Monthly Archives: February 2015

Doll God by Luanne Castle

Menomama3 of Life in a Flash and Wuthering Bites might have been the first person to order Doll God from Amazon. We’re not sure, but suspect so. Now she writes a review of my poetry collection that is as well-written, personal, and completely engaging as her posts are !!!

Ms. Menomama3 also was one of the first bloggers I read when my daughter and I started our adoption blog several years ago. Ms. M and I are both mothers in transracial (and international) adoptive families–her children are from China and mine are from Korea.

Stick around for the rest of her blog, while you’re over there reading the review!

wuthering bites

Chalked on the blackboard of Mr. Black’s grade ten high school English classroom was this quote from Carl Sandberg: Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. It stayed there for the month or so that we covered poetry, reminding the tryers among us what we had to do to make people go “ahhh”.

Later, in third year-university, Professor Ron Wallace brought all us “excellent” English students to our knees as he taught us how to parse a poem. We weren’t allowed to talk about feelings. No, we had to explain HOW the poet conveyed what she wanted the reader to feel. I learned never to take a word for granted. I learned connotation and denotation. I learned sound and word placement. I learned rhythm and meter and stress. I learned I was a shitty poet and didn’t understand poetry very well after all. It was horribly humbling.

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Filed under Blogging, Book Review, Books, Doll God, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, WordPress

The Gift of Doll God – Ellen Morris Prewitt

I wish I could figure out a way to reblog Ellen Morris Prewitt’s beautifully written and heartfelt review of Doll God. But I could not figure it out.

The Press This function is supposed to pick up part of the post, but of course it only shares the link. But here it is: a story of Ellen, dolls, poetry, and Doll God.

CLICK THERE—->The Gift of Doll God – Ellen Morris Prewitt.

Thank you, Ellen!

Please check out Ellen’s fabulous writing, accessible by her website. Bonus: she’s hilarious–and you can see that even by the review quotes she posts: from an internet stranger and from her mother. That’s the kind of sneaky humor you get by reading and listening to Ellen’s stories.

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Dad is chomping at the bit at the short-term care nursing home. He doesn’t like that they won’t let him move around by himself. I told him he’s like me–doesn’t want to follow institutional rules. He said that is true. Of course, it’s more than that. He’s in an extremely frustrating position. But I like to cheer him up by joking with him.

The kitties were great last night and say hi to everyone!Nakana

Nakana is my new favorite! She loves petting!

 

 

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Filed under Blogging, Book Review, Books, Doll God, Dolls, Essay, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

Reading to the Kitties

I’m happy to report that the cats at the shelter are fun to hang out with! There weren’t a lot of cats the night we worked because the others, including all the kittens, had been adopted (yay!!!). We were able to play ball with the free roaming (in the cat room) cats. Henry and Bobbette were the big scorers. Four cats were in kennels. I didn’t know why at the time, but I have since gotten the low down. Two of them I could have let out while I was there. I feel bad that I didn’t, especially for the black cat who really seemed to want to interact more with me. The other two are too hard to get back in their kennels, and I wouldn’t have wanted to “go there” on our first visit. The reason two of them have to be kenneled when they are alone is because one of the other cats doesn’t leave them alone otherwise.

Then I read them three stories that were up on my WordPress reader at that time. I looked for story-stories that were appropriate for cats.  No 50 Shades of Grey allusions for these cats under my watch ;). I read “the bingo ladies of old / Tess Tales” by Kate Crimmins, “Hennie Kirstein’s Well” by Amos van der Merwe, and “Does Kindness Matter: My Grandmother’s Legacy of Love” by Kristin Shaw on the Kindness blog. I animated my voice and gently acted out the stories. This was the perfect order to read them in, too. All the cats were enthralled and finally, near the very end, they all curled up and went to sleep–tuckered out and happy.

 

The handsome guy above (even his belly has beautiful markings) is Henry. He’s the king of the room.

 The sweetheart above (she might have a bad eye or is cross-eyed, a bit) is Bobbette. A truly darling cat who loves to play.

The black and white medium-length coat above is Felix. He’s a little shy, but came right out when hubby and I played ball with Henry and Bobbette. He also loved the stories I read to him.

This is the cat room. There are a few kennels along the walls for cats who need to be in there for their own protection when humans are not there or when they are new and acclimating to the cat room. I feel bad that I didn’t let Nakana and Betty out of their kennels, but I wasn’t sure if I could at that time.

Nakana is an all-black beauty. She was so sweet and so desperately wanted me to like her. And I do!

And then Betty might be harder to put back in the kennel, but I suspect she’s like my Tiger, so I am willing to try.

Lest you think Betty is in a small kennel, this is a 3 level townhouse!

I can’t wait to go back. On Saturday, hubby drove the animals who didn’t get adopted home from PetSmart.

For those of you wondering how my dad is doing. He was back at the hospital, very weak, but they got him going again and now he has moved to a short-term rehab facility–very new and nice–and he sounds stronger and happy to be at this place. And guess what? The facility has a dog and a cat!!! 🙂

 Cat lives in the therapy room at my father’s short-term rehab nursing center

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Filed under Arizona, Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs

What Inspires My Poems

Is it annoying if I admit that I’m really enjoying reading the reviews of Doll God ? All but one have been highly positive (5 stars on Amazon and 5 stars with a 4 star on Goodreads, as well as written reviews).

Here are two blog tour reviews from the end of last week:

Harvee Lau at Book Dilettante is fascinated by the dolls in the book. I love her reading of the poem “Caught.”  She shares the poem in the review. Check it out :).

Randi at Bell Book and Candle Blog says Doll God is “an outstanding collection of poems.”

Today I have a guest post up at Peeking Between the Pages

 about my poetic inspiration. I’d be tickled if you go check it out.

MaryGold enjoying the Arizona weather

UPDATE:  A review of Doll God is up at Peeking Between the Pages.

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Filed under Arizona, Blogging, Book Review, Books, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing

Getting Hubby Out of the Home Office

Hubby and I were “orientated” to volunteer at our local no-kill animal shelter. We particularly want to help socialize cats. That is something we both know how to do. We have four elderly cats. They all love humans. One day I will have to write character sketches of these, um, characters who live in our house. Now that they are all old at the same time, they are a ton of work. So I truly can’t handle any more cats right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help some more!

The orientation was led by the director, a personable and caring lady who seems like such a great caretaker of the animals. After the talk, we went on a tour of the facility. It used to be a daycare, so there are various features: a cage around the front door so nobody can get out onto the busy street, rooms for sick animals who are recovering, a social room for cats, and kennels for dogs. Out back, the playground has been divided into large pens and runs. The dogs have some exercise equipment out back. It’s all very nice and clean. They plan to put up some shade for the dogs in the yard before summer.

The animals live at the shelter until they are adopted. Those who cannot be adopted have a home for life, but the shelter is not a sanctuary. Their goal is to adopt out as many animals as possible. They want to find the best homes for their animals, too. Cats must go to people who agree to keep them indoors entirely, and they cannot be declawed. Arizona is not a safe place outside for cats: coyotes, owls, hawks, and a myriad of other dangers.

What I learned is that Maricopa County (where Phoenix is located) has a high kill rate at the pound. And that by far the majority of dogs there are pit bulls/pittie mixes and chihuahua mixes. So very sad. By the way, there were two pit bull type dogs I met last night that were simply the sweetest dogs ever. If you’re in the Phoenix area, check them out.

Because of my bum foot I can’t handle large dogs or dogs in a group setting like this, but I did learn that they allow volunteers to take dogs for outings. The dog you take out for a walk or to the park or wherever wears a little “Adopt Me” vest so that strangers see that this dog needs a home.  I will give that a try with one of the small dogs and see how it goes.

This shelter has a good relationship with PetSmart which houses some of their animals for them. PetSmart, with the help of shelter volunteers, also showcases the animals every weekend at their stores. And PetSmart donates goods to the shelter, which the shelter then sells as a fundraiser. You can purchase low price collars, kennels, and the like there.

Mainly, hubby and I want to play with and cuddle the cats and kittens in the cat room. Last time I told you about meeting the Mayor. He was king of the cat room last night. His name is Henry, and he has a dignified, but outgoing personality. There were fluffy gray kittens and many other cats. One mama cat was isolated in a cage with her kittens so that they could feed in peace.

My photos stink because when I tried snapping pix, even surreptitiously, other new volunteers gave me the stink eye. So I will wait and take pix later of the kitties in the cat room!

IMG_1958

Above are the photos of some hopeful animals. Let’s face it, they all want to go home with YOU.

(Tagging this post “research and prep for writing” because there have got to be some stories behind the bars . . .).

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Filed under Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Essay, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Read All About It Here: The Work-in-Progress Blog Tour Stop

UPDATE:  just wanted to add in here that a new review is up for Doll God.  Reviewer Gautami says “A few poems also comment on the scientific reality of life, yet the metaphysical and spirituality is never far away.” I love that she noticed that as that is never far from my mind when I write a poem.

Thanks to Sherrey Meyer, who blogs here for  inviting me to participate in the Work-in-Progress blog tour. Sherrey is writing a memoir based on a dysfunctional and abusive mother-daughter relationship. The twist is that, when Sherrey was 57, she discovered that her Southern matriarch mother needed to escape abuse herself.

Sherrey has completed a first draft of the memoir and is eager to begin a rewrite. Sherrey is widely published in various anthologies. She credits her love of words (and her editing knowhow) to her publisher father.

Thank you so much, Sherrey, for thinking of me and my memoir. It helps me get focused back on this intense writing project. You’re an inspiration with your dedication to the craft!

Synopsis of my book:

Secrets create a painful wound at the heart of a family. Dangerous emotions, such as anger, fear, guilt, shame and curiosity, grow from this wound.

Memory must be excavated scrap by scrap, salvaged, and pieced together to create a new story of origins and identity. With the building of the story, the wound begins to heal, and the resulting emotions dissipate.

Thus it is with my family. My book is the story of an old family secret that infects the present and creates a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship–and the quest for answers that allows the father and daughter to learn and forgive.

Status of my book:

Although I wasn’t ready to finish my first draft, I had to pull something together for the final step to completing a certificate in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Stanford University. This step is a tutorial where I am working under the guidance of Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives. She has now read my manuscript and given me revision suggestions, which I am working with. Things have been so hectic with the publication of Doll God and my father’s illness (not to mention that traffic blockage I wrote about last week!) that I don’t get much time to write.

Here are brief excerpts from my first three chapters of Scrap:

Prologue

1966

Dad popped his gray-streaked head into my open doorway on his way to the kitchen. Not much bigger than I, he seemed to fill the space. “Get dressed for ballet class!” His voice was a brief bark.

Chapter One: Frank Talk

Thanksgiving 2009

The drive south from our home in Phoenix exposed the flat desolation of the region. The only sights were the occasional saguaro and the roadside ostrich farm where travelers can stop and feed the animals. Since ostriches have a reputation for being downright mean, we had never stopped there on trips to my parents’ winter condo in Green Valley, twenty-five miles past Tucson. I’d brought up the idea once. My husband of over three decades said, “Sure, I want to get snapped at by a big bird and then by your father. I don’t think so.”

Chapter Two: Nuclear Fallout

2008: the year before

“Doesn’t look like much,” Mom said, as we pulled into the parking lot of the Titan Missile Museum.

The main building was low to the ground. A few small buildings, which looked like garages or tool sheds, and large equipment were scattered throughout the fenced property.

If I hadn’t known where we were, I would have thought it looked like a work site with a few trucks and what seemed to be oil tanks, not a nuclear missile site.

The work-in-progress blog tour rules:

  1.  Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.
  2.  Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work-in-progress. Sherrey gave more than the first sentences, and I like that idea, too.
  3.  Nominate some other writers to do the same.

Tag. You’re it!

I was thrilled that these writers have agreed to take part in this work-in-progress blog tour. Please stop by their sites and get to know them and their work.

RENEE at Unpacked Writer  teaches college writing. She has published creative nonfiction and won awards for her writing and is writing a book about her adventures as a young special education teacher in a small and remote Alaskan village. Renee describes herself  this way:

My interests might find me behind a camera, an acetylene torch, spending a day with a legislator, at the farmers market, or with my nose in a guidebook mapping an adventure. Usually, I’m responding to thoughtful student writings and preparing ways to get students to think about writing.

Most days find this mid-life mother of teenagers, behind the wheel of the mommy-taxi, revising writings, volunteering in the community, figuring out how to prepare a healthy meal everyone can or will eat, or shooing our urban chickens from our kitchen door.

I am a mother, writer, traveler, wife, thyroid cancer survivor and writing instructor.

During the work week, MARIE is a public health data analyst.  After hours, she is a writer, compiling a nice tall stack of first drafts that she rather dreads having to sort through.

Marie started writing when she was about 9 years old, but she was never very confident (if at all) about her writing talent, and it was easy for her to “give up” periodically, in spite of the support she got from mentors and fellow writers. Once she got a “real” job (cue public health), it was hard to argue with anyone that she should or could expect to do better by writing. She’s made a lot of detours on her path to happiness, but finally she’s woken up to the fact that she’d rather be writing than anything else (ideally, in her pjs with a pot of hot tea for fuel).

Through her blog, www.1writeway.com, Marie has discovered a truly wonderful community in blogging, one that has been so supportive that  she no longer hesitates to say, “I am a writer.”

A born and bred Brit, SHERRI lived in California for 17 years before returning to the UK with her three children in 2003.  She began her writing career a few years ago while caring for her Aspie daughter.  Since then, she has been published in magazines, anthologies and company websites and launched her blog, A View From My Summerhouse. Today, she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats in the West Country of England where she keeps out of trouble writing her book (a memoir), walking, gardening and taking endless photographs.  Her muse, a garden robin, visits regularly.

You can reach Sherri at these online locations:

Blog link:  http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/about/

Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103859680232786469097/posts

Renee, Marie, and Sheri, thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this WIP blog tour. I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

How about you? Do you have a work in progress?

 

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing goals

Buttons, Hard Work, and Poetry

Dad is out of the nursing home! He told me that he listened to me (haha, this must be a first time!) and worked really hard to get out of there.  I had made him promise to try his best.

So he is home and that is a more comfortable place to be, although I know that he is still very uncomfortable. What a difficult recovery.

I found these buttons in a drawer yesterday. They belonged to my grandmother who was a great tailor/seamstress. My father’s mother. These buttons are at least 50 years old–some perhaps much older. I think my father gets a kick out of me saving stuff like this. When his mother passed away, he created a collage of scraps of her clothing that he hung on the wall. And he made Christmas decorations by pinning her costume jewelry onto styrofoam “Christmas trees.”

 

UPDATE: here is a link to a blog, Telling Family Tales, I’ve been reading for a long time. She has ideas to use those old buttons!!!

On another note, remember the “Feeling Confused” post by Cullen Bailey Burns?

I finally wrote a review of her gorgeous 2nd book. I loved Cullen’s first book Paper BoatIt came out in 2003, and I wrote a review for Amazon for it. Most of the poems were written after the unexpected and terribly tragic death of her only sister. The book was really an elegy for her sister–a beautiful tribute to a life lost too soon.

Now Cullen has a 2nd book out, Slip. And this book is a wonderful example of contemporary poetry. This the review I put on Amazon and Goodreads:

There is something holy in the language of the poems in Slip, Cullen Bailey Burns’ second book, as if it were a consecration of both representation and thought. Maybe it’s that so many poems call the reader to action: to imagine anew, to find nostalgia in surprising places, and to be as one with the “we.” Like any sacred ritual, the identities of leader and participant meld. I am swept up in the miracle of grief and transformation: “There’s no one to call for help. The deer / swam straight at that sun. / / Such transmutation: water, sky, gold.” If we move with life’s changes, we will occasionally stand for a moment in “the golden light that makes us beautiful.”

It’s really awe-inspiring and humbling how much wonderful poetry is being written and published year after year.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing

Another No Writing Day

On Monday, hubby and I drove to California for business. We took Freeway 10 from Phoenix to Cali, and just before we got to Indio (which is still the middle of nowhere in the desert, with absolutely zero side roads) we got stopped by a complete road blockage. An accident had occurred 6 hours before. We sat there for THREE HOURS (sorry for shouting; I can’t help myself) without moving.

See the lady standing by her car? She had a child with her. How trying for both mother and daughter.

This guy wore a Seahawks shirt and tossed a football in the median.  Like too many people he must have been going home from the Super Bowl.

There were lots of RVs and campers on the road back from the big Party. Some of the trucks and RVs were pulling cars. In the next photo, note that big fancy black RV way up there on the right.

We discovered that the accident had occurred in the early morning. A semi collided with a chicken truck. “There were no fatalities,” the news report said. You might think it sounds kind of funny until you think about all the chickens that might have been killed in the accident.  I hope that a lot of chickens escaped into the desert where they live out their natural lives, subsisting on bugs and tender plant shoots.

Here is a scene of the accident cleanup when they finally allowed us past. Can you please tell me why it takes 8 hours to clean up from an accident when people have no way to detour and are stuck in the desert with no water, food, bathrooms, or medicine?

Next day my back was out from sitting in the car for ten hours total. What a waste of a day. Needless to say, no writing occurred the day of the roadblock or the day after either! I wrote yesterday, but my back was still bad. And today, still not good. But there is Motrin and sake–a moderately effective combo.

 

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Filed under California, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing

Websites and Nursing Homes

The guy who created my daughter’s website made one for me (ask me for his contact information if you are interested in hiring him). I might make a few small changes to it, but see what you think: website link. I wanted it to focus right now on Doll God, but to provide samples of my writing, as well.

Then I wanted to add something fun related to dolls and art, in honor of Doll God. So I asked blogger mareymercy if I could put up her recent doll photographs. Here they are! If you want to find her photos from the home page of my website you click on DOLL GOD and then go to Dolls as Art. There is a reason her blog subtitle is “Photography and Frivolity”–so much fun!

On my links section, I have mareymercy’s photography links. If you know of other doll art that is appropriate, good-natured, and high quality, post me the link in the comments here so I can consider adding it to my list of links.

 PHOTO BY MAREYMERCY

My dad is in the nursing home now. He’s not happy to be there, and I completely understand. My experiences with nursing homes have not made me too keen on the places–even the best of the nursing homes are still “institutions” with all the potential problems of institutions.

When my grandmother was in a nursing home for rehab after surgery (years ago), a large lady named Frieda gave her baths, shoving and slapping her. Grandma had a panic attack and called me, telling me how she needed to get out of there. It’s the same for my dad. He had a nightmare that he was in jail.

Those of you so inclined please pray for him. And he will be thrilled with good vibes, virtual Reiki, and all manner of well wishes.

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Filed under Art and Music, Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Doll God, Dolls, Nonfiction, Photographs, poems about dolls