Friday, May 14, 2021

And the Award Goes To...

When I was seven years old I won first prize on the Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, a local ABC television production in my hometown of Chicago. I sang "Chocolate Ice Cream Cone" and I wore my Bluebird uniform since the contestants on the show were all Camp Fire Girls. My award was a cash payment of $75 and a Gruen wristwatch engraved on the back "First prize winner, Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, 1950." When I returned to the show to compete with finalists from the the show's winners for the entire season, I lost. It must not have disappointed me too much. Throughout my life I still entered all kinds of contests and competitions, some of which I won and some of which I lost. I was a finalist for homecoming queen but not voted into the court. I lost every year I tried out for cheerleading except one year in middle school. In my senior year I won the lead role in my school musical but only after several rejections in prior years. And on and on.

They say that to be a writer you have to have a tough skin. I can attest to that. I have a drawer full of rejections. But I've had some successes too of which I am very proud.

In my old age, I am still entering contests and over the past year submitted three applications for my writing. I was chosen to be a finalist in one category. The winner is still to be announced. I have to admit that I was disappointed that I did not win in at least one of the other two categories, but I've learned through the years "you win some and you lose some." My husband's favorite saying is one by Winston Churchill that goes "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Mimi Pockross is the author of three books, most recently Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase.

Find out more about her at mimipockross.com



Monday, April 19, 2021

Drama Queens

 

Recently I sat in on a Zoom meeting of aspiring writers of all ages, but mostly young ones. The range in age was twenty to seventy-something and I was the seventy something. I had been invited because I had recently published a book and some were curious as to how I was able to do this. The subject for the evening was a general discussion of writers, playwrights and poets and the frustrations of trying to advance one’s career. 

 

There were about twelve of us and the median age was around 40. The twenty-year old was a student and had to leave in the middle of the meeting to study for exams. Another was struggling to write in between taking care of her ailing spouse. Another was in between jobs after she was let go during the pandemic, and another was a wife and mother of four grown children teaching at several schools while trying to write on the side. 

 

The complaints for all were about gender parity, ageism, writers’ block, rejections and a frustration with why they weren’t making as much money as Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts. 

 

I looked at the shining beautiful faces of these women and I was not at all upset that I was in my older years even though my books have never yet made the best seller list. I sympathized with their struggles. They are basically mine as well. But there was a certain acceptance on my part of my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and my limitations that I believe only comes with old age. And I had very few of their obligations! 

 

Perhaps the reason that I am relatively content is because of my latest project, a book about a woman named Mary Chase who in 1945 when women were not a major part of the work force, won a Pulitzer Prize for her play about a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. She was 37 at the time, a wife and a mother as well. She was never able to match or exceed her initial success as a playwright but she continued to write until she passed away at the age of 74 because she said that she always felt the most content when she was writing. 

 

Unlike most of my peers, who have long since retired and are either on the golf course each day or by the pool, having lunch with the girls or going to book clubs, I feel the same way as Mary Chase even though my achievements are not anywhere near the ones of Mary Chase.

In my old age, I still want to keep plodding along. I’m just happy that so far my health has held up and I can take daily walks, enjoy my grandchildren and have fiery political discussions with my husband at breakfast as we read our morning papers.

 

I shared some of my life stories with these women and they were actually appreciative even though I was hesitant to offer them. I told them about all of my rejections before I was successful in finding a publisher. I told them about gender disparities I experienced when I was a speech and drama coach and all the sports coaches received extra stipends and I did not. And about the lack of pay for a weekly column I wrote for two and half years and for which my publisher paid me a paltry salary and offered me golf clubs instead. And I talked about the need to balance one’s life with other pleasures rather than spending every moment trying to do better.

 

To be appreciated for my contributions to the discussion was a great feeling and one I did not expect, the feeling that by sharing my experiences and struggles, they might actually find some comfort. I’m looking forward to hearing more about their accomplishments. And I will not be envious.




Monday, April 5, 2021

My Pandemic Book Launch

At the beginning of March in 2020, I was still at work editing my manuscript for Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase when Covid struck. 

At the beginning of March I was one of the first to come down with a case of my own that lasted several days. Almost on schedule, the final touches were being made to ready my book for publication. The book was due to be published in October, and, with the exception of a few glitches, actually did appear then.

I slogged through the next few months getting ready for my "launch." Not sure if there would be any launch, but I got ready anyway.

I wrote some articles which I was lucky enough to get published. I made up a virtual presentation for Zoom. I wrote to  all the bookstores and to my mailing list to let everyone know that my book would be out in October. And, I started to use the social network outlets that I had been avoiding dealing with.

The good thing about this past year is that I had to be even busier than I would have been normally, just not on what to wear or where to go or who to visit. The bad thing is that everyone had to consolidate their businesses and, of course, that meant me too. Thus independent bookstores that would ordinarily at least have entertained the thought of doing a book signing reserved their efforts to selling best sellers or books listed by trade publications, not boutique publishers like my own. 

Still I can't complain. I've honed my virtual presentation and have been delighted that there have been quite a few of them. And regularly Amazon ranks me high, although it varies when I don't check in on Facebook.

When I published my last book, these barriers did not exist and life was sooo much easier. 

Still I am grateful for all my cyberspace communications. There have been so many delightful moments in a year when so many tragic moments have occurred all over the world. It puts life into perspective. I'm not sure I was going to win the National Book Award anyway. It humbles me. I am grateful for all the wonderful things about my daily life and for realizing that even if my book launch was not on the Red Carpet, I have survived.

On to my next book that I am mid-way of writing.





Monday, March 1, 2021

"A HOUSEWIFE WHO WROTE PLAYS"

 


                                                                Mary Coyle Chase

                                                             "Harvey's Mom"

                                                                           1907 to 1981


She was 37 years old when she won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Harvey in 1945, only the fourth woman to have done so since the onset of the award in 1917, and still today remains today the only Coloradan to have done so.

She was a wife and a mother who was known by Broadway critics as a "housewife who wrote plays." She didn't let that bother her, lived with her times, and never let her gender get in the way of reaching for the top.

Her play about a six foot invisible rabbit called Harvey and his friend Elwood P. Dowd has been produced around  the world and continues to be a popular choice even today more than seventy-five years later. The movie of the play starring Jimmy Stewart is consistently listed by the American Film Institute in the categories of comedy and fantasy.

Many of the protagonists portrayed in her plays and books are strong, independent women.

Above all as the Denver Post once said when she passed away, Mary Chase was a "nice person."

To Mary Chase. HURRAH!!


Read more about Mary in my book Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. 

http://mimipockross.com

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat/dp/1538131684/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MR1B6FXUMJ3Y&dchild=1&keywords=pulling+harvey+out+of+her+hat&qid=1594222892&s=books&sprefix=pulling+harv,aps,169&sr=1-1

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48768527-pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=RRvlZMsj1S&rank=1

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat-mimi-pockross/1134735749?ean=9781538131688

ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD (LIMELIGHT EDITIONS): https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538131688/Pulling-Harvey-Out-of-Her-Hat-The-Amazing-Story-of-Mary-Coyle-Chase

                                                


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Frankie: A Teaching Moment

Frankie was one of the first African Americans I ever met and I was twenty-one at the time of our meeting.  I had grown up in an all-white suburb outside of Chicago, a very segregated city even today, had attended two land grant universities where I do not recall meeting any people of color and had moved to DC with my new husband.  This was only a few years after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision to integrate American public schools. 

I was hired to be a “speech improvement teacher.”  There were ten people in the program, three whites and seven African Americans and our job was to attempt to remove the “Negro dialect” from the students we were selected to teach.  Frankie, one of the African Americans, was in my program.  Since I was the new kid on the block (the program had been in existence for a few years) I was instructed to accompany each of the “veterans” for a few sessions so I could pick up some of the techniques that were used in the program.  

 

When it came my turn to accompany Frankie, I knew I was in the presence of someone special.  I was in awe of her intellect, her ability to connect with her students, with her creativity and especially with her drive.  This was a woman, I learned, whose mother was a maid and her father was a postal worker and she was filled with determination to rise above her modest upbringing.   I didn’t have to fight what she was fighting, I was a middle class Jewish girl, but I had some of that determination too.  Hers was more fierce and her outcome much greater.

 

I returned to Illinois after one year in DC but in some way must have continued to stay in touch with Frankie.  I learned that she had applied and been accepted at Michigan State University for a master’s degree in communication.   I continued my speech teaching career for several years and then applied to Northwestern’s graduate program in communications.  It was ironic that at the same time, Frankie had been accepted into their PHD program.

 

Frankie was always in a hurry and had little time for me.  She was always “fitting me in” to her busy schedule.  I think the last time I saw her she had been in an automobile accident and asked that I bring her something to eat at Evanston Hospital.

 

The next thing I knew she was the first African American White House correspondent for CBS.

 

Although I don’t know the specifics, I know her career evolved through stints on public television and ultimately wound up with her professorship and deanship at the University of Maryland. Once I found her on the internet at a roundtable with the iconic African American journalist Gwen Ifill. Wow!


Five years ago  I received my regular Northwestern alumni magazine and when I thumbed through the pages, I stopped on the obituary page and rested my eyes on the photograph of someone who looked very familiar.  It was my friend Frankie Thornton (later known as Lee Thornton) who I had met in Washington, D.C. in 1965 when she and I were both in the same teaching program in the DC public school system.  She was only a few years older than I, and she had died after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.

 

Her death came as a shock.  I have so many feelings that I harbor inside of me though our relationship was really pretty superficial. 

 

The most important is that I was honored to meet her and the many other accomplished and able African Americans that were in my DC program.  Their stories were pivotal in formulating my own view of America.  I was never the same after that year.  These women ran the gamut of reactions to the suppression of their race.  Some were angrier than others.  Some were more lighthearted and not as committed to “the cause.”  I was especially proud to have been in the company of Frankie/Lee.  She was someone to look up to and admire regardless of her race and her humble upbringing.



http://mimipockross.com

                                                                 








Sunday, January 24, 2021

Harvey's Year in Review

 

 

Harvey’s Year in Review

 

 


http://www.mimipockross.com

 

 

“Pockross certainly pulls a delightful and informative biography out of her hat”—Talkin’ Broadway

 

A charming book about a theater legend”—Sonya Ellenboe, Colorado Community Media

 

“An entertaining and absorbing biography of Mary Coyle Chase”

Mark Kappel News Notes

 

To all of you who have learned about my book on Harvey and Mary Chase and especially to those of you who have purchased it and even better written about it, THANK YOU!!!!

 

Despite the fact that we all have been under quarantine and trying to find some happy moments during a difficult year, we have muddled through and hopefully can look forward to happier moments this year. I hope Harvey has provided some comic relief in some way.

 

It has been a very rewarding year for me since the publication of my book in October of 2020.

 

I have written and published two articles about Mary Chase and Harvey, one for Colorado Heritage Magazine and one for Colorado Life Magazine.

 

I’ve given presentations to the Denver Woman’s Press Club and my own book club.

 

I’ve been interviewed for the University of Denver Alumni Magazine, the Vail DailyColorado Community Media, and for a film on Mary Chase sponsored by the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame that is scheduled to be completed in March.

 

I’ve been reviewed by Broadway Stars and New York Theatre blogs and I have received mentions by PlaybillBroadway World and Mark Kappel’s News Notes and Dance Blog

 

Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for your support and for making Mary Chase come to life.










\



toggle search form

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

What a Bumpy Ride!

Here we all are at the end of 2020 and surviving as well as possible despite the many glitches that have made the process a bit challenging. Among my own: my husband and I contracting covid in March but thank goodness recovering and having a positive antibody test, my grandson's virtual bar mitzvah, staying in touch with friends and family, getting through a contentious election, the launching of my new book without any possibility of book signings, learning to order groceries by Instacart and life's necessities on Amazon.

How amazing to have had the internet and especially Zoom to help us get through these trying times. So helpful.

May we all enjoy a less stressful New Year and appreciate all the special parts of of our lives that we took for granted in the past.

Onward to 2021!




Thursday, October 22, 2020

                                                                                

 

Harvey “Karats”

 

FROM MIMI POCKROSS’S NEW BOOK

Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase

 

Harvey debuted on Broadway

on November 1, 1944. It ran

for four-and-a-half years.

 

Now available on line 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat

Friday, October 16, 2020

Who You Gonna Vote For?

This article appeared in the Vail Daily on October 16, 2020. 

 

 

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you. And I’m not going to tell you who I’m voting for. That’s up to me.

 

What I have learned is that, depending on where we come from and what our life experiences have been, we’re inclined to use that as the basis for our decisions. 

 

So here’s mine: I grew up in a fifties suburb and had a perfect Eisenhower era education. I attended a suburban high school where we were a microcosm of the country. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and I later earned a master’s degree.

 

My life has gone through many reinventions since those idyllic years when I was growing up. 

 

Among the many influences in my life: teaching in the inner-city schools of Washington, DC, in high schools in the Illinois prairies near an Air Force base, in a college community, and in the suburbs like the one which I attended; working in a mega media corporation; and owning and operating a small business. Among the strongest influences were the jobs I held before I became a college graduate: as a waitress, a receptionist, and as a counter person. I have enjoyed a long-time marriage and have a great family.

 

I’ve watched life change from those ideal Eisenhower era days and I’ve tried to change with them. I am grateful that I have a relatively comfortable life especially here in Vail.

 

I think my experience and my background skew me to deliberate beyond my own needs. I understand what it’s like to have experienced small-town life, what it’s like to be a military brat, how a corporation runs, and what it means to be a parent. 

 

So as an American, and as this election is upon us, I ask myself a lot of questions. Do I make my decisions based on my pocketbook? Do I make my decisions based on thinking of the needs of others? Do I make my decisions based on who I want to represent me in the world? Do I place more importance on the needs of my state as opposed to the needs of other states that might be very different than mine? Who do I think would know best how to run our country?

 

Rather than getting on the bandwagon and just voting with the herd, I ask people to individually examine their life experiences and think carefully as to why they are making their personal choices. 

 

I consider myself open minded. I just want to know why people vote the way they do. Maybe it comes down to whether you vote with your head, with your heart or maybe both.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Little White Lies


One day I remember taking my children with me to the grocery store. They were probably about the same age as my grandchildren are now, maybe 9 and 10, something like that. 

For some reason we wound up talking about not liking something, not sure whether it was a person or a grocery or what, but the subject came up as to when you tell the truth and when you tell a "little white lie." It seemed like it was OK to say you don't like carrots but it wasn't OK to say you didn't like your friend's friend, Bobby Anderson.

Basically we came to the conclusion that you never want to purposely hurt someone's feelings so you might "fudge" a bit. Instead of saying you don't like a person's friend you might say who you like to play with. Or instead of saying you didn't want to go to someone's house, you might say that you have to baby sit for your brother or that you are grounded or that your grandmother comes to see you on Saturdays. Maybe you have to use all those excuses before that person finally gets the message that he is not on the top of your "go visit list." Whatever your "little white lie," I cautioned that you never really want to get caught, so be sure to avoid saying something where the truth would finally get out. Perhaps you had no grandmother or your mother volunteered to your friend that you weren't grounded or your brother is too old to have a baby sitter.

Finally we all came to the conclusion that we could always tell the truth to each other because we're family. It was just not always a good idea to tell others! There was comfort in that. 

Figuring out how to craft a perfect "white lie" doesn't always work for those of us who like to tell the truth. I always had difficulty with this. And it always amazed me when others were so good at it.



http://mimipockross.com

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat/dp/1538131684/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MR1B6FXUMJ3Y&dchild=1&keywords=pulling+harvey+out+of+her+hat&qid=1594222892&s=books&sprefix=pulling+harv,aps,169&sr=1-1

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48768527-pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=RRvlZMsj1S&rank=1

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat-mimi-pockross/1134735749?ean=9781538131688

ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD (LIMELIGHT EDITIONS): https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538131688/Pulling-Harvey-Out-of-Her-Hat-The-Amazing-Story-of-Mary-Coyle-Chase


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Family

At my book club the other day everyone was talking about how they were occupying their time while we are all relatively on lock down. A lot of people talked about cleaning projects such as using a toothbrush to clean the bathroom grouting. Neighbors talked about getting together once a week in someone's backyard to visit and drink coffee. I talked about my new liaison I am having with long lost relatives and the attempt by all of us to bring some sort of a semblance to our past.

It all started when the youngest children of members of our extended decided that we needed to know more about our roots. At the start, there were seven children in the family, four daughters and three sons. The parents had come from Ukraine and had settled in Chicago in the early 1900s. The grandchildren did the research on the ancestry websites and then we have all emailed and zoomed together at various times. The remaining son of one of the brothers (the father of one of the granddaughters) then put his thoughts in emails and provided all kinds of interesting anecdotes about growing up in Chicago and why the families had difficulty staying in touch. The network of cousins has expanded to three different siblings of the original seven. Each time we have gathered, out host cousin has posted a backdrop of the town in Ukraine where the original family was from and then we have exchanged memories and continue to try and clear up facts. When did they arrive? Where did they live?

It's been a delightful segue during a time when we're all trying to make some sense out of our current situation. The last time we met we traded favorite recipes that our mothers had inherited from their mothers. I offered my German mother's plum cake recipe and my cousin gave her grandmother's strudel recipe. I was amazed to discover that the family had lived in a bustling city of 64,000 and not in a tiny village like the one from Fiddler on the Roof and that they weren't at all like Tevye, the milkman. They were actually pretty comfortable. We also found that we had a lot in common. For example, a thread of being frugal seems to run through the family, and there is a tendency toward longevity. I liked too that so many of my cousins were academics even though I am not.

I hope there will be more discoveries to come in the future. So far it's been a great ride.







Thursday, July 23, 2020

Policy

When I first owned my art gallery, a customer brought back an expensive pot after he had purchased it three months before and asked for his money back. I was devastated. First my self-esteem was hurt, but second, I didn't have five hundred dollars in cash to give him his refund.

Once I had reluctantly found the money to give to him, I decided it was time to make my policy on returns more defined and more noticeable.  I had to think about this and decide what was fair to both the customer and to me, the struggling owner of the gallery.

Soon after I posted my return policy right by the cash register and repeated the policy in my quarterly newsletter.  It turned out that you had to return the merchandise, assuming it was in good condition, within ten days or else there was no refund. The refund would be reissued in the form that it was originally paid for. 

Each time that a customer made a purchase I reminded them of the policy. 

For the most part that took care of the problem, but there were still exceptions. One time, someone custom ordered a headboard and then complained that he didn't like the item when it was delivered. Another time a customer complained that the lamps he custom ordered were uneven and he couldn't live with that. In each case I had to explain that art was never perfect. I settled differently in each case. I can't remember exactly how, but I think I gave them each credit and just took back the items and then eventually resold them.

Since my college days, I have always been interested in policy. I think it's always a matter of establishing guidelines that work and then making sure everyone understands the rules. What I didn't understand until I was a store owner is that regardless of the rules, some people will always try to get around them. Then it's up to the person in charge to figure out what to do. Litigating is time consuming and expensive. Going to the press is another alternative. Learning from your mistakes was what I settled on. 

Back to the drawing board, I went.




COMING IN THE FALL OF 2020!















Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I Wish

The year was 1965 and my husband Keith and I were newly married and decided to move to Washington, DC where Keith worked on a National Science Foundation grant and I worked as a traveling speech improvement teacher in Washington, D.C.'s inner city.

I had grown up in a very segregated suburb of Chicago where the tribal wars were between Jews and non-Jews. With the exception of a friend's cleaning lady, I had never met an African-American. It was a new experience to be in a world I knew nothing about. Sometimes when I was making my rounds of my schools I was often the only white person in the school, a role reversal of sorts.

It had only been twelve years since Brown v. Board of Education had passed and the seven African-American women teachers on my team of ten were still feeling the sting of attending school in segregated times. Often they would share with me how they felt during those years.

Being with these women changed my life as did teaching in some of the poorest black neighborhood schools. I developed a respect for the teachers who had accomplished so much and would go on to  even greater heights after I left for Illinois the following year. It was a joy to learn about scrapple, eye-opening to see six-foot tall teenagers in my seventh grade classroom, and touching to deliver one little black girl to the projects when we completed an after-school activity that she so enjoyed.

I feel privileged to have had my eyes opened to a culture so different than mine. Maybe that's what all of my fellow Americans need to do: put themselves in places other than where they feel most comfortable. Maybe then we would all learn to respect one another.

Mimi


                                                   COMING IN THE FALL OF 2020: