all the light we cannot see–dVerse OLN



all the light we cannot see

the blind french girl
her bedroom fills with pebbles, seaglass, shells,
and yet she misses gardens, books and pinecones.
her pockets lined with sand, her face aglow with wind,
she simply listens, hears and breaths.

the reluctant german soldier boy
he tries to lose himself in work,
stares into space and hears the distant
thrumming of a bird, a skylark
four hundred children crawl along the razors edge.

the blind french girl
her stockings now have runs in them,
her shoes too large but still she walks
a ballerina in satin slippers
her feet articulate as hands,
a little vessel, now, of grace

the reluctant german soldier boy
a shell now screams above the house
everything—transient, aching, tentative
i only want to sit with her, he thinks,
for hour upon hour.

so war continues to this day
with no return, without surcease
preventing lovers’ deepest want
indulging only endless greed
and misplaced ideology
why not accept the beauty of
our differences.

her bedroom fills with shells and whelks
and tears.

I’ve written this for dVerse Open Link Night with reference to the peace prompt from dVerse Poetics on Tuesday. This is an erasure poem with some paraphrasing. The book I used is Pulitzer Prize Winner Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.” It is the story of a German Orphan boy, recruited into Hitler’s Army and a young French girl, displaced from Paris during the occupation…and how their lives converge. I cannot recommend it highly enough. At my age, I only read books I find really worthwhile, and only once…I want to get in as much reading as I can before I can’t! I read this twice, for its amazing plot and stunningly poetic writing. 5 Stars +++

Please join us for Open Link Night.


Kindle Give-Away Announcement

Dear Blogger-Buddies,

I wanted you to know about an opportunity that I am offering in a couple of weeks. This book is classified as General Fiction, with a theme of forgiveness that reflects my Christian views–though I do believe the message is universal.

In the meantime, if any of you have already read it and haven’t yet put up a review on Amazon, I would be so grateful if you would. Four more and I can promote it on another website.


On September 12, 13, and 14th I will be offering a free Kindle Give-Away of my novel, “The Sin of His Father.” Click on the title to take advantage of this offer. If you are willing to do a review on or, I would be so grateful. Print copies are also available for purchase. Ask me about signed copies–

Novel The Sin of His Father

The Sin of His Father




Words uttered by his mother on her deathbed, a mystery about his father that she had not confided to him, drove Matt Maxwell to fear that he could become like this man he never knew.

Abandoning the woman he loved, his closest friend, and a lifestyle that suited him well, Matt made choices that opened him to an unlikely friendship and a new relationship with the God of his youth. However, the terrible secret he harbored eventually took him down a path of self-destruction and alcoholism.

What would it take to embrace his truth, accept himself and his past, and discover peace in the power of forgiveness and love?



For the Love of Reading—Monday Meanderings


Photo: V.

Photo: V.

Because my mother became a war widow when I was just an infant, we spent the first seven years of my life in the home of my grandparents. My grandmother had congestive heart failure and was unable to do a lot, so my mother assumed responsibility for household chores. This symbiotic relationship had a profound effect on my development, as my sedentary grandmother played a critical role in the five years before she died.


I recall that early mornings, most every day, I would drag a pile of Little Golden Books into her bedroom. There, still in bed, she read to me for hours at a time. She spoke to me using adult vocabulary. I fell in love with words before I could read them, and when it came time to learn to read, it came so easily.

One little vignette I will never forget. I suspect it was in the months or even weeks before her death. Her patience had waned along with her strength. I was playing with a toy plastic Brownie camera as she read Lewis Carroll’s fantasy to me. She asked me to cease and desist…several times. I didn’t and she (apparently very calmly) took the camera from me and hurled the length of the living room where we were sitting, I on her lap. To this day I dislike the classic “Alice in Wonderland.”


That being recounted, I have, over the years, continued to develop my love of reading and have, at any given time, several books of various genres on my current reading list. It’s not a leap, and writers know well, that reading nurtures those of us who write and helps to develop imagination in children and adults.

I worry that so many things are supplanting reading. Back in the 1940’s and 50’s when I was a child, there was no virtual reality and, until I was 5, no television. Life was simple and nurtured simple things. Okay. I confess. I’m sounding my age. The point I want to make, the question I ask—what are we doing to promote reading among children and adults?


An addendum/disclaimer: it’s good to see so many YA books appearing on the various best-seller lists.

Just for the fun of it—what do you like to read? What are you reading now?

Wordsmith Wednesday–Poetry and Prose

2006 National Poetry Month poster, designed by...

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Since April is National Poetry Month, I think it’s important to pay homage to this sometimes undervalued art. Many prose writers, especially those who write literary fiction, dabble in poetry–either as readers or poets–and find that doing so enriches their own work. Here are a few things to consider:


  • Engages the senses
  • Pays attention to details
  • Uses symbolic language
  • Expresses thoughts succinctly
  • Respects the rhythm and sound of words
  • Makes use of metaphor and simile
  • Uses description to express feelings
  • Breaks the rules!

I invite you to treat yourself to a book of poetry, brew a cup of tea or coffee. Now, hunker down in your favorite chair and read. My personal preference is for poets who are not so obscure that you need a lit professor to help interpret their work. Here are just a few of my favorites, most of them contemporary: Ted Kooser, Kim Addonizio, Jane Hirschfiled, Jane Kenyon, Ellen Bass, William Carlos Williams, Pablo Neruda, Dorianne Laux. Stanley Kunitz. Consider browsing poetry blogs and websites and sample some of the excellent poetry that is there for the taking.

Happy writing. Enjoy the process…and try writing a poem of your own. If you’d like to post it in comments, I’d love to share it.

Recommended Reading–Update

Books, books...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve just updated my recommended reading list and thought I might include it as a post. My hope is that you will comment, suggesting books I’ve overlooked or some of your favorites that you would like to share.

Here is an updated (but not comprehensive list) of books I have found to be enriching and well written:

Literary/Mainstream Fiction: Sue Monk Kidd: The Secret Life of Bees; Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible; John Steinbeck: East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath; Betty Smith: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; J.D. Salinger: Catcher in the Rye; F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby; Lisa Genoa: Still Alice; Isabel Allende: Island Beneath the Sea; Chris Cleave: Little Bee; Lisa See: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan;

Non Fiction and Memoir: Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor: Traveling with Pomegranates; Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love; Jeanette Walls: The Glass Castle; Bill O’Reilly: A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity; Mitch Albom: Tuesdays with Morrie

Spirituality and Inspirational: The Holy Bible (TNIV); Francis Chan: Forgotten God–Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit; Rabbi David Cooper: God is a Verb; St. John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul; Gerald May: The Dark Night of the Soul

Poets by Author: Mary Oliver, Stanley Kunitz, Rumi, Jane Kenyon, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Ted Kooser, T.S. Eliot, e.e.cummings, Pablo Neruda, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Ranier Maria Rilke, Langston Hughs, Matsuo Basho, Thomas Merton

Books about Writing: Anne Lamont: Bird by Bird; Heather Sellers: Page by Page; The Writer’s Digest Series: Write Great Fiction; Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones

Revised 3/31/11

Wordsmith Wednesday–More about Dialogue

I’m just completing a novel (which I will not identify) for my monthly book club meeting and have been trying to evaluate why it’s been a burdensome read. It’s a thriller, the kind of book that should keep you turning pages and reading late into the night. But that hasn’t happened for me. If I had to make a diagnosis, one symptom I’d target is the dialogue.

Consider the term “information dump.” Think of long, rambling paragraphs in which a character  exposes volumes of background data to enable the reader to understand the premise of the plot. To do this, the author has one character “teach” another. You’ll most likely find this in novels that require knowledge of a specialized field in order to follow the plot. These stories might involve science, medicine, government protocol or religion.

How do you achieve the goal of giving your reader what he needs without lectures? Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Avoid long rambling paragraphs by breaking up dialogue into questions and answers along with interruptions or description.

Here’s an example from “Winter is Past.” I needed to give the reader some basic information about the kidney transplant procedure. Here’s how I could have written the scene:

“You must be wondering what the process is. Kathryn will meet with a pre-transplant nurse. They will draw her blood and test it for blood type and antigens that will tell us if the donor is a match. Then she will meet with a transplant physician who will do an examination. After that, she will have her blood drawn every month until the transplant to make sure that there is no change. They mail it to the transplant center in San Francisco. It takes a while before you will know if there’s a match. Then the donor has to go through a lot of testing to make sure that they are healthy enough to go through the procedure and live the rest of their lives with only one kidney. (The donor) has to go to San Francisco for some of the testing. Today Kathryn will meet with a social worker and (the donor) has to go through a psychological evaluation to make sure that they are making a free choice to donate and that there is no financial incentive…”

Kinda boring, isn’t it?

This is how I wrote it:

“You want me to explain how the whole thing works?” I asked Michael. Without waiting for his response, I dug into my own memories of the experience. “First of all, Kathryn meets with the pre-transplant nurse who’ll draw her blood. Then, the transplant center doctor will examine her.”

“What kind of blood test?”  Michael asked.

“Blood type and antigens, the proteins that the immune system builds up against foreign invaders. The same test they’ll do on (her donor) to evaluate their compatibility.”

Michael fixed his gaze on me, soaking in every word.

“While Kathryn’s waiting for surgery, they’ll draw her blood every month and mail it to San Francisco—sometimes things change.”

“How long before we know if (the donor) is a match?”

“I don’t remember.” I plumbed the archives of my recollection. “It seemed like forever.”

“I think Kathryn had to go through all kinds of poking and prodding,” Josh said.

“You’re right there were a ton of procedures. Didn’t she have to go to San Francisco for some of them?”

“I’d forgotten about that” Michael said. “Anything else?”

“Yeah.” I squirmed in the uncomfortable chair. “She’ll meet with a social worker today. I remember it well—I was so afraid something would happen to Kathryn but the counselor reminded me to trust, to leave it to them to keep her safe.”

Michael spoke up again. “Kathryn had a psychological work-up, too, didn’t she?”

I nodded and glanced at a couple entering with a teenage son, a boy the color of yellow chalk. “You bet. They’ll make sure (her donor) is stable and that there’s no financial incentive.”

The three of us watched as the young patient’s father helped him into a chair then went to sign in at the receptionist’s desk. A smile broke across the child’s face. He nodded in my direction and gave me a thumb’s up.

In this example I’ve deliberately obscured some of the information. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot.

  • Another simple way is to include either a forward or a glossary that gives basic facts that contribute to the reader’s understanding of the story. In his novel, One Second After, William Forstchen explains EMP (electromagnetic pulse) with the help of an introduction by Newt Gingrich. That’s a thriller I found hard to put down (and thrillers aren’t a genre I usually gravitate toward).

I don’t want to ruin your reading experience, but take notice of how the authors you read give you the facts you need to know. Do you have other suggestions?


Writers Supporting One Another

Wandering around other writer’s/reader’s blogs can be a great avoidance technique, but it can also be a great means of writers offering encouragement and support to one another. I’m just beginning to network, to access unknown blogs from blogs I’ve already discovered and I’m finding so many of you who face the same obstacles and/or joys that I deal with on a daily basis. What a boost it is to learn that something you’ve posted has hit home with someone else, has helped them get “unstuck” or encouraged them to move beyond their comfort zone.

Conversely, how helpful it is to glean prompts from other writers, to learn of opportunities or, as happened this morning, to unearth resources or tools to help us in our craft. Today, I received an e-mail update from Lisa Rivero (see her link on my blog roll) with some of her favorite books for writers, a few of which are among my favorites, others unfamiliar to me.

Here are some of the reads I find most valuable–books I return to time and again in my own writing endeavors. Hope you find some of them helpful to you, as well.

  • “The Poetry Repair Manual” by Ted Kooser
  • “Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry” by Jane Hirschfield
  • “The Poet’s Companion” by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
  • All of the volumes from Writer’s Digest’s “Write Great Fiction” series
  • “Word Painting” by Rebecca McClanahan
  • Not exactly a writing-specific book, but “Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types” based on the Meyers-Briggs personality types by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates is an invaluable reference for me in developing and maintaining consistent character in my novels.

While you’re at it, visit Lisa’s site, let her lead you on to other writers who will help you on your sometimes lonely road to publishing.

Thoughts on e-Books

Disclaimer: I love my Kindle! I relish being able to download books when I want them, archiving the ones I’ve read and being able to recall them to my device if I want to revisit something and being able to underline and make notes as I read. I like the fact that it is lightweight and that I can read “East of Eden” or “War and Peace” while I’m lounging in bed. Being able to adjust the font size is great for those of us who are a little older. But…

…there are a few downsides. Tables and illustrations are difficult to read and navigate; it isn’t easy to flip through pages, for example, to re-familiarize yourself with a character or scene you may have forgotten. For those of us who are authors, we can probably expect less in royalties. And my 89-year-old mom would never figure out how to read it. Then there is the sensory joy of holding a book in hand: the smell, the texture of the pages, the substance of it all. But there is one other thing that outweighs all of these: EMP.

Last night I finished reading “One Second After,” by William R. Forstchen–a fictional account of what our country could expect should a rogue nation attack us with a nuclear detonation miles above earth that would wipe out the electric grid and electronic devices over wide areas. This event could plunge us back a couple of centuries. I won’t make this a post about EMP, but one of the tools of survival was the ability of the survivors to got to a college library and obtain information about things like reconstructing telephones and telegraphs, steam engines etc. Sounds out there, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it may not be.

In conclusion, what are your feelings about e-Books? If you received an offer to publish your manuscript electronically, would you? (I would) Do you think that the day will come when this form of publishing will replace hardcopy. (I hope not)

By the way, print out hardcopies of all your work.

Summer Reading Recommendations–Literary Fiction

When I was working full-time, I used to look forward to vacation time to have a chance to catch up on reading. As a career woman, often under a lot of stress, I tended to turn toward lighter reading, primarily mysteries, but I missed the intensity and quality of writing that prevails in literary fiction. With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you some of the best literary fiction that I’ve read in the last year or so.

Island Beneath the Sea, A Novel  Isabel Allende, HarperCollins Publishers. The story of an African-American slave and her journey from Haiti to New Orleans, from slavery to freedom.

Still Alice  Lisa Genova, Simon and Schuster. The first person account of a Harvard professor’s descent into early stage dementia. Hard to believe it’s fictional. Genova first self-published this masterpiece, endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Bean Trees, A novel  Barbara Kingsolver,  HarperCollins Publishers. A story of poverty, love and friendship showcasing Kingslover’s delectable prose.

Mariette in Ecstasy  Ron Hansen, HarperCollins Publishers.  A tale of a young postulant’s apparent divine possession and religious ecstasy. Hansen employs some unique literary devices, offering some exquisite description.

The Grapes of Wrath  John Steinbeck, Penquin Publishing. Experience the plight of dust bowl refugees who migrate to California at the height of the depression.

The Sun Also Rises  Ernest Hemmingway, Simon and Schuster. If you read this as a teen like I did, you will want to revisit it–a novel of expatriates and the “Lost Generation.”

None of these recommendations is a light, mindless read but the quality of the prose is guaranteed to impact your own writing experience.

Wordsmith Wednesday–More About Description

The more I read, the more I realize the critical role of description–involving all the senses–in the telling of a story. It is through sensory input that we engage in our world. So many of us today rush through life. Always in a hurry, we don’t take the time to notice the beauty of cloud formations, the scent of honey-suckle, the colors of the sunset or the caress of a summer breeze. Sucked into the vortex of Ipods, texting–even blogs–it’s easy to succumb to the inevitability of a life lived vicariously. So, offer your reader the joys he or she may be missing. Invite them to become more aware. This goes whether you write fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction or…you name it.

Here are a few more considerations to bear in mind when writing description:

Good description does not have to be flowery, purple prose kind of stuff. Avoid extensive use of hyperbole, adjectives, adverbs. Go for active verbs when you can.

Description isn’t only about what you see. Train yourself to become aware of all your senses. Keep notes about your experiences in your writing journal so that you can refer to them for inspiration.

Use description to express emotion. It’s that old “show, don’t tell” advice. Become aware of how your body responds when you’re happy, afraid–whatever. Go ahead and jot that down in your journal, too.

Don’t be afraid to describe the ugly, the scary, the difficult, the gruesome, even. This is all part of life, isn’t it?

Description doesn’t have to be lengthy, rambling. Tighten up your narrative, but make every word count. I’m sure that when reading you, like me, have been guilty of skimming lengthy paragraphs of description that have taken you out of the story line.

Suggestion: to develop your own awareness, get in the habit of journaling each day. Jot down some memories of things you’ve observed. Go beyond the visual. Cultivate awareness.