Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway. My random name-picker popped out the following names: Rachel Thompson, Chandra Ackley, and Maren McKenzie!
Writing Lu was fun because it’s fiction. In all the other writing I’ve done – journalism, academic, technical communication – you get in big trouble for making stuff up, but in this book I got to pull characters from the clouds and have them say and do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to footnote one darn thing or run anything by a subject matter expert (except for the biblical bits).
But it’s not all made up. I laid a breadcrumb trail of allusions throughout. Virginia Stanley’s name (maker of Lu’s famous skirt) is a mash-up of my grandma Barovian’s first name and my friend Amber’s last name: two of the most creative girls I know. And the tasty moniker “turd donuts?” My sister and I trademarked that long before Ted and Lu ever came on the scene. The town of Dunlap’s Creek is not a knock-off of the TV show Dawson’s Creek, but named after one of my favorite hymns:
And Jackson is a family name on my mother’s side that goes back to when our family first crossed the Atlantic … Kidding. My leading man’s name was originally Thomas, but in the interim I bore TroyBoy #3 and named him Thomas, so that was no longer going to work. I gave my writing buddy three choices and let her pick. Jackson it was.
So let’s make a game of it. Give me a sentence, any sentence, and I’ll tell you whether it’s fact, fiction, or somewhere in between.
“Yes, you there on the left. I believe you were the first to raise your hand. That’s a cute shirt you’re wearing, BTW.”
“Thanks. What about Flora, the company that Lu writes about, which funds college scholarships for women in Kosovo through selling floral watercolor notebooks (see Chapter 33, Page 233)? Does that company exist?”
Indeed it does, and I’m so glad you asked because that’s what I’m really here to blog about today.
And the girl behind them, Ashley VanBuskirk.
I don’t remember much (ask me my boys’ ages and birthdays if you really want to play Stump Beth Troy), but I have a file in my brain titled, “Cool Girls Doing Cool Stuff,” where I mentally pin things, like Flora and its co-founder, Ashley, who I read about a couple years before I wrote about her in Lu.
Here’s the deal with Kosovo:
- It has the highest unemployment rate in Europe – over 56% for females
- 30% of the population live in poverty – 10% in extreme poverty
- Women with a university degree are 28 times more likely to be employed than those with basic education
Enter Flora, a non-profit that in the last three years has provided 50 women with 100 scholarships for full tuition, books, school fees, and bus fare through 100% of the proceeds from their notebook sales. The flow goes something like this.
The idea came to Ashley when she went to Kosovo for a journalism internship and met Ema, a college student like her, except not because it was going to take Ema 12 years to finish her degree. Ema’s father had died in Kosovo’s Civil War in the 1990s, and the surviving female family members couldn’t collect the inheritance without a male head of the family. Ema had to alternate semesters on with semesters off to pay her way.
Ashley brainstormed a way to help through selling notebooks, but she was studying journalism and international studies, not business. So she took a class on social entrepreneurship, and to-date, it’s the only “official” business training she’s had.
I don’t know about you, but Ashley’s story has me thinking about a lot of things – how I respond to wrinkles in my plans, whether I act on what I believe, and the barriers I put between me and others who need help.
I never forgot Flora or Ashley’s story, and when it was time in my book for Lu to write something of worth to her, I knew it would be a story like this. I wrote it in the book, published the book, and a couple weeks ago, I finally introduced myself to Ashley to tell her what I’d done. Better to beg forgiveness than permission, right?
Thankfully Ashley was cool with the shout-out and cool enough to partner with me this week in a Lu + Flora giveaway. Three winners will receive one signed copy of Lu + one Flora notebook. They look so pretty together, it’s like Ashley and I had planned this all along!
Just leave a comment on this post to enter. The giveaway ends this Sunday, July 30, 11:59PM (EST), and I’ll announce the winners back here on Monday morning. Additionally, if you buy a paperback of Lu between now and Sunday, I will donate 100% of my profit to Flora. Just send me your proof of purchase.
So everyone wins! In the interim, check out Flora’s site. It takes $150 to cover one girl’s college semester in Kosovo. Consider swapping your lattes for some Flora swag this week.