FEATURED AUTHOR: FRAN LEWIS
ABOUT THE BOOKTo the memory of Ruth Swerdloff, whose journey you are about to take.
Many people fall into routines that require them to do the same thing, the same way, everyday. They get up, go to work and perform the same job, read the same types of books—never changing anything. When they are forced to vary from their routines, some people often find it difficult, or virtually impossible. People, not just seniors, who take part in different activities each day give their minds a chance to workout, which may reduce their risk of developing dementia. This book is dedicated to all those whose memories are precious, whose lives have been drastically changed, and whose families I hope after reading this book will understand the huge undertaking and commitment they are making when they decide to become a caregiver. In my heart and soul, I hope someday a cure or a preventive will be found for Alzheimer’s disease. I dedicate this book to my mom, Ruth Swerdloff, who gave me the courage to be the person I am today, and taught me the true meanings of courage and survival.
INTERVIEW WITH FRAN LEWIS
Fran, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I have always loved to write even before becoming an author. But, professionally it took a dare from my sister to write my first book when I retired from my job with the New York City Public School System when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Someone had to care for her full time. My sister dared to become a couch potato or review a book. I reviewed a cookbook, and I don’t know one knob of a stove from another. The review was filled with humor, fun quotes, and much more. The author is still laughing and made sure it was read all over the Internet. My sister dared to write a book, and I chose to write about our antics growing up in the South Bronx creating my Bertha Series with the first book titled My Name is Bertha. I have not stopped writing, reviewing ever since. I even created a magazine, MJ Magazine in my sister’s memory and would welcome more contributors.
What inspired you to write this book?
When my mom realized that she had a memory problem, we started to record memories that would help keep her mind active. I used these journal entries to write this book hoping that it will help others who decide to become a caregiver to understand what they are going to have to endure, what it entails, and the fact that you as the caregiver are keeping someone close to you alive and in a familiar environment. I wrote this to honor my mom and all that she did for me growing up.
What do you hope readers will get from this book?
I hope that readers will understand why there has to be a more concerted effort to find the real cause of the illness and money for research. I hope that when they read this book they will avail themselves of the resources that I have included and feel free to email me with their questions.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
I made a promise to my mom never to put her in a nursing facility, and after visiting over twenty, I realize that I made the right decision based on what I saw.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
When my mom was diagnosed in 2003 with Alzheimer’s, I retired from my position as reading and writing staff developer and dean of discipline. If I did not retire I hoped to use my Principal’s license to be an administrator.
How would you describe your book in a tweet?
Resourceful, true story, straightforward, and informative.
Why did you decide to write this book?
To bring this issue to light, and hope that when people read my book or buy it I can donate to Alzheimer’s.
What will others learn from reading your book?
The stages of the illness. The resources available and how to deal with the many changing behaviors and the tips for bathing, feeding, understanding behavior changes, and more.
Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?
I just write what comes to me and hope it makes sense.
Did you have any say in your cover art?
I created the cover myself. I searched for the right picture frame from the 1940’s, and the picture on the cover is my mom’s high school graduation picture, and she loved roses.
Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
The family photos.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
My mom and dad loved “Till The End Of Time.”
Who are your favorite authors?
Jon Land, Tess Gerritsen, Robert Dugoni, Alan Topol and Carter Wilson.
What are your favorite books a) as a child b) as a teenager c) as an adult?
As a child I loved reading the classics which I did in the third grade: the original Little Women, Dr. Jekeyll and Mr. Hyde, Alice In Wonderland, the Prince and the Pauper and Treasure Island.
As a teen I loved Nancy Drew, mysteries, A tale of two cities and Shakespeare.
As an adult and a book reviewer just about everything but erotica. I love mystery/thrillers, memoirs, historical fiction, fiction, history, true crime and true life non-fiction.
Which author would you most like to invite to dinner, and what would you fix him or her?
Since I don’t cook it would definitely be take out from the local Italian restaurant, and since I never invite anyone without asking them their preferences I would let them decide. I would invite, if he were still alive, Edgar Allan Poe or one that is alive, my favorite Jon Land.
What book are you currently reading and in what format?
I only read paperback or hardcover, and I am reading five books at this time: The House of Spies, Proof of Life, Paradise Valley, Close to Me which is not out yet and The Cuban Affair.
Do you work better at night, in the afternoon, or in the morning?
I work at all times of the day or night whenever the inspiration comes to write a book or a review or create my magazine.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I write or shall I say I type on my computer or on my favorite recliner.
If you could only keep one book, what would it be?
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Your last meal would be . . .
Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?
A library so that I can share my stories, read from my own books, and help young children choose books that will make them want to read.
You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?
That’s a tough question. I guess I would not buy anything, but I would pay off what I owe the dentist, and if it is in the millions help some of my family members that are struggling. But, for me maybe a new computer.
Would you rather be stranded on a deserted island or the North Pole?
The North Pole.
You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?
Shopping definitely, going to the city and visiting the amazing places in Manhattan. Dinner at the Capital Grille, a show, or a museum.
Where would your dream office be?
One filled with the latest technology and the most updated computer system
Where’s home for you?
Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
We just moved here, and it’s odd that I am from the Bronx and I always hold doors and greet people that I meet. Here they do not. I love living somewhere where I can get up in the morning and walk to the bakery and get my morning cappuccino. One fact: the area is beautiful and the great part is the Sanitation Department is fantastic making the snow go away in the winter after a storm.
What do you do when you get writer’s block?
I walk and get some air and watch a program that just makes me smile and then I get back to work.
Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow?
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
My father always told me and my mom: “I will love you always till the end of time.”
“Smiling doesn’t cost and being polite if free.”- Fran Lewis
What three books have you read recently and would recommend?
Charlatans: Robin Cook; Dark Light Dawn: Jon Land; Fabrizio Boccardi and A Face to Die for: Andrea Kane.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Walking, shopping, talk with friends and family.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Right where I am.
If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Israel where I have family.
What are you working on now?
The next faces behind the stones book five.
EXCERPT FROM A DAUGHTER’S PROMISE
Reading has always been the way for me to escape to other worlds, learn about many different places, and expand my knowledge of so many subjects. With a notepad in hand and several pens at the ready, I begin reading the many books that authors send me each day. Detailing the plot, the characters, and taking notes throughout, I create a perfect analysis of the book.
Remembering what my mom had told me, to always look for that special message in the book and create that first paragraph to stimulate reader interest, I begin my review. Perfection: that’s what she always told me. Each piece of writing, each assignment had to be done to the standards set by my teachers and professors, and then pass the highest test, mom’s. I remember coming out of school one night, and she stuck her hand out waiting to see what I’d gotten on my midterm in one of my graduate courses in administration. I still smile when I remember what happened. I left out one question and got a 98, and I told mom what I did wrong and the right answer. But, the professor was so frustrated with most of the other students that she had to revamp the scores by adding ten points to everyone’s test scores just to have more students pass, so mom was satisfied with my 108. And, of course, on the final I did get 100 and an A in the class, because it was what was expected of me by myself, and of course, mom.
Till this day I still create my reviews, my schedule for my radio show, and anything else that I decide to venture into, like the MJ magazine in memory of my sister Marcia Joyce, with the understanding that my work has to stand up to the highest standards. The articles, reviews, stories, and issues that are published should be equal to those of any credible magazine on the newsstands.
So, mom, it’s been five years and it seems like yesterday. I hope I will continue to make you proud of me. You taught me well. Yes, I never leave the house without looking my best. You were my mom, mymentor, and my best friend. You will always be here for me in spirit.
Today you would have celebrated your 89th birthday with a special red rose and your favorite chocolate cake. Your blue eyes and your great smile would light up the room, and of course the presents we would give you would make you proud. You taught us never to give up on our dreams, nor settle for less than we want in our lives. You made sure that you listened when we felt down and needed a guiding hand to rise back up. You never faltered and never passed judgment. You were our mother, our guide, and our best friend. Rules were made and enforced, but never with an iron hand. Explanations were given for your requests, and we all followed suit and showed you the respect you deserved.
When you became ill we all rallied together as a family to make sure you remained at home and received great help. We were truly blessed to have Joyce, Joan, Laurel, Pat, Tessa, Loretta, and Getty to take such good care of you and, of course, someone we all miss and loved, Veronica Collins, your case manager, who made sure that you were safe and protected by the best aides in the world from Partners in Care. So, mom, happy birthday, and let the sun shine tomorrow so we know that you are still watching over us and protecting Marcia, who is with you now. We miss your wisdom, your guidance, the huge grey mobile that you drove anywhere you were needed, as the taxi driver for your friends, and the orange mobile that my reading students loved when you picked me up or drove me to school. I made a promise and vowed that I would do everything in my power to care for you, keep your mind and body active, and never even consider the one thing so many others do, placing you in a nursing home.
The circle of life begins on the day you are born and ends when you close your eyes for the last time and take your last precious breath.
Ruth Swerdloff started her life on November 22, 1927, and became a part of a loving, nurturing family that would remain intact for the first two years of her life until the loss of her mother, when things would change. But, Ruth was special from the start, and although facing her first obstacle at the age of two, losing a parent, she somehow learned to accept the change with the help of her sister, Tova, and three brothers, Kenny, Irving, and Harry. This is her story. This is where her circle of life begins.
ABOUT THE AUTHORMemories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? Fran is the author of 13 titles and completed by 14th titled A Daughter’s Promise.
She was the musical director for shows in her school and ran the school's newspaper. Fran writes reviews for authors upon request and for several other sites.
Special dedication to Stacy Modlin for reading my book, giving me positive feedback, and re-editing it. You are the best, and I will always hold you dear as one of my favorite and closest cousins in the world. –Fran
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