Coming Of Age In Memphis


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Sandra Ostrander

By Robert Laurence

Sandra G. Ostrander calls her younger self a “cookie whore,” growing up and doing battle with childhood crisis and teenage adventure in Memphis during the 1950s and 1960s. She has collected her stories and memories of those days into a memoir of a young girl which is, like childhood itself, both chilling and funny.

Sandra Ostrander will be reading from “Confessions of a Cookie Whore” as March’s Featured Writer at the meeting of the Ozarks Poets and Writers Collective, 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. The public is invited, though parental discretion is strongly advised. This memoir is not written as an advice manual for little girls coming to grips with pre- and post-puberty issues. It is written by an adult for the amusement of other adults. Think “Catcher in the Rye,” not “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

Ten years ago, at the age of 55 and recently retired from a career as a computer ops manager, Ostrander and her life partner, Mike Durff, fled Memphis for the quaint, charming and hilly safety of Eureka Springs, a place where — unlike their previous quarters — you can actually leave something on your porch and not expect it to be carried off within the hour. The peace of Eureka Springs and the freedom of retired life gave time for her music (she sings, dances and plays piano and violin), her cats (three), her acting (“Annie,” “Guys and Dolls,” etc., etc., mostly back in Memphis), and what she does best, her writing. In addition to being a memoirist, she’s a poet, a novelist, an essayist and a playwright.

As a poet and attendee at Rosemary Daniell’s Zona Rosa Workshop at the Writer’s Colony in Eureka Springs, Ostrander had an on-the-spot poem published in Daniell’s next book. Her play, “No Hard Feelings”, received critical acclaim in Memphis. Her one-act “Now and Then” was selected for production in the 2004 One-act Play Festival in Eureka. Her monologue “Mama’s Message” was published by the International Centre for Women Playwrights. Her children’s play “Outside the Box” had a workshop production, and her latest work, “Southern Discomfort,” a staged reading, both in Eureka Springs.

“Confessions of a Cookie Whore” is a sometimes graphic, no-holds-barred description of Ostrander’s coming of age. In the title story, she tells of herself at thirteen, with a taste for the pastries at a local shop. In “And the Winner Is …,” she recounts her experiences as a 5-year-old in the world of child beauty pageants. There are also stories of her being held up at gunpoint in her own front yard, and of her early meetings with Mike Durff and how, after a 30-year hiatus, they settled down together.

Finally, no biography of Ostrander would be complete without noting her commitment to the humane treatment of pets, and her work at the Good Shepherd Humane Society in Carroll County.

Please join the OPWC at 7 p.m. Tuesday next at Nightbird Books for Sandra Ostrander’s reading from her memoir. (The children would be better occupied elsewhere.) Before and after, there will be an open microphone where writers may share four minutes of prose or poetry. New readers and new listeners are specifically welcome, with the reminder that OPWC does not censor, the themes are often adult and the language, on occasion, rough.

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