Tag Archives: Ellen Morris Prewitt

A Group Journey Out of Homelessness: A Book Review

I was born with the desire to know what it’s like to live more than one life. If you’re a reader, you understand what I mean. That’s why we read. For the time it takes to read a novel or memoir, we can get inside someone else and look through his or her eyes at the world around us. Better yet, we can hear that writer or character’s heartbeat.

When I choose a book I tend to choose a memoir or fiction that is closely tied to one protagonist. But I just finished a book that is a compilation of memoirs by a group of writers.

These writers are bound together by a writing class and a commonality: they have all experienced being homeless. Writing Our Way Home is subtitled “A group journey out of homelessness.” Edited by southern writer and blogger Ellen Morris Prewitt, whose touch is so light her name is not on the cover or title page, this book weaves together the stories of fifteen writers and organizes them thematically.

I began reading slowly because I wanted to isolate and listen to individual voices in the group and not confuse them with each other. I needn’t have worried. Very early on, I began to “hear” who was “speaking” within the first sentence or two of each brief entry. I listened to Leroy Scott’s straightforward prose, Cynthia Crawford’s engrossing storytelling, Tommy Payne’s brilliant and varied writing style, Latasha Jackson’s pattern of detailed imagery (sipping peach wine in the bath, the lost doll collection), and other unique voices. As Tommy himself says, “It is easy to tell a book written by James Michener from a book written by Ian Fleming. An Ernest Hemingway novel from a play written by Shakespeare.” And so it is with these writers.

Most importantly, I learned what these fifteen people had to say about their own lives and about the condition of being without a home.

The book developed from a writing class that Ellen teaches in Memphis. The class and the Door of Hope organization that runs the class seem to be based in Christian teachings, although I don’t find much about religion on their website other than that they offer contemplative prayer classes, as well as creative writing.

If you have ever—even once–looked at a homeless person and forgot that he or she has a whole history of living, relations, emotions, and past belongings, as well as current needs, hop over to Amazon and pick up a copy of this book! If you want to find out if you should give a handout to someone who asks, you will find eleven answers.

Now that I’ve read Writing our Way Home and had time to let it settle into my bones, I feel it’s permanently changed me. A big thanks to Roderick Baldwin, Donna Connie, Cynthia Crawford, Jacqueline Crowder, Veyshon Hall, Tamara Hendrix, William L. Hogan, Jr., Latasha Jackson, Anthony Johnston, Robbin K., Rhonda Lay, Jockluss Thomas Payne, Leroy Scott, WJS, and Master Major Joshua Williams for inviting me into your lives.

21 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Book Review, Books, Essay, Inspiration, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

Summer Reading

Marie from 1WriteWay and I are finishing up our Flash Essay course. We’ll be posting about it before too long. I’ve had a very full work and personal (not fun stuff) schedule this summer, so adding that course was a bit much, but it did get me writing again. That’s always a good thing, even if just for my mental outlook.

I’m enjoying having Nakana part of the household but because of travel and a non-recorded leukemia test on Nakana I’ve had to wait to introduce her to the other cats.  I’m sure they wonder who that is behind the closed door! Tiger is especially curious and waits in the hall for me when I’m with Nakana.

I’m reading two books right now. One is Writing Our Way Home, a collection of writings by people who have been homeless, edited by WordPress blogger and Southern writer Ellen Morris Prewitt. I’m going slow and savoring.

41EaKva8i8L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The other book I’m reading is one suggested for class: The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction:

FlashNonFiction_200Because I am way too overtired this summer, I am falling asleep the minute I sit or lie down, so reading books where I can read in digestible chunks is wonderful. These are both well worth putting on your list.

As I move into the August hubbub and end of summer doldrums (brief pause to hurriedly look up “doldrums”–yup, that fits–“a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression,” but I think I also meant dog days, which are the hottest days and a period of sluggishness), I might post less regularly. I try to usually post Mondays and Thursdays, although sometimes I add in an extra or switch a Thursday for Wednesday or Friday. But I don’t plan on sticking to any particular schedule in August. Then I’ll re-start my regular schedule in September. I’ll be checking on your blogs as I get online!

If you are still thinking of picking up a copy of Doll God, it’s also a book that can be read in small chunks–a poem a day, for instance.

castle-promotional-cover

About summer in Arizona, Doll God has this to say:

the heat hints at its future
when all will be blue blue blue.

Blue sky over everything. Only here in Phoenix is blue not a cool color, but a FLAME HOT color!

30 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Reading, Writing

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.

###

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!

 

 

29 Comments

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

Let’s Talk About Writing Process

Sherri Matthews who writes A View From My Summerhouse tagged me to write about my writing process.  She wrote about her own here. Sherri’s very welcoming blog shows her wonderful personality, her stories, and her photographs. I particularly love the way she crosses the pond by writing about her life in the UK and her experiences living in the US.Sherri

Sherri discovered her true calling to write three years while supporting her daughter through her diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.    Since then she has had articles, poems and a short story published in magazines and two anthologies. She is writing her first book, a memoir telling the story of her three years spent with her American G.I. and the catastrophic events that changed both their lives forever. A born and bred Brit, Sherri moved to California in the mid 1980’s where she raised her three children for seventeen years.  Returning to the UK after her marriage broke up in 2003, today and happily remarried, she lives, writes and takes endless photographs in the West Country of England with her hubby, daughter, two cats and an African Land Snail called Vladimir (her daughter’s). Sherri publishes regularly on her blog, ‘A View From My Summerhouse’.

You can read about Sherri’s memoir book project here.

Writers meme

When I agreed to be tagged by Sherri, I had forgotten that I already wrote about my writing process last spring. At first I thought, why bother to think about this again. But after reading what I wrote at that time, I realized that a lot has changed. For that reason, I thought I’d think about the process again. Also, I wrote a lot about blogging at that time, but today I’ll focus on my other writing

1. What am I working on at the moment?

Last spring I was putting together my full-length poetry manuscript and working on my book-length memoir.

Since then, my poetry collection Doll God is being published by Aldrich Press. I finally started thinking of poetry beyond the book and began to write a series of poems based on old family photographs and the results of my genealogical research. Maybe I’ll collect them into a chapbook, eventually.

However, I just heard from the publisher of Doll God. Kelsay Books plans to put the book out earlier than expected! Perhaps mid-January. I’m getting excited, but I’m also getting too nervous.

I started working on short memoir pieces to send out. A chapter of my memoir was published here. Several other pieces are in various stages of completion and two have been submitted to magazines. Since I’ll be working on my memoir during my Stanford University certificate tutorial this winter, I will have to set aside the shorter pieces.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I wasn’t given this question last time. It’s a very difficult one to answer because I haven’t looked at my own work with the analytic eye necessary for that. Instead, I write by instinct, using my own individual voice, experience, and outlook. I’ve been told often enough that I’m a little bit of a nut or that my view is “idiosyncratic,” so I’m pretty sure that means that my take is a little different. But I’ve also been told that my experience resonates with others, so maybe everybody is a little different, a little “nutty.”

My memoir is a story that is specific to me and to my family, but it has commonalities with the lives of many other people. It’s an emotional history of a family.

My poetry springs from the interaction of heart and head.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

I write poetry because I love to play work with language and see a poem take shape that is more complex and rich than what I envisioned when I began.

Why memoir? Because I am writing a burdensome history out of my body. Once it is shaped on the page, I no long have to carry the burden. The more well-crafted it is, the better job I’ve done at moving away from the raw material. Additionally, I am learning (in a therapeutic sense) how to recast my history in a light that feels healing.

4.  How does my writing process work?

The process I go through is the same as it was last spring:

For prose, I write in Word, one scene at a time. When I feel that I’ve taken a scene as far as I can at that moment, I put it away and move on to another scene. But I always print out drafts, revise by hand, and then make the corrections on the computer. I revise over and over and over again, often times for several little changes each time. It’s a big tree waster, but one I can’t seem to avoid at this point in my writing. However, I do turn the pages over and re-print on the other side.

Poems sometimes start out by hand, but in general, I don’t have an affinity for writing by hand and wonder how Jane Austin ever did it.

Process also includes what I do once I’ve taken a piece as far as I can. I do like to have a trusted reader read my work. My in-person writing group–Rudri at Being Rudri and Renee at Unpacked Writer–give me great feedback on where to improve and what to rethink. I have another long-time friend who is a fabulous writer and editor who is also a fabulous reader. These women help me bring my prose to completion. I wish I had friends who were this reliable as poetry readers, but I have not been as lucky in that genre.

I would like to introduce my three  four (rules are meant to be broken) nominees who will post their responses to these four writing process questions on their blogs. 

First up is American Ellen Morris Prewitt, an award-winning fiction writer. I love her stories. She’s recorded many of them in audio format, too, and listening to her read is quite the experience. She has a southern accent and a sort of deadpan delivery. What a delectable combination! Have a listen here.

Here’s a description of Ellen’s fascinating life right from her own distinctive southern voice:

My life has been shaped by two very early events: I was born into the racism of the civil rights South, and I carry the grief of my daddy being killed by a train. Much of my writing carefully picks at the nuances of racism, and many of my stories involve the child trying to understand the space left by a missing parent. The two jobs for which I’ve been well-paid are lawyering in Jackson, Mississippi and walking the runway in Memphis. I follow my own peculiar definition of God, which led me to start a writing group of men and women who have experienced homelessness. I love all the people in my life but mostly my husband, my dog (yes, she’s a person), and my two grandbabies. I’ve been known to appear in public in costume.Ellen

Ellen blogs at www.ellenmorrisprewitt.com under the tagline “Ellen Morris Prewitt: My Very Southern Voice.  In addition to Ellen’s skillful and engaging stories, I love reading Ellen’s posts for their heart and inspiration. Her work with the homeless is so important.

###

Next up is my Canadian buddy Sue Fletcher aka Menomama3. Sue writes two blogs.  I’ve been reading her first blog since I started blogging. She’s got a great voice and wonderful sense of humor–and I think eventually she will need to start sending out her memoir pieces. What she shares on her blog are wonderful stories and observations. This is what she says about herself:

Here’s a confession: When people read and comment on something I’ve written, I am thrilled to bits. But I also blog because it feels good to explore what’s in my head and work it out through writing. In a way it’s like taking your clothes to the dry-cleaners. Inside the closet they looked kinda dingy and lost among all the dresses and blouses and skirts and slacks. But when you show them the light of day and look at them one at a time and give them a good cleaning they look all new and fresh. Just like memories.

I call myself Menomama3 because when I started blogging four years ago I was deep in the throes of menopause, and my three daughters were like hormonal pressure cookers. Release was essential and writing was the form. Better than running away from home – me, not the girls.

Anyway, there are two Menomama3 blogs. “Wuthering Bites” is poetry, photos, and a few little stories. The other, “Life in a flash”, is an assortment of whatever comes into my head during dog-walking. Then I have to bolt home and write it down before I forget. Which I suppose is also what the blogs are about. Writing memories down before I forget.

menomama

###

Let’s go Down Under to meet novelist Dianne Gray.

Dianne is Australian author who lives in tropical Queensland, Australia. She has won numerous writing awards for her short stories and novels and is currently renovating an old club house she had moved to the family farm in 2012. She is currently working on three new novels which will be published in the coming months.

Dianne’s Freshly Pressed adorned blog can be found here. She blogs about her life on the family farm, as well as other aspects of daily living in rural Australia. Her resume is chockfull of book publications and writing awards.

Dianne

###

Quite recently, I found Adrienne Morris’ blog. And I love it. It’s intelligent and quirky and always has something new to say about the past.

Adrienne Morris is a writer, living in the country, who milks goats, chases chickens and sometimes keeps the dogs off the table while writing books about the Weldon and Crenshaw families of Gilded Age Englewood, New Jersey. Her first novel, The House on Tenafly Road was selected as an Editors’ Choice Book by The Historical Novel Society. http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-house-on-tenafly-road/

You can find her blog, Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Books & Writing at Middlemay Farm, here.

Adrienne MorrisEnjoy getting to know these bloggers if you don’t already read their wonderful blogs–and watch for their writing process posts!

 

43 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals