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A Wonderful Meeting

My vacation started off with a very brief visit to the Big Apple to see my daughter perform in a new musical at a big musical theatre festival in the city. After a series of travel misfortunes, it didn’t look like the gardener and I were going to make it in time for the show, but a kind Southwest Airlines employee found us the last seats on an American flight. Our luggage went Southwest, and we went American. That was not the last of our travel woes, but we did make it to see daughter perform in a very unique and gorgeous show. Yes, she was amazing; thank you for asking ;).

At the performance, I met two very special audience members–two writers I greatly admire. Almost 2 1/2 years ago, I read Carolyn Quinn’s biography of Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother, Mama Rose’s Turn. 

Mama Rose's Turn

My review of her book can be found here: Memoir’s Cousin. Fascinating story of a fascinating woman. Carolyn blogs about an array of fun topics at Splendiferous Everything

Carolyn has written a new book for middle-grade students about the friendship between two girls – one American, one Japanese – during World War II. I can’t wait to read it. With my interest in children’s literature, my Newbery book collection (mostly books for middle-grade to middle school students), and my interest in WWII memoirs, it ought to be something I will really love.

About a month before my review of Carolyn’s book, I had written a review of a book that has been very special to me for many years. I posted my review in Teaching the Holocaust to Children and Teens. The book is The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss. Johanna, a Dutch Jewish child, lived for 2 1/2 years in the home of a non-Jewish Dutch family, hiding in a room upstairs. Johanna’s book was a Newbery Honor book, so it rests on my collection shelf.

Johanna wrote a sequel called The Journey Back, which I have also read. It really works best as a true sequel: read The Upstairs Room first.

It turned out that Carolyn and Johanna are besties, and when she found out I was coming to NYC, Carolyn arranged for the two of them to see my daughter’s show and for us to meet in person. They turned out to be so much as I had imagined them to be by their books. Carolyn is a warm and gracious woman, and Johanna is exactly the sensitive, sweet soul I had envisioned in all my readings of The Upstairs Room. How very special to meet them both and to share in such a special show experience with them.

The lighting was lousy in the tiny lobby of the 42nd street theatre where we met, so I had to really lighten the photo. Sorry it’s not better quality!

Carolyn Quinn, Johanna Reiss, and me

Just before I left for New York, I discovered that Johanna had also written an adult memoir, A Hidden Lifeso I ordered it to read when I came home. Now that I’ve finished it, I can tell you that you will want to give yourself some space after reading The Upstairs Room before opening A Hidden Life. I’m not yet prepared to write about this memoir because of its emotional impact, but I will mention that the book is written in a stream of consciousness style that is very difficult to write. Virginia Woolf is the writer who most comes to mind when one thinks of SOC. The style works very well for A Hidden Life because it forces the reader down into the emotional turmoil Johanna experiences after the death of her husband. Read the Amazon blurb to see the heart-breaking situation the story reveals.

For years, Johanna Reiss’ American husband, Jim, encouraged her to return to Holland to chronicle the two years, seven months, and one day she had spent hiding from the Nazis in rural Usselo, Holland. In 1969, she finally made the trip.

Accompanied by Jim and their two young children, Reiss intended to spend seven weeks researching the book that would eventually become The Upstairs Room, her Newbery Honor–winning account of her time hiding in the attic of a farmhouse in which for a time a contingent of Nazi soldiers was billeted.

But unknown to the millions of people who went on to read her beloved classic, behind the dark and painful story of the book was a still darker tale: Reiss’ husband returned to America early and committed suicide at age thirty-seven, leaving no note.

For Reiss, an ongoing reckoning with universal tragedy becomes particular: she is forced to reckon, too, with Jim’s death—and explain it to her children. Subtle and disturbing, the book is a powerful consideration of memory, violence, and loss, told in a stunning and sparse narrative style.

Johanna Reiss is the author of the classic young adult title The Upstairs Room, which Elie Wiesel praised in The New York Times Book Review as an “admirable account . . . as important in every respect as the one bequeathed to us by Anne Frank.” She is the winner of the Newbery Honor, the Jewish Book Council Children’s Book Award, and the Buxtehuder Bulle. She lives in New York City.

Read more about Johanna on her website.

What a wonderful meeting. How blessed I was to meet these two women.

 

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Filed under Art and Music, Blogging, Book Review, Books, Children's Literature, Memoir, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

What Are Your Writing Customs?

Some of you probably remember a post by my friend poet and writer Carla McGill last year called “Poetry, Loss, and Grieving.” It’s a beautiful essay and has had a lot of readers.

Carla just started her own WordPress blog! Please go visit and welcome her. Blogging is all new to her, especially the technology, so she can use a lot of support. Also, you’re going to love her blog. It’s about writing and called Writing Customs. Be one of her first blog followers! And follow her on Twitter, too, here. You will love Carla’s posts (I promise). She’s so thoughtful and insightful and a wonderful writer and person.

I’m still trying to catch up with work and visiting with my mother, so don’t think I’m off writing a novel or something hahahahahaha. I hope to be back Monday.

Go tell Carla what YOUR writing customs are!

P.S. This is a chandelier at the Wrigley Mansion I visited with my mother and my husband. It’s Waterford crystal and Arizona amethysts!

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, WordPress, Writing, Writing Tips and Habits

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

It’s Up to You, Dear Reader

I’m trying to figure out which are the best days to post on WordPress. I’ve been posting Mondays and Thursdays, at exactly 5:20AM Pacific time for ages. Don’t ask me about the 5:20. I have no idea how that started, but I have clung to it out of some weird feeling akin to superstition. I like the way 5:20 looks on the page, too.

But Mondays and Thursdays? How do I know those are the best? When would you prefer I post? Sorry, never is not an option ;).

I like to post 2x a week because that is what I can handle. (Sometimes I consider switching to once a week because two can be overwhelming, but for now I am sticking to two per week). I also post once a week on my family history blog, and I’ve been doing that on Wednesdays. That puts my blog posts all crammed in together between 4 days. I would prefer to do Monday, Wednesday, Friday–or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday–with one of the 3 days being for The Family Kalamazoo.

The reason I like to plan this out and not hit publish when I’m done with a post is because I have to schedule time to enter the discussions–or all those pesky critters like work, maintenance, cleaning, and certain family members will take up all my time.

PICK ONE

PICK ONE

With a little click of your computer keys, please let me know what days you prefer my Writer Site posts.

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See, Mom, I AM Normal!

I’m taking a break from the regularly scheduled program–One Thing I Learned From Each Memoir I Have Read–to say thank you to a fellow writer and blogger, Ellen Morris Prewitt. She kindly wrote a post yesterday about Writer Site (yup, this blog) on her cain’t do nothing with love blog.

The title of the post is “The Allure of Normal.” In the midst of my gratitude toward Ellen, I did chuckle quite a bit about being presented as the poster child of normal.

After all, I did just write this passage the day before yesterday in a (first draft) scene for my memoir:

The therapist I’d seen years before had pointed out that normal was a setting on a washing machine, not a word associated with people. Maybe my teen hormones had blown things out of proportion.

normal

When I was a kid I lived in the mindset that I was just outside the bounds of normal. Not distressingly weird, for sure. But definitely if-they-only-knew-that-I-am-weird weird. My best friend and I used to call each other “weirdo,” just to reinforce our placement in the universe.

But now I’m all grown up and so normal. 😉 Unless you ask my husband. But that is a subject for a future invisible post.

Let me tell you something about Ellen. She’s got a super impressive bio, including Pushcart Prize nominations and a Special Mention. Her website is found here. One of the many intriguing facts about Ellen is that she has an essay published in Sue William Silverman’s memoir how-to book Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir (which I own!). How cool is that?!

Ellen has another blog, too, found here.

Thanks, Ellen, for your kindness to a fellow blogger!

I hope you stop back Monday to hear about the next memoir on my shelf.

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, WordPress, Writing

No Time to Write

I’m feeling stressed about working on my book. I have to get a draft together for the spring tutorial for my Stanford writing certificate. My parents will be living near me for two months, so we will be compressing a lot of visits into that time period. And lately, every day work gets out of hand and I don’t get to my writing.

So I was thinking that it would be smart to re-post or re-blog some posts that I liked but that didn’t get a lot of traffic when they were first posted.

But how do you feel about re-posting versus re-blogging?  If I re-blog, you will have to follow the link to get to the original post.  That way you can join the commenting over there, if you see fit. If I re-post, you get the whole post on the page, looking fresh as the day it was written. And it would start with a blank slate for commenting.

I’d like to start this right away and keep it up until fairly early in January.  I’ll still be around to read other blogs and to respond to comments, but the time I would spend writing posts probably ought to be spent on the book for the rest of this month.

So which is it? Re-blog or re-post?

Thanks for taking the poll and letting me know how you feel!

On another note, when my kids were in town, we all went to see the ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo. We had a good time together, although I was not impressed with the customer service of the zoo management. Here are a few pix from that night.

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Nonfiction, Photographs, Sightseeing & Travel, WordPress, Writing, Writing goals

WordPress Groupie No More

[I’m going to cross-post this on Don’t We Look Alike? because the same holds true on that blog.]

Since I began blogging in July 2012, I’ve been a devoted fan of WordPress.com. The organization of the system and the ease of use hooked me from the first day.

What have I liked?

  • I don’t know very much about computers or the internet, but I was able to set up my first blog without any help from anyone, other than glancing through WordPress for Dummies.
  • The look of my first blog was just what I wanted. It was a snap to blend my taste and that of my daughter (the first one was our adoption blog Don’t We Look Alike?) with the theme WordPress had to offer.
  • One of the best parts of WordPress blogging has been the sense of community. I participated in blog awards for many months, although I have decided more recently not to do so any longer. It was fun getting to know about other blogs through the award posts when bloggers would list their ten or twelve favorites.
  • It felt as if I quickly caught on to blogging and, within five or six weeks, one of my posts was Freshly Pressed. I hadn’t even been blogging long enough to know what Freshly Pressed was! Then I realized I could access all the other Freshly Pressed posts as one way to find other blogs I wanted to read.
  • I learned how to read some of the stats. The part that I found of particular interest was that I could see the list of followers of my blog—and I could use that list to check out followers’ blogs and decide if I wanted to read and follow.
  • My favorite part of WordPress has been the list of blogs I follow and my “reader.”  Under the edit function for the blogs I follow I could set up email notifications for new posts. I could decide if a blog warranted a daily or weekly notification or if I needed to know instantly when a new post hit the internet.

My experience with WordPress has been so rewarding that I have been sad when I’ve lost blogs I follow to Blogger or to WordPress.org or some other platform. I like to keep it all in the family.

NEVERTHELESS, I CAN NO LONGER CONSIDER MYSELF A FAN OF WORDPRESS.COM.

I am so disappointed.

First, the easy access to emailing support for troubleshooting disappeared.

Then, I started getting lots of spam followers. Once you get too many spam followers, it’s not smart to keep checking out who your new followers are, so you stop looking. It’s hard to believe WordPress doesn’t have a way to keep out the majority of these fake followers.

Most recently and most disturbingly, I no longer get email notifications of blogs I follows.  That is, I only get a couple.  I used to look forward to a long line of emails every Monday morning and a shorter line-up on the other days. If I felt overwhelmed I deleted some without looking, but I was pretty faithful.

Without those notifications, I have to go through my reader to find posts, and honestly, the same bloggers show up over and over. This is great for me to keep reading their blogs, but what about the others? A lot of my regulars are not showing up—at least not at the times that I scan my reader. If you haven’t been getting all the love from me I’ve shown in the past, this is why!

I’ve been faithful to blogging on WordPress, but WordPress has let me down.

Where do I go from here?

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Nonfiction, WordPress

Does Anybody Know Why WordPress is Giving Me Grief?

I’m mildly freaking out about WordPress.

I’ve always regarded WordPress.com as very reliable, but now I’m not so sure. This week WordPress has mostly stopped sending me email notifications. I say “mostly” because every once in a while a notification slips into my inbox.

So I have no idea when the blogs I follow publish new posts without happening upon them by accident in my “reader.”

As some of you know, I have three blogs, and this has occurred with all of them.

Therefore, I ask you: has this happened to others or is it personal?

Do you know how I can fix the trouble? I want to continue to read your blogs!

On a related note . . .

I used to be able to email Support when I had a problem, but I can’t find any place to contact them. If I go through their Support contact form, I can only leave a message for the community. Then I don’t know how to go back and find where I left my question to see if anyone has responded.

In one word:

Help!!!

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Here is Elizabeth Cutright’s “Interview with a Blogger (Part 2),” featuring some “immortal words” by myself and a few other bloggers. This is where I explain what scared me about starting to blog and what is most difficult about blogging.

the daily creative writer

reportersnotebook (1)

Interview With A Blogger (Part 2)
(More from insight and inspiration from fellow bloggers)
By Elizabeth Cutright

As I first detailed in my previous blog (Interview With A Blogger, Part 1), near the end of last year I decided that after almost 12 months of blogging, I still had a few questions.  I wanted to know what made other bloggers – many whose posts I admire in both content and posting regularity – tick.  I wanted to know what got them to the page, and how they’d overcome different challenges and obstacles.  My first entry focused on the birth of a blog, detailing the many varied ways and avenues that lead my different interview subjects online and into the storm of regular blog-writing.

In part 2, I delve a little deeper.  I ask about the difficulties, the complications and the hurdles my fellow bloggers encountered and overcame.  And…

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Grateful x 7+

I feel so blessed lately with award nominations by other bloggers (and embarrassed, let’s not forget that part).   Being noticed by your peers has got to be one of the most satisfying (and embarrassing) feelings possible.

Although I’ve posted before about some of these awards, since then two bloggers have nominated Writer Site for the One Lovely Blog award.  They are Write Brain Trust and Terry1954.  Write Brain Trust, published by a group, is an in-depth resource for writing which focuses on marketing and publishing “in a digital world.”  It’s a go-to site for all writers.  Terry is a sweetheart who writes heartfelt stories, both nonfiction and fiction.  My favorites are about her dear brother Al, who is disabled by Parkinson’s.

If you have ever felt that you received more Christmas gifts one year than you deserved, then you know how I feel.  It’s a little overwhelming.  I want to stay focused on the task at hand and not pat myself on the back, thus losing sight of my mission (i.e., WRITING!–something I put off for too long).

Still, it’s true that I don’t feel comfortable not acknowledging these “pass along” awards because they give me the chance to honor the work of other bloggers and thus keep us all connecting with each other.  Therefore, I am forever grateful to Write Brain Trust and Terry for giving me a positive beacon in the blogosphere and also for the opportunity to pass this light on to other bloggers.

onelovelyblogawardbadge

Accepting the award obligates me to write seven things about myself.  Since I’m on the theme of gratitude, I’ll focus on how much I have to be thankful for as a writer:

1.  I am grateful for my past writing instructors in all genres.  I’ve had so many favorites, but include among them John Woods, Stuart Dybek, James Arthur, Matthew Lippman, Caroline Goodwin, Kazim Ali, Carolyn Forché, and Gina Welch.   One of my instructors, Otis Haschemeyer, taught me the value of keeping a writing log.  He shows what his looks like in this WordPress blog post.  I could keep going, but I will end up looking like a lifelong student nerd (I am).

2.  I am grateful for my Stanford Writing Certificate cohorts.  You know who you are.  Love you guys (gals)!  You can read a few of their blogs at Fluent in Fabulous,  The Diarrhea Diaries, and Tanzania5.0.  Here is a great column, called From Where I Sit, written by one of my cohorts.

3.  I am grateful for my in-person writing group: Linda, Renee, and Rudri.

4.  I am grateful for my sweet and lovely friends who read my blog posts whether they got enough coffee or not and if they are having a good day or not.  I love each one of you so much!

5.  I am grateful for my friend Wilma Kahn (Jeannie Unbottled), writer and editor, who edited my dissertation and many other pieces of slop I’ve managed to crank out.

6.  I am grateful for my blog followers and other bloggers who make my world so much more lovely.  Much love to all of you . . . .

7.  I am grateful to WordPress for creating such a pleasant online experience.

Oops.  Adding another one for good measure:  I am grateful to all the lovely books I’ve read which have inspired me.

Um, one more.  I am grateful to my husband who taught me how to properly use a semi colon when we were college freshmen.

Finally, I get to nominate 15 other bloggers for The One Lovely Blog Award.  I’ve decided to nominate blogs which I have recently discovered.   Here we go–enjoy!!!

pressions of a princess

bits ‘n pieces

a Portia Adams adventure

The beauty of sharing our writing

Weaker than Water

Chronicles of Illusions

Poems from Oostburg, Wisconsin

Back Track

Saturday Evening Porch

The Puffin Diaries

ordsfromanneli

Kate Shrewsday

Pale Blue Reminders

Blessed with a Star on the Forehead

My Life in Lists

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