Nov 152016

I recently had the pleasure to read a book of poetry and interview the author, who is local to Portland. I was sent the book by the publisher but I enjoyed the book of poetry so much I wanted to write a post about it and hopefully turn on some readers to it.

Here is an excerpt from my favorite poem in the book:

Beside the Sea

It’s peaceful here beside the sea,

Where waves crash on the sand incessantly.

The sand just sifts and throws them back

To echo in the mist.


The ghostly moon throws shadows faintly

Upon the phosphorescent crests,

Silently weaving endless thought

As to and fro it pulls the mind.”

The reason the above poem was my favorite in the book was because it made me immediately imagine the Oregon Coast. I grew up in Seattle and as a kid we spent summer vacations at Rockaway Beach every year. I grew up feeling home whenever we were at the beach. I’d wander the dunes, dip my toes in the thick, wet, soft sand and feel the wind on my skin and just feel content and happy.



What I loved about the book was that each poem was a different little story and the author was very good at evoking so many different emotions with each poem. What I found as a common theme through most of the poems was love. And I’m a sucker for a good love poem.

Donald Elix is a local author, which interested me further, and I love supporting local people. Here is the link to his book:

Poetry to Challenge the Senses by Donald Elix

Poetry to Challenge the Senses explores life, death, love, solitude, relationships and nature, and their meanings from his perspectives. Elix connects thoughts from his imagination and applies them to the real world, offering an array of insight on subjects like self-discovery and family.

“The book explores various historical places and time periods, in both the past and present, through brief yet thought-provoking verses,” Elix said. “My hope is to spark inspiration in those who are looking to explore life’s meaning and learn and develop from other’s experiences.”

I was happy to interview the author because as a writer myself, I want to know what the process is for other writers. What inspires them? Where do they write? How do they stay focused? Here is that interview:

  1. How do you begin a poem?

    I usually begin a poem by first selecting a title and writing to the title.

  2. When did you realize that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

    I realized that creating was absolutely something I had to do, when I wrote a poem in 30 minutes in an art class to submit in the English class that came next, while in high school. That poem titled “Spring” was published in the national high school poetry book for that year.

  3.  What kind of creative writing routines or rituals do you have?

    I am establishing new creative writing routines and rituals to get back to writing, as I have not done much for awhile. My plan is to disappear to a quiet sport for 2 or 3 hours on a Sunday to allow for creative thoughts to flow as I did several years ago.

  4. What are you reading right now?

    Richest man who ever lived.

  5. What’s the worst advice you’ve heard authors give to other writers? What’s the best advice?

    Your book will sell itself, don’t stress out about it, is the worst advice I’ve heard authors give to other writers. The best advice I’ve heard authors give to other writers is to keep writing, keep publishing, and stay in touch with your readers.

  6. Who inspires you?

    I’m inspired by people who are positive, who work hard and have varied interests.

  7. Love seems to be a common thread in your poetry. Do you find it easier or harder to communicate these emotions in your poetry vs. real life?

    I don’t find it easier or harder to communicate love emotions in my poetry vs. real life, although when face to face it is more inspirational for me to express love than with pen to paper.

  8. I love that you are a local author. Are there particular places in Oregon that bring you the most inspiration?

    The Oregon coast is the place that brings me the most inspiration, although the forest and the mountains are a close second.

  9. One of my favorite poems in your new book is “Escape to Imagination”. What was the inspiration for this poem?

    The inspiration for “escape to imagination” was scenes remembered from my homestate of Ohio and visits to mountain areas in Oregon. Additional inspiration was derived from the need to escape urban areas that I worked in, both Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

  10. As a writer I know the habit of starting and stopping something, putting it away, coming back to it, maybe never finishing it. How do you know when a poem is finished? How many half finished poems do you have stashed away?

    Most of my poems were done in one sitting. I may have a half-dozen poems sitting in the file unfinished. They are there mostly because I found I didn’t have a good title. I know a poem is finished when the ideas cease to come to me. I do not stop writing in a sitting until ideas to continue cease to come to me.

I really appreciated the author taking the time to let me interview him and share his process with me and my readers. I’ve read his book several times now, relishing the poems and finding different meaning in the poems each time I read them.

I hope you check out his book!

Oct 312016

I’ve wanted to do a book post for awhile but my reading has slowed down and I also read some not great books. But I finally got back in the groove and read some good stuff. Here you go:

1 ) The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I’m not really a fan of books that have a ton of characters and the story switches back and forth between them. In my experience there’s always one character/story line that you love and want to keep reading and the others fall short and feel like interruptions.

This book was one of those. So why am I recommending it? Because a friend who read it told me to hang in there and that the book gets really good towards the end and it did. It’s a book about a Southern town and a small group of people living there who’s lives intersect because of a tragic accident at the community pool. While I’m not a fan of the switching back and forth between 5 or 6 characters to tell one story format–about half way through this book I started to really like it and couldn’t put it down. So I’m recommending it. If you’ve read it, I’m curious what you think!


2 ) Among the Wicked (Kate Burkholder #8) by Linda Castillo

I didn’t even know the next book in the series had come out!! I’ve been so out of the loop since the baby came. I was so excited to discover it and that it was available without a wait. I started the book right away and like all her other books in the series, couldn’t put it down and stayed up way too late to read it.

In this book Kate goes undercover in a neighboring Amish community to catch a murderer and investigate the leader who is cult-like. This book was so exciting and gripping and I could not put it down. I think this might have been one of her best books in the series. It was so cool to read about Kate going undercover as an Amish widow, experiencing lots of mixed emotions about being Amish again, and uncovering a horrible network of crimes. The book was good!



3 ) The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

What a clever, unique book! I liked it so much! You start reading and you think you know what the story is about and what’s going on…and then all of a sudden nothing is as it seems. It was so well-written.

Instead of trying to describe the book I’m just going to share the description from amazon because I don’t want to spoil it!

“Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family, and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges. Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story, and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster’s Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.”

There were a lot of surprises in the book and it was just so smartly written. Definitely read this book!



4 ) The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

I really really liked this book. A lot of celebrity memoirs fall flat for me but this one was fast-paced, fun, serious, dark, and hilarious. She sprinkled in funny stories and witty writing in between more serious topics.

“Girls with their hair down at the gym. Unless you’re covering horrible burn marks like that girl from The Craft, pull that shit up in a ponytail.”

Totally! I am always baffled at these women in my gym who don’t pull their hair up while they workout. It would make me crazy!

She talked about her dad’s MS diagnosis, her parent’s divorce, sexual assault she experienced, a domestic violence relationship she was in when she was in her 20’s, gun violence, and her issues with food:

“Her restrictions did not have the desired effect. Instead of giving me a healthy in-moderation-only attitude towards shitty-for-you food, I acted like an Amish kid on Rumspringa any time I was near it.”

I can totally relate to the above! That was my experience as a kid, too.

“So we signed up for this Crossfit-type insane workout and actually went most days. It’s one of those programs that puts you through Navy SEAL-style guerrila warfare training that is completely over-the-top and unnecessary unless you’re a runway model or about to compete in the Hunger Games. But we went. Every day we were on the verge of death. Sweating and wheezing. Walking out shaking and dizzy.”

That made me laugh out loud. So true.

“I embrace my power. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story. I will. I’ll speak and share and fuck and love, and I will never apologize for it. I am amazing for you, not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you.”

So while the book was less about her comedy career and more about her life experiences, it was a good read and very engaging. It was also empowering and uplifting (like the above quote).

Very good book!


5 ) Patient H.M: A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich

This was a really interesting book. It was about patient HM, who was one of the first patients in brain surgery/lobotomy and amnesia research. The author was the grandson of the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery on HM and he goes through his grandfather’s records and does years of research to put together this “memoir.”

I’ve read other books about this topic and this one was good because there was the personal aspect of the research since the author was related to the surgeon. There were parts of the book that needed some editing down and I found myself losing interest but then it would pull me back in and I’d be fascinated again. So based on that, I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. It’s worth a read, especially if you’re interested in science.


6 ) The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

HOLY COW WAS THIS BOOK GOOD! Seriously! The first paragraph of the book started like a cannon explosion and you were on the edge of your seat for the rest of the ride. It truly did suck you in at the beginning and kept you guessing.

Tanya is on the run after her husband dies accidentally. She goes through the process of packing essentials, getting a new identity and going on the run like someone trained as a secret agent. You start to wonder, how is she so good at this? She changes her identity many times in the book as she goes on the run and the story unfolds quickly. It’s a fun read and keeps you guessing until the very end.


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