Artifacts of Life: Joni Rodgers’ WWI officer’s compass

The Chicago Tribune calls Dawn Raffel’s The Secret Life of Objects "a personal catalog of mementos, talismans and heirlooms, all made meaningful by the passing of time." This month, inspired by Raffel's stunning memoir, we’re inviting writers and readers to share thoughts and memories about artifacts large and small that connect them to important people, places and moments.

From bestselling author/ ghostwriter Joni Rodgers:
My husband Gary has been a longsuffering observer (and listener) during my twenty-year career in publishing. Things got especially intense for a while last year, as I struggled to navigate treacherous territory between art and commerce, agonized over a possible agent change and made difficult decisions about where I’m headed as an artist and a businesswoman.

At times I was reminded of those ancient maps that didn’t even try to address what unimagined ice bergs and islands lay between the safe harbor where a mariner began and the sunny shore where he hoped to end up; the cartographer simply labeled that area “Here There Be Sea Monsters.”

When I celebrated my 50th birthday, Gary gave me this WWI officer's compass. It's small but solid. There's not a moment of fancy about it, but it is beautiful, warmly worn, as elegantly practical as a pants pocket.

“It's not so you can find your way," Gary told me. "It's so you know your way."

A compass can’t tell you where to go; it can only remind you if you’ve strayed from your chosen path.

Quitting the proverbial day job is a goal for most artists, but after we do, the drive to make a living can easily eclipse the need to make a life. Wooing agents, appeasing editors, the Sisyphean task of getting books past the gatekeepers and into the media spotlight demands so much time and energy, it's easy to lose sight of our real destination: a reader’s hand.

Back in January, I was just beginning to understand that the boundaries between corporate and indie publishing are an illusion, but I spent a number of mornings meditating with that compass in my hand, and I knew exactly where I was going.


Joni Rodgers is the founder of Stella Link Books and the League of Extraordinary Authors. Her latest novel, The Hurricane Lover, was inspired by her experiences as a volunteer with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Visit Joni online at

Win a copy of Dawn Raffel’s The Secret Life of Objects! Share your story. We'll publish the best ten entries here on our blog, and Jaded Ibis will send you the book. Click here for details.