Home Recommended Reading Workshops About RSS

Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

FOG ISLAND MOUNTAINS: a Novel ~Michelle Bailat-Jones

Friday, December 5th, 2014

“…and it is amazing how easily, how quickly really, a person can be turned inside –out and rewritten completely.” (Page 59)

In my life a daughter, wife, mother, social worker, friend died today after a prolonged battle with breast cancer. I am sharing this story about death with her family after the service; it is a profoundly, deeply touching love story integrated with a Japanese folktale – I cried and found release.

From the Advanced Uncorrected Proof copy cover:

“What if you could rewrite a tragedy? What if you could give grace to someone’s greatest mistake?

A haunting and beautiful reinterpretation of the Japanese KITSUNE folk tale tradition, FOG ISLAND MOUNTAIN is a novel about the dangers of action taken in grief and of a belief in healing through storytelling.

Narrating this story is Azami, one of Komachi’s oldest and most peculiar inhabitants, the daughter of a famous storyteller with a mysterious story of her own.

Inhabitants of a small town, Komachi, are waiting for the biggest of the summer’s typhoons, when the cancer diagnosis is received.  South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years, he considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements.  His wife, Kanae, disappears into the gathering storm afraid to hear the diagnosis and avoids the truth.”

FOG ISLAND MOUNTAIN is the winner of the Christopher Doheny Award, which recognizes excellence in fiction or nonfiction on the topic of serious illness by a writer who has personally dealt or is dealing with life-threatening illness (either his or her own or that of a close relative or friend).  The judges for the 2013 Christopher Doheny Award included acclaimed writers Dani Shapiro, Meghan O’Rourke, and Ann Hood.

Michelle-Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator.  Her novel FOG ISLAND MOUNTAINS won the Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction in New York City.  She translated Charles Ferdinand Ramuz’s 1927 Swiss classic BEAUTY ON EARTH (2013). She is the reviews editor at the webjournal/Necessary Fiction, and her fiction, poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in a number of journals, including the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Quarterly Conversation, PANK, Spolia Mag, Two Serious Ladies, and The Atticus Review.  Michelle lives in Switzerland.

Michelle Bailat-Jones Twitter

Thank you Lisa at TLC Book Tours – I needed this one; perfect timing. Stunning writing.  Very Highly Recommend

The Long Goodbye
All Gone
So Far Away

A Short Story Full of Thanks

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

abstract_noteOnce upon a time 40 years ago, a young woman got a full scholarship to a small college in North Carolina.  The school did not have a full music department, but it had a wonderful music Professor who was very encouraging to the young woman and her dreams of becoming a vocal music performer.  This professor got her many solo spots at local churches, folk music sites, and concerts and helped her prepare a senior concert that would provide a demo tape for the next pursuits.  Meanwhile the young woman majored in psychology and practiced and practiced and practiced her singing.  In her spare time, the young woman worked on voter registration, environmental justice, and anti-war efforts while developing a quilt project in Appalachia with buyers in New York.

A concert hall was rented, musicians hired and reception orchestrated.  Several lovely dresses were purchased for the various sections of the recital.   Advertising was designed and a sound team was engaged for recording.  The concert was slated for May Day.   But that concert was never to happen, because on Easter Sunday in early April the young woman found herself in the hospital undergoing massive surgery for kidney tumors and stones.

It was a slow and steady recovery process which cost a great deal of money.  There was no running or jogging and weight lifting to keep in shape and the muscles toned – breath supported.

The Professor felt very badly and quietly cancelled all the preparations and when the young woman was released found tutoring to help her graduate on time and go on to graduate school of a different kind.  He also arranged for a chapel in the woods, a comfortable stool and a reel to reel tape recorder to be set up for a small recital to be recorded.  One duet partner, the Philosophy Professor, even made time to join the small group and complete the duet section.  Over the last 3 weeks of school the arduous first part of the concert was recorded reel to reel as the young woman sat on the stool and the professor accompanied the vocals.  The Irish and local folks songs, musical numbers and contemporary pieces were not completed.

The young woman went other directions, but when she was discouraged, she would find a way to listen to her tape and found courage again.  The reel to reel tape was translated on to a small cassette.  Over the next years that tape was played so many times it stretched and distorted, but it still brought comfort.

Then the cassette player gave up and there was no way to hear the music.

Last year 2011, the young woman – now much matured wished to hear her music once again.  She could not find anyone to copy the cassette in its sad shape onto a CD.   Then she thought of Jannie Funster the amazing poet, songwriter and recorder of Funsterland in Austin, Texas  – who said yes she could figure it out….Jannie arranged, for a small fee, for her sound guru – GEORGE to take the tape and transfer it onto a CD.  George not only took out some of the distortion noise but also removed some background interference – it is still in an empty church and some of the words are unclear, but it is now on CD and the woman’s MP3 and on her computer.

I listened to it on my cellphone during my last morning walk….and all the energy and feelings of accomplishment returned.   All the joy of practicing, and people caring, and every effort being made to attain a goal is right there and fills my whole being.   It is the best concert ever.

I am left with only the humblest of thank you’s to say aloud.  It means so much to me I do not know how to thank each one of you.

Thank you!

Mr. Robinson, Jannie Funster, the Postal Service and George the Sound man.

Enclosed with this Thank you note, Please find a small piece of the concert I wish to share with you….

This is an excerpt from an arduous 4 part HYMN by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

Patricia’s Recital Track 3

Did someone do something special for you that you would like to share the story of such gift?

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.

Related Reading you might also enjoy
Happy Thanks Birthday
A Divine Listener
A Quiet and Necessary Thank You Note
An Apple of Appreciation for the Teacher 

Dancing In The Shadows Of Love ~by Judy Croome

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I discovered Dancing in the Shadows of Love  on Hilary’s site Positive Letters and entered to win a copy of the book from the author.  My number came up and very quickly a copy of the book came to my mail box.   I had enjoyed Hilary’s post and the information sharing about Africa that accompanied the material about the book and author.    I was anticipating a very interesting read and I was not disappointed.

Croome’s book is about 3 fictional women who all come together in an old seaport city on the ocean in Africa.   The author grew up in Africa and lives there still, so I am sure that many of the concepts came from her life.   The women have very interesting backgrounds and their childhoods are explored and how they came together all searching for love and using various pathways to overcome their tribulations.   In the beginning of the story the women all felt tribal and of color as the story progressed I was not so certain of their ethnicity but the language and descriptions made them seem still tribal.

The described religion was extremely traditional and old and not very useful in assisting the women to think or make changes in their lives.  I thought they would need to reject it to find themselves and love who they were.   My friend asked if there were Angels in the story from my description and I would say I was not sure – maybe more a benevolent magician or two.

It took me three starts to find comfort in the word usage; to discover the flow of the conversations and the idea that was being explored.   I think most USA readers would find that the cultural context of being of a tribe would seem foreign for those of us reared in chronic individualism.  It was worth the effort.

Croome is a good story teller and I was so pleased to have had an opportunity to read her first book and explore some old ideas in a new cultural context.   I was reminded of the delight my 4th grader’s book group experienced when they read stories from other countries, and expanded their world view.  It made for a great discussion.

I belong to two book groups right now and I think one would enjoy the book and the other would not want to even read it.  It is not a fast paced book and there are many rather poetic passages of detail.

A good sit by the fire winter’s read and I think a good discussion starter.  I would have allowed my high school daughters to read this book with the promise of discussing some of the sexual issues which are part of the story.

I am enjoying following Judy Croome on Facebook and here are the ways to connect with her:
Blog:  www.judycroome.blogspot.com
Facebook:  Judy Croome
Twitter:  @judy_croome
Goodreads:  Judy Croome
Library Thing:  Judy Croome
LinkedIn:  Judy Croome

The book is available for cover, kindle, nook, MP3 from Amazon and Powell’s.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket!

You might also enjoy reading:
Wise Ears
The Biking Architect: Wanting
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
4 Great books to add to your Reading List

Knock Knock Who’s There?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011


A short and true story:
This past Halloween we seemed to be all but abandoned by children.  Most of the houses on one side of the street had no lights on and my side of the street has lots of trees.  I prepared my bowl of candies and set aside the treats for those kids who are sugar adverse or diabetic.  It had been an amazingly sunny warm day and when 5pm rolled around it was still fairly light.  No one came knocking on my door.

At 6:30pm, my partner came in the door and reported that down the hill from us and a few streets over, he had walked past numerous groups of children enjoying the adventure and the costumes.   Then suddenly the barking of Zip and a knocking at the door.   6:45pm and our first trick-or-treater had just arrived.  I grabbed the goodies; my partner snared the pup and we opened the door to a rather tall man.  A man with a bandana over his nose and mouth, a black felt hat; dark clothing which was covered by a long black raincoat stood on the porch.  I was taken a back as he said in a deep resonating voice, “Trick or Treat.”  I said you are our first guest this evening and stretched out my offerings suggesting he also take a glow stick as he had no flashlight.  His hand delicately took a small package of candy and then the glow stick and placed it in the bag.  He tipped his felt hat and said, “Thank you mam.”

As he left my partner said, “That was strange.”  And I replied that I thought I should have offered some of our warm soup and carrots as the fellow looked hungry, maybe homeless? Or was that the costume?   About 15 minutes later about 5 more children and their parents presented themselves at the door, all small and delightfully costumed; even later the UPS guy delivered my next book for review and I shared our treats with him also and then we were done with guests for the night.

My mind started trying to figure out the man on the porch.  It was amazing all the thoughts that raced into my frame and I want to share them with you:

  • Tall man who looks hungry
  • Delicate hand
  • Father trying to trick or treat for child who could not?
  • Teenager not ready to give up this practice – big for his age?
  • Someone checking out our house for possible later break in?
  • Foster child of our neighbor’s daughter, but not on a school night coming 2 hours for grandparents?
  • Fellow from the half way house down the street?
  • Pleasant eyes
  • Someone who took our license plate number from the big city trip and was checking out who were?
  • Gang member of a break- in ring – like the one that was stealing in Seattle but lived in Eugene, Oregon?
  • Did he go to every house?
  • He was hungry and just taking care of a need?
  • Delicate hands.

I shared my thoughts with my daughter who had experienced a tough day of teaching and thought I was nuts and just wanted to go to bed.

I found out that he had visited the music teacher next door also, and she noted that he looked hungry also so she gave him a whole handful of her treats.  She had about 7 treaters because several of her piano students made a special effort.

I decided that my mind was too active and that these were thoughts that were just growing out of control.  I would check my security lights and make sure all were working, and then I would just bless our house and keep it safe and open to all guests.  Welcoming.

I still wish I had offered him some of our warm soup.  He did look hungry.

Who do you think was at the door?  Why was he trick or treating?

Congratulations to Laurie Buchanan of Speaking from the Heart and Jannie of Jannie Funster.

Because of their fine stories on The Smartest Woman I Know – Ilene Beckerman, they will receive a free copy of this funny book from the author.

If you order anything from amazon from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.

You might also enjoy reading these posts:
Broken Record
What Are You Afraid Of?
Lessons From the Dead