Book Reviews

The Write Spot: Memories

Marlene Cullen’s collection of short essays compiled in The Write Spot: Memories unfolds like a gently-made, multi-colored origami box. Each story is its only piece, its own regretful, loving, confusing, humorous, illuminating tale, yet held together by one theme that touches us all—our fathers and our memories of them when we were children, and our awakenings about them as we became adults. The Write Spot: Memories is for anyone who has had a father—whether present or absent, loving or distant, authoritarian or goofball. Authentic and relatable, each story is written with deep insight and love. —Julie Wilder-Sherman I love this book and the way it encourages, instructs and gives writers practical ideas to keep on writing. The stories are captivating and written from the heart. Each author ends with an honest description of their Inner Critic and how they tame it! I read this book twice because of the honest…

Prompts

Five minute writing exercises . . . Prompt #431

~ Write for 5 minutes about something difficult, challenging, or painful. It’s only five minutes. Go ahead. Do it now. We’ll wait. Humming in the background while writing gets done. Quiet while writing gets done. Are you still reading?  Write!  Just write. For five minutes. After five minutes . . . ~ Write for 5 minutes about something comforting, happy, or joyous. Yes, you. Now. Just write. Go ahead. We’ll wait. Waiting. Waiting. Patiently waiting. I’ll write, too. After five minutes . . . ~ Write for 5 minutes about images of nature, the natural world. Hmm . . . what will you choose from nature to write about? Feathers, rocks, trees, birds, rocks, dirt, peach blossoms, river, waterfall, penguins, geese. Write whatever comes up for you about nature. Shhh. . . Writers are working here. Doing what we do. Writing. Just writing. Keep on writing. For five minutes. Next…

Quotes

The personal essay is an act . . .

“The personal essay begins as an act of exploration. We write in order to figure out where we’re going and make sense of where we’ve been.” — Susan Bono Susan Bono is an extraordinary writer whose words go right to the heart. You can read her excellent writing in her collection of short essays in What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home. Susan is a writing teacher and freelance editor specializing in memoir. She facilitates writing workshops at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma. California.

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…

Prompts

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…