Tag Archives: self-discovery

She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb: a review

shescomeundone

Note to FTC: In exchange for reviewing this book I received the pleasure of reading the book, nothing more.

One of the best books I’ve ever read, She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb, published in 1992, lands 5+ stars. It was an Oprah’s Book Club choice. Twice. I don’t know what took me so long to discover the book, and the author, but I’m glad I finally did.

As a writer I tend to study the story I’m reading, sometimes unconsciously, (which can make for an unenjoyable experience if I’m not careful to stop studying long enough to just read). The first thing I usually notice, or look for, is foreshadowing. Often I guess correctly where this foreshadowing is and what’s going to happen next because of that event. This is when I know I have an “okay” book in hand, rather than a “knock-em-dead” book. I want to be surprised, shocked even, by the twists and turns in a story, I don’t want to feel so certain I know what the ending will read like.

But with She’s Come Undone the foreshadowing, was not the first thing I noticed, (though I did find it and guessed correctly in a couple of instances but not most). No, the first thing I noticed, as a writer, is that Wally Lamb offers very little in the way of description, and yet we inherently know not only what the characters look like but who they are – they’re 3-D people, they feel real. “How did he do that?” we writers want to know. The good news is it’s easy to discover that he shows us what’s happening by – guess – telling us exactly that: what’s happening, not what color the kitchen counter Dolores throws a towel on is but what she knocks over with that towel. Voilà: there is the picture in our mind, he need go no further with that description, he can simply go on telling us her next action. And the dialogue? You just can’t get any better than this. So, as a writer, I highly recommend reading and studying She’s Come Undone.

I also highly recommend She’s Come Undone as a reader. The story, about a girl/woman, Dolores Price, dealing with depression and repressed feelings, is so eerily like my own (early) life it scared me. (Dolores’s greatest fear, which I won’t tell you so as not to spoil the story), is my greatest fear, and for the very same reason, though it takes her years to recognize the fear (it did me too). The grip Mr. Lamb has on the human psyche is amazing but what astounded me more was the fact that, despite being a man, he got the feelings of this depressed girl/woman down-pat! And I’ve never before paid attention to whether the main character is a man written by a woman or vice-versa, it’s simply either a good story or it isn’t. But with this one I couldn’t help it because…..well, you’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn about “other things” that happened in the 60s and 70s, things aside from the moon landing and Kennedy’s death. So much news is woven into this story that it could easily be a terrific history book for teenagers.

I don’t want to digress – I believe the main point of She’s Come Undone is to show us the damage that judging others can do, how it can hurt people well beyond the day they were assaulted, verbally or otherwise, by their peers, and even by so-called responsible adults – it can take hold, grow and last for years and years, making everything in the victim’s life a nightmare of fear. It’s sad, yes, very sad, but the book isn’t a depressing one, it’s thoughtful and it’s hopeful, it really made me think about all the kids, and adults, in this world who are constantly picked on, bullied, and how they make it through life without a breakdown. Many of them don’t.

She’s Come Undone also has several gut-busting belly laugh moments sprinkled throughout which greatly helped ease the seriousness of the subject enough to help us, the reader, read on, knowing we weren’t being led to a “bucket-full-of-tears” slaughter.

Run out and get She’s Come Undone today. You’re going to love Dolores, I promise. Click here to go to my bookshelf and read short reviews of other books I’ve read this year.

What book stands out as one of your greatest discoveries? What made it so great?

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Click here for fiction, and here for nonfiction. I also have just launched The Tale Well: Stories by Roslyn Fainwhere I share my fiction, writing under the pen Roslyn Fain.

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The Other Side of Deanna is back! And she even has a name….. #fridayflash group

Hi everyone. Some of you may recall that I had two separate blogs, The Life of a Working Writer Mommy for my nonfiction, and The Other Side of Deanna for my fiction. A little more than a year ago I combined those blogs into This Side Over Yonder because I was posting mostly fiction and felt it was cumbersome to maintain two sites. I also wanted the URL to reflect my name, which This Side Over Yonder does.

Now, since I am fortunate enough to have more time to write, and because I will be posting more nonfiction articles, I have built a new site for my fiction, The Tale Well: Stories by Roslyn Fain.

TTW header 1

Years ago I wondered why anyone would want to use a pen name; now that I’m building my freelance career. yet still want to write fiction, I understand. Although Deanna and Roslyn are one-in-the-same, there is a vast difference in their personalities…..did I just say I have a split personality? Well, I am a writer!…..there is the business side of me (Deanna) and there is the playful side (Roslyn) and I feel they both deserve their own place.

Why the name Roslyn Fain? Fain is my mother’s maiden name and Roslyn was the first thing that popped into my head (which I always go with). It is apparently an old-fashioned name, had its peak in the 1940s, and fell off the “popular names” list in 1978. My family tells me I do look like a Roslyn, so there you go. I hope you’ll stop by The Tale Well and enjoy Roslyn’s first story, Those First Nights.

What about you? Do you use a pen name? What is it, and how did you hit upon that particular name? (If you’re using your pen name be brave and tell us your real name). 🙂

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Thank You, Mrs. Barrett ~ Celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week #teachers #writing

Image via Country Home Learning Center
Image via Country Home Learning Center

Most all of us artists recall the time in our lives, if not the exact moment, when we decided to be an artist. Although I’ve written for as long as I can remember, there was a pivotal moment when I had an epiphany, if you will, (though it came to me slowly), one that kindled my creative side so thoroughly I would never recall a time when I didn’t write.

This epiphany wasn’t a sudden, fully-formed story magically appearing before my eyes, I had not been wondering what I’d do with my life. I was 17-years-old, a senior in high school, when my English/Lit teacher, Mrs. Barrett, asked me to stay after class one afternoon.

I knew I wasn’t in trouble, I didn’t sit through class trying to figure out what she wanted. It was near the end of the school year, I’d be graduating in a few weeks. Throughout my last year of high school I’d assisted the junior English/Lit teacher and the drama coach with whatever they needed – grading papers, planning lessons, coaching freshman on acting. I expected Mrs. Barrett wanted to ask me to help one of them.

But when the students filed out that day and I walked to Mrs. Barrett’s desk she jumped out of her seat, and her round face shone a broad smile as she exclaimed, “Oh! Deanna! Oh Deanna, Deanna, Deanna!”  She bounced around on her little feet while shuffling through stacks of papers on her desk. Finally she found what she’d been looking for – my Stories and Poems notebook for the year. It was bright orange and held so many loose papers the spine had torn. Mrs. Barrett must’ve been the one to tape it back together for I didn’t remember doing that. She held it to her chest with the cover facing me. Throughout the year as I added more and more pages, I also applied various stickers to the cover, whatever caught my eye at the moment. Now a goofy-looking monkey, pouting, presented an empty banana peel to me.

“Deanna!” Mrs. Barrett said again as she sat the folder on her desk and riffled through the papers while I stood bewildered, wondering what on earth I’d done to cause such excitement. Maybe she was just celebrating the fast-coming end of the school year? But no, in a moment she pulled a page from the notebook, a poem I had written the previous week called Strawberry Fields. I saw a long note in red ink written down the right side margin, taking up every bit of white space I’d left. Now I was nervous, licking my lips, beginning to sweat.

Mrs. Barrett handled the paper carefully, as if afraid she might tear it, and as she presented it to me she leaned towards me and took hold of my forearm. I felt she was about to tell me the secret to a long life. This is what she said: “Not just this poem Deanna, which is beautiful, but everything in this notebook, everything you’ve written this year is proof that you need to reach out and pursue a career as a writer.”

I stood dumbfounded, staring at my favorite teacher with my mouth hanging stupidly open. She moved her hand from my arm to my shoulder. “Just think about it,” she said, “we all have the opportunity to follow our dreams and do what we want to do. I know you have several career ideas in mind right now,” (I’d expressed interest in becoming an interior designer, among a few other occupations), “but,” she went on, “you are destined to be a writer Deanna, I can feel it in my bones.”

I glanced down and saw that she now held my wrists in her warm hands and she was gently shaking them with each word. “You are very talented. Don’t let anything stop you.” She dropped her hands to her sides and stood back, looking over me like I was her little angel she’d just dressed up for a party. I was so touched, but I had never been very good at taking compliments and I had no idea how to respond. I felt anything but intelligent in that moment. Eventually I stammered a ‘thank you’ and went on to my next class.

In the nearly twenty-five years since that conversation I’ve thought often of Mrs. Barrett, especially when I have one of those “Oh, yes!” moments that sends me flying to the keyboard or the notebook to record the idea before I lost it. My senior English/Lit teacher is by far the greatest reason I felt confident enough to pursue writing, I will forever appreciate that she took the time to talk to me that day, that she felt strong in her conviction that I should write, and that she cared enough to share that thought with me.

Mrs. Barrett passed away last week but she will always be close to my heart. As we celebrate the superior teachers of our nation during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6th – 10th, (National Teacher Day is May 7th ), remember not only to thank your children’s teachers, but also to thank the teachers who have guided your life in significant ways.

Who was, or is, your favorite teacher? What makes them so special to you?

Thank you to all my sons’ teachers and thank you to Mrs. Barrett and the many other teachers I had the privilege to learn from throughout my life!

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Keep the blues away with an observation a day #smallstone

Many thanks to Estrella Azul for introducing me to small stones. Small stones is a “mindful writing challenge created by Fiona Robyn of Writing our way home and it has been a tremendously positive influence in my life these past few weeks.

All you have to do is take a moment, each day, to notice your environment, to truly open your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and feel what’s happening around you rather than just glancing over it as we so often do in this busy, busy thing called life. Then simply write a line or two, (or seventeen if you want), showing that observation. Many people participating in the challenge post their small stones on their blog sites each day, (and they are beautiful).

One of the main reasons for writing small stones is to learn to take yourself out of the observation, to see the world around you rather than yourself in it. Although I immediately began writing small stones as soon as I read Estrella’s post, I was a bit reluctant to share them. Because of the Major Life Change I’m experiencing right now, I’m having some difficulty removing myself from the equation (as you will see when you visit my small stones page). While small stones may be intended as a writing exercise, helping us not only to write great description but also to edit, I am currently leaving mine “as is”. In a year or so I want to look back on the raw emotions I’m feeling now and [hopefully] marvel at how far I’ve come.

As I write a small stone each day, I can feel that I am indeed paying more attention to the world around me, rather than the struggles I’m facing inside my own world. In other words, writing the small stones is helping me to heal. And for that, Fiona and Estrella, I Thank You Very Much!

I hope you’ll join the challenge and feel the same healing power that small stones is giving me.

Click here to read my small stones.

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Look what I found! #poetry #amwriting

I recently discovered found poetry and have been having fun with it ever since. Being a writer of short stories and creative nonfiction, (rather than poetry), I have been reluctant to post my attempts at poetry, even found poems. But today’s found poem, I believe, is interesting enough to share.

Horoscope for Leo: January 13, 2013

Be cautious,

emotions, perhaps coming from

another person or

event, oppose

your life

dreams and stifle any

imagination

you may have.

 

This can result in

an emotional

confrontation. You see

what’s wrong and

you know what

to do

now:

 

The time has come to

make it real,

and it’s a lot

bigger than any

one person.

 

Ambition, practicality, and

achievement are

admirable, but they

are means to

an end –

not ends

in themselves.

Leo horoscope
Leo horoscope by California Astrology Association

(Thankfully I only read horoscopes for fun, I don’t “believe” in them – if I did this one would scare me.)

Found poetry can originate from anything: ads, news articles, horoscopes (as I’ve done here), any group of words at all. The best part of the challenge, I believe, is that you aren’t allowed to change the wording, the grammar, the punctuation; therefore playing around with it teaches us to work with what we have.

Writing found poetry has not only helped me to relax it has also helped me to see my other work in a different light, and led me to improve that work (I hope). As I’m “rediscovering who I am”, I’m finding that I enjoy writing poetry more than I’d realized before. I’m considering studying poetry in an effort to slap some sort of format to these random words I’ve been slinging on the page. Hence, there’s a possibility you’ll soon find more poetry here at This Side….Over Yonder, (though I don’t promise “correct” formatting).

Have you written found poetry? What has been your best piece, (if available on the web we’d love for you to share the link). If you haven’t written found poetry I encourage you to try it. Check out this wonderful resource, Found Poetry Review ~ a plethora of found poetry.

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