Tag Archives: guest blog

Guest Blog Post: How a Corgi Supercharged My Writing Life by Regina Buttner (Author of “Down a Bad Road”)

I have never been dogless. When I was a child, my family had a succession of pooches of various breeds. As an adult, my kids and I adopted a string of dogs, including two incorrigible beagles and a lovely golden retriever named Juliet.

After my children were grown, I decided to trade the cold winters of upstate New York for the endless summer of coastal Florida, where I could enjoy the sunshine and write more books. There was a hitch, though—faithful Juliet disliked hot weather, so my son gladly took her in.

Being dogless gave me the freedom to pursue new pastimes in my new home: paddling my kayak, exploring the beaches, and planning my next novel. But then, an emptiness hit me. No damp doggy nose nudging me awake in the morning, nobody wagging their fanny off in greeting when I arrived home. My beach walks were solitary, and the space next to me on the couch was sadly vacant when I curled up to read in the evening. My writing suffered, too. With all the disruption of moving, the daily writing routine I’d worked so hard to cultivate was in danger of falling apart.

What to do? I wasn’t sure at first. Then one day, while sorting through my boxes, I came across a photo of a house I’d lived in twenty years ago. I recalled the wintry day when my young family moved in. The driveway was so long and narrow that the moving van had to park on the road, and the crew schlepped our belongings up to the house by hand. The cheerful driver wasn’t fazed though, because he had a secret power hidden inside his truck. “Mind if I let my dog out to play with yours?” he asked, and of course I agreed.

Next thing, a little dude named Edgar came bounding through the gate. He had short, stumpy legs, a ridiculously long back, and tall, pointy ears like satellite dishes. Where his tail should have been, there was only a fluffy pair of buns that resembled oven-browned loaves of bread. Edgar launched himself across the snowy backyard like a ping pong ball on steroids. “He’s a corgi,” his owner informed me, and I was instantly smitten.

As I sat there with my memories, a realization dawned: I need to get a dog. A month later, I acquired Pekoe, a 10-week-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and all heck broke loose. Having a puppy forced me to rise with the birds in the morning, for urgent potty and walkies. The vet had warned me that corgis tend to think they’re the boss of the world, so I worked diligently on Pekoe’s obedience training. Needless to say, she wasn’t too psyched about the whole doing-what-you’re-told thing, but I persevered. I developed a daily routine with a healthy blend of play time, training and naps, and structured my writing time around it.

The discipline of a daily schedule worked wonders with my pup, and it also jump-started my stalled writing life. The four basic commands I taught Pekoe—COME, SIT, STAY, FETCH—were essential to her training; and in a happy coincidence, I found they could be applied to my writing as well. 

Take COME, for instance. When the muse knocks, the writer must come to greet her, or risk her disappearing into the dreaded maw of writer’s block. Then there’s SIT. Your book won’t get written if your butt is traipsing around town, instead of at home in that desk chair where it belongs. And once you’re seated at the keyboard, you must STAY. Silence those pesky notifications and close the door, because it’s writin’ time! The last command you must master is FETCH. Your book ain’t gonna write itself, so let’s get after it! Clamp those needle-like puppy teeth around your story, give the muse a ferocious growl, and don’t let go until it’s done.

I’m happy to report that Pekoe has grown into a happy, healthy, and reasonably obedient corgi who only occasionally indulges her fantasy of being the supreme leader of the universe. With plenty of loving care, I hope to have Her Royal Corginess by my side for many more years and books to come. If you’d like a glimpse of Pekoe’s life of leisure, she’d be delighted to have you follow her on Instagram at #pekoecorgi.

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About the Author

Regina is a registered nurse-turned-writer who was raised in beautiful upstate New York, where she spent many happy years exploring the winding back roads and scenic hiking trails of the Adirondack mountain region. She recently traded the snowy northern winters for the tropical breezes of the Sunshine State, where her favorite pastimes are kayaking among the mangroves, strolling the gorgeous beaches, and attempting to teach tricks to her boisterous corgi. 

Learn more on Regina’s website or follow her on InstagramFacebookGoodreads or BookBub

You can read more about the book (and read a preview!) by going to: https://www.amazon.com/Down-Bad-Road-Regina-Buttner-ebook/dp/B0BSN7F7KT

Add Down a Bad Road to your Goodreads TBR list or purchase a copy at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org.

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Blog Tour Calendar

May 29th @ The Muffin

Join us as we celebrate the blog tour launch of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner. You’ll have the chance to read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

May 30th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog

Stop by author Anthony Avina’s blog to read his review of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner. 

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

May 31st @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews blog

Join Lisa for an interview with Regina Buttner.

https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

June 1st @ World of My Imagination

Stop by World of My Imagination to read Nicole’s review of Down a Bad Road

https://worldofmyimagination.com

June 4th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog

Revisit author Anthony Avina’s blog to read “How a Corgi Supercharged My Writing Life” by Regina Buttner. 

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

June 5th @ A Lit Life

Stop by A Lit Life read Stephanie’s review of Down a Bad Road

http://www.alitlife.com/

June 7th @ Sue Edwards’s blog

Visit Sue’s blog to read an interview with author Regina Buttner.

https://suebe.wordpress.com/

June 8th @ Michelle Cornish’s blog

Read a guest post from Regina Buttner about cultivating writerly discipline.

https://www.michellecornish.com/blog

June 9th @ Reading is My Remedy

Check out Chelsie’s Instagram where she’ll review Down a Bad Road.

https://www.instagram.com/reading_is_my_remedy

June 10th @ World of My Imagination

Stop by Nicole’s blog where Regina Buttner is a guest for “Three Things on a Saturday Night.”

https://worldofmyimagination.com

June 12th @ Reading is My Remedy

Stop by Chelsie’s blog to read a guest post by Regina Buttner about disguising your friends and family in your stories.

https://www.readingismyremedy.wordpress.com

June 13th @ Michelle Cornish’s author blog

Join Michelle as she reviews Down a Bad Road.

https://www.michellecornishauthor.com/blog

June 14th @ Create Write Now

Visit Mari’s blog to read a guest post by Regina Buttner about growing up old-school Catholic and daring to write about it!

CreateWriteNow.com

June 15th @ The Knotty Needle

Join Judy for her review of Down a Bad Road.

http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com

June 16th @ Mindy McGinnis’s blog

Stop by Mindy’s blog to read “A Humorous Look at NOT Dating After 50” by Regina Buttner.

https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog

June 16th @ From the TBR Pile

Join Kari as she reviews Down a Bad Road. 

https://fromthetbrpile.blogspot.com/

June 18th @ Lady Unemployed 

Stop by Nicole’s blog to read “How Joining a Professional Writers Organization Transformed My Writing Career” by Regina Buttner.

Welcome to Lady Unemployed!

June 21st @ Life According to Jamie

Join us as Jamie reviews Down a Bad Road

http://www.lifeaccordingtojamie.com

June 22nd @ Sue Edwards’s blog

Return to Sue’s blog to read “From Nurse to Writer” by Regina Buttner.

https://suebe.wordpress.com/

June 23rd @ Nikki’s Book Reviews

Read Nicole’s review of Down a Bad Road.

https://nikkitsbookreviews.wordpress.com/

June 24th @ The Faerie Review

Stop by The Faerie Review to read a spotlight of Down a Bad Road

https://www.thefaeriereview.com

June 25th @ A Lit Life

Return to A Lit Life to read a guest post from Regina Buttner about how a visit to the Stillwater Hotel in Upstate New York inspired the setting for Down a Bad Road

http://www.alitlife.com/

Guest Blog Post from Author Donovan Hufnagle, author of “Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Of”

Publishing is just another trial as part of the writer’s journey. When we cross the threshold from the known world into the unknown world, answering the call to adventure, entering OZ, Wonderland, the Athenian Forest…into our dreamworld, “somewhere over the rainbow,” we follow the yellow brick road, follow gold bricks in the form of words to counter the white space on the page and, perhaps, in our life. The perfect word(s). This word and not that word. We pass through the abyss, reach the Emerald City, and eventually come back home. But before we can reach the city, earn our gift, tap our heels together, and share it with the known world, the trial of publishing confronts us. 

Publishing is not the end of the journey nor is it a gift. When my first book, Sunshine Special, was published, I thought the world would change. It didn’t. I did, however, reach a revelation…publishing isn’t the key to a magical door that opens a garden of poppies and avenues. When my current book, Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of, won a publishing contest and was published by Uncollected Press, I understood that the work had just begun. And I think understanding is crucial. Writers, especially poets, should understand that there may be many times we hear the word NO. It feels personal. It’s not. But when you write and write, edit, and write some more then finally build the strength to submit your work, placing your work on display for someone to just cut it open until it bleeds seems pretty damn personal to me. And, simultaneously, impersonal, since most of the time you receive a cookie cutter rejection from the publisher like they didn’t even bother to read it. 

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On a side note, if you receive a personalized rejection, cherish it. 

Understand that publishing is a business like any other business and your success as a writer is not dependent on publishing. I just received a rejection through Submittable just the other day for one of my poems. I place it in a folder titled “submissions,” forget it and move on. Publishing is not an enemy; it is just a necessary hurdle along the way. 

My advice, then, is to keep writing, and one day you may become published (if that is what you are striving for).  It will feel good. It will be exciting. Someone out there appreciating your work as much as you do. Your hard work will finally be on display for others. You can stop plucking rose petals, wondering if they love you or if they love you not (maybe). Also, understand that the journey is not over. You will need to work just as hard for the next thing, to conquer the next trial. 

It took a long time for me to truly think about publishing—decades. As a younger poet, I wasn’t that interested in publishing. I would submit a poem here or there. But it wasn’t until I crafted my art to a point where I wanted, no, felt like I needed to share it with more than my wife that publishing seemed like the next logical step. So, I put my stuff out there. Scary and exciting. I received rejections. Dejected. I received acceptances. Elated. Some won contests. Some still have never seen the light of day. 

I am at a place, now, in my writing career that I know my talents, I know my successes, and they don’t depend on those publications. But it sure does feel nice. My writings are like my tattoos, on public display for all that I encounter, simultaneously, holding a personal meaning no one else will ever know, unless you ask. Every writer’s journey is unique; some trials along the way may come easy, some may never be conquered, but know the real gift is that you wrote something, you created new, you crafted art for a world where the “dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

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About the Book

Donovan Hufnagle has assembled a careful poetic ethnography of tattooed bodies and the stories that they tell. Just as the tattoo inscribes meaning on the body, this book elegantly reveals the stories that only the body can tell. It is a book that connects tattoo adorned bodies to a profound human truth: we are each other’s mirrors, and the artful inscriptions of our bodies connect us to each other in ways that transcend political and social divides. This is an urgent book that does what only the best poetry can do; it opens spaces for conversation, connection, and healing.-Kristin Prevallet, author of “I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time”.

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About the Author

Donovan Hufnagle is a husband, a father of three, and a professor of English and Humanities. He moved from Southern California to Prescott, Arizona to Fort Worth, Texas. His new poetry collection, Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Of, is a poetic scrapbook of interviews, poetry, and documents about the universal narrative of tattoos. 

He also has three other poetry collections: The Sunshine Special, a “part personal narrative, epic poem, and historical artifact;” Shoebox, an epistolary, poetic narrative about Juliana’s “past and present, love and lack, in language that startles;” and 30 Days of 19, inverted Haiku poems juxtaposed to Trump tweets, capturing the first thirty days of the Covid 19 quarantine. 

Other recent writings have appeared in The Closed Eye Open, Tempered Runes Press, Solum Literary Press, Poetry Box, Beyond Words, Wingless Dreamer, Subprimal Poetry Art, Americana Popular Culture Magazine, Shufpoetry, Kitty Litter Press, Carbon Culture, Amarillo Bay, Borderlands, Tattoo Highway, The New York Quarterly, Rougarou, and others.

http://www.donovanhufnagle.com/

Writing Journey Over Six Books (and 25 Years) by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Preamble

I started writing poetry when I was a kid. My mother let me borrow her college poetry textbook (circa 1969), and so I learned about T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, poetic forms, metaphors, and such things way before we would get around to them in school. I won a couple of poetry recitation contests in 5th and 6th grade, and the prizes were the collected works of Emily Dickinson and Carl Sandburg (I still have both). I think the first book of poetry I bought myself was the collected Edna St. Vincent Millay, when I was about 11.  

My first degree was in Pre-Med Biology. I meant to become a doctor—but I took creative writing classes on the side. When I graduated, my immunologist told me there was no way my health would allow me to complete medical school, as grueling as it was in the early nineties. So I decided to set my sights elsewhere. Soon I started my MA in English, where I was introduced to formalism, deconstruction, and other -isms (and made some good friends). When I graduated, looking to be able to support myself, I took a job as a technical writer. I was still writing poetry, but not seriously trying to publish, until a health crisis struck and I had to quit my tech job. My husband suggested pursuing my earlier dream of being a writer. 

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Starting my Journey as a Poet

I tried out some local writer’s conferences (on scholarship) and seriously researching the literary magazine scene, volunteering for a few local literary magazines, and sending out work. I put together enough published poems for a chapbook, and got it published—my first little collection of poems, called Female Comic Book Superheroes.  I applied to a few low-residency MFA programs, and started one, taking a semester off in the middle for (once again) health issues. During that off semester, I sent out my first book manuscript and had it accepted, which was Becoming the Villainess, published by a (then-brand-new) press called Steel Toe Books in Kentucky.  The chapbook and book were considered “speculative” poetry at that time, not very common—poems about video game characters and superheroines were not common in the mainstream literary magazines, certainly not represented in the prizes. So I was a little out there. But it had a very positive response from young people, which I was very happy to see. If you can’t read and enjoy a few poems about comic book story arcs or mythological women turned to dragons when you’re young, then when can you?

Journey from First Book to Sixth

I felt very lucky with that first book—I had some modest success for a very new small publisher and a very small new poet. I was still able to travel more easily back then—making 20-hour car trips between Western Kentucky, Akron, and upstate New York. 

Now that I’m on my sixth book, Flare, Corona, with a great publisher, BOA Editions, I’m a little older, with a little more in terms of health challenges (MS among them), and I’m not physically able to do what I used to. However, with the pandemic, I learned some new skillsets—photography and gardening among them—and I read a lot. During the first months of the pandemic, I tried writing a few personal essays – and got them published in Salon. This book is the most vulnerable and more autobiographical than all my previous books. My previous books: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers, I frequently wrote in persona—characters from mythology, fairy tales, anime, and traditional folk tales. In Field Guide to the End of the World, I created a fictional character navigating a fictional apocalyptic landscape (though it didn’t feel fictional in 2020!), so at least there was a little differentiation between the main speaker and myself. In Flare, Corona the speaker is essentially me, describing some incredibly difficult experiences. I had to figure out a way to write these poems in a way that was direct but felt comfortable. I found myself writing a kind of “mutant sonnet” as well as prose poems—forms that helped me hold difficult subject matter in place, so to speak. Some themes from previous books return—a supervillain perspective on coronavirus, apocalypse poems, writing about growing up in Oak Ridge and its radioactive contamination—and those poems allowed me to, for instance, address what I refer to in the book as “the plague years” in a way that felt real and not cliché. 

I’ve learned over the 20 or so years of publishing poetry books that one of the best things about the poetry world is making friends with the people in it—my publishers were, to the person, excellent human beings, and I consider many of them real friends and I truly grieved when I lost one of the them to cancer. I am very lucky to now have a bigger press—BOA Editions, who published some of my poetry heroes, like Dorianne Laux and Lucille Clifton—take my latest book, and I really am enjoying working with them as the book comes out into the world. Kindness to people becomes really important, and supporting other poets and writers as we go through our literary life is something I cannot recommend enough. I’ve been doing poetry book reviews for 20 years, and even if there is little monetary reward in it, I’m happy to have done it. Meeting friends I’ve made at a conference or a reading twenty years ago remains a great pleasure, even if I can’t travel as much as I used to. Community is important as a structure to support you and a structure to support other writers. 

My work itself continues to evolve—as I play around with form, and language, and persona. My next book must be impacted by the last few years, but I don’t want it to be purely about that, and may also involve some of the ideas that appeared in Flare, Corona—the desire or will to survive despite difficult conditions. There will probably be dragons in it.

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About the Author

Jeannine Hall Gailey is a poet with multiple sclerosis who served as the 2nd Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of six books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the Elgin Award, and the newest, Flare, Corona from BOA Editions.  She has a B.S. in Biology and M.A. in English from the University of Cincinnati and an MFA from Pacific University. Her work appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her web site is www.webbish6.com.

Guest Blog Post: What are Women Willing to Sacrifice for Freedom by Norma Watkins (Author of In Common)

What are Women Willing to Sacrifice for Freedom

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In the mid-twentieth century, women were encouraged to sacrifice freedom for marriage, and discouraged from ever sacrificing that marriage for freedom. I have written about both.

Growing up in the South, we noticed the rules early: white people ruled over Blacks and men over women. My father certainly ruled our house; we feared his anger and obeyed his commands. By we, I mean his three daughters and our mother (whose cardinal sin became not giving him a son). 

During the years covered in my novel In Common, men had careers and women did not, or at least proper white women in northeast Jackson, Mississippi, did not. Women were to serve by supporting their men, making sure a drink awaited when they got home, along with a nice, hot meal, and obedient children. Support meant not bothering the man with trivial household problems or asking for money. It meant not getting in the way of his work, his dinner, or his rest.  

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Properly brought up young women absorbed these lessons. We were sent to college primarily to find a man like our fathers, one who would go out and earn the living. In return for the great freedom of staying home, we were to keep quiet, run a good house, and give birth to at least one son. We were not to complain of boredom or purposelessness. 

In my novel, two extremely capable women, Lillian and Velma, (Lillian could run an entire hotel; Velma was a superb secretary), sacrifice their talents for the love of a man who hardly appears to notice. Today, their choices look absurd, but we forget how little agency women possessed in those days. A married woman could not get a credit card in her own name, nor own property, or serve on a jury. If she complained too much, she could be declared a hysteric and institutionalized.

My first memoir, The Last Resort, is about one young female’s quest for freedom. The protagonist (me) looks for it initially by following the rules: find a man, marry him, give birth. In each instance, the promise of freedom turns out to be hollow. The man (in the middle of the civil rights troubles) is not the tolerant person she’d believed. Marriage brought a boring, poorly paid job and equally boring, unpaid household chores. Childbirth freed her from the job, but exponentially increased the chores.  

In the end, she gives up home, husband, children, and reputation in exchange for autonomy—the freedom to think, and enough education to acquire a job she loves. The sequel, That Woman from Mississippi, shows the consequences of that bolt for freedom. 

Literature (and life) are filled with far more dire sacrifices than mine. Saint Agatha, a high-born Sicilian beauty, lived during Roman rule in the middle of the third century. The Prefect wanted to possess her, but she refused his advances. She desired only the freedom to remain chaste and devote her life to the church. Outraged, he had her breasts torn off and she was sent to a dungeon to die. According to legend, the Lord sent an angel to heal her. Hearing this, the furious governor had Agatha dragged over hot coals until she died. In Sicily, February 5 is St. Agatha day, and bakeries sell breast-shaped buns in her memory.

Freedom is a moving target. Be careful of your choices.   

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Book Summary

Lillian Creekmore grows up at her family’s popular rural spa. She successfully runs an entire hotel, yet longs for a husband. Then she meets Will Hughes.

Velma Vernon accepts life on a small, struggling farm until a boy she barely tolerates proposes marriage. To accept means duplicating her parents’ hard life. Alone, she leaves for the city and triumphs, not as a wife, but by being the best at her job. Velma is content until the most beautiful man she has ever seen walks into her office.

This moving and darkly humorous novel follows the intertwined lives of women willing to surrender everything to a man.

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684339235

ISBN-13: 978-1684339235

ASIN: B09V1NNLSZ

Print Pages: 595 Pages

Purchase a copy of In Common by visiting Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. Make sure you also add In Common to your Goodreads reading list.

About the Author

Raised in the South during the civil rights struggles, Norma Watkins is the author of In Common and two memoirs: The Last Resort, Taking the Mississippi Cure (2011), which won a gold medal for best nonfiction published in the South by an independent press; and That Woman from Mississippi (2017). She lives in northern California with her woodworker husband and three cats.

You can find her online by visiting her website or reading her blog.

https://twitter.com/normascribble

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Blog Tour Calendar

February 13th @ The Muffin

Join us as we celebrate the blog tour launch of In Common by Norma Watkins. You’ll have the chance to read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

February 15th @ Michelle Cornish’s blog

Visit Michelle’s blog to read about good food as reward and vengeance by Norma Watkins.

https://www.michellecornish.com/blog

February 18th @ A Storybook World

Join Deirdra as she features In Common and shares a guest post from Norma Watkins about writing truths about people who might be hurt by them.

https://www.astorybookworld.com/

February 20th @ Lisa Buske’s blog

Stop by Lisa’s blog to read a guest post by Norma about civil rights and growing up in the South during Jim Crow.

https://www.lisambuske.com/

February 22nd @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog

Join us today for author Anthony Avina’s review of In Common.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

February 24th @ Fiona Ingram’s author blog

Stop by Fiona’s blog to read a guest post by Norma Watkins featuring a look at how women were treated in the South pre-feminism.

https://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

February 25th @ The Book Diva’s Reads

Visit Vivian’s blog for a feature of In Common by Norma Watkins. You’ll have the chance to read an excerpt too!

https://thebookdivasreads.com/

February 27th @ Mindy McGinnis’s blog

Stop by Mindy’s blog to read a guest post about bad sex.

https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog

February 28th @ Seaside Book Nook

Join Jilleen for a spotlight of an excerpt of In Common by Norma Watkins.

http://www.seasidebooknook.com/

March 1st @ The Mommies Reviews

Join Glenda as she reviews In Common and shares a guest post from the author about sharing the hard stuff.

http://TheMommiesReviews.com

March 2nd @ The Frugalista Mom

Join us for a guest post from Norma Watkins on how you are unique and irreplaceable.

https://thefrugalistamom.com

March 4th @ World of My Imagination

Stop by Nicole’s blog where Norma Watkins is a guest for “Three Things on a Saturday Night.”

https://worldofmyimagination.com

March 5th @ A Wonderful World of Words

Visit Joy’s blog for a feature of In Common by Norma Watkins.

https://joyffree.blogspot.com/

March 6th @ Life According to Jamie

Join us as Jamie reviews In Common

http://www.lifeaccordingtojamie.com

March 8th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog

Revisit author Anthony Avina’s blog to read “What are Women Willing to Sacrifice for Freedom?” by Norma Watkins.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

March 9th @ The Knotty Needle

Stop by for Judy’s review of In Common.

http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com

March 10th @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews blog

Join Lisa for an interview with Norma Watkins.

https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

March 11th @ Reading in the Wildwood Reviews

Join us today for Megan’s review of In Common.

https://www.wildwoodreads.com

March 12th @ Jill Sheets’s blog

Stop by Jill’s blog to read her interview with Norma Watkins

https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

Guest Posts: Forks in the Road: Investigating my own writing process By Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler

I write how I read, in multiples. I typically have several writing projects going on at once, usually a picture book, middle grade, and a YA (and then the occasional non-fiction piece for work). Switching between genres helps keep my brain fresh. If I have been working on one piece for a while, and writer’s block looms, I switch to another project for a while to maintain momentum.

The variance in my approach to writing picture books versus novels isn’t necessarily intentional, but rather the formats of the genres lend themselves to different paths. Of course, every author must discover their own writing groove, and the following is what works for me. 

Picture Books 

Picture books are recommended to be 1000 words or less, with the emphasis on or less. To keep focused, I have to be methodical. The limited word count requires every word to have purpose. After the idea hits me, I list all the page spread numbers first. I favor writing picture books in short bursts, mirroring the brevity of the picture book’s page length.

First, I determine the climax and hook and which page spread the climax will fall. Of course, this spread is moveable, but I like to have a target to build toward. My current books all contain back matter, as they are addressing facts about the natural world and yoga. I calculate in the back matter to my page count, as to not go over the recommended page length. All of the back matter is referenced or connected to the book content, so I ensure to use consistent terminology through the book. 

Also as illustrations are involved, I think about which pages lend themselves to full page spreads and which are single-page illustrations. Having a vision for the overall book concept helps me to balance the text. Of course the editor might suggest moving things around, but my picture book editor likes for me to have some vision for the illustrations before we start.

Picture books consist of many moving parts!

YA Novels

With picture books, I tend to write more than required and then cut back on the unnecessary details; however, with novels I do the opposite. For the first draft, I focus on assembling the skeleton, which for me means dialogue and the major plot points. I add descriptive details and the “color” in subsequent drafts. 

For novels, I have the exposition, climax, and resolution determined first, and then figure out how to get there. After writing the exposition, I formulate a timeline of major plotline events. I never know how many chapters a book will have until it’s finished.

I prefer to write novels in longer strides, so if I don’t have at least time to knock out a chapter I wait and work on something else. When I get stuck, I take a break (notice I said when and not if, blocks happen to every writer). Often my breakthrough ideas come when I’m doing something else, like driving, gardening, and particularly after teaching a yoga class!

Understanding your typical patterns will help you to be a more efficient and productive writer; however, most importantly, know how to take a quality break. 

When Daddy Shows Me the Sky (picture book) from Belle Isle Books, released 11.19.21

Whispering Through Water (YA) from Monarch Educational Services, released 1.4.23

When Mama Grows with Me (picture book) from Belle Isle Books (releases Summer 2023)

Instagram: @rebeccawwheeler_author

Twitter: @RWW_author

www.rebeccawwheeler.com

Publisher: Monarch Educational Services, L.L.C

ISBN-10: 1957656052

ISBN-13: 978-1957656052

ASIN: ‎B0BCCW8T54

Print length: 265 pages

Purchase a copy of Whispering Through Water on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

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About the Author

Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler was raised in West Point, a small town in the Tidewater region of Virginia. From the moment she submitted her first short story to a young author’s contest in second grade, Rebecca knew she wanted to be a writer. Her love of writing led her to earn a BA in English and an MEd in English education. She spent several years as a high school teacher, during which she also developed a passion for mental health advocacy. Rebecca completed an MA in professional counseling and now works in the school-based mental health field and as a college adjunct psychology instructor. Rebecca also teaches yoga for the young and the young at heart, and she likes to infuse yoga and breathwork in her counseling practice wherever she can. 

She believes the most valuable use of her time is teaching youth how to love and care for each other and the world around them. Her stories share her focus on positive relationships and a love of nature. Rebecca now lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, two children, and two spoiled Siamese cats.

Whispering Through Water is her first YA novel and second book. Her picture book When Daddy Shows Me the Sky was released November 2021. You can follow Rebecca on Instagram @rebeccawwheeler_author and www.rebeccawwheeler.com.

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Blog Tour Calendar

January 9th @ The Muffin

Join us as we celebrate the launch of Whispering Through Water by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler. We interview the author and give away a copy of the book to one lucky reader.

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

January 10th @ Mindy McGinnis’ blog

Visit Mindy’s blog to read Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler’s guest post about things she’s learned about the author and editor relationship.

https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog

January 10th @ Rockin’ Book Reviews

Visit Lu Ann’s blog for her review of Whispering Through Water. You also have the chance to win a copy of the book!

January 11th @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

Visit Lisa’s blog for an interview with author Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler.

https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

January 12th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Join Anthony as he shares his thoughts about Whispering Through Water.

January 13th @ A Storybook World

Deirdre features Whispering Through Water in a book spotlight.

https://www.astorybookworld.com/

January 14th @ Just Katherine

Katherine treats us to an excerpt of Whispering Through Water.

https://justkatherineblog.wordpress.com/

January 15th @ Reading is My Remedy

Join Chelsie for a review of Whispering Through Water.

https://readingismyremedy.wordpress.com/

January 16th @ One Writer’s Journey

Sue shares a guest post by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler about how her graduate program in counseling helped her write fiction.

https://suebe.wordpress.com/

January 18th @ Word Magic

Fiona spotlights Whispering Through Water by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler.

https://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

January 19th @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

Visit Joan’s blog for her insights about Whispering Through Water.

https://bookwomanjoan.blogspot.com/

January 21st @ Life According to Jamie

Visit Jamie’s blog for her thoughts about Whispering Through Water by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler.

https://lifeaccordingtojamie.com/

January 24th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog

Join Anthony as he shares a guest post by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler about her different processes when writing young adult versus picture books.

January 26th @ World of My Imagination

Nicole reviews the book Whispering Through Water.

https://worldofmyimagination.com

January 27th @ Storeybook Reviews

Come by Leslie’s blog and read her review of Whispering Through Water.

https://storeybookreviews.com/

January 28th @ Reading is My Remedy

Cheslie shares a guest post from Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler about gardening.

https://readingismyremedy.wordpress.com/

February 1st @ Beverley A. Baird

Join Beverley as she reviews Whispering Through Water.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

February 2nd @ Celticlady’s Reviews

Check out a book spotlight of Whispering Through Water. A must-read book to add to your collection!

https://celticladysreviews.blogspot.com/

February 2nd @ Knotty Needle

Visit Judy’s blog and read her review of Whispering Through Water.

http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com/

February 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird

Visit Beverley’s blog again for a guest post by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler about growing up in a small town.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

February 5th @ The Mommies Reviews

Join Glenda as she reviews Whispering Through Water by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler.

https://themommiesreviews.com/

February 6th @ One Writer’s Journey

Sue will be interviewing Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler. Learn more about this prolific writer!

https://suebe.wordpress.com/

February 7th @ Liberate and Lather

Join Angela as she reviews Whispering Through Water. She also shares a guest post by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler about simple things to do at home to be more eco-friendly.

https://liberateandlather.com/

February 9th @ Chapter Break

Julie interviews author Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler about books, writing, life, and more. 

https://chapterbreak.net/

February 10th @ From the TBR Pile

Visit Kari’s blog for a review of Whispering Through Water.

https://fromthetbrpile.blogspot.com/

February 11th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion

Visit Linda’s blog for an in-depth interview with author Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler and her book Whispering Through Water.

https://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

Guest Blog Post: The best writing/life advice by K.E. Bonner

Preop is a hive of activity at 6:45am. Metal charts clink, heart monitors beep, and a mingled aroma of betadine, hand sanitizer, and rubbing alcohol wafts through the air. Nurses, aides, mid-levels, and doctors side-step one another as they check orders, see patients, and sign consents. 

“Hi, I’m Karen, and I’ll be your anesthetist this morning,” I say as I enter the preop bay. An elderly man is lying on a stretcher. He answers my questions and I turn back to the chart to double check his paperwork. 

“Young lady,” he rasps, and reaches out his liver-spotted hand out.  I take it. Wrinkles crisscross his face like a cracked desert landscape. “I need to tell you something.” 

After a long career in healthcare, I’ve learned to listen to my patients. Our eyes lock and he squeezes my hand.  

“You will never be able to accomplish everything that you want to accomplish without a life of sobriety.” An impulse flickered between us, an undeniable shared action potential. 

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“Okay,” I nod, taken aback. Why would he say this to me? Did I look like a heavy drinker? 

His matter-of-fact way of speaking stayed with me. There was no possible way that this man knew that I was struggling to accomplish my goals.  At that point I’d been writing, editing, and re-writing my first novel, not to mention that I was working long shifts at the hospital, raising two young children, and struggling to keep my marriage and our finances together. I wasn’t a heavy drinker, a few glasses of wine over dinner to unwind after a long day. What did he see in me that compelled him to speak his truth? I chewed on his words but wasn’t ready to quit drinking, yet.

One Sunday morning I lay in bed with a large bottle of Gator-aide praying for the nausea and pounding headache to recede. It was my day to write, and I could barely lift my head from the pillow. This hangover is a waste of my time, I fumed. I thought about my adoptive mother, and how she steadily drank herself into dementia. I spent most of that day on the couch lamenting the loss of the most precious thing that I possessed: time. I couldn’t write while I was drinking, and my hangover rendered me completely useless. This was the beginning of me developing a distaste for alcohol. 

Clarity followed sobriety. My energy skyrocketed, I was writing more consistently, and better. I reasoned that I’d unknowingly been in a constant state of dehydration. My scale started a downward trend as I began to exercise, which increased oxygenation to my brain, and increased my energy even more. I began to see how much time I had wasted by drinking, and to understand that I had been self-medicating with wine. 

Most people are not ready to hear my patient’s words, and in truth, it took me ten years to process and act on them. These days I drink half a glass of wine on special occasions, but I write every day. Time is precious and limited, make every effort to use your to the fullest.

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About the Author

K. E. Bonner, author of Witching Moon,was always the first kid to sit down during a spelling bee. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she was diagnosed with dyslexia, which explained why she always had to study three times harder than her peers. Being dyslexic taught her perseverance and kindness, her two favorite attributes. She lives in Georgia with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. When not writing, she loves to read, swim, explore new places, and meet fascinating people. If you have a dog, she would love to scratch behind its ears and tell it what a good pup it is.

Learn more about K.E. Bonner on her website or follow her on Instagram @kebonnerwrites. 

You can purchase a copy of Witching Moon on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. You can also add Witching Moon to your Goodreads reading list.

Blog Tour Calendar

December 19th @ The Muffin
Join WOW as we celebrate the launch of K.E. Bonner’s blog tour of Witching Moon. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book!
https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com


December 20th @ Mindy McGinnis’s blog
Stop by Mindy’s blog to read “Release the Idea of Getting Rich or Published and Focus on Your Craft.” by K.E. Bonner
https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog

December 20th @ Rockin’ Book Reviews

Join us as Lu Ann reviews Witching Moon.

http://www.rockinbookreviews.com

December 21st @ All the Ups and Downs

Join Heather as she spotlights Witching Moon. Enter to win a copy of the book!

https://alltheupsandowns.blogspot.com/


December 23rd @ Michelle Cornish’s blog
Visit Michelle’s blog to read her review of Witching Moon.
https://www.michellecornishauthor.com/blog

December 24th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra as she features a spotlight of Witching Moon.
https://www.astorybookworld.com/

December 27th @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews blog
Join Lisa for an interview with K.E. Bonner.
https://lisahaselton.com/blog/


December 28th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog
Join us today for author Anthony Avina’s review of Witching Moon.
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 30th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog
Revisit author Anthony Avina’s blog to read “The Best Writing Advice I Received” by K.E. Bonner. 
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com


January 4th @ Bev Baird’s blog
Join us on Bev’s blog as she reviews Witching Moon.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com

January 5th @ The Knotty Needle
Stop by for Judy’s review of Witching Moon.
http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com

January 6th @ Bev Baird’s blog
Meet us back at Bev’s blog for “Ideas are Everywhere” a guest post by K.E. Bonner.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com


January 6th @ Look to the Western Sky
Join Margo as she reviews Witching Moon by K.E. Bonner.
https://margoldill.com/

January 7th @ Chapter Break

Visit Julie’s blog where she interviews author K.E. Bonner about her book Witching Moon.

https://chapterbreak.net/

January 9th @ Sue Edwards’s blog
Visit Sue’s blog to read “Magical Realism Surrounds Us” by K.E. Bonner.
https://suebe.wordpress.com/


January 10th @ Celtic Lady’s Reviews
Visit Kathleen’s blog and read her review of Witching Moon by K.E. Bonner.
https://celticladysreviews.blogspot.com/

January 10th @ World of My Imagination
Stop by Nicole’s blog where K.E. Bonner is a guest for “Three Things on a Saturday Night.”
https://worldofmyimagination.com


January 12th @ Life According to Jamie
Join us as Jamie reviews Witching Moon
http://www.lifeaccordingtojamie.com


January 14th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion
Join Linda as she interviews author K.E. Bonner.
https://bootsshoesandfashion.com

January 15th @ Fiona Ingram’s author blog 

Stop by Fiona’s blog to see her spotlight feature of Witching Moon

https://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

January 16th @ the Freeing the Butterfly blog
Visit Freeing the Butterfly to read “Life is Short, Do What You Love” by K.E. Bonner.
https://www.freeingthebutterfly.com/blog

January 18th @ Jill Sheets’s blog 

Stop by Jill’s blog to read her interview with K.E. Bonner. 

https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

Guest Blog Post: WHY A JOURNALIST WROTE A MEMOIR – ACROSS CONTINENTS by Ira Mathur

In writing this memoir, I combined my two loves, journalism and creative writing.

The journalist’s task is to find the dark corners of the world of injustice and sadness and illuminate them. The bigger job is to be the watchdog of democracies, to ensure there are checks and balances in governance on behalf of the people.

If there is one thing it taught me is that humans are essentially the same. Everyone is looking for a way to survive the dark days of our mortality and the trials of being human, whether they are gangsters who end up getting shot at 20 and buried with gold chains down to their stomachs; or priests who have lived ascetic lives; or indeed, families around the commonwealth navigating the damage of Empire.

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It was with this understanding that I began to write a memoir.

As an immigrant to Tobago, where my parents moved when I was a child, and later to Trinidad, I felt the past was being cut away from me.

My son was born, and I had begun forgetting words in Urdu and Hindi. As an immigrant to Trinidad, I started feeling the past was being cut away from me. I wrote it to remember the past and understand the present of the glittering islands of Trinidad and Tobago, where my parents moved when I was a child. 

As I wrote about my experience as a journalist, somebody who chronicles the events that shape a country, I realised that my past was not unique. My grandmother told me how my ancestor was brought from Uzbekistan to put down the mutiny in India in 1856. As a recruited member of the British Army, he was forced to shoot his fellow Muslims, something he regretted till he died. I began making connections. It was also the story of colonial islands in the new world, where people were stripped of language. The narrative continued with my parents travelling to Trinidad and Tobago, which also has a complicated history of colonisation by the French Spanish and English. That interested me – how the personal can be so political, how the unravelling of one family living under decades of colonialism can echo a crumbling empire.

The overall theme of the crumbling Empire is relevant, especially now; after the death of Queen Elizabeth 11, we can see how similar post-colonial worlds are. The history of brutality was identical. In India, we grew up with stories of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar Puja when General Dyer ordered the British 

Indian Army to open fire on over a thousand unarmed, nonviolent protestors, Churchill’s active role in perpetuating the Bengal famine, or the signs my mother remembers in exclusive clubs that read “No Dogs or Indians” and the sly inroads of the East India Company. In Trinidad, as in much of South America, there is the brutal history of slavery, indentureship and genocide of millions of native Indians. In India from 1765 to 1938. the British got an estimated 45 trillion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods like textiles, rice, iron, and timbre, not to mention jewels from the Raj, which are housed in 

British museums today. Similarly, Caribbean islands like ours were looted for sugar and cocoa. It’s a shared history of exploitation.

 When my grandmother left India to join our family in Trinidad, she told me stories about a vanished India of the British Raj. She told me of generations of women born into Muslim Indian princely families of Bhopal and Savanur. I had to infer the calamity upon her life when my mother broke hundreds of years of tradition and understand why my grandmother disinherited my mother for marrying a Hindu army officer.

There were unanswered questions. I wondered why my grandmother ended up alone and penniless despite all her privileges- born a princess into Indian royalty, beauty, and musical talent. 

As I wrote the story, the puzzle came together. I began to understand how patterns are created in how we treat our daughters and how that damages the people we love. At my grandmother’s funeral, I was aware of how incongruous this was, a woman born in colonial India dying in the new world so far from everything she grew up with and knew. It was a way of bringing tother the old and new worlds and introducing the question of how and why this happened. How did a princess of the Raj die in Trinidad? 

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The colonial idea that subjugation, cruelty and even corporal punishment can be justified for the greater good filtered down to how people in colonies viewed their children.– how neglect, abandonment or abuse is passed on to their daughters and that pattern is continued. 

Migration is also a very personal issue. At the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth, dozens of security guards were of South Asian origin. According to an Indian Ministry of External Affairs report, 32 million Non-Resident Indians live outside India, overseas Indians comprise the world’s largest overseas diaspora, and over 2.4 million Indians migrate overseas yearly. Our family was just one in this ocean of movement. So the themes aren’t heavy, but 

illustrates how politics always becomes personal and affects families.  

When I wrote it, I did not expect it to resonate with so many people across continents. Michael Portillo for Times Radio was moved by the story of Poppet, the child in the book. Anita Rani of Times Radio was moved by the story of migration. The Observer found it was reminiscent of the times of the Raj in India, which has connected India and Britain for generations.

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About the Author

Ira Mathur is the author of Love The Dark Days – a Peepal Tree published a memoir on the emotional ruins of Empire on three generations of women set in Trinidad, St Lucia, India and the U.K., bookended with a weekend with Derek Walcott. Love The Dark Days was selected as a UK Guardian Best Book of the Year 2022 ( Memoir and Biography)

Mathur is an Indian-born Trinidadian multimedia journalist and columnist with a body of writing that includes over 800 columns over 20 years. (www.irasroom.org) She was longlisted for the 2021 Bath Novel Award for Touching Dr Simone. (Out in 2023)

Mathur studied creative writing in London with The University of East Anglia/Guardian & the Faber Academy with Gillian Slovo, Maggie Gee, and James Scudamore. In 2019 Mathur was longlisted for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize. She holds degrees in literature, law and journalism. 

Purchase on Amazon U.K.: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Dark-Days-Ira-Mathur/dp/1845235355#detailBullets_feature_div

Purchase on Amazon U.S.: https://amzn.to/3YaoVmH

Guest Post: What You Love Will Get You Through by Kate Brenton

I have always been a doer and banked on working my way through anything, but how effective that is change throughout life. My first hint was at 41 years old and a few weeks away from delivering my first and only child, when my midwife was packing up her bag from our visit, she looked over her shoulder to say, “You know it’s good for moms to have things to do that are just theirs.”

I nodded.

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“You, know,” she mindfully continued, “some Moms have to work, and some moms choose to work and it’s not so much the money at times, but what you get back for doing something that you really love to do, or just like to do, but it is something for you.”

“Uh-huh,” I smile. I am so naive in this moment I can only esoterically nod at what she was saying; I cannot really understand the lifeline she has thrown me before she walks out the door that day, but I bet she did. 

My son came into this world fully loaded with fire and change; his arrival opened a new era, and all change brings some dissolution. We can be surprised in the form, but as we journey forward in years we can start to sense those waves of change coming.

“You should start a podcast,” my sweet and reliable friend Joe told me one day out of the blue.

“What? I have a baby. I have no time,” I retorted.

“It’s not that hard and I think you would really enjoy it. Our podcast together has the highest ratings,” he continued. “And I could share my equipment with you..”

“What do you mean highest ratings?” I listened as Joe talked about the numbers on our one off show, and the details of microphones, and the help he was going to give me to get going. Our decades-old friendship had this swinging cadence of uplifting each other, so I was able to entertain this perplexing thought of me starting a podcast with only internal scrutiny because I knew his intentions were pure.

I hemmed and hawed over it. Crafted an intention and an arc, reached out to inspirational people I knew and the Rebirth podcast was born. You know what? I loved it. I loved talking. I loved the microphone. I loved sharing people’s stories. It brought me so much joy. Even when I had to record episodes in my car because the baby was sleeping, and there was no reception in the basement to record. Even when someone asked me how many listeners I had, and I didn’t know 50 downloads an episode was low, because 50 people was a great number for a local talk, which was how I looked at it. The podcast became a respite of creativity in a sea of self-less motherhood.

Life wasn’t in the easiest flow otherwise, and someone said to me, “You spend a lot of time on that podcast and it doesn’t make any money.” 

I was sitting at a table eating, legs crossed, fork in hand; I blinked. I felt a small dip in my stomach, when a voice inside—who I hadn’t heard for awhile—quietly cautioned me that this was not the thing to let go of. Her quietness gave me pause, even as my mind agreed that the podcast was not producing monetarily. I kept a solid face. I gave a non-verbal acknowledgment of the statement and decided to stay the course, with or without support.

About six months later, and I tell this story in the book, an acquaintance calls and tells me she is starting a publishing company and she wants to sign me as an author. I say yes, and again tell no one. If I had no time for a podcast, I certainly didn’t have the resources to write a book, but a someday-author doesn’t say no when the call comes. 

A good six months after the call from my now publisher, I have moved out of the house where I held my fork and my tongue, and I am sitting at a new coffee-table, a single parent with a book contract, immense writer’s block and deafening pressure. I keep going though, unseen and well loved hands, helping along the way. I invite my publisher on to my podcast to share her story of leaps and faith.

She calls me the next day, “Kate, the podcast is the book.”

“What?” I echo.

“You are so good at asking the questions and distilling the essence. I was thinking about it last night and I woke up this morning and realized, the podcast is the book.”

I felt a full body rush of agreement. 

The podcast began on a borrowed microphone in 2018, and the book hit #1 in New Thought on its release day (purposely set on Fall Equinox, a day of balance and harvest) in 2022. The book started as a postpartum project in agreement that sometimes it is good for a person to have and create what they love, to not get lost in the waves of sacrifice. The fire of change and dissolution that came through in my son’s birth, also created fertile soil for the lifelong-someday dream of being a published writer. If I had planned it, I would not have lived the process of growth to become it. 

Do not let go of that which brings you joy, for in the moment when you think there is no way possible, the innate roadmap of your rebirth has already begun making its way to you.

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About the Author

Kate Brenton, author, teacher and mother, helps women connect the dots between their purpose and their passion. Her first book Rebirth: Real-life stories about what happens when you let go and let life lead hit #1 on Amazon for New Thought, and can also be found at your favorite bookseller. Once a high school English teacher, Kate spent seven years in Hawaii learning holistic healing and now braids the power of story — whether in the bones or on the page — to inspire and uplift. She teaches online classes and retreats for spiritual development and inspiration. She also hosts a cohort, Sit & Write for mission-led authors.

Buy the book:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rebirth-kate-brenton/1142118168?ean=9781953445261

https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=Rebirth+Kate+Brenton

Website: www.katebrenton.com

Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rebirth-real-life-stories-of-letting-go-and-letting/id1451833998?i=1000581844581

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katembrenton/?hl=en

Substack: https://katebrenton.substack.com

Bookbubhttps://www.bookbub.com/profile/kate-brenton

Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22872643.Kate_Brenton

Guest Post: Paw Prints by Tom Pearson

The creative process is mysterious. For me, it often consists of accumulation/distillation/accumulation, sifting ideas through different iterations and genres (art, poetry, performance). Micro-expressions of a central idea frequently become distinct projects and parts of a larger constellation of work. Along the way, much is gained, but also, sometimes, lost.

There are two stanzas from an early draft of Still, the Sky that aren’t found in the published work; although, traces of them remain. They were composed of an image that volunteered itself, left its mark, and vanished:

   After the first of seven was plucked for the

Feast, the others would set up camp

Around the twists and turns of the pathways,

            Chastity-in-residence,

   And they would plot to meet and spoil themselves,

To love the murder away, but they were kept

Apart, running from the gaze of the creature

            Whose shadow you cast.

   They would meet us from time to time,

Casual encounters, sometimes taking the time

To say what they thought, or how they felt,

            What their days had been.

   One even found a pet, an orange kitten

Who would disappear for days and then follow

As we made rounds, both intimate and mundane;

            She would outlive him.

The first two stanzas remain. The second two are gone, all that mentioned the unnamed victim and the kitten that survived. 

IG story post by @talktheatretome

Still, the Sky is the result of a long process of iterative works over the past few years, different expressions of the characters, themes, and ideas which had their genesis during a theater residency/fellowship in the spring of 2019 with the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy.

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Courtesy of The Bogliasco Foundation; Photo by Laura Bianchi

Before I arrived to the residency, I received a commission from La Jolla Playhouse in California to create a site-specific work for their biennial Without Walls Festival, and so I already knew I would be working with themes of sky and sea, flight and nautical culture. My site in San Diego was a desert labyrinth just beyond the tarmac of the San Diego airport (beneath the flight path, divided by a narrow waterway) and on the grounds of Liberty Station, a formal naval training base. 

Pictured, Andrew Broaddus in Ikaros by Tom Pearson; Photo by Jim Carmody

I also brought to the residency outtakes from The Sandpiper’s Spell (my first published volume) as another set of ideas. Most of the writings were coming-of-age themed or more recent explorations that didn’t have anywhere to go yet. In the first few weeks, I wrote something to bind them structurally and then put them aside for later—but as I began to storyboard ideas for the commission, filling up the walls with my Post-It Notes and columns of associations, I started to see a mythology unfolding through archetypes that would benefit from the specificity of personal experience.

The next series of developments happened over summer, in New York, where I worked with performers. We experimented with choreography, film, and art to find the characters and describe the textures and themes, all in an exhibition at the Ace Hotel New York gallery. Then in October, we premiered the site-specific Ikaros in San Diego. After that, I continued to experiment with performance and material culture, mixing these with virtual reality. These explorations took me into early 2020 as I worked with students and faculty at the Olin College of Engineering where I was in-residence.

But then the pandemic hit, and we were sent into lock down. At that time, I circled back to revise the manuscript further, adding the artwork to the pages. At this stage, the three-dimensionality of the world revealed itself. The many previous micro-expressions of the project had rendered complex characters and rich environments—and reflecting upon the spaces in which I had worked, other elements emerged—for instance, the seagulls in Italy, nesting in the cliffs below my studio. Their mating rituals and fierce protection of their nests, their daily patterns, and the endlessness of sky and sea became dominant images of the main plot. And, in San Diego, an orange kitten also left her mark, shaping the timbre of a subplot.

Throughout the grounds of Liberty Station in San Diego, there was a population who made residence, whether temporarily passing through or on a more semi-permanent basis, in tents or lean-tos. As we were making Ikaros, we were careful not to displace, to be mindful, respectful, and in communication with the denizens of the space. Early on, one of the park residents came through rehearsals to chat with us about the work, the mythology, his observations of us in the site. He carried an orange kitten with him. Later, the kitten would come to rehearsals on her own and sometimes participate. 

There was a particular section with a long spindle of fabric which was unfurled to make the footprint of a labyrinth, and the kitten would stand threateningly at the edge of the rosemary bushes watching this giant ball of string, little shivers rippling along her spine—adding another layer of drama. 

We began to expect her. She started to show up consistently to rehearsals, but by the time we got to performance, she had gone elsewhere, only later to appear in another scene she’d never rehearsed, under full lights and in front of a paying audience. 

We rolled with it, but she stole the scene. She even got some social media coverage.

When the performances were finished, I went back to the poetry, and I took her image with me, writing her into the manuscript. In fact, I took the whole of the experience, the denizens of the space, the rosemary, the sounds, the smells, textures, animals, insects, birds, weather, and flight patterns all into consideration. The specificities of the lived experience were folded into the creative mix to further shape the world of the book.

By the time I arrived at a final draft, the overt mention of the kitten was gone, but her paw prints were all over it in subtle and invisible ways within the text and artwork (“a predator moving in right cycles, leaving us unharmed… treachery in the tall grass…”).

Reflecting later on The Sandpiper’s Spell, I realized the image of a pet outliving a companion was already a seed planted in the poem “Day Dreams.” The idea had carried forward, woven itself into the new work, then out again. Perhaps it will return and make more of itself in whatever I create next. 

I have begun to meditate on what these little threads mean over time, how a body of work forms from the scraps of previous work, how material moves forward and themes reiterate, or ideas sift and fold back together again to create specificity. It becomes a pattern for world building, one iteration at a time. It makes the work larger through the micro-expressions along the way—allowing for volunteer images that might invisibly imprint upon the eventual narrative. 

Little paw prints. 

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Author Tom Pearson Reads Paw Prints

About the Author

Tom Pearson is an artist and poet who works in dance, theater, film, visual art, and multi-media. He is known for his original works for theater, including the long-running, off-Broadway immersive hits THEN SHE FELL and THE GRAND PARADISE and as a founder and co-artistic director of the New York City-based Third Rail Projects and Global Performance Studio.

He is the author of two books, THE SANDPIPER’S SPELL and STILL, THE SKY. More information available at his website and on social media at: tompearsonnyc.com and @tompearsonnyc.

https://tompearsonnyc.com/