Friday, November 16, 2012


January 16th, 23rd, & 30th

Have you wondered about what exactly "memoir" is? What's the difference between memoir and memoirs, autobiography and biography?  Why write one and just how or where do you begin? Who would care?
There are many reasons to write your memoir but don't confuse "memoir" with non-thematic "memoirs", those disjointed reminiscences most commonly written by celebrities. Also, memoir shouldn't be confused with autobiography.

Everyone has stories - unique ones and ordinary ones. Some are amazing and inspiring, others funny or sad. But one thing is certain;  we all have lots and lots of them. Many of our life-stories fall into themes but not  knowing how to select those themes is a major roadblock to beginning a memoir.  Mostly, we're overwhelmed!

If you've considered writing your own memoir, this workshop is for you. Whether you're a complete novice or a seasoned writer, I'll teach you how to use "prompts" to help engage your writer's memory. Regardless of your intentions - self-publishing 20 copies to share with your family or in hopes of future publication and sale, we'll learn how to focus our stories while also having fun.

We'll meet for 2 1/2 hours for three consecutive weeks. And given the use of "threes," the memoir-writing workshop consists of 3 components to help us along;

1. Instructional exercises, worksheets and discussion
2. short readings - to be handed out in class
3. Group writing assignments and sharing our work 

What you'll need to bring:
1. Your writing journal if you keep one
2. One-two personal photographs 
3. Your enthusiasm and positive attitude

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spelling, Grammar, and Remembering Homophones

A pair of pears, get it?
This past week I've received my usual hundreds of emails per day from writers' groups, community blogs and writing programs. Nothing unusual about that really. What is alarming: the percent of "writerly" emails packed with spelling errors, grammatical errors and misused words or phrases - the kind that most of us should have mastered by middle school, especially those of us who claim to be writers.

        Are they the result of sloppy proofreading or something more profound? Proofreading is mysterious and elusive! Proofreading and then proofreading already proofread work tends to reveal an error here and there that we were certain we fixed. I'm no exception. Typos happen to everyone - the unavoidable function of typing quickly in our efforts to keep up with thoughts moving forward much too quickly for our fingers to keep pace.

        In all honesty, it's not as though I'm exempt from typographical errors or spelling mistakes but there are several tricks that, while old-fashioned and very low tech, remain tried and true.

        First: I reread all my work aloud, even writing I'm positive I've already proofread and already corrected.

        Second: I actually print out my work.  I've yet to understand it but transitioning from a screen to ink on paper often reveals something I missed before - sometimes simply an extra space or superfluous comma, but they do appear easier to spot.

        Last: Once printed, I walk away for a while - ideally, a day or two but not always. Coming back for a second, and even third, view can yield a few more surprises.

        Even with all those precautions, I've had the horrifying experience of reading an essay I've published or something I've posted online only to discover a glaring mistake gone public! For some mysterious reason, it totally evaded detection.

        The event that inspired my current rant: four emails I received this morning from writers' blogs, writing journals and community boards for writers. Of those four, three had blatant errors. The particular errors that seem incredible are grammatical or word usage ones made by those who consider themselves to be professional writers.

Number I - from a community blog for food writers as follows:
        "If your a food blogger or writer..."
My guess is that the intended word is "you're," the contracted form of "you are."
Number II - an email from an organization that supports writers stating:
        "You should of received your first newsletter ..."
The correct statement, "you should have..." should have been mastered by third or fourth grade.
Number III -  a set of guidelines for posting from an online community for women writers I joined recently. Etiquette rules are a primary concern as the email noted:
        "We have a no-all-caps policy. We want to remain a polite, positive group and if a few people are aloud to shout, it spoils it for us all!"

And that noted, shouting aloud may work in a sentence but wouldn't it make more sense for writers to request that participants not be allowed to shout? Hopefully, this was just an example of "clumping theory" that seems more common in probability studies.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writing Workshop

Calling memoirists, journal writers, family chroniclers, and all  those who don't know where to begin!

I'll be in Ketchum, Idaho conducting a writing workshop entitled:
Writing Your Life: Beyond Journaling  
Join me on January 16th, 23rd, & 30th. I'll take you from scribbling notes to organizing and writing your memoir as your family legacy or for possible publication. 

* Please check back in two weeks for exact times and location.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Even Truer Words

My essay, “Why Do I Cook?” was accepted for publication by True Words Anthology, Fall 2012The journal is available both in print and ebook from Story Circle Network.

To purchase, visit:

They're Not Morels and Not For Your Risotto!

Fall and spring are serious mushroom seasons in the American west, specifically in Southeastern Idaho but also in many other regions of the U.S.A. Wild morels in spring are found throughout the damp forests, shiitakes, wood mushrooms that seem to be an American version of what tastes much like Italian porcinis, domestic buttons, portobellos, plus a multitude of others the names of which i cant remember.

And, of course, the coveted truffles imported from Europe and some even from Asia, seem to reappear in fall and spring. However, regardless of the multitude of excellent wild mushroom hunting guides available that, complete with fabulous photographs and precise descriptive details that will lead us to identifying and collecting edible ones, I’ll stick with more mundane, cultivated store bought varieties. I do cross the line for the  wild, aromatic and rare truffle. And maybe a few morels now and then!

Wild mushrooms - those intriguingly mysterious growths that appear to sprout overnight from nothing, are often also referred to as toad stools. The terms ‘mushroom’ and ‘toadstool’ are subjective, not scientific so they do have a wide range of interpretations.

Webster's Dictionary defines them as:
        1. Any of various mushrooms having a stalk with an umbrellalike cap, especially the agarics.
Note: I wasn't at all sure what "agarics" were until consulting Wikipedia for further enlightenment!
        2. A poisonous mushroom as distinguished from an edible one.
        3. Any of various other fleshy fungi, as the puffballs and coral fungi.

Generally, mushrooms are also described as,
         "fungi with fruit bodies that have a cap more or less centrally placed on top of a stem are referred to as ‘mushrooms’, or as ‘mushrooms and toadstools’. Some people broadly consider that all fungi with a cap and stem are ‘mushrooms’, while others consider only edible fungi as ‘mushrooms’. In the strictest sense, the word ‘mushroom’ refers only to members of the genus Agaricus, e.g. the cultivated white button mushroom." (Wikipedia).

  ‘Toadstool’ is more of a layperson's term for any fungus with a cap and stem that appears different from Agaricus, regardless of its edibility but  usually it's suspected of being poisonous!

Taking photos in Idaho of some of these strange fungi really got me going on one of my favorite non-cooking obsessions: Research. While I was intrigued by the eerie, extra-terrestrial appearance of these lawn decorations, I quickly became fascinated by newly gained, and equally intriguing, information: Famous Historical Figures Poisoned by Mushrooms.

So I'm thrilled to present a brief list of some famous poisonings although I'm sure that if I really put my nose to the research grindstone, many more would appear.

  • Siddhartha Gautama (also known as The Buddha): It's believed that Gautama died of mushroom poisoning some time around 479 BCE but this claim has come under a good deal of debate.
  • Roman Emperor Claudius is believed to have been murdered by being fed the death cap mushroom. This story appeared approximately two centuries after the events amidst controversy about whether he was, in fact murdered or the unfortunate victim of an unfortunate gastronomic choice.
  • Pope Clement VII is rumored to have been murdered by mushroom poisoning as well. Again, a great deal of debate surrounds the conclusion.
  • Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and Tsaritsa Natalia Naryshkina are believed to have died from eating the death cap mushroom.
  • According to a popular legend, the composer Johann Schubert died in Paris, along with his wife, one of his children, maidservant and four acquaintances after insisting that certain poisonous mushrooms were edible.
  • The best-selling author Nicholas Evans (The Horse Whisperer) was poisoned after eating Cortinarius speciosissimus.
  • Physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit's parents (the creator of the Fahrenheit temperature scale), died in Danzig in 1701 from accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms.
Bon appetite! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Elections, Writer's Block & Great Writing Moments Remembered

For several days now I've been experiencing one of those things I've heard writers complain about so often - the one that hasn't plagued me since those days when I was writing my Ph.D. dissertation! It's the bane of writers throughout history: Writer's Block.

I've been facing a blank notepad, a shining computer screen, and simply staring with glazed-over eyes. The challenge of embarking on a new essay or concept summary seems daunting. Maybe it's because for the last month I've focused most of my efforts on editing, re-editing and re-re-editing my collection of short stories. Or, maybe it's all the election buzz, television overload, radio commentators, newspaper headlines and persistent public chatter that's driving me to distraction? Fortunately, it will end by midnight Tuesday. Unfortunately, and in all likelihood, it will be replaced with post-election analysis overload.

Complaining to a writing friend yesterday, she offered some sage advice. "Just forget your 'writer's block' for a few minutes and think consider this idea: try to remember your best and most productive writing moments. Try to recall,  not so much the event or time but rather, the feelings." The only way for me to imagine those times was also to consider what's changed, what's different? I thought about that one for a good long time before an answer began to bounce around my cranium! Now it seems ridiculously simple and trite yet none the less accurate!

Nothing outside is different or, that is,  different enough to inhibit my usual uninhibited flow. What's really changed over the past decade however are the demands I make of myself - the expectations I put on my writing, my editing, and upon the lyrical quality and nature of my words. The more words I put on a page, and the more writers' whose art I read, the greater are the demands I place on my own writing. It's impossible to identify my best writing moments, but recalling the emotions that accompanied them tells me everything I need to know. And "Inner Critic" is the parent of my "Writer's Block."
My goal on Election Day ever is to banish that Inner Critic until another Election Day rolls around!

Upcoming Events

 January 4, 2013 - 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Truer Words

I'm Pleased To Announce that my essay, “Why Do I Cook?” was just accepted for publication by True Words Anthology, December 2012

The True Words Anthology is an annual members-only newsletter, published each Spring, and made up of stories and poetry to showcase the wonderful writing of the members of  Circle Story Network

Details Coming Soon.