Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Walk Down Memory Lane With Molly Best Tinsley

I promised, so I'm delivering. 

Today I have the pleasure of taking you back to the Naval Academy and introducing you to to our next guest via Tribute Books and Fuze Publishing.  She is not only an author of fiction, but a playwright, and brings to us today a memoir that is very near and dear to her heart and mine - walking a loved one through the unwinding of a life via Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.  Please welcome to the blog, a guest post by Molly Best Tinsley!

"After fifteen years of writing fiction, I was enticed into trying my hand at playwriting when I heard about a contest for one-act plays.  I wound up crafting a dramatic piece based on the strange language that was taking over my mother's mind - the product of dementia, it was bizarre and nonsensical, yet poetic, and like a poem, it hummed with hints of hidden meaning.  The play, "The Hummingbird's Nest," was produced as part of the Source Summer Festival of New Plays, and the woman cast in the role of my mother was truly awesome.  In fact when the awards for the festival were doled out, she won for best actress.  The experience was enough to hook me on the collaborative play-making process.

Sometimes, though, your creative spirit just wants to withdraw and work alone.  You want to have a narrator to bridge the gaps and plumb the depths of a story; you want to be able to design your own scenes, costumes, and atmosphere, without regard to a production budget.  The appeal of the theatre's extroverted world dims; the dependency on producers, directors, and actors feels, well, too dependent.  Thus during the recent years of making plays almost exclusively, I've gone back several times to writing narrative.  Notably, the first time was to tell the whole story of which "The Hummingbird's Nest" had been only a part.

Entering the Blue Stone (Fuze Publishing, 2012) takes you into the vortex of organic brain disease.  Our father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at the same time that our mother began manifesting Alzheimer's symptoms, and my siblings and I had to act fast in order to prevent them from totally going down the tubes.  Our solution was a continuing care facility.  Soon after they were admitted, we became convinced we had stepped through the looking glass - the administrators had lost their minds while those with diagnosed dementia exemplified grace and a certain common sense.

In Entering the Blue Stone, my aim was to stick as close as I could to real events.  What kept me writing was the desire to document my family's experience with an end-of-life institution and question its assumptions about old age.  Diminished cognition must not equate with diminished humanity.

I'm currently at work on the first draft of an entirely different sort of narrative, a spy thriller, "Hotel Limbo," sequel to Satan's Chamber (Fuze Publishing 2009), of the same genre, which I co-wrote with Karetta Hubbard.  Instead of bringing coherence to my own life, I've plunged into issues and settings I knew virtually nothing about when I began.  Karetta and I knew only that we wanted to foreground the global issue of human trafficking.  Although the facts of the book come from research, in a plot-driven story they don't just speak for themselves; they must be deployed in ways that create mystery, suspense, surprise.  Unlike my memoir, I don't know yet exactly how this story will end.  That's what keeps me writing - I'm curious to find out."

Thanks so much to Molly for visiting the blog and writing about such an important topic.  My own dear grandfather suffered from Alzheimer's, and I watched with agony as my grandmother, mother, and her siblings had to deal with the emotional turmoil it brought as they grieved the mental loss of a loved one while still caring for the remaining physical needs.  A dear older friend of mine cared for his beloved wife, suffering for twenty-three years through Alzheimer's.  He meticulously applied her make-up and fixed her hair every day because he knew how important looking nice had been to her.  The grace with which he treated her lingers with me still today, even though they are both now gone.

So to end, I raise a glass to all of the caregivers - both family and friends - who give so much of themselves to see loved ones through the end of this life.  Thank you for the memories, Molly Best Tinsley!

Entering the Blue Stone Summary:
What happens when one's larger-than-life military parents - disciplined, distinguished, exacting - begin sliding out of control?  The General struggles to maintain his invulnerable facade against Parkinson's disease; his lovely wife manifests a bizarre dementia.  Their three grown children, desperate to save the situation, convince themselves of the perfect solution:  an upscale retirement community.  But as soon as their parents have been resettled within its walls, the many imperfections of its system of care begin to appear.

Charting the line between comedy and pathos, Molly Best Tinsley's memoir, Entering the Blue Stone dissects the chaos at the end of life and discovers what shines beneath:  family bonds, the dignity of even an unsound mind, and the endurance of the heart.

Purchase her books at:

Amazon paperback:

Fuze Publishing paperback:

Amazon Kindle:

Barnes& Nook:

Molly Best Tinsley's Bio:
Air Force brat Molly Best Tinsley taught on the civilian faculty at the United States Naval Academy for twenty years and is the institution's first professor emerita.  Author of My Life with Darwin (Houghton Mifflin) and Throwing Knives (Ohio State University Press), she also co-authored Satan's Chamber (Fuze Publishing) and the textbook, The Creative Process (St. Martin's).  Her fiction has earned two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sandstone Prize, and the Oregon Book Award.  Her plays have been read and produced nationwide.  She lives in Oregon, where she divides her time between Ashland and Portland.

Connect with her through Fuze Publishing at:!/fuzepublishing


  1. D A, thanks for hosting Molly for such a personal post and for sharing your own story as well.

    1. Disease shows us the heartbreak as well as the beauty in humanity. Thank you so much for allowing me to share Molly's journey with my readers!