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Peter Murphy: A Few Helpful Tips on Writing about Family

Writing about family can be a very dangerous business because not all families teem with the ideals of unconditional love and the consistent and constant support so often attributed to the institution. Many, it would seem, are populated with jealous and cranky contrarians who have the ability to see slights in everything, said or unsaid, action or inactivity, presence or absence; the types that will see themselves in books that are not about them and cannot when they are. These are the sort of people that will never be happy with how you have written them. If presented in less than flattering light, they will threaten legal action, disowning, or shunning. While if you choose to be more posit

Peter Murphy: Writing about Family

Just as the next (last) book is about to go out and meet the world, I got a nice message from my publisher informing me that the number of requests to review were encouraging. It was tempting, but I am too hoary to be getting excited about chickens and eggs. Not cynical, just experienced enough to take it all—success and success deferred—for what it really is. Like most writers, I had hoped that my first book would change the world and set all to rights. It did for a few, but most people remain blissfully unaware of it and I learned to be okay with that. I just went on and wrote some more. That is why I use the term “next (last).” Because right after I send a manuscript off to the publisher,

Ken Goldstein: Three Thousand Ears in Cape Town

You're probably thinking there is a typo in that headline. Nope. It's correct. Not years. Ears. This is a story about service. This is a story about choices and not enough choices. This is a story about experiential learning and tangible human impact, one small moment at a time. Three thousand is an estimate of how many children's ears were recently screened in Philippi Township, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. At best count and two ears per young child, a volunteer team screened about 1500 children for otherwise undetected ear infections. If left untreated, this preventable and correctable condition could easily have left many of these children permanently deaf. About ten required im

Cara Sue Achterberg: We're All Just Practicing Normal

I live on a rural street. My neighbors are measured by miles, not feet. We have plenty of “head cases” (my husband’s term) out here. Paranoia, gun ownership, and chicken-keeping run high. There have been lots of times when my children have said, “I wish we lived in a real neighborhood,” especially when they can find no one to play with beyond their siblings on a snow day. When they lament the lack of neighbors, I try to assure them they aren’t missing anything. And we have woods and streams and horses and fresh tomatoes! Despite all those benefits, I have wondered how our lives would be different if we lived in a traditional neighborhood; I’ve indulged plenty of ‘what-if’ scenarios about lif

Lynn Voedisch: Twin Souls

My first Story Plant novel, The God’s Wife, came about for the oddest of reasons. The book, a historical fiction/fantasy, basically follows the induction of a 16-year-old girl into the role of God’s Wife of Amun, a real position in ancient Egypt. However, the book was first sparked by a movie I saw years before I wrote one word of The God’s Wife. I had seen a movie called The Double Life of Veronique, a French/Polish film by Krzysztof Kieslowski, at an art film venue. Double Life, starring Irene Jacob (who won The Best Actress Award for her role at the Cannes Film Festival), is about two women, one French (Veronique) and the other Polish (Weronica). Both look alike, are involved in music, ha

Molly D. Campbell: What If?

Every novel has a premise. They start with just a whim or an idea in the author’s head. What if this happened? My novel Keep the Ends Loose started this way. I was in my car, listening to a podcast about life-altering events. Each story started with something somebody did that turned their world upside down. One decision. One thought. One move. As I drove along, I wondered how somebody’s decision to change one little thing might affect the rest of their life. What would happen to a family if one member decided to do something, not even realizing the ramifications? I thought about the advice that many give to folks tempted to have affairs: don’t think you can get away with this. People will g

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