Sunday, September 30, 2018

Clara's Story: Becoming a Published Writer


During the late 1950’s, I scrimped and saved enough to take one trip to Europe. We went to Paris, that I remember, and to Switzerland. Probably also to London but I'm not sure. In the postcard, I'm wearing the flowered dress, happily eating with friends I met on the trip.

But…my dream of becoming a published writer and my hope of finding a nice single Jewish guy to hang around with and possibly marry – neither was happening. That is, not until Rolland Metzger of Dixon, Illinois came along. He visited Chicago some weekends to get culture and to see if he could find a nice Jewish woman to woo and marry.

In 1960 we two Jewish singles met and started keeping company.

Rolland thought I was wonderful and amazing, talented and full of life. He believed I could do anything I wanted. He couldn’t convince me to marry him until 1967, but in 1962 he helped me to follow my dream of being a writer. 

I had discovered the Famous Writers School correspondence course, founded by Bennett Cerf, a well-known publisher/author, and other "famous" writers. I remembered taking the course, that was all. Then I found several workbooks from the course and I see the advertising flyer with this Bennett Cerf  quote,“Do you have a restless urge to write? If you do, here is an opportunity for you to take the first important step to success in writing.”

Even though many years have passed, I remember the excitement I felt when I contemplated his question and my answer, spoken quietly (to myself), a resounding Yes!

I lost my nerve until Rolland held my hand so to speak -- in reality, he sat next to me -- as I took the big step of enrolling in the course. I registered with the pseudonym Leva Missman, a very catchy name, don’t you think? I used Rolland’s Dixon address instead of mine in Chicago. I was apprehensive about attempting to be a real writer and needed the assurance that in case I failed, no one, not even the instructors, would know my real identity. I was grateful to Rolland for going along with my deception. 

 The first Famous Writers assignment was to answer the question “Why Do I Wish to Write?” The instructor returned my essay with some well-deserved critical comments. Oh boy, it sure stung to read criticism of my work. You writers out there will understand. Rolland had to hold my hand and sit by my side as I moved from being a writer-want-to-be to becoming a good, or at least a competent, writer.

The note identified with (1) includes great advice that I’ve taken to heart and reads:
“Use some contractions to provide a more conversational tone.”

Much about the course comes back when I find a folder labeled “Women’s Angle,” and I see the seven articles published in the National Informer newspaper.

Here's how it happened.

After my first essay, the pieces I wrote for Famous Writers were mostly about how women were taken advantage of at work, when shopping, by loan companies, and even at dancing schools. As I grew more confident in my writing, my instructor informed me it was time to submit my work for publication. He suggested I send one of my stories to the National Informer newspaper for their “Women’s Angle” column. The magazine’s motto was “Truthful News of All Facts of Life.” It sounded good to me. I submitted the story “How American Stores Cheat, Use and Abuse Female Shoppers,” under my own name Claire Le Brint. To my surprise, they accepted it. I hadn’t heard of the National Informer and hadn’t seen a copy, but no problem. I was to be published and paid for my work. I was ecstatic.

A check came in the mail along with a letter indicating that my story would appear in the September 23, 1962 issue. When I got a copy of that issue, I was shocked. The banner headline on the first page was RED CHINESE EAT BABIES! with the subheading in slightly smaller bold print Innocent Children Victims of Communist Prosperity. I skimmed through the paper. Most of the articles were patently false like the cover story, or super-trashy like we find today in the National Enquirer. But you better believe I was very proud of my article, which was “Truthful News of one particular Fact of Life.” I pasted the article on yellow card stock so I could keep it forever and jotted down the date and name of the publication. On the back, I wrote the headline and subheading, then I tossed that tabloid paper in the trash where it belonged.

I was appalled by the newspaper and most of the articles. Rolland and I conferred and we decided I might as well submit more articles to the Informer. The readers, we figured, needed at least some “truthful news,” if only they could recognize it. I was being paid and published, no small feat for a novice writer. Here are titles for the rest of my Informer articles.

·         Why Are Women Workers Treated Like Dopes?
·         How Dancing Schools Suck In the Suckers (wow)
·         Stupid Store Clerks Gyp Housewives
·         Housewives Ain’t As Smart as Retail Loan Sharks
·         FM Radio Becoming Lousy Just Like AM Radio??
·         How Business Places Hook Women on Free Gimmicks

So I, Claire Le Brint, had become a published writer! That was enough for me for the time being. Over the next ten years I was busy working, getting married, changing my name to Claire Metzger, moving to Dixon, getting used to Rolland, and traveling to Chicago with Rolland fairly frequently to take advantage of the city's cultural marvels.

But I will never forget the National Informer and my first big break. Can you blame me? What a story that is!

To see all Clara's stories CLICK-HERE

To see all blog posts go to http://betsywblog.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Clara's Story: REMEMBERING

I’m 80 years old. I’ve slowed down and finally have time to look through my old scrapbooks and photo albums and the piles of stories I wrote. Some stories were published. Some were not.

I asked my husband Rolland to move the files and boxes filled with my writing into the dining room and to pull down the scrapbooks and photo albums from the closet shelf. They’re on the floor and on the dining room table -- no room for dinner but who cares? I was never much of a cook; the best I could do most nights was heat up a can of spaghetti and meat sauce or throw together some sandwiches.

The first thing I see is my Roosevelt High School graduation yearbook and I remember….
My birth name, Clara Le Brint, and my nickname “Topsy,” given to me by friends because my hair usually curled every which way.


Inscription: “Luck success & what-not to All Clara Le Brint Topsy"

Sometime after I graduated from high school, I changed my name from Clara to Claire, more American, more grown up. Today I think Clara is a romantic name, fanciful and interesting. It reminds me of my youthful dreams, which by the way did come true, just not how I could have predicted.
💠

I used to be very busy working, writing, volunteering, helping friends, meeting new people, and traveling. But I’m not doing that anymore. I’m too old, too tired. Don’t argue with me. Wait til you turn 80, then tell me how you feel and what your life is like.

My life these days is not very exciting. I have nothing to do except sit quietly at the Dixon (Illinois) Senior Center or visit with Rolland when he’s at home. Roll is eight years my junior and still out and about with activities, hobbies, and paid work as a part-time accountant and tax-preparer.

So here I sit at home, at the table and I pick up one thing, take a look and put it down and pick up the next thing. Nothing is in order. 

I find a three-page handwritten biography titled The Life of Claire Metzger, written by a Dixon friend in 1991. I remember when we met and she asked me lots of questions about my life and wrote this story. Right away, two little white lies jump out at me – the year of my birth and my age when I met Rolland.

The world was blessed on April 5, 1933. Claire Metzger, formerly Claire LeBrint, was born in Chicago, Illinois.

…When Claire was 34, she met her husband-to-be Rolland Metzger at a Jewish Temple. They didn’t mean to meet; actually, Claire was there to meet another boy to watch a play, but she was stood up and Rolland came up to her and asked if she wanted any coffee, and they both stayed for the play. After the play, Rolland asked Claire if he could walk her home because they had found out that they actually lived on the same street and she accepted. So every time Rolland came into town they would see each other.

My dear friend and biographer (so sorry I have forgotten her name) insisted that my life story start my birth date including the year, which I told her was 1933, even though I was born in 1914. She also insisted that we include my age when I met Rolland. I fudged that one too. We met around 1960 when I was 46, not 34! I never told anyone in Dixon my age, rather I told them I felt “ageless.” My Dixon friends and admirers thought I was younger than my real age, so there was no harm done.

Whew, I’m glad the truth is finally out. I’m an old lady now so what do I care if you know my exact age. I’m still a bit confused about the age-thing and you may be too. So I had Rolland, who is a math whiz, make this chart for us.

April 5, 1914
Clara Le Brint born
After high school, I changed my name to Claire
June 14, 1922
Rolland Metzger born

March 25, 1967
Claire and Rolland marry
Claire 53 years old, Rolland almost 45
1994
Claire writes her life story
Claire 80 years old 

💠

Rolland’s weekday home was in Dixon, where he had a Civil Service job as a Research Psychologist at the Dixon State School/Developmental Center. Most weekends, he came to Chicago and stayed at the house he inherited from his parents. Like me, Rolland went to Jewish singles functions hoping to meet a future mate. And it happened – eventually. We got to know each other when Rolland asked to walk me home. His Chicago home was a two-story brick cottage on Roscoe Avenue in the Lakeview neighborhood and I lived a mile down the street in a “tight little career girl (studio) apartment,” as I called it in first published piece “The Painting Went Up.”

For six years, Roll repeatedly asked me to marry him and for six years, I put him off. I had been single for so long, checking out Jewish men and rejecting them as marriage material, or being rejected (or stood up!) by them. When Rolland came along, being indecisive by nature and having been on the look-out for so very long, I couldn’t make up my mind about him. Finally, in 1967, I gave in. He was too nice a guy to let go. But I was plenty nervous, and I shared some of my worries with him in a note sent ten days before we married.

Note mailed to Rolland March 14, 1967 (transcription below)

Dear Roll –
   Please never ask me to make a decision late in the eve – or night – It wearies me, and invariably I feel pressed and pressured. Probably you do too?

   So I beg you – in all things don’t set up deadlines or rushes lest good judgement give way to exasperation and error.
Love,
                C

After we married, I never had to “make a decision late in the eve, ”  but sometimes, especially when we were planning trips (for tax conferences or to visit family out of town), he did “set up deadlines” but his good judgement  ensured there were few insurmountable errors.

Much to my surprise and delight, basking in Rolland’s love and support, I followed my life-long dream of becoming a professional writer. I became a News Correspondent for the Rockford Register Star and also had feature stories, play and book reviews published in the Dixon and Rockford papers, the Chicago Daily News, and some national magazines.

In my piece about Yasha Kaganov's painting, "I reflected. We are caught in the trap of the city, for years, for our working lifetime, but there is still hope, says the painted canvas, if we don’t forget there once was a dream."

I am forever thankful to my dear husband Rolland for helping me make my dreams come true. 


To see all Clara's stories CLICK-HERE

To see all blog posts go to http://betsywblog.blogspot.com/









Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Working Woman's Dream (The Painting Went Up)

Aunt Claire's portrait hangs on my living room wall. 
Claire was a single working woman when the painting was done, by her friend Yasha Kaganov.



Along with the painting, I framed an article written by Claire about Yasha's portrait. I don't know where or when the article was published. I often look at the painting and contemplate what she wrote about her life in the article. I invite you to join my contemplation by considering the questions Claire posed and her reflections about "our working lifetime."

Did (Yasha) see me as creature made for sunlight and open places?
What am I doing in a closed-up little office and a tight little career girl apartment?
 I reflected. We are caught in the trap of the city, for years, for our working lifetime, but there is still hope, says the painted canvas, if we don’t forget there once was a dream.





Aunt Claire was my mother's sister. Claire was born in 1914 and died at age 87 in 2001. She was single until she finally met the right man, Rolland Metzger, and consented to marry him in 1967, after a long courtship. 

Claire was 52 years old and I was 23 when she married Rolland. From then on, until she died, we were close and she was  a big part of my life.

I knew of her life with Rolland but I knew nothing of her life as a single working woman, until Claire died and I inherited the painting, along with many published and unpublished articles and stories written by Claire. Among them was the undated, unattributed newspaper article, The Painting Went Up. A better title might have been  A Working Woman's Dream. 

Claire's life is a story worth telling, with many ups and downs, or as Claire put it, "(My) life is so full of twists and turns."  

To see all Aunt Claire stories CLICK-HERE

To see all blog posts go to http://betsywblog.blogspot.com/


Friday, February 9, 2018

First Prayer: Asking for Rest and Comfort

In 1995, I started to write prayers in my journal. They sometimes comforted me. Here is the first prayer I wrote, along with the journal entry that inspired its creation.

November 1995 -- My 86 year old father is staying with me, I hope temporarily.  He is sleeping in the living room of my one bedroom apartment.  My father is very depressed and is sleeping 24 to 36 hours at a time.  I need something to get me through this difficult time.  The idea comes to me that I need to pray and I write this prayer to the universe, hoping God or the universal spirits will help me.


Take it Easy Today
Spirit of the Sun and Moon –

Help me. Remind me that this is a new day.
As I open my eyes, help me to see the colors and objects I enjoy.
Remind me that Lizzie my cat and my family love me.
As I get up remind me that I can take it easy today
    I have done enough.
The trees rest in the winter,
    the leaves which have fallen become nourishment.
Let me get nourishment back from the universe today.
And give me comfort today.

I pray to be open to receiving on this day. And direction comes:

Keep trudging – if that is all you can do.

May I walk the beauty way.

Lead me to the pastures where I may rest.

Amen

Regarding the last three lines of my prayer
"Keep trudging..." is of unknown origin (the Universe?)
"May I walk..." is from a Native American chant.
"Lead me..." is a riff on the 23rd Psalm.

For additional prayers and to read about my prayer journey, go to  http://betsysprayers.com