“Be Like a Bird”

“Let us be like a bird for a moment perched,
On a frail branch when he sings;
though he feels it bend, yet he sings his song,
Knowing that he has wings.”—Victor Hugo

[Photo courtesy of pexels.com, showcasing the photography of Lucas Pezeta]

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Making Room to Grow


“People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. The rules are the same. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow.”—Erma Bombeck

These words from beloved Erma Bombeck always make me smile.

First, it reminds me of my dread of bathing suit shopping, which explains why I keep wearing the same stretchy black one-piece with a thigh-forgiving skirt ruffle I bought many years ago at a shop near the lake—on sale in October when buying a swimsuit was the last thing on my mind. It fit, it was snug enough to stay put but comfortable enough for body movement, and—much to my delight—I didn’t have to think about wearing it until the following summer. Never a fashion statement for me, a swimsuit is a matter of having something on hand in case I’m unable to talk my way out of a full immersion water activity. You see, I don’t consider myself a strong swimmer, and I most certainly don’t allow others to photograph me at the beach; it’s not an image that brings me joy. I can share intimate details of my love life in my memoir, but I’m not letting my body parts all hang out in a bathing suit photo. I’m far more comfortable dressed in layers to match my self-defined modest and wholesome sensibilities—a place of safety.

These words from Erma Bombeck also remind me how unconventional (a polite word for being a misfit) I am. I never “went shopping” for a spouse. Quite the contrary, I contemplated life as a “spinster”—not because I wasn’t the marrying kind but because I had decided no one wanted me in that way. As a college student I was preparing myself for a meaningful future without the presence of a man in my life. But all that changed when “Victor” came into my life. I fell head over heels in love with him (a curious idiom to use for a person without any gymnastic abilities—that’s how unexpected true love was for me). I had no doubt he fell head over heels in love with me, too.

So we made marriage vows and embarked on countless adventures together. We followed the rules: We felt totally comfortable with each other and allowed for room to grow. Or so I thought.

Those who read my love story discover how the totally unexpected happens—and how I get myself in some serious trouble along the way. It turns out I needed to “allow for room to grow” in other ways.

Let’s face it: I don’t have a beach bunny body. I see those swimsuit issues of magazines showing photos that benefit from airbrushing all the scars, stretch marks, and other imperfections away. I also know plenty of people don’t like the way they look in a swimsuit. In fact, my Google search tells me “swimsuit anxiety” is a thing. But now it’s time to allow “room to grow” in my thinking on this subject in two ways, which can make us feel so much better:

  • Focus on what our bodies can do (such as walk, jump, sit, lie down, relax) as opposed to what they look like.
  • Be aware our loved ones are far more likely to remember the fun times we have playing in the water, not how awful anyone looked in a bathing suit.

News Flash: Attitude adjustment now in progress.

[Photo courtesy of pexels.com, showcasing the photography of Toni Cuenca; I’m not ready to publicly pose in a swimsuit…yet or perhaps ever.]

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High Praise by Book Judge


Drum roll: And the winners are…

I’m told my book was one of the “more than 2,300” book submissions for the 26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards program.

Here’s how it worked: Submit book, completed form, and entry fee by May 2018 deadline. All winners are announced in the March/April 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest. (For more details visit this link: https://www.writersdigest.com/writing-competitions-preparing-your-entry)

Judging results for The Straight Spouse: A Memoir by Vivian Fransen (Open Door Publications, 2017):

  • Structure, Organization, and Pacing: “OUTSTANDING”
  • Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: “OUTSTANDING”
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: “OUTSTANDING”
  • Plot and Story Appeal: “OUTSTANDING”
  • Character Appeal and Development: “OUTSTANDING”
  • Voice and Writing Style: “OUTSTANDING”

Judge commentary (abbreviated): “A well-written and interesting glimpse into how massively a heterosexual spouse can be impacted by an emerging gay spouse. While Victor showed concern and love for his wife, his liberation was her trauma, (and) she suffered a crisis of identity that was almost fatal….This book should find a wide readership.”—Judge, 26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

It turns out my book is not an award-winning book this time. But it’s clear my book did “win” some respect, empathy, and accolades during the judging process. I love Writer’s Digest!james-patterson-wd-cover

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Giving Thanks


I must confess that now, more than ever, I look for an Acknowledgments page before making a final selection on buying a book. If none, it makes me think (1) the author and/or publisher were too much in a hurry to include any mentions of others or (2) the author is a lone ranger who does it all without any assistance from others or (3) some other unknown reason accounts for the omission of this opportunity to express gratitude.

For me, the Acknowledgments section in my book is a sort of love letter. You learn quite a bit about me by reading this piece. Here’s what I wrote for The Straight Spouse: A Memoir:

My cup runneth over with gratitude and affection for those who helped me write, “revise, revise, revise,” and then prepare this book for publication.

It takes a village to write a well-crafted memoir. So I turned to many people for constructive feedback and advice at different points along the way. Special thanks to Glenn Arnowitz for being my first test reader of an early “memory dump” draft, along with Melanie Rigney for her initial professional evaluation. I am grateful for the ongoing critiques and extraordinary encouragement of all members (and talented writers!) in the Watchung Writers Group and the Cranford Writers Group.

I appreciate all the learning experiences gained by participation in various workshops and programs including The Writers Circle, Sharpening the Quill, Women Who Write, and Creative Nonfiction classes. I am so blessed to have received classroom instruction by Paula Balzer (author of Writing & Selling Your Memoir, Writer’s Digest Books; 2011), Jonathan Callard, Waverly Fitzgerald, and Joelle Fraser. I am eternally grateful for advanced one-on-one instruction with Mary Cartledgehayes (author of Grace: A Memoir, Crown Publishers; 2003). I also applaud the valuable assistance of Ronit Wagman through New York Book Editors.

I appreciate the encouragement, experience, and expertise of Karen Hodges Miller and her colleagues at Open Door Publications. Karen is a caring and trusted friend who makes book publishing dreams come true!

I salute my public school teachers (especially Mr. Robert Paul!), Sunday school teachers, and college professors who, in their own way, showed me the power of developing a “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” mindset.

I give thanks for the literary and spiritual insights gained as an enthusiastic fan of the work of Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, Frederick Buechner, Jeannette Walls, Meredith Gould, and Dr. Thomas Howard. Likewise, the music of Buller, Balzer, and Aichele; Ellis; George Beverly Shea; Iris DeMent; Jonatha Brooke; Lui Collins; Natalie Cole; Suzy Arnowitz; and Tracy Chapman nourished my spirit as I worked on my memoir. You have all touched my life in meaningful ways!

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Making Friends

’Tis the season for book festivals, library events, and book discussion groups here in New Jersey and beyond. Such events are perfect opportunities to reach out to others and pay attention to their current reading interests, as well as to share my story and my passion for well-crafted memoirs. Let’s face it: We all want “to be seen, be heard, and be understood.”

Here’s a sampling of upcoming events open to the public. You are invited (at no charge) to stop by and see various authors in action!

  • Indie Author Day 2018 on Saturday, October 13, 2018, 1 PM to 4 PM, at Springfield Public Library, 66 Mountain Avenue, Springfield, NJ 07081. I will be one of a dozen featured authors to celebrate our love of reading books and to engage in book talk with others over cookies and beverages. For more info see this link: http://www.sfplnj.org/programs/calendar/icalrepeat.detail/2018/10/13/4413/-/indie-author-day
  • Author Expo on Monday, October 22, 2018, 10 AM to 8 PM (I’ll be there 12 noon to 2 PM) at Monroe Township Library, 4 Municipal Plaza, Monroe Township, NJ 08831. This day-long “meet and greet” event with authors offers an opportunity to learn about books for yourself or for others on your gift list.
  • Local Author Day on Saturday, November 10, 2018, 1 PM to 4 PM, at Hillsborough Public Library, 379 South Branch Road, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844. This gathering of 30 authors from many genres includes author readings and book displays as well as plenty of opportunities for one-on-one interactions.

NP Book Festival 2018

I’m so grateful I was one of the featured authors at the New Providence Book Festival held on Saturday, September 22, 2018. This outdoor event on Springfield Avenue attracted a marvelous crowd of people eager to celebrate a shared interest in books. The highlight for me was serving as moderator of an afternoon “We Love Books!” author panel, along with mystery book author Michael Stephen Daigle (website: michaelstephendaigle.com) and multi-genre (including fantasy and Gothic) author Linda Raedisch (Facebook page: facebook.com/linda.raedisch). A fun day making new friends!


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Memes Matter, #5


Sooner or later, someone who struggles with sexual identity will show up at your door. Please pay attention, listen with an open mind and an open heart, and show compassion.

And what about their spouse? The coming-out experience for those who are already in a heterosexual marriage does indeed have an impact on one’s spouse. (What an understatement!)

In the growing number of coming-out stories, the straight spouse always gets short shrift. Developing empathy for the person who is married to someone who turns out to be gay often takes a back seat to the drama of their partner’s journey in resolving his or her sexual identity. Such straight spouses are more likely to be regarded as clueless idiots lacking “gaydar” (a supposedly innate ability to detect someone is gay), victims of a master imposter/scam artist spouse, co-conspirator secret keepers, or punch lines of a bad joke.

So please be part of the solution, not part of the problem, in embracing sexual diversity.

This meme concludes the launch of my first series of memes as conversation starters on social media (namely, Facebook and Twitter) with messages that are relevant to the subject matter of my memoir this month, which marks the one-year anniversary of my book’s release (image credit for these 5 memes: Pexels.com). What do you think?

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Memes Matter, #4


Let’s face it: Sometimes the unthinkable happens to you or someone you love. You feel the pain and despair. It’s devastating.

Almost never does it help to hear the words: “Get over it.”

I try to remember to breathe. Take long, deep, healing breaths. That’s one way to begin finding one’s way through it all. Better yet, be on the lookout for someone who can listen because, sooner or later, we all discover we “cannot go it alone.”

I’m launching a series of memes as conversation starters on social media (namely, Facebook and Twitter) with messages that are relevant to the subject matter of my memoir this month, which marks the one-year anniversary of my book’s release. Here’s another meme (image credit: Pexels.com). What do you think?



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