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Author Update: Léonie Rosenstiel

Léonie Rosenstiel is an award-winning author whose nonfiction can be found in various anthologies and other publications such as Los Angeles Times, Albuquerque Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe. Her longer work includes biographies, reference books, and her personal journey of Protecting Mama: Surviving the Legal Guardianship Swamp (Calumet Editions, November 2021). Léonie’s newest release is Legal Protection: Affordable Options for Individuals, Families, and Small Businesses (January 2024), with a foreward written by Jack Canfield. You’ll find Léonie’s books on her Amazon author page. For more about her work, read her 2022 SWW interview.

What makes Legal Protection different from the other legal self-help books on the market?
Legal Protection shows people how to find the help they need, and have the peace of mind of knowing, in advance, that they have help available if (when?) they ever need it. It’s not an attempt to sell anyone a particular service or legal form. What I do is to show readers exactly what the best-known services offer (or don’t offer) and who can benefit the most from using them.

Who did you write the book for, and what did you bring to it that other writers couldn’t have?
I wrote it for those who seem to suffer most acutely in our legal system: middle class people. They’re not poor enough to get help from free law clinics but they’re not rich enough to have a stable of lawyers on retainer, either. I’ve watched a number of these sufferers spend all their disposable income—or even be forced to declare bankruptcy—to pay unexpected legal bills. Attorney billings can be just as draining of a bank account as devastating medical bills.

What do I bring to this subject that others don’t? Several generations of my family struggled through court cases and I grew up hearing their tales of woe. I was even involved, in peripheral ways, in some of those cases. When I started doing research on my family history, I discovered even more difficult and exhausting legal cases I’d never heard about before.

I’ve had more than a dozen attorneys of my own, over the decades. A couple of times, I felt obliged to put an attorney on retainer, so I know, first-hand, what that does to a bank account. I’m not an attorney. However, I’ve come to consider myself an expert consumer of legal services.

You must have discovered hundreds (if not thousands) of interesting facts while doing research for this book. How did you sift through it all and decide the most useful information to include in the book?
I started with the five top-rated legal services of 2023, as evaluated by Forbes Magazine. Then I added a few others that people mentioned to me, and that I knew had been around for decades. Then I decided to leave out one (not among the top services) that is only available to federal employees.

In reviewing the services, I took a critical attitude. Did the firm have a consistent philosophy? If not, what changed, over the years? Some had been merged into big conglomerates. Others had critics not allowed to post on their corporate websites. Those critics had started their own sites to complain—and these included both clients and attorneys!

What would you think of a legal service that claims to let people file their own legal forms, but in the fine print it says it has no idea whether the forms are valid, and you must have the help of an attorney before you file them? I made some discoveries that I consider scandalous, but you’ll have to read the book to know what they are. I hope I’ve managed to let the facts speak for themselves.

What was the most difficult challenge of putting this work together?
There were times when I wanted to warn people not to use a particular service, even though it was one of the top five, according to Forbes. Again, I did the research, asked some probing questions, to try to make readers think about what the information actually would mean to them as consumers of legal services, and then allowed the facts to speak for themselves.

Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book.
A little over a year ago, I was at a writers retreat with Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series. He’d looked at and endorsed a previous book of mine, Protecting Mama. The manuscript I showed him at that retreat was negative about adult guardianship. He understood why, but he wanted me to be offering people some hope also.

I went home, agonizing over how I could possibly do this when the situation seemed so bleak. Finally, I decided to do some deep research, starting from the beginning of the problem, which always seemed to be misunderstandings about the law or a lack of access to the right attorney at the right time. How could ordinary people have available legal help and not go bankrupt? That’s what made me search for solutions. This isn’t a long book, and once I got started, I found myself in “the zone” because my zeal to get the word out seemed to give me extra energy.

What did you learn in writing/publishing the book that you can apply to future projects?
If you feel absolutely stumped, what you need is probably hiding in plain sight. As with many mysteries, you’ve already seen the clue that solves the case. However, you didn’t realize, when you encountered it, how important it was and how it was connected to the rest of the puzzle. Look again at the problem as if you’re encountering it anew. You’ll be amazed at the new connections you can find, and the new conclusions you can draw!

Of all the nonfiction books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging and which was the easiest or most enjoyable to write?
The most challenging book? It’s a photo finish between Nadia Boulanger and Protecting Mama. I was so comparatively young when I wrote Nadia Boulanger! I felt I had a great deal of responsibility on my shoulders. I was writing about a cultural icon and needed to find a place of neutrality to tell a balanced story. To get the job done, I conducted over 300 interviews and traveled for several years.

Protecting Mama was equally challenging. The events I described were emotionally fraught for both my mother and me. I was so close to the subject, emotionally, that I worked very hard to take several steps back so I could see the patterns and not get stuck in the smaller events.

Have you ever wanted to write fiction?
I’ve written short fiction, and even won a few awards for it. One of my attorneys inspired me to start a sci fi novel some years ago. It’s tentatively titled Tensor Calculus. I’ve only written a few chapters and I’m still not sure whether I’m going to finish it.

What can fiction writers learn from nonfiction writers?
This would only apply to fiction writers in known genres, or “regular” literary fiction, and not to those who want to write experimental works: Make things real for your readers. They should be able to smell, feel, taste and/or hear what you’re showing them. If you met these characters at a party, would they be good companions? Do you love them or hate them? People are almost never monolithic. Assuming that this is true, do your bad characters have some good qualities and your good characters have some bad qualities?

What has writing taught you about yourself?
If I answered this question, the response would be so long that I’d be writing another book.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have five nonfiction books in various stages of completion right now. They have no titles yet. One relates to AI. Another is a book about how families might be able to avoid a run-in with the court system intent on taking over their beloved elders. Two manuscripts describe various events (in prior generations) that helped to lead my mother, eventually, toward a devastating commercial guardianship.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Léonie Rosenstiel

Léonie Rosenstiel’s nonfiction work has been featured in The New York Review of Books, Los Angeles Times, Albuquerque Journal, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and more. In her newest release, Protecting Mama: Surviving the Legal Guardianship Swamp (Calumet Editions, November 2021), she tells her personal battle against court-appointed guardianship. One reviewer says of the book: “Leonie follows leads like a detective, which is why the book was so difficult for me to put down. The end result is unspeakably heart-breaking, yet she rises above it.” You’ll find all of Léonie’s books on her Amazon author page.

What do you hope readers will take away from Protecting Mama?
I want people to understand how emotionally and physically challenging it is to try to protect someone who is unable to act independently. And how pathetically easy it is for some people to tell destructive lies when they believe that what they’ve done will never be discovered. Was it the power they were given in secret that corrupted them? Maybe.

Above all, I want people to realize that what happened to my mother and me is a very frequent event in the United States. We want to believe that these things can’t happen to us because we are organized and have all our legal papers in order. I’m here to say that anyone might—at an entirely random time of the universe’s choosing—be faced with a situation similar to mine.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
It hurt. Deeply. I had to go back and relive a desperate and painful period in my life. I resisted it for months before I managed to sit down to write.

When did you know you wanted to share your mother’s story? What prompted the push to begin the project?
Mama had written a number of books herself. She had threatened to tell the story for decades. When she realized that she would never be free to write it herself, from her point of view, she asked me to vow that I’d write it from mine.

Between then and when I began to write, a judge issued an order threatening that if I made any public statements, spoke to legislators, spoke to the press, or published anything mentioning my mother, he would feel justified in putting me in jail or fining me, or both. Finally, my attorney and the Albuquerque Journal intervened and induced him to lift the gag order. I started working several months after I was released from the gag order in 2017. (Before I started, I also had to arrange the 40,000 documents from the case in some sort of order and get the family archives out of storage.)

How did the book come together?
This book is part of a longer manuscript that my editor at Calumet divided into two parts—Protecting Mama and a prequel that doesn’t have a name yet. I’ve actually structured Protecting Mama like a series of novellas strung together. I’ve done quite a few flash-forwards because they really do illuminate things I couldn’t possibly have known about at the time and only discovered in retrospect. Some insane events really made a certain amount of sense when viewed through the lens of documents I had no ability to see at the time. There are hooks at the end of each section.

It took me several months to recover, emotionally, from the 14 years I had spent being tortured by various parts of the court system, before I tackled the writing. The manuscript went through several versions before the death of the attorney to whom the book is dedicated. He generously read all of them. Except the last part (about his death) that had to be read by someone else. There was an embryonic version based—it turned out—almost entirely on family myth in the material about earlier decades. I wrote that in 2018. It didn’t satisfy me, so I did more historical research. That led to Version 2. And so on.

I decided to go with a hybrid publisher because—after all this waiting—I wanted the book to come out sooner. I’d had other books published by conventional publishers (Macmillan, W.W. Norton and Fairleigh Dickinson University Press) and wanted to try a different route this time.

Do you have a favorite quote from Protecting Mama that you’d like to share?
“Finally, she left the law to write fiction full time.”

What was the expected, or unexpected, result of writing the book?
I started with no specific expectation for myself, except that I was using this book to fulfill a vow I’d made to my mother when everyone around me told me that she had, at most, two weeks left to live. (Fortunately, they were wrong; she survived almost four years longer.)

In tracing back frequently-told family stories, I often discovered huge fictions that had become magnified over time (sometimes a couple of centuries) that prevented honest communication in later generations. I had never expected this to happen! What I learned forced me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about my family and the people in it, as well as how I wanted to relate to those people.

After the book was published, people started recommending me as a consultant and coach to others suffering through the same process I’d endured. That was equally unexpected.

What was the most rewarding aspect of working on this project?
There are two answers. The first answer is that some reform of the system has already happened. The legal system in this area (in my opinion) needs quite a bit more, but change is difficult for us all. And it frequently brings with it the unintended consequences you asked about in the previous question.

The second answer: I’ve also heard from people who say that I’ve faithfully depicted their own difficult emotional journeys as well. That feels good. Some have completed this journey and find the book I’ve written gives them closure; others tell me that having me coach them gives them hope. Both of these statements make me feel equally good.

 If you ever felt you were revealing too much about you or your family while writing Protecting Mama, how did you move forward?
I tried to reveal only what was necessary to move the story forward. Sometimes I cried thinking about what I was planning to write. Sometimes I went back over it—to do some editing—and had the same thing happen. I must admit to engaging in prayer and meditation to help me through. They have always worked.

The secrets of my parents, and their parents and grandparents, sort of “belonged” to me. I’d inherited them. I don’t have siblings, and so I didn’t air anything brothers and sisters might have found sensitive. I avoided going too far into secrets from other branches of the family that didn’t directly impinge directly on the flowering of my little twig of the family tree.

When you tackle a nonfiction project, do you think of it as storytelling?
Absolutely. No one wants to hear, “And then they did this. And then they did that.” They want to see things happen. And hear things happen. And watch people reacting to their experiences. The fact that those things happened means nothing if you don’t establish an emotional context.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when I was ten. I’d been to Washington, DC and was asked to write about the experience when I got back. I don’t think I even have a copy of that essay anymore.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
I love so many different writers—for so many different reasons—that I could write a book to answer this question. With some it’s atmosphere or a sense of place—like Conrad and W.H. Hudson. Sometimes it’s a sense of the absurd. I’m thinking Kafka here. While the action of Protecting Mama was happening, I thought I was living in one of Kafka’s novels. With still other writers, I admire the way they reveal character. Rarely does any writer have everything. This gives me permission to do the best I can and hope others will also be forgiving of my shortcomings.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I’m very glad that I didn’t know how hard it was to be a writer. And how emotionally exposed a writer feels when telling the truth. Maybe I’d have been discouraged from trying if I’d known. I’m one of those people who “just does” things. I’m usually more than halfway through a project when some kind soul informs me that they want to save me the trouble of failing. They assure me that no one can even hope to start such a project. I’ve had this happen any number of times during my life.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The most supportive treatment I’ve received since 2007 (when my late husband, who was a literary agent, died) was from my late—and still much-lamented—attorney. He was phenomenally literate (he seemed to have read critically almost every major book written during the last 40 years, and many written earlier). He generously offered to read anything I wrote, over a period of years when the court didn’t allow me to write about my mother or myself or my family, and so I was just practicing my craft.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m now working on the still-untitled prequel to Protecting Mama. I’m in the final stages of finishing an online course and a summit on the various problems that attend our social policies surrounding people who are aging. Another project is still under wraps right now.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Legal documents (powers of attorney and trusts, to use two examples) are often torn up by a court. People with dementia are extremely easily “misinformed” by manipulative individuals who believe that they have something to gain. Vulnerable individuals can easily be influenced to act against their own best interests. The results can be devastating to all concerned.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2021 New Releases for SWW Authors #4

Linda Davis-Kyle, Mary A. Johnson PhD, Sharon Vander Meer, RJ The Story Guy (RJ Mirabal), Léonie Rosenstiel, and John L. Thompson represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with books published in a variety of genres in 2021. Their new releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for interviews/updates for most of these authors in 2022.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2021 releases is included at the end of this post.

Getting Ready to Write: Reviewing English Grammar (March 2021) by Linda Davis-Kyle. This colorfully illustrated e-book shares a useful, but fun, way to help pre-teens, teens, and beyond teens review grammar, mechanics, and writing basics. It shows beginning writers nine facets of writing they can control to strengthen their courage to write. It also fosters a “Never give up attitude” to help wordsmiths stay on track. Getting Ready to Write is a treasure of supplemental ideas for educators, writing coaches, and homeschoolers to add to their own lesson plans. The activities and exercises will also be handy for parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and mentors who are tasked to teach.

Visit Linda on and on Amazon.

Love and Asperger’s: Jim and Mary’s Excellent Adventure (Atmosphere Press, November 2021) by Mary A. Johnson PhD. What do you do when the man who courted you turns out to be different after marriage? When Jim began to behave strangely, Mary thought she had made a huge mistake. She had fallen in love and left all that was familiar in New Mexico, to marry and move to Oregon with this man she met online. One day, she had a surprising epiphany while doing laundry. How had she missed the obvious cause of his quirky behavior? In this memoir, readers experience the possible unraveling of the marriage ties. The future rests on Jim’s willingness to accept his diagnosis of Asperger’s. Come along on Jim and Mary’s adventures—some fun, some difficult, some comical, but all loving—as they eventually work together to engineer an excellent solution!

You’ll find Mary on her website at and on Amazon.

Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry (November 2021), A Collection of Works by Northeastern New Mexico Writers, is edited by SWW member Sharon Vander Meer (who is also a contributor). Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry showcases thirty-two writers and sixty-nine distinct works of poetry and prose, truly weaving a tapestry of life and creativity. There is no duplication, proving once again that the art of writing is as diverse as the people taking up a writing implement or sitting down at a computer, and turning on their imaginations. This first collection from Las Vegas Literary Salon lets us know there are many writers in our communities with stories to tell. We share their stories here with gratitude to those represented in these pages.

Tapestry is available on Amazon. For Sharon’s other releases, visit her Amazon author page.

Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog (November 2021) by RJ The Story Guy (aka RJ Mirabal). Trixie’s adventures continue as she learns to have more Dog Fun with her people and looks for new things to do. Then everything is put aside when the Brown Dog takes on an unexpected challenge. Sure, Trixie likes fun, sniffing, walking, running, and playing, but those have to take a back seat for a while. Trixie still can’t talk like you, but she can get across what she wants and how she feels when she grunts, whines, whistles, barks, growls, wags her tail and body while singing her Dog Opera. Fortunately, RJ The Story Guy has interpreted all this for your reading enjoyment. Big things to overcome, toys to chew and tug, new people to bring into her life, places to go, lots of exploring, and a new fantasy adventure await inside.

Visit RJ’s websites at and Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog is available on Amazon.

Protecting Mama: Surviving the Legal Guardianship Swamp (Calumet Editions, November 2021) by Léonie Rosenstiel. Léonie, whose mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, struggles with an implacable, court-appointed guardian against the backdrop of centuries-old family myths and miscommunication. Mama wants their story told, but the courts demand that secrecy enshroud all guardianship records—forever. After years of struggle and Kafkaesque frustration, and with the help of a brilliant, unconventional attorney, Léonie goes to war with the establishment in an attempt to help others find their way through the swamp of legal guardianship.

You’ll find all of Léonie’s books on her Amazon author page.

Monkey Wrench (Truck Stop Book 2, April 2021) by John L. Thompson. George Olsen’s life is one big lie. As a witness in a mob money embezzlement operation turned deadly, he lives within the WITSEC program and has had plenty of trouble adapting to life. Never look back. It’s one of the sacred rules within the WITSEC program. But when he hears an old flame has moved back to New Mexico, he takes a chance and returns to his old stomping grounds only to discover that decision could prove to be fatal. People are looking for the half-million in embezzled mob cash buried somewhere in Torrance County. The same money Olsen and his friend found years earlier, the same money people have died for, and the same money wanted by an army of killers who will stop at nothing to get it.

John L. Thompson also published a nonfiction book, It’s a Lonely World: An Indie Author’s Journey (Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them), in August 2021. Are you the new guy trying to learn this self-publishing gig? Have you tried to self-publish your book and wonder why it has failed to gather sales and reviews? You got a book script, but don’t know where to start? Do you feel like self-publishing will mark you as an amateur? You and thousands of other Indie-Authors are not alone. For decades, the stigma of the term “self-published” has meant bad book covers, bad interior formatting, and a bad story in general. Back in the old days, there were no viable services accessible to the self-publishing author. You were lucky if you knew a guy who knew another guy who was an editor. This is no longer the case.  Thousands of editors, artists, and promoters are out there in the land of the internet to help you. With Amazon publishing thousands of titles per week, there is no reason why you, the Indie-Author, should fail in launching your book with, at the least, moderate returns on your hard work.

Visit John’s Amazon author page for all his releases.

SWW Author Interviews: 2021 Releases

Jeffrey Candelaria
TORO: The Naked Bull
Marty Eberhardt
Death in a Desert Garden
Melody Groves
When Outlaws Wore Badges
Holly Harrison
Rites & Wrongs
Robert Kidera
BR Kingsolver
Soul Harvest
Marcia Meier
Face, A Memoir
Victoria Murata
The Acolyte
Barb Simmons
The War Within: A Wounded Warrior Romance
Gina Troisi
The Angle of Flickering Light

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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