Variation on a Spine Poem

I’ve been doodling around on my bookshelves when I should be writing so I solved the problem by taking a stab at a few “spine poems.” It seems a fitting way to observe National Poetry Month. Here’s today’s:

In the spirit of both #nationallibraryworkersday and #nationalpoetrymonth, here are a few books to go check out of your library. I call this variation on a #spinepoem. It’s what happens when someone puts a sticker on the spine of a book you could only find in a used bookstore.

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Small Towns, Big Stories

“Living in a small town…is like living in a large family of rather uncongenial relations. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s perfectly awful, but it’s always good for you. People in large towns are like only-children.
― Joyce Dennys, Henrietta Sees It Through: More News From the Home Front 1942-1945

 

Hi, Friends,

I’m sharing my April newsletter here with my WordPress friends and it starts with a tiny commercial and a big ask.

From now through April 17, the e-book version of Casualties will be available to download for only $1.99.

Now I need all the help I can get to put the word out there. In fact, this is a great opportunity for you to check out the story and see what you think. If you’ve already read it then you know my book and you know your friends. If you think there’s a match, will you help us all to meet? Just share this post or this link with them: Casualties For $1.99. It takes them to a page where they can pick from Kindle, Nook, iBook or others to purchase and download.

Thank you. The “commercial” is now over and we return to our regularly scheduled musings, updates, and this month’s fabulous book giveaway. The theme? Small towns, the people they harbor, the books they inspire. And spring. Let’s not forget about spring.
Small Towns & Real Life
Readers often want to know how much of Casualties is based on my real life. The question makes me squirm more than I let on. No, I’m not Ruth and she isn’t someone I know. No, Robbie is not based on my son (although he remains suspicious). As for Casey? He’s my mystery man. He appeared completely out of the blue all set and ready to roll onto the pages of my story. It is true, though, that my experiences gave me a lot of raw material to draw from and I used it with abandon to make something new. Nowhere is this more true than when I created the town of Gershom, New Hampshire where Ruth grew up.

 

There is no Gershom. I didn’t take my hometown of Jefferson and slap another name on it. Those who know the area will recognize bits and pieces of several towns scattered in that part of the White Mountains (one, Lancaster, NH, is featured in the photo at the top of this letter). As I wrote, though, I realized that certain places could not be altered. They were stamped too deeply in my memory — in my bones, really. Robbie goes to find the brook he fished as a boy. I know the sound and smell of that brook and the bone-numbing chill that lasts even into August – it runs down the mountain past my parents’ house. I know the sound of gravel when Ruth’s car reaches the dirt road to her grandparents’ farm. It is the sound that used to wake my then four-year-old son from a deep sleep and cause him to twitch with anticipation as we drove the last mile of our trip on “Gramma’s Bumpy Road.”

 

This was the remote place that frightened and thrilled me when we moved there in 1966 from suburban Connecticut. This was the place that quickly seemed too small for all I hoped to do and see in the world. This was the place where I was introduced to a telephone party line and the realization that in a town of less than a thousand people, you didn’t need a party line to share information. This was the place where I “came of age” with all the joys, humiliations and growing pains that come with that. This is the place that, no matter how far away I’ve gotten from it, remains home.

 

Nearly a year ago, I went back home to Jefferson to share my book with the people who helped me write it. Some of the landmarks encountered in my story when Robbie goes north to see his relatives and when Ruth finally winds her way up the dirt road to her grandparents’ home were waiting for me last spring when I arrived. Here are a couple of them. You can find more here: Robbie’s Places.

This Month’s Giveaway 

 

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers also grew up in a small town. She understands the dynamics and, boy, does she understand families. Her grasp of the complexities that reside in both villages and families is on full display in her latest novel, Seven Wings to Glory, released April 1. I was invited to write a “blurb” for this fine book and here it is:

“From the start of Seven Wings to Glory, Kathleen Rodgers skillfully shows how no town is small enough and no family perfect enough to be outside the reach of war, racism, and the heartbreak life hands out on a regular basis to all those who love. She especially shines when she gives us a young man who could easily have been seen as a villain but is much more complex than that and requires more from the central characters and his small town than they may be prepared to give. With this wonderful sequel to her novel, Johnnie Come Lately, Rodgers opens the reader’s eyes and heart.”

This month’s giveaway is a signed copy of Seven Wings to Glory. If you’d like to enter to win, just comment here or, if you are already a newsletter subscriber, just reply to me before midnight PST on Sunday, April 9. I will use an app from Random.org to draw a winner.Thank you for being with me on this journey and for sharing your thoughts with me in emails and discussions. I have loved every minute and look forward to more!

Gratefully,
Betsy

P.S. Here’s your moment of Zen: spring in the Desert, spring on the Coast. And for my family and friends back in Jefferson – may spring find you soon, very soon!

 

A Reader Reminds Me Why I’m Doing This

“May I just say thank you for caring about a really big issue. My son has his own story to tell about his re-entry and his attempt at suicide…we still have him. For this I am eternally grateful. And now I have a book to share with other single moms who are looking at re-entry.”
–A Veteran’s Mother

Dear Friends,

Those of you who are subscribers to my newsletter will have already seen this in your inbox (or soon will depending on how eager you are to open email!). I wanted to share it here too because it feels so important to share those moments when we all really connect. I won’t do this regularly but when there is something I think you’ll like, I’ll give it a try.

Here goes:

The lines above came to me a recent Sunday night in an email. I was about to shut down my computer and head to bed, my thoughts already focused on the week ahead with its to-do’s,  anxieties, and promises to myself to just focus on the writing and not worry about reviews or sales or my future as a writer.

Then I saw it. The subject line read, “Your book is helping yet another military Mom.” I opened it. I learned that the sender had not only finished Casualties but had lent it to a friend whose son was due home from San Diego after serving four years in the Marines.  She wrote:

“It made her rethink the times she was planning to spend with him and listen to the things she would normally dismiss.” 

Then she shared with me a bit of her own story: the return of her son, his attempt at suicide, the long road he is still walking. With tears in my eyes, I wrote back and told her how much her note meant to me and how glad I was that she and her son still had each other. In a second note she shared more of her story. With her permission, I share excerpts below because they give us all something to think about:

“We, (family and loved ones) somehow think that things will resort back to “normal” when they return. NEVER will normal have the same definition it had before they left.”

“The person returned to us from deployment is not the same one who left with dreams for making a difference…”

“They come home feeling guilty that they got to come home.”

There were times when I wasn’t sure I was the right person to write this novel. It took so long to finish. When I finally did publish, the triumph of the moment came with ever-growing worries I’d never anticipated. Then I began to hear from readers — not reviews actual letters from actual readers. I heard from members of book clubs who have shared their surprise, their concern, their sympathy and, ultimately, their empathy for families that may not have looked much like their own. Some readers have lost children in all kinds of ways and relived that loss with me. Some simply fell into the story and simply told me they couldn’t put it down. Some have not loved the book, or all of it, but were still glad they read it. And they took the time to tell me this.

Every time I connect with a reader I understand all over again why I wanted to write a story in the first place. Every time someone shares his or her own story with me, I understand even more why I wanted to write this one. They make me want to keep going. I am grateful every day for their gift.

Two new novels for two new winners

With gratitude in mind – and knowing what it means for an author to know her book is out there connecting — I’d like to share the work of two authors who have written novels full of life, conflict, adventure and the opportunity to consider questions that compel attention long after the last page.

First though, congratulations to Jodi and to Cyn who won copies of The Nest and The Forgetting Time after responding to the last newsletter.

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond.  I gobbled this book down in two nights. I loved the story. Loved the protagonist and loved her first love: the continent of Antarctica and the penquins who live there. The premise is frightening: what would happen something like Italy’s Concordia cruise ship accident happened in remote, unforgiving, yet increasingly fragile Antarctica. Bonus: this copy is signed by the author!

Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. This wonderful novel just came out a couple of weeks ago but back in the spring, I was lucky enough to leave a writers conference with two advance copies. I’m reading one (and loving it) and I want to share the other one. “Dreamers” is the story of a Jende, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem who imagines a brighter future for his family after taking a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy couple. This future is threatened by the collapse of Lehman Brothers and forces Jende and his wife to make an impossible choice. Here is what the New York Times book review has to say: “Mbue writes with great confidence and warmth. . . . There are a lot of spinning plates and Mbue balances them skillfully, keeping everything in motion. . . . Behold the Dreamers is a capacious, big-hearted novel.”

To enter, just respond to this email before midnight PST on Thursday, September 8. I will use an app from Random.org to draw two winners. If you’d like to check out all the official rules, just click here: giveaway rules.

Feel free to let your friends know and join us as subscribers.  Here’s the link to sign up: http://elizabethmarro.com/subscribe/

And if you are in a book club, let’s talk!

Thank you! So good to know you are out there!

Betsy

P.S. And now, here’s your moment of Zen courtesy of…Mr. Beans?