Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers

MY BLOG POSTS COMMENT ON SOME ASPECT OF WRITING & READING.

The Ripening
The Ripening:
A Canadian Girl Grows Up

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Tillie’s grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self. Tillie takes readers on a wild ride. Join her if you dare! "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Curva Peligrosa
Curva Peligrosa

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

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FLING!
Fling!

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

"Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read."

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Freefall
Freefall :
A Divine Comedy

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
All This
All This

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
No More Kings
No More Kings

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

Each finely crafted poem in this powerful collection comes alive on the page while she traces the days’ journeys with a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and the deft pen of a poet.

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
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Tag: memoir

Meet-the-author Monday: Sophia Kouidou‐Giles

On my blog today, I’m privileged to introduce my readers  to the bi-cultural Sophia Kouidou-Giles. Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, she tells me about what inspired her to write her memoir Sophia’s Return: Uncovering My Mother’s Past, a work that captures family secrets.

Meet the fascinating Bonnie Lee Black, a writer who created the award winning blog THE WOW FACTOR!

On my blog today, I’m delighted to be in conversation with the lovely Bonnie Lee Black, a woman who has been Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa, who has conducted an independent economic development project in Mali, West Africa, and who has been a professional writer and editor for over 40 years. She currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico,

Here is Bonnie’s bio:

Bonnie Lee Black earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles in June 2007. An honors graduate of Columbia University in New York (BA, Lit./Writing, 1979), she has been a professional writer and editor for more than 40 years and an educator in the U.S. and overseas for over 30 years.

Join Guest Author Pat Taub in this interview and meet her muse!

On my blog today I’m talking to Pat Taub, a family therapist, a journalist, a writer/host for the Syracuse NPR station program “Women’s Voices,”a  writer for Key West Magazine, and a writing teacher. Pat explains how her memoir, The Mother of My Invention, helped her make peace with her troubled relationship with her mother.

Remaking Ourselves Through Writing Memoir

My last memoir workshop at the Fromm Institute will be this Tuesday, and I’ll be sorry to leave the cocoon we’ve created there on Zoom. For those who aren’t familiar with the Fromm, it’s an institution for older adults and features lectures from outstanding Bay Area emeritus professors on a variety of subjects that include psychology, literature, philosophy, science, theology, history, art, music, politics and creative writing.

Am I creating another self when I write memoir?

I opened the I Ching at random this morning and came up with #38, K’uei / Opposition. The commentary says it is common for two opposites to exist together, needing to find relationship. I realize an opposition is being set up just in the act of writing a memoir: my inner writer will be observing everything I do closely and recording what she finds valuable. I’m reminded of a review of Journey into the Dark: The Tunnel by William Gass that appeared in The New York Times Book Review:

Recreating the Self Through Writing Memoir

hand-325321_1920I opened the I Ching at random this morning and came up with #38, K’uei / Opposition.   The commentary says it is common for two opposites to exist together, needing to find relationship.  I realize an opposition is being set up just in the act of writing my memoir Drop Out:  my inner writer will be observing everything I do closely and recording what she finds valuable.  I’m reminded of a review of Journey into the Dark:  The Tunnel by William Gass that appeared in The New York Times Book Review:

Remaking Ourselves Through Writing Memoir

My last memoir workshop at the Fromm Institute will be this Thursday, and I’ll be sorry to leave the cocoon we’ve created there. For those who aren’t familiar with the Fromm, it’s an institution for older adults and features lectures from outstanding Bay Area emeritus professors on a variety of subjects that include psychology, literature, philosophy, science, theology, history, art, music, politics and creative writing.

This term, I was hired for the writing portion, “Reminiscence: A Creative Writing Workshop.” Years ago, I had taught a weeklong autobiography class for what was then Elderhostel. It was an enriching experience, diving into the past with these older adults and returning with gems from their depths.

alphabet-2242161_640The Fromm class has been similar. I’ve structured it so that students who haven’t done much writing can still benefit. There’s a great freedom for them and myself since I’m not grading their assignments. Nor am I focusing on grammar and punctuation errors. Content leads, and their submissions all focus on different aspects of writing an engaging narrative based on prompts that help them focus on important times in their lives.

We’ve looked at character and how to make the people who inhabit our memoirs come alive for readers that don’t know them. But characters don’t live in ether, so my students have also written about places that have nourished them in some way. Neither character nor place would be vivid without incorporating details that appeal to all of our senses. Sensory detail also sets the mood of a writing piece (exciting, happy, cheerful, gloomy, frightening, depressing, suspenseful, calm, peaceful). Since we apprehend the world through our senses, it’s essential that we include the kind of description that evoke them and also capture our imaginations.

I’ve been impressed not only by the quality of the writing I’ve seen from these mainly inexperienced writers but also from their willingness to reveal themselves during small group critique sessions. They’ve been generous in their praise of one another’s work and skilled readers, making helpful suggestions for improving the writing. But most important, they have been transforming themselves through recovering these experiences and recasting them. As James Longenbach states in Modern Poetry After Modernism, “…any account of the past, whether private or historical, is an act of personal making.” What a privilege It’s been to be present at all of these mini-births!

 

 

 

Check out this inspirational interview with Linda Strader, author of Summers of Fire, a memoir

  • lindaMs. Strader is a landscape architect in southern Arizona, the very same area where she became one of the first women on a Forest Service fire crew in 1976.

Summers of Fire is a memoir based on her experiences not only working on fire crews, but how she had to find inner strength and courage to reinvent her life not just once, but several times. 

Her publishing history includes many web articles on her expertise of landscaping with desert plants. A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about her firefighting adventures, which led the magazine, Wildfire Today, to publish an excerpt. The article generated interest in her speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire is her first book, which is scheduled for publication in 2018. She also does fabulous water colors and blogs at https://summersoffirebook.blogspot.com/

  • Who are your literary influences or inspiration?
  • Cheryl Strayed. If it hadn’t been for her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, I’d probably still be floundering for direction!
  • Why do you write?
  • It helps me cope with day to day life, which has been challenging after many losses over the past 8 years.
  • As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?
  • I’m not published yet, but will be in 2018. This just flat-out amazes me. When I wrote my memoir, I never dreamed I would publish some day. At the time, it was a way to cope with depression over losing my job, my mom, and my marriage.
  • What genres do you work in?
  • So far, I’ve only written nonfiction/memoir. I just finished a prequel to my book Summers of Fire.
  • How do you start a novel/story?
  • I just jump in and start writing.
  • What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?
  • I need silence. I write a number of times throughout the day, whenever I can squeeze it in between my real work (landscape design). I’d say my most creative time is about 90 minutes in late afternoon with a glass of wine at hand. Morning is my best time to edit.
  • How much time do you spend writing each day?
  • I write anywhere from 2 to 3 hours per day.
  • What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
  • The hardest part about writing is thinking you’ve written something quite witty and special, only to look at the next day and realize it’s garbage! Publishing…for me it was the longest and most challenging thing I’ve ever done because I chose the traditional route. Despite all those who say I should have self-published, I am glad I stuck with what I wanted, the traditional route, and so glad it all worked out.
  • Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?
  • One of my coworkers. He was a chauvinist, egotist, and obnoxious, but I found him fun to write about because he was so colorful.
  • Why should people want to read your books?
  • Summers of Fire is an adventure story, a love story, a story of strong friendships, a story of heartbreak—and a story of loss, inner strength, courage and rebuilding. I think just about anyone would relate to my story in some significant way.
  • If a movie was made of your book, who would the stars be?
  • I would love to have Reece Witherspoon play me!

 

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Slow Movement

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51maejxEQlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I have resisted reading the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard’s work for several reasons. I wasn’t interested in a major dose of navel gazing for hundreds of pages. He seemed to represent the worst of our narcissistic culture, the constant selfies and focus on me me me. Why would I spend hundreds of pages following him through his past memories? What could a Norwegian writer offer me, a naturalized American (Canadian by birth) female of another generation?

Therefore, when my reading group decided to take on Knausgaard, I wasn’t happy about the choice, but I tried not to let my resistance interfere with the book selection. I’ve been mistaken before. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena didn’t interest me at first, but it was one of the best books I read in 2014, along with Traveler of the Century, in importance and depth. So I tried to be open to this new writer (new for me) and his approach to fictionalizing his life. We agreed to read and discuss My Struggle, even though memoir is not an accurate depiction of a person’s past or a truthful depiction of a writer’s historical self. Instead, it’s an idealized rendering that transforms through language what actually happened to someone. The act of putting our memories under the microscope of the pen alters those moments we are trying to capture. I was willing to witness how Knausgaard handled this problem.

The title itself put me off, as did the picture of Knausgaard on the cover. There’s something tremendously egocentric about the title, as if he’s the only one who has had such difficulties. Why should his be any more compelling than some other person’s? And then there’s the picture: Though he’s in his late 40s (I think), deep creases create craters in his face and he stares at us through anguished eyes. It seemed in bad taste to call even more attention to himself in this way.

But I struggled through my prejudices and eventually started reading the 441 page book. My bias put me in an odd relationship to the narrative when I first started reading it. As I entered into Knausgaard’s life as a teenager, I kept asking myself, why am I reading this? What is this writer showing me here that I couldn’t experience more profoundly in a novel? But it wasn’t long before I got caught up in his world and his fraught relationship with his family, especially his father. I was particularly intrigued by how he seemed committed to capturing as many details as possible to relay a particular moment, at times describing in agonizing thoroughness certain scenes. Here’s an example:

“Still wearing the clothes from yesterday made me feel very uneasy, a feeling that grew as the memory struck e of what we had actually done. I pulled them off. There was heaviness about all the movements I made, even getting up and standing on two feet took energy, not to mention what raising my arms and reaching for the shirt on the clothes hanger over the wardrobe door did to me. But there was no option, it had to be done. Right arm through, left arm through, do up the buttons on the sleeves first, then at the front….”

When I later read a critique of a contemporary poet by Tony Hoagland in the American Poetry Review, I realized what Knausgaard was doing. Hoagland says,

“In his novel Slowness, Milan Kundera asserts that if you observe people walking down the street, you can easily tell the ones who are trying to forget from the ones who are remembering something. Forgetting speeds people up; remembering slows them down. In America, in the 21st century, we seem cursed and doomed by amnesia; we can remember nothing. We can’t even remember to look at the present, much less remember the past.”

Knausgaard forces his readers to slow down and join him in reminiscing. He’s saying ‘Look at this with me. Feel it with me. Join in this mutual attempt to recall and rediscover moments that we originally glided over.’ And that, I think, is one major value of his work: we become part of the slow movement that wants our full attention.

Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty: A Mixed Bag

I have mixed feelings after just completing Ann Patchett’s memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, a poet/memoirist/essayist who died at 39 from what appeared to be a drug overdose: Truth and Beauty: A Friendship. Grealy was diagnosed at age nine with a rare form of cancer that is often fatal. It caused the doctors to remove her jawbone. During her remaining years, she went through 38 surgeries. Various doctors attempted to restore her jaw and implant lower teeth (which she didn’t have) so she could chew properly. As it was, she was limited to eating only very soft food.

On the one hand, Patchett does a great job of resurrecting Grealy in this book, an attempt, I’m sure, to keep her friend close by, even though she was dead. Patchett had saved most of Grealy’s letters over the years, and she intersperses them throughout the narrative, giving readers a flavor of Grealy’s thinking and writing. Patchett also captures the intensity of their friendship—they really seemed more like sisters than good friends—from the time they became roommates at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

In spite of being disfigured from her many surgeries, Grealy seems to have had considerable charisma and loved being among people and partying. She was a flamboyant social animal who lusted after men, sex, and life. Patchett appears to have been more subdued and grounded, offering stability to her friend that she didn’t have herself. It appears Patchett even was something of a mother figure, especially in the sections where she describes carrying the 100 lb Grealy from taxi to apartment after her various hospitalizations.

While I’m impressed with Grealy’s heroic response to her terrible fate and with Patchett’s apparent commitment to her friend, I also am interested in the writing life that’s captured here. Both had residencies at prestigious places, such as the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Yaddo, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. They shared their struggles for recognition and success, each achieving fame in her own way, and they were a central part of the NY literary scene. So it’s a book well suited to other writers.

However, Patchett’s memoir makes it sound as if Grealy’s friends were her only family, and we rarely hear any mention of her actual family’s response to her. As a result, Patchett comes across as equally heroic as Grealy in her devotion to her friend. But I wanted to know more about how Grealy’s situation impacted Pachett emotionally, but there’s very little self-reflection here. I also am puzzled by the title Truth and Beauty, both very abstract words that tend to idealize this relationship and seem far from the nitty gritty reality of it.

There seems something cancerous at the core of this friendship Patchett describes that hasn’t quite been diagnosed or resolved, neither by the book nor by Patchett herself.

 

 

 

 

 

Recreating Ourselves Through Memoir

I opened the I Ching at random this morning and came up with #38, K’uei / Opposition. The commentary says it is common for two opposites to exist together, needing to find relationship. I realize an opposition is being set up just in the act of writing a memoir, which I’m currently working on. My inner writer will be observing everything I do closely and recording what she finds valuable. I’m reminded of a review of Journey into the Dark: The Tunnel by William Gass that appeared in The New York Times Book Review:

Writers double themselves all the time in their fictions, of course. That’s one of the reasons for writing them: to clone yourself and set yourself out on a different path, or to reconfigure yourself as a marginal observer of your own childhood, as Lawrence does with Rupert Birkin in Women in Love, and as Woolf does with Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse; or to split yourself in two and reimagine one side of yourself through the eyes of the other, as Joyce does in Ulysses, and as Nabokov does in Pale Fire…..The reason for this is that making copies of ourselves and setting them in motion in imaginary space is built in to the way minds work. We do it all the time—when we plan for a future event, when we relive the past, when we daydream. (July 13, 1995)

I like the idea that I’m daydreaming myself into existence, that day and night dreams, which can be in opposition, work together to make a creative entity. I’m actually making a fiction in my memoir, just as we all are fictions, walking around. I can’t possibly capture my whole life in these pages, so in making the choices I do and recording them, I’m altering my experience, describing a fictional “I,” transforming my life and my experiences. They are both mine and not mine.

In fact, the act of writing these things and reflecting back on them alters that period, transforms it, just as the moon’s reflection changes what it touches, causing us to see a landscape differently at night than in the day time, under the sun’s glare. The moon softens surfaces, embraces them. The sun brings out an object’s hard edges and distances us from it. It makes an object seem farther away than the moon’s light does.

In a way, I’m creating a character named Lily, just as other writers recreate themselves when writing memoir. By organizing our pasts as we do, we eliminate a good deal, including only what fits the page limitation and what we’re willing to reveal. Of course, this is how we give shape to a self anyway, by uncovering/discovering it, bit by bit. All of our personality doesn’t show at any one time. Over a long period, the different parts of ourselves come forward and are exposed. But we are always selecting, choosing.

It’s similar to what happens when we photograph someone. So much is left out, and we end up with an idealized (or sometimes extremely revealing) image. If we took a dozen photographs of the person, while there would be a recognizable self in each picture, what’s captured in celluloid changes. Usually, we only see a posed image, not a full-blown experience of another caught in natural motion. I suppose it’s why many people prefer to choose a photograph of themselves that projects their best features, leaving the viewer with a romanticized picture of someone.

I think Proust was pointing to a similar phenomenon when he claimed that the narrative “I” is much different from the writer’s self/I. The writer is creating another fictional self to speak through, and it isn’t exactly the same as the writer’s self. I believe this happens in all writers. Proust ideas about memory are instructive: we’re so caught up in the moment that it’s difficult to understand our experiences. But by revisiting them in memory, we make sense of our lives. I feel that’s what I’m doing here, trying to sort through inner and outer experiences, to understand them, to uncover their meaning.

Dear Fellow Writers/Readers

It amazes me that after all of these years spent writing in a variety of genres (novels, short stories, poetry, memoir, essays), I’m still learning about process and other writing-related things. Recently, I’ve been working on what I expect will become another novel. It draws on some of my childhood experiences growing up on the Canadian prairies. Of course, it’s no surprise to anyone that writers use such events in their fiction (and non-fiction), but I find that I get bogged down if I stay too close to the actual material.

When I’m recreating something I’ve already lived through, especially in fiction, it loses its appeal and I don’t feel any excitement in writing it. I write to make discoveries, not just to reinhabit the past. I realize that sometimes we need to revisit past events in order to make sense of them, especially in writing memoir. But in fiction, for the work to take on life for me, I must only use it as a seed that I plant and embellish through invention. If my imagination doesn’t get stimulated and involved, it’s a trudge each day to try and press forward.

In the material I’m currently developing, the main character has similar experiences to mine in acquiring a stepfather at an early age and moving to his farm. However, to recreate certain occurrences from that time bores me, especially when writing fiction. It doesn’t interest me to recreate myself in a character—though all writers do this to a certain degree, parts of ourselves inhabiting all of our creations. I need to step into a new identity and discover what makes this other personality unique.

Once I realized what was happening in my current work, I was able to let go and fly. Now I can’t wait to return each day to the manuscript and discover where it wants to go. The characters and setting are taking on their own life, very different from what I originally envisioned.

For me, that’s the main pleasure of writing in any genre: if I don’t learn something new, then it’s tedious and not worth my time or my reader’s. Writing needs to be about these voyages into the unknown where we make visible what has been hidden. It’s like fishing, lowering our line into the waters of the unconscious and snagging who knows what.

 

 

On Writing Memoir

I opened the I Ching at random this morning and came up with #38, K’uei / Opposition.   The commentary says it is common for two opposites to exist together, needing to find relationship.  I realize an opposition is being set up just in the act of writing Drop Out:  my inner writer will be observing everything I do closely and recording what she finds valuable.  I’m reminded of a review of Journey into the Dark:  The Tunnel by William Gass that appeared in The New York Times Book Review:

Writers double themselves all the time in their fictions, of course.  That’s one of the reasons for writing them:  to clone yourself and set yourself out on a different path, or to reconfigure yourself as a marginal observer of your own childhood, as Lawrence does with Rupert Birkin in Women in Love, and as Woolf does with Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse; or to split yourself in two and reimagine one side of yourself through the eyes of the other, as Joyce does in Ulysses, and as Nabokov does in Pale Fire.

….The reason for this is that making copies of ourselves and setting them in motion in imaginary space is built in to the way minds work.  We do it all the time—when we plan for a future event, when we relive the past, when we daydream.  (July 13, 1995)

I like the idea that I’m daydreaming myself into existence, that day and night dreams, which can be in opposition, work together to make a creative entity.  I’m actually making a fiction in my memoir, just as we all are fictions, walking around.  I can’t possibly capture my whole life in these pages, so in making the choices I do and recording them, I’m altering my experience, describing a fictional “I,” transforming my life and my experiences.  They are both mine and not mine.

In fact, the act of writing these things and reflecting back on them alters that period, transforms it, just as the moon’s reflection changes what it touches, causing us to see a landscape differently at night than in the day time, under the sun’s glare.  The moons softens surfaces, embraces them.  The sun brings out an object’s hard edges and distances us from it.  It makes an object seem farther away than the moon’s light does.

In a way, I’m creating a character named Lily, just as other writers recreate themselves when writing memoir.  By organizing our pasts as we do, we eliminate a good deal, including only what fits the page limitation and what we’re willing to reveal.  Of course, this is how we give shape to a self, anyway, by uncovering/discovering it, bit by bit.  All of our personality doesn’t show at any one time.  Maybe over a long period, the different parts of ourselves will come forward and be exposed.  But we are always selecting, choosing.  When I had my sessions with A., my therapist/analyst, there were many dreams and experiences she never knew about, yet that didn’t make our work any less effective.

It’s similar to what happens when we photograph someone.  So much is left out, and we end up with an idealized (or sometimes extremely revealing) image.  If we took a dozen photographs of the person, while there would be a recognizable self in each picture, what’s captured in celluloid changes.  Usually, we only see a posed image, not a full-blown experience of another caught in natural motion.  I suppose it’s why many people prefer to choose a photograph of themselves that projects their best features, leaving the viewer with a romanticized picture of someone.

I think Proust was pointing to a similar phenomenon when he claimed that the narrative “I” is much different from the writer’s self/I.  The writer is creating another fictional self to speak through, and it isn’t exactly the same as the writer’s self.  I believe this happens in all writers.

It’s very useful to be reading Proust at the moment.  I’m interested in his ideas about memory, how we’re so caught up in the moment that it’s difficult to understand our experiences.  But by revisiting them in memory, we make sense of our lives.  I feel that’s what I’m doing here, trying to sort through inner and outer experiences, to understand them, to uncover their meaning.

 

Pen-L Press will be publishing my novel Fling in 2015. A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.

My first fan letter for Fling came from an 80 year-old woman who lives in the tiny village of Christina Lake, B.C. My son, who also lives there, had given her my manuscript to read. She said, “I just wanted to express to you how very much I enjoyed your writing.  I started it and didn’t stop till I had read it all.  I very much like your style and your subtle humor. Thank you for a most enjoyable read. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been scooped up by some publisher. But I know that it will be. In my estimation I know that it is excellent literary work. I am a voracious reader and have been since grade 4. I remember my first book was Tom Sawyer and I have never stopped since then. I go through 4 to 5 books a week.  We are so fortunate here at the Lake now.  The Library staff in Grand Forks come out here every Wednesday. I have become very fond of the young lady who comes out. She provides me with all the award winning books and orders others for me. Again I want to express to you how very much I enjoyed your manuscript.  Have patience my dear….it will be published to wide acclaim I am so sure.” —Joan Fornelli.

Here is a synopsis:

Feather, an aging hippie, returns to her Calgary home to help her mother, Bubbles, celebrate her 90th birthday. Bubbles has received mail from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing. Bubbles’ mother, Scottish by birth, had died in Mexico in the late 1920s after taking off with a married man and abandoning her husband and kids.

A woman with a mission, and still vigorous, Bubbles convinces a reluctant Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The “now” thread presents the two women as they travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then Mexico, covering a span of about six months. “Now” and “then” merge in Mexico when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their antics.

In Mexico, the land where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother. The Indian villagers mistake Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess, praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, eventually realizes what she’s overlooked.

Meanwhile, Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes (and a new man) has increased her zest for life. A shrewd business woman (she’s raised chickens, sold her crafts, taken in bizarre boarders, and has a sure-fire system for winning at bingo and lotteries), she’s certain she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral springs outside San Miguel de Allende; she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it.

But gambling is her first love, and unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. Unlike her daughter, Bubbles doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily, lusting after strangers, her youthful spirit and innocence convincing readers that they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, she comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.

Fling, a meditation on death, mothers and daughters, and art, suggests that the fountain of youth is the imagination, and this is what they all discover in Mexico. It’s what Bubbles wants to bottle, but she doesn’t need to. She embodies it. The whole family does.


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