A Short List

This short list is in response to “Read Like a Writer,” an activity designed by Gabriella Pereira ,  DIY MFA. Her website is https://diymfa.com.
A—Anthology of—Good Poems for Hard Times, edited by Garrison Keillor.
B—Book of Prompts—Chapter after Chapter, by Heather Sellers.
C—Craft—Story, by Robert McKee.

Since I would like to write cozy mystery with either a high school or college setting, these are some of the books on my “To Be Read” list.
Competitive Books
1. Maggie Barbieri, “Murder 101” series.
2. Denise Swanson, “Scumble River Mystery” series.

1. Christy, by Catherine Marshall.
2. Techer Man, by Frank McCourt.
3. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark.

1. See Competitive Books above.

Contextual Books
1. Columbine, by Dave Cullen.
2. A Mother’s Reckoning, by Sue Klebold.
3. Lessons from a School Shooting Survivor, Missy Jenkins Smith & William Croyle.
4. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch.


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How I Became a Word Nerd

Writing has been my secret ambition since I was old enough to deny having a secret ambition. My love of words began many years ago, when I first learned to read. Not too long after that, I wanted to write my own stories.
‘Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Martha. . . .’ No, I should change the name to something more exciting—like Bethany, or Rose Marie.
My first adventure as a word nerd was for a class assignment in fourth grade. As near as I can remember the assignment was to write about a true experience or to make up a story.
Immediately I knew my story would be shaped like a fairy tale. I knew I had to have three things—three golden apples, or some other delicious fruit. Maybe instead of apples, I could use lemons, the fruit that grew on the tree in our back yard in California.
I also knew my story needed a good person and a wicked person—like a wicked stepmother. I had recently acquired my own stepmother, who I was beginning to love. I didn’t think she was wicked at all. I did not want to make her the bad person in my story.
My teacher suggested that my story needed an unusual setting. Well, during the summer between third and fourth grade, I had moved from California to South Carolina, two very different places from opposite sides of the world. So I decided the setting for my story would be a hospital in California.
I don’t remember how I resolved the issue of the wicked person. Maybe I used a wicked disease that was cured by lemons. Even then I resisted changing fact to fiction. The tree I remembered grew lemons. Should I change lemons to oranges? As a word nerd, I surely could.
I do remember that my story was three hand-written pages long, and I had to read it in front of my fourth grade class. I don’t know if anyone actually groaned out loud, or if it was just something I felt like doing. ‘Oh, no! A three-page story!’ I do remember that my face felt hot, and I thought my cheeks must be as red as the sweater I wore.
Since then, through my forty-year career as a special educator, as a wife, as a mother, as a single parent, and now as a retired person who enjoys the role of loving grandmother, I’ve had many opportunities to put pen to paper, either for a class assignment, for work, or from a deep burning desire to write a story.
Now my word nerd tools include a lap top and a flash drive, but I still carry a small notebook in my purse for those unexpected moments when my muse speaks.
About fifteen years ago, I joined an organization called South Carolina Writers Workshop (now called South Carolina Writers Association), and began attending conferences and workshops for writers. I also joined several local writing/critique groups. I was finally ready to admit that:
1. Yes. I write.
2. I want to write well enough that other people will enjoy what I write.
Somehow, during my writing journey, my desire to write fiction morphed, and I found I enjoyed reading and writing poetry. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several poems, short stories, and personal narratives published. My publishing credits include: The Petigru Review, an annual publication of SCWW; moonShine review; Mom Writers’ Literary Magazine; and Catfish Stew, the precursor to The Petigru Review. My current works-in-progress include a chapbook of poetry, several short stories, and a murder mystery.


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A Review of Meredith’s Wolf, by Judith Barban


Review—Meredith’s Wolf by Judith Barban, Thomas Max Publishing, 2014, 164 pages.

 One morning, while her mother and stepfather were away, Meredith Marsten, sixteen years old, climbed into a small airplane and flew into the Canadian wilderness in search of Wolfie. Meredith had adopted Wolfie as a pet when he was a small, helpless pup. As he grew to maturity, she and her stepfather realized he needed to be with his own kind and released him into the wild.

 From the opening lines to the final words, this short coming-of-age young adult novel holds the reader’s attention with excitement and suspense. The setting for the novel—the Canadian wilderness—sounded incredibly beautiful but seemed to be chockfull with many dangers as well.

 My favorite characters were Meredith; Wolfie, also called Maengun; and Mark, the Ojibwe. I admired Meredith for her gutsiness and bravery in both raising a wolf pup to adulthood and then going after him. The sections of the novel told from Wolfie’s point of view are particularly poignant and educational. The introduction of Mark was a delightful surprise.

 I don’t want to spoil the plotline or the ending, but I will say there are plenty of twists and turns, and lots of unexpected characters.

 This book is a wonderful, exciting, suspenseful adventure, love story. I highly recommend it.





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Summer Reading Program–2015

My local library sponsored a summer reading program–mostly for children, but it also included an adult summer reading goal. The goal was to read three (3) books during June and July.

I’ve kept a record of books I’ve read for the last year–so keeping up with what I read during those two months was not a problem. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my list and discovered I’d actually read fourteen (14) books!

And, yes, I did win one of the weekly prizes–a $10 gift card for TCBY, a card both my five-year-old granddaughter and I enjoyed using.

My granddaughter also participated in the summer reading program by listening to either her parents or me read books to her. She completed eight (8) hours of listening, a little short of the goal of ten (10) hours for her age group. Thanks, Mommy and Daddy, for reading and counting the stickers!

What did I read? My number one choice for pleasure reading is mystery and detective fiction.

An old favorite was Victoria Holt, an author I discovered when I was eleven (11) years old. Mistress of Mellyn was just as exciting this summer! A new author who thrilled me just as much was Sandra Byrd, with Mist of Midnight. If you haven’t read it, find it and see what you think.

A new/old author I discovered by watching “Inspector Morse” on PBS was Colin Dexter. I read four (4) in that series.

Linda Castillo, author of Pray for Silence, was one author I re-discovered, and read two (2) in her Kate Burkholder series.

Re-reading Sue Henry’s The Serpent’s Trail was a special treat.

The remaining five (5) titles would be found in the Christian fiction section of your local book store: City of the Dead, by T. L. Higley; Face of Betrayal, by Lis Wiehl; Under a Turquoise Sky, by Lisa Carter; The Priest, by Francine Rivers; and Writer to Writer, by Thoene and Thoene.

Trying to decide which was my favorite book or series was extremely difficult but top honors go to Lisa Carter, Linda Castillo, and Sandra Byrd.

Which authors would make your list?


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First Book to Carry Me Away

What was the first book that you transported you to another world? Was there a book you never wanted to put down?

When I was a teen-ager or maybe a little younger, I picked up a magazine, Ladies Home Journal I think, and found a story. As I began to read, my mind traveled to another time and place–eighteenth century England. I could picture the huge house, the servants, the poor young lady hired to be a governess to a wild child. I couldn’t pronounce all the names, but that didn’t stop me from reading. I was so into the story, I couldn’t believe it when I came to the end, but instead of “The End”, the words said, “To Be Continued”. I had to wait another month to read the next part of the story!

I could hardly wait for the next installment. I did find the next issue and read the ending–or it might have been spread over three issues.

Later I found the book in the library. Mistress of Mellyn, by Victoria Holt. An incredible novel for a young girl to read. Once I discovered the author’s name, I read every book she wrote, as the library purchased them. I was hooked forever on reading gothic novels and romantic suspense.

What was the first book to carry you away?

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Kimberlyn Blum-Hyclak: In the Garden of Life and Death

What a treat it was to hold the slim volume entitled In the Garden of Life and Death: A Mother and Daughter Walk, Poems by Kimberlyn Blum-Hyclak, published by Main Street Rag, Charlotte, NC.


I would pick up the book, read one poem, savor it, and then put the book down. I soon found the Lays potato chip commercial to be true: “No one can eat just one.”

I took the book with me wherever I went, instead of a mystery or suspense thriller, dipping into it whenever I had a moment to read. I wore sunglasses in case someone sitting in the car parked beside me should notice tears on my cheeks.

I have known Kimberlyn Blum-Hyclak “Kim” for a number of years. I have always found Kim’s poetry to be wonderful, chockfull with images that are clear and yet form connections in unique and original ways. Her experiences touch the emotions in a healthy way. With a touch of humor and a lot of faith, she describes what it is like for a family to work through difficult and trying times.

For any mother, for any daughter, for anyone who has watched a loved one battle cancer, this book, In the Garden of Life and Death, is a must-read.


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Readings at Gallery 102

What a beautiful place to read poetry! Gallery 102 in Lancaster, SC, has many paintings and other types of art work by local artists on display. Carla Bryant and Kevin Lilly, owners of Gallery 102, have graciously opened their space to poets, fiction writers, and other writers to share their written words.


On January 11, 2015, a group of about fifteen people gathered for an afternoon of “Poetry and Prose”. Featured readers were Ed R. Green, author of Hope: The Sapphire Prison, Book One; and Donna Wylie, a poet with numerous published poems.


During Open Mic, the readers included Judith Barban, author of two novels and a book of poetry; Barbara Lunow, author of Are We There Yet?; Julie Cook, poet with two collections of published poetry; Rosemary Gray, poet and illustrator; Joy Colter, poet; and Martha T. Robinson, who read a non-fiction story, “Pass Christian, Mississippi Mission Trip”.

It was a wonderful afternoon filled with beautiful passages from some very talented local poets and authors!

The next reading will be on Sunday, February 8th. You won’t want to miss it! Craig Faris, author of The Spectrum Conspiracy and Barbara Lunow will be our Featured Readers.

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