Writer’s Block

kitty book

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post for my Writer’s Block theme so I thought I should give all of my readers an update on what is going on with my life.

First, I have written over 200 posts for this blog. Here is to 200 more!!!

What else? Well, I have fun plans for the extended holiday week-end. I’m spending Thanksgiving with some friends and all I have to do is bring a bottle of wine and an appetite. Yay! And though I usually eschew Black Friday like I eschew reading anything by EL James, I am going to pop off to one of my favorite shops because everything is going to be 50% off that day.

On Saturday, a friend and I are going to the Urban Garage Sale at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall venue. Urban Garage is a rummage sale/craft fair hybrid, and two of my friends are selling their wares. They are very talented artisans and I hope they sell lots of their pretty bling.

On Sunday, I’m going to take it easy, read a bit and do some early in the week cooking.

And yes, this blog is not far from my heart, mind and soul. Look for two reviews next week, one for a novel and one for a memoir. And I just started reading Robert Reich’s latest Saving Capitalism so look for a review of that book in a couple of weeks.

Well, that’s a quick update. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Book Marks


The iconic Parisian Bookstore, Shakespeare & Co, provided a safe haven during the attacks.

These warm and inviting book stores should be on every readers’ bucket list (or should I say “book-it list?”)

Judy Blume’s Forever isn’t the only YA novel that doesn’t make light of teen sexuality.

It looks like Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak aren’t the only people who worked a “The Office” and are writers. Rainn “Dwight Schrute” makes his literary debut with The Bassoon King.

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates wins National Book Award for his non-fiction book Between the World and Me.

Pushcart Prize just had its 40th birthday.

Meet blue-haired, punk rock granny, writer Anne Bernays

To hell with Tinder and Match.com! Have a blind date with a book!

Rules vs. Tools-One writer’s opinion.

We all know bigots in the United States want to deny Syrian refugees from entering our country. Want to know who was denied entry into the United States? Anne Frank! Think about it Donald Trump, Fox News and other assorted Xenophobic assholes!

Book Review: Meet Me Halfway-Milwaukee Stories by Jennifer Morales

Meet-Me-Halfway-coverJennifer Morales is a former Milwaukee-based activist focused on education, and once acted as a board member for Milwaukee public schools. Now she can add published author to her list of accomplishments with the release of her interconnected collection of short stories in Meet Me Halfway-Milwaukee Stories.

Meet Me Halfway opens up with “Heavy Lifting.” In this story, Johnquell, an African-American teenage boy, is mortally wounded when helps his white neighbor, Mrs. Czernicki move a heavy piece of furniture in home. Feeling fully, responsible, Mrs. Czernicki feels compelled to connect further with Johnquell’s family that goes beyond attending his funeral. She becomes friendly towards Johnquell’s grieving mother and learns more about Johnquell from his siblings, learning though there are differences that divide us, there are also shared experiences that explain our shared humanity.

Thus, Meet Me Halfway, uses “Heavy Lifting” as a launching pad to share intermingling stories about various Milwaukee residents in one of America’s most segregated cities-Milwaukee.

In “Fragging,” a still alive Johnquell describes his experiences as a black student from a lower middle class family in a mostly white, wealthy suburban highschool.

In “Revision” Stu Reid’s limited ideas on young black men change when he feels compelled to attend Johnquell’s funeral after dealing with him in class as a substitute teacher. Perhaps Milwaukee’s answer to Rush Limbaugh, Clark “Psycho” Sykora, doesn’t have all the answers after all.

When flowers are “Misdirected” and accidentally sent to Johnquell’s mother Gloria that are meant for another woman, Gloria learns a long-kept secret of Donna Tillet, a white suburban matron, a secret that kept Donna estranged from her children for far too long.

And in the final chapter, “Pressing On,” Tarquan, Johnquell’s surviving brother navigate the difficult aftermath of his brother’s death, putting up with the questions from concerned adults, his siblings, and high school friends and peers. If adults can’t explain life and death, how can Tarquan? Perhaps, some day he’ll have the answers.

Morales’s empathetic and vivid writing is both thought-provoking and inspiring. In a city like Milwaukee, so segregated amongst all races,  Morales is able to fully evoke the multi-dimensional characters with wisdom and grace. She doesn’t just feel for these men, women and children; Morales’ feels with them as truly masterful writers should and do. Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories is a slim book that spoke to me in volumes. And I hope it is not the only book Jennifer Morales has within her. I want more books from such a talented writer.

Book Marks

book mark storeRoxane “Bad Feminist” wins PEN “Freedom to Write” Award. Go Roxane!

A brick and mortar Amazon store opens in Seattle.

Japanese hotel caters to book lovers. Hey, can we get this in the US?

It’s about time. American Writers’ Museum to open in the Windy City in 2017.

Prolific actor, Gary Oldman, slated to write vampire-themed books.

November is National Novel Writing Month, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Who says you have to spend writing a novel in November? Maybe you can write a non-fiction book. Here are some tips to get you started.

Cats and books. A purr-fect combination!

The very best in illustrated children’s books according to the New York Times.

Ten self-published authors who hit the jackpot.

Book Reviews: Cassette from My Ex-Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves edited by Jason Bitner

cassetteI recently saw a news piece on how cassette tapes are making a bit of a comeback and are quite popular amongst music lovers. And not only are they popular with nostalgic with Generation X, who have fond memories of creating their own cassette tapes. They are also gaining popularity amongst teens and twenty-somethings. Inspired by this new found tidbit, I just had to post the following review I published for an old blog of mine.

Co-creator of Found magazine Jason Bitner was cleaning out his basement when he came across a mix tape from an old girlfriend. Intrigued by this musical part of his past, he created a blog and asked some of his friends to submit stories about the mix tapes they received from former boyfriends and girlfriends. Now he has gathered around 60 of these stories and published them in Cassette from My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves.

Long before we burned CDs and way before we downloaded songs into our iPods, people made mix tapes. We used these lovingly-crafted compilations to express our feelings or just to show off our musical taste. And though iPods are convenient, mix tapes had a human quality that mp3 players lack. Perhaps, it was the warm hiss a cassette made when it was played in a boom box, or the handwritten labels that adorned them. Either way, the essays truly convey how much these simple tapes meant to the writers.

You’re probably already familiar with book’s essayists that include Maxim‘s editor- in-chief Joe Levy, Bust magazine managing editor Emily Rems and Claudia Gonson of the Magnetic Fields, all contributed. Former Rolling Stone writer Jancee Dunn is also included and music journalist Rob Sheffield (who wrote the ultimate musical memoir with “Love Is a Mix Tape”) has also written an essay.

Stories run the gamut from funny to heartbreaking and everything in between. Arthur Jones has difficulty getting it on with his girlfriend because her music of choice was Pearl Jam at the time. Nina Katchadourian remembers a tape she got from a boyfriend while she spent a summer in France. Rick Moody and Stacey Richter share their memories of their cassettes via letters to each other. Anne Jensen finds out she is the receiver of a hand-me-down tape. And sadly, Starlee Kline’s old mix tape brings up memories of her college boyfriend who got cancer.

Interspersed throughout Cassette from My Ex are a few tidbits about making mix tapes. One segment tells us about the types of mixes people traded and the “dos” and “don’ts” to making a mix tape. Do use your own music collection. But don’t forget the track listing. Not everyone is psychic and is going to know every song you include on a tape.

I do have a few reservations about this book. The demographics of the writers are mostly white, college-educated and middle to upper-middle class. There is plenty of talk of traveling throughout Europe and exotic locations. Also, a majority of the writers work in creative fields-media, film, design, etc. I think it would have been interesting to read stories by people who didn’t go to college or who have more working class backgrounds. And as much as I adore creative people, accountants, police officers and nurses also love music. And I bet a lot of them can write, too.

But for the most part, this was a great read. In fact, I got so nostalgic that I dug through some of my old cassettes and played a few of my own mixes. I often refrained from making tapes for the guys I dated; far too many of them looked down on my musical taste. So I made them for my girlfriends instead, usually when they suffered a bad break-up. Somehow, I’ve always been able to find the right songs to go with heartbreak.

If you’re looking for a way to travel down a musical memory lane, you can’t go wrong with Cassette from my Ex.