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Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE SQUIRREL LADY




Hiram, Ohio is a small town and home to Hiram College where James A. Garfield once taught. The town has one traffic light, an occasional convenience mart that’s out-of-business more often than open. Sometimes there’s a pizza parlor, but usually not. At one time there was a branch bank, but not for quite some time now. It’s where I taught for eighteen of my twenty years teaching third grade.

Hiram is also the home of the Squirrel Lady. She lives on a quiet street that I traveled each day to get to the elementary school. She had signs in her yard warning of a squirrel crossing, and supplied numerous feeders for them. She took in injured squirrels and nursed them back to health and raised baby squirrels that fell out of their nest. She’d also yell at any driver who drove too fast down the street. Although Hiram is a very small town, it has more than enough police officers who were quick to ticket drivers, so I was careful not to go over their 25 mph speed limit. I didn’t get yelled at, and I never actually met her, but I heard a lot about her.

This is not the Hiram Squirrel Lady 
There are four kinds of squirrels that live in Ohio, excluding chipmunks. There are fox squirrels, the largest squirrels and becoming scarce. There are flying squirrels. I have them in my woods but never see them because I don’t walk there at night. There are gray squirrels that live in my woods and visit my feeder. They can be almost all gray, a reddish color, a mixture of red and gray and all black. They're a medium sized squirrel. And then there are the smallest of the squirrels, the red squirrel. They’re often mistaken as baby squirrels. However, they can be the most aggressive of squirrels. I’ve heard tales, true or not, that males will castrate other males even the larger squirrels.

This could be why that for the several years I had a red squirrel living between my bedroom floor and the library ceiling, I never saw squirrels at the feeder except one small red squirrel. I knew it was a squirrel living in my house and not a rat because it was quite active in the daytime, but slept all night. I shudder at the thought of a rat ever being in my house, but although the squirrel wasn’t exactly a pet I wanted, it was certainly better than a rat. I don’t know how it got in and out and many others tried to spy some opening, too, but no one ever could. I suspect there might have been a gap between the siding and walls under my front porch. Except for some concern it might chew on my electrical wiring and cause a fire I wasn't too much bothered by the squirrel, especially since I didn’t hear chewing, only the little critter scampering about and sometimes rolling nuts around.  

A red squirrel 
Then I started finding nuts in my shoes in the closet. At that time I had a sloping attic next to my upstairs bedroom and closet. I set a small Have-A-Heart trap in there and baited it with nuts and bird seed. That didn’t work. When I found a nut under my bed pillow, I knew more drastic measures needed to be taken. I could deal with that little fellow putting nuts in my shoes in my bedroom, but not having him in my bed. So although it made me quite sad, I put rat poison in the attic and never saw him again. I still feel sad about that, but not enough to invite another squirrel into my home.

In my third book, Ladies of the Garden Club, I brought the squirrel lady to life in one of my characters, Polly Popcorn, a kindergarten teacher. I had no idea if the real one still lived in Hiram or not. But several months ago I walked into The Village Bookstore in Garrettsville, Ohio; about three miles from Hiram, and Ellen Eckhouse, the owner, introduced me to Ann O’Connell, Hiram’s squirrel lady. She’s a delightful person, still loves squirrels and loves reading books. So end of story.


Tell me about someone you’ve met who you used as a character, or if you're not a writer someone you've met who you'd like to use if you were a writer. 

16 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Gloria,

I don’t have any characters taken more or less whole cloth from reality. However, bits and pieces of several people may be mashed into a fictional character.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, that's how many of my characters are, too, and so is my squirrel lady. Only the little I knew of her is part of the squirrel lady. Much of that character is like a teacher friend of mine. So she's a combination of both with a lot of my imagination thrown in.

KM Rockwood said...

Many of the people I meet go into my characters. I try to place myself inside their heads, see if I can figure out what makes them tick, and plop them into situations. Then I watch what they do.

I've read your books, and I love Polly Popcorn. The name is great.

Sarah Henning said...

This cracks me up because we have a lady who drives around our town with "Squirrel Rescue Mama" stickers and such on her car (like tons of stickers) and I think it's neat that there are more like her out there. Perhaps they have online forums?

In any case, I've definitely had people I've met affect my characters. Mostly the jerky characters for some reason...

Warren Bull said...

Before he died my father wrote a brief essay in which he suggested there would be many squirrels in heaven. I miss him a lot.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Gloria,
Your post made me think of The Nut Lady, who ran a museum in Connecticut devoted to "nut culture." She became rather famous - appeared on Leno, Johnny Carson, etc. - and merited an obituary in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/dining/04tashjian.html?_r=1&
People wondered if she was nuts, or if she was playing everyone else, or if, as the Times put it "she played the game to a draw."
I wonder what she and The Squirrel Lady would have thought of each other.
As far as characters, I just met a woman who was so blazingly rude and mean that I have to use her as a character!

Barbara Monajem said...

What an interesting story. We've had mice and rats, and once even a snake, but no squirrels in the house. Our cat got rid of all the rodents. I suspect the snake at a rodent, too, but fortunately it didn't stay long.

Barbara Monajem said...

That should be "ate a rodent"...

Kara Cerise said...

What a great story, Gloria. I'd like the squirrel lady to tell me how to stop squirrels from digging in the lawn. We've tried different types of predator urine, draped a net over the grass, and placed rocks over the holes. Nothing has worked. In the fall the squirrels throw acorns and twigs at my head. I'm starting to take it personally.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you, KM. Her last name was totally made up, and for those who haven't read my 3rd book, that wasn't her original name, but when she became a kindergarten teacher she changed it to that.

Sarah,I wonder if there is an online forum for squirrel lovers. If I ever meet her again at the book store, I'll have to ask her. :-)

Warren, just from reading the small essays he wrote and you posted, I can totally understand why you will always miss him.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I never heard of the Nut Lady. Was it only for nuts like walnuts, etc. or for nutty people, too. I think she'd get along well with the Squirrel Lady - that is if she loves squirrels as much as nuts.

Barbara, I've had not only that squirrel, but mice - which the cats usually catch - but also snakes in the basement until I had a new basement wall replacing the old one with gaps between the top of it and the house. They were all milk snakes which are not poisonous and tend to roll over and play dead if threatened. The only problem they created for me was getting my granddaughter or daughter-in-law to go to the basement to clean litter boxes if I went on vacation.

Kara, I think squirrels and chipmunks are almost impossible to discourage. My California daughter has one or more who come to her 2nd floor deck and will not only eat from the bird feeders, but also dig in her potted plants and chew on her rugs. When she opens the patio door to shoo them away, they flip their tales at her first before leaping on the railing and then to a tree where they scold her. When she goes inside, they come right back.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Gloria - According to the NYT, The Nut Lady was all about nuts (edible ones) not the people kind. The entry fee to her museum was $3 and one nut. A man tried to tell her that his wife was the nut he brought for the entry fee. The Nut Lady told him to get lost.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, that's funny. I can hear my brother saying something like that even though he dearly loved his wife and respected her. I would think a tourist might stop by and not know about the nut fee. I wonder if she took peanuts, too, even though they are not exactly nuts. I just found out recently that cashews aren't actually nuts, either, but the stem of a fruit. Was that on one of our blogs? I learn so much on our own blog, that I can't always remember where I get these esoteric facts.

E. B. Davis said...

Sorry I'm so late to the party. It's been a busy and productive day writing wise.

I've met lots of characters, Gloria, but so far I haven't put any into my writing. My characters may possess some attributes of people I know or have met, but I tend to stay with the characters that I conjure. My characters come into my head from somewhere. They may be based on real characters, but I've never used a real person.

I like squirrels when they are in trees looking cute. Elsewhere, not so much. Don't ask my neighbors. A squirrel cause about two thousand dollars worth of car wiring repairs. Because, of course, the engine was nice and warm and they wanted something to munch while in comfort.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Gloria, what a great character and a terrific picture. May she live forever through your prose!

Gloria Alden said...

E.B. I'm glad you spent a productive day writing. I do much better, too, when I ignore the computer to leave comments or browse than when I stick to my writing. Mice or chipmunks chew up car wiring, too. My brother had a lot of trouble with them.

Paula, actually, it wasn't a picture of her, but one I found on-line, and my character is a composite of several people plus my imagination.