Rising Up: Book Review

Beth Fowler headshotPamela H. Bender’s “Rising Up” is not a story focused on abuse or male bashing.

It’s a story of triumph, empowerment and growth.

Anna is married to an abusive husband and finally decides to file for divorce. This is when our protagonist begins the heroine’s journey.

To understand how vastly different her early years were from her adult married life, we are given several chapters that take place during her idyllic childhood. Ordinarily a trip down memory lane is fun for authors to write, but diverges away from the plot. Not so here. Knowing what Anna’s formative years were like puts her adult situation in high contrast. The experiences of her youth also explain how an intelligent, wise, loving woman can find herself in an unimaginable situation. Living with an abuser was unimaginable. When Anna’s parents (the Dennisons) witness their son-in-law verbally mistreat their daughter, the father says, “It’s our fault…We raised her to trust everyone.”

In the tradition of sensitive dramas, the physical and sexual abuse occur off stage. This works because Bender’s story-telling conveys volumes by what she chooses to omit, thereby engaging readers to participate actively in filling in the blanks.

When the pieces of Anna’s new life have come together, she learns she was not the only victim in the family. “Despite the warnings from the girls’ counselors, Anna remained naïve. She’d read Grace and Charlene’s joy at coming home as the end of their ordeal. Instead, it was the beginning of their own strategies for survival.” Then Anna learns that her son, as well as her two daughters, has a secret.

“Rising Up” is the work of a writer who knows the craft. Each character has a unique voice. (Writing instructors say readers should be able to figure out who spoke without relying on speech tags.) Many transitions, although sudden, are economical and smooth.

Because the book is self published, I lowered my expectations. And, yes, there are a few minor flubs, such as a reversed quotation mark. Also, one can’t judge this book by the images and verbiage on the covers.

I cherished each time I opened the book and continued reading about Anna and her heroine’s journey. I rationed out the last few pages. This is what readers do when they don’t want to finish a book populated with characters who seem very real and likeable. Readers who feel a sense of loss at having to say goodbye to a poignant experience upon finishing “Rising Up” will be glad to know that the Dennison family is also featured in “Until There Was Us” and “Worlds Apart.”

Visit Pamela H. Bender at http://www.pamelahbender.com/ and http://pamelahbender.wordpress.com

Review by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved, coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Turn Life into Income with Creative Nonfiction: Part 2

Beth Fowler headshotPublishers of memoirs, autobiographies, personal essays, travelogues and themed anthologies buy creative nonfiction. So do newspaper and magazine editors. Browse bookstores, including quirky independent stores and university bookstores, to find markets that publish creative nonfiction.

Periodical editors suggest (plead) with authors to “be familiar with our publication before submitting your work.” One creative nonfiction author subscribes to a different literary magazine each year to get a feel for what magazines publish. The flavor of stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series is different from stories in “Rosebud.”

Editors who consider creative nonfiction manuscripts want a strong theme or narrative that serves as a unifying thread through the story. Writers must be disciplined and ruthlessly trim passages that don’t support the theme.

If you think you have a memoir in you, read others’. Larry Brown’s On Fire, J.R. Moehringer’s Tender Bar, and Louis Erdrich’s The Blue Jay’s Dance are examples of the genre.

Carol Crawford, coordinator for the Blue Mountain (North Carolina) Writers’ Conference says, “Write small.” Narrow down the focus of the story to draw readers in. The biggest mistake most beginning nonfiction writers make is giving too much information. To help writers zero in on a theme, Crawford asks writers to sum up their stories in six words.

Crawford offers more advice for creative nonfiction writers. “Journal for catharsis. Craft for story.” Write naked with your back to the world. Forget about readers and editors and publishers on your first draft. Let ‘er rip. Open the gates of emotions. Stick your feet into the sneakers you wore as an 11-year old and let that character’s voice guide your pencil.

Use prompts to get you going. You’ll be amazed at where your creative mind will run once you unleash it. Here are prompts we used in a Creative Nonfiction workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School. (www.folkschool.org) “If only someone had told me about…,” and “Write about being nice to someone you detest,” and “Write about the time the ___________ caught on fire.”

After writing hot and heavy, go back and make design decisions. Erdrich’s design decision in The Blue Jay’s Dance was combining three babies into one character. She states this up front in a contract, so to speak, with the reader.

Creative nonfiction reveals the author and another person or other people clearly, as well as establishing a time and place readers can visualize. Most publishers don’t want lyrical description for the sake of lyrical description. Nor do they want pieces that are emotion only. Something’s gotta happen. Someone’s gotta change. Creative nonfiction, like other well-crafted manuscripts, has a beginning, middle and end. In Your Life as Story, Tristine Rainer suggests writing about a problem, your struggle to resolve it, and the resultant transformation or realization. The main character’s change can be inner as well as outer.

In Cold Blood first appeared in “The New Yorker” in four parts. Papers sold out. Then the nonfiction novel became one of the most talked about books of its time. Dubbed an instant classic, In Cold Blood earned its author millions of dollars and celebrity status.

“Sometimes when I think how good my book can be,” Capote said, “I can hardly breathe.”

Breathe. Write. Edit. Shape your experiences into salable manuscripts.

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Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.