The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, March 2, 2015

When Poetry and Prose Intersect

       I am currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I'm a little more than a hundred pages into it. As its central characters, the novel has a blind girl living in France and an orphan boy living in Germany. The boy is being groomed by the Nazis because of his genius when it comes to radios and anything else his mind grasps. Somehow the two are going to connect... I'm not sure how.

       It's slow reading because I'm savoring the lines. Doerr writes prose like a poet. The images, the lines--they're so well crafted, and if the reader rushes, some gems will be overlooked.

       Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is like that as well. I could just imagine Bradbury--like a diamond cutter--turning each phrase this way and that way, chipping away bits until the brilliance of his words was allowed to shine. Don't we all want that as writers and what we all hope for as readers? Don't we all love when the words just drip off the page and flash their brilliance?

      What is a fine line or phrase you've encountered (or crafted) recently? A writerly mind wants to know...  

Monday, February 23, 2015

By Walking

       A couple of years ago I finished NaNoWriMo successfully. I had written 50,000+ words. I felt marvelous. I felt victorious. I felt like I was finished with a major first step.

       However, when I honestly examined it--after the euphoria had worn off-- and after five beta readers had gotten it and suffered through it I realized that it was a steaming pile of poop.

       I started from scratch... from zero... from the very beginning--again.     

      Over the weekend, I saw an author on a book talk show. They quoted Maya Angelou as saying, "We find our way by walking." And it hit me.

       I am walking my way--slowly--as I find my way through this WIP. I've gotten 46,000-something words down (or is it 47 now?) and every couple of hundred words that get put down on paper is a few more steps along the way.

       And also, like all people, I have a path of family "issues" that I'm picking my way along. The trail is rocky, sometimes hilly, and occasionally the road has been washed away and I have to navigate without any markings...

       ... but I'm still walking.

       How else do we find our way--besides walking?

 * And I'm thrilled. Two of my friends--one teaching colleague and one writing friend (Lynn Obermoeller) have made it to the audition phase for St. Louis' Listen to Your Mother show. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed. (Both of their stories are great. One is funny and one is poignant.)



Thursday, February 19, 2015


        There are certain things I keep that have great sentimental value. I have a bracelet that was made from my grandparents' and great-grandparents' cufflinks and old watches and cameos. It's irreplaceable.

       I have the first rejection letter I received from a publisher. It wasn't a form letter, it was long and it was personal. It's framed, to remind me of when I started on this writerly journey.

This is my Valentine from my granddaughter.
It's definitely a keeper.

      I have a copy of the only book my husband and I both fell in love with--George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream.  (He's proud to let everyone know he's read two other books. One is crappy--according to me--and the other title he doesn't remember.)  Special books hold a special place in my heart.
      What are some things you've kept? Sentimental minds wants to know...


Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Cluuub! Book Cluuuub! Get Your Red-Hot Book Club Here!

       Okay, to be completely honest, the only reason why any of my friends last night could be called "red hot" is due to menopausal hot flashes. All of us are in our fifties and sixties. Some of us are generously padded. Our hair is naturally gray or silver.But the discussion did get spirited...

       We were there to finally discuss Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr. This is an epic novel that I've recommended to perfect strangers in airports--it's that good of a book. I've given away two copies of my own and had to hit the Amazon and the Half Price Books gods for replacements. Rarely is there an epic novel. This is one, and it covers a period of history (right after the end of the Civil War) and from a perspective (an escaped slave) that is rarely told... and rarely told with such wonderful craftsmanship.

       Delicious food (I brought BLT soup) was part of the evening, along with great conversation and marvelous company. We are now tossing ideas back and forth as we decide what our next book will be.

       These are my suggestions for the group:

I've read this. In my opinion, it's Hosseini's best, especially if you're
looking for a woman's story.

This is another one I've already read. It's typical of Picoult. Lots of
research was involved in the writing, and there are some twists and
turns. It's a novel about the holocaust which will leave the reader in a quandary...

This is one I have not read yet. I bought a copy, intending to read it
(gently and carefully, abstaining from eating chocolate ice cream or taking a bath
or eating chocolate ice cream in the bathtub while reading it) so I could give it
as a gift to a writing friend, but ended up sending it without reading it. Shay--a rabid fan
of Emily Dickinson--loved it, so it comes with a high recommendation...

This was recommended by Shay as well. It begins with a couple of great lines.
"In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are."
I've read several of Hannah's books--because of Shay--and enjoyed them. This one
is about two sisters in France during the war.

I saw this on Amazon. It looks good. Has anyone out there (who is reading this post) read it?

One of the women (a newbie in our group) suggested a Nora Roberts book. Who is this Nora Roberts? Egads! Doesn't she know Sioux don't do no romance-type novels? I did mention to her that I have a writing friend who has a romance book (the first in a set of triplets) that I'm going to read in May... but only because it's by Lisa Ricard Claro. Nora Roberts? No way.

Are there any other recommendations for our book club?

And if you're in the mood for some BLT soup, here are the ingredients, since I don't really follow a recipe. My husband makes it--he's added some of the secret ingredients--and he follows a recipe that he's created. Me? Not so much... Take the ingredients and adjust according to your tastes.

  • fire-roasted tomatoes (made by Hunts, but you can also find them at Aldi's now)--at least 5 or 6 cans
  •        chicken stock/chicken bouillon (we like "Better Than Bouillon" brand)
  •     bacon--fry it til it's crisp and done, and then cut or tear or crumble it       into small pieces
  •     romaine hearts lettuce
  •     liquid smoke
  •     grated parmesan cheese (this is a secret ingredient)
  •   (sssh. Don't tell anyone about this secret ingredient) seasoning (I love a blend called          "seasoning for greens." I imagine you can get it at most spice shops.  I use it on just about everything, from scrambled eggs to mashed      potatoes to chicken and soups.)
The cheese is put in towards the end--to thicken it. Amazingly, parts of the lettuce stays crunchy even though it simmers in the soup.

It is not an attractive-to-look-at soup, but it is tasty. In fact, one of the women last night took her portion, blended it in the blender, and the end result: a scrumptious cream soup. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Be Bold!

This quarter my students are working on opinion writing. They have to take a stand. They have to be bold and brazen and--on paper--cocky. At least that is my hope as they craft their pieces.

The cast of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother St. Louis show, and the best
kind of photo---one without me in it.

The writers (see the picture above) who shared their story had to be brave. Sharing each story--even the humorous ones--was risky. There were tales of becoming a single mother through invitro fertilization...of adopting children from another continent...of almost losing their baby...of surrendering their baby. With each story told, they shared a part of themselves, a part of their lives.

Of course, writers are not unaccustomed to writing, but the Listen to Your Mother shows involved performing before an audience... using a microphone... in non-Croc shoes.
Okay, I could have done it in my ol' trusty Crocs, but I think the other oh-so-chic women would have given me grief.

Here are my Crocs (the tear in one keeps getting bigger, but they're still serviceable)
and the shoes I did end up wearing to do the show.

           People everywhere are doing bold things. Coming out with new books--Shay just had one and Lisa is about to debut her first of a set of "triplets." Writing outside of their box--Lynn--who is working on a gorgeous picture book, even though she doesn't think of herself as an artist (she most definitely is). Pearl is bold every time she steps outside during the winter months (which in Minnesota, I guess, stretches from September to May). There are friends and acquaintances all over the place doing things and stepping out and taking risks... and every day they continue to do it.

         My original post title was going to be 400 vs. 1400. I'm trying to adopt the mindset that 400 words (or even 200 words) a day is better than nothing. If I don't have a large span of time to write, can't I write in small snatches here and there? Should I only write if I think I can get a couple of thousand down? Otherwise, it's not worth the effort? Short pieces (800-1200 words) come out in a couple of sessions, but slogging through a longer piece (like a novel) is not so easy-peasy.

        I would be grateful for any words of advice... any kind words about my Crocs (they look worse than they looked in that photo, if you can believe that)... any words of encouragement that St. Louis will have three more snow days (icy roads = school closings)... or anything else you want to lob my way.

Monday, February 9, 2015


       This weekend I finished Jodi Picoult's Leaving Time. In fact, I got up an extra half hour early to finish it... on a Saturday morning... when I had a 7 A.M. workshop to present at... it was that good.

       Around 30 or 40 pages from the end, I was a bit confused. Not terribly, but just experiencing a slight sense of disequilibrium. What is going on? I wondered.

        However, I soon understood--I was going around a major twisty-turn that Picoult had crafted like the talented pro that she is.

         Read Leaving Time. You won't be able to predict the ending until you get there (I almost guarantee it).

        And if you want to find out more about the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, go here.

          What surprise have you been "gifted" with lately? (It could be a pleasant surprise--like, "Wow, Radar wasn't digging this time," or it could be not so pleasant, like "I'm amazed my arm can be pulled out of its socket several times a day when I walk the 73-pound puppy and I haven't experienced permanent damage yet.")