Monday, June 16, 2014

Novels, Memoirs, and Writing Guides

It's always a treat when my memoirs, Again in a Heartbeat, and Morning at Wellington Square, are praised, as they were in a recent blog hop. I’ll pay it forward, offering my recommended books from traditionally and independently published authors that may whet your appetite this summer. Please feel free to leave a comment recommending your favorite reads.

Katherine Sartori
The Chosen Shell by Katherine Sartori. Celia O'Rourke is an idealistic naive girl who by her own admission feels her decision to become a nun "impossible to comprehend." Yet, follow the calling she does, despite the attention of a young man who hands her a dozen long-stemmed crimson roses before she leaves for the convent, pulling at her heartstrings.

This sets the pattern for much of what follows: Celia's desire to help others and serve God, contrasted with her love of romance, poetry, and, yes, longing for sex. When she meets a man who appreciates her sensitivity and beauty and confides in her, we sense that Celia's path is leading away from the convent into a new and empowering direction as the woman and writer she is destined to become. Inspired by Katherine Sartori's own life, The Chosen Shell is a lovely and honest story of a young girl's search for meaning.

Madeline Sharples
Leaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples. This is a powerful example of the healing power of writing our most compelling life story; that is, if there ever is healing from the death of a person we loved almost more than ourselves. Sharples writes poignantly and in detail and depth of her son's battle with bipolar disorder, his suicide, and her grief. Here is Madeline’s guest blog for the Women's Writing Circle about her 20 year journey that led to writing this book.

Memoirs of the Soul – A Writing Guide by Nan Merrick Phifer. Brimming with writing prompts that help develop a rough draft to polished memoir, this book leads writers into the heart of meaningful experiences. An associate director of the Oregon Writing Project at the University of Oregon, Phifer offers instructions and guideposts along the memoir writer's journey. Chapters devoted to breathing life into your writing, focusing on your subject, understanding the soul of the child, writing about adolescent angst, dreams and aspirations, make this book an essential component of any writer’s library.

Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World by Mary Pipher. In this memoir, Pipher provides an up close and personal look into how her sudden catapult into fame with the publication of Reviving Ophelia led to a near nervous breakdown and re-examination of her life. As a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer, I  interviewed Pipher during one of her grueling tours for Reviving Ophelia that she writes about in her memoir. Seeking Peace is brimming with the author’s personal truth and authentic voice. She offers portraits of her parents; her battle with anxiety and perfectionism; her earliest childhood memories around the time she felt abandoned by her mother. By Pipher's own admission, writing saved her life . . . and as the title suggests, meditation, yoga and the study of Buddhism paved a path toward serenity and peace.

Boyd Lemon
A Long Way to Contentment by Boyd Lemon. Brad Wilson, is a 31 year-old writer grappling with disappointments, drug and alcohol addiction and traumatic relationships with a wife, mother and sister. As told in first person, the novel feels much like a personal memoir of discovery, with entertaining side trips, including Brad being busted for drugs and thrown into a prison in Myanmar. There is an element, too, of Hollywood with an escape scene from prison that keeps the reader turning the pages. Take the ride with Boyd through Brad's journey of love, loss and reinvention through writing . . . and ultimately seeking contentment in a world gone crazy. Here is Boyd's  guest blog post on writing fiction.

Now I'll pass the baton to Madeline Sharples as our blog hop continues.

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