Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over ManifestMoon Over Manifest

by Clare Vanderpool

People read books to live vicariously through the main character’s life. Clare Vanderpool invites the reader into Abilene’s life, while Abilene lives vicariously through the stories about the townsfolk of Manifest. It is charming tale with humorous moments of inspiration. The reader discovers a diverse community despite a first glance of a run-down old town. Each layer adds depth. It is an enjoyable read, and will tickle the parent who reads it to their children.


Consider the dots and dashes in the rhythm of writingIMG_0130.

Professor Brooks Landon, in his Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft course, identified the importance of rhythm, and its ability to vary the pace of a sentence by using phrases or a word within the cumulative sentence. For instance, the previous sentence could be mapped out like morse code’s dots and dashes. It would look like this: dash-dash-dash-dash-dash. Here are some examples from a few books I pulled off the shelf at home, with the first example being cited by Professor Landon in the course.

“Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch, open toward the sunset, where four candles flicked on the table in the diminished wind.” The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

dot – dot – dash – dash – dash – dash

“Afterwords, instead of the baptism, Father lured people down as near he could get them to the river by means of the age-old method of a church supper.” The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

dot – dash – dash 

“On the rare occasions when I removed my slap at all, I just threw a lump of cold cream at my face, like a potter throwing wet clay onto a wheel, and swirled it round with the palm of my hand as if I was cleaning a window.”  Rachel’s Holiday,Marian Keyes

dash – dash – dash – dash

“Later, below the town, I watched the snow falling, looking out of the window of the bawdy house, the house for officers, where I sat with a friend and two glasses drinking a bottle of Asti, and, looking out at the snow falling slowly and heavily, we knew it was all over for that year.”  A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway 

dot – dash – dash – dash – dash – dash – dot – dash – dash

The above examples are just a few variations. Seeing the dots and dashes, especially by well-known authors, and their writing rhythms, and their intricacies, has the potential to unlock our own rhythms, and their ability to inspire others, to write.



Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Listen Slowly

Listen, Slowly

by Thanha Lai

Engaging is the only way to describe Thanha Lai’s novel about a twelve year old California girl discovering her family roots in Vietnam. Mai lives in Laguna, California. Her summer plans include a good friend, a gorgeous boy, and the beach. Instead, she enjoys high humidity, mosquitoes, extended family, and a strange girl who obsesses over frogs. Mai must accompany her grandmother to Vietnam in the search for her lost grandfather. It is a trip of self-discovery for Mai, and an entertaining read. I highly recommend it.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

An intriguing what if. Neil Gaiman captured my imagination with Bod and his guardian Silas in this haunting book. He definitely captures the transitoriness of childhood and the goodness of others. Excellent read, or in my case audio.

Authonomy to Close

Authonomy Screen shotAt the end of September HarperCollins will close their website due to the slow down in stories of interest. The peer reviewed sight acted as a slush pile for the large publisher. Members would upload their books and review others people’s work. Writers would help one another improve their writing. Editors at HarperCollins would read the top five books each month (Alison Flood story in the Guardian.

The only catch was some members did not consider improving their writing the goal, but getting into the top five. I scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine became the end goal rather than improving their writing. Fortunately, I missed all this fun. Unfortunately, I just joined thinking, “Hey, I can get an honest appraisal of my work” only to find out I’m too late.

Here are some of my goals:

  • Write a great book whose merits allow it to stand on its own.
  • Be honest.
  • Improve my writing.
  • Help others improve their writing.
  • Get published.

I want to write a book that people will honestly like because it’s good, not because we’re trying to get the inside straight on a publishing deal. And even if you maneuvered yourself to get an editor’s attention, they’ll still spot it as a bad book if it’s written poorly. Why not spend the time learning the craft. In the end it will pay you bigger dividends than the five minutes the editor will take to decide it’s not worth their time.

5 Writing Habits to Avoid

I admit it. I enjoy reading about how authors write their books. The header above contains a picture of some of them. For me it all began with Stephen King’s, On Writing. I’ve picked up other writing books like the kind every student gets in school–boring! But Stephen’s book talked about the craft in a way that captivated me. I can officially say I own copies of On Writing in the following formats: a paperback copy, a hardback copy, cassette tapes, CDs, ebook copy, and audio bookPlease, don’t judge! My wife already laughs at me.

From there my interest in the writing craft grew and grew as I discovered other authors writing about their jobs. The more I read, the more I learned about improving my own writing.

Some things were helpful but others were not. I wished somebody would have shared with me some of the ground they covered, so as a beginning writer one could avoid the pitfalls which come with writing.

Here are five writing habits to avoid:

1. I’m waiting for inspiration to hit.

Writing is about writing. Sit down and start writing. Don’t worry about if it’s good. Your job is to write.

2. The first sentence should be perfect.

Actually, you’ll probably toss the first couple paragraphs anyway in the editing process, so put down the words and move on.

3. I don’t need to proofread.

Seriously? You must be one of those prodigy kids who came out talking and walking after they were born.

4. This is good enough.

Just because your mother likes it doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. Your mom has to like it because she gave you birth. That pretty much includes your immediate family and friends. Wait for the pause, and you know they’re just being nice.

5. I have this great idea for a story.

If it’s not on the page then you haven’t written a book.


It’s National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) where people across the globe write a novel (50,000 words) in one month. This year I’m combining my academic interests with NANOWRIMO to write a novel in one month titled: Philologus the Slave.

The following rules apply to my writing:

  • I will post regularly during the month so people can see the work in progress.
  • Each post is a rough draft and is not complete. There will be mistakes, typos, and plot holes as large as the Grand Canyon.
  • I will wait to respond to posts suggesting changes, corrections, etc. and will post comments of encouragement or points of interest.
  • I invite constructive and helpful suggestions, subject to my approval, from guests to my sight. This is an experiment in including others in the writing of my novel.
  • I will acknowledge everyone who has helped in making this novel a success.
  • I will complete at least 1,700 words a day, or make up for the occasional missed day due to appointments, meetings, or family events.


imageAfter a short bus ride up Michigan Avenue I got off at the John Hancock Center and walked over to 900 North Michigan Shops. My destination happened to be on the ground floor and on the right. It was the Mont Blanc store. The black and white details accented the watches and pens on display under glass. Everything sparkled; at Christmas time this is a must, or even when one is choosing the Triton 21 TrX bass boat. All I know is I don’t sparkle, or I thought I didn’t until Jai let me hold a Heritage Collection 1912 fountain pen.

My first impression was the heft of the pen in my hand. It felt perfect. It was evenly balanced and a joy to hold. It looks short because there is a retractable nib but with a quick twist I is ready to write. The movement of the nib over the paper was smooth and I did not feel I had to force it. But wait, there’s more. By pulling on the end of the pen and turning counter clockwise it lowers the plunger so one can refill the pen without exchanging cartridges.

Now I was a small mouth bass staring at a baited hook. I just wanted to take a Mont Blanc fountain pen on a test drive, not buy one. The sales associate didn’t have to sell the pen but let me use it on a pad of paper. It sold itself. Now the harsh reality hit like a bass mesmerized by a baited hook–I could think of nothing to write. I’m holding a great pen and my mind is blank. After what seemed an eternity, I scribbled:

“Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold,” (John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath).

I managed to write the first line of Steinbeck’s quote because I listened to Stephen King’s audio book, On Writing, where he quotes Steinbeck I have it almost memorized, but now my mind’s mush. The ink looked great on the page, but my brain doesn’t work. I wasn’t having writer’s block–no, I was having Mont Blanc fountain pen block. Another quote kept popping into my head, and I knew this one by heart but I couldn’t write it in this context:

“Her facial prettiness was perhaps five years past its best moment,” (Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon).

All I will say is Hammett’s line fit within the context of the book he was writing, and he told the truth. It in no way fit my present context, and now I will keep my mouth shut. That is when I discovered that writing one’s favourite quote in the wrong context could get one into trouble or kicked out of an upscale fountain pen store. So I wrote my signature and doodled like any ordinary schmuck trying to look like they knew what they were doing.


imageAnd they saw the wardrobe was filled with fur coats. It looked like any other wardrobe, and they didn’t want to be found, so they climbed inside, all thirteen of them. Professor Dickieson shut the door, but not all the way because everybody knows it is not wise to shut oneself into a wardrobe. The others pushed and snapped at one another because university students are not children after all, and they didn’t want to be asked to leave just yet because it was such a nice hiding place despite how the fur coats made their noses tickle.

Footsteps drew closer and they tried to be quiet but nobody knows how difficult it is for university students to be quiet, especially when they are hiding in a small wardrobe. Some of them were real quiet because they don’t normally talk, and still others thought of silly things they did when they were in high school, while others giggled because that is what one does when playing hide and seek, and some of them pushed their way backward because they didn’t want to be found.

The wardrobe door opened and Ms. Schmidt motioned for them to get out. With crestfallen expressions they climbed out one by one until all twelve stood before the wardrobe. They were asked to leave because everyone knows you are not supposed to climb into wardrobes, especially if they happen to be in the Marion Wade Center in Wheaton, IL. And so they left, apologizing for being silly university students, and Professor Dickieson took them all out for pizza because everyone knows university students love pizza.

Ms. Schmidt checked the wardrobe one last time and nobody was left inside. She shook her head because university students were sometimes bigger kids than the young children who visited and tried on the fur coats hanging in the wardrobe. But as she closed the door she could have sworn she saw a lone person walking away into the woods toward a lamppost.

Burke’s Bacon Bar

imageJust off Ontario Street and along Rush Street is Burke’s Bacon Bar. It is a hole in the wall lined with bacon and attracts the urban crowd seeking high flavour in manageable bites. Three selections are $11 dollars and are wrapped in petite paper wrappings that make White Castle sliders seem like the soles of your grandfather’s worn out shoes. Of course, if grease and small burgers are your thing then find a White Castle and help yourself. But if you want flavour, and you are strolling along the Magnificent Mile, and you are planning on getting prime steak that night, then these delicious bites are a solid choice for the meat lover.

The Bacon hamburger and the Beef-n-Cheddar were delicious. I actually split the Beef-n-Cheddar with my son, and including two drinks we were set up for around $15. Not bad if you don’t have time to sit and wait but want to keep moving.

And let’s be honest, who can go wrong with bacon.