Author interview no.698 with Shirley You Jest Fiction Winner Amy Sprenger

Morgen Bailey does a great joy of introducing new authors. She gives no authors an opportunity for readers to learn about them.

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Tutor & Writing Guru

Welcome to the six hundred and ninety-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with writer and blogger Amy Sprenger. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.

Morgen: Hello, Amy. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.

Amy SprengerAmy: Hi, Morgen, thanks for having me! I’m Amy Sprenger, mother of three, wife of one (so far, although we could always up and go polygamist some day), house frau, and when I actually stop procrastinating, author. I live in Chicago, where I used to be a sports writer and editor, then horrified Sheryl Sandberg by leaning waaaaaay out to stay home with my kids. While full-time mothering was rewarding (and also unpaid) and we…

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After the thunder

Over  the last few days I have witnessed the moon go from full moon glow to cloud cover to thunder storms with crashing thunder overhead. One night in particular I saw my father’s hydrangea lit up where Ronnie has a grotto to our Blessed Mother. It was pure white blossoms that pulsated in light.  Jack Hohos, brother-in-law, loves hummingbirds. I heard him ask Ronnie, my sister, if she had seen any hummers? It was then I started to pay attention and witnessing when I did see hummers. Then I told Jack where I saw the bird and what plant, shrub, or tree it was around.

I have been hearing little tree frogs. There was even a frog species that I didn’t recognize by voice. I have entered a more Zen way of Being. I love starting the morning off with ceremony. I find this slower pace restorative and contemplative. Recently while walking down a trail by the barn, I spotted a flat boulder on top of a stone wall fence. I was reminded that a similar setting could be found that I could claim as an outside alter for my rocks that I will now move from WI. Before this discovery, I wondered what I would do with beloved rocks from Great Lakes glacial bedrock, near Duluth, MN; sacred small rocks from Bear Butte near Lakota tribe; Pipestone from a sacred Ojibwa site on Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, Great Lakes tribe in Hayward, WI. Jerry Smith, traditional medicine man, graciously permitted me to go along on a day bus trip with tribal youth group. Jerry teaches many about sacred Ojibwa culture. Again while on the trail coming back up the hill, I noticed what I believe to be Turkey tail mushrooms growing on a tree on front property. They did have a white bottom. I will need to look more closely to properly ID this mushroom species. Reason I am looking for it is that it is a cancer treatment. Learn about Paul Stamets, mycologist, Fungi Perfecta at http://www.fungi.com/ We were both speakers at Tesuque Pueblo in few years ago. You can learn more about the pueblo people at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesuque,_New_Mexico

I am amazed by the delicious taste of garden fresh fruits and vegetables, in forested central MA, near Fitchburg. As close as I can presently research, a theory is starting to evolve. I am not a scientist; rather I am a citizen scientist and researcher in my own chosen field, which is monarch butterfly and food safety issues. Central MA has a heavy canopy of luscious extended forest, with  giant glacial boulders that have lots of lichen on them. The lichen helps  desolve minerals in boulders, which then slowly leach into the earth; add compost of decaying tree leaves, and you have very rich nutritional soil. I am almost finished reading Patrick Moore’s forestry book Green Spirit Trees are the Answer. Moore’s book is outstanding. I am understanding forestry better because of his expertise and ability to write to the average citizen. Sandy soil in northwest WI, Washburn County, does not have the ability to offer much flavor simply because sandy soil does not hold water or nutrients. Of course, I compost and have added aged manure through the years, but still there is a definite difference between the taste of garden fresh vegetables and fruits. Massachusetts wins hand over in flavor.

Another passion I have is to publish monarch butterfly books. Visit http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Mary+Ellen+Ryall to see published books. Sure wish I knew how to make the link active. If someone out there knows how, please send comment. Thanks!

Another difference between MA and my beloved independent WI life is Massachusetts has banned smoking. I wish I could say the same for WI. There,  I am exposed to second hand smoke. A bar is next to the Visitors Center on Main Street in Shell Lake. Bars have built three walled shelters to their buildings. Smokers can bring their drinks out there and smoke their brains out. Unfortunately I have COPD and I smoked once. I know it is hard to give up, this addiction is harder to break than heroin. At Winter Hill Farm, where my sister created a botanical paradise, the air is fragrant from herbs, woods and flowers. I haven’t smelled such sweet air since the 1980s, when I lived on East Coast and could travel to MA or Upper New York State.

The continuing saga of journeying in the natural world.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Conquering the Dream Killers: Fear, Doubt, Worry, and Guilt

I was pleasantly surprised this evening when I did a search on Google of my published work.  How wonderful to know that my article was not only published in a highly respected Journel but it is now on the Internet published by the publication.

I knew that when I signed a contract that my work was being considered for a larger publishing project.  Now I know my story will not  get lost to time .  I hope you will enjoy this story of growth and empowerment that comes from believing and living one’s dream. It is a true story.

Published by Tribal College Journal, Aug 15th, 2005 | By  | Category: Student 2005

By Mary Ellen Ryall 
In November 1998, I attended a lecture in Lusby, MD, during National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. A Piscataway Indian showed us beautiful ancestral cooking pots made of clay and spoke about the different Potomac and Patuxent River clay soils used historically and now to make clay cooking pots. When I asked him where I could learn more about Native American studies, he replied, “They teach it at American University.”  I thought, “Why would I go to a non-Indian school to learn about Native Americans?”

In my youth I lived in Peru where I worked in a cross-cultural learning environment with the Quechua Indians. Learning ethnobotany from indigenous people was my passion, and I considered myself fortunate to have this learning experience in a foreign country.

Reading The Spooner Advocate, a newspaper from Spooner, WI, I learned about the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Hayward, WI, and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College. I requested a catalog from the registrar, learned that the college offered plant studies including ethnobotany, and began to ponder the possibility of moving to Wisconsin to attend a tribal college.

It takes time, funds, and patience for a dream to unfold. Being a flea market hound, I started recycling old items and selling them on eBay in 1999. Gaining confidence from this venture, I started an on-line company that sold herbal products and teas. Selling in cyberspace gave me the option of moving the business to Wisconsin.

It may not have been a great money earner, but I could show my husband that I was serious about the move because I was trying to come up with a workable economic solution to empower my dream.

A major obstacle was that I was 53 years old at the time and didn’t drive. Due to childhood trauma of repeatedly riding in a car with a drunken parent, I suffered with a fear of driving, and doubted I could ever learn. My husband patiently taught me, and I gained confidence and eventually overcame my fear of driving. Fear and doubt are two horsemen that can kill a dream.

When my stepmother-in-law, Dot, suffered a heart attack in 2000 and was living alone in Minong, WI, my husband gave serious thought to my relocating to Wisconsin. I discovered that trust in the Creator removed the spirit-killer called worry. Feeling a sense of guilt about leaving my home and temporarily my husband on the East Coast, I told my husband how I felt; however, he reassured me that it would be all right. Another mind-killer called guilt was overcome, and I made the move in spite of it.

The actual drive across country, 990 miles in 6 days on back roads, was my training ground for learning to drive in snow. My husband led the two vans across the country by walkie-talkie during a blizzard in December 2000. Steadily the storm worsened, and I drove into raging whiteouts and couldn’t even see the road ahead. Ohio and Indiana eventually closed down their highways because snowdrifts covered the roads.

Driving through this stressful and challenging winterscape, I pondered, “Either it will make me stronger, or the trip will kill me. I am going to die trying to follow my dream.” Even when I couldn’t see the way, I focused on my dream. Believing in this vision enabled me to pass through the training of learning to drive in snow.

I was coming to a tribal college. The Catholic educators from my early childhood through high school drilled into me that I was not “college material.” But the most amazing thing happened at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College: I learned that I could both learn and thrive in this nurturing environment.

As an elder student, once taught that I was not college material, I now have a 4.0 GPA.  Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College has the finest professors and caring administrative staff anywhere, and I absolutely love going to school here.

The four horsemen of mind death are fear, doubt, worry, and guilt, and I am a living testimony of overcoming these dream killers. I learned to trust, listen to my heart, and follow my dreams. A way is always provided when one listens to Inner Voice and follows where it leads. I am grateful that I followed my dream to Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College where I have the honor of learning from the Ojibwe people.

Mary Ellen Ryall grew up in Saratoga Springs, NY, and is 59 years old. In 1999, she founded Happy Tonics, an on-line company. After moving to Wisconsin, Mary Ellen graduated in 2003 from Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College with certification as a food safety educator from the Woodlands Wisdom Nutrition Project.

A master gardener and herbalist, she gathers and dries herbs for home remedies and teas and wild foods for the table. Her herbal gardens are prolific, and she scatters wild flower and herb seeds in abandoned, logged, and burned-out land sites near her village. The plants can flourish in beauty and also give sustenance to birds and animals. Happy Tonics’ mission is to promote biodiversity and educate about the dangers of genetically engineered crops.

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