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Montana Women Writers 009

Back row, L to R: Christine Carbo, Patti Dean, Marie Martin, Ann Minnett, Jeannie Tallman, Anne B. Howard, and Constance See

Front row: Gail Ranstrom, Kathy Dunnehoff, P.A. Moore, Marlette Bess, Leslie Budewitz, Nan McKenzie, and Betty Kuffel

Camera shy: Deborah Epperson, Angela Miller, Ina Albert, Karen Wills, and Lise McClendon

SLEEPING ROUGH

Diane

 

by Diane E Bokor

Flash nonfiction is creative nonfiction that usually comes in under 750 words.  It is a form that works well for writing memoir, essays and remembered events. There are many challenges to this genre.  You can learn more about writing “flash” in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Brevity Magazine’s editor, Dinty Moore.  What follows is a piece of my flash nonfiction.

Woke up… got out of bed… ran a comb across my head

It was predawn dark at 4AM when I turned on the radio, set perpetually to NPR.  At that hour, it’s always BBC World News. A guy with a very British accent was going on and on about the various ways social scientists try to measure the homeless population of San Francisco.  Over there, across the pond, they call it “sleeping rough.”

By mid-morning, I received the daily call from my bereft brother.  Except, this week he hasn’t called me for several days in a row. I took this as a good sign, as a new and improved phase since the death of our mother.  Upon her death, he was a howling animal, mad with grief. Each time we talk now, he tears up at some point in the conversation. During this conversation, I found out that he hadn’t been sleeping.  He lives alone now, in our mom’s condo, surrounded by all of her things, their things. He never goes outside, except maybe to check the mail. He tries to sleep. He went to his bed, then to hers, then to the recliner on the lanai, then to the recliner in front of the TV, then to the air-bed in the guest room, where I had been sleeping.  His voice was rough, his mood was rough and it occurred to me that he had found his own form of “sleeping rough.”

By afternoon, my dog needed a walk, so I pulled my SUV into the city park.  Unseasonably cold for early autumn, I was prepared with a cozy coat, a furry hat and a pair of gloves.  As I pulled the key out of the ignition, heavy fatigue hit me. It had been, after all, a very early rise this morning.  That, on top of the brother-worry I carried just below the surface. I explained to my dog (even though, he got the gist of my behavior before I did) that a little nap was in order before our walk.  I flattened the driver’s seat, balled my coat into a pillow, pulled the furry hat down over my weary eyes, curled into a fetal position and faded away. Eventually, I arose from a dream to the sound of lagoon geese honking.  And I thought, am I “sleeping rough?” 

Hours later, after multiple errands, I found myself again walking this patient little dog who seemed thrilled to spend the stop-and-go day with Mom.  It was a weird place for a dog walk. Evergreen is the low-rent end of town and we were behind an abandoned box-store near the grocery of my next errand.  Generally, I love exploring nooks and crannies with this guy, so we took off toward a wooded lot we had never seen (or sniffed) before. There was a fence with an open gate and a beckoning path lined with a jumble of weeds.  In the back of my head, I could hear my mom’s fearful rants to be careful “out there.” It’s a voice I fight with often – adventure and exploration versus safety and comfort. Off we went… There was no one else around, just a woman (me) with her little dog walking into a wooded lot in a sketchy part of town.  I’ve always been a sucker for a curving path in the woods. That’s why my mom was always ranting.

Not too far in, I saw it.  Stopped in my tracks. I squinted hard looking for movement.  Hard to say. Was there a guy in there, under the low-hanging boughs of the ginormous fir tree?  I saw tarps and cardboard boxes. Trash and clothing were strewn about. Was that lump somebody “sleeping rough?”

“Come on, puppy, we’ve got to go!”  I turned on my heels and said a little prayer for that guy, for my brother and for all those in the San Francisco headcount.

At bedtime, my feather pillow was calling my name.  I crawled under a heated blanket and on top of fresh percale.  The mattress was the perfect firmness. The room temperature was controlled.  One of those fake candles on a timer cast a soft golden glow. This was the exact opposite of “sleeping rough” and yet I tossed and turned for hours.  Then got up to put it all into words.                              

(Word count = 720)

 

 

LEAP INTO NANOWRIMO

By Marsha Nash Sultz

I’ve always loved to write. Aimlessly, gloriously, imaginatively. But not, unfortunately, with a lot of form or purpose. I had filing cabinet drawers full of half-finished drafts of stories, essays and one precious novel. For years I was a blitzkrieg writer.  If I had an idea, I’d attack it with vigor but not a lot of style. I had the desire, but not the foundation of good practice.

And then I heard about a class at FVCC taught by Kathy Dunnehoff on writing a novel in a month. 

What? 

I signed up immediately. NanoWrimo – National Novel Writing Month – is an interesting concept for writers. The goal is to write fifty-thousand words in thirty days. For a month, no editing, no fixing, no second-guessing. 

Just write, write, write. 

When embarking on a journey of fifty-thousand words, careful planning is required. Kathy encouraged us to fill out a calendar containing our word count per day, our days off for Thanksgiving, medical appointments and mental health days. 

Above all, Kathy told us to remember what Hemingway famously said about first drafts. “All first drafts are shit.” 

I kept that in mind when my eyes roamed over the scenes I had written the day before. I had to physically restrain myself, at first, from going back and fixing mistakes. Thankfully, Kathy reinforced our ‘rules’ each week in class and I muddled through a draft, knowing I had eleven months stretching before me to edit to my heart’s content.

I have participated in NanoWrimo six times. Twice I finished drafts of novels that I had started the year before. One year I wrote a novella. One year I started a novel and did a do-over two weeks into the month, so I only wrote about thirty thousand words that year.

NanoWrimo is a great way to jumpstart a novel and I’m grateful for the structure that it gave me. Now, three drafts of novels are on the shelf and I can choose whichever one calls to me. With experience, I realize that writing a first draft is merely the beginning of novel-writing. As I learn more about the craft of writing, more about the framework of scenes, plot and characters, I have those drafts in reserve to take out and refine.

If you are a beginning writer or a writer who struggles with how to dive into a new novel, give NanoWrimo a try. It’s a little like mind vomit, but the ideas you’ll come up with, unconstrained by trying to be perfect, will surprise you and lead to good content that can be corralled into form and structure as you edit after the month is over.

Remember: write, write, write!

 

November Book News

 

november 2019 used

Glacier National Park

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my kingdom

Janice McCaffrey

I’m pleased to announce that my alter-ego’s debut novel will be available on Amazon.com by the end of November.

Plans Interrupted by Madge Wood.

Here’s what Madge says about it: Have you ever been disappointed because your major plans were interrupted or have you willingly given up your plans for someone you loved? If so, have you ever wondered if it’s too late to revise past plans? Yeh, I have, too.  plans book cover 2

And now here I am a sixty-something widow with only one major plan left—a trip to Monaco, a ride up the “To Catch a Thief” cliffside road , wearing a long, pink, Grace Kelly-like scarf that catches the sunlight as it flies in the wind , and a visit to Princess Grace’s Palace.

My last plan. What could possibly interrupt it? You’re not going to believe it. I wouldn’t either—except I lived it.  madgewoodauthor.com    facebook/madgewoodauthor

 

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all too human book cover 2

In 1905, Rebecca Bryan, the first woman to practice law in Kalispell, Montana, is sent by her uncle/ senior partner to a remote hunting lodge near the Canadian border. She’s to find the missing will of his deceased longtime love, the wealthy artist, Lucinda Cale. 

After a broken coach wheel forces her to set out in the winter forest at night, she meets Lucinda’s compelling son, Bretton. Next morning he takes her to Eagle Mountain where she meets the rest of the dysfunctional Cale family. There Rebecca also discovers Lucinda’s hidden diaries which tell of a naive bride’s victimization that hardened her into a manipulative, murderous matriarch. Lucinda’s estate is large. Each heir is desperate. Those involved reveal themselves to be All Too Human.

All Too Human  by Karen Wills was released September 18, 2019 by Five Star Cengage. Now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, & Five Star Cengage.

Midwest Book Review calls “‘All Too Human’ a simply riveting page-turner of a read from cover to cover. ‘All Too Human’ showcases author Karen Wills’ genuine flair for originality and a distinctively reader engaging narrative storytelling style that will make her deftly crafted and thoroughly entertaining novel an immediate and popular addition to both personal reading lists and community library collections.”

Karen's author photo apr 2019

                                                  For more books by Karen Wills     including information on her other or upcoming historical novels or to arrange a book signing or interview visit karenwills.com

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All mysteriesLESLIE BUDEWITZ:  Thrilled to celebrate Janice and Karen’s new books! Me, I’m happy to say I’ve just submitted the fifth Spice Shop mystery to my publishers. THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES will be out in June 2020 from Seventh St. Books. Pepper investigates when an old friend is shot, and discovers the surprising link to the unsolved murder three years ago of another friend’s husband.

We’re heading into a busy cooking and baking season, and I’ll be helping kick it off at the World Spice Merchants Outpost just north of Glacier Park International airport, between Kalispell and Columbia Falls, on Saturday, November 9, from 10-4. The spice merchants will be serving up tasty treats, and I’ll be signing and selling books, from both my Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle, and my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries,  set in Jewel Bay, Montana, a fictional version of Bigfork. If you’re in Seattle, the World Spice flagship store in the Market will also be celebrating, with guests and treats — and a few signed copies of CHAI ANOTHER DAY and other books of mine.

Wishing you a warm and wonderful autumn, with good friends, good food, and good books!

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Betty Kuffel MD, Author

Decades of studying the science of prion disease after the U.K. epidemic of mad cow disease raised my interest in this inexorable always fatal disease. A related prion is now spreading in wildlife across 26 states, three Canadian Provinces and countries around the world. My interest evolved to writing Fatal Feast, a biothriller, set in Montana. In this work of fiction, young researcher Callie Archer works in an NIH high-risk lab in the mountains of Montana protected from radical animal rights activists. Instead of safety, she faces sabotage, a sexist lab director and an obstructionist rancher, risking her life to stop the disease. With forces mounting against her, can Callie save mankind and herself?

Released 11/6/19 after recent edits.

 

 

Darkness As A Blessing

Photo.cropped

 

 

by M.F. Erler

Well, it’s finally here.  Halloween.  Samhain to the ancient Celts.  It marks the midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  A dark time in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere.   No wonder the Celts of Ireland and Scotland, and the Norse of Scandinavia, marked it as a time when the dead were said to walk the earth for a night.  I’m glad the Medieval Church set it aside as the Eve of All Saints’ Day, a time to remember those who have gone before us, and to reflect on their legacy to us.  So that’s what I’m doing. 

As I look into my family tree, I’m remembering all the things my ancestors have left to me.  And I’m looking for ways to pass this legacy on to my children, the next generation. Reading about all the trials and problems my ancestors went through in their lives reminds me how much we take for granted now. Things like central heating and electric lights. Hot and cold running water. That’s just a few.  

As the days shorten and the darkness seems to close around (especially in this northern latitude) it’s good to know that this old earth is still turning in its appointed course around the sun.  Even though winter follows autumn, spring will come in its time, too. Some of my friends like to be snowbirds, but I enjoy the changing seasons. Maybe I’m strange, but I think I would get bored living in a place where it’s always summer. 

Barbara Tuchman

my kingdom

By Janice McCaffrey

A book mark has been sitting on my desk for over two years now because I like the poem printed on it. Recently I looked up the poet and found that Barbara Tuchman (1903-1984) was not a poet, but a journalist and historian. Wikipedia says that she was criticized because she didn’t have a university degree and wrote history in a way that ordinary people could understand it. Seems she was ahead of her time. Nowadays easy-to-understand histories make the New York Times bestseller list (e.g. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown or The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter.)

Surfing the web I found a site with Barbara Tuchman quotes (quotetab.com). Here’s my favorites:      Human behavior is timeless.—Above all, discard the irrelevant.—One must stop conducting research before one has finished. Otherwise, one will never- stop and never finish.—Words are seductive and dangerous material, to be used with caution.                  An essential element for good writing is a good ear. One must listen to the sound of one’s own prose.           I have always been in a condition in which I cannot not write.          No writing comes alive unless the writer sees across his desk a reader, and searches constantly for the word or phrase which will carry the image he wants the reader to see, and arouse the emotion he wants him to feel. Without conscientiousness of a live reader, what a man writes will die on the page.               To be a bestseller is not necessarily a measure of quality, but it is a measure of communication.         Nothing is more satisfying then to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continual practice.             Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.                   My bookmark says:  Without books, history is silent, literature dumb,science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.       Without books,  the development of civilization would have been impossible.      Books are engines of change, windows on the world, “lighthouses” (as a poet said” “erected in the sea of time.”     Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. They are humanity in print.