Book to Read, From Heart to Paper Writing Workshop

Are we all “Enemy Women”?

Enemy Women
by Paulette Jiles

I picked up Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles because of the intriguing title. The cover shows a photo of a woman on a horse photographed from behind, her long black hair flying. I wondered if this was a Native American story. Perhaps a fantasy adventure? In the first pages I discover these “enemy women” were mainly white and poor, living in the southeastern Ozarks of Missouri during the American Civil War.

I couldn’t put the book down because of Adele Colley, eighteen years old and first person narrator.  A Huck Finn type character, Adele speaks her mind, is eager to know her future. She shuns domesticity, knows she’ll likely be imprisoned by marriage, and worried it might be to the wrong man.

Adele’s father gives her a dun horse she names Whiskey, of mixed straw color, grey and gold with black legs, tail and mane. Whiskey is Adele’s beloved familiar, her best friend and true companion. Adele’s mother died of the fever five years before and her brother, with his withered arm, has fled to the hills to avoid being arrested and shot as the Federal Militia arrest Southern men they consider to be “weeds in the garden of humanity” and punish anyone with Southern sympathies.

Even though the Colley’s are officially “non-partisan”, with regard to the North and South, her father, a justice of the peace, is arrested by the Militia as Adele and her two little sisters watch. The Militia then set their house on fire, burning everything, even food and valuables, and beat her father up before taking him off along with Whiskey, who looks back at Adele as he is led away.

It’s hard to read Enemy Women  and pass it off as “just a story” because author Paulette Jiles prefaces each chapter with factual, primary source documents from the Civil War era, thus magnifying the power (and horror) of Adele’s story.  I experience every woman’s grief during the American Civil War as if it were happening now, in present time, and not a just as a subject of history. Are we all still stereotyped as “enemy women” now?

This book deserves the five stars I gave it on Goodreads.

 and MORE . . .

Like to know more about my writing?  Read my Smashwords’ profile and interview. 

My latest novel, Pillow Prayers, Love ruined, love reborn after the Summer of Love, is now available as an ebook as well as in paperback.

Buy the eBook of Pillow Prayers!

Read a sample and purchase the ebook of Pillow Prayers on the Smashwordspage.  Pillow Prayers is available in epub, mobi, pdf, lrf, pdb, txt and html formats. Buy the eBook of Pillow Prayers!

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Resurrecting my rejected manuscript

Hippy Bus
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
                  — Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet
The button every writer should wear

If you, like me, have stories you are dying to tell, you can appreciate the irony of this button I keep on my desk. But irony is only part of it, right? The art of writing may also be suggested by the perfectly calibrated words of Mary Oliver reminding me every time I sit down to write that I am heading for that room  where I will be able to call up and name the unimaginable.

 

For example, years ago I started what became a 400 page novel manuscript called Pillow Prayers based on my horrified response when a friend committed suicide after her pillow stitchery business failed.

Summer of Love

How could she do that? The question tortured me.

After almost ten years of writing the manuscript, I decided it was finished and sent it out to agents, publishing houses, and  few published writers including a famous crime novelist who wrote back that he “didn’t know what to do with it”.

There was little interest and so, feeling despondent and rejected myself, I put Pillow Prayers away. Fast forward to 2015 when I had just finished and published Spiral. a novel of magic realism set in the ancient Southwest. Now what? I asked myself as I gritted my teeth and pulled the Pillow Prayers manuscript out of the closet. Yes, I expected those metaphorical drops of blood on the button to soon be dripping from my forehead.

But that doesn’t happen. Instead, to my own amazement, I plunge into a deep, dark tale of love ruined and love reborn. I am suddenly in a room I could not have imagined where I’m seeing how to resurrect my three main characters: Beth, the Stitchery owner; Ruth, the scholar turned hippy artist; and Lonnie, the naive psychology student. I eagerly begin rewriting.

Hippy Bus

Daily I enter the room of the unimaginable. I cut out Beth, Ruth and Lonnie’s least understandable traits, editing, pasting in, enhancing and creating new juicy ones. In the process I relive Ken Kesey’s psychedelic bus and experience the folk, rock and soul music emerging from the Summer of Love. I feel the excitement posing as a flower child, the menace of the Civil Rights backlash, the horror and fallout from the Vietnam War, the allure of drugs, and the call of what was for me an exotic Buddhism. Most of all I bask in the sunlight of that rare and short-lived freedom I felt when we all first came to San Francisco.