Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.
The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.
Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.
Well, what can I say about Sally Cronin’s latest collection of short stories and poetry?
It is a brilliant mix of bitter and sweet, a fine collection that I’m sure will appeal to everyone. In fact, I had so many favourite short stories and poems that I’d be hard put to try to pick just a few to highlight. Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries is a snapshot of life embracing all its complexities, with humour, joy and kindness.
Here were some of my personal favourites:
Short Stories:The Weekly Shopping (this will make you chuckle! A special one with dieters in mind!) The Date – (so humourous and sweet, think old lady out for a date but she sure does it in style!) The Wedding Day, The Scratch Card, (So lovely – a short excerpt of this particular story is available below in the author interview link,) Long Lost Love, The Night Shift (A lovely tale of a Care home and a cat,) Gaffer Tape (about fortitude and overcoming domestic abuse,) The Gardening Assistant (Loss of a baby – this will touch the heart of many, especially those who have experienced such sadness, or miscarriage (as I have,) but the ending with the help of a furry friend brings light and hope.)
Some of my favourite poems: The Visitor, Garden Birds, Ritual of Mehndi
I featured Sally with an interview and excerpt recently:
My recommendation. A highly readable and touching book of short stories and poetry. 5 stars.
Welcome to Kyrosmagica! It is wonderful to have you over for a chit chat, Sally.
Lovely to be here Marjorie and thank you for the invitation.
MJ: I’m delighted to be reading Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries, Sally, the title is so beguiling, particularly as I do love fruit, and cherries are a favourite!
MJ:Sally,I’d love to hear more about your nomadic life. I believe you have lived in many countries. Which of these places has a special place in your heart and why?
My father was in the Royal Navy and was posted overseas several times. On occasion we were able to travel with him as a family, including my first trip at age 18 months to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The first year was documented in photographs and I don’t really remember as I was too young, but certainly by the time I was three I was aware of my surroundings and the people in my life. We lived in a house on the edge of the jungle and we had a cook and an amah or nanny for me. My two sisters were 13 and 14 by this time and when they came back from school I was handed over to them. Anything they did I did too, and I was swimming every day in my rubber ring which I loved and still do today, but without the rubber ring!! On one memorable occasion, I followed my eldest sister up a steep ladder during a diving competition. She completed her dive and surfaced expecting applause to find a stunned silence and groans from the crowd. I had crawled to the end of the diving board, stood up and jumped off. Apparently I surfaced and told my sister ‘again’.
After Sri Lanka we returned to the UK for two years followed by two years in Malta which were amazing, and after another two years in England we moved to South Africa. My memories of our time in Cape Town are very vivid as I was ten years old by this time and well aware of the situation at that time with apartheid for example. As a family we had to attend an induction day so that we knew what we could say and what the rules were for segregation. I found it very difficult as I had friends at school in England from the West Indies and the Middle East and it felt very uncomfortable being unable to be friends with anyone because of their colour.
David and I have lived and worked in several countries over the last forty years and certainly our experiences, and the people we have met, have provided us with amazing memories. As a writer all of my travels have left me with memories that are wonderful to dip into and use for stories.
They say that ‘home is where the heart is’, and for me that is certainly the case, and wherever we might be living, as long as David and I are under the same roof it is a special place.
MJ: Oh, how lovely.
MJ:Writing short stories and poetry takes a special skill. Can you summarise the way you approach writing them – any rituals you have, or methods you use?
The stories start out life a great deal longer than they end up. I tend to write in my head first when walking or exercising, then come back and dash it out on the computer. I spend a lot of time revising and editing down to a point where I feel it reads aloud well. And I always ask myself, would I enjoy if I read the story for the first time.
I tend to stick to the Japanese poetry which is constrained by the number of syllables. I love the various formats and experiment depending on the theme. After the first draft, I usually end up changing the words within a certain syllable count to find the one that expresses the most action or emotion.
With everything I write, I use David as a sounding board and he is brilliant with suggestions that might enhance or improve the piece.
MJ: You feature so many authors on your wonderful blog Smorgasbord. This must be a labour of love as I’m sure it must take up so much of your time. As an indie author you give so much to the community in features, reviews and the like. How do you manage your time? And do you ever feel overwhelmed?
One of the key elements I learned early on in my management career was project planning and this was vital when dealing with major construction, installation or sales and marketing campaigns. I carried this over to when I was running my own business for the next twelve years and then as a blogger.
For me blogging is a full time occupation and a business despite the blog itself not being monetised. I am an indie author with 14 books to sell and nobody else is going to do that for me. With 20,000 new titles added to the shelves on Amazon each week, it is tough to get noticed, particularly in the popular genres.
Twenty years ago I was helping authors get their books noticed in a very different way with book launches, radio interviews, press releases and my own first book got some great publicity nationally. However, it is very different now, and the focus is on local physical marketing and global online promotion.
As an author of six books in 2012, I needed a platform to market my own books and that involved creating an online presence across other areas of social media. I began building Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn systematically over the years. I don’t belong to any other social media because as you say, it is time consuming to maintain, and these three are the most consistent referrers of visitors to the blog after WordPress Reader.
I had a project plan in place to achieve my vision of how I wanted the blog to develop. To market my own books, I felt that the content on the blog needed to appeal to a varied market. I set out to develop a magazine style platform with a number of topics. I began with health which I have been involved in for over fifteen years by that time, and slowly added the other areas I have been involved such as book marketing, music and humour as the followers and my confidence grew.
After three years I felt that there was a strong enough following to offer free book marketing to other authors, which is when the Café and Bookstore came into existence. There are now over 150 author promotions, two book fairs featuring all the authors in the Café, and around 50 individual author spotlights a year. My hope is that I can help in some small way to showcase an author and their work within our writing community, whilst also promoting my own.
As to finding the time to post in the way I do… I always schedule ahead by at least a week and usually two. In the case of a series I schedule all the posts at one time. This creates time for me to maintain social media, spend time on my own writing projects, and read and review books.
The project plan is not completed, and in the blog’s 9 th year I hope to continue to find new ways to get all of us noticed and sell some books.
MJ: You are an inspiration, what a wonderful goal.
MJ: The title of your latest release: Life Is Like A Bowl of Cherries. How did you choose the title and what were you trying to convey?
My life experience has been one of highs and lows as is the case for so many people. The reason I appreciate what I have right now, is because of the tough times in the past. Nobody has a perfect life and that is what makes it so fascinating. I wanted to reflect this in the stories I write, but I try to end each of them with a hopeful outcome.
As to the name of the collection…I bought a punnet of cherries last year and could not believe how they looked the same but some were bitter and some were sweet. When I was looking for a title it came to mind.
MJ: That’s so cute!
MJ: After eight years blogging what advice would you impart to new bloggers starting their blogging journey?
Everybody has a different reason for beginning their blogs and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. I do dislike the term Hobby Blogger which is used for anyone who does not commercialise their blog. Whether it is one blog a week, one a day or more, it takes time to prepare, format and market. Various skills are required and whilst it should be enjoyable, it takes work, not just to create the posts, but to get noticed.
I do suggest that anyone thinking about blogging visit a load of other blogs first to get a feel of what is out there, the format, the response in terms of followers and comments. That is usually a solid indicator that people enjoy the content.
A good place to start with your own blog is with your passions, which might be cooking, music, writing, etc. Start with one blog a week and sprinkle with some reblogs of other people’s posts that you are following and enjoy. They will appreciate the gesture and return the favour.
Follow and comment on other blogs and share on social media by clicking one of the buttons at the end of the post. Just saying ‘I enjoyed that thank you’ with your name is very welcome. One thing I do suggest is that you don’t put the URL of your blog in the comment as that should come up with your name, and most blogs block comments containing URLs.
Follow bloggers you enjoy on Twitter and Facebook and retweet their pinned tweets…and if you are an author this is particularly important. I do have a pdf of Book Marketing for authors, including set up for blog and social media and if anyone would like a copy then they just need to email me on email@example.com
MJ: Has your writing mojo stayed the same during this unprecedented time of covid?
Like all of us we have had to adjust to several lockdowns and still having to get on with life in the most hopeful way possible. I felt it was very important for my own wellbeing to ensure that the blog continued as normal during the year. More than ever being online and staying in contact was crucial, and authors were still writing books that needed to be marketed. Music and laughter are important in my life, particularly at the moment, so there was no thought of not carrying on as usual.
MJ:You live in Ireland now, what made you settle there? And do you ever see yourself moving?
My husband is Irish and despite leaving for work when he was 18 years old we have visited family regularly and lived here for five years in the mid-1990s. We loved living just outside of Madrid and periodically on the south coast of Spain for my time on radio, but we got to our mid-60s and felt that it would be a good idea to return to Ireland. We are in good health but even if you are relatively fluent in a language you would still find it difficult coping with illness, or possibly being left on your own to cope with it.
It has been nearly five years now and I miss our friends and the sunshine, having swapped 300 days of blue skies for 300 days of rain! But the warmth of the people here certainly makes up for that. Additionally this last year, there has been a sense of feeling less exposed as we live in a rural area on the coast. Without the usual holidaymakers arriving from Dublin this summer, the incidence of the virus has been much less than it has been elsewhere in Ireland and in the UK. Obviously we are sorry for all the small businesses dependent on this annual influx but it is better to be safe than sorry.
We love our house which took four years to renovate, with some work is still needed in the garden, which is weather dependent. There is enough room to move in some help as we get older, as neither of us are care home material…so the answer is we probably are here for the duration! For the time being lol…
Thank you again Marjorie for inviting me over and I hope that I didn’t outstay my welcome… I do love to chat… Happy 2021 everyone.
Excerpt from The Scratch Card
Elsie Thompson attended the morning service at St. Cuthbert’s and dropped in to the coffee morning in the church Hall to catch up on the gossip in the parish from the last week. She also wanted to share the good news with her friends that she had won twenty pounds on a scratch card the day before, and she had four crisp five pound notes in her purse to prove it.
Mr. Singh the owner of the corner shop where she always bought her tickets, had beamed at her as he handed over the cash and commented it would not take her far sadly. She laughed and spent one of the fivers on another card, in the hopes another win might get her somewhere with a lot more sunshine than Liverpool. To be honest, even enough for a day out in Southport would be lovely for the both of them, and her husband Frank would enjoy a stroll down Lord’s Street, and she would treat him to a posh tea at the Prince of Wales hotel.
Elsie paid for five cups of coffee and a biscuit for herself and her four friends with one of the remaining fivers, and they sat in a corner happily sharing their news and plans for the following week. It was money well spent, and an hour later, Elsie walked home to get the roast lunch prepared, looking forward to their son Tom’s monthly visit with his wife Steph and their two boys.
As she crossed the main road, she saw a young lad sitting on the pavement outside a closed charity shop, he was playing the guitar, and at the moment the only audience seemed to be his dog leaning up against his shoulder. Elsie paused in her mental preparation of the roast pork with crackling, roast potatoes, carrots, cauliflower cheese and peas, followed by apple pie and custard. The boy’s face was pinched, and he shivered in the cold breeze that had picked up in the last couple of hours. His music was actually not half bad, and he had a nice voice, which drew her closer to hear more clearly. He smiled in recognition of her attention and the dog stood up and wagged its tail.
Elsie looked into the open guitar case and saw a few coppers were strategically scattered to entice further contributions. She had appreciated her own little bit of luck, and a few shillings wouldn’t be missed. She took her purse out of her handbag, opened it and realised she only had some pennies. Shaking her head she pulled out one of the remaining two five pound notes and tucked it beneath some of the coppers to stop it flying away. She looked up into the boy’s face when he suddenly stopped singing and saw tears running down his face into his dirty scarf.
MJ: I’ve read this story and it is one of my favourites!
Sally Cronin is the author of fourteen non-fiction and fiction books published over the last twenty years. After a nomadic life living and working around the world, she and her husband now live on the Wexford coast in Ireland. As an indie author she began blogging seven years ago as a way to promote her own books and then created The Cafe and Bookstore to promote other authors and their work. Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is also home to health, food, music, life stories, poetry and humour.
Latest book: Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet
Thanks so much to Sally for this wonderful author update. My poetry collection, Mr. Sagittarius with its latest review from Ruchira is shared along with great books from C. S. Boyack and Elizabeth Merry.
Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.
Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.
This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.
What a lovely book from a lady who does so much for the indie author community. I’ve been following Sally’s blog for many years. The title: Life’s Rich Tapestry sums this beautiful book up perfectly. I enjoyed this immensely. It is like a treasure trove with a range of delights for everyone: poetry, micro fiction and longer pieces of writing too.
Sally Cronin is a talented story teller and I have so many favourite pieces in the collection!
Here they are:
Speculative Fiction section:A moment of alignment, Onions, The Enhancement Project.
There is a very cute dog section titled: The underdogs! Lol. And of course…The Superiority of Cats.
CAT FAVS: For the love of Lily. (my tied favourite in the collection – loved this.)
DOG FAVS: An Ugly Mutt, The Junkyard Dog (my tied favourite in the collection – loved this.)
FAVS: Strawberry Jam, Storm Windows, Splashing Good Time, Rock Star, Recycling Centre, My Mouse (so funny!) Following Elephants, The Charm Bracelet, Broken.
Random Thoughts:In touch with the earth
Celebrating Pets: My best friend, A Dog’s Life.
Fav poems in Remembrance:Wedding Anniversary Septhember 11th, The Poppies
Fav poems in The Natural World: The Beach, The Cave, A Magpie’s Prize, The Magnolia
FAV Poems in Fairies and Other Folk: Fairy Gold, Fairies at play.
FAV poems in the All Things Human section: Romance, Youth,
FAV Poems about the Seasons of the Year: Glorious April, March Hares,Hallowwen – This Night, Rust and Gold, November Trees, December.
I mention my favourites only so you can see the variety of stories, poems and microfiction in this collection. The cat and dog sections are superb so this collection will really appeal to those who love their cats and dogs!
My recommendation: 5 stars. An excellent collection. Highly recommended.
Welcome to Sally Cronin, a huge supporter of the indie writing community. Sally has kindly offered to contribute to my latest writing project: This Is Lockdown.
It’s a compilation of my diaries, short stories, flash fiction, poetry and articles, plus poems and pieces of writing from an array of international writers, authors and bloggers – the ‘Isolation Writers,’ featured on my blog.
She shares her tributes to all those who have kept us safe, educated, fed, and cared for during this crisis, her thoughts on reentering ‘normal’ activities, a poem inspired by our current situation, plus her reflections for the future.
Double Etheree – Silver Lining
I believe there is a silver lining to isolation. A chance to reassess how we effectively use one of life’s great commodities so often wasted and lamented yet measured so accurately each day. Time can be fleeting or last a lifetime and it seems there is little to spare. But during this brief hiatus I have come to understand that clocks do not decide how I use this gift. In the future I will live and love more.
Thanks very much Marjorie for inviting me over to share my thoughts about the recent three months of lock down and the prospect of moving forward.
Firstly, I really want to pay tribute to the health care workers in hospitals, care homes and those who have continued to visit individuals in the community. We tend to forget when we look at their uniforms that they are also grandparents, mums and dads, sisters, brothers and grandchildren, who have the same concerns we all do about what is going on in the home, not just in their place of work.
Also those working on the front-line in supermarkets and pharmacies that have turned up each day, cheerfully, to make sure we have food on the table and medication delivered.
Parents too have been challenged by assuming the roles of teachers as well as playmates for their children in the last three months, and judging by the photographs and captions on social media, with mixed results. Humour thankfully has been sustained over the last 12 weeks, but I do know that many have struggled with the enforced isolation.
What I would like to focus on in this post, is how three groups of our society are going to cope with the next phase of re-entering the outside world.
I notice that there are already articles on how to minimise the impact on our pets, who have enjoyed having their families at home with them all day, and that includes leaving them for small amounts of time to get them used to be alone again. Humans also need help adjusting to the new world we will find when we reconnect with society.
This includes those who have been classified as vulnerable, primary school children and those who have had their treatments for life threatening diseases put on hold for over three months.
Those classified as vulnerable I am officially in the at risk group because of my age rather than underlying health issues, but I must say that having shopped in the designated times, I probably will continue to do so as long as they continue… There do not seem to be many early risers at the moment with schools still shut, so I tend to shop in isolated splendour, rolling up and through the checkout without any delay. I do wear a mask and latex gloves and use hand sanitiser as well. Once home I get in the shower and wash my hair and glasses at the same time… shoes stay outside for the day upside down in sunshine or get wiped over with Dettol. I do think it will be a while before I discard these precautions, however safe they announce it might be.
However, one of the issues identified, is covid-19 phobia amongst many elderly people who have become used to having their groceries delivered, and total absence of outside physical contact with family and friends. We have been informed regularly, that with the lifting of restrictions there could be a second wave of the virus, and that it is highly likely that there will be another lockdown when the winter flu season starts later in the year. It does not exactly inspire confidence when it comes to leaving the house and mixing with strangers again as we used to.
This is reinforced with the continued advice for those over 70 or with a long-term underlying conditions, to remain indoors with medication and food deliveries where possible, indoor exercise or in the garden and minimise time spent outside the home and contact with others.
Services such as day care centres which provide such an important physical interaction with others, and also an opportunity to leave the house, have been shut during the lock down. Unfortunately these will remain closed until social distancing protocols have been put in place. But, many elderly will still be too afraid to take advantage of them. Those with families living close by will I am sure, find it much easier to make steps towards the new form of normal. But, for those who are living alone, it will be far more difficult.
Age UK is still doing great work with personal visits to the home, and outreach programme online and by phone, food shopping and other activities. There is a comprehensive website covering Covid-19 and how they can help should you feel that it might be of help for yourself or for a family member.
Primary School Children Teenagers in the main are used to living their lives online, and whilst they will have felt the restrictions on their movement in the last three months, they will have kept up their previous relationships and pastimes such as gaming as normal. But younger children, who don’t have access to the Internet in the same way, are at risk of missing out on a crucial time of socialisation with others. When they do return to school or start for the first time in September, there will be physical distancing methods in place that are going to severely restrict how they communicate and play with each other. Sitting alone in a square metre in the playground during breaks and in the dining room is not going to help them integrate into a class community.
Teachers are going to be challenged within all age groups, to not just educate, but be the guardians of personal space. And with teenagers that is going to be tough and almost impossible to enforce outside of the classroom. With the younger children there is likely to be a long-term effect on how they interact with others unless their re-integration is carefully managed.
Those with life-threatening health conditions The health service is stretched under normal circumstances, but with the lifting of restrictions on elective surgeries and essential treatments for diseases such as cancers, there are going to be even longer delays for patients. It must have been an extremely stressful time for hundreds of thousands of people, and desperate for parents with children who needed urgent treatment.
They are talking about an 18 months waiting list for elective surgeries but hopefully those requiring life-saving treatment will be at the head of the queue. And perhaps all the private health beds that were paid for, but never used, could be taken advantage of now to speed the process up.
An opportunity for us all. Even though I have worked in the nutritional field for over twenty years, I realised that I needed to take a close look at my own lifestyle and diet and make some changes. I don’t need prescribed medication, but it is easy to slip into bad habits, particular in lock down. The key risk factors that have been identified for a poor outcome from catching Covid-19 are related to obesity, including high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. These conditions are all reversible with changes to diet and lifestyle, and whilst it can be challenging, it may lower our risk of becoming infected as we re-join the community.
Thanks again Marjorie for having me over and sharing my thoughts and poem…
Thank you Sally, it has been a pleasure, sharing your considered thoughts and lovely poem.