Good afternoon, Friends, from cold, white Ohio, where more snow is falling, and the roads are slick and snowy… What do YOU do when weather keeps you inside? I read, of course, but I also cook…comfort food is needed. That’s what my blog post is about this week…

Wherever you are, I hope you’re snug and cozy!

Happy blogging–



When Life Gives You Prompts: The Address Book

My Christmas card list is alphabetical; it corresponds to my address book, an aging resource, much-amended, and long pre-dating an electronic ability to archive contacts. I start at the ‘A’ section, and I address an envelope to my friend MJ, whose married name is ‘Ackroyd.’ Her address has been the same for the last 35-plus years.

But MJ is in the minority. As I wrote out my cards this December, I marveled at the changes my address book demonstrated. For example: my former student, Jannie, has had six address changes since she’d graduated from college and got her first apartment, away from her parents’ home. After some bumps and unexpected jogs, she married her sweetheart, Cal. They bought their first home together after a year of apartment life.

They added a miracle baby to their family—a miracle because they were told they never would conceive. This year, their little family moved to a house closer to Cal’s work.

I think of all that those various moves represent. There was a heartbroken year when Cal decided that he needed to spread his wings and soar in a completely different direction. There was a new relationship for Jannie, and Cal’s startled realization that she might not be there when his soaring time was over.

There was Jannie’s struggle with anorexia, and her eventual (and on-going) triumph.

There was the reconciliation and the wedding. Three years later, there was little Grayson’s birth.

And every time Jannie moved, I carefully cut the new address label off the letter she’d sent me and pasted it over her last address. Now, in the “Jannie” space in my address book, there is a little lump. And in that little lump, there are stories. Although those stories have their sad components, Jannie’s story, overall, is one of triumph.

But the address book tells tragic stories, too. I have to cross names off this year: bold Kim, who outwitted cancer for seven years beyond the time her doctors estimated. Sweet Patty, whose cancer returned after a thirty-year wait, swift and vicious. Vivacious Rosemary, who could captivate a room with her funny stories—stories always told at her own expense, never at another’s.  Cancer has been especially cruel this year.

My address book tells stories of separation and re-connection. It chronicles moves and marriages, births and divorces, leaps in employment, exciting travels, and heart-wrenching losses.

An old friend who is a freelance writer said something once that stuck with me. “If you have ten people in a room,” she said, “you’ve got at least thirty stories to tell.” As I write out my Christmas cards, I wonder how many stories are represented by the names and changes in my address book.

There are stories of meetings; there are stories of escapades. There are stories of partings, of moves and postings, of reunions and returns. There are stories of welcome, as new friends and family, new babies and significant others, enter own our and others’ lives.

There are end tales, too.

When I’m stuck, when I’m in need of a prompt to stir my writing juices, maybe I could just pick up my address book. I could select a name deliberately. I could flip to a page at random. I could pick a name and pick a story to tell. It might be “How We Met.” It might be “After the Wedding.” It might be, “Patsy Moves to a Foreign Country.” It might even be, “Why I’ll Never Write to Curtis Again.”

I might tell the truth. I might weave a tale, inspired by the real-life events my address book suggests. Whatever the Muse whispers, I am pretty sure my address book has the abundance I need to crash my writer’s block.

Not everyone, I realize, still has an old school, pen-and-paper, address book. Many of us archive our contacts in a phone…but those archives, too, have their stories to tell.

Following this thread, I wound up writing a short story about a woman of a certain age who couldn’t avoid the task of sending holiday cards. Here’s the link to that post:

What prompts has life presented to you? Please share your posts with us! Happy blogging, my friends.




The dark has fallen; it’s officially the last night of the year here in Ohio. I had the lovely luxury this week to step back and ponder the holidays, the year gone by, the time to come. And therein lies my post.

Friends, I hope 2018 is a wonderful year for you, filled with joy and adventure and perfect times of quiet and reflection. I look forward to reading about it in your blogs. Happy New Year!




Hello, friends! The dark falls earlier each day and everywhere I look, people are lighting up their Christmas decorations. I am thinking about this season of light-in-darkness, and that prompted my post this week:

I hope your life is filled with light and joy! Happy blogging…


Hello on a windy, gray Ohio evening! I’ve been lucky enough to be with a variety of folks lately, representing a whole spectrum of meanings of ‘family’…. With Thanksgiving looming, and the image of the ‘right’ holiday being one where a huge, extended family gathers to feast, I started thinking about what defines a “good” holiday. Hence my post.

Whatever you celebrate in these winter months, I hope the activity brings you joy and solace!!

You’re Gonna Love This Book: Writing a Book Review

A friend of mine gave me a book to read.

“You,” she said, “are going to love this book. It was funny! It was sad! And I loved all the characters.”

She told me the premise, and she outlined the plot. She couldn’t wait for me to read it so we could talk.

It seems to me a kind of sacred trust when someone places a book in my hands, so I cleared the decks, and then I read that book.

And I really, really did not like it.

I collected some things to say about that book–striking quotes and quirky things about the characters, and when I returned the book, we had a great conversation. And I realized that some of the things that happened in the book parallel things that are happening in my friend’s life.

It makes sense; I get it. That’s why the spoke spoke to her so strongly—and maybe why it passed me by completely.


All of this made me think about how we can write about books.

There’s a place, I think, for the academic approach–for a discussion of plot, character, theme, and setting. And there’s the challenge of defining style, the way a wordsmith tosses words out on to the page, distinctively, a different sort of tossing than any other writer can attain. There’s the quest to identify symbols and meaning.

All of those are English teacher-y joys, book-geek occupations. Not everyone loves those discussions, and even if they do, the discussions don’t mean the person who reads them will also enjoy the book.

And it’s such a personal thing: we loved a book, it made a difference in our lives. We want our friends and dear ones to love it too.

So I’m thinking we need to write about the things in the book that connected….and write about the things going on in our lives that the book connects to.


I retired in August. Not long after, a new friend from the blogosphere recommended a book by Dorothy Gillman, a mystery writer. The book was called A New Kind of Country, and it was Gillman’s memoir about moving to Nova Scotia when she was just about my age, and when her youngest son stepped out into adult independence. I dug up a copy of the book, which was written in 1978, and I read it.

It resonated because of the similarities between my stage of life right now and Gillman’s when she wrote it.

It fascinated because of the differences.

And it made me think there are some universal themes about this age and stage–nests that empty, parents who are aging, defining ourselves when the formal, official work life is over. Relationships and physical changes. How we decide what it is, in these latter years, what we call home.

So Gillman’s book enthralled me, and I started a quest to find other books by women of a certain age, and to see if the universal themes ring through their work.

Those books call to me because I speak the language, walk the same walk.

What books, right now, call to you?


My son, a young adult with autism, loves the work of Stephen King. He enjoys the thrill of the horribly fantastic. He resonates, too, I think, with a recurring theme of ‘outsiderhood’ in King’s work.

My mother-in-law, widowed two years ago, devours romance novels. The love stories there fill a kind of void in her own life; she replaces her missing hero with a fictional one, and she is drawn in and delighted.

I would not enjoy most of Stephen King’s fiction (although I loved his nonfiction book, On Writing.) I don’t care too much for most romance novels. I do, though, love murder mysteries–me, the biggest pacifist you’ll ever meet. If I were to write about those mysteries, I’d need, I think, to explore why they speak to me so. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of seeing villainous skunks unmasked and brought to justice. Maybe there are other things in those stories that meld with the nerve endings in my mind.

Whatever it is, I could recommend Louise Penny or Anne Cleeves work to you, and you might like her work. Or, you might not.

They say you can’t step in the same river twice. Along those same lines, I don’t think two people ever read the same book.


So in writing about books, I think we also have to write about ourselves. We need to talk about the characters, sure, and the reader needs to know at least a fundamental plot outline. It’s good to say when and where the book takes place, and what we like about the book.

But then we need to explore the why, I think–answer the question of why this book speaks to me right now. Unspool that, and share it, and the person who reads your review may say, “Oh, my gosh; that sounds just like me,” or, “I know someone going through exactly the same thing,” or, “I have no idea what that’s about and no desire to learn.”


The reading of a book is a dynamic thing, a shared kind of creation. The writer organizes and puts down thoughts, brings his or her own gifts and knowledge, imagination or research, and presents that composite in a unique and certain way. The reader brings his or her own lived experiences, beliefs, and interests to the work. They sieve the writer’s words through a fine-grained filter as individual as a snowflake.

The experience of reading is different for every single person, and it’s even different for that person, every single time they read the same work.

And when we write about books, I think, our challenge is to define that difference. What does the work say to me, right here and right now? The writer’s words, my filter: what experience do we create together?

If we can capture that in our reviews, we can, maybe, show our readers one of the infinitesimal facets that can be polished by reading that particular work.


What do you want to know when you read a review? What do you want to share when you write one?

Happy blogging, my friends.

Good morning, friends! It’s cold,…

Good morning, friends! It’s cold, wet, and gray here, which is a GOOD thing because the skunk scent is being washed away from this neighborhood. Nothing like a mixed bag to make me remember and appreciate all the gifts I don’t always acknowledge. Hence my post this week.

Looking forward to continuing the party and visiting your blogs this weekend…