Few authors have their first book published when they are 80, but Rose Bingham of Wisconsin Dells has.
Bingham has written a memoir of her childhood: of her mother disappearing; of being sent to an orphanage and of her vow to keep in contact with her six brothers and sisters. “Buy the Little One a Dolly” is Bingham’s memoir of the years after her mother took a trip into town and never returned.
Her book is published by Henschel Haus Books of Milwaukee, and on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 1-4 p.m., she will launch her book, give a talk, read an excerpt from it and sign copies at the Kilbourn Public Library, 620 Elm St., Wisconsin Dells.
Bingham was 15 in 1952 when her mother left, the oldest of the seven children. She and her father with help from neighbors and relatives in the small Wisconsin community where they lived tried to keep the family together. “I was sad, but not bitter and judgmental,” she said of her mother leaving.
Two years later, the children were sent to an orphanage, and then sent to five foster homes. Bingham made her vow to keep in contact with those brothers and sisters – one she has kept. They still get together and keep in contact 63 years later.
“The brother and sister bond is beautiful,” she said adding that she wonders if they would have the same bond if they had a so-called “normal” childhood.
In 2011, her sister Pat got a call from a young woman, who said she thought her great-grandmother might be Bingham’s mother. The great-grandmother was Bingham’s mother and since then she has met her siblings from the other family. She also said she got the answer after 59 years why her mother had left.
At that point, she decided to write the memoir for her children and grandchildren. She got encouragement from her friends, including those in the Kilbourn Library’s book club. Three of those friends, Carol Showalter, Jacqueline Zenik and Jan Hess wrote blurbs or short promotional paragraphs for the book’s back cover.
After deciding to write the memoir, Bingham said it was five years before the book was published. She attended the UW-Madison’s annual Writers’ Institute to learn the ins and outs of having a book published. She learned how to “pitch” her books to agents at the conference. Laurie Scheer, the director, of the institute wrote the forward to the book and she told Bingham that writing the book is the easy part; marketing—getting a publisher is the hart part.
Bingham said she consider self-publishing (paying for it to be published), but the cost was “quite hefty.” After seven pitches to agents, she made her pitch to Kira Henschel of Henschel Haus Publishing. Henschel seemed interested and took notes. Bingham said she had been told, if an author didn’t hear from an agent in six weeks, the publisher probably was not interested. After six weeks, Bingham sent an email to Henschel and received word that she was “not interested at this time.” Bingham sent off another email this time asking for suggestions. She was then asked to send the manuscript.
Three to four days later she received a 16-page marketing questionnaire and a draft contract. “Is this really happening.” Bingham said she kept asking herself. It was and then Henschel asked Bingham to meet her at Barnes and Noble. They met, and the book was on the way to being published.
Bingham said she has always written poetry. She writes a monthly poem published on her website, rosebingham.com/author. She wants to someday put her poetry into a book for her family. She also written short stories about her life on a Wisconsin farm, Christmas memories.
Professionally, she was a career nurse who graduated from St. Francis School of Nursing in La Crosse, and she received her BSN degree from the UW-Madison. She also took writing courses at the UW-Baraboo/Sauk County under retired professor David Cole.
Besides her nursing career, she and her husband, Mike raised six children. They have 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren as well as “a spoiled dog, Rylee,” her website says.
Bingham’s book is available on her website for $16.95, and she said she has already sold $1,000 worth. It is also available from Henschel Haus Publishing on its website, henschelhausbooks.com.