Why a book review changed my life

 

I was painfully shy in school which is why I can relate so much to Louise Jensen’s post. Mostly, I’m so thrilled about this wonderful moment in this writer’s life! Her psychological thriller “The Sister” is debuting in July. I can’t wait.

fabricating fiction

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As a child, when the school reports were handed out, my stomach churned with anxiety. It’s not that I was a bad student, but I was very shy and this was something teachers were quick to point out. Every. Single. Year.

‘Louise has a good grasp of English but doesn’t join in the class debates, and needs to…’

‘Louise excels at maths but is very quiet in class, and needs to…’

‘Louise produces some excellent work but fails to put her hand up, and needs to….’

 But. But. But. And it didn’t matter how much I studied, the exams I passed, or the homework I always (nearly always) handed in on time. It was never enough. I was never enough. There was always a ‘but’ no matter how hard I tried. My results were good but my personality was always in question and my fragile confidence shrunk year after…

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3 Days Quotation Challenge: Day 3

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I’m back for my final quote for the 3 Days Quotation Challenge. Thanks again to Charles for nominating me. You can visit him over at his blog Charles French Words Reading and Writing.

Today’s quote comes from one of my favorite writers:

The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked… that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

— Neil Gaiman

And that’s a wrap!

I am now to nominate three bloggers to continue the 3 Days Quotation Challenge. Remember, you can put them all in one post, if you decide. Of course, you can do anything you like. The quotations you choose can be about anything you like. 

The Rules:

1.) Either once a day for three days, post a quotation, or post all 3 quotations at one time. It is your choice.

2.) Nominate and notify three other bloggers of the challenge.

3.) Thank the blogger who nominated you.

The nominees are under no obligation to complete this challenge, but it would be fun if you do. I am nominating bloggers who I think would like this challenge.

My Nominees: 

1.) Stephen Liddell and his blog Stephen Liddell: Musings on a Mad World

2.) Tom Merriman and his blog Beyond the Sphere

3.) Barbara Vitelli and her blog Book Club Mom

If you do it, great! If not, please no worries.

Thanks so much. I hope you have enjoyed my quotes about writing.

Image source: Pixabay

Carrie Rubin’s Novel EATING BULL and My Personal Food Connection

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I know I’ve read a great book when I’m still thinking about it months after I’ve turned the final pages. Carrie Rubin’s Eating Bull is one of those books. It is a tightly crafted thriller, told from the point of view of three characters: Jeremy, an overweight, bullied teen whose favorite friend is food; Sue, the pubic health nurse on a mission to sue to food industry for their reckless manipulation of consumers; and, finally, Darwin, the mystery serial killer who is targeting the obese. It’s a mix of mystery whodunit, horror story, and public health crisis all rolled into one.

Many of the characters are suffering some past emotional trauma which is pulled into their eating habits. This backdrop makes these characters seem all the more human and vulnerable. I thought Carrie did a masterful job of telling a horrific story, alongside the complexities of food.

While eating is foremost about survival, it is so much more than that in the modern era of food convenience and choices. Food relates to our health, quality of life, eating habits, social gatherings, and family. Socio-economic factors play a role, too, and often hinder access to healthy food or enough food. Food is not an equal opportunity for all.

After reading Carrie’s book, I pondered this complex issue of food and how it related to my life. More recently, I have attempted a few clean eating challenges offered by my boot camp, because we know exercise isn’t enough and especially as we age. Sigh. On a positive note, I’ve spent most of my life not worrying about calories and meal choices and their impact on my health. Now that I’m getting older, it’s not so easy. So, I took on these clean eating challenges, which meant eating mostly real food, either from the ground or from an animal. While I’d like to be vegetarian, so far I’m not. Nothing processed, nothing out of a box, and very little sugar or salt.

In these efforts to control my eating choices, I could relate to Carrie’s characters in her book. My meal choices of lean protein and vegetables were quite similar to those of Sue. As we are made aware of her restrictive choices, it feels as if Sue, too, is noting them for herself. I also identified with Jeremy’s hunger for more, even when I wasn’t hungry. It’s emotional eating and I never felt this so strongly as I did when everything I loved was removed, especially carbs! I missed snacking. It was tough.

Jeremy’s mother Connie also has her share of challenges of feeding her family healthy options with limited time and resources, not to mention with different needs in mind. Would her son and father eat the same foods, for example? This is a constant struggle with my household and cafeteria-style planning and eating. When I did the clean eating challenge (for six weeks) it meant cooking separate meals for my family, which made it extra challenging. While there may be solutions for all these problems, it doesn’t make them any easier.

What’s more, there’s a public health scenario looming in the story: suing the food industry. I, for one, did not think this was that far-fetched. While it may never happen, I hope Carrie’s book encourages a careful look at their practices.

For example, no matter how much willpower I have, I can’t just have one stop at the Famous Amos cookie box. I just can’t!! One reach turns into three. I lost count of the number of cookies.

Well, they are famous.
Well, they are famous.

And then I saw this video about how America is getting hooked on processed food. You must watch this eye-opening video. Have you ever heard of “Vanishing Caloric Density”? It’s no wonder I love cheese puffs so much!

Talk about reckless manipulation of consumers. Carrie weaves all these complex issues with a serial killer on the loose. All the while, the issues don’t get lost in the story or take over, but add layers of intrigue for a compelling, entertaining read.

It’s no wonder that Eating Bull is the silver medal winner in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) for Great Lakes, Best Regional Fiction. Congratulations to Carrie! 

Here’s a link to Eating Bull on Amazon. If you haven’t read it, pick up a copy today.

Green-Walled Tower Fiction-T’s are Here!

Fiction-T’s from the Green-Walled Tower are here and just in time for the holidays!

David Stewart from the Green-Walled Tower blog has created these incredible T-shirts. I know you’re probably wondering how a T-shirt can be incredible…make no mistake these shirts are stupendous! Why? Because these shirts are Fiction-T’s. David has published his short fiction stories on the back T-shirts. He’s so clever.

David has shared many stories on his blog, many of them dark and twisted, which is why I enjoy them so much. For his Fiction-T’s, he offers seven different stories, all of them are highly creative and imaginative. I had a hard time choosing my favorite. I decided on Three Men Walk into a Bar, a great one for bloggers. You know those moments, when no matter what kind of situation you’re in, you think, “This would make a great blog post. Now excuse me while I take a photo.” You know that moment.

I must be operating on Hobbit time lately. Please address me as Aurelia Bumbleburr from Bindbale Wood. You see I won this T-shirt in a contest sometime during the summer….and I’m only now just telling you about it. I must have got lost in the forest. Yes, that’s what happened.

But as I mentioned, it’s just in time for the holidays. Why not surprise a friend or loved one with a Fiction-T? It’s a unique one-of-a-kind gift. Or, buy one for yourself for the holiday party? Guests will love it and they’ll also have an opportunity to get some reading in at the party.

When you put on one of these Fiction-T’s, you become enveloped in a green, fuzzy glow. I don’t know how it happens! I’ll show you. Look:

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Now here’s the story:

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Here are examples of the stories printed on the Fiction-Ts. Check it out. Plus I know you want to see how the story above ends.

For a list of the Fiction-T stories posted on David’s blog, click here.

Order your very own Fiction-T here. They came in a variety of sizes and colors.  Don’t delay. Get yours today.

I truly love my Fiction-T and wear it proudly. Thanks, David!

Happy Holidays!!

Creativity: The Freedom of Limits

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The latest Writer’s Digest July/August issue focuses on creativity. I’m all ears when it comes to learning about the creative process. It’s something I take to heart, believing more often it’s the journey and not the final destination that counts. That sentiment applies to so many things in life, whether it be professional or personal, a hobby or a serious endeavor. How you get there is every bit as fascinating as the final product.

The article, “Creative Under Pressure: How to Write Yourself Out of a Corner,” by Steven James mentioned that people tend to pursue creativity with the brainstorming approach. He suggests that really your first step should be just the opposite.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, the first step is limiting yourself.

After reading this quote, instantly I had flashbacks to a dance workshop I attended decades ago with the late modern dance pioneer Bella Lewitsky (1916-2004). 

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Bella Lewitzky (1983)

Below are a few postcards that accompanied the workshop mailings.

I could do these poses, so let me into the company already:

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I had dreamed of being in her dance company and here I was in the same room with her and her dancers, awestruck. Let me just pause to say my hamstrings had never felt so long and stretched as they did after taking her class. It was amazing. I felt like I had jumped into someone’s else’s body.

After the workshop audition, I learned I was placed in the intermediate technique class, but had also achieved a spot in the advanced composition class, taught by none other than Ms. Lewitsky herself. Of course, I fretted about being in the intermediate class, focusing on how I could possibly ever achieve a spot in her company if I was only in the intermediate technique class. I think I even cried about it.

Still, I was in the advanced choreography class and knew what a honor it was to learn from a true master. It was a smallish class of only fifteen students in a beautiful, spacious studio. Bella Lewitsky gathered us around on the first day to talk about our goal for the class. First, she told us, “Structure is what gives you freedom.” It’s as if, she went on to say, your dance is a problem that must be solved.

That problem and the structure she provided for us was to focus on these three things and these three things only:

spiral, run, fall

Yeah. For the next two weeks from 3:00-6:00 pm (that’s three hours!), we explored these three items. I remember you could hear a pin drop, the concentration in the room was so intense.

You may be saying to yourself, I get what it means to run and fall, but how do you spiral? A spiral looks exactly as you think it does. See here:

In art:

Image source: en.wikipedia.org
Screwtop spiral; Image source: en.wikipedia.org

In nature:

A succulent spiral; Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Man made:

“Vatican Museums Spiral Staircase 2012” by © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the Universe:

The logarithmic spiral in the Whirlpool Galaxy; Image source: en.wikipedia.org

I’m sure you’ll be seeing spirals all over the place now, right?

My “problem” in my dance composition workshop class was to turn this spiral into movement, as well as the other isolated ideas of “fall” and “run” however I could, however I felt inspired, however I was moved to move.

You might ask yourself, “Could you spiral with a coat? Could you, would you, spiral on a boat?” Allow me to elaborate. I asked these questions and more:

Can you spiral your hand? Your head? How about on one leg? Add some movement. Why don’t you spiral as you walk. Will you make it fast? Slow? Slow motion? Can you do two spirals in a row, crawling?

And if you were to connect it to a fall, how will you fall if you are on the floor crawling? And, if you do manage it, will you fall on your nose or on your head? Can you spiral from your head while positioned on the floor?

Do you see the depth of this problem? Is it becoming any clearer?

Run…how many different ways do you think you are capable of running? Fast, slow, sideways, byways, upside down ways, on your knees or just your hands. Help me understand.

Will you run in a spiral into a fall?

You can always change the order of things. You decide. You can make it spiral, run, fall, three times together or make it a pattern, run, run, fall, fall, spiral. Repeat. Run, fall, spiral, fall, fall. Repeat. Now repeat it many more times. The choices are yours to make in this dance of yours. Make it your own.

But, don’t think too hard. You get dizzy if you think about this too much. Do you see that even in the small confines of these isolated ideas that the possibilities, when brought together, are endless? When you exhaust all the possibilities, what you keep is what is most pure; what does the best job at solving the problem.

Ms. Lewitsky watched us the entire time, and occasionally offered a suggestion to us. I was always grateful; her suggestions always made sense somehow. She saw through your madness. Occasionally, we all gathered for an informal showing of our work. You knew when it was your turn; it was scheduled, although this didn’t necessarily mean you made more progress in time for your showing. We offered our critique and learned from each other how to improve whatever it was we were trying to express (i.e., we may not have known exactly what we were actually doing, just that we weren’t satisfied with it). From time-to-time, in the quiet of the studio while we worked, we would shake our heads at each other in exasperation. There was no music or sound save for our grunting and thrashing on the floor.

At the end of the two weeks, each of us performed our solo choreographic pieces. My family came to view the results; hopefully, they watched. I remember falling a lot, intended or not. Just kidding. I made serious choices, and in the end, I was more than happy with my piece, having exhausted everything until my choices fit together as they should. Because they weren’t forced, the pieces came together in the most organic way.

When we put a structure in place, indeed, these two things happen, as the Writer’s Digest article states:

First, you begin to truly notice what has been right in front of you the whole time.

Second, you free your mind to make connections that you hadn’t at first realized were there.

I can very easily relate my dance composition experience to my writing. I know that if I’ve written myself into a corner, it might be exactly the place I need to be to find that hidden gem, that twist, that a reader won’t see coming. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If I’m surprised, chances are, my reader will be too.

I’ll tell you one thing. I’ve never looked at spirals in the same way. 

Photo credit: Mambo Dance Tremestieri Etneo Sicilia Italy – Creative Commons by gnuckx via photopin (license)

More about Bella Lewitzky:

Dance On: Bella Lewitzky (YouTube)

How Harper Lee Saved Me

Mark over at Exile on Pain Street just got Freshly Pressed for his post about how Harper Lee saved him. Did you know he received a letter from her? Oh, what a thrill! Congrats, Mark! Excellent post.

Exile on Pain Street

Several people have pinged me about the announcement of Harper Lee’s new novel. It’s based on a recently-discovered manuscript that she wrote in mid-50’s and takes place 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird.

I think just about everyone has already read and commented on this post but I thought I’d rerun it. It’s the reason why people are reaching out to me with this wonderful news. It explains who I am and why I’m typing these words right now. I’d be a hot mess if it weren’t for her.


Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s the single most important book in my life.

I didn’t read a book until I was 20 years old. It’s true! They attempted to force-feed me while attending my below-average schools, but I made it clear that I would only read a book under protest…

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Book Review: Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

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I love those books you can’t put down. Recently, I read the remaining pages of Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld amid the noise of my son’s iPad, whirring and buzzing away. Several times I asked him to turn it down. No matter, I was rapt with these last pages, and pulled in completely for the book’s ending.

You may think an account about adolescent high school years a silly, trivial subject that can be chalked up as a formative, growth period. Think again. This is Prep. The story is told by Lee Fiora, a fourteen-year-old girl who leaves her home in Indiana to attend Ault School, a boarding school in Massachusetts.

As readers, we experience her entire high school education in her account from freshman to senior year.  She is an outsider, plagued with the normal fears and insecurities of teenager, and in that light, the story could be anywhere. Yet, against the backdrop of an elite boarding school where classmates are groomed for the Ivy League and the interaction with students is constant, the drama is intensified.

The story is told from Lee’s perspective of a woman in her late twenties reflecting on her time there. Yet Lee’s internal drama is ever so present, many times I forget that the story is told in hindsight with a more adult perspective. Lee is intelligent, sometimes passive, driven by a neurotic, obsessive crush that can’t be fully realized. We experience this insular world in the context of heartache, complicated relationships with friends and teachers, newly discovered sexuality, and the unspoken code of race and class of her classmates. Students here know better than to “piss in their own pool,” something that Lee learns in a most painful way.

While the weight of events are heavy, Lee regrets that Ault is only temporary, that it will be over, and that eventually, life will be less about potential and more about the way things are, a fade out into adult life. Perhaps, high school is such an intense, tender period because the whole world awaits you with possibilities and dreams.

While this story line is enough to draw me in, it is Sittenfeld’s execution that plays the starring role. Her writing is phenomenal, and often I rewrote her sentences in a journal for future inspiration. Does anyone else do this? Certainly with her credentials as a graduate of Stanford and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has had lots of practice; this is her first book. She writes with the seamless grace of ballerina, capturing the story with simplicity and ease. Often, she might describe a feeling or an experience so succinctly that I felt it might be something I’ve thought about, but have never been able to put into words.

I will leave you with a few sentences that I enjoyed:

In my whole life, Ault was the place with the greatest density of people to fall to fall in love with.

I might fail to be what the other person sought, but as a failure, I’d accommodate them completely.

There was something in the mildness of Cross’s tone and expressions that made me unsure how to react to the things he said. Normally, you could tell just by observing people when you were supposed to nod, or laugh, or frown in sympathy. But Cross’s expressions were all so muted that I’d have thought he was hardly paying attention to what we were talking about.

But sometimes speaking is so hard! It’s like standing still, then sprinting. I kept rehearsing the sentence in my head, examining it for flaws.

…and finally

 Life is clearest when guided by ulterior motives.

Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will identify with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed Prep and highly recommend it. This is the second book I’ve read by Sittenfeld. I suspect she can probably tackle most anything with complexity and honesty, and look forward to more of her titles.