The Writer’s Mind

Every dozen years or so the story circulates about women who live together finding their 011monthly cycles beginning to align. In the past few months I’ve begun to think some similar lunar phenomena is pulling the annual physicals of writing friends into a similar pattern, regardless of gender.

We work in fiction and memoir with deep minds that push the thought of blood tests and stethoscopes into personal zones that should not be explored until necessary. All of us are of a certain age and know of bad news that has been given to good friends. And we have written about grim events that required researching information we should not be thinking about the night before a physical.  But we can’t help ourselves.

This wasn’t the way being a writer was supposed to be according to the likes of Hemingway and Parker. Not one of us smokes or drinks (to excess). None of us are promiscuous or live in lands where diseases could be contracted in the water. We just think too much.

That same amount of overthinking is wonderful when crafting a scene. For example, I once crawled the length of our house dragging a thick book tied to one ankle to be sure a scene was accurate. I’ve watched an odd exercise show over and over to capture the intonation of the leader. I’ve researched the Mayo website a health condition that might kill a character.

My life is absolutely normal. Today I did laundry, dusted a few rooms and went to a baseball game. I also drew pictures of the farmstead where my next novel takes place, verified the tree species that make up a windbreak and researched high blood pressure during pregnancy. Farms, tree stands and pregnancy won’t be discussed at the doctor’s office. High blood pressure remains on my mind tonight.

Midwest Book Award Seal

That worry isn’t groundless. My mother dealt with high blood pressure from her thirties until she died fifty years later. My brother took medication for high blood pressure in his early fifties and died before his sixtieth birthday. My father had wonderful, steady, low blood pressure.

Time to calm down. Think I’ll read something by Jennifer Weiner before bed.

 

Cynthia Kraack on Mr. Media Celebrity Video Podcast

Cynthia Kraack on Mr. Media Celebrity Video Podcast

In The High Cost of Flowers, Kraack presents us with the Kemper family. They’re just like your family and mine, except the author gives the reader access to all of their secrets, warts and all.

“The character of Art Kemper in some ways was inspired by my Dad. My mother did, in fact, have a series of strokes. And watching him care for her and (exhibit) all the patience and long devotion to a spouse. We’ve also had some unhealthy relationships with alcohol in our family, as well. And the Catholicism. My folks were very strong Catholics. That’s about where the similarities between my family and the Kempers in ‘The High Cost of Flowers’ stop.”
—Cynthia Kraack

The High Cost of Flowers Wins Two Midwest Book Awards

The High Cost of Flowers was the 2015 Midwest Book Awards winner in the Fiction and XXX Categories.

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The High Cost of Flowers, a novel written by Cynthia Kraack, was recognized as the top book in both the literary fiction and contemporary fiction categories in the Midwest Independent Publishing Association’s 25th Anniversary Midwest Book Awards. The ceremony was held May 13 in St. Paul.

This is Kraack’s fifth novel, but first literary work. The High Cost of Flowers is the story of an American family dealing with end of life issues and dementia of its matriarch while battling personal challenges and relationship difficulties. The Kemper family does its best, but not without sacrifices.

“Being a finalist in two categories was exciting,” said Kraack. “Hearing The High Cost of Flowers called twice as a winner surpassed all my expectations. This book took almost ten years to write. So many people in our workplaces or neighborhoods carry emotional burdens without a lot of support. Managing care of a deteriorating elderly family member can be overwhelming.”

“We are proud to have published The High Cost of Flowers,” said Gary R. Lindberg, CEO of Calumet Editions. “We’re a young publisher with more exposure in genre books. The High Cost of Flowers opened access to new readers for us.”

Experts from all aspects of the book world, including publishers, writers, editors, librarians, teachers and book designers, judge the competition. They select award winners and finalists based on overall excellence. Entries were submitted from a 12-state region including Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.

Kraack’s first novel, Minnesota Cold, won the 2009 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Fiction. She has had a number of short stories recognized by national literary publications.

 

Read about The High Cost of Flowers

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Buy Harvesting Ashwood from Amazon.com
Buy Harvesting Ashwood Kindle Edition from Amazon
Buy Harvesting Ashwood from Amazon

The fifth novel by Cynthia Kraack, The High Cost of Flowers is contemporary fiction about contemporary life. Continuing her tradition of studying what binds and strains within families, the Kempers are compelling characters not unlike those in books by Anita Shreve, Louise Erdrich or Sue Miller. The High Cost of Flowers is an American story as classic as suburbs, working parents struggling to raise decent kids and multi-generational confrontation.

The High Cost of Flowers, winner of 2014 Midwest Book Awards in the separate categories of Literary Fiction and Contemporary Fiction, by Mendota Heights author Cynthia Kraack opens the conversation through multiple generations of a fictional Minnesota family.  Katherine Kemper’s world continues to shrink as vascular dementia claims her memory and congestive heart failure weakens her body. The impact on her husband and adult children colors many aspects of their daily lives.

This is Kraack’s fifth novel, but first literary. The High Cost of Flowers is a contemporary American family story where an insufficient healthcare delivery system offers little relief for an elderly spouse reluctant to lose the companionship of his loved one, or their children sandwiched between emotions and obligations. 

“So many people in our neighborhoods and workplace carry the emotional burden of making decisions about a family member requiring more and more care,” said Kraack. “There’s never enough time and frequently not enough financial resources. With smaller families living across multiple states, there’s just not enough of anything to fill the well.”

The High Cost of Flowers began while Kraack supported her own father in caring for her mother after a series of strokes. “The devotion to his wife displayed by character Art Kemper was modeled on the best of my father who managed to honor my mother’s desire to stay home until she passed. I’m not a healthcare professional or representative of any dementia-related organization, but I am the only member of my family still alive after a difficult decade. Waiting until a memory impairment challenge touches your family is too late. Sandwich is a gentle word for how the Millennial, who are starting their families later, will feel when the dementia epidemic swamps their parents’ generation.” 

The What, Why, and How of Author Cynthia Kraack

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Cynthia Kraack was recently featured in the blog of Linda K. Sienkiewicz, author of In the Context of Love, with the article What, Why, How: Cynthia Kraack, an ongoing feature spotlighting writers with their own words. Here’s an excerpt:

WHY?

I’ve been a corporate professional because that was easy. I sing because music is like air. I have come to understand I write because life is so unsatisfying if I don’t. It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn.

In a footlocker in our basement are a number of notebooks filled with four or five paragraph short stories, longish poems, a few essays and many songs all handwritten in pencil when I was a kid. I was the Scholastic poetry winner, the yearbook editor, the college newspaper entertainment editor and graduated from journalism college when the reality of earning a living interrupted an undefined dream.

The Reviews are In for The High Cost of Flowers

read-book

From the Book Jacket

Cynthia Kraack’s fifth novel is a study of a family adrift, anchored only to itself by the individual memories of a shared past. The Kempers aren’t a pretty family at this stage in their lives, but the portrait Kraack paints is.
—Charles Locks, author of Greater Trouble in the Lesser Antilles

Family Drama that Pulls You In

The author realistically portrays what happens when a family crisis strikes and how the world you have known before, even if imperfect, is gone forever and those you love are changed forever.

—Michelle, Amazon Customer Review

Compelling Family Drama—A Good Read

Although readers may think they know where a story about dementia is headed, they will discover that it is never so simple. The story is realistic, but nuanced, and its power resides in the truths it reveals about family dynamics.
—Ellen S., Amazon Customer Review

Beautifully Written. Is There Redemption for the Collective Soul?

An extremely well told tale, beautifully written. Is there redemption for the collective soul of a family? Cynthia Kraack will pull at your heart strings as she proves the old adage that no two children grow up in the same family.

—MaryDon E Beeson, Amazon Customer Review

Author Cynthia Kraack

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cynthia_kraack_headshotCynthia Kraack has written five novels, some speculative fiction and one literary, has published short stories, and both her novels and stories have received awards. She’s also been a freelance writer in the interactive niche, designing business simulation games and creating content for consumer websites.

The High Cost of Flowers is Cynthia Kraack’s fifth novel and first work of contemporary fiction, published by Calumet Editions in December 2014. The book won awards in the Contemporary Fiction and Literary Fiction categories of the 25th Annual Midwest Book Awards presented by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association.

Her debut novel, Minnesota Cold, won the 2009 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Fiction. The Ashwood trilogy (Ashwood, Harvesting Ashwood: Minnesota 2037, Leaving Ashwood) and Minnesota Cold were published by North Star Press of St. Cloud, MN.

Writing is her passion and delight. At the core of all her work is exploration of the impact of real time stress on families, however one defines that curious unit. She enjoys speaking about writing and meeting with groups, book clubs, and classes. A member of the founding Board of Write On, Door County, she serves a faculty member of the new regional writing center.

Graduating from Marquette University’s College of Journalism, Cynthia began her writing career in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She spent years in corporate communications gaining recognition from a variety of professional organizations. She earned a Masters degree from the University of Minnesota in labor economics and educational psychology and graduated from the University of Southern Maine Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing. She has participated in the University of Iowa’s Summer Writers’ Workshop and is a member of The Loft.

Are You My Mother?

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In the classic children’s picture book Are You My Mother? a newly hatched bird falls from its nest and wanders about asking that question of a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a few inanimate objects. He is clueless about his own identity and terribly lost.

IMG_1559You may have been nurtured by a mother possessing all the perfection of Caroline Ingalls or struggled through childhood with a parent who took lessons from Hamlet’s Queen Gertrude. For most people growing up in Mom’s kitchen fell in a more safe and boring middle ground with measured opportunities to learn about yourself and the world. A place where Mom, trusted adults, books, television and other kids helped answer questions whether insignificant or intense.

The maker of peanut butter sandwiches, enforcer of daily tooth brushing, comforter of physical or emotional injuries, was just a woman who happened to be older than you. She wasn’t gifted by the gods with amazing knowledge, a graduate of a secret parenting program, or anywhere near perfect. She didn’t know why 9/11 happened, how to stop social injustice, who to call about global warming. Her job was to make sure you felt loved and protected, often hard work in an imperfect world.

Discovering that your mother has a masters in labor economics, hides a bag of bodice busters in the closet, holds strong feelings about mutual funds versus annuities, was married before she met your father suggests a richness in this woman’s life that has nothing to do with your existence. This is the school where she learned the mirepoix that flavored every scold, joke or counsel.

Even when the person who mothered you becomes too old or fragile to cook a really good dinner or read a favorite author without help, there will still be unknowns to explore in the woman who taught you to fake burp, to connect cables on a sound system, to ask your boss for more responsibility, to speak in many voices so your child giggles as you read Are You My Mother?.
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The women of The High Cost of Flowers are all mother in their own unique ways. You might recognize them as women you know in your neighborhood, the office, your family.

Midwest Book Award Finalist!

flowers-cover-200Affirmation is priceless for artistic types who invest years of their lives to create fiction, poetry, photos, sculptures or whatever. To have The High Cost of Flowers named a finalist in both the contemporary fiction and literary fiction categories in the twelve-state Midwest Book Award competition is an honor.

The competition, sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association, is judged by experts from all aspects of the book world, including publishers, writers, editors, librarians, teachers and book designers. They select award winners and finalists based on overall excellence.

Now Calumet Editions and I wait until the May 13 Midwest Book Awards Gala to find out how The High Cost of Flowers will place. A magical month of waiting of savoring the finalist title.