Category Archives: Books

When I Got Kicked Out of Girl Scouts

Last week Liz Gauffreau posted a story from her childhood with an image of herself in Girl Scout uniform. Wow, did that ever send me back in time! If you’re familiar with the Girl Scouts, you know that the first level is Brownies. My mother bought me a cute little brown uniform, lightly worn. I remember swinging in the swings at school, pumping my legs as hard as I could, looking down at my mocha brown skirt. My friend and I were singing, “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” 

Skip forward to fourth grade at a new school. I remember walking down the hall from the art room to the Girl Scouts meeting room. I was carrying money to give to our leader, Mrs. Norton. When I handed it over, she counted it and then accused me of stealing some pennies. I will admit that when I was a teenager I engaged in some shoplifting and paid the price. But as a nine-year-old? I wouldn’t even have thought of it. I was scared of authority, too.

What I learned from the experience is that even if you’re not guilty, once you are publicly accused you have been publicly shamed. Nothing was worse to me as a kid than shame. The look Mrs. Norton laid on me was pure hatred and disgust. She kicked me out of the troop, and I never went back. But I lived with that feeling of shame (and the stomach aches it helped cause) for years afterward.

Did anything positive come from the experience? I think it made me more sensitive to other children and then to other people in general. I never liked to see anyone bullied and would try to support people I saw bullied. This has continued throughout my life and has even included “mom groups” on social media where I defended the picked-upon. So I guess it was worth it, but it wasn’t the only problem I had at that new school. Luckily, I was only there for 1 1/2 years before we moved elsewhere.

About my new book, Rooted and Winged: it went into pre-orders last Monday. Why would you want to pre-order it instead of waiting until the release in September? In part, to be nice to me hah. The thing is, the number of pre-orders the book gets determines the royalty percentage that I will receive, as well as where the book will get marketed. So I can’t stress enough how much I would appreciate you pre-ordering instead of waiting (if you are able to, of course). AND, if you pre-order, you will be helping the wildlife in the Phoenix area as I am making a $5 donation for each pre-order! Info that I posted last week is copied below. If you want a donation slip, please let me know you pre-ordered and what your email address is.

PRE-ORDER HERE

Release date: September 9

Book description:

The poems of Rooted and Winged explore the emotional and physical movement of flight and falling. They are of the earth, the place of fertile origins, and of the dream world we observe and imagine when we look upward. Golems and ghosts that emerge from the ground, as well as the birds and angels that live above us, inhabit the collection. We will always be striving for flight, even as we feel most comfortable closest to the earth.

There are poems about Arizona, California, and the lakes of Michigan. My maternal grandparents are the characters that most inhabit this book.

Cover art: Leonard Cowgill

If you pre-order . . .

I would love it if you could pre-order the book, if you can swing it. For the pre-order period, I am donating $5 in the name of each person who pre-orders the book to Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Two months into the pandemic, we had a red-tailed hawk in our yard. She was unable to fly, and a volunteer from Liberty Wildlife came out to rescue her. I wrote a poem about the incident, which was published in The Orchards Poetry Journal and is in Rooted and Winged. The gardener and I have brought many smaller injured and orphaned birds to Liberty Wildlife over the years.  Some of the poems in the book are about the wildlife in our area.

If you place an order for the book, please let me know with your name and email address. That way I can keep track of the pre-orders to make sure my list matches that of the publisher. When the pre-order period is over, I will give the list of names and emails to Liberty. You will then receive an acknowledgement by email of your donation for the birds and bunnies.

As always, I am available for blog interviews and guest posts.

 

all my ghosts and angels become each

other and then me with a hinted outline of wings.

from “The Shape of Me”

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Cover Reveal of Rooted and Winged

Finishing Line Press has revealed the new cover of my full-length collection Rooted and Winged.

PRE-ORDER HERE

Release date: September 9

Book description:

The poems of Rooted and Winged explore the emotional and physical movement of flight and falling. They are of the earth, the place of fertile origins, and of the dream world we observe and imagine when we look upward. Golems and ghosts that emerge from the ground, as well as the birds and angels that live above us, inhabit the collection. We will always be striving for flight, even as we feel most comfortable closest to the earth.

There are poems about Arizona, California, and the lakes of Michigan. My maternal grandparents are the characters that most inhabit this book.

Cover art: Leonard Cowgill

If you pre-order . . .

I would love it if you could pre-order the book, if you can swing it. For the pre-order period, I am donating $5 in the name of each person who pre-orders the book to Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Two months into the pandemic, we had a red-tailed hawk in our yard. She was unable to fly, and a volunteer from Liberty Wildlife came out to rescue her. I wrote a poem about the incident, which was published in The Orchards Poetry Journal and is in Rooted and Winged. The gardener and I have brought many smaller injured and orphaned birds to Liberty Wildlife over the years.  Some of the poems in the book are about the wildlife in our area.

If you place an order for the book, please let me know with your name and email address. That way I can keep track of the pre-orders to make sure my list matches that of the publisher. When the pre-order period is over, I will give the list of names and emails to Liberty. You will then receive an acknowledgement by email of your donation for the birds and bunnies.

As always, I am available for blog interviews and guest posts and would particularly love to set things up for fall when the book is in our hands!

all my ghosts and angels become each

other and then me with a hinted outline of wings.

from “The Shape of Me”

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

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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Filed under #amreading, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book Review, Books, Fiction, History, Novel, Reading

Nonfiction Picks from Ellie Presner and Pamela Wight

I’ve been very busy caring for the kitties, especially Felix who requires a lot of meds and supplements and vet visits. But I did manage to write my reviews for the other two nonfiction picks. Click on the book covers to order from Amazon.

Ellie Presner’s memoir Surviving Hollywood North: Crew Confessions from an Insider was a fun fly-on-the-wall read, especially if you recognize some old film/TV that was filmed in Montreal. That is where Hollywood North existed: in Ellie’s hometown of Montreal. Ellie worked as a script coordinator for a decade during the heyday of Montreal’s film industry. Ellie had to be extremely organized, competent, and a grammar expert for this job. I had to laugh when she would assert her opinion over a word choice or idea with an arrogant screenwriter or bigwig. This high stress, fast-paced job seems to have been something Ellie could handle with aplomb, and the necessary adrenaline shines through in the voice of the book. Ellie’s jobs were all temporary because that is how it works in the field. Each job was created by the timeline of the film or of the season. Ellie tells the story of several different jobs, doling out behind the scenes gossip—mainly what she herself experienced or witnessed. Documents from Ellie’s work sprinkle the book, allowing the reader a first-hand look at the work. She also gives examples from her humorous work memos, designed to relieve stress for the staff. My favorite section of the book is her work for actor Patrick MacGoohan who was writing a screenplay for a movie based on his cult classic TV show, The Prisoner. I felt sad with Ellie at the end when she witnessed the last days of “Hollywood North.” You can find Ellie at her blog Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees

 

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Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary, by Pamela S. Wight (of roughwighting blog) is a little gem of inspirational very short (flash) stories that explore the divine in everyday life. They remind me a lil bit of the “domestic farce” literature of Jean Kerr, Shirley Jackson, and Erma Bombeck, but more mystical than practical. I suspect because of the piece entitled “How Was Your vacation, Erma?” that Bombeck is a muse for Pam. But Pam’s approach to the material of the day-to-day life of a mom, wife, and grandmother is to look for what lies beyond, rather than in rigorously mining the humorous. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of humor in the book, but I am left more with a sense of awe for the majesty of life. For instance, in “Oxen Mystic,” Pam suffers a nighttime seizure in the bathroom when she’s home alone. Alone, that is, except for her dog Henry. He takes charge of her medical care, licking her and then covering her with his warm body, until she can crawl into bed three hours later. After Henry passes away, Pam still can feel his presence, even hear his “voice” in her ear. The storyteller of Flashes of Life is insightful, gentle, and open to each experience. While the book can be easily read in a couple of sittings and the essays are short, the book occupies a large presence in the heart and mind of the reader long after the last page. You can find Pam at her blog roughwighting.net

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Join Me for #thesealeychallenge!!!

Are you ready for the challenge of your life? How about reading a poetry book a day for this entire month (August)? Before you get too overwhelmed, let me explain. Chapbooks count. If you read a Collected Works book, you can count it as as many books as are collected within. You can read the old guys, the classics of the 20th century, or contemporary poetry–or any combination. You can reread books that you really want to read again. Then, if you want to, share somewhere: image, title, whatever you want to share. On your blog, your social media, or keep a log for yourself.

This is the first year I am participating in #thesealeychallenge. Here is a little info about it and an interview of founder Nicole Sealey: The Rumpus on #thesealeychallenge

The way I chose my books was to grab a lot of poetry books from my shelf that I have not yet read! But I could do it through the library on my Kindle, if I chose.

Are you up to joining me? I’d love to follow your progress!!! And come follow mine:  Luanne’s #thesealeychallenge on Instagram at CATPOEMS and Twitter at WRITERSITETWEET.

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A Message from Perry

Perry wanted to send a message today.

Thinking of reading this book as the title attracts me. What do you think?

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Filed under Books, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Research and prep for writing

Poetry on Sale

I never think of these things ahead of time, but at least there is still time to try for Christmas delivery. I’m reducing my poetry collection Doll God to $7 including shipping (if it’s in the continental United States only) through January 2021. The list price is $14, and to get a new copy on Amazon right now it’s close to $25.

In addition I’ll sign the book and address it to whomever you like.

Doll God

Luanne’s prize-winning full-length poetry collection. List price $14. Sale price of $7 includes shipping to addresses in the continental United States only.

$7.00

KALAMAZOO

On another note, did you see that my hometown of Kalamazoo (Portage is Kalamazoo’s largest suburb) is supplying the Pfizer vaccine right now? Represent!!!

ART JOURNAL

So I am starting an online course in art journaling by Amy Maricle and moving very slowly. First I had to order all the supplies. All are finally here. Then I had to create an image of my inner critic. I started with a blank sheet of cardstock and this pre-sharpened smart little pencil. While I won’t share this intimate detail of my life, I will let you know that my inner critic has a bolt in its neck, showing that it is my own Frankenstein creation.

I also had to come up with an artist’s manifesto based on the critic’s voice I am trying to counter. Here’s mine:

  • DARE TO TRY NEW ART
  • EXPRESS YOURSELF
  • DEVELOP YOUR TALENT
  • CREATE IN ALL PATHS OF YOUR LIFE

My next step is to create an image of my artist’s muse. Hmm.

Make it a great week–and a safe week!

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Cinthia Ritchie’s Malnourished is a Tour de Force

Cinthia Ritchie, BRAG your book!  Start posting reviews or parts of reviews of your new memoir Malnourished on your blog cinthiaritchie.com because after I wrote mine I went on Amazon and saw some great reviews over there.

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Take a look at Cinthia’s book by clicking the image. It will take you to where you can purchase the book on Amazon AND where you can read reviews. This book is fabulous. It’s the kind of book that, if you’re a writer, makes you jealous because she gets it so right, word by word, white space by white space, chapter by chapter. Malnourished is a TOUR DE FORCE. No kidding.

I wrote a review that I will post on Amazon and Goodreads. It doesn’t do the book justice AT ALL. if you want to read a better review, read Carla McGill’s over on Amazon.

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Cinthia Ritchie’s memoir Malnourished is a strange and beautiful trek into the heart of a family. Ritchie has three sisters, and all four girls/women have been tragically affected by their upbringing in a home with a predatory stepfather, a mother who will not see the truth, and a deceased father.

While Ritchie’s sister’s death from anorexia is the catalyst for the book, the subject is Ritchie’s survival story. She shares how she and her sister Deena grew up together, how their relationship expanded and contracted over time, how she and Deena diverged in their responses to life, and where they were similar. While Ritchie claims never to have been an anorexic, she has a complicated relationship with food. Ritchie has exhibited starvation and other dangerous symptoms of emotional distress and control over her body. In this memoir, Ritchie manages to open up a space where we can think, discuss, soul-search human relationships with food as emotionally-charged metaphor and how that power plays out on our bodies.

Reading this story gave me insight into how personalities and desires are shaped by experience. For example, Ritchie is a serious runner who craves being outdoors. By reading Malnourished, I was able to feel what it would be like to need to run, to sleep outside under the stars. A small bedroom offers no place for a child to run from a menace that lurks inside the house, one which makes the walls complicit with the stepfather.

What I’ve written here might sound like Ritchie explains all this in the book. While she does reflect on her experiences, her gorgeous, lyrical writing does not “tell” the reader, so much as allow the reader into her world to figure things out for herself. Most importantly, Ritchie’s generosity in baring herself for scrutiny and understanding is such a gift to every reader.

Malnourished is not a comfortable read. It’s a work of art that nudges readers from our comfortable seats, from the comforting ways our minds purposefully arrange our interior landscapes. The beauty of the way Ritchie arranges her words will keep you going even through the darkest passages.

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Felix still has an upper respiratory infection. The vet says that it can last three weeks. Because he has to stay in the bedroom all this time (isolation), I have a lot of anxiety about him being lonely. Poor baby. Please send him healing vibes so he gets well soon and can be let out of the bedroom!

I started experimenting with writing weird poems about everyday subjects and objects, inspired by reading Matthew Lippman’s new poetry collection Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful. I’m not even done reading it yet!

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Go. Read. Hunting the Devil by Suanne Schafer

I could not put down Suanne Schafer’s new novel Hunting the Devil until I ran out of pages to read. You might recall that I wrote about her first novel, A Different Kind of Fire, and loved it. The new story is entirely different from the first one, but another literary success. Furthermore, Hunting the Devil seems a very important book.

Here is my review, which is also posted on Goodreads and Amazon.

Suanne Schafer demonstrates once again that she knows how to write novels that defy genre boundaries and engage on many levels. Hunting the Devil, her most recent publication, is a historical war story that takes place in Rwanda, but also holds elements of a medical thriller and an unconventional romance complete with love triangle. The cinematic experience of reading this important book is still with me weeks after reading the last page.

Dr. Jessica Hemings, an American medical doctor, is in Rwanda to establish a clinic to treat poor Rwandans when civil war breaks out. With her biracial American features, Hutu paramilitary identify her with the Tutsi population they are committing atrocities upon, so her life is in danger. After her twin babies are killed, Jessica escapes across the country while planning revenge upon the murderer of her children.

The short chapters with initial place names and dates make a complex book easy to follow. Schafer’s descriptions are apt and illuminating, but never drag down the pace of the story. An ex-physician, she knows how to write about medical issues in a way that is believable and comprehensible to the layperson.  The interpersonal relationships and inner landscapes of the main characters are well drawn. Unlike a lot of writers, Schafer even writes sex scenes well.

I knew so little of the Rwandan Civil War when I began this book. Since finishing it, I’ve done some more reading. Schafer has cast this devastating and enthralling story upon a well-researched setting. In doing so, she introduces her readers to an event in history that needs a prominent place in our understanding of world history. She does this through an action-packed can’t-put-it-down storytelling style. I have been recommending the book to family and friends. When anyone asks me how I could read about the atrocities, I explain that as a reader one becomes so caught up in Jessica’s experience that one is compelled to keep going. There is no going back. And for that I am so grateful. The book changed me forever.

Suanne Schafer

You can find the book at these links:

 

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fiction, History, Interview, Novel, Writing Talk

The Self WHAT?

If you are disturbed by vulgarities and crass language, feel free to skip this post, but please come back next week because I don’t make a habit of subjecting people to it.

I have a nonfiction short story out in a new anthology published by Devil’s Party Press. The theme of this collection is a bad word in the title of each story. Lest you think this is sophomoric hijinks, the writers are all over forty!

Click through the photo if you want to order a copy. My story is called “The Self-Mindf**k.” See, I can’t bring myself to spell it out in public!  As for the title of the anthology, you can read the book cover above.

Seriously, though, my story is childhood memoir, about the way the fear and anxiety of living in my parents’ home over a basement bomber shelter affected my thinking—hence, the self-mindf**k. Here is a little “teaser.”

In the summer I turned six, my father dismantled his cozy basement workshop and built a secret underground bomb shelter out of cement blocks. This intrusion into our home was my first encounter with the Cold War. Television regularly put us through tests of emergency broadcasting via CONELRAD, and at school, duck-and-cover drills were weekly rituals. The goblins in our nightmares were “Commies, Reds, and Pinkos.” The anxiety this threat gave me was palpable and made even more acute because I was supervised by nervous parents. I had to wear a cumbersome lifejacket just to play in the sand at the beach. Overprotective was an adjective created for my mother and father. I don’t know if I would have been a fearful child if I had grown up in a different environment. Maybe part of it was genetic. But a fraidy cat I was–too scared to attempt cartwheels or to ride atop someone’s handlebars. Living across the street from an intimidating dog was one more frightening aspect of life in those days.

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Thanks to Marie K. Bailey  I discovered I could post a deal on my first poetry collection Doll God on this blog. Ten bucks covers a signed copy and postage to a U.S. address I’m so sorry that I can’t offer the same deal to my friends in other countries. However, if you are interested in shipment elsewhere, please email me and let’s try to work something out.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Doll God, Family history, Memoir, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing