Realizing a Dream, Debra Shiveley Welch

Realizing a Dream

As a child, my favorite authors were Taylor Caldwell, Belva Plain, Nora Lofts, John Savage, and at 17, I feel in love with James Michener.  I loved the way they used words to paint a tapestry of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound.  I also admired the way they kept me turning the page, devoting hours to each reading session. But, the author that stands out most in my memory is Taylor Caldwell.  You can see her influence in my writing, and although she never knew it, she was my teacher.

Mrs. Caldwell instilled in me a love for the novel, and because of that love, I wanted to be an author someday.  It took a while, but I finally made it with my first traditionally published children’s book, A Very Special Child, published in 2005; I was 53.

Published in 2006, Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, a murder mystery, written with my cousin, soon followed. In 2007, Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher debuted in October, two weeks before National Adoption month.  I wrote it for my son, remembering how I regretted not asking my mother more about her life.

My duty to my son complete, I decided to have some fun.  I wanted to write something about the original settlers of the Americas.  I contacted my sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse, and asked if it interested her.  Ahan! (Yes!) she answered, and I began my first draft.

It involved two years of research, writing, rewriting and editing, and finally, in 2010, just seven days after my 58th birthday, Cedar Woman was unveiled.

I wanted to write Cedar Woman for a few reasons: one, I wanted to honor my sister.  Her wisdom, patience, kindness and love, inspired me on many levels.  I wanted to show her how much I love her, and her example to me and my son.

Two, I wanted to show my readers the real Native American.  Not the “woo woo woo” (very offensive – by the way) “Indian” shown on television and movie screens for so many years, but the true American who happens to be Native to this land.

When Abraham Lincoln named our original settlers Native Americans, he tried to send a message, which stated, these are our brothers and sisters.  They were here first. Respect them.  Unfortunately, the message didn’t come through until just recently.  In fact, it still hasn’t reached much of our population.

At a recent powwow, members of a church picketed the event, trying to stop attendees from entering.  I was confused as to why they would do this.  Did they picket the recent Greek Festival?  Did they try to stop people from enjoying the Irish Festival?  And what about the Italian?  It just didn’t make sense to me.  Here was a group of people, ethnically identifying with each other, whole families, wanting to celebrate their culture, dance, food and artisans.  The only thing different that I could see, was that a part of the powwow was set aside to honor their veterans…a nice difference, one that I admire with all of my heart.

Three, I wanted to celebrate the language of the American Plains Lakota.  It is a beautiful language, rich in its structure, tone and meaning.  A devotee of words, I savored the language, enjoying such offerings as sni (schnee – no), gleska (glay-shkah – spotted) and wopila (woe-pee-lah – thank you). 
I reveled in the writing, my hands flying across my keyboard as I wove a tapestry of a Native American family, their trials, and their triumphs.
Slowly, slowly, Grandfather Sun began his ascent.  Gliding, floating, he moved above the horizon as blue and lavender and mauve filled the sky.
 Birdsong married with fragrant air, as Wakan Tanka[1]  stretched His fingers across the sky, pushing back the night, heralding the dawning of a new day.

July 18, 2010
6:00 a.m.

          Sonny Glass walked briskly along the slowly awakening street.  He enjoyed the sound of the heels of his cowboy boots against the hard concrete of Uptown Westerville’s sidewalks.  Soon the area would be busy, as the small but vibrant Central-Ohio city came to life.
       Evalena was barely seven-years-old when she electrified friends, family and neighbors with a single act so poignant, it soon became legend within the entire county.  Walking home from the small general store, where she had gone to fetch a sack of cornmeal for her mother, the corner of her eye was caught by a splash of vivid color within the shadows of the single, white, steeple church situated in the center of the small village.  There, in a crevice where the portico of the church joined with the main building, a hummingbird lay struggling within a spider’s web, its bill pressed to its crop, and its wings glued to its body, imprisoned by the tough fibers of the web.  Floundering, fighting for its life, its frantic heartbeat visible beneath its jeweled breast, the tiny animal’s struggle became evident to the young child.  Bending over, she gently released the small creature from its death trap, ripping the web from the foundation of the church.  Imprisoned still within the deadly embrace of the web, the bird thrashed, panic-stricken, within her tiny palm.
       Cupping the small bird gently within the protective shelter of her hands, Evalena, called Lena for short, walked to a large boulder, which lay close by.  Squatting upon the ground, and leaning against the stone for support, she slowly ripped away the gooey strands that held the hummingbird captive.  Working quickly, she gently removed the sticky threads until he was free.  Opening her hands to release him, she rejoiced as he soared into the air, wings beating in a blur of motion, fascinating the child who remained crouched beside the massive rock.
       This, in and of itself, would have stirred the imagination of the villagers, but what impressed them further was the continued presence of the tiny bird.  Whenever Lena ventured along the dusty streets of the village, a brilliant jeweled flash of color would be seen, darting about her head, her shoulders, and occasionally, lighting in the palm of her hand, as if to say, “Here is my protector; here is my mother.”
It has been a fascinating adventure – one that has only increased my addiction to the soul-satisfying genre to which I have become devoted – the novel.
And so, I continue.

[1] Wah-kah Than-kah – Mysterious Creator

Cedar Woman Blurb:
Born in Southern Ohio to parents of the Lakota Sioux, Cedar Woman travels to Columbus, Ohio after tragedy befalls her family.  In the capital city, she meets the woman who will change her, and her family’s, destiny, and because of Cedar Woman’s determination and extraordinary talent, she brings prosperity to her small family.
At age 17, Cedar Woman travels to Keokuk, Iowa and to powwow, where she meets her half-side and learns more of the ways of her people. Upon her return to Columbus, she begins the pursuit of her dream: the opening of the first high-end Native American restaurant in Central Ohio – Cedar Woman.



Thank you so much, Marilyn, for presenting me and my work here.
Terri Dryden said…
Cedar Woman is a wonderful book. I couldn't put it down! Thank you Debra for opening my eyes!
So glad you come share with us today, Debra.


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