Tracks to My Heart — Excerpt from Don’t Call Me Mother

 train station crop 2


The train bisects the blue and the green, parting wheat fields by the tracks. Mommy and I rub shoulders, sitting in the last car, watching the landscape move backward, as if erasing my childhood, all those times when she would board the train and leave me aching for her. Now, in my dream, we rub shoulders, her perfume lingering. The old longing wrenches my stomach.

Click-clack, click-clack, the train’s wheels on the track, the language of my past, my future.

Her face is soft. Her wine-dark eyes glance at me with promise, an endearing look that gives me all I ever wanted. The click-clack ticks away the time, the mother time, moons rising and falling as the years fall like petals in a white garden, our body-and-blood song haunting my dreams. Mommy, where are you?

Even as she is with me, she is gone.


The train station is the center of the universe, with tracks going and coming in all directions. People stand shivering in the ever-present plains wind, their hair kicked up violently when a train blows by, especially a freight bound for Chicago where, as I understand it, all sensible trains end up. To me, the Windy City, as I hear my mother and grandmother call it, is the end of the known world. It is where I began and where my mother is off to as the three of us—my mother, Josephine, my grandmother, Frances, and I—stand in a miserable clutch. I am sure they are as miserable as I am, my mothers, standing there with their arms across their chests, hips slung out, like bored movie stars competing for the same part. Maybe that’s what they are doing—vying for the part of good mother, or bad mother, depending on how you define things. To me both of them are beautiful and thrilling.

But underneath their beauty and power, a secret is buried. A secret that runs in the blood. This moment repeats for the third time what has happened before—a mother leaving a daughter, repeating what Gram did to my mother so long ago, and her mother before her. It will be years before I find out the whole story about the three generations of women who will define my life. At this moment, the ticking bomb is set to go off when my mother gets on the train. No one here claims any knowledge of this dire pattern. I can feel it, though, deep in a silent place inside me, a place of desperation, the beginning of a crack that will split my life open.

The sun pinks the sky in the west, a place where the eye loves to rest in this open land. Already the lore of its history tickles my curiosity, even though at this moment I am four years old. I hear of Indian chiefs and the frontier, if not from books, then from the pictures all around town proclaiming our cowboy heritage—neon signs, billboards showing an Indian chief in full headdress, peace pipe slung from an arm as casually as a gun. Right now the picture of an Indian, wearing only a blanket and standing in front of the Santa Fe Chief, hangs on the waiting room wall, wreathed in smoke rising like a mysterious code to the ceiling.

I read the code here, tapping feet in open-toed suede shoes. I stare at my mother’s toes, as if to memorize an intimate part of her, bringing my gaze up her shapely legs, my stomach in a pang, the scenes that brought us to this moment fresh in my mind.


Mommy and I came here a few months ago from Chicago, where we had lived after my father left. I don’t know much about him, except that he went off to the war, and came back too, but not to us. She cries when she looks at his pictures. Every so often she shows me a small black-and-white photo of a man wearing an army captain’s hat and grinning as he leans casually against a brick building. The crease in his pants is knife sharp. With her slim fingers, she caresses a photograph of herself against the same wall, wearing a big fur coat.

“That was the night before you were born, a cold night in March. What a wonderful thing that was for your mother.” Mommy often talks about herself like that, as if she wasn’t in the room.

I remember our time in Chicago, when Mommy would talk on the phone forever in the evening, twisting her hair in tiny ringlets all over her head, or knitting scarves and sweaters. I remember the amber light that shone over her like a halo, and I remember that I’d do anything to get her to scratch my back with her sharp fingernails.

But a few months ago, we left Chicago; it was my first time on the train. The ride was thrilling: the sound of the whistle, huge clouds of gushing steam, great deep rumblings of the engines that sounded like scary monsters speeding us by green fields and blue skies all around, with little towns along the side of the track and people waving, waving as if they knew us. The whistle tooted a special hello to them. What fun.

That night the porter unfolded the special bed that was our seat, pulling down a shade made of thick green cloth. I loved the little tent he made for us. My mother had a dreamy look on her face, staring at the sights as the wheels click-clacked beneath us. She wore her cotton nightgown, and I my pajamas. We cuddled between fresh cotton sheets. The train rocked us back and forth, back and forth in a sweet rhythm that one day I would remember as the best moment we ever had, Mommy and me. On the train, together. The next day, we arrived in Wichita where I met Gram, Mommy’s mother.

She looked like my mother, with the same pretty face. Her voice was soft as she sifted my fine hair away from my forehead in a gentle gesture and smiled at me with soft brown eyes so dark I couldn’t see the pupils you can see in most people’s eyes. She was nice to me and called me Sugar Pie. But Mommy and Gram—whew—they sure did surprise me by fighting all the time. I’d watch, or hide in the hall, while they yelled, screamed, and cried. Almost every day. It was terrible to hear; it made my skin itch. I scratched the itch, making red marks on my arms. Their cigarette smoke filled the air.

When Mommy rushed off to work each morning it was quiet and nice in Gram’s little house. Windows let in the sun through the Venetian blinds, making pretty patterns on the hardwood floors. Gram read stories to me, and we made bubbles with soap in the sink. She taught me to eat prunes every morning. I began learning how words make stories come alive—Cinderella, Snow White, the Three Bears. Every day I waited for Mommy to come home. I loved her throaty voice, the way she touched my hair for a moment. I was always slinking around trying to get more hugs out of her, but she was not much for that.


One evening, everything seemed different. Mommy yelled. Threw down her purse. Lit cigarette after cigarette, the frown between her eyes deepening with each puff. Gram edged around her, as if she were looking for a way to either blow up or not fight at all. Finally the explosion came, my mothers opening and closing angry mouths. I kept my eye on them while I put dishes on the table.

“I hate this place,” Mother said, stomping her heels on the floor.

Gram made a nasty face. Their voices had sharp edges, and got so loud I had to put my fingers in my ears. They were so loud, so angry, sounding like screeching birds. Then something happened. Mommy got really quiet, which scared me even more, and said, “That’s it; I’m going back to Chicago.” I can’t say how I knew it, but I could tell that she wasn’t going to take me, and that if she left me now, it would be forever.

I watched her walk back and forth across the floor. The seams in her hose were crooked. Mommy never had crooked seams. I sat on the floor, my stomach in a knot, while I traced the patterns in the Oriental rug. I wanted to get lost in those swirls, like in a dark forest in the fairy tales. I could get lost and never be found again.


So here we are, waiting for the train. My chest is tight; there is darkness and ice all the way though me. I am shivering. How can she leave? She knows I don’t want her to go. My mother stands apart from me and from Gram, far enough to show that she is the one leaving, the one who will go alone on the train. I dread the train that’s about to take her away. All around me everyone acts normal. People bustle around getting ready, the train men push luggage carts, kids jump up and down. Words that I cannot say gather in my mouth, fill my whole body. Every muscle wants to run to her, grab at her and scream, “Please don’t go,” but I know that she and Gram don’t want me to do this. I don’t want to make them mad; I don’t want them to look at me with those dark eyes of disapproval. I couldn’t stand it. So I pretend.

The wind blows through me, whirling my dress. Then the sound of the whistle cries out, as if in pain. A deep sorrow lurches through me. I hold my breath to keep myself from crying. The light appears at the far end of the tracks and gets bigger. I can’t stop any of this. The huge train tears into the station, rumbling the earth beneath my feet, kicking up my hair with the blast of wind. A scream comes out of my mouth, but no one hears me. The locomotive is too huge, too powerful and frightening, and it is coming to take my mother away.

Mommy and I are wrapped in invisible gauze, wrapped tight so it can’t break, but as she touches me softly with her fingertips, and leans over to give Gram a kiss, I can feel the fabric unwrapping, unwinding us until just a thin piece is left. She hugs me lightly, as if she’s afraid I’ll cling to her. Her musky smell clings to me. She click-clacks toward the train on her high heels, almost as if she’s glad to get away. Her seams are straight, and she is so beautiful with the sun on her face as she climbs into the train car.

Mommy, Mommy, I chant silently, putting my fingers to my nose to inhale her memory, her scent on my skin.

How I want to be on the train, to cuddle up with Mommy the way we did before. But when Gram looks at me with such sadness in her eyes, I know that I need to stay with her. It’s funny that she was so mad before, but now I can tell she is sad, though she doesn’t say it in words. I take her hand and stand with her as we watch the train disappear down the track in a puff of smoke.

The train whistle cries its lonely song, lingering in the wind that crosses the plains. It will call for me all my life, in my dreams and while I am awake. The train song, the train’s power and promise, are etched deep in my soul from this day forward.

Mother in Wapello with muff

Don’t Call Me Mother–A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness


Don't Call Me Mother. By Linda Joy Myers

“I wanted to tell the secret stories that my great-grandmother

Blanche whispered to me on summer nights in a featherbed in Iowa.

I was eight and she was eighty . . . ”


At the age of four, a little girl stands on a cold, windy railroad platform in Wichita, Kansas, to watch the train take her mother away. For the rest of her life, her mother will be an occasional and troubled visitor who denies her as a daughter.

Linda Joy Myers’ compassionate, gripping, and soul-searching memoir tells the story of three generations of daughters who long for their absent mothers, all the while unwittingly recreating a pattern that she’s determined to break. Accompany Linda as she uncovers family secrets, finds solace in music, and begins her healing journey. Learn how she transcends the prisons of childhood to seek forgiveness for her family and herself.

This new edition includes an afterword that wraps up the saga as Myers confronts her family legacy and comes full circle with her daughter and grandchildren, seeding a new path for them.

Praise for Don’t Call Me Mother

What I admire most about this book is the way the author takes you to her most sustaining love — the prairie land of the Midwest — and concludes her story as a return to that place where forgiveness becomes “a feather on my heart, as natural as the plains wind.”  

–Shirley Showalter, former president of Goshen College, author of the blog I Have a Story

Don’t Call Me Mother takes me deep inside the mind of a young girl who has been spurned by that most important person in her life, her own mother. Without a guide to help her develop into a woman, Linda Joy is forced into a vulnerable, innovative search for dignity and survival that is at the heart of every hero’s tale.

 —Jerry Waxler, M.S., founder of the Memory Writers Network, author of Memoir Revolution, and Four Elements for Writers

For anyone yearning for self-discovery, Don’t Call Me Mother serves as a compelling guide on a journey to wholeness. I loved the book.”

—Michele Weldon, assistant professor, Northwestern University and author of
I Closed My Eyes, and Writing to Save Your Life.



Free Books Today! Download from Kindle–and Read On To Learn About Your Giveaway Program

free books


Today I’m giving away my two books for Free! Yes, through the KDP program in Amazon. I’m jazzed about doing this, and ask you to please download my books, completely for FREE! And I want to tell you all about this program that can boost your rankings, build platform, and earn you sales, fame, and fortune–ideally!


 First: The Giveaway dates are August 27th  through August 29th 

Just click the link and “buy” the book for FREE $0.00 on Kindle to read when you have time. No Kindle, no worries. You can get the free Kindle App for your computer, smart phone, or tablet/pad.

You can support my efforts as an indie author by downloading this freebie, passing the word to friends, and posting the announcement on your social media sites. This is how lesser-known authors gain visibility for their books and compete on even turf with famous authors who have giant advertising budgets. 



Here is the link for Don’t Call Me Mother

You can read more here and see the slide show at

Here’s the link for Journey of Memoir

JOM high res



I sincerely hope you enjoy these books and find them useful personally and professionally.  Please, spread the word! Share the links with your friends.


What You Need to Know about Kindle Direct for your Books

If you have an eBook or plan to create one, you should absolutely know about the Kindle Direct program (KDP) with Amazon. 

KDP allows you to arrange giveaway days for your ebook. Why in the world would you want to give your book away for free?  That’s a reasonable question.  The answer is that by giving away books (sometimes many thousands of books, if you’re lucky) you are getting free billboard space on Amazon’s giant site, making your book conspicuous to potential buyers following the giveaway. 

It’s all about search engines, rankings and a bunch of back-shop mechanics at Amazon, but the ultimate payoff is more potential book sales for you. The more you give away, the higher ranking you get. The more books get read, the more reviews you get.  The more reviews you get…you get it, the more conspicuous your book becomes for new readers you’d otherwise never have reached. Through a giveaway your book has a chance to earn more readers, fans and reviews, and the free giveaway can stimulate sales after the giveaway is over, which is good for your bank account!

Free Books? Is that a good idea?

You might say—”Free? Why is that a good thing?” If your book is available for free, your readers take no risk in downloading just to take a look. Chances are, they will open it and read some of it, or eagerly devour all of it. Presto—you have a new fan, and who will share the book with someone else. This builds your platform, gives you great numbers on Amazon—and yes, agents and editors go there to check—and most of all, makes you feel great that you have more readers and fans. Let’s face it—we spend months and years writing and publishing our books—we want readers!

How Does It Work?

  • Select the dates for your program after reading more about KDP on Amazon. The rules are listed there. Ideally you’ll offer it free for at least 3 days in a row, but you can split the days up any way you’d like. KDP allows you to offer it free for up to 5 days within a 90 day period.
  • Contact your publisher to release your book from all online vendors EXCEPT for Amazon for the 90 day period.
  • Look for online sites that feature eBooks discounted and for free. Apply for your book to be featured on their lists on your giveaway days. This will help others to learn about your giveaway.  Remember, your goal is to give away as many copies as possible!  (I know, it’s a weird idea, and one that takes getting used to.)
  • Write PR about your book, and submit it to online PR. I used Webwire. There is a fee for this.
  • Announce your giveaway to friends on social media and by email to ask them to download your book. Give them the link and ask them to share it with their networks.  This is going viral in the best kind of way.
  • Offer to do this for them when their book is out!


Results? Sales, fans, Reviews?

It’s hard to predict of course exactly what your promotion will produce. In any case, it’s all online and fun, and you don’t have to pay plane fare to visit bookstores. The online sites reach people all over the country, and in many countries in the world.

I was inspired by my friend and writing colleague, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder to start my promotion. Her success was amazing, with many thousands of downloads for her novel. Thank you Betsy, for helping me to learn how. Another helper angel was Julie Valin, who helps authors with their websites and book campaigns. I learned so much from them!

And thank you to She Writes Press for being my publisher and helping me with the promotion! As we authors are always saying, “It takes a village to write a book.” It takes a village to get the word out too.

Good luck with your promotions! And please tell others about my giveaway the next three days!

Enjoy downloading and reading!

“I was a skeptic about the whole idea of a giveaway, but I listened, learned, and acted. I did a lot of promotion and it paid off.  Fire & Water was downloaded a whopping 38,101 times in 3 days! It was ranked number 1 in women’s fiction, #1 in commercial fiction, and #3 in overall fiction among all free downloads.  What’s more important is that I started with 19 Amazon reviews, and as of this writing, I now have 100, and 83 are 5-star. I’ve received dozens of letters from fans I’d never find without a giveaway and sales have held steady since the giveaway.”      


Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, author of Fire & Water


Poetry and Art–Early Memoir Snapshots

Blanche and Lulu 1895

To write a memoir is to embark on a long journey of the imagination and of memory. My path of gathering memories, images, and stories was first through autobiographical art–painting, collage, etching, and mixed media. But I knew that words were necessary as well, and began to capture moments through poetry. From time to time, I’ll post some of the poems that eventually led me to my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother, that were part of the process for finding the story. Photographs and art work can show what words can’t.

My great-grandmother Blanche was a powerful figure for me–in her eighties, she taught me about a kind of pioneer woman strength and steadfastness that were missing with my grandmother and mother, and shared with me the stories that helped me to understand who I was and where I came from.

This poem is about her, and the photos are of her and my grandmother as a baby, in 1895.  This poem won first prize at the East of Eden Writing Conference. Later, Blanche at 90.




First Place Prize Winning Poem

East of Eden contest



My great-grandmother Blanche washed her sheets in an iron caldron

August heat spilling down her neck,

eyes moist from heat and steam and memory.

She plunged the stick, churned the suds,

 her knotted hands

wringing dirty water into a chipped porcelain pan,

blue veins bulging,

bones and spine hard like a man’s.


I held up clothespins for the hanging, Hollyhocks bursting high

against her outhouse, pink flowers like skirts.

 The white sheets snapped,

the plains wind blew, the perfume of sheets, roses,

sweat, the summer sun

burned into memory.


She beat the featherbed with her fists as if against a jealous lover,

slamming against it with a startling fury.

What anger did she remember?

“Like this,” she said, but I couldn’t make a dent with my child fists.

I watched her, expert featherbed beater,

 grateful she was not angry at me.


As crickets sang in the coming darkness,

she smoothed the sun-drenched sheets on the featherbed,

slipped a white nightgown over her drooping flesh that had known eighty years of life,

and curled her body around me.


She whispered stories into the pillows, the pendulum clock

tocked and ticked. She remembered the first radio song,

how after the first ring of a telephone and the voice out of clear air,

she held the phone, and cried.


The first time the Ford, not the horse,

took her past fields of rustling corn

while the harvest moon rose.


As we breathed in and out the afternoon’s sun

and her memories, I knew skeins of time before my own,

before machines and gadgets,

the froth of new buds in her father’s apple orchard,

how she stopped and listened

for ripples of time yet unknown.


Never imagining me curled inside her cocoon,

never knowing her featherbed and stories

would feed lonely nights fifty years in the future,

or how I would sleep on that same bed

in a white nightgown, and think of her when she was young,


time suspended in silence,

apples and death pausing,

while she inhaled the future,



        Blanche age 90 May 1963 cropped   


What Happens after “The End” of your Memoir?

 Eyeglasses on Two Books



It’s one thing to write a first memoir—the journey is daunting, what is the plot, how will it end since my life is continuing? These questions are some of the challenges as we work on our first memoir—which we call “the memoir,” unable to think of yet another book, so we don’t say “The First Memoir.” Still, the idea that there is more to tell—and what about all those chapters we took out during the edit—niggles in the back of our minds.

Susan Weidener, author of two memoirs—Again in a Heartbeat, and Morning at Wellington Square—is our guest for the NAMW Free Roundtable discussion Thursday April, 11.  We have something in common—writing a follow-up to our first memoir. In my case, I wrote an Afterword that I felt belonged with the original book Don’t Call Me Mother, and created a new edition with other changes, including a new subtitle- A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness. In the Afterword, I expose new secrets, and disclose my reasons for leaving them out from the first book. I include two more stories about how the healing continued after the memoir, which includes visiting the grown children of a family where I’d been abused as a five year old, and what I discovered by revisiting the past. After we write a book, our life is changed, and it’s a wonderful journey to find out how! I may write another memoir—the jury is out, as I have a novel about WWII I want to publish next.

Susan Weidener wrote a sequel to her first memoir, showing how her life goes on after the death of her beloved husband. In this sequel, she weaves in stories about her husband and her life with him, because it would be impossible to write about her new life without including him. She writes as a widow who finds herself spending time thinking about her lost past, while bravely launching herself into the dating world. With that she discovers new layers of grief and has to make adjustments about the life she’s lost.

I found it enjoyable and meaningful to learn about how she began her life-changing work of writing and teaching memoir after being a journalist for many years. She tells the tales of being a single parent of two boys after her husband dies, and her  creative techniques for landing a job at The Philadelphia Inquirer. It’s a story about a woman’s life, a regular person, and this is what makes her story important. As regular people ourselves, we identify with her, and want to learn from her story.

The lesson I took away from her book was this: if we are open to where life takes us, we make discoveries and we create a new life that opens out in its magic to offer us ways to live that we might never have discovered. In Morning at Wellington Square, we invest in the adventure of day-to-day living, discovery, and renewal.

Even if you can’t imagine writing another memoir, it remains a possibility you might consider. I know many memoir writers who are thinking of their next memoir—and after all, you’re in good company. Think Mary Karr, Frank McCourt, and our own Susan Weidener.

Please join us for a lively and inspiring conversation about writing your next memoir!