Guest Bloggers

When Tough Love becomes True Love

This past year has been difficult for me (Marlene), not just during the long month of November. I have been playing catch up all year, trying to whittle down my never-ending to-do list. Susan Bono’s guest blog post reminds me to stop, notice, and savor the moment. Susan writes: Even those of us who start the day with a list know what it’s like when unplanned-for events start coming our way. In spite of our intentions, we start tackling the unscheduled instead of working on what we had planned. Emergencies come up, of course; we can’t control everything. No one can plan for bad news or times we are suddenly needed. But the list of unanticipated tasks is endless, and after a while, we just start doing what comes to us, instead of what we had intended. You should have days when you follow your bliss. In fact, have them…

Places to submit

What do Contest Judges Look for?

Recently I was one of three judges for a writing contest. We didn’t agree during the first round of reading on the winners. It took re-reading and much discussion to select the three winners. So that got me to thinking. What do contest judges look for when choosing winning entries? My fellow judges and I came up with: Make sure to follow the guidelines. They aren’t arbitrary. The guidelines are specific for a reason. Make sure to follow the criteria of what genre the contest is. Don’t submit memoir if the contest is fiction. Even though the judges may not be able to tell for sure if something is fiction or memoir . . . if it feels like memoir, it probably is. And that won’t work in a fiction contest. The winning entries that stood out excelled in creative writing and well-crafted stories. The writing and stories were compelling,…

Guest Bloggers

Joys and discoveries when re-reading books.

Do you feel guilty when you re-read a book (on purpose, not because you forgot you previously read it)? Juan Vidal wrote a thoughtful essay about the joys and discoveries one makes when re-reading. “Returning to a book you’ve read multiple times can feel like drinks with an old friend. There’s a welcome familiarity — but also sometimes a slight suspicion that time has changed you both, and thus the relationship. But books don’t change, people do. And that’s what makes the act of rereading so rich and transformative. The beauty of rereading lies in the idea that our engagement with the work is based on our current mental, emotional, and even spiritual register. It’s true, the older I get, the more I feel time has wings. But with reading, it’s all about the present. It’s about the now and what one contributes to the now, because reading is a…

Book Reviews

The Marvelous Journals of Miss Virginia Pettingill by Gilbert Mansergh

The Marvelous Journals of Miss Virginia Pettingill, reviewed by Susan Bono: I expected to be charmed by the outgoing and adventurous Ginny Pettingill, a 7th grader who uses her journals to capture her own personal discoveries as well as portray life in Gloucester, MA, shortly after WWI. The fact that the narrator is fashioned after the author’s mother added extra piquancy to the read—did the real Virginia have the gift of sight? Was she really a witness to the dawn of the “talkies” and could she have organized one of the first beach cleanups? I loved how the delights of the past were brought to life, but I was also struck by the shadow side of this lull between wars. It was indeed a time of tremendous excitement and progress—automobiles and motion pictures, Prohibition and Women’s Rights. There were new inventions, like Kotex and electric Christmas lights. But the people…


Something missing . . . Prompt #223

  I had the good fortune recently to “sit on the other side of the table.” I attended a Jumpstart Writing Workshop facilitated by Susan Bono. Susan talked about how there is tension between what the reader knows and what the narrator/character doesn’t know. Photo of Susan at Jumpstart Writing Workshop in Copperfield’s Bookstore, downtown Petaluma. Photo by Breana Marie. Susan read Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Something Missing.” I put on my socks, I remember I put on my shoes. I remember I put on my tie That was painted In beautiful purples and blues. I remember I put on my coat, To look perfectly grand at the dance, Yet I feel there is something I may have forgot—- What is it? What is it?. . . Do you know what the narrator forgot? If you don’t know, read the poem again. It rhymes with “dance.”   . . . Pants! Susan…

Just Write

How To Write A Memoir — Part One

Your Life. You lived it. Surely you can write about it. Right? In How To Write A Memoir, Part 1, we’ll discuss methods and ideas about writing personal stories, with links to published memoirs. How To Write A Memoir, Part 2, we’ll cover organizing, revising and more. You can write in chronological order, or build your story around pivotal events. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter what structure you use. Write in a style that is comfortable for you. Try one way and if isn’t working for you, try something else. Memoirs written in chronological order (with back story woven in): To Have Not by Frances Lefkowitz  and Grief Denied by Pauline Laurent. Rachael Herron, A Life in Stitches, assembles her stories around her knitting experiences. For the first draft, it’s fine to jump around in time. Don’t worry too much about making sense in the early stage of writing….

Book Reviews

2014 Moments Remembered by Pat Tyler

Reviewed by Susan Bono: Fans of Pat Tyler, rejoice! I’m only about 30 pages into this book and I’ve already laughed and cried enough to know this collection of childhood memories is going to keep me reaching for the tissues. New to Pat Tyler’s writing? This is a wonderful introduction. Anyone interested in rural California life during the 1940s will love these stories! Susan Bono is a writing teacher and freelance editor who edited and published Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative in print and online at from 1995—2014. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines, and newspapers, as well as on stage and the radio. She’s promoted the craft of personal narrative at writer’s conferences, retreats, workshops and literary gatherings all over California. She is enjoying midlife with her husband and chickens in Petaluma, CA. Reviewed by Marlene Cullen: 2014 Moments Remembered by Pat Tyler is a…

Book Reviews

What Have We Here by Susan Bono

What Have We Here by Susan Bono Review by Pat Tyler: Last night I went to bed thinking I’d read a story or two from What Have We Here by Susan before I went to sleep. Next thing I knew it was about 1:00 a.m. In my world, that’s late! Today, you’ll find this impressive little anthology in my purse or in my car — knowing its plethora of delightful stories will engage and entertain me as I indulge in a cup of Starbucks or wait impatiently to be seen by my family doctor. These beautifully crafted essays will make you chuckle or bring a tear to your eye. More importantly they will remind you of home and family —either the one you had — or the one you always wished for. Pat Tyler is still alive and writing in Cotati.  Review by Carol Hoorn: What we have here is…