, Muskogee, OK

March 26, 2013

Book shows ex-teacher’s style

Cramer’s collection a writer’s how-to book

— Self-publishing is helping readers discover authors outside the realm of traditional publishing houses. This phenomenon has ushered in a new generation of American writers who are circumventing the usual 12-part rejection letter blues.

Janis Cramer, former consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, bypassed the rejection letter route with her book of short stories entitled “My Finest” in favor of self-publishing with Cramer, who graduated from Central High School and taught English and creative writing at Muskogee High School and in Mustang, left a legacy of writers in her wake. When she retired completely in 2011, she took to heart the instruction she had given so many of her students, namely, revise, reflect, and publish your work. What she produced was a book that models her teaching philosophy.

“For years, my students complained that I should be compiling my own writing portfolio, too,” Cramer said. “But I was always too busy grading their papers.”

Cramer’s new book could be used as a guide for anyone who teaches writing or desires to hone their craft. Stories in the collection chronicle her life experiences from growing up in Muskogee to climbing mountains in Rwanda where she observed gorillas in their natural habitat. For her audience, Cramer hopes to find long-lost family members; old classmates; teacher friends; and other Oklahoma Writing Project teacher consultants, or anyone who enjoys a good story.

“I’m hoping there will be a good chuckle in each story,” she said.

In “Bob Dylan and Me,” Cramer relates the experience of meeting her poetic hero, Bob Dylan. She finagled her way backstage at one of his concerts in 1989 and while he was signing her copy of his book, Dylan quizzed her about how to teach someone to write poetry. Her advice to the iconic poet was to make sure future poets read great poetry, discuss what is good in the poems, and then write daily to find their own voice. His inscription in her book, “To Janis and all the kid poets.”

Cramer will speak about her book, the writing process and self-publishing at 11:00 a.m. today for Friends of the Library at Muskogee Public Library. Following the author talk and book signing, there will be a public reception for Cramer at the Muskogee High School media center from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Now here are some recipes for all the kid poets among us.

Janis’s Grape Nuts Meat Loaf

1 pound of lean hamburger meat

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup catsup

1/2 cup Grape Nuts

1 egg

1/4 cup chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Pour off any extra grease


Dorothy Thomas’s Lemon Fluff Pie

In the 1940s, Janis’s grandmother, Roxy Lucy Thomas, went to Home Demonstration meetings, where the members swapped recipes and met their competition from the Great State Fair of Oklahoma baking contests. She shared this recipe with her daughter-in-law, Dorothy, wife of Oscar Thomas and Janis’s mother, who made it regularly for family and events at Riverside School.

4 eggs

1/4 c. lemon juice

Grated rind of one lemon

3 tablespoons water

1 cup sugar (1/2 for pie, 1/2 for meringue)

Pie shell, homemade or store bought

Separate eggs, beat yolks. Beat yolks until thick. Put in top of double boiler.

Add lemon juice and rind, water and half the sugar. Cook over hot water. Beat whites until stiff, adding remaining sugar and continue beating until meringue holds peaks. Fold half of meringue into warm yolk and lemon mixture, and when evenly blended, heap into pie shell. Make a wreath around edge of pie with remaining meringue, being sure egg whites and crust meet well around edges. Bake at 325 degrees until lightly browned.


Bob Dylan’s Mom’s Banana Chocolate Chip Bread (Betty


Dylan himself put out many recipes on his Sirius radio program between 2005 and 2009. His mother’s banana bread was featured in the Cincinnati Junior League Cookbook and can be found online, along with Dylan’s own recipes.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

2 eggs

4 tablespoons sour cream

2 ripe bananas, mashed

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 (6-ounce) package chocolate chips (or up to 12 ounces, if desired)

2 medium disposable foil loaf pans (about 8-by-3-by-2 inches)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the sour cream and ripe bananas; mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry mixture to the sour cream mixture then fold in the chocolate chips. Divide the batter between two greased loaf pans. Bake for about 50 minutes. Turn the loaves out on to cooling rack or aluminum foil as soon as they are done.