When I started refinishing the 1929 Richmond upright piano my husband and I had scavenged from an old farm house, I rummaged through several black and white pictures my mother had given me, searching for ones I remembered seeing, of my great-grandparents sitting side by side in front of the upright piano in their parlor. Although I had formerly been interested only in their faces, I now wanted to see what the piano itself looked like and, more importantly, what was sitting on top of it.

I scrutinized the photos with a magnifying glass, taking in the lace runner; the oval picture frames that held faces I didn’t recognize; and the open sheet music on the music stand that stood beside the piano; but searching most of all for a glimpse of the metronome my mother had used during music lessons at her grandmother’s – this grand-mother’s – house. While Mom’s memories of those lessons and her grandmother were very unpleasant ones, they tugged at my desire to get them down on paper, so much so that as I continued to remove the rock-hard, blackened varnish from my piano, scenes of my great-grandparents’ era, as I imagined them, set my mind’s camera whirling with images and word pictures for a poem that eventually surfaced along with the beautiful cherry finish of the Richmond.

Refinishing the Piano

A relic of someone else’s past,
it revels in its own unmasking,
its delicate features, rich and red,
taking center stage now, parting
layers of time-worn curtains to
let me slip, unseen, through tapestried
parlors reeking of cigars and
oldness; to let me breathe in the
familiar air of uncharted notes falling
deftly into place, only to stop short
with the crack! of the wooden pointer
on Mother’s tender knuckles while
the metronome keeps time with
my heartbeat.

The refinishing incident spurred me on, and I anxiously searched through my childhood photo album to find the deep-down pictures of our home life. But I was disappointed to find that pictures don’t really lie; they just don’t always tell the whole truth, and the little things I so desperately wanted to see didn’t show up in the photos.

I wanted to see the cinder driveway that had once run alongside our house, and the garbage pits and hollyhocks that had lined the alley behind it. I longed to see pictures of Mom’s clotheslines propped up and loaded down with the week’s wash; the tricycle that my sisters and I took turns riding to the neighborhood park just up the street from our house; and glimpses of my grandma’s kitchen where, in the aprons my mother always made for her, she taught me how to spell my name while she was baking cherry pies. Those were the details that added color and life to my childhood. But nowhere did I find them recorded on film. So I did the next best thing. I encouraged my mind’s camera to come up with mental images that I could translate onto…continued on Page 37 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past), on sale now at Barnes & Noble http://www.bn.com and http://www.amazon.com.

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With books in hand, for selling and signing, I stepped inside I KNOW YOU LIKE A BOOK and looked directly into the eyes of a young girl sitting in an overstuffed chair with a book in her hands. A few minutes later, Mary Beth, the owner of this charming book store, was introducing me to Cassandra “Cassie” Horton, a junior from a nearby high school.

Sometime earlier, an instructor from Cassie’s school had called Mary Beth with a dilemma. Along with other students, he had given Cassie a “Shadowing for Jobs” assignment, in which she was to interview someone whose “job” she admired and would like to pursue. The instructor’s dilemma came when Cassie was bound and determined that her only goal as far as a job was concerned was to become an author. To the instructor’s surprise, Mary Beth said, “You’re in luck. We’re having a book signing, and Cassie is welcome to interview the author of this new book about writing.” Wow! An author with a new book about writing and a student who wants nothing more than to become an author!

Only when Cassie sat down at the little round book-signing table, did I see that the book she’d been reading was my Snaps, Scraps & Snippets. In the same breath, I told her to “ask away” but warned her that someone her age may not be interested in my book.
On the contrary! Cassie smiled and said, “I’ve just read the first two chapters, and your book has caught my attention.”

While the questions on Cassie’s “Shadowing for Jobs” assignment form pertained to usual nine-to-five jobs, and writing is rarely a nine-to-five job, she made the questions work for interviewing an author:

What are the hours of your job – your writing?
I don’t have any “set” hours, but I’d have to say twenty-four hours a day. I get up around 4 a.m., write most any time of the day, and wake up during the night, making notes about whatever pops into my head.

What is your job – your book – about?
That’s hard to explain. It is not a typical memoir; not a story of my entire life, or even a specific part of it. Instead, it is made up of bits and pieces of my life, told in ways that help other writers realize how much of their own lives they can write about.

What is your job – your writing – area like?
I have a small room in my home, about 12′ x 12′, with a desk and everything I need right there. Above my desk, there’s a shelf with reference books and binders filled with my poems—about 1,000 of them. A three-shelved, glassed-in bookcase holds magazines and books with my published poems and stories, including 80 or 90 children’s stories in magazines like Turtle, Children’s Playmate, and Jack ‘n’ Jill. Those stories were all “written” on a typewriter, back when we hadn’t thought of having computers in our homes, so if I made an error on a typewritten page, I would re-type the entire page.
Cassie prefers using pen and paper before sitting down at the keyboard.
I do too!

How (and when) did you get interested in your job – writing?
Two teachers – one in junior high and one in high school – told me that I had an aptitude for writing and should pursue it. I started out by writing fantasy for children, in high school and shortly after.
Cassie has never had to write anything for school – no poems, stories, or otherwise. However, she has been writing on her own for some time and writes mostly fiction.

What do you do when you are not working at your job – writing? What do you like to read (and do you have any favorite authors), when you are not writing?
My favorite books are all about writing: nonfiction by Julia Cameron, Natalie Gold, Annie Dillard, and any author who gives me one new idea or spark of inspiration.
Cassie likes fiction and enjoys reading Stephen King and some Harry Potter, as well as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The poems in your book are mostly rhymed…
Yes. There isn’t much call for rhymed poetry these days, but I read a long time ago that “if you can do it well, try it.” So I did, and I’ve had a great deal of rhyming poetry published.
Cassie writes some poetry too, mostly free verse.

Even some poets don’t understand when I say that I have a “rhythm” in my head that makes writing rhymed poetry easy for me.
At this, Cassie looked straight at me and said, “I understand that.”

There was a pause as Cassie turned Snaps, Scraps & Snippets over, to the synopsis on the back cover.

I see you write music, too. What kind of music do you write?
Mostly inspirational, for children. I write the music and the lyrics. I write a song the way I want it to sound and then pass it on to my sister, who “fixes” the timing. Finally, it goes to a professional songwriter who “cleans it all up” and gets it ready for submission to a music publisher. Again, the rhythm in my head is helpful when it comes to writing music. My kindergarten class at church has sung many of my songs in front of our congregation.

Why do you like your job, or, why did you write this book?
I’ve heard so many people, of all ages, repeat wonderful, true stories that hold the attention of whoever they are talking to. When I ask if they’ve written those memories down for their families and friends to read in years to come, the answer is usually no. So, I wrote this book to encourage people to record their own memories.

What are the benefits of your job?
I love writing, and I like helping other writers as much as other writers have helped me.

How long did it take you to write this book?
About six years.

With her assignment covered, Cassie had some comments and questions of her own.
She said that she is a lot like the poet I described in the beginning of my book – modest about her writing and timid about presenting it to the public.
I have always been the same way. I was horrified when the president of our poetry club insisted we start using a microphone when reading our poems up front. Now, I appreciate the fact that she insisted on that, even though I still get nervous when I get up to the podium. Never be Nervous Again, by Dorothy Sarnoff, helped me a great deal.

How did you come up with the title of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets…?
I’ve gathered, saved, and treasured many mementos that have been passed down through my family, including the little pair of tinted spectacles pictured on the front of my book. When I decided to use those mementos to show others how to write about their own memories, “snaps, scraps, and snippets” just seemed to cover them all.
The “scraps” were what caught Cassie’s attention the most because she has several mementos from her grandmother, who died when she (Cassie) was very young.

What I gained from Cassie’s interview:
Now I knew for sure that, not only had Cassie absorbed the information in those first two chapters of my book; she was already thinking of how she can put Snaps, Scraps & Snippets to work for her.


For a further glimpse into Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, and into my new book, Light for the Burning Soul, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com. I look forward to hearing from you!


“Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.”

Entry Title Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past)

Author: Lois J. Funk

Entry Category: Nonfiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

  Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

 Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

 Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

I loved this book.  Many of your memories are my memories.  The most important thing I got from this book is to pass your ideas down to my grandchildren so that however many years from now they will have the scraps and snippets, perhaps in a journal so they may retrieve their memories.  I’ve lost memory-starters each time we moved.  I love your talent for writing your thoughts in poetry.  You are a good poet, the kind that a non-poetry-fan can understand, enjoy and appreciate.  The times and activities you describe somehow seem nicer than today.  I guess that’s nostalgia.  That’s where this book shines – in creating nostalgia.  Your idea of taking small things to build back your memories is great.  Your writing is very easy to read, the pacing is perfect and the format of poems inserted between explanatory text is great.  I like that you titled the sections.  You are great at metaphors, especially liking the sieve concept.  I like the Getting the Picture exercises.  Perhaps your book could be the foundation of a church group.  I loved most of your poems, but I remember most the one about you and your sister planting seeds.  In fact, this book may be a bridge over estranged years with my own sister. (See, we never know where what we write can end up.  A snippet might change someone’s life.)  The best part of the book is how many of your memories matched mine. You have definitely met your goal in writing this book for this reader.  I plan to spread your ideas around in conversations with my friends.  Thank you for making a difference with this book.  You are a wonderful writer.  Good luck.


For a glimpse into my books, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, and Light for the Burning Soul, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com. I’d love to hear from you!


Do you have a special space you’ve designated as your “writing place”? Circumstances have caused mine to change through the years, but I’m always aware that I need a place away from home, or at least out of the house, to do my best writing.

For me, the perfect place is not a big comfy chair, where I’m likely to get sleepy and doze off; or beside my garden pond, where I’m liable to see a weed that needs to be pulled or a leaf that needs to be dipped off the surface; or any place where I’m likely to end up putting my writing aside to take care of something else. While those places work fine for journal writing, for more serious writing and editing, I have to get away from home.

During the summer months, I enjoy taking pen and paper to the park. But Midwest winters are far too cold to spend much time outdoors, so my favorite winter writing places have evolved from the local mall (which was demolished in the name of progress several years ago), to fast food restaurants and coffee shops, with or without WiFi.

I can name most of my favorite works that I’ve finished writing in places other than home – one Christmas poem, in particular, that I’d been asked to write. I was having a horrible time even coming up with an idea and was getting nowhere with it at home. So, when I told my husband I needed to go to the mall, he knew it was not for shopping. He dropped me off at the mall several times during the Christmas rush, always anxious to hear what I had accomplished when he picked me up. For some reason that I can’t explain, the hustle and bustle of shoppers, along with the background noise, inspired me, and I was finally able to finish the poem by the Christmas deadline.

In addition, I wrote and edited the final chapters of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present during several visits to a local fast food restaurant. At first, the early morning crowd of coffee drinkers was curious to know what I was doing there so early, and what I was writing. Now they have accepted the fact that I come here to write (yes, I’m here right now), and some of them have even purchased my book.

A disabled friend who lives in a different state mentioned that she’d like to find a place away from home to write but that there are no WiFi places near her, and she has no one to transport her any distance. At my suggestion of a public library, she said she hadn’t thought of that, but that her local library is close enough for her to get there on her own, and now she does.

For a glimpse into my books, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, and Light for the Burning Soul, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com and feel free to leave a comment.