She Turned Her Head Away by Patricia Moffat.

She Turned Her Head Away by Patricia Moffat.  Subtitled “An Adoption Memoir”, this book is in fact so much more than that. Sometimes it reads like an intelligent whodunit (as the author pursues the trail of her birth-mother), sometimes like an insightful psychological novel. And on every page, it provides what I think I primarily…

Welcome Discouragement

To be open to writing is to be open to all the familiar parts of the writing process: the elation, the discouragement, and all that lies between.  Welcome discouragement.  Without it, you’ll get nowhere, even though it can be the hardest of your old friends to love.

Poem: A Center

You must hold your quiet center, where you do what only you can do. If others call you a maniac or a fool, just let them wag their tongues.  If some praise your perseverance,  don’t feel too happy about it — only solitude is a lasting friend.   You must hold your distant center. Don’t…

March, 2020, Prizes and Publications

Zillah Bowes was one of four poets shortlisted for the £10,000 Manchester Poetry Prize (2018). Her poems, and those of the other finalists, can be read on The Manchester Poetry Prize Website. (No prize for guessing whose poems I think should have won!). Marie-Elsa Bragg has had a second book, Sleeping Letters, begun at Freefall, accepted by Chatto…

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. I think I’ve written before about this jewel of a novel, written in the 1950s, when the novel had aspirations for itself that are only a distant memory now. It’s as intimate as it is rich in metaphor:  a beautifully written book that no amount of time or the making of…

The Victorian and the Romantic by Nell Stevens

The Victorian and the Romantic by Nell Stevens.  So many memoirs these days seek uniqueness by bringing two unlikely things together. Here, a fictionalized love affair between Victorian novelist, Mrs. Gaskell, and American writer, Charles Elliot Norton, is paired with the author’s mysterious, on-again, off-again relationship with Max, her present-day lover. Amazingly, Stevens pulls this off…

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.  This sprawling family saga explores the world of Korean immigrants living in Japan (who currently number 700,000). Many jobs are closed to these “resident aliens”, but the “pachinko” (pinball) emporiums they run gross over $200 billion annually, or 30 times the annual revenue of Las Vegas (who knew?). Tenderly and with…

Wake up your settings

Most of us are aware of the oft-cited truth that the passive voice (‘The ball was hit by the boy.’) does not work as well, when you’re writing creatively, as the active voice (‘The boy hit the ball.’) You can immediately see that there’s more energy in the latter. But I’m often surprised by how…

Intimacy, a poem

INTIMACY I can be alone, I know how to be alone.   There is a tacit understanding Between my pencils And the trees outside: Between the rain And my luminous hair.   The tea is boiling: My golden zone, My pure burning amber.   I can be alone, I know how to be alone. By…

December 2020, Writers news

I’m afraid that in the current flurry of online workshops, I haven’t been tracking news of Freefall participants’ recent publications as I should, and I welcome all reminders. But I do know that my friend and former student, Patricia Moffat, has published the memoir about adoption that was begun in a Freefall workshop more than twenty years ago, with…

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