Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Catholic Writers Guild

I was privileged to attend the live conference of the Catholic Writers Guild this year. It is held in tandem with the Catholic Marketing Network and this year was in Lancaster, PA. I am currently working on a memoir of my child -bearing years; over the course of 6 pregnancies I spent 1 1/2 years on bedrest! I also converted to Catholicism, and received 2 medical diagnoses that could have been devastating. The book will tell how we managed and, I hope, be a tool for women put on bedrest in their own pregnancies.

I learned much at the conference. I signed up for a non-fiction critique group July 31, and really scrambled to get 10 pages of my manuscript ready to go. Arriving at the group, the leaders had no idea who I was, and had not received my manuscript! We agreed O could audit the session. It was God's hand! As I listened to the conversation and took notes, I realized, my work is not ready to be critiqued. It needs real reworking. I intend to join the Guild, join the online non-fiction critique group, and submit my manuscript a piece at a time then.

The first day of the conference was informative and interesting. I may have found a niche for myself. I wish we could have stayed longer. We took it as a girl's trip, with my mom, two daughters (we celebrate each girl starting her period by including her on a trip: one more daughter to go), and myself. My eldest daughter and I attended the conference; she is a poet. There was a poetry critique group scheduled, however, my daughter was the only signee. She was rewarded with an hour of one-on-one time with the leader, an established poet. An excellent confidence builder for my girl! But my mom had to be home for another obligation, so we  had to leave the second day of the conference. And, although there is ample opportunity for Mass, we didn't get to attend this time. We had a lovely time anyway.

I am now in a fibromyalgia flare because we drove from IN to PA in one day. I can't get my mom to understand my limitations. We did break up the trip back; after 8 hours we found a motel. We were heading to IL and 12 hours driving was a little more than mom could do. So I am in pain and fatigued. Apparently, the conference has been in Schaumburg, IL in the past. Perhaps it will be moved back. Lancaster was difficult to negotiate, we found. Still, a good time.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Wives and Daughters

A novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. I read and enjoyed Gaskell's book North and South, so I thought I would enjoy this classic as well. I was wrong. The pace was slow, for one thing, and I just couldn't be enthusiastic about any of the characters. I can see the worth of the novel, but I finally had to abandon it. A rare thing for me. Perhaps it just wasn't the right time and if I pick it up again someday I'll be able to enjoy it. Perhaps not.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Happened That Night

A gripping novel by Sandra Block. Dahlia is a senior at Harvard, successful and pretty. Then, one night at a party, she is brutally attacked. Her memory of the assault is vague, and she is left with a cold rage. Five years later, she is tattooed as a survivor, working as a paralegal, depending on her gay best friend to get her through the pseudo-seizures that PTSD leaves. Then a video of the attack surfaces online; and her rage becomes white hot. With the help of James, the awkward IT guy, Dahlia vows revenge on her attackers.

The author describes depression accurately. She also is spot on in her description of a character with Asperger's Syndrome, and what he does to compensate for his differences. I saw the final twist coming, but I am intuitive and at one time made a steady diet of books such as this in my reading life. I still stayed up way too late to read this well-crafted novel.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye

A Lisbeth Salander novel by David Lagercrantz, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, translated by George Goulding. Lisbeth Salander has never before had access to the secrets of her traumatic childhood, until now. She enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the investigative journal Millennium. Nothing will stop her from getting answers about her past; and plenty try. She aids a young woman to escape the brutality of her Islamist brothers; a prison gang leader puts a curse on her; her evil twin, Camilla, tries to chase her down; and there are people who will do anything to keep buried the pseudoscientific experiment known as the Registry. You hardly get a chance to catch your breath in this novel.

Code Talker

A fabulous memoir by Chester Nez, with Judith Schiess Avila. This is history at its best. Nez grew up in the Checkerboard region of the Navajo Reservation of New Mexico in the 1920's. He was given the name "Chester Nez" in kindergarten in boarding school and was forced to speak, read, and write in English although he didn't yet know the language. As a teenager, the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor spurred him to enlist in the Marines (Native Americans did not yet have the right to vote at that time).

During World War II, the Japanese had broken every code the Americans used. The Marines turned to the Navajo recruits to develop and implement a code based on their native language. They created the only unbreakable code in modern warfare and helped assure victory over Japan in the South Pacific. Chester Nez was one of those man who developed the code and used it in battle. This is his story.

The Good Son

Fiction by You-Jeong Jeong, translated by Chi-Young Kim. 25-year-old Yu-jin has an odd relationship with his mother. She must know where he is at all times, he must be home in their apartment in Seoul by 9:00 pm, he must take his medication. He simply assumes she worries he will have an epileptic seizure. One morning he wakes to the smell of blood and finds his mother's murdered body  at the bottom of the stairs. He feels he has had a seizure, and has only a vague memory of his mother calling his name. Was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?

The novel covers three days as Yu-jin struggles to recapture what happened that night, and to learn the truth about himself and his family. It's an incredibly bloody novel with a highly unreliable narrator.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Book one of the Incubation Trilogy by Laura DiSilverio, a young adult dystopian novel. Jax is a researcher at her Kube, trying to discover how to eradicate the locust swarms that plague Amerada. Until she finds out the Proctor of the Kube has been lying to her about her parents. Her best friend Halla has gotten pregnant, if she stays at the Kube her baby will be taken away. Wyck, the boy Jax likes, gets his papers to serve as a border sentry; he doesn't want to serve the Pragmatists in any way. So they run away from the Kube. They head first from Jacksonville to Atlanta to try to find Loudon, Halla's boyfriend, an IPF recruit (the Pragmatist's National Guard). They then plan to go to an outpost. But they come up against all sorts of trouble, eventually ending up in an organization known as Bulrush, an underground railroad for pregnant women to get away from the people who would take their babies.