Where did the summer go?

I can scarcely believe that in just a few short months, we’ll be facing ice and snow. The summer of 2011 has been a difficult time in Virginia. After weeks of sweltering temperatures, there was an earthquake, followed by a hurricane. Untold financial damage was done, and it took days to restore power to everyone in Richmond, VA, where I live. Seeing all the houses in darkness reminded me of times when I was a child growing up on a farm in Southwest Virginia. Even though there was no running water or inside bathrooms, I look back on that time with much affection. There was no television either, so my brother and two sisters and I had to “make do,” as our dear mother would say, by entertaining each other. I will always remember how our mother used to line all four of us up in chairs, then open a dictionary. She would call out words and have little prizes for the child who answered correctly. I cannot imagine how much that expanded my vocabulary and believe that it was one thing that started me on the path to writing. I know it certainly taught me to love words. Over the years, my mother remained my greatest influence and always my inspiration. She never gave up. Never. I remember talking with her after I had become a mother myself and was struggling with several issues. She quietly said, “Sleep on it. Things always look better in the morning.” That is still good advice that I plan to apply as I now enter a quiet phase in my life. Although I am continuing to write my monthly column (Reflections) for Richmond magazine, I am not working on a book. However, I recently finished a young adult historical novel, also set in Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania during World War II, but it is as yet unpublished. It was written as a thesis for my master of fine arts in children’s literature, which I earned in May 2011 at Hollins University. I will always be indebted to Neil November for providing the funding for my education. When the book is pubished, it will be dedicated to Neil, my friend and ardent supporter. For now, I plan to use the next few months to rest, read and recharge my batteries before beginning another project. If you have suggestions, I’d be interested in hearing from you.

It’s All Over but the Shouting!

The last eight weeks spent at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have been a test of fortitude. When I signed up for the Baltic Language Institute, where I would study intensive Lithuanian from June to August, I had no idea how grueling the course would be. I also didn’t realize how difficult the language was.

Nor did I foresee that my dyslexia would come roaring to the forefront in such a fashion. It seems that, with English, I’ve been able to mask the dyslexia. However, with the new language, which has many monosyllabic words, I began reversing letters and even adding multiple letters that were not part of the original word. My professor had a time trying to figure out what I was trying to say on tests, but she was very encourging and worked very hard to help me. The other two young men taking the class were also very supportive and encouraging.

It has been over 50 years since I had taken a foreign language, therefore, the class was quite a challenge. As a teenager, I studied Spanish, which I thought I had pretty much forgotten. As I began to study the new Lithuanian vocabulary words, a strange thing happened. Many of the old Spanish words surfaced, so I guess the new words were shifting things around and trying to find a place to land.

Now that the class is over (I received a final grade of B.), I’m still trying to recover from all the brain stress. While I’m tired, I’m glad that I went through with it and am going to continue studying on my own. Should I return to Lithuania in the future, the language I’ve learned will prove invaluable.

I want to thank my family and many friends who prayed for me and supported me w/cards and phone calls. I needed every bit of encouragement I received. I’ve learned, again, how blessed I am.

I’ve always believed that in order to keep moving forward in life, we must face challenges, especially as we get older. One of the benefits of this intense memorization, I’m told by a friend who is a doctor, is that I’m helping to ward off Alzheimer’s. That was an extra benefit I hadn’t planned on, but I’ll take all the blessings I can get.

Four Weeks Down – Four To Go

As I enter the fifth week of studying Lithuanian, I can report that I’ve learned a great deal. First and foremost, I’ve now realized how difficult it must be for immigrants to master the English language and admire anyone willing to take it on. The task of learning another language, beyond your native tongue, is daunting.

I have also learned that Lithuanian is the oldest language and one of the most difficult to master, especially when an individual is older. Thus far, I’ve probably mastered a few hundred vocabulary words and can speak in simple sentences. I may now know enough to help me communicate on a limited basis during my next visit to Lithuania, which was one of my goals for taking the course.

While I will not become a fluent speaker in the last four weeks of study, I will have proven something that my dear late mother always said to encourage me: “Nothing beats a failure but a try.”

I’ve lived by that motto all my life, so I can be satisfied that I’ve tried and succeeded to learn a great deal more of the language than I origially knew. I have also learned of customs and some interesting phrases for everyday life. The icing on the cake has been meeting many very intereting folks and making new friends, a plus in any life.

Thanks to all of you who have contacted me and continue to encourage me. Your support is what keeps me going.

Iki! (Bye!)

Thank You

All of your messages have been very special, and I will treasure each one of them because they are the first ones to appear on this site. Thank you for taking the time to send good wishes and to stay in touch with me. It has been very gratifiying to see notes from  my friends in different parts of the United States and from Israel and Lithuania as well.

Special thanks to all the students who let me know their thoughts after reading “Izzy’s Fire.” Your comments are important to me and were inspiring, and your questions were thoughtful. I shall remember them as I go forward with my research.  Becky Quesenberrry, the teacher who launched the study in the seventh grade of Elizabeth B. Davis Middle School in Chester, Virginia, also orchestrated three field trips so that all 450 students could visit the Virginia Holocaust Museum after studying the book.  After 41 years of teaching, Becky will retire this month. She has honored me by choosing to introduce “Izzy’s Fire” to so many young adults. I want to thank her agian and wish her good luck as she begins this new phase of her life.

Speaking of new phases, I have begun a new venture in my life as well. Today, June 13, I took my first class in what will be an eight-week course in  Beginner’s Lithuanian.  It seemed fitting, since I launched the blog on June 13 to post exactly one month later. Maybe by August 13, I will be able to speak elementary Lithuanian. I hope to return to that country one day and knowing the language will be most helpful. I may try some of my new skills from time to time. In fact, I’ll try it right now, as I have at least two hours of study before class tomorrow. I will say “Labas vakaras,” which means “Good night.”

Blog Launch

Most folks consider Friday the 13th as an unlucky day. This Friday the 13th will forever be special to me, as it is launching day for this new blog site. It is an historic day in another way, as the majority of the 450 seventh-grade students at Elizabeth B. Davis Middle School in Chester, Va, will be finishing their studies of Izzy’s Fire, thus becoming the first school to have an entire grade study the book at one time.

Rebecca “Becky” Quesenberry, 7th grade language arts teacher at Davis, decided she wanted to take on a special project in 2011, the year she retires after having taught for 42 years. I owe her, as well as all the other 19 teachers and students who participated in the project, a special “thank you” for honoring my work and for putting so much effort into their studies. It was a privilege to meet and speak with the students and teachers at their school recently. They represented their school very well, asked excellent questions, and made me glad that I hadn’t given up during the seven years I spent writing Izzy. Thanks to one and all. NWB

A Blog About “Izzy’s Fire”

Izzy’s Fire is filled with the passion of one woman determined to do justice to the story of another woman who lived in hiding throughout the war years. The war has soul…Nancy Wright Beasley has told a powerful story with dignified restraint.  She has given voice to an underreported side of the Holocaust – life in hiding.” –Michael Berenbaum, Project Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1988-1993)

“Nancy is a passionate, dedicated writer who has written a searing story, sure to capture readers with Izzy’s Fire.  She proves herelf to be a storyteller who uses firsthand accounts and research with equal resolve.” – Adriana Trigiani, Author of the Big Stone Gap triology

“We’re talking the stuff of miracles here and Nancy Wright Beasley captures it well.” – Tom Graves, President, Baptist Theological Baptist Seminary of Richmond

Nancy Wright Beasley’s seven-year journey that led to this book began when she heard a Buchenwald survivor recite names of family members who died in the Holocaust.  Beginning to understand the significance of recording survivor history, she read memoirs, interviewed survivors and discovered the miraculous  journey that finally led Edna Ipson and her family from the heel of the Nazis to “the other side of hell.”  She tells of their journey in Izzy’s Fire.