Peg Nichols writing As Emilye Yancy will chat at The Book Barn from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday about her new book being launched: A Collection of Short Stories: Emergency, No-Guilt Hot Chocolate.

Peg Nichols writing As Emilye Yancy will chat at The Book Barn from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday about her new book being launched: A Collection of Short Stories: Emergency, No-Guilt Hot Chocolate.

1. Can you tell us about the connection between you winning a prize in a local chocolate contest and your new book of short stories?

Winning a prize – even though it was second place – was such a fun time. Part of the prize was a ticket to the Women’s Community Y Chocolate Event, at the Riverfront that year. I went on a no-chocolate regimen for about a week in advance so I wouldn’t feel guilty about indulging on that day.
The Leavenworth Times printed my recipe in the newspaper, and I had some extra copies made to pass out amongst my friends. Writing a short story about someone who won a recipe contest seemed a way to share the recipe with a different audience. Is the title story biographical? Well, I’m closer to the grandmother than the young woman who won the contest.
Donating $1 for every copy sold at The Book Barn during the month of March is just a way of paying the WCY back for all the fun I’ve gotten out of the experience.

2. After your chocolate recipe won a prize in the contest you faced some difficult times, including the death of your husband and surviving the Joplin, Mo. tornado. How has writing helped you cope with these life challenges?
My husband’s health failed gradually, so his death was not unexpected. I hardly had time to start adjusting to widowhood when my son and I were caught in the May 22, 2011 tornado. We had gone to attend the high school graduation of a granddaughter.
We have a large number of relatives in Joplin. We are grateful that none of the family was injured severely. No one was untouched, however, by the loss of friends and neighbors. The body of a young man, who had graduated just hours before the tornado, was not found for almost a week. A writing colleague of mine lost a grandson and two great-grandchildren.
My son began writing a personal account almost immediately, but I was emotionally paralyzed. We were in Joplin often in the aftermath. We happened to be in Joplin again on the occasion of the sixth-month anniversary program at Schiefferdecker Park, and it jolted me out of my state of suspension. I finally forced myself to start writing again.

3. You write fiction and non-fiction. What sort of non-fiction subjects did you tackle and what made you decide to transition into the fiction world? Any plans for writing another book?
For a number of years I was coordinator of the volunteer mediators for small claims court in the Kansas Tenth Judicial District at the courthouse in Olathe. After I resigned from that role in order to spend more time at home with my husband, I wrote and published Mediation Survivor’s HandBook, which is a basic guidebook for people who do not understand the process of mediation.
Being at home gave me more time for writing, in more than one genre. I have been published in Kansas City Voices and The Best Times, mostly articles, but also a smattering of poetry. The first chapter of an unfinished novel won third place last year in a writing competition.
I always intended to use a pseudonym for my fiction. People who know me will know that I am writing under two names. For people who do not know me, it won’t matter and may avoid confusion. I am working on projects both in fiction and non-fiction.

4. Can you give us a glimpse into some of your short stories and what you hope that readers will learn and savor from them?
Short stories are something new for me. More or less on a whim, I submitted a short story for an anthology. That story has never been published, but I was invited to submit additional stories with a seasonal theme, two of which have been published by Welkin Press.
Once on a roll, I completed several more short stories, far beyond Welkin Press’s current publishing schedule, so I contacted another publisher, Hill Song Press of Lawrence, about publishing a collection. Short stories are a whole lot more fun to write than full-length books, which tend to deal with more serious themes.
While my characters are fictional, I hope the readers will see them as real people, confronting, and resolving problems in their lives, possibly in unexpected ways.

5. Is it safe to say that the fact that you entered a chocolate contest and wrote a book entitled Emergency, No-Guilt Hot Chocolate might be a good indication that chocolate is an important comfort food in your life?
Oh, yes, chocolate is a comfort food for many people, although a late uncle of mine was so allergic to chocolate even the mention of the word was enough to make him sneeze. I realized a long time ago – as Gabrielle tells her grandmother in Emergency, No-Guilt Hot Chocolate – that it’s not the cocoa that adds the calories, it’s the sugar and the butterfat.
That was the origin of the guilt-free recipe. I use stevia as a sweetener, but there are lots of other choices. Getting the water hot enough to dissolve the cocoa, however, makes it too hot to drink right away, so if I’m really desperate to get my chocolate fix, I need something to cool it down. Say of scoop of vanilla ice cream. I kid myself that there can’t be too many calories in a single scoop of ice cream. Two scoops, that becomes an indulgence – but makes the drink, oh, so much better.
— Rimsie McConiga