Tuesday, December 8, 2020

How to Use a Knife and Giveaway #MFRWHooks


Book Hooks Blog Hop #MFRWHooks
Hello and welcome to the Focused on Story Blog. Today we're joining the Book Hooks Blog Hop sponsored by the Marketing For Romance Writers Group. Each participating blogger shares an excerpt from their book. Today, I share an excerpt from my memoir, Arranging a Dream: A Memoir

Arranging a Dream: A Memoir
by J.Q. Rose


In 1975, budding entrepreneurs Ted and Janet purchase a floral shop and greenhouses where they plan to grow their dream. Leaving friends and family behind in Illinois and losing the security of two paychecks, they transplant themselves, their one-year-old daughter, and all their belongings to Fremont, Michigan, where they know no one. 

 Will the retiring business owners nurture Ted and Janet as they struggle to develop a blooming business, or will they desert the young couple to wither and die in their new environment?

 Most of all, can Ted and Janet grow together as they cultivate a loving marriage, juggle parenting with work, and root a thriving business?

 Follow this couple’s inspiring story, filled with the joy and triumphs and the obstacles and failures experienced as they travel along the turbulent path of turning dreams into reality.

EXCERPT: Chapter Five--Back to School

Background Information: When Ted and I bought the flower shop and greenhouse operation, we had only dreamed of having the greenhouses, but the property we fell in love with included a full-service flower shop. I had no training in designing floral arrangements, so to learn about the floral business and get some hands-on lessons in floral design, I attended a school in Chicago.

I embraced this time of learning and growing. The instructor at the school had years of experience in the business and teaching. With his skill and humor, he and his staff guided our class through the experience of learning about the care of flowers, the guidelines for arranging flowers into a balanced and beautiful floral arrangement and the business side of the flower industry. The hands-on opportunity to work with fresh flowers every day with people who were as enthusiastic as I was invigorated me.

I walked to class from the hotel on an early September morning satisfied I knew where I was going because Ted and I had surveyed the area and found the building before he left for home the night before. I felt like a grown-up striding alone on the sidewalk among the crowd of folks racing toward their destinations. Traffic buzzed past me accompanied by a cacophony of squealing brakes, horns beeping, tooting, blaring and loud voices yelling. My eyes searched for the bright blue sky only partially seen through the tall buildings and pulled my jacket together to help keep the cool wind out.

My hand covered my stomach to calm the frenzied bees kicked up by my excitement as well as anxiety about the first day of lessons and meeting people taking the class. Without hesitation, I opened the glass door and stepped into a room filled with the smell of aged wood and floral fragrances. Ten thick, dark, wooden tables, waist-high, in two rows seated two students at each one. I pulled out the barstool type chair and sat down next to another student. We exchanged hellos and floral experiences. She was from the Chicago area and worked in a shop. The idea she could help me with understanding all the new lessons flitted through my mind. I hated to admit to her I had no experience.

Containers filled with florist’s tools such as scissors and wire cutters streamed down the middle of the table. A variety of colorful flowers sat on the floor in front of the class in five-gallon buckets. Their mixed fragrances tickled my nose. The carnations, roses, colorful daisies, and fall colored mums which I learned were called poms. Other flowers sat in buckets on tables, but I had no clue to their names. The smugness fell from my shoulders. I had so much to learn and only weeks to do it all.

Right on time, an older man, casually dressed in slacks and plaid shirt that tugged a bit over his tummy strolled in with his assistant who was a lanky young man. The noisy conversations silenced, and the class members riveted their eyes on him, waiting to discover what was ahead for them.

The teacher, Asa, introduced himself and David, the assistant. He gave us his award-winning resume in the flower business injecting some funny stories with his experiences. David, although he looked young, had worked quite a few jobs in designing flowers and won floral design contests at shows.

“How many of you are working in a flower shop?” Asa asked. I was surprised to see about half of the students raise their hands. I breathed a sigh of relief that others were as green as me.

He said, “Good. That means you can practice on other people’s customers. Get the experience before you open your own shop.” My stomach twisted into a knot. I never thought that I would be “practicing” on customers, but I knew after only three weeks of design school, I certainly wouldn’t be confident in my design skills. I would have to rely on Hattie to instruct me in everything, not only design, but also ordering supplies, bookkeeping, and customer service. I prayed she would hang in there with me to at least help me get my feet wet on her customers whom I hoped to keep as mine.

The first lesson was how to use a knife to make a flower arrangement. I checked in the florist tools containers for band-aids and bandaging materials. I wanted to be prepared to staunch the bleeding because cutting up potatoes usually resulted in a sliced finger for me.

“Hold the knife like this.” He held it in the palm of his hand and up in the air so we could see. “Always keep your knife sharp.” I winced at the thought of how sharp that blade must be.

David gave each student a cranberry, red-handled pocketknife. I tugged on the blade to pull it out of the handle. It didn’t come out of the sheath. Everyone else had theirs out. I gathered up my courage and pulled on that blade and it released, gleaming under the overhead lights. I dared not run my finger along the sharp edge.

“When you cut the stem, your knife should be sharp enough to cut at an angle to slice through the stem. Do not bend the stem over the knife and cut because the bending will block the stem’s ability to draw up water.” He made it look so easy to cut through that carnation stem.

One student bravely raised her hand. “Can we use shears to cut the flowers?” Asa’s eyes darkened. “Not if you want your flowers to take up water and last for your customer.”

I dreaded using the knife, but there was no way to avoid it for the next three weeks. Chewing my lip, I made the first slice through the stem of the carnation provided by David. The knife sailed through like the stem was gelatin. I tried again and again and each time it was easier. I soon learned to keep it in my hand at all times. A professional designer never puts the knife on the counter to place a flower in the arrangement because it wastes time. Pretty soon that knife felt like an extension of my hand.

Arranging a Dream: A Memoir Winter Virtual Book Tour

Book Tour Schedule for December and January (so far)

Dec. 4

Sandra Cox

           Dec 16

Nan Sanders Pokerwinski coming up on Wednesday



Don Levin




Helena Fairfax


Natalie Aguirre Followers News 


Marsha West


Jacqui Murray Review

I am so looking forward to the tour and visiting with these wonderful hosts. I hope you will come along and enter at each stop where a lucky commenter will be drawn to win a copy of the memoir! Watch for updates and addresses. You can read about arranging flowers now at my first stop at Sandra Cox's blog, Sandra's place. Click Sandra Cox to take you there.

PS--While I'm visiting Nan next Wednesday, Sandra Cox will be here with her new Western novel in the Gwen Slade series. Please stop in, say hi and discover why cowboys wore vests.

Arranging a Dream is on pre-order at your favorite online booksellers. The paperback book is available now in time for Christmas gift-giving to flower and garden lovers and dreamers.

Click here to order your print book of Arranging a Dream: A Memoir.

Leave a comment below and you may be the lucky commenter to win the drawing for a digital copy of Arranging a Dream! The deadline to enter is Sunday, December 12 at 9 pm ET. Good luck!!

Click here to visit bloggers who are participating in the Book Hooks Blog Hop. Discover new books, meet new authors and/or visit your favorites. 


Natalie Aguirre said...

Loved reading how your husband and you started your florist business and your experience learning the business. You were certainly brave just moving to a new place and doing it. And FYI I live in Michigan too--Ann Arbor.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thanks, Natalie. I don't if we were brave or just young and naive.
We love Michigan, but we're on the west side near Muskegon.

Janet Lane Walters said...

You had guts. Knives aren't always fun

Anonymous said...

Focussing on the knife was a great way to give your snippet a sense of unity.

Dee S Knight and Anne Krist said...

My husband and I have "started over" on various dreams several times. It's not easy but it is an adventure! Your story sounds fascinating!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm having some issues with my computer, but I'm sure I sent a request to be included in your tour. Sign me up, okay. I'm free from January 25 to 31.

Marsha said...

Hey, JQ. Looking forward to having you. I'll send questions, soon. :)

J.Q. Rose said...

LO.. You are so right. I was shaking when I picked up that knife.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thank you, Ed.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thank you. I think having dreams makes life interesting. We all deserve second chances in case we need to tweak our dreams a bit. i still wonder how we ever made a go of it.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thank you, Joylene. That time will work great for me! I'll send you an email with all the propaganda on it.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thanks, Marsha. Looking forward to being your guest!

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