Robyn Parnell’s short story “Writer’s Guidelines” was published in the current issue of The First Line, (Summer 2011), and her story “Here is What” has been accepted for publication by Bellevue Literary Review.
County Line, by Bill Cameron
Published by Tyrus Books
Madison Wisconsin, 2011
ISBN# Paperback 978135562528, $15.95
Hardback 9781935562351, 401 pages
Review by Rae Richen
Bill Cameron’s mystery, County Line, came out on June 1st. The wonderful people at Mystery by the Book held a launch party for it on June 2. My husband, Woody, was first in line at the launch party. He’d read Cameron’s Lost Dog, Chasing Smoke and Day One. He knew he was going to want to read County Line as soon as possible.
The hitch in Woody’s plan was that I had dibs on the first read at our house, so that I could get a review into the Colonygram on deadline. So, though he hated to turn it over, the book became mine first.
I read that evening. I brought it to our morning reading time, ignored our newspaper ritual, barely ate breakfast and didn’t even go out to play in my garden despite the rare sunshine. I did take the book out to read in the swing.
By 2 p.m. I handed the book to Woody. “It’s great,” I said. “I’m telling you nothing, so you can enjoy it, too, but I do need it again long enough to get the publisher information for my review.”
Here it is June 5 and I saw Woody sitting in a garden chair reading. This is Woody –the man who never sits still. So, if that doesn’t tell you enough about how good County Line is, I will add a little bit.
In Lost Dog, we met Ruby Jane Whittaker. She is a mystery we won’t forget, one who spots lying and hypocrisy from a distance. We know Skin Kadash, retired cop, professional cynic and purposeful ugly man, has strong feelings and protective instincts for Ruby Jane. These instincts ratchet into high when Ruby leaves town and doesn’t check on Uncommon Cup, her coffee house business for several days.
Not keeping track of Uncommon Cup is way out of character for Ruby Jane. So Skin knows Ruby is in deep doo. The rest is to read.
Let me say that from Lost Dog on, Bill Cameron’s storytelling instincts have been strong. His previous books, set in Portland, ring true for our town and its many out-there characters. In Day One, Cameron created a skateboarding, street-smart Eager Gillespie who was so exciting that Cameron’s fans wanted to see Eager grow, succeed, overcome. What happened to Eager made Cameron realize he could nail youth and attitude.
So, in County Line, we get to meet the younger version of Ruby Jane — smart-in-the-mouth, trust-no-one, dunk the basketball from anywhere on the court – that Ruby Jane, the girl who can run forever on County Line Road, and maybe should have kept running.
My only complaint is that Bill Cameron doesn’t write as fast as Woody and I read.
You won’t forget Ruby Jane or Skin Kadash anytime soon, so when Cameron comes out with another in this series, or any series he wants to write, we’ll meet you at the opening launch, ready to buy.
Tea Pie, Love And Reality: A Collection of Memoir Essays
Author: Sally Petersen
Published by Petersen Publications
Reviewed by Marlene Howard
This little five by seven inch book is just the right size to hold in one hand while holding a cup of coffee or tea in the other. The attractive cover conjures up that idea with a picture of a man’s hands holding a coffee mug and a woman’s hand stirring a spoon in a tea cup.
The title, Tea Pie, Love and Reality brings up story questions. The author is smart, she knows the reader will have those questions. So, in the Contents pages she bolds three essay titles—”Reality”, “Love in the Afternoon”, and “Tea Pie”. I turned to those pages first to satisfy my curiosity. Each of these short essays catches the reader and makes us want to read more. My favorite piece in the book is the Tea Pie essay.
“Tea Pie or Word Recognition Disorder”
”Mom?” It was Charlie, four, inheritor of long, dark lashes and a way with women.
“Mom, can I have some tea pie?” Earnest, hopeful, blinking the lashes.
“Tea pie, what is that?”
His tone changed from supplication to firmness. A little louder as if she hadn’t heard, emphasis on each word—tea pie.
His mother squatted to his level, looked into his pleading brown eyes, then understood. She’d made coffeecake that morning.
It was fun going through the Contents reading the titles and trying to choose the essays that might focus on writers and writing. I came up with the following titles: “Resume”, “One Good Metaphor”, “Technology”, “Samuel Clemens & Me”, “Art & Craft” and “Dueling Computers”.
Petersen covers broad subjects about family, writing, travel, and nature. Some essays are pithy, some funny, but all are delivered with grace and best of all, finely crafted sentences and paragraphs.
Whether you read this book in one sitting, as a friend of mine did recently, or dip in and dabble with it over a few days, I predict you won’t be able to resist going back to read and re-read pages in this little gem. I keep it by my chair and when I want to be soothed, cheered, or maybe learn something, I open the book randomly and read a short essay.
I first became acquainted with Sally Petersen’s writing and editing talent in 1998 when she edited Seasoned With Words: Stories, Memoirs, and Poems About Food, the Colonyhouse cookbook. I credit Petersen’s sharp editing eye with the success of that book and the many accolades it has received. Sally Petersen is a journalist, but essays are what she loves to read and write. She’s given all of us a gift by sharing her essays with us in this book.
Here is one last short piece from the book.
“People Magazine in the Dentist’s Office”
Reading trash every now and then is good for my system. Like eating fiber, it keeps me from being stopped up with multi-syllabic words, significant ideas and above all, important facts.
There it is, now go out to the author’s website and purchase a copy so you can enjoy the rest of this rich treasure. www.petersenpublications.com.
Marlene Howard is the founder and past president of Oregon Writers Colony.
The Productive Writer: Tips and Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success
By Sage Cohen
from Writers’ Digest Books
Review by Rae Richen
Sage Cohen writes, “I am a poet and a business writer, left-handed and right footed.”
Out of this dichotomy, she is able to speak to all of us about our art and about creating a business in support of our art. Her inspirational self tells us how she maintains communication between creative-poet Cohen and linear-rational-business Cohen, so that creative self can enjoy success. I’m finishing this review before deadline so I can read more and start to use her ideas in my own writing life.
I recommend The Productive Writer as a mutual read for any fellowship of writers. Worked on together, the ideas in this book can bring your group to a higher level of dedication and achievement.
This reviewer, a writer, teacher, musician and the main gopher for a large writers’ organization, must make the disparate parts of my life work smoothly without driving my family and colleagues nutso. Sage Cohen has suggestions I need – ideas that promise to hone the sharp edges of my herky-jerky, compartmentalized life and allow the creative me to relax and have fun.
For many of you who filled out the OWC survey, asking for help with marketing, and with new web-based opportunities, there is a lot in The Productive Writer. Cohen gives us a carefully considered chapter called Publishing and Landing Gigs. By the time you arrive at this chapter, she has discussed what it really means to practice professionalism in your writing. Now she gives you clear, usable ways to set goals, grow in your profession and establish a professional work and marketing regimen. She encourages your successful self to continue to improve.
Cohen also offers pointed ideas about why, as successful writers, we must work to maintain a reasonable relationship with our genius and our muse. For me, her chapter on navigating transitions is very important, and I imagine this is true for many of us. Her suggestions for entering the zone, exiting the zone, and transitioning from work world to writing world are fresh and helpful.
Writers’ Digest has packaged this important book in a format small enough to carry with you. The layout lends and air of visual excitement to the whole. And Sage Cohen has organized the book so you can look at the beginning of any chapter to see what will be covered. This is not a read-straight-through book. It is a book to visit and revisit often.
The Productive Writer is a book which will charm you into writing more, stressing less and creating success. More help for your writing can be found at Sage Cohen’s blogsite, http://pathofpossibility.com.
Where the Crooked River Rises: A High Desert Home
By Ellen Waterston
Publisher: Oregon State University Press (October, 2010)
Paperback: 144 pages
Reviewed by Carol Frischmann
If you are curious about either a Great Basin life, a woman’s life, or both, Ellen Waterston’s Where the Crooked River Rises: A High Desert Home, (Oregon State University Press) will have you crunching dust-devil grit between your teeth and shivering with the effort of winching calves from heifers in the cold and dark.
Surviving thirty years as a rancher in “Oregon’s Outback,” Ms. Waterston’s essays celebrate her accomplishments, name her as a “part of the actual and metaphorical biota of the high desert,” and allow readers to share her transformation from Eastern girl, to young woman on “The Old Hackleman Place,” to worshiper in “The Church of the High Desert.”
Readers meet people living by “homespun desert wisdom,” and disappearing from our state as fast as the “Oregon Road and Recreation Atlas” is revised.
At first, I was uncomfortable with the chapters’ unevenness—some remote, some personal, some like newspaper clippings, saved to recall some event that seemed important at the time. With the last chapter, Waterston provided a closing that answered the question, “why not smooth the ruts?”
By driving past “self-created roadside shrines gaudily decorated with plastic flowers . . . blind to the new story that I was living into, deaf to the rich landscape of others’ stories that would inform mine . . . [a woman asks], ‘Does anyone want to see where I was found?’”
Where the Crooked River Rises is where Waterston was found; each essay revealing one part of her story, as surely as wear marks on a saddle describe horse and rider.
Graduated from Duke University with a degree in Science Education, Carol Frischmann is the pet columnist for KGW.com, an NBC affiliate television station, and for her own website. In April 2007, TFH Publications releases her book, Conures, a part of the Animal Planet Pet Care series.