Book Reviews

The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year

Reviews of The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year

Review by Sande Anfang:

The Write Spot founder and writing coach Marlene Cullen has been guiding writers through her Jumpstart workshops. I’ve been lucky to participate in some of them. Marlene’s motto is “Just Write,” as in don’t stop to evaluate what you’ve written during the drafting process—just keep the pen moving until the timer rings. In this collection, she has gathered a wide variety of poetry and short prose pieces from sixteen writers.

If there’s a common thread that binds this anthology, it’s a grappling with the surreal nature of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic. Being forced to upend our “normal” lives and adapt to changing threats, both medical and socio-political, has created an opportunity for deep investigation that finds catharsis, much-needed humor, and rich forays into family memories.

There are inviting dips into the pool of childhood experience, replete with first kisses, the Five and Dime, the veneer of the perfect family, and the truth behind that veneer, like a skinned knee that’s lost its bandage.

The saga of battling a feisty garden raccoon had me laughing out loud. By turns moving, poignant, funny, and wistful, the pieces in this collection are redolent with sensory detail, the smells of every day life and sounds that root us to places and memory, such as the music of crickets on summer nights.

Life’s passages are celebrated through generational connections between friends and family, love, death and birth. This collection balances the specifics of our individual lives with a sense of universality.

The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings from a Pandemic Year is a treasure and not to be missed.

Sandra Anfang is a poet, teacher, and artist who lives in the California wine country north of San Francisco. She’s worked as a librarian, archaeological field hand, picture framer, teacher, puppeteer, clown, silversmith, tutor, and at jobs whose titles she can’t remember. She teaches poetry writing to students from elementary through high school. Her poetry collections include Looking Glass Heart (Finishing Line Press, 2016), Road Worrier: Poems of the Inner and Outer Landscape (Finishing Line Press, 2018), and Xylem Highway (Main Street Rag, 2019). To write, for her, is to breathe.

Review by Janis Couvreux:

Upheaval in our lives around the world in 2020–who knew? Marlene Cullen’s seventh edition of The Write Spot anthologies seizes this tumultuous year to focus on writers’ experiences that reflect many of our own as we stumbled along in this new rhythm in our era of COVID. From a sudden new vocabulary having become our overnight norm, (Zoom, COVID), we find common ground in these newfound reflections.

So much togetherness leads one writer to glory in a “fifteen-minute shower alone [that] feels like a solo weekend getaway,” while another realizes an individual introspective moment “is not a monologue but actually a dialogue.”

What we thought was a vacuum can actually be “empty spaces that define what’s there.” Aside from what we learn about ourselves, memories provide some levity as one writer paints herself with amazing clarity, stating “what I won’t tell you,” while a vignette of a kleptomaniac cat’s penchant to abscond with puzzle pieces ironically solves the last piece of a missing puzzle.

But while one writer’s memory harkens back to pre- COVID times and a distasteful episode as she worked as a waitress, we remember that we still have much to overcome, COVID and more.

Janis Couvreux, award winning author of Sail Cowabunga! A Family’s 10 Years at Sea, is a journalist, sailor, mom, grandmom, traveler, and Franco-American, and has blogged at the Huffington Post and The Lady Alliance about living bilingually, crossing oceans, backpacking adventures, and raising kids outside the box.

Review by Frances Rivetti:

What I appreciate most about The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings from a Pandemic Year is its cornucopia of honest exploration into the human condition during, but not exclusive to the COVID-era. Nature as nurturer is interwoven in this lively collection that is filled with wisdom, prompts, and inspiration for those seeking the lift of a literary life.

I savored the seamless connection between these wonderful, honest writers in one sitting, a mug of tea in hand. Writers need other writers to remind us why we do what we do.

It is the subtle evolution of our everyday ideals that help us see the patterns emerging in the space between each writer’s words.

This book is a timely reminder of how busy we’ve all been while stuck at home, striving to uncover that elusive state of grace buried within the fog of a pandemic.

Frances Rivetti is an award-winning British/American journalist and author of Fog Valley Crush — Love at First Bite and Fog Valley Winter — Pioneer Heritage, Backroad Rambles and Vintage Recipes and a novel, Big Green Country. Her articles have been published in print and online in the UK, Australia and the United States. She lives in Sonoma County, Northern California.

The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic is available both as a print book and ereader at Amazon. Print also available at Book Passage (Corte Madera) and Gallery Books (Mendocino).

Writers Forum Summertime Writing: Readings from Musings. Then Marlene Cullen will lead a freewrite activity, using writing prompts from Musings.

Join us for this free event on the Zoom channel.

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