Monday, September 30, 2013

The Inklings of Oxford: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Their Friends: Book Review

One place I've not yet visited, and would very much like to, is England. I'm certain I'll get there in good time. But I that the England of real life will look nothing like the England of my imagination, which is a curious jumble of images drawn from Mary Poppins, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Masterpiece Theatre. Until it's time to burst that idealistic bubble, I'm enjoying armchair travel via books and films.

To that end, one of my recent favorite volumes is The Inklings of Oxford: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Their Friends, a glossy, photo-rich feast written by Harry Lee Poe with photography by James Ray Veneman. Lewis, of course, wrote the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, et al) as well as many nonfiction books. Tolkien was the brilliant mind behind Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. The "and friends" of the title include such literary lights as Dorothy Sayers, Lord David Cecil, and Hugo Dyson.

From the book jacket: "The famed Inklings literary circle met in Oxford from the early 1930s until the early 1960s and included two of the brightest lights of twentieth-century literature--C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk this medieval city's narrow, winding lanes in the company of such giants of Christian literature? To visit Magdalen College, where the Inklings read aloud their works-in-progress to their friends, or the Eagle and Child pub, their favorite gathering place?"

Photo of Keble College, taken by James Ray Veneman
I've dreamed about walking such walks, and after spending time in this book, I almost feel as if I've done it. The photographs taken in and around contemporary Oxford are interspersed with vintage photos from the Inklings' day, as well as stories, anecdotes, memories, and insights into how the authors' Christian faith influenced their writing. The book even includes thoughtfully organized walking tours that will surely come in handy if and when I cross the pond. Highly recommended.

Are you a Lewis and/or Tolkien fan? Have you visited England, and specifically Oxford? I'd love to hear your impressions!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Launch your book with style

Invasion of Heaven Book Launch
September 28, 2013, 7 – 9 p.m.
White Room in Spokane, WA
117 West Pacific Avenue

Some writers really know how to launch a book.  One such writer is North Idaho's Michael B. Koep, who is hosting a "fantasy-filled" book launch of his debut novel, "The Invasion of Heaven" in Spokane on September 28.  The public is invited (but must RSVP) to share in the recreation of "the book's most mysterious scene" in the famous Italian Uffizi Art Gallery and enjoy live music, art, sword fights, food (including Italian appetizers), beer and wine, prizes and a reading and book signing with Michael.  

Wow!  This sounds a little more exciting that sitting at Hastings or Aunties surrounded by stacks of your own books and addressing a small crowd of your most ardent fans ... er, family.  This guy definitely wants to make a splash as an author and decided to market himself in a unique and powerful way.  He made proactive press releases that used professional-looking graphics, planned a unique and compelling launch party and plans to launch an interactive website.  He also organized his book as a trilogy (which is what publishers are looking for) and has already advised his readers to watch for "Elliqui, Part II of The Newirth Trilogy," in 2014.

In researching this creative approach to a book launch, I discovered that Michael used the services of Book It Northwest, a business that specializes in helping non-fiction authors bring their work to the attention of Western Washington audiences and media.  I guess maybe they are expanding into Eastern Washington with this launch.

Info from their website: Partner with Book It Northwest and benefit instantly from behind-the-scenes knowledge of the Northwest's event and media protocol.  Company principals Gail DiRe and Diane Duthweiler have intimate knowledge of the publishing and media worlds.  Let them help you create and carry out a public relations strategy and press plan.

Their services include: Event & Media Booking, Press Releases, Press Kits and Media Coaching, PR & Marketing Consultations, Media & Event Escorting, Book It Northwest Do-It-Yourself Author Publicity Kit, Local & Custom Event/Venue & Media Lists, and Web Copy.

Sounds like what they offer may be of value to authors like Michael who are open to launching their book in a creative way.  Check them out at

Michael B. Koep's Press Release:
Art penetrates the veil between this life and the next…
Part I of The Newirth Mythology
By Michael B. Koep
(Coeur d’Alene, ID)—The mysterious death of a bipolar housewife forces psychologist Loche Newirth to see traces of insanity in the most terrifying place: himself. All at once he is wanted for murder; in a battle of wits with another psychologist; AND he may be seeing things—a crystal blue iris with a fathomless black pupil starts popping up to stare at his life.

Next, the doctor is tangled up with a stuttering and sometimes stoned artist who claims his portraits are a link to the afterlife.
Part one of The Newirth Mythology: The Invasion of Heaven is filled with a mind-bending cast of double-crossing characters bent on destroying what was thought to be beyond the reach of human treachery: the life we all hope for behind death’s door.

The idealistic Dr. Newirth must elude supernatural kidnappers and real life police detectives on his journey from Northern Idaho’s mountain lakes to Northern Italy—and beyond—sometimes at the heels of a swashbuckling, poetry-spouting patient who likes to speak in anagrams and claims he’s more than 600 years old. Is he ally or enemy?

Art is the key to understanding author/artist Michael B. Koep’s fiction debut and he provides passage into his new myth with traces of his invented language, Elliqui, as well as pen and ink drawings.

Amid swordfights, shootouts, betrayal, just-discovered family members and secret guardians … in a milieu of fine art, fine food, secret lovers, myth, mafia, murder, ancient languages and the loud music of classic vinyl LPs, The Invasion of Heaven brings new life to the age old questions of what it means to be human, what lies beyond and if, “The eyes on the inside always tell the t-t-truth.”
Coming soon … an interactive website for fans who want to help expand the nascent language of "Elliqui" for future installments of "The Newirth Trilogy".  Look for Part II in 2014!  Find out more about Michael on his website:  

About the Author/Artist
By the age of 12, Michael B. Koep had written a complex, Tolkienesque fantasy with its own number system, language and runic alphabet. He continues that tradition with his fiction debut.

Koep has been called an Inland Northwest "Renaissance Man”. He is a former educator who co-founded a Northern Idaho fencing consortium, but he is best known as a drummer and lyricist for the progressive rock group KITE and percussionist for the variety, power trio The RUB.  Koep is a visual artist who has attempted to paint the human soul and winner of a Costello Poetry Prize.  If you meet him, in this world or another, ask him about the medieval village he built for his wedding.

If you are interested in attending the book launch party:
RSVP contact: 
Blair Williams: 208-446-9696
For an official Passport Invitation, email your mailing address to:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

InkTip: Should you post your script online?

Crawford Anderson-Dillon, a London movie producer, recently spoke during a kNIFVES (Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society) luncheon meeting.  In addition to his background in corporate productions, Anderson-Dillon has made several short movies and is now working on his first full length feature – a romance thriller that is being shot in the Post Falls area – a script he discovered on the Internet. 

Anderson-Dillon said he read around two thousand scripts before finding American Romance on InkTip, an online script website.  He read the script and contacted the writer and the rewrites began.  That surprised me because other movie professionals I've met recommended writers never post their scripts online.  So I decided to do a little research to shed some light on the subject.  

There are several websites that offer to post your scripts online for a fee.  The most popular are InkTip, Black List, Spec Scout and ScriptPimp.  Since Anderson-Dillon used InkTip, I decided to focus on their services.

The Pros
According to InkTip President Jerrol LeBaron, the mission of is threefold:
  • Help the producer easily find a good script
  • Save time for the agent and manager in locating the right people for their clients' scripts, or new clients
  • Greatly increase exposure for the screenwriter
Today, InkTip has more than 2000 registered industry members who now have access to writers' scripts and they currently average more than one script produced per month. 
How InkTip works for Screenwriters:
Listing your script on InkTip means entertainment pros (qualified producers, representatives, directors and more) looking for good scripts and writers will gain 24/7 access to your work.  

To register a script with InkTip, a writer must submit a logline and synopsis, but according to InkTip information, the majority of writers choose to upload their entire scripts and/or treatments in the belief that offering the entire script allows the producer or representative to download and begin reading without delay, increasing the writers’ chances of selling their script.  In addition, scripts are often viewed as writing samples by representatives and/or producers, which may lead to other writing jobs.  Through their membership, writers are able to track who is downloading their script, synopsis or treatment.  Viewing this activity enables them to determine if their logline or synopsis (or entire script) is effective. The cost is $70 per listing for 6 months ($65 with auto-renewal)

Who Will Look at your Script on InkTip:
 InkTip scripts are free to qualified producers, directors, agents, managers, and name actors and the site ensures that all entertainment pros undergo a thorough background

The Cons
Is  InkTip a great place to post your screenplays?
In an online post, Ken Miyamoto, a working screenwriter and former studio reader/story analyst, outlines a couple of problems he sees with listing your script with InkTip or any online site.  He alleges that InkTip exists as a business to “benefit from the want and need of screenwriters, “ which he sees somehow as a disservice to writers. 

His second argument against InkTip is that it makes screenwriters lazy and complacent because they list their script then just sit back and wait instead of working hard for themselves.  “Don't expect ANYONE to come to you.  Ever.  You want a career in screenwriting?  That's your dream or goal?  Go for it.  Do the work.  Take your stuff directly to the people that can make your movie.  Those that have the means.  Those that have the talent.  Those that can further your career.”  

He recommends writers first develop some good concepts and good writing strengths, then use their computer or get on their phone and get busy to find a way to the right person.  He believes that once that person sees you have a great script, they will see your talent and contact you.  “ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.  Professionals don't pay people to take their script and leave it on some website with thousands of others.”

One other subject that often comes up is whether or not someone will steal your script if you put it online.  I have heard from several script professionals that only amateur writers are unwilling to share their ideas, loglines or scripts.  They recommend sharing your work to find out if it is a good concept and whether or not people like it.  Although they admit it happens on occasion, they argue that it is a safe bet that a movie professional will contact you if he likes your script and/or your writing.  And who knows?  I believe that once you begin putting something out in the universe that makes it much more likely to happen.

What some writer clients have to say about InkTip:
I think InkTip offers people who live away from Hollywood & New York a chance of exposure not available before the Internet age. - Max Whilom
 I've been a member for about 2 years now, and it is just fantastic - not only as a means by which to reach producers and have your work accessible to them, but also as a way to gauge what's going on in the marketplace and follow purchasing trends. Keep up the good work!  - Nicole Jones
I wanted to let you know that I've removed my script, "A Means to an End", from InkTip today with good reason. Damon Chang of Subtitled Films has optioned it. I couldn't be happier! Thanks for providing a wonderful site that actually, with a little patience and perseverance, makes things happen.  - Matt Jarrett
My Analysis
You should spend time checking out InkTip or any other website where you may be thinking of listing your script.  I'm sure you'll find many more pros and cons.  The fact that I know of one successful writer whose movie is being produced does mean that listing your script may work, but I do agree with Miyamoto’s thinking that if you just place your script online and then merely keep renewing it, you may be slacking off the work it takes to find out if you have a quality script and an avenue to production.  On the other hand, I disagree with Miyamoto’s assertion that InkTip is not a viable option for writers because they make money off us.  While this is most assuredly true, for those of us far from Hollywood, the ability to reach qualified industry professionals may outweigh the relatively small fee. 

Note: I'm hoping to interview the writer while the movie is in production so I can gain his view of InkTip from a writer's perspective.  I'll let you know any tips he shares.  

Go to for more information on their services.
Check out Ken Miyamoto's post at:

Crawford Anderson-Dillon
Production Director
 Hub Media
Privately Held; 1-10 employees; Media Production industry
January 2006 – Present (7 years 9 months)

Anderson-Dillon runs the London office of Hub Media, a corporate communications company specializing in video and new media.  He also runs and develops the drama department.  He is currently shooting his first full feature romance thriller in Post Falls, Idaho.    

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Joy of Prosody (and Free Verse)

Expanding One’s Lexicon
By Liz Mastin

Lexicon – all the words and phrases used in a language;
all the words one knows; vocabulary or dictionary.
I had a difficult time this month deciding whether to write this column on “Expanding One’s Lexicon” or on “How to write the Heroic Couplet.” I felt an entire column could easily be written on the value of a wider vocabulary to both the poet and the prose writer; after all, writers use “words” and the more words a writer has at his or her disposal, the better.

I first became interested in words when I felt helpless in describing a cloud for one of my poems. Frustrated, I decided to write down as many adjectives as I could possibly come up with that might describe a cloud. I became somewhat obsessed and ended up with several hundred adjectives, until finally realizing the same adjectives could apply to many other things (besides clouds) as well.

Among my adjectives for clouds were: crumpled, galloping, doleful, smothering, powdery, scrambled, roiling, placid, indeterminable, mesmerizing, comical, sun-tossed, frayed, spongy, mottled, undulant, woven, clotted, soft, earth-puffed, cantilevered, erupting, brooding, shifting, eclectic, noble, hovering, dancing, redolent, blended, haphazard, coy, ribald, plethora, oblique, untidy, pulled tuffs, rippled, fulminous, shunting, sheering, tie-died, pervasive, tumbling, effusive, congregating, orchestrated, diffused, gesticulating and  on it goes. I believe it might be a handy list for me to keep by the computer.

But -- I have been so impressed with Harvard educated poet Louis Brodsky and his poetic trilogy on Wisconsin’s Lake Nebagamon. He is compared to Thoreau for his romantic visions of nature and his immersion into a single natural setting. What strikes me most is his considerable vocabulary and his superior use of it. Here is an example of some of his excellent word mastery in his poem “Grace”: note it is written in free verse.

by Louis Brodsky

The hundred-fifty foot green limbed white pine tree
Leaning precariously shoreward, just off my cabin’s deck,
Is caw-cawing with a cohort of eight bellicose crows.
Five crazily calling Canada geese fly by high.
Wailing loons insinuate the distance with their primordial chorus.

Silvery mist, this fifty degree morning,
Lifts dizzily, sinuously as breath on a cold day
From each of Lake Nebagamon’s warm bays.
And spreading in creamy, opalescent tints above everything,
Is the yet-unrisen sun’s ubiquitous annunciation of its coming.

What’s missing from this tableau approximating Genesis
I needn’t ask myself; I already know. It’s me.
To complete this scene, I have to make my relevance felt,
Define and posit my raison d’ etre,
A quintessential sense of consequence to proclaim my presence.

But what that might possibly be, I’m not altogether certain,
Lest it have everything to do
With whether this rendition of Creation gets written down,
Passed on as a reminder to mankind’s generations,
That our place in nature is defined by imagination’s grace.

You can see how this poem radiates with its expanded lexicon. Among words I love in this poem (yet might fail to use myself) are: insinuate, sinuously, ubiquitous, annunciation, tableau, raison d’ etre, and quintessential. It is not that I don’t know the meaning of all these words, but truly, I don’t think of them, and thus I sadly fail to use them myself.

You can easily locate and acquire many kinds of “word books”; they are available on Amazon, at used bookstores and even thrift shops. These word books enable you to scout for “original” words, words that add strength and texture to your writing and contribute subtle nuances (that your first-thought word choice) may not have offered.  I have a growing collection of such books, plus I am going through my LakeNebagamon series, picking out intriguing words that I may hopefully begin using. After all, “words” are our tools!

Liz Mastin Bio
Liz Mastin is a poet who lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho during the summer and Bullhead CityArizona in winter. She thrives on the study of the great poets, their biographies, the schools of poetry to which they adhered, and the poetic conventions of the times in which they lived.

While she enjoys free verse as well as metrical poetry, her main interest lies in prosody. She notices that most of the enduring poems are those we can remember and recite. Liz enjoys poetry forms such as the sonnet, the sestina, the couplet, blank verse, simple quatrains, etc. and she hopes to see modern poets regain interest in studied metrical poetry.

Liz is currently putting together her first collection of poems which should be completed this winter. The poems are a mixture of metrical and free verse poems.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting Past the Fear of Finishing.

I always prided myself that I was not one of those people whom I so often saw in my office. No, I was never a person who was afraid of finishing a task. As a matter of fact, I was one of those people who relished the completion of a project. Whew! I would sigh in relief and finally relax. The best part about finishing was that I didn't have to keep it in that giant list in my head and worry about it. I could lay it aside or even erase it from my mind. I would whisper a quick "done" and go on to the next project, fresh and clean.

But a couple of months ago my husband reminded me about that largest of large projects that still loomed like a dark shadow over me.
"So when did you start writing this book for veterans and families?" By the tone of his voice it was pretty obvious what he was really asking.
"Oh, I don't know. I guess it's been a while," I said. "I've just been too busy."
"Have you decided what you'll call it yet?"
"Well, sure." I noticed I was sounding defensive. "I'll call it How to Cope with Stress after Trauma. Then I'll add something about it being especially for veterans and their families.
"So when did you say it was going to be done?" He was starting to sound a lot like the people from the publishing company. "Maybe you should give it up and not bother with it."
I felt the anger rise up in my belly and head straight for my mouth. I stopped myself. I knew by now  something was going on inside of me that I wasn't willing to check out.
 Calmly I said, "You may be right. I need to journal about it." He looked away and I knew he was disappointed in me because he wanted to hear me say that I'd get right at it. But I didn't.

That evening I sat down at the dining room table to write in my journal. This time I decided to address my issues about writing my book. I even tried to find excuses not to write but it was eleven pm. The TV was off. No one was going to call me at that time. And I heard my husband snoring in the bedroom. Okay. I needed a cup of tea. So I trotted off to the kitchen to make a cup of herbal tea. We were out of the tea I liked and I began to hunt for another box of tea bags I bought recently. Then I heard a voice inside of me scream, "Ana. What are you doing? Quit it!"

For the first time in a very long time I began to shake and tears ran down my cheeks. I am scared. I am scared to finish this book, I thought. But why? This was crazy. I walked back to the dining room, sat down at the table and began to write in my journal.


What is your greatest fear of finishing this book?


Greatest fear? I tried to think. Oh. I might not know what to do next with my life. But that wasn't true. I had already lined up at least three writing projects beyond this one. Well, maybe the reason was that the topic was difficult to write about. I'd listened to so may traumatic stories in the past and sometimes they had made me hurt inside. Sure, there was some truth to that, but I would think I would finish the project as fast as possible like I had in the past. I faced it and got it over with. That's what I learned as a child.

I went on and on exploring my fears. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of success caused some twinges in my body. What if groups wanted me to come and speak like I had while I worked? What if they had expectations of me that now that I was retired, I didn't want to fulfill? I concluded that being a psychotherapist I had taught lots of people how to say no. I could certainly decide for myself when to say no and when to say yes.

Then the following words came into my mind. "Fear usually comes from having no control over something." What could I not control? I had no control over the weather or natural disasters. I had no control over other people's thoughts and actions. I had control only over what I thought, said, and did. That hit home. If I finished this book, what might happen that I had no control over? I couldn't control whether people liked the book. That scared me a little. But suddenly I knew my greatest fear. What if someone hurt him or herself because of what I had written? I could not control how readers interpreted my words or advice, or what they did with it. And what if others held me responsible?
Yes, these were my greatest fears.


At the end of the journal entry I wrote: I have no control over how people interpret my words or what they do with the words I have written. My intention in writing this book is to help others. I will write on my book daily even if it is merely a sentence or two. I will change my thinking about this to  overcome my fear. Maybe what I will do is what my mother told me years ago. "Yes, I know you are scared. But do it anyway."

After I closed the journal I read and reread the serenity prayer stuck on one of the glass windows of the hutch across from me. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

So dear reader, remember it is normal to be afraid. That's okay. Look your fears squarely in the eye and deal with them. Accept them and let go. In the long run, excuses won't get that important project you are working on, finished.

I am happy to say that my writing is being edited for content right now and I am very near completion.

To help me remember who I really am inside I wore this little gold cypress tree around my neck for many years. It is a symbol for my inner strength, wisdom, and courage. It reminds me that even though I'm afraid, I'm okay. The trunk may bend in the wind but it won't break.

Can you find a symbol that will remind you of your inner strength? Look at it or touch it frequently when you need it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Little Girl from China: The Makings of a Story Writer

It is September 18th and today is my granddaughter's 9th birthday. Or is it? No one except her birth mother knows for sure. Mei Yuan was left at the door on the steps of a Chinese building similar to our social services. She had been placed in a cardboard box, dressed in a diaper and a shirt. The only other item in the box was a bottle filled with milk.

Mei was one of the lucky girls in China. Instead of an orphanage she was placed in a loving but strict foster home. At about 10 months of age my daughter and son-in-law adopted her and brought her to America. She is incredibly bright and has been a joy to all of us. But the story does not end there.

Mei, a small adopted girl, has become a writer at the age of nine. How did it happen? Probably many experiences influenced her, but here was my part in this story.

Soon after she arrived in Colorado from China, I began to tell her stories like many grandparents do. But it didn't stop there. As she grew, she asked me to tell stories, usually about animals. One day when she came to North Idaho she saw two snowshoe rabbits on our ten acre wooded property. She named them Lee and Kyle after two boys in her daycare program. So I began to ask her questions about the rabbits and their adventures. She would hm and haw a bit but by the age of five she was creating exciting stories and characters for me to weave together. The first thing she would say when we talked on the telephone was, "Oma, lets make up a story." My husband, a biologist, added scientific data and after our calls, I wrote down the tales we had created. I still have the story of Lee and Kyle turning color in winter and waking up terrified that the world and they had all turned white. My daughter, who followed her father's example, read many stories outloud to Mei. The first Harry Potter book was one of those tales. Soon after hearing the story, Mei decided to send Lee and Kyle to Hogwarts to meet Harry Potter and his owl, Hedgewick. And so it went.

Anyway, at the age of eight she decided she was too old for "that kind of stuff," and I lost touch with the story teller inside of her. There were times when I wondered whether she had gained anything from our story telling times together. But then, this summer on her visit to Idaho, she asked me whether she could write a book and whether I would make sure it was published.
I laughed and said, "Of course. Send me your drafts and I'll help you edit them. Then I'll put them on my website."
Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands. "Okay!" she said.
I asked her, "What is the story going to be about?"
"I like stories about castles," she said.
"Oh really?" I said. "Are you going to have a princess?"
She shook her head. "Of course not. I'm too old for that. This is going to be about people from another world who land in the court yard." She went on to tell me all about what the aliens looked like and how they were different than earth people.
An hour later, she had finished writing the first page.

So parents and teachers, don't give up. Most of your students and children are writers in disguise. They may not become an Ernest Hemmingway or a Mark Twain, but with a little attention, encouragement, and fun with words and word games, they can create amazing and creative stories. They are the writers of our future.

Mei, I lift my glass of chocolate milk to you, my writer granddaughter, who has become more of an American than most of us are. Happy Birthday!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Write Fiction and Nonfiction using Animals to Symbolize Life

Gee whizz. What a wonderful day!
Why write about animals? Do they make a difference in whether readers like your books or articles? When I wrote my first novel Justice Forbidden a couple of years ago I pondered whether I should add that special cat I had once dearly loved and that had helped me through a difficult time.

Then I started wondering whether it would be too cliche to write a mystery about an old woman who had a cat and solved a crime. It sounded too much like Agatha Christie. But, I reasoned, my mystery was a psychological thriller, not a cozy, and my protagonist was a psychologist in her forties, not an old woman. Yes, I thought, for some reason I needed an extraordinary cat in Faythe's life to help her in the dark days after her husband died.

It wasn't until I added Mao to my novel that I took a closer look at what animals added to stories. Since very early on, books like Lassie Come home and Black Beauty won the hearts of so many children but also adults. And Sea Biscuit and The Black Stallion became favorite movies for many, as well as for me.

What makes these stories so popular with the majority of people? What do animals symbolize to us?
They obviously touch something deep inside of us.

 Lets do a short exercise. Write down three words that come to mind when you think about the animals listed. There are no correct answers and they may be different than other people's answers. Each of us is an individual and all of us have had different experiences in our lives.

1.  Dog
2.  Cat
3.  Deer
4.  Horse
5.  Dolphin
6.  Parrot
7.  Lion
8.  Bear
9. The cat in the picture

How would your words change if the animal was beaten, injured, blind, alone, lost, vulnerable?

Here are a few examples of how I personally see certain animals. Read them only after you write down your own answers.

A dog means loyalty to me and he loves me just the way I am. We have a deep emotional connection and bond. He is a good listener without judging me and is protective of me. He is my buddy and friend. He is loving and supportive to veterans with PTSD, coming home from war and can help, protect, and lead blind people.

A cat is independent and at times creatively mischievous, but when I feel sad she or he comes to lie on my lap and purr. Mao, the cat in my story, was very intuitive and hissed at the murderer. Although small, he stood his ground to protect Faythe.

A lion is dangerous but powerful and can at times care about other animals or people enough to protect them.

You get the idea.

Some time ago, when I took a writing class, the instructor warned the class to be careful not to kill an animal in a story. According to her, people respond to most animals the way they respond to young children. Readers empathize with them and see them as vulnerable, helpless, needing adult protection. People cheer for them when they succeed in overcoming great odds, show courage, or help the vulnerable. Sea Biscuit, a horse, was seen as one of America's greatest heroes during the Depression.

So what kind of animal can you add to your story to symbolize the character attributes you wish to portray? Is the animal supportive of your protagonist? Or can you add an animal to show a lesson in your story? Do you know an exceptional animal you love and wish to write about?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mossy Mantles and the Place Driven Story, Part Three

Place can be described and brought to life, brilliantly, in ways you might not readily imagine. Too much physical description can be as misplaced as too little.  If the depiction of the setting does not bring with it the culture and the spirit of the people, we will not know who the characters are. The history of the original inhabitants is crucial.

From The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton:

“The Beauforts house was one of the few in New York that possessed a ballroom (it antedated even Mrs Manson Mingotts and the Headly Chiverses); and at a time when it was beginning to be thought provincial to put a 'crash' over the dining room floor and move the furniture upstairs, the possession of a ballroom that was used for no other purpose and left for three hundred and sixty four days of the year to shuttered darkness, with its gilt chairs stacked in a corner and is chandelier in a bag; this undoubled superiority was felt to compensate for whatever was regrettable in the Beaufort past.”

“New York has always been a commercial community and there are not more than three families in it who can claim and aristocratic origin in the real sense of the word...
The van der Luydens, direct descendants of the first Dutch Governor of Manhatten who stood above all of them had faded into a kind of super terrestrial twilight.. They divided their time between Trevenna their place in Maryland, and Sutercliff, the great estate on the Hudson which had been one of the colonial grands of the Dutch government of which Mr. Van der Luyden was still a patroon."


So what do these passages say about place? The topic is not, by any means, limited to the physical description. If a writer were to leave it at that and not describe the character's social standing, then we would not know who they are.

If you take a look at the south, you may think that the fertile soil and temperate climate would produce happy stories of people who are totally at ease. This is not always the case. Can anyone tell me why? The culture and the past are somewhat at odds with the lush setting; it is that contrast and the brutality of the change forced upon it which have yielded the greatest stories. The expression, 'may you always live in changing times,' has particular appeal to writers.

William Faulkner created the fictional Yokaipatawa county where:

“Life was created in the valleys. It blew up into the hills on the old terrors, the old lusts, the old despairs. That is why you must walk up the hills so you can ride down.”

In Absalom Absalom, Thomas Sutpen is a character who sought to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi wilderness. He was a man, Faulkner said who wanted sons and the sons destroyed him.

Some stories have shifts in the settings and the description of that shift, or explanation, can imbue great tension in the action. I have chosen a passage from Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte Christo:

“Meanwhile through a gully between two walls of rock, following a path worn by a torrent, which, in all probability human foot had never before trod, Dantes approached the spot where he supposed the grottos much have existed. Keeping along the coast and examining the smallest object with rapt attention, he thought he could trace on certain rocks, marks made by the hand of man. Time, which encrusts all physical substances with its mossy mantle, as it invests all things moral with its mantle of forgetfullness, seemed to have respected these signs, traced with a certain regularity and probably with a design of leaving tracks. Occasionally these marks disappeared beneath clumps of myrtle which spread into large bushed laden with blossoms or beneath parasitical lichen. Edward had to move branches on one side or remove mosses in order to retrace the marks which were to be his guide in this labyrinth...”

“At last after fresh hesitation, Dantes entered the second grotto. The second grotto was lower and more gloomy than the first; the air that could only enter by the newly formed opening had that mephitic smell Dantes was surprised to find in the firs. He waited to allow the pure air to displace the foul atmosphere and entered.
The treasure, if existed was buried in this corner. The time had at length arrived; two feet of earth removed and Dantes fate would be decided. He advanced toward the angle and summoning all his resolution, attacked the ground with a pickaxe. At fifth or sixth blow the pickaxe struck against an iron substance. Never did funeral knell, never did alarm bell, produce a greater effect on the hearer. Had Dantes found nothing, he could not have become more ghastly pale. He again struck his pickaxe into the earth and again encountered the same resistance, but not the same sound.
'It is a casket of wood bound with iron,' thought he."


How many movies, comic books, and cartoons have recreated that scene? It has become a expected now, but that was the original.

The most profoundly beautiful description of a setting, would induce nothing but a big yawn if a desperate situation did not immediately follow. Alfred Hitchcock used to say, get your character's in a pickle so we can watch them work their way out. He was a great one for using a setting dramatic in and of itself to help this concept along.

Consider this example of the technique from another master, Charles Dickens. This is from Great Expectations:
“Ours was the marsh country down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. The first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time, I found that this bleak place, overgrown with nettles was the church yard; and that Philip Pirrup, late of this parish and Georgiana wife of the above, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard intersected with dykes and mound and gates with scattered cattle feeding on it was the marshes; and that low leaden line beyond was the river; and that distant savage lair form which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry was Pip.
'Hold your noise,' cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. “ Keep still you little devil, or I'll cut your throat.”


Descriptions of settings can indicate what kind of story you are about to read. The ability to weave that through the opening pages can be what distinguishes the classics and the prize winners.
Here at writingnorthidaho, we are always interested in what our readers like to know. Please drop us a line and let us know what you think.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ice-Scabbed Cliffs and the Place Driven Story, Part Two

Places, just like people, have chief characteristics. Consider, if you will, the incredible power of the first impression.  If it is a desolate place, weather beaten and foreboding, the champion of this type of location, in my mind, would be Newfoundland. With its rocky shore, freezing cold climate and with the pounding it takes from Atlantic storms, it can be quite foreboding.  People settled there in order to fish the grand banks, but oh what a challenge the environment posed. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx  features this landscape prominently.

From The Shipping News:

“The aunt looked out, saw the blue land, her first sight of the island in almost fifty years. Could not help the tears.

'Comin 'ome, eh?' said the man in the watch cap. 'Yar, that's ow it takes you.'
This place, she thought, this rock, six thousand miles of coast blind-wrapped in fog. Sunkers under wrinkled water, boats threading tickles between ice-scabbed cliffs. Tundra and barrens, a land of stunted spruce men cut and drew away.

How many had come here, leaning on the rail as she leaned now. Staring at the rock in the sea. Vikings, the Basques, the French, English, Spanish, Portugese. Drawn by the cod, from the days when massed fish slowed ships on the drift for the passage to the Spice Isles, expecting cities of gold. The lookout dreamed of roasted auk, or sweet berries in cups of plaited grass, but saw crippling waves, lights flickering along ship rails. The only cities were of ice, bergs with cores of beryl, blue gems within white gems, that some said gave off an odor of almonds. She had caught the bitter scent as a child.

Shore parties returned to ship blood-crusted with insect bites. Wet, wet the interior of the island, they said, bog and marsh, rivers and chains of ponds alive with metal-throated birds. The ships scraped around on the points. And the lookout saw shapes of caribou folding into the fog.

Later, some knew it as a place that bred malefic spirits. Spring starvation showed skully heads, knobbed joints beneath the flesh. What desperate work to stay alive, to scrob and claw through hard times. The alchemist sea changed fisherman into wet bones, sent to boats to drift among the cod, cast them on the landwash. She remembered stories in old mouths; the father who shot his oldest children and himself that the rest might live on flour scrapings; sealers crouched on a floe awash from their weight until one leaped into the sea; storm journeys to fetch medicines- always the wrong thing and too late for the convulsing hangashore.

She had not been in these waters since she was a young girl, but it rushed back, the seas hypnotic boil, the smell of blood, weather and salt, fish heads, spruce smoke and reeking armpits, the rattle of wash-ball rocks in hissing wave, turrs, the crackery taste of brewis, the bedroom under the eaves."


What distinguishes this passage has much to do with the choice of words. Honestly, who can write like this? Annie Proulx, that's who.  Using regional terms whose meaning can be easily ascertained,  this writing has both a presence and a sense of  "malefic spirits."

I did not come from Newfoundland. Alas, I have never been there, but I have a desire to visit, based on the books I have read. Growing up as I did in staid, and staunch old Toronto, I have no such scrobbed, or knobbed memories. Mine are of hockey games and tea served with shortbread cookies. This week, as the world of stage and screen visit my former hometown for the Toronto International Film Festival, I am astounded at how much the place has changed. Mary Pickford was the only movie star I ever heard of going there and Ernest Hemingway thought of Toronto as purgatory. Toronto and Detroit could well be described in terms of  the tale of two cities.

 Working on a memoir, I dwell in another time, when Detroit rocked and my city was described as provincial and dull.  Some places change and others never do.  I am thrilled with the present, still slightly in love with the past, and like everyone else, am horrified with the current plight of  Motor City. Knowing some of her citizens, as well as I do, I am hoping the tide will turn. Place driven stories are full of history; there are sagas under the corner stones of the most venerable, old buildings.

Newfoundland though, is a story in and of itself.  As with my memories of Toronto, the place itself  inspires me.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Anne's Beauty Loving Eyes and The Place Driven Story- Part One

When curled up with a good book, do you remember being transported to the moors of northern England, to the red roads of Georgia, or to dear little Prince Edward Island? The importance of place in a novel, or story, can sometimes be tantamount to the telling of the tale. Take Scarlet out of the old south and what do you have? Take Heathcliff out of the moors and who is he?

A sense of place puts the reader in the story, puts the character up against something- whether it is a harsh environment they are grappling with, or a cultural imperative which leaves them feeling as though the deck is stacked against them. What are the underlying layers of the place your character's inhabit? What are the threats? Did the place start as a swamp, or a thriving port? Did they have to beat back the forest, or are the bushes full of snakes? Who came there first? Was it miners, or homesteaders? Who was indigenous? What was the climate?

Do you remember those green felt boards kindergarten teachers used to use as props? Remember how they would stick felt things on to the green board to teach us how to count ducks, or whatever. The setting of a novel is kind of like the green felt and the characters are then the ducks.
These are details that can make or break a story.
By taking a look at the great ones, we can gain many tips, as we set out to describe the places where our characters live and the role that place plays in the story.

It occurred to me that I actually love place driven stories. While a place can never be the whole story, it can be a huge part of shaping the action of a story. There is nothing that defines a writer more completely than the concept of really honing in on the character of his home town, or region, and then becoming synonymous with that place. Consider Margret Mitchell with Atlanta, James Joyce with Dublin, the Brontes with the moors and Pat Conroy with South Carolina and then my perennial and personal favorite and the best selling book of all time, L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and Prince Edward Island.

Other writers may not be from a region, but can go there and define it nevertheless. Take James Mitchner with Hawaii and the middle east, Leon Uris with Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Passage to India's, E. M Forester and then of course, Shakespeare himself. The place will shape the lives of the characters as they adapt to changes through time.

Here are some pages from the opening chapters of Anne of Green Gables:

“They had driven over the crest of a hill. Below them was a pond, looking almost like a river so long and winding was it. A bridge spanned it midway and from there to its lower end, were an amber hued belt of sand-hills shut it in from the dark blue gulf beyond, the water was a glory of many shifting hues- the most spiritual shadings of of crocus and rose and ethereal green, with other elusive tintings for which no name has ever been found. Above the bridge the pond ran up into fringing groves of fir and maple and lay all darkly translucent in their wavering shadows. Here and there a wild plum leaned out from the bank like a white-clad girl tip-toeing to her own reflection. From the marsh at the head of the pond came the clear, mournfully- sweet chorus of frogs. There was a little gray house peering around a white apple orchard on a slope beyond and, although it was not yet quite dark, a light was shining from one of its windows.
“That's Barry's pond, “ said Mathew.
“Oh, I don't like that name, either. I shall call it- let me see- the Lake of Shining Waters. Yes, that's the right name for it. I know because it gives me a thrill. Do things ever give you a thrill?"
When they had driven up the further hill and around a corner Mathew said, "We're pretty near home now. That's Green Gables over-”
“Oh don't tell me,” she interrupted breathlessly, catching at his partially raised arm and shutting her eyes that she might not see his gesture. “Let me guess. I'm sure I'll guess right.”
She opened her eyes and looked about her. They were on the crest of a hill. The sun has set some time since, the the landscape was still clear in the mellow after-light. To the west a dark church spire rose up against a marigold sky. Below was a little valley and beyond a long, gently-rising slope with snug farmsteads scattered along it. From one to another the child's eyes darted, eager and wistful. At last they lingered on one away to the left, far back from the road, dimly white with blossoming trees in the twilight of the surrounding woods. Over it the stainless southwest sky, a great crystal white star was shining like a lamp of guidance and promise.
“That's it, isn't it?” she said pointing.

It was broad daylight when Anne awoke and sat up in bed, staring confusedly at the window through which a flood of cheery sunshine was pouring and outside of which something white and feather waved across the glimpses of blue sky.
For a moment she could not remember where she was. First came a delightful thrill, as if something very pleasant: then a horrible remembrance. This was Green Gables and they didn't want her because she wasn't a boy!
But it was morning and, yest it was a cherry tree in full bloom outside of her window With a bound she was out of bed and across the floor. She pushed up the sash- it went up stiffly and creakily, as if it hadn't been opened for a long time, which was the case; and it stuck so tight that nothing was needed to hold it up.
Anne dropped on her knees and gazed out into the June morning her eyes glistening with delight. Oh, wasn't it beautiful? Wasn't it a lovely place? Suppose she wasn't really going to stay here! She would imagine she was. There was scope for the imagination here.
A huge cherry-tree grew outside, so close that its boughs tapped against the house, and it was so thick- set with blossoms that hardly a leaf was to be seen. On both sides of the house was a big orchard, one of apple-trees and one of cherry-trees, also showered with blossoms; and their grass was all sprinkled over with dandelions. In the garden below were lilac-trees purple with flowers, and their dizzily sweet fragrance drifted up to the window on the morning wind.
Below the garden a green field lush with clover sloped down to the hollow where the brook ran and were scores of white birches grew, springing airily out of and undergrowth suggestive of delightful possibilities in ferns and mosses and woodsy things generally. Beyond it was a a hill, green and feathery with spruce and fir; there was a gap in it where the gray gable end of the little house she had seen from the other side of the Lake of Shining Waters was visible.
Off to the left were the big barns and beyond them, away down, over the green, low sloping fields, was a sparkling blue glimpse of sea.
Anne's beauty -loving eyes lingered on it all, taking everything greedily in; she has looked on so many unlovely places in her life, poor child; but this was as lovely as anything she had ever dreamed.
She knelt there, lost to everything, but the loveliness around her, until she was startled by the hand on her shoulder. Marilla had come in unheard by the small dreamer.
"It's time you were dressed," she said curtly."

So the stage is set. We are caught up in the drama of Anne's situation, and we want her to be able to stay at Green Gables because we know how much she has fallen in love with the place. This rapture has drawn thousands upon thousands of tourists to Prince Edward Island ever since the book was published. The powerful description not only puts us in this place, but makes us want to go and see it for ourselves. I doubt there is a writer, living or deceased, who has ever captured the beauty of a place better than L.M. Montgomery.

Breaking news: We have just learned that Anne of Green Gables is slated for the silver screen.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Back to School & Writing Assignments


  This past week many Facebook friends posted pictures of their children and grandchildren on the first day of school. Some even posted old black and white Kodak prints of their  own first day of school long years ago. All  very endearing and sweet,

   When I was a kid I seem to remember there was a happy anticipation at the start of each school year, like something new and good was about to happen. Students seemed to understand , sometimes grudgingly so, the summer season was over, and it was time again to study and learn.  One thing that always seemed to be the same from grade to grade  was sometime  during the first two weeks of school the teacher would assign the class to write about their summer vacation .

   While I don't recall each essay I wrote, two come to mind. The first one was about visiting my Grandpa Cecil Cooney at the Veteran's Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. He was very ill and no longer recognized many people he once knew,  but when I walked into the room he recognized me, and smiled. I adored my Grandfather and was so glad to see him. I took his hand and held  it against my cheek. Grandpa was my hero, we had shared so many happy times together. He always called me his 'Little brown-eyed sweetheart' . When Grandma asked if I wanted to help feed him , I quickly nodded yes , so grateful I could do something for Grandpa after all he had done for me.

   The other essay I remember   about summer vacation was when I was in 8th grade . Sister Mary  Agnesine instructed the class to write a descriptive story about something we did over the summer. I wrote of my first experience riding a Honda 50 . After Jim,  a dear family friend gave me  instruction  on how to start the motorcycle  and shift gears, I did just the opposite of what he said, and started  in high gear. Then,  faster than a locomotive,   I soared over the side of the bluff , dropping 30 feet into a dark murky lake,  like a  dive bomber crashing into the sea.  Honda and all. After hitting the water I floated to the top, but the bike sank straight to the bottom. I wasn't injured, just stunned and scared.  It took several dives before Jim eventually was able to pull the Honda from the water, but sadly,  it never ran the same  again. Sister wrote a note on the top of my paper that mys essay  was well written, but I didn't follow instructions as it was to be a 'true' story. I had to take some extra time after class  to explain it was a true story.

   I don't think educators have changed much over the years  - they still  assign  essays about summer vacations.  Last week I pulled a notebook from a chest downstairs  to re-read stories  my son Gavin wrote about his summer vacations , our family  trip to Disney World when he and his dad stood for an hour in the Florida heat to go down the slide at the water park,  and another about he and I spending  the day at Northtown Mall in Spokane.


   In my opinion , that kind of writing exercise is beneficial to students of all ages, helping them to develop sentence structure, description,  and dialogue, and to tell a story in their own words, and style.  The same could be said of  writers, too. No matter how long we've been writing, it might be worth our while to think back on some of those  old school day  writing assignments , and put them into practice again.  Summer is passed, the new school year has begun,  why not write about one  experience you had during the summer. Perhaps a trip abroad, kayaking on the lake, a family reunion, or barbecue in the backyard. Decide on one special summer moment, and see where it leads you !

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Self Help Books & My Brother, Walt

   I venture to say most reader and writers when thinking about genre,  first consider mystery, memoir, fiction and non-fiction, giving very little thought to Self-Help books.   Yet, year after year  Self- Help books are often on best-seller lists,  and actually provide what they  claim - inspirational guidance, motivation and help.


   Rudyard Kipling, Marjorie Holmes and Hugh Prather. What do they have in common ?  Each, in their way  were self help writers; they  were also  favorites of my brother, Walt Cooney. From the time my brother was a little boy our mother  read to  him  over and over again Rudyard Kipling's great poem,
   If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
      Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,  
   If neither foes or loving friends  can hurt you,
       If all men count with you, but none too much;
   If you can fill the unforgiving minute
      With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
   Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it ,
       And - which is more- you'll be a Man, my son!

   Walt knew this poem well, and when caught in a challenging situation he would recount it’s meaning to help  bolster his spirit, and guide his way.

    In 1974 I had airline tickets for an overseas flight to London , traveling with my very dear and  long time friend, Mary Kay.  Not a fan of flying , or being away from home , I   was scared beyond measure to fly that long long distance and be away from home for three months. Walt gave me a book he came across titled, I've Got to Talk to Somebody  God  by Marjorie Holmes, and inscribed it

     To my sis, Kathy on her 1st trip abroad.  Luv, Walt.  Kathy, read 115 when you're on the airplane. Love you always

       I can  honestly tell you, I read page 115 many times over during that flight, and was greatly comforted . I at times still read it today:

       The Lord is my friend and my companion. How can I ever be lonely so long as he is with me? He walks along a country road with me and opens my senses  to loveliness never noticed before; The glitter of gravel beneath my feet, a tangle of sun-sweet grasses, a dust colored toad - all remarkable and fresh. He accompanies me along the busy street (or flying across the ocean -Walt's words). I am happy and at ease, for my Lord is also there.

    In the early 1980's  when Walt lived in Arizona, working for a carpet company  and was faced with the things of life many young people face, he read  a book that would become one of his favorites , Notes to Myself -  My Struggle to Become a Person by Hugh Prather.  I was unfamiliar with the book then , but knowing how much I enjoyed reading, Walt was excited to share with me  a  particular passage that moved his spirit:

      As I look back on my life, one of the most constant and powerful things I have experienced within myself is the desire to be more than I am at the moment - an unwillingness to let myself remain where I am- a desire to increase the boundaries of myself- a desire to do more, learn more, express more- a desire to grow-improve, accomplish ,expand. I used to interpret this inner push as meaning that there was some one thing out there I wanted to do or be or have. And I have spent too much of my life trying to find it. But now I know that this energy within me is seeking more than the mate or the profession or the religion, more even than pleasure or power or meaning . It is seeking out more of me; or better,  it is, thank God, flushing out more of me.

    My brother was born September 4, 1954. Today would be his 59th birthday. He was a much wanted, and loved baby boy with bright blue eyes, and blond hair. Named after his maternal  grandfather, Walter. Mother wanted Ronald, after our father, for his middle name, but dad didn't much like the  name Ronald at the time, so they settled on Rod . Walt came into this world with high energy and great love of life. He was a happy, kind and good man.

      Walt wasn't a recreational  reader of novels ,  but I doubt many of his friends, or family  knew he was a reader of  Self - Help inspirational, and educational  books,  as he was always looking to grow and improve himself, or share something that might be helpful to someone else, like me .

    I don't know what prompted Marjorie Holmes or Hugh Prather to write, I'm just glad they did.  I didn't know their  books  until my brother shared them  with me all those years ago, books that remain fresh in my memory, books that keep us connected,  even though he's gone from this earth.  That's the power of the written word, and the impact they can have .

*** Info on how to write a  self help book

                                              In Loving Memory
                                               Walter R. Cooney
                                        Sept. 4, 1954 - May 30, 2010       





Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day, Julia Child and Writers

    After the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday, and President Grover Cleveland  signed it into law in  1894, its purpose  was to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.  Today,  Labor Day is mostly associated with the end
of summer and retail sales.

    Typically, Labor Day weekend marks the last  three day, care free weekend before the start of school when families go on picnics, to the beach, barbecue in the back yard, and kids play hard. In the late 1970's when I worked for the Los Angeles Times selling retail advertising, I remember  there was always a big push to sell a Display ad to the department store, grocery market or mom and pop business to promote their special Labor Day Sale. 

    As I was preparing to write my blog for today, knowing it coincided with Labor Day, I gave thought to how writers often look upon their work as a Labor of Love - the hard work, perseverance, and dedication it takes to  write, and sometimes rewrite  a story, poem, memoir, composition, compilation of recipes ,  or essay; the writer is  vulnerable to the ridicule and criticism of others, all while putting  forth effort day after day to hone a craft  that will not only please her or himself, but also be pleasing to others in the way of description, plot, dialogue. Sometimes the writers goal is to educate, to help  broaden another's point of  view; Sometimes the writers purpose  is to make us  laugh, or move one  to tears, or share their own personal story. 

    When most folks think of Julia Child they think of the master of French cooking, a PBS superstar who taught cooking lessons to millions via television,  not Julia Child, the accomplished author. Yet, that is exactly  what she was, a storyteller who had a passion for French cooking,  the author  of  one  of the best selling cook books of all time, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, along with  other popular  titles including, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume Two, From Julia Child's Kitchen, Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, Cooking with Master Chefs and her memoir, My Life in France. 


   By all accounts, Julia Child, born Julia  Carolyn McWilliams  in the  idyllic turn of the century  town of Pasadena, California,   August 15, 1912  was a child with  high energy and determination. Traits that would serve her well throughout her life, especially while writing her first book. It took Child  nine years of researching, writing, recipe testing and editing before  Mastering the Art of French Cooking  was finally published in 1961 ,  and not by Houghton Mifflin ,  who sent her a letter rejecting her book  because it was too long, but  by publisher Alfred A. Knopf.  

    And Knopf published only after much back and forth. According to biographer Bob Spritz, author of  Dearie The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, " Getting Knopf to publish it, however, would take considerable effort."

    Today, we can only surmise how lucky Knopf must have felt after their wise decision to publish Child's book led to a best seller.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One, and Mastering Volume Two  - taken together, are considered one of the most influential works in American cookbook history. 

    This Labor Day I salute Julia Child,  and all writers who work so tirelessly to pursue  their goal of writing their passion  - a  novel, memoir,  or book of poems - and yes, even a cookbook !

*** For more information about Julia Child visit