Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is This a Dream?


Behind the podium about to give a talk on my novel
The Last Daughter of Prussia.
I really feel as if this is a dream.
  I'm standing behind a podium looking at a group of women—members of The Canadian Women's Club—who are listening to what I'm about to say. I'm a little nervous because in my dream this is the first time ever that I am going to talk about my novel in public. I introduce myself and begin to tell the story of The Last Daughter of Prussia, why I wrote it and so forth. Reaching down, I pick up the Advanced Reader Copy of the book itself, holding it up for my audience to see. The beautiful Trakehner horse whom I have named Shambhala canters out of the cover on finely chiseled legs, shaking her silky mane and looking at my audience with dark liquid eyes that tell a story of survival, love and loyalty.

The book in my hands. Is this really happening?
  I swallow and smile and suddenly it dawns on me.... this is not a dream! This book I'm holding is real. It's the result of many years of research, writing, re-writing and editing. Blood, sweat and tears if I were to use those well-worn words. Its pages have taken me on inner and outer journeys far too vast and deep to even attempt  to explain in the few minutes I have to speak. Those journeys were like lifetimes.

  I pause reflecting on how it all started—the night I woke up at 3am and was drawn by invisible threads to my computer where I entered a hitherto unknown word into the the search engine and suddenly saw a black and white picture of a long column of horses pulling carts full of sad and desperate looking grandfathers, grandmothers, women and children through snow drifts that had mounted up on a frozen lagoon. The novel was conceived right there. And in that weak moment,  I decided I would write about The Great Trek—the tragic evacuation out of East Prussia which took place at the end of WW2. I had no idea where my journey would take me. While making the flash decision I didn't even remember that my grandparents Walter and Edith von Sanden were part of that treacherous journey. I just knew—like we sometime know things— that it was my job to tell this story.

The photo that caught my eye in the dark of night
and evoked my
decision to write The Last Daughter
(the photo is of the internet)
  I look up. Oh God, how long was I quiet? My audience is waiting for me to carry on. I return to the moment and read an excerpt. When I finish the room is quiet. A voice says, "Can you read more?" That touches me and I end my talk by thanking everyone for listening, for being there with their hearts to hear a piece of this dark corner of history, one that that cost the lives of many innocent people yet was filled with hope and faith, love and the indomitable spirit of human beings.

  I see a woman rise and come to the podium. She takes my hand and kisses it. There are tears in her eyes. Mine too. She was just a child on The Great Trek. She thanks me for writing about her story, about this chapter that has remained hushed in the bones of Germans too ashamed to speak of their own plight because of the atrocities committed by Hitler.
  "When can I get your book?" she asks.
  I tell her that I will be launching it soon and give her the date.

The Save The Date announcement for The Last Daughter of Prussia.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have a friend in my life like my
talented inspiring graphic designer friend Paula Boyd Farrington who put
this announcement together in a blink of an eye.
Well it seems that way butI know how hard she works,
how committed to perfection she is.
A detailed invitation will follow shortly.
  I return to my seat. Everyone is clapping. It is a reality now. That actually was me standing up, talking, holding The Last Daughter in my hands. The hardback copies of the book are being printed as I write this blog and will be out in December. Wow.

  I look back at this blog that you, my readers, have so faithfully followed. This is the 56th post. In German there is a saying Gut Ding braucht Weile. It means good things take time. It's true. It's taken a long time but now the time is here.

Til my next post... and hope to see you at the book signing .

—Marina Gottlieb Sarles

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