Monthly Archives: March 2015

Book Giveaway: Win a Free Copy of Doll God!

TODAY!!! A free copy of Doll God awaits the first 3 people!

This is just a quick “stop by” during my break to announce that MaryGold’s four adventures have been posted on my Facebook page and on Twitter.

They were announced on March 13, 17, 20, and yesterday (25).

Write to me at writersitewordpress[at] and tell me what her 4 adventures are to win a free book!!

I will be back next week. I’m missing y’all and can’t wait to be back!!!!


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Filed under Book contest, Book Giveaway, Books, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection

Follow MaryGold and Not Me Next Week!

Just a little note to say I will be on hiatus through next week.

MaryGold’s adventures will continue. Adventure #3 posted on my Facebook page and on Twitter today.  The 4th adventure will post on social media at some point on Tuesday–or perhaps late Monday. Watch for it.

Instead of a quiz, just write me at writersite.wordpress[at] and tell me where MaryGold went on all four adventures. The first three people who email the correct answers will receive books.

If I’m behind responding to comments on previous posts, know that I have read your delightful comments and will respond when I return to Casa WordPress.

Hope your spring is off to a great start! And I also hope you win a copy of Doll God!

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Filed under Blogging, Book Giveaway, Books, Doll God, Dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection

The Influence of Fairy Tales

After reading Robin’s post about her granddaughters and the new Cinderella movie the other day, I was thinking about how I’ve always been influenced by fairy tales and folk tales. The Disney version of Sleeping Beauty was my earliest film-version fairy tale–and I loved both Flora and the music passionately. Not to mention how the colors changed! I mentioned Flora’s influence here.

When my daughter was little I had mixed feelings about the movies and illustrations of these old tales because I began to see the stories through my Korean daughter’s eyes. I’ve written both on this blog and on our adoption blog about these subjects in the past. The story of race in fairy tales was here where I wrote about my daughter’s notion of Cinderella as a blonde.

There are over 700 versions of Cinderella from around the world. The only countries that didn’t have true Cinderella stories were African countries, but there have been more contemporary Cinderella stories remedying that “deficit.” The oldest version of Cinderella is Chinese and developed when people still lived in caves. The size of the shoe was added in when foot binding entered the culture. Lots of icky little cultural “shoulds” like foot binding or fetishizing the size of women’s feet enter our stories without us realizing what we are teaching our children.

The tales, particularly the European ones, feature cannibalism, dismemberment, incest, and other immoral activities. Stepmothers are usually nasty creatures out to, at best, neglect their charges and, at worst, to murder them. Of course, there is a reason for mean stepmothers. There were a lot of stepmothers in the days when many women died in childbirth. And with limited incomes or primogeniture, women wanted to ensure the inheritance (and therefore survival) of their own children, not the older children of first wives. In my own family, over 150 years ago in the Netherlands, my great-great-grandfather and his brother were sent by their stepmother to live in the orphanage when their father died.

We can deny the horrors and sometimes the violence or we can delete it as Disney did, but the old tales spring from difficult lives. Does the grit and nastiness deter me from reading them? Hah. No. And, like most of us, there are certain tales that have stuck with me. Become part of who I am. I’ve written about the role of “The Princess and the Pea” in my life here and the role of Little Red Riding Hood here.

In Doll God I explored some of the tales that influenced me in my life. Not all, by any stretch, but some. Snow White, for instance. I had no idea she did influence me, but for some reason she showed up in two poems in my book! “Snow’s Locked Box” was just published in Grist Journal, which is mainly a print journal, so you would need to get a copy to read it at this time. The poem features Snow White in her coffin out in the woods. There is also a poem in the book about the Japanese tale of the stone cutter, relating it to the artist wishing to be both art and artist.

The older I get, the more I dislike violence and unhappy endings. I’d rather see Ariel end up with her prince than see the Little Mermaid as mere foam on the ocean, as Andersen first wrote her ending. I haven’t seen the new Cinderella movie or Frozen because I’m always behind in my movie viewing. But I loved Tangled and Puss in Boots, which reminds me of my cat Mac.

Nevertheless, the older tales, with all their horrors, have their grip on me. Once read, I can’t unread them. And there is no doubt that they have shown me a more complex world than Disney ever could.

What tales influenced you?




Filed under Children's Literature, Essay, Fiction, Poetry Collection, Writing

A Different Kind of Book Review: Doll God by Luanne Castle #MondayBlogs #bookreview #poetry

Marie Ann Bailey has written a beautiful story about Doll God–that also happens to be a review! The special nature of this story really touched my heart. Thank you so much, Marie!

Read and enjoy . . . .

Don’t forget that MaryGold’s 2nd adventure is posted today on my Facebook page and on Twitter

Facebook page and on Twitter! Remember to see where she went on her first and second adventures and jot down the information!


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

Journaling Grief: A Novel Review

Some (ahem) years ago, I applied to our local university’s MFA program. Imagine my surprise when I was accepted. The only downside was that my undergraduate majors were marketing and history, and I didn’t have the fundamentals of literature I needed to study writing. Actually, I had more “fundamentals” than appeared because as an undergrad I’d blown off too many classes to count, spending my time at the library reading the contemporary masters like Philip Roth, Chaim Potok, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. I probably could have gotten a degree in Jewish literature by taking a test ;). But I was sorely lacking in a lot of other areas. Shakespeare? Who?

A few years had passed since I’d graduated college, so when I went back as a grad student, I not only was going to study something I was passionate about, but my study habits had vastly improved. The department decided that to make up for not having an undergraduate major in English, I would need to take two undergrad courses in English, an American literature course and a poetry survey course. With a great deal of luck and a little “research” (OK, gossiping about which were the best professors with other students) I took the poetry course with a dynamic poetry expert, Dr. Russell Goldfarb, and the American literature course with Dr. Clare Goldfarb, who happened to be his wife. My friends and I came to call them Mr. Dr. G. and Mrs. Dr. G. Maybe not as a form of address, but when we talked about them. They were two of my best teachers.

The Goldfarbs retired not long after I moved to California and started my new California-then-Arizona life. Imagine my delight when I recently learned that Clare Goldfarb had written and published a book that is available on Amazon. The book is available only on Kindle, and you know me–I refuse to fire up a Kindle because I love paper books and because I don’t want to add yet another screen to the lot of my migrainatious eyesight. I’m resourceful, though, I will say. I asked the author if I could read a .pdf version of her novel. I’m so glad I did!

In She Blinked, the reader is caught up in the tide of Ruth Burrows’ life as she learns that her mother has had another stroke–possibly a fatal one this time. She must fly to New York City to see her mother in the hospital and to stay with her father, a difficult man and ex-physician. As Ruth re-enters the remnants of the world she grew up in and navigates hospital culture and the death watch on her mother, she first begins to examine the face of mortality. When she returns home to her husband and children and the life she has created in Michigan, she finds herself blindsided by grief. Her usual over-achieving approach to life is threatened by the emotions she wants to analyze but doesn’t know how to handle.

The story doesn’t end with an easy resolution or a one year work-through of mourning. Instead, Ruth must continue on with her life. Her grief threads through the following years and rears up again when events trigger it. She also comes to face her own mortality through the events she lives through. Grief, mortality, illness (physical and mental), and memory are all a part of Ruth’s life. An important way that Ruth learns to deal with grief and mortality is through journaling, writing entries to her therapist. I wouldn’t call Ruth’s journey one of acceptance of these aspects of life so much as her recognition that they are part of the fabric of life, that all these experiences are intertwined, universal to us all.

Ruth Burrows has written a book about Henry James, a writer characterized by his psychological insights and complex prose. In She Blinked, the psychological insights are as astute as in James, but Goldfarb’s elegant, sparse prose never calls attention to itself and, instead, the reader is welcomed into Ruth’s experience.

Head on over to Amazon: She Blinked is available for Kindle at only $.99!!!


Filed under Book Review, Books, Fiction, Publishing, Writing

MaryGold’s First Adventure

MaryGold’s adventures start today on my Facebook page and on Twitter! Remember to see where she went on her first adventure and jot down the information!

MaryGold with Isabella Rose

As I mentioned the other day, every Friday and every Tuesday I will post on my Facebook page and on Twitter a new adventure that MaryGold has taken (March 13, 17, 20, and 24). After four adventures, I will post a quiz on here on March 26 related to the adventures. The first three persons who email me the correct answer will each win a free signed copy of Doll God.  My email is  writersite.wordpress[at]

While you’re checking out Facebook and Twitter, feel free to “like” the page or “follow” writersitetweet, if you haven’t already.  Also, I will watch for your Twitter follow and follow you back.


I held another contest for people who have already read Doll God. It was to tell me where MaryGold is found inside the pages of the book. That contest has a winner: retired librarian and book reviewer Melanie who blogs at Tea Leaves. She even wrote a review of Doll God,.

I am sending her a copy of James Arthur’s poetry collection Charms Against Lightning

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Books, Doll God, Dolls, Photographs, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

TV and Me

I am behind in blog reading because my schedule has been overwhelming, but will catch up as soon as I can. I hope today is a good day for checking out my “reader.”

As you might have noticed from Renee’s review (thank you so much, Renee!), first posted on Monday, I was interviewed on AZTV7’s Morning Scramble Monday morning about Doll God. The interview itself turned out to be a painless experience–Sandy Moss and the crew were low key, warm, and put me right at ease. The interview was “live” across all of Arizona, and my husband watched me on the screen from another room.*

The night before we drove from Phoenix up to Cottonwood to spend the night. I had to be at the station at 8AM. Hubby has problems with altitudes, and Cottonwood is a lower elevation than Prescott, where AZTV7 is located. We stayed in a hotel room where the window had an exterior light shining into it–and a flimsy set of blinds covering it. With my sensitivity to light it was torture. Then it was also very warm in the room. The hotel turned out to have no staff working all night either. They get in at 9AM . . . .  I did not sleep the entire night. All I did was lie there thinking, “Light, heat, and lack of sleep are my migraine triggers. What if I am struck with a complicated migraine in the middle of the interview?” I actually came up with scenarios of how to handle the situation, should it arise. They all ended with me running for a bucket.

Hubby and I got up and ready in time, so that was a plus. The downside was that the bags under my eyes were packed and ready to pay $75 each for being overweight.

We drove through the mountains and past the snow banks. That was a treat. And hubby didn’t get sick this time from driving through the high altitude.

Two other women were being interviewed on the same show: the founder of Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation for Girls and the Director of Resource Development for the Prescott Area Habitat for Humanity. Just before my segment, Sandy Moss made a plea for Ringling Bros/Barnum and Bailey Circus to retire their elephants NOW, not in three (long) years. If you don’t know about this news, read about it here. When my son was a teen, he and I used to picket the circus on behalf of the elephants, so this help for them has already taken a long long time. Why should they have to wait another three years? Another three years of abuse!

I was relieved to be interviewed before the other women, as I didn’t have time to watch them and critique how much worse I would do than they were doing. But Sandy’s questions were not designed to make me look stupid (the responsibility for that rests with me), and she let me read a poem :). When we were done, she said she was surprised that my segment lasted nine minutes. She wasn’t as surprised as I was–it felt like about three minutes!

After that, hubby and I went out for omelettes and then headed to Prescott’s antique stores. There I discovered the “find” of my doll collecting! A Door of Hope bride doll!!!!! I never dreamed I would find such a thing. Door of Hope are highly collectible, very expensive dolls that were made by very poor ex-slave Chinese girls at Door of Hope mission in Shanghai from about 1900-1950.

Isn’t that beaded veil just gorgeous?! Look at the work that went into this costume.

And I got a good deal on the doll.  So the day turned out pretty good, although it all happened on zero sleep.

By the way, that was the first time I was on TV since I was ten years old. My class performed an original play, and I played the role of Nurse #2, which doesn’t sound so great, but was actually one of the main roles.

That’s me in the nurse’s cap at the far end of the table, seated. Dr. Manner’s something or other was the name of the play. That was Dr. Manners, the boy standing near the clock. Boys were the doctors. Girls were the nurses. But at least nurses got to wear those cool caps!

* The new TV segment will be edited by my daughter and then I will post. If I have the guts.


Filed under Arizona, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Dolls, Memoir, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Sightseeing & Travel

Book Review: Luanne Castle’s Doll God and Why I Loved it When I’m Afraid of Dolls

Thanks to Renee at Unpacked Writer for this fabulous Doll God review!!!


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

Follow MaryGold to a Free Book! #bookgiveaway

I thought it would be fun to let MaryGold off the shelf where she lives. She is going to participate in a little social media quiz fun.

MaryGold with Isabella Rose

If you don’t know who MaryGold is, she is the doll on the cover of my book. I held a vote here for her name.

Every Friday and every Tuesday I will post on my Facebook page and on Twitter a new adventure that MaryGold has taken (March 13, 17, 20, and 24). After four adventures, I will post a quiz on here on March 26 related to the adventures. The first three persons who email me the correct answer will each win a free signed copy of Doll God.  My email is  writersite.wordpress[at]

While you’re checking out Facebook and Twitter, feel free to “like” the page or “follow” writersitetweet, if you haven’t already.  Also, I will watch for your Twitter follow and follow you back.

First adventure begins Friday, March 13!


If you already have a copy of Doll God, I have a different quiz for you. This one is easy peasy. Be the first person to email me the quiz answer at writersite.wordpress[at] to win a copy of James Arthur’s poetry collection Charms Against Lightning

Here’s the quiz question: MaryGold shows up in a poem in Doll God. Don’t think it’s THAT easy haha! She doesn’t go by the name MaryGold in the poem. But she is the doll on the cover of the book and is found in a poem. What is the name of the poem and what page is it on?

 Please do not enter both contests. One or the other . . . .



Filed under Book Giveaway, Books, Doll God, Dolls, Photographs, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

A Poem to Be Sick By

If I’m feeling gloomy, trapped by the confines of daily life, I like to read Sylvia Plath poems. For some reason it makes me feel better to read them.  I have no idea why reading such angry and angst-filled poetry does so. Maybe it’s like listening to sad and beautiful music.

Her poems “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” are well-known for a reason. They temporarily crack open the bell jar we all live under. But there’s another poem from that same period, the fall of 1962, a few months before she died, that I love. It uses similar techniques to “break glass.”

The poem captures the feeling of being ill with a high fever: “Fever 103.”

Just count the amazing images used to describe feeling so heated from fever that the speaker is no longer purely human.  Below you will find both a video version and a text version.

One thing about poetic images. There are a lot of wonderful 20th century poems that use images of pop culture that are remembered by fewer and fewer people. It’s a sad fact that what makes the poetry immediate and vivid can also be what ages it. For readers who don’t know what Isadora’s scarves refers to in the poem, let me share this before you listen to the poem.

Isadora Duncan was an American modern dancer–very famous– who bought a new open (like a convertible) car. She was given to dressing dramatically, so she wore a long scarf that blew out of the car, trailing after her. Unfortunately, it caught on a wheel and killed Duncan.

Duncan death


Isadora Duncan death


Without further ado, listen to Plath’s marvelous voice reading this exquisite poem. Be sure to listen for the movement from Hell to Paradise.

Fever 103′


by Sylvia Plath


Pure?  What does it mean?

The tongues of hell

Are dull, dull as the triple


Tongues of dull, fat Cerberus

Who wheezes at the gate.  In capable

Of licking clean


The aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.

The tinder cries.

The indelible smell


Of a snuffed candle!

Love, love, the low smokes roll

From me like Isadora’s scarves, I’m in a fright


One scarf will catch and anchor in the wheel.

Such yellow sullen smokes

Make their own element.  They will not rise,


But trundle round the globe

Choking the aged and the meek,

The weak


Hothouse baby in its crib,

The ghastly orchid

Hanging its hanging garden in the air,


Devilish leopard!

Radiation turned it white

And killed it in an hour.


Greasing the bodies of adulterers

Like Hiroshima ash and eating in.

The sin.  The sin.


Darling, all night

I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.

The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss.


Three days.  Three nights.


Lemon water, chicken

Water, water makes me retch.


I am too pure for you or anyone.

Your body

Hurts me as the world hurts God.  I am a lantern–


My head a moon

Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin

Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.


Does not my heat astound you.  And my light.

All by myself I am a huge camellia

Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.


I think I am going up,

I think I may rise-

The beads of hot metal fly, and I, love, I


Am a pure acetylene


Attended by roses,


By kisses, by cherubim,

By whatever these pink things mean.

Not you, nor him


Not him, nor him

(My selves dissolving, old whore petticoats)–

To Paradise.


20 October 1962


Filed under Poetry, Poetry book, Writing