Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Local author's book about and for Moms, is released on Mother's Day
By Sheryl Popp
Bonnie Lowell has penned a book titled Maternally Speaking: I Gave Birth to Four Eggs. (One Scrambled, Fried, Over Easy and Sunny Side Up). It's a humorous book, as you can tell not only by the subtitles, but also from the cover's caricature. I was thrilled when Bonnie dropped off a copy of her book and press kit, as I don't often have a topic in hand that's timely. This has to be the most timely of all time! I invited Bonnie to share her background with me, and tell me in person what led her to write such a book.
Bonnie is a native of the area. She was born in Cedarburg, and lived in Erin and Hubertus before settling in Slinger. One reason was that she was pleased with the Slinger school system. When her children were younger, she was a stay at home Mom. Bonnie was always the type to record her thoughts and jot down amusing anecdotes about mothering. When she decided she needed an outlet away from home, those stories were invaluable. "I saw an ad for the Ozaukee County Fair, inviting the public to perform in an entertainment tent," recalled Bonnie. "I was the only comedian to sign up! There I was, on stage for the first time and I just loved it - the immediate audience feedback." That was about 1990. Bonnie went on to book herself into local comedy venues, and took second place in a Menomonee Falls comedy contest. "Talent scouts saw me there and I got some Milwaukee gigs out of it," said Bonnie. "I would take just about any opportunity to get on stage." She and some fellow comedians even set themselves up a regular performance night at the Safe House in Milwaukee, before her stand up comedy career ended several years later. "After a family tragedy, and my own divorce," explained Bonnie, "it just became hard for me to be funny, and something had to give."
Bonnie needed to retool and rethink herself, and move on with her life. Over the next decade, she struggled to raise three children, and get back into the work force. And she didn't quit writing. Before her current book, Bonnie wrote several children's books, and a sad, cathartic book relating to the family tragedy. The new millennium brought a new marriage and a fourth child into Bonnie's life. She also pursued a new career. "I needed something that was flexible," she said. "I had customer service and sales experience and I thought being a realtor would be a good fit for me." Bonnie has now been a realtor for eight years, and she enjoys the work very much. But, given market conditions, she once again had extra time on her hands, and less money. "I wanted to feel more productive, so I went back to writing," said Bonnie. "I'd tried to have my serious book published and leaned then that it was easier to have a humorous book published. So I pulled out the material I'd compiled about parenting and motherhood for my comedy act. It was a lot more fun to write." That was around a year and a half ago. Six months or so ago, Bonnie began looking for a publisher. She had found one on line, and after attending a publishing conference in Minneapolis, she gained the last bit of confidence she needed to think she could really make this happen.
"It took a while, but the publisher I'd found did get back to me," said Bonnie. "They were a good fit for this type of book. Working with my editor, I learned my strength was storytelling. I actually had tried to write as if I was talking to you now. So there were rewrites that took several months." Bonnie also learned that her publisher expected her to handle a lot of her own promotional duties, but luckily, she wanted to be involved. She drew out a sketch for the cover of her book, and asked a local caricature artist to develop it. Bonnie was able to order advance copies of the book, and has had several smaller book signings. "All the books I ordered are gone," she said happily. "And it has been very well received so far." Her children are all supportive, and the youngest, Alex (age 10), loves the idea that his name is in the book, and that word is spreading at his school.
What's the premise?
"My book is really a tribute to all Moms, even though it's my story," said Bonnie. "I think women make awesome support groups. I was alone a lot of my kids' childhoods, and I needed humor to get through everything. I love Erma Bombeck, but I think there was a need for a more modern voice. Times have changed, and I wanted to bring issues like dealing with divorce(s) and Internet dating into my book." Bonnie divided the book into two major segments. The first, called "The Seven Wonders of Womanhood," deals with women's issues while growing up. A chapter about Bonnie's experience the first time she shaved her legs hooked me while I was leafing through the book. Totally hilarious! The second two thirds of the book are primarily about motherhood and her parenting experiences, and some of the differences between Scrambled, Fried, Over Easy and Sunny Side Up. "My stories are relatable," said Bonnie. "And I think that's why the book is going over well. I feel like I've found my audience again, sort of like I'm going home with my readers. I'm an optimistic realist. I don't gamble with money, but I gambled on this. I thought, other people are writing books. Why not me?"
There are several upcoming opportunities to see Bonnie in person. She will be at the West Bend Community Memorial Library on Sat., May 22, from 9:30-10:30am for a talk and a book signing. Then in June, she will be at Perc Place in Hartford for a reading, book signing and talk on Sat., June 5, from 3:00-5:00pm. Her book sells for $14.95. It is also available through www.maternallyspeaking.com. There is an email link through the site, or you may email her directly at email@example.com, or find her on Facebook. Bonnie is actively looking for speaking engagements, so please inquire if your group or organization would be a good fit.
Bonnie said of her recipe choice: It is rare to get four kids to agree on anything except maybe that they all love snow blizzards that cause snow days. But I can honestly say they all love my lasagna. Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 15 1/2 oz. can tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/3 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 lb. (9) Lasagna noodles
3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese
3/4 lb. Velveeta cheese
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
Brown ground beef and add onion. Cook until tender. Stir in tomato sauce, paste, water, garlic and seasonings. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Cook noodles according to pkg instructions. In an 8 x 12 baking dish, layer 3 noodles, meat sauce, parmesan cheese, sliced mozzarella and sliced velveeta cheeses. Repeat layers 3 times. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Delicious! Usually I make a double batch and freeze one pan for an easy meal for a later date.