My Book Is Out, So Now What?

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for September 20, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            For many years, my wife and I enjoyed reading Leon Hale’s newspaper columns, first in the Houston Post, and later years, in the Houston Chronicle. When, after many years of column writing, Mr. Hale collected some of his columns together and wrote a book based on them, I got the idea of doing something similar with my newspaper columns. Mr. Hale’s book, Easy Going, was based on his columns in The Houston Post, with illustrations by Ancel Nunn. So he was no doubt the first inspiration for my book.                                                                               

            It took me quite a few years to get the courage to plan and write such a book, but the results of my efforts are now on sale on amazon.com in the form of a book entitled It Must Be the Noodles. My book turned out to be much more than just a collection of old newspaper columns. Having been inspired by Ancel Nunn’s illustrations for Leon Hale’s book, I did pen and ink drawings for mine, though my style is quite different from Nunn’s; and I included some of Mama’s recipes from her old recipe box, especially the ones my family liked.

            There were other reasons besides lack of courage for taking so long to do what turned out to be a rather short book. Probably the first and foremost reason is my belletristic passion for writing poetry, and a book based on newspaper columns requires prose, and certainly not the prose of belles-lettres.

            Another reason involved the difficult process of sorting through way more than a thousand columns written by me over the years. Considering how short the book is, you can imagine how much time and effort were expended in organizing and culling the columns.

            Because of the column choices I finally made from the many, it’s obvious that the main reason for the book was to celebrate, and even honor, my mother and her Wendish heritage. Yet Mama was a salt-of-the-earth kind of person, certainly no saint, and, like most of us, many-sided and full of contradictions. It is tempting to write about one’s mother with a lot of sugar-coated and exaggerated plaudits of praise, but the portrait coming from such writing is not authentic. Underneath the whimsical, yet realistic, approach I took to describing her is obviously a son who loved and admired her very much.

            In spite of my great love of reading and writing poetry, thus far in my life, I have almost never written poems about her. Prose seemed to be the best art form I could use to authentically present her. I did, however, in my book, include a long, narrative poem I wrote about my great grandfather’s emigration trip from Germany to Texas. But then, Great Grandfather himself was a writer with a flair for poetic expression.

            During the selection process for the book, I was frequently sidetracked by my writing for and submitting poems to literary magazines. I can’t say I’m sorry for the delay that caused, because it produced some good poems accepted and published by a number of literary magazines. My success in publishing poems almost prompted me to give up on the book.

            It Must Be the Noodles has been written, published, and is on sale; so now what? My book would never have happened without the help (more appropriate, the leadership) of my youngest daughter Rae Ann who designs books in New York. Without her offer to design my book and her expertise, I would never have attempted such an undertaking! The writing in the book may or may not be good, but the book’s design is flawless! How proud her grandmother would be of that girl!

            It has always been my intention when this book was finished to start another one (after all, there are still about a thousand untouched newspaper columns left), and not everybody in the world has one of the best book designers in New York on tap to create more books; but at this point in time, I really and truly don’t want to do any more books! I just want to write my poems.

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Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.

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