Saturday, December 19, 2015

How The Greatest Gift Became It's a Wonderful Life

 Most people know that when a bell rings an angel gets his wings. But do you know the true story behind “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

In 1938 Philip Van Doren Stern was inspired to write about a desperate family man’s encounter with his guardian angel who showed him what life would be like if he’d never been born. In 1943 he finished his 4,100 word short story, “The Greatest Gift” which proceeded to be rejected by a variety of publications from “The Saturday Evening Post” to farm journals.  As an established Civil War historian and biographer, Stern published over forty books during his lifetime, but he was unable to find a publisher for this story.

 Determined to share his tale Stern had 200 pamphlets printed of his story and distributed them to friends and family as Christmas cards.  He told his third-grade daughter, Marguerite, that even though they were sending it as Christmas card to friends “It is a universal story for all people and all times”. Several months after Christmas a producer at RKO Pictures came across the Christmas card and offered Stern $10,000 for the movie rights. The oft rejected short story became a five-time Academy Award nominee and an American classic film.

Frank McCourt once said "Sing your song. Dance your dance. Tell your tale."
Personally I think the world needs more singing, dancing and good stories.

Wishing you and your loved ones glad tidings and great reads for the holidays!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Author Interview-Janice Oberding

How did you become involved in researching and writing about Nevada’s haunted past?
 I’ve been interested in the paranormal since I was a child. My grandmother shared many stories of ghosts and ghostly experiences of hers with me. Alas, none were about Nevada. As a Nevadan, I love our state’s rich history, lore and ghosts. In early 2001 I started looking around for books on Nevada’s ghosts and hauntings and discovered there were none. This was not acceptable to me. I wanted our state’s ghosts and rich ghostly history to be shared. And so I wrote my first book, Haunted Nevada. My next was the Ghosthunters’ Guide to Virginia City. From there I continued to write, to travel, and meet people throughout the state.

What were some of the challenges you encountered while researching these stories? 
When I started writing about Nevada’s ghosts I was the only one doing so. There weren’t but a handful of ghost investigators in the entire state. Consequently there wasn’t always a lot of information. People were sometimes hesitant to share such information, this always makes research difficult. Then too, when I found so many different versions of the same incident, I often had to choose which I thought was right or best. At that time I also had to deal with acceptance of my subject matter. Several people in Virginia City (which is Nevada’s most haunted town) refused to discuss ghosts with me, and one person who oversaw the Pipers Opera House actually told me that there were no such thing as ghosts and certainly none at the Opera House. Today more locations are open to talking about their ghosts and activity.

Tell us more about your classes at Truckee Meadows Community College.
My oldest class is Ghost Hunting 101. Each series the class is held in a historic/haunted location. Half of the class deals with the basics. The other half is a ghost hunt of the location. Over all it is a basic class for beginners and those who might want a somewhat different perspective of the field. The class includes history of ghost hunting, theories and a healthy amount of skepticism. Otherwise, I do different classes that deal with other aspects of the paranormal. These include, Quirky Nevada, Nevada’s Haunted Hotspots and Early Day Spiritualism.

What’s next for you?
I am currently working on several books. These will be fiction and nonfiction that focus on true crime and history as well as ghosts.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
My books are available at

Haunted Reno
The flashing neon lights of Reno harbor a ghastly past. With its wide-open gambling, divorce laws and around-the-clock casinos and bars, the Biggest Little City in the World was a rough and wild town with a turbulent history. Victims of Priscilla Ford's Thanksgiving Day massacre haunt a downtown street. After a disappearance and death shrouded in mystery, the spirit of Roy Frisch still lingers near the location of George Wingfields home. Lynched by a mob for a death that never happened, the angry ghost of Luis Ortiz still walks the bridge at night. The queen of haunted Nevada, Janice Oberding, unearths the ghoulish history that put the "sin" in Nevada's original Sin City.

Mariposa’s note: I was fortunate to meet Janice at one of her readings on Halloween eve at Grassroots Bookstore.  I’m currently reading “Haunted Reno” and I can tell you as an author she is as engaging in print as in person.