Alta author forges new memories from old ones

Friday, June 8, 2018
Nancy Marshall, author

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory could create a thousand pictures. Nancy Marshall, Alta's newest published author, has finally had the chance to put her childhood to paper, bringing the warm memories of her childhood with her mother and grandmother to color. Her new book, "Mary Emma, Walk!" is a play on words with her grandmother's name, Mary Emma Waalk, and a run through the playful memories of her happy-go-lucky grandmother.

Marshall, who is a personal trainer at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center's fitness center, wrote the book three years ago, but didn't start publishing until last May when all the cards fell in to place. It wasn't until her youngest son went to college and she found a publisher without a contractual commitment that she felt comfortable putting her story out there.

The opportunity finally came when a talk on book publishing came up at Buena Vista University last year. "It was a sign that I finally needed to do this," she said.

Marshall's children's book takes readers through a day in the life of her grandmother, Mary Emma, as a child. Everywhere she goes, Mary Emma is in a hurry. Every person in town she sees says to her, "Mary Emma, walk!" to remind her to slow down. And that's what she's hoping parents reading this book to their children will do: slow down, and create memories with their growing kids.

"What I hope with this book is that folks who read it get the simple pleasures that make the best memories, and just enjoy Mary Emma's spirit," Marshall said, hoping everyone can learn from her memories.

Marshall wants to be remembered by the memories she makes with her grandchildren, which is why she makes deliberate efforts to make them. Whether it's making up stories at bedtime or always having gum in her purse, memories are what they will take with them after she's gone.

"I just want people to not forget to make the time to make those memories," the author said. "It may seem insignificant, but that's what those kids will always remember."

Author's grandmother (right), Mary Emma Waalk.
Illustration from the book, showing the matching dresses.

The story's warmth is enhanced by illustrations of her hometown and the people Marshall remembers most at every corner of Monona, Iowa. From the banker dressed to the nines, to the drug store clerk, to the mechanic with a grease rag hanging out of his pocket, the illustrations by Darcy Bell-Myers bring to life Marshall's story--the treasured experience of a small town past.

"I just wanted to personify the small town environment where everyone knows all the kids," Marshall said. "When I was writing it, I was right back there in that house and town with my grandmother. It brought back the time I was there."

Marshall has plenty more memories where this came from, and would love to share them in future books about Mary Emma once kids get to know her in this book.

Hot off the presses, the 32-page "Mary Emma, walk!" is available on, and through at $17.95 plus tax. Nancy Marshall will be available to sign her books at Sugar Bowl in Storm Lake on June 16 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

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