat.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

post

10 Quotes on Childhood Recollections

(Please note: This was first posted on my new website YourBiography2.com.)

As we get older we find it difficult, if not impossible, to remember growing up. Yet we all have a first memory. Mine is the time I tied my shoes by myself. Oh, I was so excited and proud. I raced down the steps to tell my Mom.

Photo by: ToniVC

Photo by: ToniVC

Here are ten quotes of early childhood recollections. They all make perfect sense, give the paths the speakers have taken and the careers they’ve had.

I spent my childhood eating. The only exercise I got was trying to twist off the cap of a jar of mayonnaise.

— Richard Simmons, fitness guru

Playing guitar was one of my childhood hobbies, and I had played a little at school and at camp. My parents would drag me out to perform for my family, like all parents do, but it was a hobby – nothing more.

— Bonnie Raitt, singer

I have a love affair with tomatoes and corn. I remember them from my childhood. I only had them in the summer. They were extraordinary.

— Alice Waters, chef

My earliest thought, long before I was in high school, was just to go away, get out of my house, get out of my city. I went to Medford High School, but even in grade school and junior high, I fantasized about leaving.

— Paul Theroux, travel writer

One of my earliest memories was me singing ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’ at the top of my voice when I was seven. I got totally carried away. My grandmother, Sarah, was in the next room. I didn’t even realize she was there. I was terribly embarrassed.

— James Taylor, singer

My earliest memories are doing commercials and TV.

— Jodie Foster, actress

I played music and sang from my earliest memories. The first pictures of me show me wandering around with a guitar that was larger than I was, and it became almost second nature to me.

— Dwight Yoakam, singer

I still love making hamburgers on the grill. I guess whenever I eat them childhood memories come up for me.

— Bobby Flay, chef

Chocolate is the first luxury. It has so many things wrapped up in it: deliciousness in the moment, childhood memories, and that grin-inducing feeling of getting a reward for being good.

— Mariska Hargitay, actress

I’m just lucky. I do have very clear memories of childhood. I find that many people don’t, but I’m just very fortunate that I have that kind of memory.

— Beverly Cleary, writer of children’s literature

What about you? Does the way you were jive with who you’ve become?

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

 

post

A Fashionista Ages Well

(Please note: This was first posted on my new website YourBiography2.com.)

The other day I was leafing through the September issue of Vogue, the one called “Fall Fashion Blockbuster.” And, boy, it was.

Even before it went on sale, the magazine had received plenty of headlines for putting three celebrity models, instead of plain old celebrities, on its cover. The young women apparently did their job pulling in advertisers, as the issue consisted of an abundance of clunky heels, manly flats, pleated skirts, and blousy tops, as well as oversized bags. At least, that was my take.

Photo by: David Shankbone

Photo by: David Shankbone

Then on page 667 of the 856-page tome, there was an excerpt from Diane von Furstenberg’s, The Woman I Wanted to Be, a new memoir that will be released at the end of October. Finally, an article that caught my eye.

It’s not clear how this book differs from Diane: A Signature Life published in 2009, but it’s getting great reviews from other fashionistas who had an advance copy. Anna Wintour sings, “Diane’s book evokes everything she has lived through. It is honest, direct and fascinating — just like the author herself!” Sarah Jessica Parker trills, “What a thrill to be given an opportunity to peek even further into her life.”

Known for introducing the knitted jersey wrap dress in 1974, von Furstenberg has seen a lot and accomplished even more. At 67-years old, she looks fabulous. While I might seem crass for commenting on her appearance, her book excerpt appears in the “Beauty” column, and it contains many of her observations on aging.

Von Furstenberg notes that her thirties were her best years. Her forties were harder, but life got better when she hit fifty. She’s grateful she never thought of herself as beautiful as everyone fades as time goes by.   As far as taking advantage of plastic surgery, she continues, “My face carries all my memories. Why should I erase them?”

Why, indeed? As a personal historian, I believe we should record our past, live the present, and plan for the future. We’re all getting older, and we all have something to say about getting on with it, whether we’re in vogue or not.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

post

What’s for Dinner?

(Please note: This was first posted on my new website YourBiography2.com.)

Today’s Parade magazine in the Sunday morning paper was all about “What America Eats.” It was as loaded with statistics as a twice-baked potato is with calories.

Fish tacos with mango. Photo by: jpellgen

Fish tacos with mango. Photo by: jpellgen

In some cases, I was with the majority and, others, with the minority. For example, 71% of us take supplements. That’s my husband and me. He meticulously puts out our supplements to take with meals. If we’re eating out, he puts them in his and her old film canisters to take with us.

However, only 12% have a sweet after dinner. We fall in this category, too – his influence. He saves room for dessert. As much as I like sweets, his portion is almost always larger than mine.

95% said they had started diets on either a Sunday or a Monday. Nope, that’s not me. I start diets every day of the week.

11% said they don’t have anything at all at breakfast. Nope, that’s not me either. I always have a cup or two of coffee.

The Parade article doesn’t go into how we eat. We’re all too aware that we don’t often sit down as a family at dinnertime anymore. Who has the time? As Marie Rudisill, also known as the Fruitcake Lady,  notes in her memoir Ask Me Anything:

“So much has changed since I was growing up or, even later, raising a family, and not necessarily for the better. That probably sounds like an old person’s point of view, but today, young or old, it’s rush, rush, rush. Go to school. Go to the office. Go to band practice or football practice or yoga. Go to the dentist. Cut the lawn. Wash the car. Do the laundry. Study, study, study. Pay bills. Pay attention. Meet that deadline. Work, work, work. And don’t forget to do your homework. Whew! Does that sound like a good way to live to you? Who has time to peel a carrot? Dice an onion? Chop up a melon? I guess no one, since everything now comes in little plastic containers already peeled, diced and chopped.”

Even as family rituals have changed, everyone has a favorite food or oft-visited restaurant. What are yours? They can be a meaningful part of a life or family history.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

post

Is it Personal or Is it History?

(Please note: This piece was originally posted on my new website: YourBiography2.com.)

I got into the “writing personal and family histories” business through my husband, James C. Simmons, who has been involved in such an enterprise for over fifteen years. He incorporates social, political, and cultural events into his work, bringing his client’s lives to life and putting them in context of the world at large.

Photo by: Joey Lax-Salinas

Photo by: Joey Lax-Salinas

My personal involvement in this line of work began when Jim suggested writing the Marg family history as a present to my parents on their 55th wedding anniversary. I thought that was a great idea, but I didn’t know how my parents would react. They’re both reticent people, not comfortable on being the center of attention, and, of course, we needed their cooperation, as the book we envisioned would center on them.

Well, my parents came through. For the one-hour telephone interviews Jim conducted, my Dad was a willing participant. For interviews with my Mom, I listened in. I was on the phone to prompt her, if she was at a loss for words. She was rarely at a loss for words.

One of the stories we incorporated in the Marg family history was one my Mom used to tell on my family’s twice-annual visit to New York City to see her parents. She was working in the offices of the United Services Organization (USO) in the Empire State Building one Saturday morning in 1945 when a plane crashed into the building. She knew something was wrong when she heard an elevator falling, not gliding, down the shaft not far from her desk.

As a social historian Jim filled in the details of the oft-told tale. There was a heavy fog that day. Planes were not equipped with radar. The plane was a B-25 bomber, and it had gotten lost. When it went into the 79th floor, the wings sheared off and the fuel tanks exploded. One engine landed atop a building across the street, and the second engine slammed through an elevator shaft, cutting the cables. Fourteen people died, and twenty-six were gravely injured.

From my mother’s perspective, it was a harrowing experience. She and a friend walked down from the 56th floor to safety. The first thing she did was to find a pay phone to call her mother who had not yet heard the news, news that became the number one story in the country for days.

Next, the two young women used their tickets to see Roger and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Having recently opened the Broadway musical was receiving rave reviews, but they really didn’t enjoy themselves, having come so close to death. They returned to the theater several months later to see it again.

And, yes, she returned to work that Monday, as the Empire State Building was open for business.

Is it history or is it personal? I think it’s both.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

post

Kindle Countdown for “Ask Me Anything: A Memoir”

  • Marie Book CoverAsk Me Anything, the memoir I wrote with Marie Rudisill, is available as an ebook. A Kindle Countdown is underway, starting at $.99 today. Then the price goes up each day. On Wednesday, it will be $8.99, its list price.

Why wait? See what Marie has to say – about her upbringing in Monroeville, Alabama, her nephew Truman Capote,  taking on the Big Apple, giving the Big Orange a squeeze when she appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Well into her nineties she became a television celebrity, going mouth to mouth with anyone who asked her a question or sought help with a problem. She always had an answer on the tip of her tongue.

Here are a few of Marie’s many bon mots about the places she’s been and the people she’s met:

“I was certainly never one to play it safe. If I had wanted to play it safe, I would have stayed in Alabama.”

“In New York City where are the flowers? Where are the trees? If you open the window to get some fresh air, your apartment is filled with soot. You think you don’t have soot? Well, just run your finger over the windowsill and see what happens. That grimy, black stuff is soot.”

“I have met the most wonderful people in the world in the [publishing] business. Some of them have even lived in New York City.”

“I never got to experience the traffic for which Los Angeles is so famous. It was just as well, as I have a feeling that the stop and go pace would have driven me right up the wall.”

“Celebrities are people, too. They might live in big houses by the ocean and have more money than God, but they don’t deserve special attention in my book.”

“Florida is not a Southern state, not to me. It has no history, no civility, no gentility. It’s all flip flops, short shorts, and hairy legs.”

Ask “The Fruitcake Lady,” and get ready. You never know what she’ll say next.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

post

It Could Be You

41WgaNzEfiL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Elizabeth Lawrence is Betty Jo Tucker!

My friend, radio talk show hostess and award-winning author, Betty Jo Tucker has recently relaunched her book “It Had to be Us.” It’s a romantic memoir, sure to tickle the fancy of young-at-heart lovers. It’s available on Kindle for $5.99. Royalties are donated to THE IMAGINATION LIBRARY, a children’s literary project sponsored by the Dollywood Foundation.

Betty Jo is offering lots of bonuses, including a copy of her book “Confessions of a Movie Addict,” which I enthusiastically recommend, especially if you love movies as I do. For more details, check it out here.

post

Sign Up on Goodreads!

Marie Book CoverAre you a Goodreads member?

 

I’m offering a Goodreads giveaway.

 

Ten lucky readers will receive a copy of Ask Me Anything: A Memoir.

 

You need to enter the drawing by September 21, 2014.

 

Ask Me Anything is available on Amazon and as an ebook.

post

Five Stars for Ask Me Anything

Marie Book CoverThe first review for Ask Me Anything, the memoir I co-wrote with Marie Rudisill, best known as “The Fruitcake Lady” from her appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,”  is below. I’m pleased to say that the reviewer awarded it five out of five stars.

Ask Me Anything is available from Amazon. The print book has a  discount from its list price of $14.95, and the ebook is $8.99, unless you have signed up for Kindle Unlimited. Then it’s FREE.

Word-of-mouth is crucial for any author to succeed. If you enjoy the book, please leave a review. Even if it’s just a sentence or two. It would make all the difference and would be very much appreciated. 

 

And now, a 5 star review by Jack Magnus from Readers Favorites:

Ask Me Anything is a memoir written by Marie Rudisill with Susan Marg. Marie Rudisill is known to late night television watchers as the Fruitcake Lady. Her letter, written in 2000 to Jay Leno, defending the honor of the fruitcake, prompted his invitation to her to appear on “The Tonight Show.” She was 89 years old at the time. Her appearance was such a success that she was invited back again and again. She taught celebrities how to make fruitcakes and would answer just about any question posed by members of the audience. When the trip out to the West Coast became too difficult for Rudisill, Leno would send out a crew to do her segments at her home. Rudisill was a product of the old South, and this memoir is filled with stories of her life as a child in Monroeville, Alabama. When her father died after an accident, her cousin Jenny took in the widow and her five children. Rudisill’s mother also died several years after, and Jenny raised the three older sisters as her own. Jenny was a self-made woman who built a small millinery business into a thriving department store, and built the rambling house with extensive gardens where she, her siblings and their young cousins lived. Co-author Marg worked extensively with Rudisill on this memoir until Rudisill’s death in 2006.

Marie Rudisill’s memoir, Ask Me Anything, is blunt, outspoken and charming, all at once. I immediately felt at home reading her story, even if I did cringe sometimes at some of her statements. Her stories of her childhood in the big house with the flamboyant, and rather alarming, Jenny and her other cousins are marvelous, especially the kitchen wars and the legendary bullwhip Jenny carried around. Rudisill was also Truman Capote’s aunt and she considered him her favorite nephew. Her stories of their friendship and later falling out were parts of Ask Me Anything that I particularly enjoyed. Rudisill and co-author, Marg, are a wonderful writing team. The memoir reads beautifully, with Rudisill’s voice coming forth loudly and clearly, even if she was in her mid-nineties as they worked together. While she’s no longer with us, she’s still very much here in spirit as evinced in Ask Me Anything. I very much enjoyed getting to know Marie Rudisill through her memoir and highly recommend it.