This year, lucky girl Vicki's essay was selected to be a part of an incredible anthology which has garnered many 5 star reviews.
Let's get to know:
Laura McHale Holland: An author, micro-publisher, and the youngest of three sisters, Laura McHale Holland is the editor of Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood. Previously, she released the flash fiction collection, The Ice Cream Vendor's Song, and the award-winning memoir, Reversible Skirt. Laura's play Are You Ready? was produced by Sixth Street Playhouse and Redwood Writers in 2014 and shortlisted for the Sydney Short+Sweet 2015 festival.
Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood reveals the core of female hearts, divulges secrets, and captures poignant, compelling, complex relationships. This vibrant collection of work from across the globe isn’t only about blood sisters or women who like each other. Sisters can bond over movie nights. Stuff snails down each other’s throats. Steal each other’s clothes—and lovers. Scrounge for food together, tell stories together, work magic together—even kill together.
It's quite a challenge to pick one piece or excerpt to represent the Sisters Born, Sisters Found anthology because it contains 76 distinct, original voices--so many good stories to get lost in. But I think fans of this website would absolutely love this excerpt from Vicki's story, "Sister Act":
Every Christmas Eve, my family drove to Grandmother’s house for the yearly celebration. No ifs, ands, or buts. The entire clan made the journey. I never minded. For me, this event truly launched the gift-giving season. And being like every other small child enraptured with receiving presents, I eagerly anticipated the occasion. Laughter and love filled Grandmother’s red brick home as did good cooking, like smoked turkey and fixings. Desserts, too numerous to count, included her special tomato cake and mincemeat pie. Every baby was handed around the room until cranky and screaming for mom. Aunts and uncles found moments to see how school fared with nieces and nephews. My cousins, sisters, and I gathered in our own spot for “killer” Uno. All had a grand time.
After dinner cleanup, presents were passed around. The bows were removed and the paper ripped as we tore into the gifts. Grandmother received the most; some of which were interesting—a silly knickknack for her book shelves, knee-hi nylons, a serviceable sweater, yarn for knitting, kitchen tools, denture products, a school craft project.
The relatives would visit a bit longer. Then, my family would load up in “Big Blue,” our Ford station wagon, and drive home to wait oh-so-anxiously for Christmas morning to arrive. And it did in a big way.
My love for the season grew while I grew. As my sisters and I sang along with the holiday hits playing on the turntable, which featured the well-loved classics of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and, my all-time favorite, Nat King Cole, we wrapped presents for Mom, decorated the family tree with the handmade sequined ornaments, and baked sugar cookies. We helped Dad untangle miles of blue and green Christmas lights to hang on the house and set the six-foot cardboard Santa just so, next to the front door, which was adorned with a plastic wreath of fir, poinsettia, and a red, satiny bow.
And Laura included an excerpt from her essay, "Safe to Dream":
Gliding through freshly fallen snow on my way to visit Kathy at Hinsdale Sanitarium and Hospital, I imagine I’m an Olympic contender. I get a running start and then slide down the sidewalk, leaving marks like ski tracks in my wake. Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman blasts through the transistor radio in my hand. Whenever I hear it, I imagine some cute guy admiring me as I walk by, even though I’m not a woman yet. Well, in the physical sense, I guess I am.
My first period leaked out just two weeks before I started high school and three weeks before my fourteenth birthday. I welcomed it with about as much enthusiasm as I would a quart of Penzoil poured into my underpants. I was one of the last girls from our neighborhood to menstruate. That’s what Jillie said anyway. She finds out stuff like that from her mom, who actually has friends in town, unlike my stepmom, Wanda the Wicked Witch of the Western Suburbs.
Wanda acts as though everyone in Hinsdale thinks she’s a leper. There’s some truth in that. She’s different than other parents, and not just in the way she treats Kathy, Mary Ruth and me. Take her clothes. She wears only floral patterned, synthetic house dresses that zip up the front. Even when the temperature plunges below zero. That’s all she’ll wear under a ratty car coat my sisters and I outgrew ages ago. The dresses were cartoonish when new; they get worse with wear. Threads stick out at the seams like legs on a centipede. The only footwear she puts on her tiny feet are sandals with wedged heels and black canvas straps crisscrossed over her toes and behind her ankles. She calls them “wedgies.” In winter, she wears white bobby socks with her wedgies, making them look even more bizarre.
Find Sisters Born, Sisters Found at: Amazon
Time to do some serious Q&A with Laura:
Vicki: I’m a huge handbag girl. What is your favorite accessory?
Laura: Right now it's my hand-painted Anushcka handbag. It's reminiscent of the 1970s, but also very contemporary. And it has just enough room to fit the things I usually carry, including my iPad mini.
Vicki: How often to you get lost in a story? Laura: Every day, at least for a little while, sometimes all afternoon on a weekend. Yesterday I was swept away by Erik Larson's Thunderstruck. He writes thoroughly researched historical nonfiction so well his books read like novels. This one told two sagas that intersected in the early 20th century: Marconi's whirlwind personal and professional ups and downs in developing wireless communication, and two murder suspects trying to escape from London to a new life in America.
I also just read an amazing novel, based on a true story, called Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick. It's the story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a survivor of the infamous Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in the 1970s. The protagonist was 11 years old at the time, and while he and his family and countless other Cambodians endured horrid things no person, especially a child, should ever have to witness or bear, he is now a humanitarian helping to preserve Cambodia's native culture and assisting youths who are harmed by war.
Vicki: What’s the first book you remember reading? Laura: Charlotte's Web. I cried my young eyes out. Thinking of it now makes me want to re-read it.
Vicki: What was the first story you remember writing? Laura: I wrote a story when I was in third grade about a blackboard that resented being written upon and complained a lot. The story was three handwritten pages and contained a lot of screeching. I don't think it had much of a plot.
Vicki: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book? Laura: I jump up from my desk, hands up in the air, and shout Yea! Then I get on my knees and thank God, even though most of the time I'm not demonstrably religious. The gratitude just flows out of me.
Vicki: If you were given a chance to travel to the past where would you go and specifically why? Laura: If I truly could, I'd go back to the 1920s through 1950s, and shadow my mother from girlhood to her death a the age of 35. I was a mere two years old when she died, so I have only a few vague memories of her. I'd like to know what she looked like when she wasn't posing for a picture, what her voice sounded like, the sorts of things she used to say, how she laughed, how she spent her time, who her favorite authors were, her favorite songs and movies, whether she liked to dance, whether she sang when she did housework, whether she knew how to drive a car.
I'd like to see my father through her eyes the day they met, what she found attractive about him, and why she married him even though her family didn't approve. I wonder how she felt about life during and after World War II, how she felt about my sisters and me, whether she felt fulfilled or trapped, or some combination of both. And I'd give a lot to know what it was like for her to struggle with the severe mental illness that led to her death, whether she tried to get help, whether she said good-bye to me, how she felt about leaving my sisters and me behind.
Vicki: What drew you to write in the genre(s) you do? Laura: All kinds of ideas come to me during the course of a day, but not that many keep coming to mind. I pay attention to the ones that grab hold of me and won't let go. For my first book, Reversible Skirt, the little girl I used to be, who seemed to be stuck deep inside of me, wouldn't stop pestering me until I finally wrote her story. By doing so, I wound up setting her free. She's out in the world now, reaching the hearts and minds of readers, many of whom I will never meet. She is an aspect of me, but not really who I am today, if that makes sense.
My second book, a collection of flash fiction, was driven by curiosity. It was a fun project, a kind of experiment. I made a commitment to post one very short, original story per week on my blog for one year. The Ice Cream Vendor's Song is the product of that year's work.
My third book, Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood, is only partly mine. It truly belongs to a collection of writers from across the globe who saw value in the idea of publishing an anthology of sister stories (memoirs, essays, poems and fiction) whether they were about blood sisters, or sisters who formed bonds in other ways. It was my love for my own two sisters that drew me to this project, as well as the realization through readings on the sister theme that I hosted for a few years, that this is a rich, rich topic to explore.
UP NEXT: I'm planning to publish a sequel to my childhood memoir, Reversible Skirt. It's tentatively titled I Will Claim You. It begins when I'm 13 and ends when I'm 23.
WILL YOU HAVE A DRAWING FROM THOSE LEAVING COMMENTS or do you have a promotion you'd like us to link to? I'd like to provide three Smashword coupon codes — one each for Sisters Born, Sisters Found; The Ice Cream Vendor's Song; and Reversible Skirt — so the person who wins the drawing will get to have all three books in ebook form. Please leave your email in the comment section to be eligible.
GOT A QUESTION YOU’D LIKE TO ASK YOUR FANS? What would you like to know about me that isn't covered in this interview?