Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland, editors
The Key Publishing House Inc., Toronto, Ontario, $27.99 (paperback) January, 2012 ISBN 978-1-926780-13-9
Writing about family is a time-honored activity for women, whether it is keeping a private diary, writing a family history, or crafting a novel. And while the world of publishing offers ever-increasing opportunities for new writers, it can be difficult to take the step from writing for oneself to writing for a broader audience. Women Writing on Family is a start-to-finish resource for writers facing this challenge. Like a trusted writing group, the authors provide insight and advice on everything from mental preparation to marketing and promotion. The personal experience of the contributors lends credibility, but the focus of the book is on helping the reader to reach her writing goals.
Co-editors Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland have assembled an impressive array of contributors for this anthology. While all are experienced authors, each has taken a different path to reach that goal. They are psychologists and nurses, college professors and secondary school teachers. Several teach writing courses, and many have won awards for their work. Their accumulated knowledge and skills are the backbone of this book. These are women whose advice I would not only trust for myself, but pass along to my friends. For example, Kezia Willingham’s contributions go to the heart of two major challenges for many women who write. In one chapter, she gives concrete tips for balancing writing, family, and work, while in the other she discusses the emotional risk of writing with honesty. Willingham knows what she’s talking about. She was a single parent and high school dropout in her teens. She has gone on to earn a Master’s in Social Work and now works for Seattle Public Schools. Her work in Women Writing on Family exemplifies her journey as a writer, a parent, and a family participant. Each of the contributions brings a similar quality of authenticity and experience, even while the ages, professions, cultures, and publishing backgrounds of their authors are widely diverse.
There are many resources for writers, some of which focus on women. The emphasis on writing about the family is what sets this book apart from the others. The unique issues that women face when they use their family as the basis for their writing transform an activity that is already highly personal into one that may be fraught with risk even while holding the potential for significant personal and professional development.
In her chapter “Family Secrets: How to Reveal What Matters Without Getting Sued, or Shunned,” Martha Engber explores the tension between the right to express oneself in writing and the emotional and legal consequences that can result from publishing others’ personal stories. She explains concepts such as libel using clear, jargon-free examples, then goes on to suggest five ways to reduce the likelihood of damaged relationships and limit exposure to legal action. Additional chapters on personal and legal issues help the reader assess her subject matter and make informed decisions about whether and how to share sensitive topics as part of her work. This advice is supplemented by insightful words meant to encourage the writer who is still uncertain whether she is ready to reveal her work—and her family—to the world.
Families are a never-ending source of stories ranging from full scenes to tiny snippets. The challenge is using your own writing style and solid technique to develop the characters, setting, and story into a finished piece with reader appeal. Women Writing on Family offers several viewpoints on crafting both fiction and nonfiction. In “Making Up Grandma: How to Blend History and Imagination Into Powerful Family Narratives,” contributor Lela Davidson offers on-target advice for effectively blending historical fact and imagination to bring family stories to life. She offers guidance on how to embellish a single incident using historical details about the place and time, as well as exploring the likely emotions of the people involved. Asserting that “…it’s a shame to let a story die just because it’s only a snippet,” Davidson gives permission to combine fact and imagination in order to portray family stories more completely.
The Internet is a valuable tool for writers, and three chapters written by successful bloggers provide information about opportunities for career development through online writing projects. Other career-related topics include marketing, self-publishing, and efficient use of writing conferences. Of course, many authors writing about family are doing so between loads of laundry and during naptime. A particularly valuable section on balancing writing and family commitments provides inspiration for those days when everything seems to hit at once.
Women Writing on Family is a gift from experienced writers to their sisters who are just starting down the road to a writing career. The techniques, exercises, tools, and tips make it a resource to consult again and again. Poet or family historian, blogger or novelist, this book offers something for every woman seeking to write about family. Amazon.com includes several reviews.
Review written by Lisa Fraser, a librarian with King County Library System and an adjunct lecturer at University of Washington. She writes on local and family history and library practice.
It was a good day to fleece treats off the customers coming out of the 7-11. The hot weather brought them in for beer and chips, and I sat outside pretending to be someone’s pet dog by sitting calmly and looking like I was waiting for my master to return from inside the store with a six-pack for him and a bone for me. Pet dogs were safe to feed. Moms didn’t have to worry about their kids trying to talk them into bringing home the stray. Don’t feed the stray, they’d say, he’ll follow us home. I’d heard that one a lot. So I put on my act of belonging to someone and it worked for me.
This section of Burnside was on the east side strip where gentrification hadn’t been able to take hold. The soup kitchen and the strip club kept it firmly anchored in reality. It wasn’t a usual stop for the west side whites, unless they got lost or the husbands got horny. You’d be surprised at the number of hookers who bought Ho Hos, but they were the best at sharing those Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. They saw me there often enough that they were on to my scam and knew I was nothing but a stray working my thing.
I’d tried to be a pet dog once, I even still wore the old collar my first family bought me, but the life didn’t take. According to the trainer my owners had brought in it was due to my lack of impulse control. What a load. It took more impulse control than he could ever muster to sit through his long-winded spiel about finding the right kind of treat to motivate me and him clicking that damn training clicker. Hey, click this! Find the right treat? What did they think I was trying to tell them by stealing all the food bits off the counter tops? How dense could they be when I’m stealing everything except the dry little biscuits they’re trying to “motivate” me with? My life might have turned out entirely different if those first owners of mine had shared their Triscuits and cheese instead of just stuffing their own mouths with them.
After a point I couldn’t make the effort anymore and one day they left open the gate in the backyard and I took myself for a walk and never went back. Sure, I’ve been through the system a few times since and there’s been attempts to re-home me, but this is the life for me, eating Ho Hos and scamming strangers. I know the drill when it comes to domestic life. Do this, do that, sit here, lie down over there. Oh, don’t do that! And after all that nonsense they trap you inside all day long with nothing new to do, day after day until your life has passed by and you’re off to the vet for the big shot. It isn’t worth the dry biscuits they try to give you in trade. Give me your love, they say. Give me your loyalty. In exchange I’ll give you this dry biscuit bought in bulk at Costco made in China of carcinogenic wood shavings and lock you inside all day long. And oh yeah, if I’m feeling energetic when I get home from work, I might walk you around the block. What a load. I was given the opportunity to be free and took it in an instant.
“Hey, Pimpster, want some Ho Hos?” asked one of the girls who was a regular on the strip. She shared everyday, like she was buying the Ho Hos as much for me as for herself. I wagged my tail and started to drool. Who knew I was such a sucker for sugary cakes?
She broke one in half and held it out to me. “Here you go, little man.”
I gobbled it in a second. She ate her half slowly and I waited for her to take the second one out of the package. When she did, she broke it in half, too. “More?”
She didn’t need to ask. I gobbled it, too.
“You know what? You’re looking kind of skinny.” She reached down and petted my sides. “I can feel your ribs through that mangy fur of yours. I tell you what, baby, if you’re still here later I’ll buy you a can of dog food.”
A car pulled up and she leaned in through the open passenger-side window to talk to the driver, then got in and they drove off. I went back to pretending to be someone’s pet, but eventually fell asleep. Later, her voice woke me.
“They didn’t have any dog food, except in the bag and I’m not feeding you a whole bag at once. You’d eat yourself to death.” She held a can in her hand. “But they had chili, and believe me, it looks just like dog food. Maybe even tastes the same. But my can opener is at home. You can follow me and I’ll get this opened for you.”
Once we got a block away from the strip the night was quiet and cool. It’s funny how when things are busy around you like me running my scam in front of 7-11 you think the whole world is like that, but then you walk a few blocks and it’s entirely different. We walked four blocks down a side street and then she opened the door to a basement apartment in an old house that smelled like the rhododendrons in front of it. I followed her inside and she opened the can, put it in a bowl and set it on the floor. It wasn’t bad, but I knew it would give me gas. She also put a bowl of water next to the chili and it tasted best of all after a long day in the sun.
She left the door open to air out the musky smell of cigarettes and sex, and I could leave anytime after I finished, but I didn’t particularly feel like going anywhere. That can of chili was like a lead brick in my gut, so I put my head down and closed my eyes for a moment. It felt good to rest in a quiet spot without any traffic sounds around, a little confining but I was too tired for it to bother me. I must’ve nodded off because again her voice woke me.
“Okay, Pimpster, I’m going to shut this door now.” She had her hand on the faded brass knob. “Are you staying or going? I don’t want you waking me up because you want to take off night-crawling with your buddies.”
I’d been having a dream where I was chasing this cat down an alley. It was a recurring dream, and I’d gotten to the part where the cat disappeared amongst the overflowing dumpsters leaking restaurant grease and I had to search him out with my nose, so I was eager to get back to sleep, back to my dream, and back after that cat. That cat was a mean piece of work, and the natural order of things drove me to take him down, so I just closed my eyes and let her close the door.
She slept late and so did I, and as soon as she opened that door, I went outside and got rid of some of that canned chili and marked the trees out in front of the old house. When I heard her making noise in her kitchen, I went inside and was treated to a bowl of scrambled eggs, something I’d never had before, and they were a big improvement on the chili. A while later we walked back to the 7-11 and she got in a car with some guy and they took off. I fell into my routine of hustling the 7-11 customers for some of their chips, though I wasn’t quite as motivated since I’d just eaten a bunch of eggs, and eventually I curled up and took a nap. The cat had returned in my dream and I’d discovered which dumpster he was hiding behind, when the fat man from animal services woke me by slipping a noose collar around my neck, and I was tethered to the end of the long pole he held firmly with both hands.
All I could think was that I was on my way back into the system again and this time it wouldn’t be so easy to get out. My puppy cuteness was gone, and I had the physical and emotional scars from living on the street. At least I knew not to bite the rubber hand they used to temperament test the dogs being processed into the the pound, even though its rubber skin smelled just like a chew toy I’d had in my first home as a puppy.
I was being led to the back of the truck when I heard her shouting. “Hey, you! Asshole! Where the fuck you think you’re going with my dog?” The car she’d just gotten out of drove off behind her and she was waiving her arms and marching right at the fat man holding the noose-pole.
“This isn’t your dog,” he said.
“Like hell he isn’t.”
“Well, he doesn’t have a license and you don’t have him on a leash.”
“Look around, man. Do you think anyone gives a damn about leashes and licenses around here? Get real.”
Then a big man carrying an eighteen-pack came out of the 7-11, stopped and stood very still, staring at the fat man. When another dog did that to me, they meant trouble. “If she says he’s her dog, man, he’s her dog,” he said.
The fat man shifted his weight uneasily under the intensity of his stare. “I’m going to cite you for failure to license your dog and having him off-leash. It’s a pretty hefty fine. Are you sure this is still your dog?”
The big man with the beer set his eighteen-pack down, squatted down next to me and gave me a pat. Before the fat man knew what to say, the big man had loosened the noose and I was free. “There you go, boy,” he said and thumped me on the rump.
“Sir, you can’t do that.”
The big man stood to his full height. “It’s already done.” He tucked a few bills into the fat man’s shirtfront pocket. “You look like you could use a break. Why don’t you go on inside and get yourself a couple of those chili dogs they sell here.” He picked up his beer and opened the door to a big car. “Come on, babe,” he said to my friend. “Get your dog and get in. I feel like having a party.”
As she hustled me onto the car seat in front of her, she whispered to me, “You owe me one, Pimpster.”
“Pimpster, huh?” the big man said and chuckled. “That’s my kind of dog.”
Raud Kennedy is a writer and dog trainer in Portland, Oregon. To learn about his upcoming work, Gnawing the Bone, a collection of dog fiction, please visit www.raudkennedy.com
Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching edited by Carol Smallwood, Colleen S. Harris and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent (foreword by Molly Peacock) forthcoming from McFarland & Company, $45 softcover, index, (6 x 9), approx. 300 pp., ISBN 978-0-7864-6392-3 http://www.amazon.com/Women-Poetry-Revising-Publishing-Teaching/dp/0786463929/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315964483&sr=1-6
Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching is the handbook every poet and teacher of poetry should carry. This book brings awareness to not only the art of poetry but also to the voice of women. It is a tool for both the seasoned poet and for the new poet trying to make their way. Jenny Sadre-Orafai challenges the poet to enrich their writing life and consider other genres. Others guide us through family and career demands to make time for writing. We are nurtured to find our writing tribe as Kate Chadbourne suggests and given the tools to promote experimental poetry. It’s about finding voice, digging into life experience, and as Tracy L. Strauss suggests knowing how to “take the truth of tragedy and turn it into an art form.” Doris Lynch instructs how to cast our fishing line into the pool of ideas and begin our poems. Bonnie J. Robinson prompts us to “write a poem of protest; then, write a poem reconciliation.” Women on Poetry is an invitation to introspection and creative self-actualization, inspiring us to be both practitioners and mentors.
Dr. Christine Redman-Waldeyer, founder and editor of Adanna, a journal about women’s topics and issues is the author of two books of poetry, Frame by Frame and Gravel, Muse-Pie Press.
A second of scorn
Turns years of affection
Into enmity of eternity.
A second of innocent love
Turns two souls
To oscillate, live and die together
In all fair and foul.
A second of opportunity
To disproportionate property.
A second of mistake
Puts life at stake
And debars one
From any give or take.
A second of adversity
Makes diversity to know
What is unity?
A second of carnal burst:
Relationship exhibits no trust.
A second of ejaculation
The world is sitting
On the volcanic mouth of
Biography: Vivekanand Jha is a poet and research scholar from Darbhanga, Bihar, India. He is Diploma in Electronics, Certificate in Computer Hardware and Networking, MA in English, and is also doing Ph. D on the poetry of the noted Indian English poet Jayanta Mahapatra from Lalit Narayan Mithila University Darbhanga. He is son of noted professor, poet and award winning translator Dr. Rajanand Jha (Crowned with Sahitya Akademi Award, New Delhi). He is the author of four books of poetry: Hands heave to harm and hamper, Spam: A Satire on E-Sex, Songs of Innocence and Adolescence, My Poems Falter and Fall and Time Moves Clockwise Only. His works have been widely published in the magazine round the world like Pagan Imagination, P & W (Poetry and Writing), Danse Macabre, Vox Poetica, Writing Raw, Whisper publication, Tribal Soul Kitchen, Winamop, Literature India, Mother Bird, Retort Magazine, Holy Rose Review(HRR), Munyori Poetry Journal, Flutter Literary Journal, Taylor: Prose & Poetry, The Fullosia Press, Eclectica Magazine, Write Between the Lines, The Adirondack Review, Eudaimonia Poetry Review, Nagaland Post, World Audience Publishers, The Morung Express, Fresh Literary Magazine, Maverick Magazine, Cliterature, Spoken War, Inclement Poetry Magazine, World Salad Poetry Magazine, South Jersey Underground, Mississippi Crow Magazine, Pink Mouse, Censored Poets, Reflections, Future Earth Magazine, Pandora’s Imagination, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, CANTARAVILLE Quarterly Magazine, Locust Magazine, Carpe Articulum Literary Review, Bonny Berries. Apart from that he got his poems published in the following anthologies: The War Against War Anthology, Ed by Prince Kwasi Mensah ( Mensa Press, USA), Anthology of Canadian Stories IV, Edited by Ed Janzen(Canada), Anthology on the theme of America Ed by Vernon McVety Jr., We come from one place, an anthology edited by Prince Kwasi Mensah ( Mensa Press, USA), Savant 2010 Anthology, Ed by Rose And Alan (England) and Anthology of Science Poetry, Ed by Neil and Zara(Canada) and Poetry Anthology Ed by Dr. Ram Sharma(India).
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 7 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 18 posts. There were 13 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 54mb. That’s about a picture per month.
The busiest day of the year was April 13th with 34 views. The most popular post that day was WRITER’S GUIDELINES.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were andromeda.rutgers.edu, chicagoquarterlyreview.com, facebook.com, ncs.rutgers.edu, and tips-tools-tutorials.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for tree, oak tree, pen in hand, the taylor trust, and taylor trust.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
WRITER’S GUIDELINES November 2008
TRISHA NELSON March 2009
ABOUT THE POETRY MAVEN November 2008
A WRITERS’ COMMUNITY November 2008
untitled December 2008
The Arab traders’ Serendib,
that Land of Kandy !
The Sacred Tooth Relic of Sidhartha—
rescued from his funeral pyre,
hidden in the hair of a Princess,
to reside on a golden lotus blossom
in the smallest of seven caskets.
Annually, at the Esala Perahera Festival,
it rides through Kandy
on giant elephant back,
two by two,
each pair painted,
robed the same.
Each pair proud
as if possessed of
the secret of the centuries.
Though the “Zoological Park”
where I witnessed
the reenactment was filthy,
processed as if kings of the world,
not a one at all clumsy.
Perhaps they were pleased
to rise above the muck.
Perhaps they remembered
their part in
the Esala Perahera Festival.
When I had “morning tea”
at the Hotel Mt. Lavinia
(where the Raj is still in flower),
my coffee tasted of parched peanuts.
I smiled in memory of,
in honor to,
the Giant Elephant of the Sacred Tooth,
the pachyderm pairs.
by Lynn Veach Sadler
Former college president, Dr. Lynn Veach Sadler, editor, poet, fiction/nonfiction writer, and playwright, has published widely in academics and creative writing. She and her husband have traveled around the world five times; she was writing all the way. Sadler has a full-length poetry collection and novel forthcoming; has six chapbooks published; and has won The Pittsburgh Quarterly’s Hay Prize, tied for first in Kalliope’s Elkind Contest, was a runner-up for the Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Prize Contest, and won the Poetry Society of America’s Hemley Award and Asphodel’s Poetry Contest. See her story “Going the Last Mile” on page 142 of the print version of The Taylor Trust.