By Jeff Salter
How many people do you know who have been featured on the front page of the New York Times? Great publicity for an author! Well, while conducting research for Silent Matriarchs, Jennifer Grigsby ended up in a NYT feature after being united with a distant cousin. Here’s the link, if you want it: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/24/us/with-dna-testing-adoptees-find-a-way-to-connect-with-family.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Welcome to my Guest Fox, Jennifer Grigsby!
I remember clearly my first encounter with Jennifer — at our public library’s annual Local Author event in April 2015. She and I had arrived fairly early and got (I think) the best two tables… right at the entrance. I introduced myself and we talked about books. I told her I’d like to go around the room and greet the other authors but – I said in a hushed voice – I can’t leave my cash box unattended.
“Oh, no problem,” said Jennifer. “My husband can watch your table.”
“Hmm,” I thought (to myself), “and what if her husband is Jesse James?”
Jennifer seemingly read my mind. “He’s in law enforcement… your stuff will be safe. I guarantee.”
Well, I thanked her, but didn’t want to impose. Plus, the husband himself had not exactly volunteered. So I just went back to my table.
Shortly, Jennifer came over and said, “Seriously, if you want to tour the other tables, Mike will watch yours.”
So he did, and I did — and had a chance to greet authors I’d met the previous year… plus meet several new faces. All because of the kindness of Jennifer and Mike.
All that’s by way of introducing a kind person, new friend, and talented local author.
I hope you’ll have some questions for Jennifer. If not, we’ve crafted a question at the very end of this post. Please think about it and leave a comment.
*** One of your books (“Silent Matriarchs”) seems to be largely about family and local history. Do you also write fiction? If so, does your fiction incorporate family and local history elements?
JRG: I have written fiction but I haven’t released any of those works. The fiction doesn’t necessarily incorporate family or local history but I have drawn from inspiration from ancient lore surrounding a few of my ancestors. For example, I have studied and written a bit of fictional work about of my ancient grandmothers, Melusine de Lusina. Legends from her life can be found in a compilation by Jean d’Arras (1382-1394).
*** What other writing have you done?
JRG: I have written and released a companion book to Silent Matriarchs that includes some of the food and household recipes as well as other techniques my Matriarchs used, as did almost all Appalachian pioneers, on a daily basis to survive. The name of that book is simply titled, “Silent Matriarchs Companion Book”. My husband helped me with the research for the companion book, and therefore, co-wrote the smaller book with me.
*** How do you balance job, marriage, homemaking, family, and writing?
JRG: Honestly, I would be lost in the weeds if I didn’t maintain a strict time management program along with a much needed supply of Post-it® notes.
*** In what way are animals special to you?
JRG: Unfortunately, I was unable to have children of my own but still came equipped with the built-in nurture desire. My nurture victims became cats and dogs who have served as a fitting alternative over the years. I was raised in a quasi military-law enforcement home and exposed to the Working-line German Shepherd Dog at a very early age. Living with German Shepherd Dogs became second nature and I have always lived with and loved my dogs and choice of breed, not to mention the cats I’ve taken in over the years. I imagine I will continue to live with and love my animals and aspire to be the person they think I am.
*** Have you ever encountered people who seem unable / unwilling to comprehend that writing is something you are driven to do?
JRG: For the most part, the people I encounter seem to have a preconceived notion that writing is only for people who aren’t part of the “real” (their word not mine) daily grind. A few of those people have told me things like, “oh, I could write a novel if I only had time” or “if I didn’t have a spouse and children I could make a mint writing”. It’s almost always my opinion that the people saying these things are out of touch with the creative process and don’t realize that writing is partially a gift from God (personal belief) along with one’s own will and desire to write.
*** If you were not a writer, can you imagine what else you might do to express the creativity within you?
JRG: By trade I am a research analyst and have the luck of researching and writing on a daily basis. However, if I were not so fortunate I imagine I would cut back on the caffeine intake, read more, take up a musical instrument, paint, or even try one of the new coloring books for adults – depending on the severity of the caffeine cutback.
*** If sales (money) and critics (reviews) were immaterial to you, what genre and length would you write?
JRG: Most of the profits from my book sales are forwarded on to my choice of charities, however, if the critical element were missing I may want to step out of the conservative box and test my creative skills in the fantasy realm.
*** Give us at least one example of someone who has contacted you and expressed how much your writing meant to them.
JRG: Many of my readers are family members and I receive mixed reviews on that front, mostly positive; however, when writing something based on historical events there will always be someone who recounts those events differently or outright dismiss the material altogether. I enjoy and embrace the feedback I get from relatives but it has been those I had never met that have provided the most encouragement; unlike family, they are not obligated to chant praises or discouragements about an author in the family.
*** Over the years (as people learn you’re a published author), what is the typical reaction you get from them?
JRG: I receive mixed reactions ranging from total surprise to the people who say, “I always knew she would do something like that one day.” The reactions are hardly ever the same.
*** What is one writing question you’ve WISHED had been asked of you… but never has been asked? Then answer it here.
JRG: Why did you write Silent Matriarchs? What or who was the inspiration? My answer: my life mentor, Effie Marie Begley, my maternal grandmother and one of the few, if not the only, people I have encountered who I actually believe walked close to God during her temporary stay here on Earth.
The rugged life of those families that lived in Appalachia is perhaps only a memory to those living today. Most families have historical accounts that have been passed down through oral tradition but few tend to remember those who where most influential during a not so distant time in our American history. In many cases, people, places and communities have been forgotten.
Silent Matriarchs represents the life and times of a few women whose influence guided their families through the hardships and joys of living in rural Eastern Kentucky.
The story of Hannah, Mahala, Adeline, Mary Elizabeth, Stella, and Effie is one of life, love, and personal tribulations marked with the demonstration of immense will and determination. Few women before and a countless number after have left behind legacies by becoming outspoken vocal advocates of their families and communities but during the time of these women a greater number remained silent; making their lasting statements with actions rather than words.
Silent Matriarchs is just one example of the long overdue recognition these women deserve but more than that, it serves as a valuable lesson that actions may be the loudest measure of inspiration.
Jennifer spent nearly 15 years serving as an emergency service practitioner, supervisor, and later, agency director before moving on to a second career. The following decade found her working as a Learning Architect for a private company named Teleologic while moonlighting for Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) as a research analyst. During that time she was involved in public safety programs for first responders at EKU and aided in the development and support of a Certificate Program at the Institute for Preventive Strategies (IPS), located at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Kentucky. After leaving EKU and Teleologic she continued working as an analyst for the Center for Civil Military Relations at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. In 2009, Jennifer’s research experience, love for family, and desire to preserve the memory of a fading culture led her to begin the journey to complete Silent Matriarchs. Five years later, she was able to share that story.
Silent Matriarchs website: http://silentmatriarchs.net/
Barnes & Noble’s link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/silent-matriarchs-jennifer-grigsby/1121090877
Based on what you perceive about Kentucky Appalachia (past or present), what qualities would you think vital to survive and thrive? Could YOU cope well in any particular period of that region?
[JLS # 266]