Letting Go: An Anthology of Attempts
by M.E. Hughes
GENRE: nonfiction, personal transformation
A fascinating collection of life stories told by 30 authors from eight countries. They write of their attempts to move beyond crippling grief, free themselves of haunting memories, get out from under abusive relationships. They tell of their struggles – often painful, sometimes funny - to let go of everything from a fear of horses, to old family homes, and piles of books and papers
EXCERPTS (Exclusive excerpt):
Throwing Out the Trash
“Who would take a picture of her mother throwing out trash?” asks Joyce Maynard, the writer.
Maynard is running a memoir class on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. In my diary the class is dated Monday, July 18, 2011. The group is looking at a black and white photograph taken in 1982 of my mother throwing out the trash. Her back was to the camera when I took the picture.
Prior to arriving in Italy, we had been asked to bring a picture from our lives. To do this, I had climbed over five boxes of children’s art, six dining room chairs and a mattress in our basement storage room under the back garden to retrieve the box of photos I keep, the ones that don’t go in albums or frames. I don’t throw these ‘reject’ pictures out, because I always hope one day to understand why I took them. The picture in front of the class was one of those.
In this photograph every kitchen cabinet door is opened. The label of every single condiment bottle is facing forward. My mom’s left arm and hand are outstretched as she reaches past the swinging top of the white plastic garbage can. The gesture is beautiful like my mother.
What you need to know to understand the picture is that my mother’s mother died when she was ten, and when my mother was eleven, her father remarried. His new wife threw out every single one of my mom’s toys and even gave away her bed. You also need to know that one side of my mother’s family is Mormon. Mormons never throw anything out. Mormon-style, my mother stored food for Armageddon, even on the seventh floor of a Park Avenue apartment in New York City. You also need to know that Armageddon arrived early for us, on a Friday, the first night of spring break in 1979.
“Take care of your mother,” says my father. “I know I can’t.”
“Thanks,” I say to a front door slamming shut.
It was a hard job looking after my mother.
She didn’t get out of bed for six months. I shopped, cooked, cleaned and took care of my brother. I did my father’s jobs of walking the dog, taking out the garbage and adding up the bills. I didn’t do my old job of changing the kitty litter. I left that for my mother. She didn’t do it. Finally to cook dinner for my brother without vomiting, I had to change the kitty litter. When my mother met Paul, the man she will marry a week after I take this picture, she got out of bed and changed the kitty litter.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
#1 Julie Strong, “Acadie”
Julie Strong is a physician and shamanic healer in Halifax, Nova Scotia and holds a medical degree from Trinity College, Dublin; a BA in classics, Dalhousie University, Halifax; and is trained in psychosynthesis, a transpersonal psychology fostering wholeness and creativity.
Her “Athena in Love” won the 2012 Canadian Atlantic Fringe Festival’s new playwright award; she received the 2010 Atlantic Writers’ Federation Award for short story; The Medical Post of Canada has published her articles. She has presented on madness and on the “Shamanic Roots of Western Medicine” in America and Europe, and teaches shamanic healing workshops, helping others find their power animals and spirit teachers. Strong was born in England.
#2 Roz Kuehn, “Commencing Being Fearless”
Roz Kuehn received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C She is the author of a novel, Various Stages of Undress (loosely based on six years as an exotic dancer in Washington, D.C., which was runner-up for the Faulkner-Wisdom Competition, and a finalist for both the Breadloaf Bakeless Prize and Bellwether Prize. She has also received numerous Delaware State Arts Council fellowships, including a $10,000 Master of Fiction fellowship, as well as a Barbara Deming Memorial Award for feminist writing. Her memoir, Losing Glynis, is about a coterie of well-meaning girlfriends who swoop in and make a royal mess of a close friend’s dying days. She acted as fiction editor for The Washington Review for four years and currently works as a legal secretary in a New York City firm.
#3 Emily Tsokos Purtill, The Perfect Mother
Emily Tsokos Purtill has won several Australian awards for young writers, including the prestigious Tim Winton Award for Outstanding Achievement for Young Writers. Her winning story was published in the anthology HATCHED (edited by Tim Winton, Fremantle Arts Press, 2013). She holds a bachelor of laws and a master of laws from the University of Western Australia and has recently returned to writing after working as a lawyer for eight years in Australia and Paris. In 2014, Emily was living in New York where she participated in an advanced fiction course at New York University. She currently lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and children. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
#4 Joan Scott, “The Paper Room”
Joan Scott was born in England. At fifteen she wrote a prize-winning essay about a trip to Paris. The newspaper prize paid for a baguette and a croissant. Years later when the writing life paled and the rent was due, she honed her creative writing skills with London advertising agencies, taught tango to VIPs, marketed wines and left rainy England for a Californian drought, where she became ‘Nanny Joan’ resulting in a nonfiction proposal, We Don’t Just Go Places, We Experience Them, for caregivers and grandparents to bolster children’s creativity.
Moving to Boston, she promoted textiles, wrote poems and articles on beekeepers, burying beetles and ballerinas, then joined corporate America to build a career in international marketing communications. While being paid to travel, she continued writing on sampans, helicopters and hi-speed Japanese trains. She has let go of paper with her slice-of-life blogs: “When Life Gets in the Way of Writing the Great British Novel,” and is becoming a fearless flyer, navigating social media with her psychological suspense, debut novel, Who Is Maxine Ash? She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
#5 Martha Ellen Hughes, “Isolation”
Martha Ellen Hughes founded the non-profit Peripatetic Writing Workshop, Inc., in 1991. This intensive writing workshop and retreat, lead by herself, Maureen Brady and other writers, meets twice annually, currently in Florida and Italy. She has taught creative writing at New York University for more than twenty-five years and is a free-lance editor of novels and nonfiction books. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College and is a native of Louisiana. For further information, please visit www.peripateticwritingandart.org.
#6 George P. Farrell, “Hoarding Memories”
George P. Farrell was born, raised, housed, clothed and well-fed in the Bronx, NY. Generally puzzled and baffled by life but always hopeful.
“In my early twenties I discovered writing as a cheaper and better alternative to psychological counselling. Discovered the Catskills was a good place to pursue a writing career and inspecting boats, a reasonable way to put food on the table. I have written six novels and a bunch of short stories, as I traveled along my learning curve, and so far have produced a literary income of forty dollars plus numerous, very-appreciated pats-on-the-back. I am looking forward, with some trepidation, to more of the same.”
#7 Marione Malimba Namukuta, “The Battle Within”
Marione Malimba Namukuta, twenty-eight, single, lives in Kampala, Uganda. She works as a researcher specializing increasingly in the fields of population and health, monitoring and evaluating both national and international projects.
Namukuta has keen interests in other cultures, a command of several languages and loves to write and travel. She writes children’s short stories and is a member of the Uganda Children’s Writers and Illustrators Association.
#8 Elizbeth Wohl, “Outside In”
Elizabeth Wohl was a journalist for many years, as an Associated Press reporter, a Ms. Magazine contributing editor and during the Vietnam War, a freelance reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Her fiction has been published in The Quarter, Fiction and other literary magazines. She lives in Brooklyn and is hoping the wisdom in this anthology will help her stop revising and let go of her novel.
#9 Nilo Alvarez, “Spoiled Fruit Bears Bad Seeds”
Nilo Alvarez was born on Negroes, one of many Pacific Ocean islands discovered in 1521 by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Named the Philippines for Spain’s King Philip II, eleven of the archipelago’s original 7,113 islands are under water, the victim of global warming. In his fiction, Alvarez often uses his small, friendly town of Talisa, where from the top of the water tower during his childhood all one could see were waving green sugarcane fields, planted during American colonization. Few people lived on Negroes; his aunt, a midwife, delivered all the babies. His mother often took him to movies and told him stories about her life. What he most enjoyed were her stories about World War II. Her colourful stories plus the movies inspired him to become a writer.
#10 Sue Parman, “The Holy Ghost Bird”
Sue Parman, a retired professor of anthropology, is the author of numerous academic books (including Scottish Crofters, now in its second edition). She has also won numerous awards for poetry, plays, essays, short stories and art. Her most recent book combines poetry and art (The Carnivorous Gaze, Turnstone Press, 2014). Her most recent article is a memoir based on her correspondence with Tolkien (“A Song for J.R.R. Tolkien,” The Antioch Review, 2015). She is currently completing, The Death Flower, a biomedical mystery set in the Amazon. For further information please visit www.sueparman.com or www.anthro.fullerton.edu/sparman. She lives in Oregon.
#11 Joe Levine, Finis
Farewell to a Novel Too Long in Progress
Joe Levine lives with his wife and daughters in New York City, where he toils in the spin trade. He wrote “Finis” about his unpublished novel, A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, in 2007. After subsequently sending the book to scores of agents without success, he has indeed let it go, although the characters live on in his mind. Recent events in his life have made him realize writing autobiographical fiction requires research, too—and the quest can be as perilous as any other.
#12 Evalyn Lee, “Throwing Out the Trash”
Evalyn Lee attended graduate studies at Oxford University, where she studied with the Joyce Scholar, Richard Ellman, and the literary critic, John Bayley. A former CBS producer, she has written on a wide range of topics, including the Gulf Wars and many investigative pieces for the likes of Dan Rather, Mike Wallace and Lesley Stahl. Her television broadcast work won an Emmy and numerous Writers Guild Awards. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, Diverse Arts Project and Willow Review. She is working on her first novel, living in London with two kids, one husband and Hugo the dog and writes: “This is my first personal essay. I mean every word I have written—if depression strikes, try to let go of shame and blame. Aristotle got it right: ‘It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.’ You are the light of your own life. If you can't see it, reach out and find others who can.”
Bacon Press Books: http://www.baconpressbooks.com/letting-go/
The author will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.