Tag Archives: #writingcommunity

The Case of Alice Sebold

I’ve been dwelling on the case of Alice Sebold (author of the beautiful novel The Lovely Bones) and the trial of her accused rapist. I wrote about her memoir Lucky here: [P]lucky to Survive The book was structured in essentially two parts. Part one is about Sebold’s rape as a college sophomore and her resulting trauma. Part two is about the rape trial. When I wrote my earlier post I latched onto the opening rape scene because I was reading memoirs with the eye of a writer who wanted to write a memoir. I ignored the rest of the book. A reason, though, was that I felt confused by the book and also found the trial section icky, but I failed to analyze it enough.

Now, it turns out, the man she had identified as her rapist is innocent. Talk about gobsmacked. Anthony Broadwater, the man who went to prison and has now been exonerated, seems to have suffered because he was a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can read about Sebold’s apology here: Alice Sebold Apologizes

I have some thoughts about this matter. My heart goes out to Anthony Broadwater for the ruination of his life and his reputation. I can’t even imagine what his life has been like or how it felt every day knowing he didn’t deserve what was happening. In articles, he sounds like a very balanced, kind man. Can you even imagine what he went through all this time? It seems just BEYOND.

Another aspect is that a lot of writers and others have been quick to condemn Sebold.  But remember she went through a horrific and terrorizing experience where she thought she would die and was never given proper support afterward. She was young and the rape must have damaged her emotionally. Then she had only the police and prosecutor to rely on. They were hell-bent on getting a conviction and manipulated the situation. She must have been like putty for their purposes.

To me, this is one of those horrific tragedies that happen in life where so many issues converge. There are innocents, like Broadwater, and bad actors, like the prosecution. Then there is Sebold, a victim of a horrible tragedy herself. Is she guilty of a travesty against Broadwater? Or is she being victimized all over again by people who were quick to denounce her?

When Sebold saw Broadwater on the street and thought he was the rapist, she was operating under a problem that everyone in the world operates under. Cross-racial identification is known to be very problematic. At least, we know that today. That wasn’t the case in 1982. I’m not sure how to solve this, but it needs solving so that we can trust identification of criminals. I do understand the phenomenon, though. We see the details that identify individuals more clearly in people we are most used to seeing. So if we come from a white family, we are best at identifying white individuals, etc.  I think we can all get better at this, but it takes being around people of all races! So is Sebold responsible for pointing out the wrong man or a victim of a natural phenomenon? Both?

Ugh, I hate situations like this. It’s so much easier when there are clear bad guys and good guys. Please help me organize my thoughts on this matter. What do you think?

What is clear to me is that a grave injustice was done to Anthony Broadwater. And all of us who read Sebold’s memoir were made complicit in it.

***

I made my first mini junk journal last week. The video is a minute and a half and shows all the pages inside the journal, if you’re interested. The project was to put my “stamp” of authenticity on it. I feel like I did that.

 

***

I will leave you with Perry to start your week. By the way, you know what my mother said the other day? That Perry looks like a rat!!! What kind of Grandma says that?! Sigh. More like a ferret or possum? In the following 6 second video, Perry learns that in the “Mouse for Cats” video game when he catches a mouse it squeaks.

NOW you will have a good week!

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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 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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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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Changing of the Month, Changing of the Season

You might think from the post title that fall has come to Phoenix. Not. It’s still hot. And, yet, there is something of fall here, if only in our minds. Today is a holiday in the United States. We celebrate Labor Day because the lives of laborers in the 19th century (and early 20th century, too) were often horrible and sometimes horrific. If you want to read more about what it was like through fiction, try Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle or Rebecca Harding Davis’ Life in the Iron Mills. Although many workers in this country have reaped the benefits of unemployment insurance for some or much of the pandemic, before 1935 no such assistance existed. I was thinking that Labor Day 2021 ought to be dedicated to medical–as well as the whole chain of food delivery–employees since they have been our front lines against covid.

***

Last month I participated in The Sealey Challenge, reading poetry every day. For the first half or more, I read a book a day. Then I chose more complex books and gave myself 3-4 days each. I’ve never read so much poetry in one month in my life. Well, maybe in grad school, but I mean I’ve never enjoyed so much poetry in one month in my life hahaha.

I also participated in an Instagram mixed media challenge called #seekgathercreate. It was a lot of fun. You start off by collecting four different objects each week to use for the page. The rest is up to the art journaler. Here are a couple of pages I made for it.

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This month I am participating in Genealogy Photo a Day on Instagram. There are assigned topics for each day, so my job is to post an image, generally from my own family, that fits the topic. What I like about this besides the interactions with people on Instagram is that it makes me think about my family history from a different perspective. I think it makes the old new for me.

***

I’ve been revising my memoir. I was going to join #pitmad on Twitter, but then I realized that my manuscript might not be a good match for finding an agent that way. I also realized how short my memoir is now. A few years ago it was too long, but the new version is significantly shorter. Too short for a traditional publisher, most likely. Nevertheless, after some finishing touches I am doing this week, I doubt I will try to lengthen the manuscript. If I like it the way it is, then I want to publish it the way I like it. Of course, this is what I am thinking today!

***

Pear is hanging in, but I had to up her pain meds a bit so that her leg doesn’t bother her. I’m taking it one day at a time. Tiger is now drinking way too much water. She is 17.5, so she is not a spring chicken either! I worry about her kidneys, plus there is something going on with her liver. Here is Perry lying next to Pear. Maybe he hopes he can comfort her.

***

Not only is it Labor Day today, but this evening begins the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Shana tova! Happy New Year! XO

 

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Cats and Art Journals Help with Anxiety

All the babies in the yard are grown up, and every so often a hummingbird or dove swoops past me that looks a little familiar ;).

I am winding up the physical therapy now. I had two problems: rotator cuff calcification tendinitis and frozen shoulder. The PT has cured the frozen shoulder at least to 85% usage. The other will take much longer as I need to keep exercising. Eventually, the calcification is supposed to be absorbed by the body.

My brain is a little zapped right now. I’m concerned about health problems my daughter is having, and I am feeling stunned over the condo collapse in Florida. When I’m feeling like I am right now I am convinced that the greed and arrogance of humanity is going to take us down.

Also, I have claustrophobia so I spent days worrying about the people in the collapse.

Trying to cheer myself up, I made this page in my smallest journal. Fabrics from my childhood, and the button belonged to Grandma.

Notice that I’m making a little fun of myself, too, as 19-year-old me thought that big-a** hat looked stylish.

Putting the finishing touches on the first draft of the newly “remodelled” Scrap. 

I’m focused on being a good nursing home nurse for Pear Blossom. She’s doing well getting up and down from the couch with that one seat cushion removed. But sometimes she chooses to lie on the cool floor near her water bowl. Pee pads and water bowl are very near the couch for her convenience. She is still such a pleasure all the time. She’s my little nurse, too. She’s the one who got me through my one-year-plus foot surgery recovery and the Valley Fever. She used to take care of our last dog when he didn’t feel well. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the room and found her in Perry’s blue cube.

Pear wants you to have a wonderful week!

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