A Graduation, A Party & A Remembrance

Now that my memoir Float On is officially for sale, I’ve gone from feeling like a mother with a newborn baby to a mother with a kid graduating from college. It needed so much to get to this point – brutal honesty, sustained discipline, and constant editing. Now it’s about to go out into the world of readers to interact without my supervision. In the blink of an eye, I’ve gone from holding a hand to an escorted playdate to being invited for a rare Sunday dinner.

So it seems fitting to mark this graduation of sorts for Float On to enter the big world with a party. Hope you can come Friday December 1st at 7PM at Van Go Mobile Arts in East Lawrence. We’ll toast to its future, have a snack and a short reading, and sign books. It would mean so much to have you there if you can make it. If not and you would like a copy of the book, it is available on Amazon now (and was an Amazon ‘Hot New Release’ yesterday!) and I will also be in Topeka on Saturday, December 9th at the Great Writers Right Here author fair, sponsored by the Public Library.

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I chose World AIDS Day to launch my memoir to bring awareness to the disease that killed my dad (pictured above with me lounging in Key West in 1992). People still contract HIV, still die from AIDS complications, and are still dealing with the shame attached to this disease. I attended the World AIDS Day 2017 Community Luncheon in Kansas City yesterday and was left with a swirl of conflicting  emotions. Gratitude for how far the medical advances have come; grief for the huge swaths of communities hit; bewilderment at the groups still so affected (like heterosexual black women) and hope for a changed future. If you hear or read about World AIDS Day tomorrow, or even see a red ribbon, I hope that you’ll think of me and remember that HIV/AIDS continues to affect all sorts of people who are probably more like you than not.

Love, Molly

 

 

 

In Memory of My Friend & Mentor

But there would be no book without our agent Neil Salkind, whose amazing perseverance on our behalf and whose constant stream of positive words cannot be matched.” I wrote this in the acknowledgments section of our cookbook The Cook’s Book of Intense Flavors, which was published in 2010. It’s accurate to say that I wouldn’t have published anything without Neil. I found out yesterday that he died and I am so saddened by his passing; he had such an influence on my life.

I met Neil and his wife Leni by serving them in our restaurant. You can tell a lot about a person by waiting on them. Neil was polite, complimentary, asked about my kids and mom and was generous. If I didn’t already like Neil so much, I would never have had the nerve to ask him about his work. I knew that he was an academic, but until I overheard him during a meal talk about publishing, I had no idea that he was a widely published writer and literary agent. I mentioned that I had been blogging about the food life and that I was thinking of trying to do something else with it.

He lit up with a smile and asked me to send him what I had been working on, which I immediately did. When he told me he wanted to sign me and be my agent, I thought he was just being nice. I worked hard on developing a proposal for an idea I was working on the time called The Chef’s Wife. Neil read everything I sent him, encouraged me to keep going and informed me that there is only one space after a period. When I confessed to him that I wasn’t sure I had a book in me, he smiled and told me he knew I did. My identity as a writer started to form in that moment.

In the summer of 2008, Robert, the girls and I were scheduled to go to Europe for a two-month cooking trip. I told Neil that my goal was to get a laptop as a reward if I got a book deal. Another smile and then he said, “Pal, why don’t you lower the bar some? Get yourself a laptop.” But I wouldn’t, so he loaned me his. While we were in Paris, we got a deal to write a cookbook with a nice advance – all because of Neil’s efforts. I started writing that cookbook on the laptop he loaned me while taking breaks from our cooking duties.

After I stepped away from the cooking life, I reached out often to Neil for advice, who had since retired. I really wanted to make him proud. I drove to his house when I got printed postcards for my book lunch party on December 1st for my memoir Float On. With no one answering the bell, I left it on their porch. I was delighted to see him in the row ahead of us at Liberty Hall when author George Saunders came to speak in October. He told me had been thinking of me and that he had received the invitation and wanted to make sure that I had placed it in the community calendars, which I since have. He smiled but the program started and he left before I did, so that I didn’t say goodbye.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m acutely aware of how much I have to be grateful for. As I looked up the acknowledgment that I wrote to Neil, I saw that I also included my friend Sandra Moran in it as well. She’s gone too now and it’s a reminder that life is fleeting and to go ahead and say out loud how much someone means to you. Maybe we’ll have the chance this weekend. Knowing how much of an impact Neil had on me also inspires me to be that for someone else. Teaching writing is yet another thing I am grateful to have in my life. Neil also continued to pursue his creative interests after retirement and gifted me with a couple of his prints, including this one…

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Neil told me that this quote captured how blessed he felt in his life, isn’t it perfect for Thanksgiving?

Thank you for including me in your lives. I hope that you are surrounded my love this weekend and that you go ahead and tell someone how important they are to you.

Love, Molly

With a little help from my friends…

I hate to ask for help. Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing or a control issue or because I’m a Sagittarius (yes, my birthday is coming up) – but for most of my life I would have rather eaten glass than to ask for something, even if I really wanted it. Naturally, this hasn’t always worked out well for me and the older I get, the more willing I am to acknowledge that I can’t do everything. I don’t even want to anymore. But that doesn’t make it any easier to ask a friend for a favor, especially one that involves them spending their precious time to help me out.

So I wanted to give a huge THANK YOU to three writer friends who graciously not only read an advance copy of my memoir Float On, but also spent time composing beautiful reviews that brought tears to my eyes.

Rachel DeWoskin is a memoirist, novelist and all-around bad ass that I met on the magical island of Patmos, Greece where she co-led a writing salon with Cheryl Strayed. I was immediately impressed with her intelligence (and vocabulary!) and have since read her books, which I loved. I used part of her review on the cover of Float On that reads – “A story full of the kinds of love and truth that matter for us all.” (full review below)

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Thomas Fox Averill taught the first writing class I ever took at Washburn University. In fact, one scene during my teenage years that I include in Float On was born in an essay I wrote for his class as fiction. Tom is a widely published writer, novelist and academic. Years ago, he came to my book club to discuss his novel Secrets of the Tsil Cafe, a book that mirrored my life in the catering and restaurant business at the time so much that I could hardly believe it.

Tom kindly wrote this about Float On – “At thirteen, Molly Krause spent a summer at the Dance Theater of Harlem, the only white girl in her classes. One teacher called her the “blue-eyed girl from the capital of Kansas.” But nobody is a cliché, especially a person who has spent years coming to an understanding of family matters and how family matters. The matters: divorce, a gay father HIV positive who dies of AIDS, a sister’s suicide attempts, a family struggling with drugs and alcohol. What matters: the honest, direct, sympathetic account the reader finds in Float On, of years spent yearning and learning to be whole.

Eric McHenry is the former Poet Laureate of Kansas, academic and fellow Topeka High Class of 1990 Alumni. We go way back to when I wore braces and when he was the tallest kid in the class (he still may be). His poetry has provided a way in for me to love and appreciate that which I used to find less approachable than prose. He has made our hometown of Topeka, Kansas look good in so many ways that I’m proud to know him.

Eric wrote of Float On, “By the time she was 25, Molly Krause had seen several lifetimes’ worth of trauma in her immediate family: divorce, depression, suicide attempts, alcoholism, crack addiction, AIDS, and untimely death. She endured loss after loss without ever losing herself, and the qualities that carried her through—equanimity, intelligence, honesty, and a sly sense of humor—are the same ones that distinguish her prose in this deeply moving memoir.”

Aren’t I so lucky to have such generous friends? Please check out their work and hope to see you for my book launch for Float On on December 1st at 7PM at Van Go. I’m working on menu planning and will let you know what I come up with – I’m hoping to get Robert’s assistance 🙂

Love, Molly

Here’s Rachel’s full review –

“In her memoir Float On, Molly Krause gives us a kaleidoscopic view of family life: the episodic atmosphere of childhood, adolescences’ exquisite and excruciating transformations, and the very real joys and tragedies that turn us into fully-rendered adults. She writes with clarity and restraint, giving her parents humanity and dignity as her father comes out to the family as gay, as her mother drinks and gives up drinking, as Molly herself comes of age, falls in love, and struggles with her sisters and their parents to keep their family intact, even after they lose their father. From Topeka Kansas to New York City, from dance rehearsals to family therapy sessions, Krause guides readers the way good memoirists must, by rendering with nuance and complexity a story full of the kinds of love and truth that matter for us all.”

Book Club Questions

Molly’s dad told her, “Just do a little every day, it will get done eventually.” She wrote that this was the most practical advice she got from him. What other life lessons do you think she received from her dad?  This is sneak peek at the bonus Book Club Questions at the end of my memoir Float On; it also is a question that has been on my mind. It’s a strange thing to think of questions to ask about yourself in the third person. It’s also interesting to consider answering those questions for yourself, sort-of about yourself.

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I’ve written a whole book about my early life, including some difficult times in my family. A life lesson I learned from my dad, taught through some very challenging circumstances, is that life is hard. I don’t mean that in a buck-up-and-take-the-punches kind of way that is delivered from a somber parent in an after-school movie. I mean it like this – the things you want don’t always happen and sometimes things unfold in a way that you really don’t want.

I learned that life is hard when I was young. I am not surprised when things go haywire, in fact, there is some part of me that is often waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I’ve learned a lot from writing about my life too (and I recommend it for everyone, even if it’s only for yourself). When I wrote about my early life I was forced to look at the circumstances as a whole, to put a frame around it all, and to give meaning to those events. Life is hard, yes, but life is also hilarious and boring and sweaty and complicated and easy – and when I look at it all together I can only conclude that it is this – beautiful.

Love, Molly

PS – I hope you’ll join me for my launch party December 1st at 7pm at Van Go Mobile Arts in Lawrence, Kansas. Here’s the public Facebook invite. 

They Happen

I wrote about one if the scariest accidents of my life in my memoir Float On. I’ll save the details for you to read about when it is released December 1st, but I’ll share a quote – “No one forced me to give him the injections. I did it to myself and it was an accident. I also knew it wasn’t some divine judgement…it was a shitty, scary accident, the kind that happen every day to everyone for no good reason.”

I obviously lived to write about it, but I am lucky. We probably have all had close calls in which we feel grateful that it didn’t end differently. Last night I had that same gut wrenching experience when my daughter Emma called and told me she had been in a car accident driving home from her boyfriend’s house. I was not prepared for the scene that my husband Robert and I found.

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Emma is shaken up, but fine. The two people in the other car are fine. The cars are not fine; they can be replaced, our loved ones cannot. My husband Robert was in a car wreck over twenty-some years ago with his young daughter Lauren and his father Elmer. Robert was asleep while his father was driving and woke up in the hospital to find out that Elmer had died in the crash. These awful things happen. Grateful doesn’t begin to express that something worse didn’t happen last night.

We are often immediately tempted to assign blame – whose fault is it? Last night, Emma didn’t do anything illegal in her driving (for which I’m happy) but when I really think about it, who cares? The driver who made a bad decision in front of her didn’t want this to happen. Who hasn’t made a driving error or bad choice at some point in their lives? Assigning the fault to him may help with insurance but it doesn’t explain why shitty, scary accidents happen for no good reason. They just do.

On this day I let the relief and love for my family flow. I wish the same release of affection for you.

Love, Molly

 

 

Playing in the Redwoods

“Write this,” my friend Sandy said from her hospital bed to me two years ago. I followed her hand with my eyes as it gestured around her room. The plate of moon pies I had spent three hours making (my attempt to control the outcome of something) were sitting untouched on the deep window ledge. Flowers crowded the sweets giving the room at Research Medical Center a false sense cheer. Write this, she had said. But write what? Did she know she was dying yet when she said that? Write about dying or cancer or about her or about moon pies or about friendship?

I spent the last weekend at 1440 Multiversity in California at a writer’s retreat in some pretty awesome company. Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert collaborated to inspire and challenge a large group of us in living creatively.

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I’m still trying to process it all (more later!) but one thing that keeps popping up is the idea of enchantment that Ms. Gilbert talked about. She described it as a visitor from without, like a kid who runs in the back door of her house and plops in a chair breathless to tell you – I’ve got a great idea. You could also think of it as inspiration or joy or even a visit of sorts. Will we listen to that excited guest when they visit?

When I shared an essay with Sandy that I wrote that I thought could fulfill her suggestion to ‘write this’, do you know what she said? Full of super-strong pain medication, her quick wit somewhat dulled, she said, “Good start.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t think that I had any more. I was so sad watching her die; I still am.

Last weekend in the redwoods – talking with friends, connecting with my creativity, absorbing nature – I thought of Sandy several times. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I made the connection between those towering redwoods and the tree that I wrote of at the conclusion of Pleading With a Tree For Sandy.

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Another thing Ms. Gilbert said to us – Start knowing. The grand trees, the thoughts of Sandy, the enchantment swirling about – here’s what I know. As Sandy told me to Write This, nature tells me to Live This. What we are holding in our hands, what is on the other side of a gestured hand, the eyes were are looking into. This is where our lives are. The trees I breathed in this weekend have existed far before me and will surely still stand when I will not. This time I have is fleeting, it is now, it is all that can be counted on.

Maybe you too need to hear to Write This or Live This or Start Knowing. Sometimes we need to go outside to have enchantment run to us. I like to think that Sandy conspired with the redwoods to remind me of the now I am in. So I am left with two hands full of gratitude that I reach out to give to you.

Love, Molly

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