Category Archives: #amreading

3 Poems Up at Furious Gazelle and More Writing News

Hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a lovely one. My daughter’s in-laws had us over for an Italian Christmas feast, including gluten free versions for the gardener.  We had a wonderful time, needless to say.

I had some minor good news the other day. An excerpt of my unpublished memoir Scrap was a finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. Woot! That feels like a step in the right direction for this project that has been in in the works since 2008 hahaha.

Coincidentally, on Christmas Eve, the journal Furious Gazelle published three poems, and these poems all relate to material found in Scrap. A big thank you to the editors.

You can read them here:

3 POEMS AT FURIOUS GAZELLE

In this photo my father is on our left and his twin brother is on our right. They look like they belong in an Our Gang movie, and it’s true they were raised by the streets as much as by their mother or sister.

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My Review of Julia’s Violinist by Anneli Purchase and Note from the Author

While I rarely write about fiction, I do read a fair amount of the genre. Today I am sharing a review of a unique novel by blogger Anneli Purchase.

The engrossing story Julia’s Violinist, by Anneli Purchase, shows destruction by war through the eyes of one woman and her family. Julia is a Sudeten German, living with three million other ethnic Germans in what is now the Czech Republic. When Hitler’s Germany is defeated, suddenly Julia’s people are vulnerable. At the start of the story, Julia is a young widow with two daughters. Because she is a German woman amongst the Czechs, she is immediately thrust into danger. The Czech military wants to rid the country of the Germans, so they herd them into barracks where they are starved and many women raped. Julia manages to stay with her daughters, her parents, and one sister in the holding facility. She stays strong for the sake of the others, especially her daughters. Eventually Julia and her family move to Germany and from there to Canada.

Before I read this novel, I did not know about Sudetenland or Sudeten Germans, so I knew nothing of their plight when, first they were taken over by the Czechs after WWI, and then their country became Czechoslovakia after WWII. I had assumed that what is now the Czech Republic was always peopled by mainly Czechs. In a similar vein, until more recent years, although my maternal grandmother’s people emigrated from Prussia, I did not realize that Prussia was in what is now Poland or that all the ethnic Germans in Prussia were made to leave their homes after WWII. Their experience was similar to that of the Sudeten Germans.  I have discovered that my accountant was a Sudeten German toddler when his family was made to live in refugee camps, just as Julia lived in the barracks, with little food. He told me that he did not have enough to eat at that age and that it affected his health.

Julia’s Violinist threads a love story throughout the historical tale. Although the story is not chronological, it is told in clearly-identified sections, so it is very easy to understand. This structure places the reader immediately in the dangerous world of post WWII, but then goes back in time to before the war, a time when Julia was just maturing and falling in love with Michael, a violinist, who also loves her. But his father dies as they are to begin courting, and Michael has to take over the family bakery. He has no time for dating. Julia’s life goes off in another direction when she marries and has children. But Michael will come back into her life. Read the book to find out what happens with the star-crossed lovers and to follow the twists and turns in the lives of Julia and her children.

Characters are so well-drawn. Julia is a very likable woman. She’s heroic, but also very human. Some of her decisions can be second-guessed, but considering her circumstances, they are understandable. I particularly admire the development of the complex and less-than-heroic character of Karl. I found myself trying to analyze him as if he were someone I knew in real life. When I finished reading the story, I felt as if I had to leave behind a hometown or community.

Although this is a minor point, the editing of Julia’s Violinist is impeccable, making it a special pleasure to read. Since Anneli Purchase is a professional editor, this makes sense. I am often sidetracked when reading by typos that I can spot at thirty paces, but this book is a smooth read. My deep involvement with the characters and their stories wasn’t broken by distractions.

Whenever I read a book from the perspective of someone from an overlooked group, I learn so much–and this novel is no exception.  I feel privileged to have “met” Julia and her family.

GREAT NEWS. Anneli Purchase is offering a 99 cent sale on Julia’s Violinist and all her other books until the end of December.

***

I asked Anneli if she would please talk a bit about Julia’s Violinist. What she told me seems to explain why this book feels so important and so close to the heart of the writer.

When I was growing up, I often helped my mother in the kitchen. As we cooked and baked, my mother talked about “the old days” and I asked her many questions. She told me how the southeast part of Germany she lived in (Sudetenland) suddenly came under Czech rule with the stroke of a pen at the end of WWI. Three million Germans were to be ruled by a Czech government. When WWII came along, these people had hoped to shed the yoke of the oppressors, but as we all know, for better or worse, Germany lost the war.

As a child, I thought that this amazing story was one that happened only to my mother, that she and her family were the only ones who were driven out of their homes. But as I grew up and learned more about history, I realized that this was far more widespread than I had imagined. After the war, with the blessing of the Allies, the victors, especially the Czechs and Russians who had scores to settle, swarmed through Sudetenland, killing and raping thousands, and driving them out of their land.

Before, during, and after these atrocities were committed, the story of Julia takes shape. She is one person, but various versions of her story happened to hundreds of thousands at that time, and therefore, it needed to be told.

The story is fictional, but it is based on a lot of research, and while the personal story of Julia cannot be verified, I have tried to stay true to the historical facts as they happened then, hopefully without prejudice.

***

Anneli Purchase has lived and taught in various parts of British Columbia, including the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island where she works as an author and a freelance copy-editor. Her articles on coastal life have appeared in Canadian and UK magazines. She has published five novels (The Wind Weeps and its sequel Reckoning Tide, Orion’s Gift, Julia’s Violinist, and Marlie).

Anneli with Emma (as a puppy)

Links

To find out more about Anneli’s novels, you can visit her website:

www.anneli-purchase.com

Anneli’s books will be on sale for 99 cents until the end of December. You can purchase Julia’s Violinist at amazon.com

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can go to smashwords.com for all types of e-reader formats.

***

All the happiest or most peaceful or satisfying holidays to you!!!

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Two Poems Published by Saranac Review

In April 2019, I had two poems accepted by the Saranac Review.  Then crickets. All through that year and then the first year of the pandemic, also: nothing from them. I didn’t want to withdraw the poetry as I really wanted it published by SR, but I worried that they were struggling with problems, especially the “covid factor.”

Finally, as if by magic (hahahahaha), the issue has been published. And it’s gorgeous. I mean really gorgeous. It has very thick glossy pages, which makes it a wonderful coffee table journal. I don’t think you can see how great it is from the photos. You have to touch it. I am thankful that SR has published my poems in this beauty.

I’ve blurred out the last half of both my poems because I don’t think it’s thoughtful (to the journal) to post complete poems immediately upon publication in a print journal. But the poems will be in my new book (preorders in May 2022)!

Look at the details of this cover.

And here’s the back.

 

I got the idea for the poem “April Things” on an April drive to California from Arizona.

The second poem is about a subject that is threaded throughout my new poetry book, my maternal grandparents.

I have been having a difficult time in the last few weeks. Family and (annoying-type) health issues. Some holiday celebration changing. Worries about my daughter’s upcoming wedding (early February) with covid news. So I started doing a mixed media junk journal free “course” called #caredecember. It lasts 20 days and is about self-care as well as self-expression. In this stressful holiday season, I am focusing on staying in touch with nature and just “letting most of it go.” I’m wishing you all peace and love and kindness.

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My Essay Published by North Meridian Review

This news has been in process for some time, but I’m thrilled to share an essay I wrote about the loss of retail business, featuring my hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan. I am so thankful to editor Wesley R. Bishop and the journal North Meridian Review for publishing this essay. NMR is a super cool journal hosted by academics from several Indiana Universities and specializing in interdisciplinary scholarship, culture, and art.  In other words, NMR is a hybrid entity, straddling the creative and academic worlds.

“A Long Time from Burdick Street” is named thus because Burdick Street was an important artery for retail in days past–and still is the heart of the downtown. In fact, Kalamazoo was known for building the nation’s first outdoor pedestrian mall. Time changed, and eventually the downtown section of Burdick had to be reopened to traffic, but I grew up with the mall. Further south on Burdick Street my grandfather grew up–his family home and parents’ businesses were on Burdick–and he stayed there and raised his own family, running a Sunoco gas station at the corner of Burdick and Balch.

Disclosure: I used a fake name for the gardener because he’s such a private person. I keep changing his identity in my writing. Maybe he won’t be able to find himself that way. 😉

Here is a link to the issue–you can find my essay starting on page 104:

NORTH MERIDIAN REVIEW

My MIL painted the mall when the gardener and I were first going out. It had been commissioned by Irving Gilmore, of the department store family. She used to sit in her burnt orange Opel hatchback, painting. When she picked me up from work her car smelled like oil paints.

 

I’ve written in the past on this blog about the loss of retail: RIP Dreamland. At that time, I was focused on the loss of Marshall Field (“Field’s”) and shared a photo of the location of my family’s 19th century retail business in the Netherlands.

Hope you enjoy this new piece!

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My Kitty and His DNA

People who know Maine Coon cats often think Perry is part Maine Coon. It’s his face shape, the tiny tufts on the tips of his ears, his long fluffy tail, and his affectionate, intelligent, and very chatty personality. So when I was feeling really bad about losing Pear, Felix, and Izzie, I bought a DNA test for Perry as a present for myself.

DNA tests for dogs always made more sense to me than ones for cats. There is such a wide variety of dog breeds, and it can help to know what the needs are, depending on what combination of breeds make up your mutt.  DNA tests for people make a lot of sense for me because I love family history and genealogy, plus I’m such a Nancy Drew that I like investigating things. The gardener calls me “Sherlock.” That is in addition to all the other nicknames.

So maybe it’s that curious streak thoroughfare that runs through me that made me want to see the results for Perry.

Soon after the kit arrived, I gathered Perry’s spit, packaged it up, and sent it off. This is the activation notice I got on the website for Wisdom Panel, the company I used.

I was prepared to wait for a month or two because that’s how long it took for human and dog DNA I’ve sent in. But I got the results in  just a couple of weeks.

This is a Maine coon cat, by the way, so you can see what they look like. 

You could have knocked me over with a cat sneeze when I took a look at Perry’s breed mixture.

81% American Domestic cat. That’s not surprising. But wait. The next breed listed is NOT Maine Coon. He’s 11% Sphynx cat!!!!!!! 11% means that one of his great-grandparents was a Sphynx.

Sphynx cats are bald!!! They are extremely intelligent and are also one of the most dog-like cats in personality. So now we know where Perry gets his neediness :).

More information from Perry’s DNA suggests that he is white and one other color, has a long tail, and is long-haired.  The best part of the test is that he tested negative for the 49 health issues that Wisdom Panel tests for. He happens to be blood type A like his human mama and papa.

Now he can relax! Perry says HAPPY HANUKKAH on this first day of Hanukkah!

 

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Why I’m Not Writing, Probably

2021 is a weird writing period for me. I am awaiting presales of my new poetry book in May (release is scheduled for September 2022). I have sent out my memoir to see what happens to it. That will probably take a long time. Then I have 3 essays that are taking forever to be published–in fact, one of them, I don’t know if it will be published or not as I’ve lost contact with the journal’s editor. Maybe I should send the piece out again. I’ve been waiting on a few poem publications. And I stopped writing. That doesn’t usually happen to me.

I think it has to do with waiting on these books. I feel disoriented and unfocused.

Luckily, my creativity group is working on two books by Eric Maisel that I think will help. We are reading Unleashing the Artist and doing exercises in The Creative Workbook for Coaches and Creatives. For the first exercise, we listed all the creative projects that we have going on–either in process or imagined. Then we had to assign values as to how important they were. That was eye-opening. Give it a try!

I wrote a book review of a new poetry book this weekend and sent it off to a journal. And I have one more review I committed to for December. Then I have to say NO for awhile.  I do not know how anybody can tackle NaNoWriMo in November because of the holidays. That blows my mind to even think about it! If you are doing it, you are probably not reading this right now.

Make it a good week, everyone!

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Review of Grief Songs by Elizabeth Gauffreau

Congratulations to Elizabeth Gauffrau on the publication of her new book. I’ve reviewed it below, and Liz will be responding to comments today!

Her new poetry collection, Grief Songs, is a deeply personal and yet universally appealing memoir in poems and photographs. The focus is on the nuclear family that Gauffreau was born into: her mother, father, brother George, and herself. Most of the poems are tankas.

Click on the cover image to purchase at Amazon.

 

A tanka is a Japanese syllabic poetry form consisting of five lines, 5/7/5/7/7. Like Haiku, these poems use economy of language to create an image, often from nature, and usually express emotions of love or loss. Because of the way phrases and images are “set” one after another in tankas and the short length of the poem, tankas create an impressionistic art that requires an active, rather than passive, reader.

The title plays upon the meaning of tanka as “short song,” as well as the elegiac aspect of the project. After the epigraph, Gauffreau lists the names and dates of her three relatives in headstone fashion. In this way, the reader understands the others have all passed. The book’s structure is remarkable in that each tanka is mirrored by a family photograph. Photos really are a perfect pairing with tankas because they provide another dimension to an elliptical form.

In “Boy Scout Badge,” we see a photo on the left of George and Daddy standing together on a dirt road. The tanka to the right reads:

walk a dusty road
distance meritorious
no badge without proof
Daddy matched him step for step
hot August sun beating down

We meet here a father who is partially responsible for his son’s success. He has to walk that same long distance as his son in the heat so that George can prove he deserves his merit badge.

Later on, in “Yearbook,” a teen George with the long hair of the 70s leans against the Coke machine at school. On the next page, we

see George strike a pose
Coke machine, casual lean
no caption needed
George Gauffreau enjoys a Coke
classmate, friend, brother, deceased

The succinct nature of the tanka only gives away the poet’s grief at her brother’s early death with that one word “deceased” piggybacked onto “classmate, friend, brother.” Also notice the long O sound repeated in the first four lines. Then that fifth and devastating line differs markedly in sound.

“Family Reunion,” the penultimate poem of the collection, shows a family group photo paired with:

we did not expect
Indian summer so soon
early morning sun
haze lifts, mountain range appears
but only for a moment

In classic tanka style, this poem focuses on a season, a glimpse, one image, but in so doing tells us a lot about love and loss. The mountain range appears “but only for a moment,” just as our families are together for what seems later on to be merely a “moment” in time. We are lucky to have these reunions when we can because before too long, we will have family members to mourn.

Elizabeth Gauffreau’s heartfelt poetry can be enjoyed by poetry newbies and aficionados alike.

You can find Liz here:

WEBSITE: https://lizgauffreau.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.Facebook.com/ElizabethGauffreau
LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-gauffreau
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/egauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. Recent publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published in 2018. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.

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When You Were a Kid, Who Was Your Hero?

Seven and a half years ago I posted about a childhood hero of mine. He was my 4th grade teacher. You can find the link here: Everyday [Super] Hero. I want to take a break from writing this week, so I looked at my stats for the first time in a loooooooooooooong time to see which post had the least amount of views. Other than two “WP business” type posts, this one had the least. That made me a little sad because heroes deserve to be recognized. I’ll close comments over here, but if you leave a comment over there I will see it. Let’s make it a healing week.

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In a Fog

This has been such a difficult three months for me. On the one hand, I am blessed that I am not recently mourning any of my human relatives or close friends. But two of our long-time kitties and one of our kitty grandkits have passed away–one in July, one in August, one in September. Isabella Rose, or Izzie, was my daughter’s cat, only 11 years old, and I used to babysit her alllll the time. I loved babysitting her. She would walk in as though she owned the place. She had the other cats convinced of just that. We had Felix for fifteen years, and he was such a gentle, sweet soul. He endured chronic GI problems for years, but we set up a camera over his litter box and monitored his “schedule” for two years. I didn’t mind at all because I loved him so much.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that the latest loss is my closest friend, my heart, Pear Blossom. She was 21 1/2, but that only makes it harder because we were together for so long. So many of my people have known her over the years. And with her kind and helpful personality, she touched so many lives. Pear and Felix were from my first group of three cats. They were very good friends–the three mousketeers. Macavity passed away in 2015. If you would like to read the story of how Mac, our first cat, came to be a part of our family–and how the gardener changed from a self-avowed cat hater–you can read this story: My Own Cat Hero or a Loss Upon a Loss

Why do kitties always take a turn for the worse on the weekend when one is least likely to find one’s vet available? Izzie passed on a Sunday, and both Felix and Pear on Saturdays. And yesterday, on Saturday, Tiger got sick!!!!! I took her to the ER after calling them and making sure. But when we were getting checked in, the vet called in sick. They sent me to another ER across town. At that one, the vet was just going into surgery and the wait would be hours. I was concerned that Tiger could have a urinary blockage as she had been running in and out of the litter box, unable to pee. By this time my vet was open (only open mornings on Saturdays) and although they were completely booked up, she let me drop off Tiger so she could be examined between patients. Luckily, Tiger turned out to have a UTI, not a blockage.

Being there at the euthanasia of three cats in three months has made me feel like the Angel of Death. I’m a benign zombie, not fully in the moment. The couch is soooo lonely without Pear next to me, even if another cat comes to me. I can only sleep at night with the little blanket Pear used in the last few weeks of her life.

Of course, life keeps on happening, right in the face of grief. But I’m trying to go easy and not push myself right now.

I had posted the following pic on Instagram in September 2019, while I was babysitting Izzie. I felt like Snow White with the 7 little cats–so happy to have them all together in my home. But now it’s easy to see the devastation.

Don’t worry: Tiger and Kana still make me work hard with all their needs. And Perry needs lots of attention because he’s grieving more than the other cats. He is at loose ends much of the time, with a sad look on his face.

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Time to Rest and Renew

This past week we went to Cali for one night for work. That was exhausting, especially with the stressful traffic. I also worked more on the memoir. I feel as if I have two unpublished books just sitting here now because the poetry book doesn’t start preorders until May! and this one, who knows. But I also know that I have been working very hard on these books and all the cat issues. I feel drained. It’s time to get some rest and renewal.

Pioneertown published three of my poems, so I was grateful to get this sense of renewal over poems I wrote before this period of memoir work.

Here is the link if you would like to read them. I would love it if you do :).

THREE POEMS

Kitties are hanging in over here, as are we humans. I am eager for cooler fall weather. October is my favorite Phoenix month: please, October, don’t disappoint!

This week I plan to do just what I need to do for work and life, then hang with my kitties and mystery novels and crafting supplies. Oops, I do have to finish one last book review I promised for Main Street Rag. There’s always that one last thing, isn’t there?

Make it a good one! XO

***

In this photo of Perry there is a black mark I must have made by accident with the edit function on my phone. Please ignore. That is how lazy and tired I am. Putting up a flawed photo of my perfect lil guy. Doesn’t he look as smart as he is?!

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