What the Nanny Saw – a memoir

Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, we loved those shows, but what goes on behind the scenes with nannies? Sandra Gumbrell, who lives in the UK, spills the secrets in her book, What the Nanny Saw:  A memoir of an English nanny.

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How many years were you a nanny, and about how many clients did you have?

I have been a nanny for thirty years and had over twenty-five clients. I lived in with two families, the other positions were working as a daily nanny

Why did you decide to write the book?

The book shows you what really goes on behind closed doors. Some parts are funny especially with the children, but some parts are very sad, leaving the children and I in a very difficult situation.

How did you handle the privacy issue to avoid any problems with clients who recognize themselves?

I had to be very careful, like changing names for everyone, also the descriptions of the houses, etc., so nobody would recognize themselves if they were ever to read my book.

I like your opening line, which manages a tingle of foreboding to hook in readers. Do you have any background in writing?

I have written for magazines before, but this was my very first experience of writing a book. I really enjoyed it.

What was the most difficult part of writing?

The most difficult part in writing the memoir was trying to remember everything, also being careful to change names. But, I enjoyed trying to remember everything that happened through the years. When I sat down in a quiet room I would imagine my time with the families and it all came flooding back to me.

As the book is pretty short, you went straight to e-book. What was your e-publishing journey like?

E-publishing wasn’t too difficult. My book appeared on Amazon within a few hours. I had an editor for my book. She was lovely and very helpful. She changed my wording on the odd occasion, but the story stayed as I wanted it. She also formatted my book for Kindle.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the book or about writing and publishing?

This is my first book, but I have recently finished writing another book, this time fiction. I enjoyed exploring my mind. My second book is called Silchester Manor and it’s on Amazon already and selling. I really didn’t think it would be possible for me to do anything like this. I absolutely love writing now—I’m addicted!

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Sandra Gumbrell lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband and Maine Coon cat. She has two grown children who live nearby and she loves spending time with them and her new granddaughter. What the Nanny Saw is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK. Her second e-book, Silchester Manor, is a novelette—about the adventures of a nanny, of course! If you read either of Sandra’s books, please write an Amazon review. Reviews are important to new authors and often hard to come by.










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Remembering the fallen: Flags of Valor

Today, 9/11, I saw an astonishing sight of remembrance–the Flags of Valor. At the St. Louis Art Museum the broad, steep slope before it was covered with American flags. While we will always think of the 3,000+ lives lost in the 9/11 acts of terrorism, we do not easily remember the military men and women who have lost their lives since then in the war against terror. The 7,000+ flags on Art Hill represent these fallen, increasing in number each year because evil lives quite well in the hearts of too many men. As with military cemeteries, I was heartbroken to see a visual of so much talent and potential cut short. Each flag carried a photo and dog tags. Each flag was a life story. And each time the wind blew, it stirred a song of tragedy played by the clinking tags.





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Looking at the past and laughing about My Zany Life

IvankaDo you like hilarious true stories? Last year, I featured Ivanka di Felice and her delightful first book, a memoir titled A Zany Slice of Italy, about adapting to life in a new country with new relatives. Ivanka has recently published both a sequel, A Zany Slice of Tuscany, AND a prequel, My Zany Life: Growing Up in a Rooming House. I want to read both, but am particularly curious about her memoir of being raised in a rooming house, which she wrote with her mother, an immigrant from Croatia. The intriguing book description includes, “Many people think it’s tragic to grow up in a poor neighborhood, but the author assures us it is equally tragic growing up in a rich neighborhood when you are poor.”


Ivanka has answered a few questions about her book and about writing.

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Tell us a little about where you grew up and what you mean by a rooming house. Most of us probably think of rooming or boarding houses as something out of history, like during the Gold Rush.

At great personal sacrifice (the book explains just how great) my parents scrimped, saved and borrowed money for the down payment on a lovely, large house on a tree-lined street in a fancy neighborhood. However, in order to afford this home, they never had the option of just our family living there. The only way they could keep it would be to rent out most of the house, in the most profitable manner. Thus was born “The Rooming House,” which sat among, but apart from, other stately family-owned homes.

I grew up in the swanky west-end neighborhood of High Park—except our house and those who lived in it were anything but swanky. My dad, or Tata, as we call him, started his “real estate empire” after my younger brother, Steven, was born. If there was a skill in renting out rooms and knowing how to read people and letting only the good ones in, then my parents did not possess it. Hence, we shared our home with a host of colorful tenants: some good, some bad, some funny, and some sad. Yet we survived, and I fondly recall the humorous memories even now.

You wrote this book with your mother. Was that a lot of fun, or did you have disagreements? Did you write chapters and she wrote chapters, or how did you go about writing?

We did not disagree on anything, however according to my mom the book is complete “thanks to my daughter who nagged me persistently to remember and to write what I have.” It is written in chronological order, so my mom wrote the chapters in the beginning and then makes a guest appearance in the middle and writes her conclusion on life at the end. The actual experience of writing with my mom can be summed up by my acknowledgments:

Congratulations are also in order to me, for the patience I mustered up while trying to decipher my mother’s notes and for partnering with probably the last known author to still use pen and paper and write in a painful scribble. My mother, well aware that English is not phonetic, applied her “more is more” theory and, just in case, added an extra vowel or consonant to each word. She demonstrated her creativity with each draft she sent me and she challenged my math. Sentences were written vertically and horizontally, and pages were randomly numbered, rarely in order. Celebrate the completion of this book with us, for it is nothing short of a miracle!

Yet as a final note, I want to thank my mom for being who she is and for having taught us the valuable lessons she did.

Your parents have an interesting story of how they met in Croatia. How did they meet and how did they end up in Toronto?

I don’t want to do a spoiler so let’s just say my mom lived in a small village in Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia). She lived like everyone else in the village, about ten feet from the main road. And once in a while, that road was blessed with the vision of a 1964 Ford Galaxy XL zooming past. The rest is history.

You’ve had quite a life. I loved your hilarious first book about adjusting to life in Italy and want to read the follow-up about life in Tuscany, which was also published recently—you’ve been very busy! What will readers enjoy or learn from your third book about growing up in a rooming house?

I hope readers will see that despite difficult circumstances, children can still be happy and, at that, with little. That being deprived materially does not mean you have to be deprived of happiness. Also, that it’s possible to look back on less than ideal situations without viewing them with bitterness but, instead, if we choose to, we can recall those memories through eyes of humor. And by the last chapter I am certain that anyone renting out rooms or apartments in their house (or even their shed) will definitely confirm references!

Do you have any advice for people wanting to write funny memoirs?

Dig into your memories and find situations that make people laugh, then expand on them. Think of stories you tell that others find amusing. During difficult situations jot down notes that can later be expanded on and can usually be viewed as a lot funnier than while you were actually enduring them. Chapter 68: George—The Human Boomerang is a case in point.

To quote my mom, “Ivanka taught me how to look on the funny side of life—not that all occasions could be viewed that way, but many could, and why not focus on those? As someone said, ‘Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ It’s much better to try to find humor in the situations we encounter.”

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Thank you so much, Ivanka! Sounds like your new books will be as funny and as sweet as your first.

Ivanka Di Felice is a writer living in Tuscany. She will assure you that it’s far less pretentious than it sounds. She owes her life to a 1964 Ford Galaxy XL. Her heritage proves that on occasion, reality is stranger than fiction. Ivanka has written the Zany Series of books describing a life of wacky adventures. In her quest for sanity, she decided never to own a rooming house.

Anica Blažanin, mother of Ivanka, was born in Croatia. More than five decades ago, she left her village of Mučna Reka, meaning “Sickening River,” for Canada with two battered, borrowed suitcases and a dream. Her life abroad was far from what she had envisioned. Regardless, she proves that despite life not always delivering what we have dreamed of, we can still be very happy.

Visit Ivanka’s Amazon page to see all her books.

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