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Are there elderly people in your life? While we would all answer, “yes,” our thoughts about them might vary. Unfortunately, some see elderly people as burdens, especially as their health deteriorates and their minds are not as sharp as they once were. I recently finished Open Circle by Stacy Monson (I’ll share my review with you next week), and I am excited to have Stacy visit to share more about her story today. Let’s take a quick peek at the back cover first.
Mindy Lee “Minnie” Carlson’s dream job has dropped into her hands, but there’s a catch. She has four months to revive Open Circle, the town’s only Senior Adult Day Center, or the doors will close, leaving her jobless, and the seniors she cares for stranded.
Meanwhile, after decades traveling the globe and documenting the forgotten people of the world, Jackson Young discovers his beloved Grandma Em is still alive in Minnie’s small town.
Overjoyed, he races back to his hometown to reconnect, and discovers Grandma Em has adopted Minnie as her surrogate grandchild for the past twenty years.
Then Grandma Em has a stroke, and his ideas about her care pit him against Minnie’s determination and expertise. For Grandma Em’s sake, and the future of Open Circle, they’ll need to do the impossible–find a way to work together.
Welcome back, Stacy! What inspired you to write Open Circle?
Our family’s journey with Alzheimer’s. I grew up in a family of 4 kids with a single mom, who also had her mother living with us. That grandma wasn’t at all a warm fuzzy grandma, so I grew up not particularly liking old people! That all changed when my mom (followed by my mother-in-law) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Because of my mom’s behavior (she was a bit naughty!), we couldn’t keep her at home, but in the places she lived we discovered wonderful, compassionate people who deeply love the elderly, and strive to treat them with respect and dignity. One place in particular, Open Circle Adult Day, was a beacon in the darkness of dementia. While the setting and the actual senior center in my book are completely fictional, some of the characters are composites of the amazing staff I encountered, as well as the seniors we grew to care about as we got to know them through visits with my mom.
There are so many interesting characters in Open Circle. Do you have a favorite character? Why is this one your favorite?
Grandma Em is a particular favorite as she’s who I hope to be when I reach 80! She’s full of life, spunk, and fun, lives out her faith daily. She’s not afraid to speak her mind but does so out of love and concern.
Yes! Such a sweet lady! Why did you choose this particular setting, and have you been there?
I love the southeastern part of Minnesota with its hills and bluffs and farmlands. I created a fictional town outside of Rochester, where the Mayo Clinic is based, to have both the charm and innocence of a small town and the technology and expertise available in a somewhat larger city. I love promoting Minnesota!
I’ve been through Minnesota several times, and it’s a beautiful state. What do you hope your readers take away from this novel?
That Alzheimer’s (a form of dementia) is a steadily growing problem that can be dealt with in ways that maintain the dignity of the person, recognize their unique past while keeping them as active as possible in the present, and supports the caregivers in their difficult work. It truly takes a village to care for our elders.
We’d love to get to know more about you. How about a few fast favorites? What is your:
Favorite color? Purple
Favorite season? Fall. No, wait – spring. Maybe it’s summer. Definitely NOT winter.
At least not in Minnesota! Favorite writing snack? Chocolate
Favorite beverage? Hot chocolate
Favorite animal? Valais blacknose sheep
Favorite movie? The Greatest Showman
Favorite vacation destination? Lake Tahoe
Another beautiful place… Favorite ice cream flavor? Peppermint bon bon
Favorite dessert? Special K Bars (others call them Scotcharoos) and fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.
Yum! Aside from reading and writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?
It’s not a hobby, but I adore spending time with my precious grandchildren. What a blessing they are!
I love the joy in your picture! What accomplishment means the most to you?
Finally realizing my dream of being a published author. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but I allowed my lack of confidence, and just plain fear, to keep me from pursuing it. It took an episode of Oprah, while I had my dad at my house recuperating from cataract surgery, to set me on the path to publication! It’s been years of work but I’ve gained confidence, loads of amazing writerly friends, and self-respect in the process.
It’s a wonderful accomplishment! Do you have a favorite or “life” verse? Why is that one important to you?
The verse that is still taped to my computer monitor is Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.” It has always reminded me of Who is in charge.
Oh, but that waiting… Isn’t it encouraging to know that He has a plan even in the waiting? Can you share (briefly) about something you feel the Lord has been teaching you recently?
Focus. Especially focus on Him as my sole audience. It’s so easy to get caught up in sales numbers, reviews, exposure, etc., but when I put all that aside, He’s the one who gave me the gift and the passion, and He’s the one I want to glorify through my writing.
Absolutely. What do you feel is the most challenging part of the writing process? What’s your favorite part?
Finishing the first draft and starting the editing process. I intensely dislike getting that first draft written, and envy my friends who enjoy that process. It’s very much pulling each word and idea out and flinging it on paper. But I love the editing process, so once I’ve got that first messy draft done, I get to jump in and fix it!
Isn’t it interesting how everyone sees the process a bit differently? Which authors have had the most impact on your writing?
Francine Rivers, Catherine Marshall, Brenda S. Anderson, Sharon Hinck, Michelle Griep, Julie Klassen
Those are some awesome role models! What does your ideal writing space look like (whether you actually write in an area like this or not)? What do you have to have handy, and what would you surround yourself with to make it easiest, and most inspiring, to write?
I need quiet when I write. I can’t imagine writing in a coffee shop, as so many of my writer friends do. I’m far too easily distracted! So I need to be in the quiet of my office, in comfortable clothes, settled at my desktop computer with a mug of cocoa at hand. If I’m writing a particularly emotional scene, I’ll play instrumental music (Yanni, Paul Cardell, James Brinkman, even epic soundtracks) to get my emotions churning.
Maybe some John Tesh and The Piano Guys! 😉 If you could offer a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, what would you say?
It is SO worth following your dream! Be prepared for lots and lots of highs and lows, and take it all in stride. Develop the thickest skin you can. The journey is a learning process which means leaps forward followed by perhaps a difficult critique, but even then we can learn and grow. “Failure” is simply the process of success.
Don’t compare yourself, your writing, or your journey to anyone else (far easier said than done)—your journey is your own. No one else can write what you write, nor can you write what they’re writing. We have our own stories to tell and we have to do so the best we can. Some people will have great financial success while you may limp along with sales, yet your books will touch hearts in ways that money can’t measure. So celebrate your journey, and keep your eyes focused on the only audience we need, the One who directs our words.
Sweet encouragement! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us today, Stacy!
Your turn! Have you known someone affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s? Or do you know someone who is currently caring for an elderly person(s) who might be encouraged by this story?
More about Stacy:
Stacy Monson is the award-winning author of The Chain of Lakes series, including Shattered Image, Dance of Grace, and The Color of Truth. Her stories reveal an extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the MN Christian Writers Guild (MCWG), Stacy is the area coordinator for ACFW in Minnesota, past president of ACFW MN-NICE, and is the Events Director for MN Christian Writers Guild. Residing in the Twin Cities, she is the wife of a juggling, unicycling physical education teacher, mom to two amazing kids and two wonderful in-law kids, and a very proud grandma of 3 grands.
You can connect with Stacy online:
For news about upcoming books, contests, giveaways, and other fun stuff – stop by www.stacymonson.com. If you sign up for her monthly newsletter, you’ll get Shattered Image, book 1 of the Chain of Lakes series, FREE! You can also find out more about her speaking ministry on the website.
Also by Stacy:
All three books of the Chain of Lakes series in one! As you meander through Uptown, canoe the chain of lakes, and spend time at Faith Community Church, you’ll feel like part of the community.
SHATTERED IMAGE (Book 1): Just a small-town Iowa boy, Peter is living his dream of music, fame, and the celebrity life but secretly wonders why it’s not what he expected. Fired from the only job she knows how to do, smiling pretty for the camera, Kiera struggles to make sense of life outside the spotlight.
DANCE OF GRACE (Book 2): Vanessa has lost everything and is angry at everyone, including God. Especially God. Kurt leaps at the chance to live his dream, but finds it may be easier to build a house of cards than a safe haven for troubled kids.
THE COLOR OF TRUTH (Book 3): Sam managed to pull his life together after some rocky teen years, only to have his new life blown to bits. Marti believes the lies she’s lived under her whole life; she’s never known anything different. A better life seems unattainable to both of them.
These true to life characters struggle with issues just like anyone else – who am I? What am I supposed to be doing? Is there a way out of the chaos of my life? All of them learn lessons they never expected, truths that seemed impossible to believe, and discover forgiveness, joy, and love along the way.
Follow their journeys in this 3-in-1 set and become part of the colorful, ever-changing community of Uptown!
Open Circle Giveaway:
Stacy has generously offered to give away a copy of Open Circle to TWO winners! Each winner can choose either a paperback or e-book copy. Giveaways are subject to the Giveaway Policy.