Readers’ Treat: Book Fest Celebrating Arizona Authors

Voracious readers and lovers of writing, come celebrate Arizona Authors at the All-Zona Book Festival, Sunday, October 18, from 9:00–3:00, at St. Francis Cabrini Parish Hall, 3201 E. Presidio Road, Tucson, AZ.  (Address is one block south and east of Fort Lowell and Country Club).

Co-sponsors for the event include Mostly Books, an Independent Book Store, Tucson, AZ. To read about special guests and the line-up of Arizona authors featured for this event, click on the secure link at the bottom of this post and for more information about the day’s schedule. There’ll be a full listing of the day’s activities and the highlighted authors.

Several years back, the Tucson Festival of Books started as an event featuring Southwest authors. TFOB has grown in popularity far beyond its original scope. We’re delighted to have so much national and international talent here for three days each spring, but the All-Zona Book Festival is taking us back to a celebration of the wonderful talent in our own state. One special benefit, of course, is that your dollars will stay in the community when you purchase books. Most important, the theme of this year’s festival emphasizes early childhood literacy and the importance of reading to and with young children. Meet our mayor, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who will be talking about early childhood literacy and signing his new book.

Admission is free to this special event. There will also be a silent auction and raffle.

And I will be signing my latest book, Another View: Stories of Loyalty, Love, & Remembrance from France. 

I hope to visit with lots of my friends and fellow readers this coming Sunday.

Why do we read what we read?

Why do we read what we read?

Resuming the blog this year, more than slightly behind schedule, I’ll be exploring why exactly we read… and why we read at all.

The human mind is hard-wired for stories.

Don’t believe me? The first question every child asks is: “Why?” Growing up, we demand better, fuller, more complex answers—that’s the reason we pick up a book and read.

Throughout history we have loved to make up stories—sometimes it’s called gossip or a story we tell ourselves or it can be literature, or it can be an outright lie. It might be a soap opera or an Oscar-winning movie. We need stories, because they help explain and enlighten our lives.

There’s parts of our brain that when damaged will rob us of all story. Once these essential parts of our brains are gone—from Alzheimer’s, from injury, or is missing from birth due to chromosomal defects—we sadly seem to become less human, because we are no longer able to interact with the world within the context of a “story.” From the age of about two years, the human’s very large brain—designed to process and store and use vast amounts of information—has craved story in every form. Very few of us actually hunger after how-to manuals or textbooks, unless we need the information to help process—you guessed it—some story of particular interest to us. It’s information that helps fill in the blanks.

Recently, I was a judge in a book contest and assigned one biography category. One of the entries, a blow-by-blow, data-driven account of the lives of three people in one family had all the reading appeal of a laundry list. The author had assembled his information as if gathered from drivers’ licenses or the department of vital statistics: that’s not what story is about. There are many, many fine biographies, all factual, that are written using the same skills that make a novel pleasant reading: writing that satisfies the reader’s basic need for a story.

Over the centuries, truly great raconteurs—those whose stories we want to listen to—have been replaced by writers and in some rare cases, great cinematographers. However, even those movies start with the lure of the written word.

So, what do you read—and why?

Join other readers Saturday, February 21, 1:00-3:00, for a discussion by mystery writers at Mostly Books, 6208 E. Speedway, Tucson, AZ.

Next blog post: Readers Seeking the “Double C”. Can my readers guess what it is?

A Writer’s Thanksgiving

Prompted by a friend’s blog this morning, I decided to share some of the things that I am specifically thankful for, especially as a writer:

I have the opportunity and the ability to read. I’m grateful that I’ve read as much as I have throughout my life. I was weaned on great literature and I’ll thank my parents for that.

I’m thankful for life experiences that have made me an insightful writer and (I hope) a better teacher.  Not all experiences were good, nor were all bad, but they have helped broaden my view of the world and myself. I have observed people and places, words and wonders, characters, careers, and creation. Throughout a varied professional life, one thing has remained constant: my writing.

The tools to write with: a word processor makes writing so convenient that there’s no excuse not to write. But there are other tools—like the ability to put words together into moving sentences—that no machine can imitate. I’m also thankful for a lined, yellow legal tablet and a smooth flowing pen. I won’t leave home without pen and paper… they’re almost more important than a cell phone, although not as helpful in an emergency, I’ll admit.

Time to write: There’s never enough, of course, but it’s important to me that between teaching and editing I’m always working on my own books. Each moment spent writing is precious.

I’m thankful for supportive writers’ groups, good editors, and other writers who continue to inspire me and provide examples of excellence in writing.

I enjoy what I do, tremendously—and I’m grateful for that.  Most of all, I’m thankful for my readers.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Writers’ Table.





A Salute to Veterans Day

At exactly 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, an Armistice was signed to end the hostilities of World War I. (It was the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”) The Armistice was supposed to end what was known as the War to End All Wars. Well, it wasn’t our last.

What we commemorate now, nearly 100 years later, is Veterans Day. Wars have never stopped; they’ve changed. What remains the same is this: courageous men and women of our armed forces continue to fight and stand for a free world. We, in the United States of America, thank you.

In a time longer ago than I’ll admit here, my father volunteered to serve in World War I. He was not able to serve, but many of my family have. One brother-in-law, who also shared dual citizenship with England, left a comfortable new career to join up in England early during World War II. When President Roosevelt finally committed the United States to war, this family member returned to serve in the US Army Air Corps. Later he received military honors from His Majesty and the United States, one of which was the Purple Heart.

Some of my closest friends volunteered to serve, directly after graduating from high school. Others participated in ROTC and continued in the Reserves of their branch of service, after a period of active duty—in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia—always ready to serve their country again. On a personal note, in our home my husband is retired US Army, while I still nurture some longtime allegiances to the Navy after spending six years with the US Naval Academy at Annapolis.

My latest novel, A Voyage for History, is a tribute to some of these men, especially Navy vets. A sentimental journey turns into terrifying voyage when a group of older veterans bond together by one special cause—the rescue of a US Navy tank landing ship critical to the battles of World War II. These men and their ship are coming home, but not without adventure and misadventure, drama and tragedy, and even a touch of romance as they encounter their ultimate fight for survival.

If you know a veteran or a member of the armed forces on active duty, remember to thank them today—an email or phone call would be wonderful. If your old friend who served is no longer with you, thank him or her with a small prayer. If you are thankful for your freedom and your country, thank a vet. If you have served our country, this tribute is my personal thanks to you.


From the Writers’ Table






The Gift of Story

Country LaneOnce upon a time, I was given a gift. There was nothing to unwrap, nothing tangible at all, and I probably wasn’t aware that I had received anything at the time. I have no clear recollection of when I recognized its value, except that I was very young.

However, I had just received the gift of story.

Story takes many forms. It may be what we tell ourselves or what we learn about others. Most stories are important because they contain small details about everyday life and thus they permit us to stay connected with others.

Slightly more than two years ago my last relative from the French side of my family died in Paris, on April 15, 2011. He was 91. I was determined to write about him, hoping to keep alive what he had done and said. I couldn’t. I would break into tears and the entire endeavor became a waste of time.

He was a great-uncle by marriage, not part of my direct family line, but he had kept everyones’ stories alive for all of us. Born toward the end of World War I he had listened to stories from his family, about what life was like for them during that time. He survived World War II in France. Within the context of our extended and fragmented family (cousins twice removed, second wives, distant great-nieces and great-nephews, and all that) somehow he had known most of them. When I visited him, I began to pay closer attention. There would come a day when he wouldn’t be there with me to share, what it was like, all those many small personal details of everyday, lived in another time. Some of my distant relatives, even those with whom I shared DNA, I had never met, but he helped bring them back to life.

In an upcoming story, “The Day of the General,” I’ll share bits of a story of nearly four year old Camille Mauriat, daughter of a Protestant minister, the day a German general visited their home and how one small event—not a major or violent event by war story standards—changed one family’s life forever. The nearby city of Lyon had just fallen to Hitler’s Army, that May of 1941. General Kurt-Griebel Heinrich Von Strauchen, who drives down a country lane toward this family’s home, is seeking refreshment on a warm day of late spring. The little girl Camille finds the glittering embroidery and shiny metals of one of Hitler’s elite enchanting. What child  brought up in a stern Calvinist household would not?

There is always “another view” of war. Join me as we follow these stories, with their connections to special people, what makes up more than any family’s direct blood lines.

As humans, we are creatures of story and narrative. Gathered around the first fires that kept wild animals away and fellow humans near, we started recounting our history: “Once upon a time….”

Interspersed with segments about characters from my upcoming book, Another View, The Writers’ Table blog will continue its review of the compelling power of fiction to illustrate any story.

Welcome back!

Michaele, from The Writers’ Table

F-I-C-T-I-O-N—“T” is for Truth

What if I were to announce that Fiction is the literary form best designed to convey and reveal the Truth? If I were back in my old classroom I would imagine a phalanx of frantic hands, waving before my face in protest.

“But Mrs. Lockhart—”

“Don’t you mean it the other way, that only nonfiction tells the truth?”

No, absolutely no. Actually, the student answered his own question. Nonfiction is data-based. It is ideal for documenting, delivering an account, and telling facts, not showing the Truth. So what’s the difference and what makes Fiction so ideal?

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Learning our Culture: The Role of Fiction

No blog can come close to addressing the richness that Fiction alone has contributed to our lives.

Here’s an interesting factoid related to F-I-C-T-I-O-N. All the great literature of western civilization is Fiction. How about that? There are a few exceptions, such as Churchill’s writings, Gibbon’s The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, and some others.

Practical nonfiction is designed to communicate information when the quality of the writing is not as important as the content. Therefore, what has crowded great library shelves, even when literary works were on scrolls, has always been Fiction.

Take a step back in time about 3000 years and consider the epics of Homer, The Odyssey and The Iliad. This famed narrative poet was reporting what had taken place several centuries before his own time, creatively recounting events of history, blended with mythology, in order to tell a more compelling story.

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Characters in Fiction–The Letter C takes the Cake! Part 1

These blogs that lightly touch on the Wonderful Art of Fiction don’t presume to cover everything or examine all aspects in the depth they deserve. The Writers’ Table is highlighting the passionate, distinguishing attributes that separate fiction from so-called nonfiction. Knowing even some of these differences gives authors incentive/promotional tools for marketing our art. As we work our way through the acronym F-I-C-T-I-O-N, the letter C  has much to offer.

C is for Characters. Without characters, a story would be events, dates, and outcomes. In other words, the same as nonfiction and not very interesting. Characters bring a story to life and permit the Reader to engage with other real people. Many Writers prefer a character-driven storyline. How would a particular person act and react in a given set of circumstances?

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The Wonderful Art of Fiction: Show, Don’t Tell

Nonfiction is always at its best when telling the reader something. There’s a distinct role and need for it. If travelers need to find out the best routes through Northern England and Scotland for a driving vacation, they will research a respectable source of good data on the subject. Likewise, if a couple really believes that the impossible is possible, they will seek out instructions on How to Build a Brick Barbecue Grill in One Weekend. These books excel at telling: they provide information alone. (I’ll confide with my readers that the book about barbecue grills should be considered fiction. Please don’t ask.)

By contrast, fiction, from word choices to structure to themes, is supposed to show the Reader what’s happening. Writing teachers even have a mantra: “Show, don’t tell.” Yes, just like in kindergarten.

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Fiction–The G-Rated “F-Word,” Part 2.

Gathered around The Writers’ Table last week we discussed two unique features found exclusively in Fiction and not in nonfiction. Feelings are central for the Writer and the Reader. Meanwhile the author’s adherence to authentic Facts(which we’ll discuss at length later on) remains every bit as important. No matter the genre, there’s nothing like the appeal of a well-written, enduring novel that offers entertainment with painless education on the side. The ideal reading experience is “curling up with a good novel,” not the latest How-to or Self-Help book.

Here are several more “F-words” that distinguish Fiction from its distant relative, nonfiction. 

F is for Fun: Not all Fiction is Fun, but most is. If it’s fun to write, then it’s usually enjoyable for the Reader too. Although there is intense work represented by the simplest story, all Writers find pleasure in their work. If we don’t find pleasure, it shows through. At present, certain “Big Name Authors” have ceased to write their own stories, relying on a name alone to sell their books. Maybe they’re not enjoying the writing process anymore. The astute Reader can always tell.                    

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