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SUNDAY SPECIAL: Time to Honor One of Our Own

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

Victoria Slotto, fellow poet and blogger, had her first novel – Winter is Past – published last year. Her second novel is in progress as is a poetry chapbook. Victoria is a gifted writer and poet, and I am proud and delighted to feature her here. Victoria and I have much in common in terms of values and life experience. It was gratifying to see how well she incorporated important insights and ideals into the narrative flow of her novel. You will fall in love with and not soon forget her heroic character, Claire. Jamie  

“See! The winter is past; the rains re over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth.” Song of Songs: 2:12

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420Enter a world where achieving inner strength and surviving the odds are possible

With a talent and voice unlike any other, Victoria C. Slotto captures the reader’s heart and mind with a tale of overcoming personal hardships and struggling with one of life’s most difficult questions, “What if…?”

What does a woman—a fearful woman—do when all she holds dear is in danger of being lost? Victoria C. Slotto’s romantic drama, Winter is Past, explores the depths of joy and sorrow women face and the paths that women find through fear.

Winter is Past explores Claire’s story, a woman with a perfect life—a husband she loves, friends, and meaningful work. As life changes around her, she shows us the strength of her spirit, as well as her belief.

Victoria C. Slotto, a former hospice nurse and a kidney transplant survivor, speaks from experience as she writes Claire’s story. But Winter is Past is not a memoir by any stretch; it is a story written by an accomplished poet and essayist.Victoria’s poems and short stories have been published in several magazines and journals since 2005.

The Plot of Winter is Past

After receiving a kidney from her best friend, Claire has a renewed delight in life. This newfound happiness is put on hold when she discovers Kathryn has cancer in her remaining kidney. To cope with a possible loss, Claire is forced to face a source of fear that has haunted her from early in life. Throughout her journey she will uncover an inner strength and survive the unthinkable. Claire’s fear is every woman’s fear. Her question is every woman’s—can she survive?

Critics Weigh In

Critics have already weighed in with reviews. Jean Davenport describes the novel as “A beautifully written and purposeful exploration of the meaning of life through love, loss and rebirth. The journey of Claire makes us all appreciate the fragile string our lives are attached to and how each event makes all worth living. A great read!”

Winter is Past was released December 2011 and is available in both print and e-book formats via most online retailers, which are listed HERE.

© 2012, 2013, photographs, Victoria C. Slotto, all rights reserved

Victoria and Dave Slotto
Victoria and Dave Slotto

Victoria C. Slotto attributes her writing influences to her spirituality, her dealings with grief and loss, and nature. Having spent twenty-eight years as a nun, Victoria left the convent but continued to work as a nurse in the fields of death and dying, Victoria has seen and experienced much. Because of her experience, Victoria is able to connect with her audience on an intimate level. She resides in Reno, Nevada, with her husband and two dogs and spends several months of the year in Palm Desert, California. Winter is Past is her first book published by Lucky Bat Books. Victoria is also an accomplished blogger, sharing her fine poetry with us HERE.

The Rrroarrs

rrroarr

With a nod to Phillip K. Dick, author of the canine short-story RoogGrandkitty Gypsy decided that felines need their own such story. Hence, as dictated telepathically by Gypsy, here’s one for the kitties.

They made her shudder, those big-rig delivery trucks passing along Pacific Avenue, a busy stretch that runs parallel to the street on which the new apartment is located. They  – a good three or four at a time – stopped at the grocery directly across from Py’s building. Given the trucks’ mighty roar and intimidating size, she was amazed to see the humans gathering round, diving into the back of the truck and moving boxes on pallet jacks.

Py tried – dare we say it – doggedly to alert her human to the potential threat. She looked pointedly at the scene unfolding outside the window and bobbing her head up and down she growled “rrroarrrrroarr.” Unfortunately her human doesn’t speak Feline. When the human finally did take a look, she didn’t appear at all perturbed by the frightening perspective, though Py recognized it as abject terror. Soon though she began to feel her terror give way to interest. Food! She could smell food in the air, food that disappeared into the store’s receiving area.

Pensive, she studied the humans swarming about the trucks. One thought lead to another as thoughts are want to do. Suddenly she realized why feline foods are so poor: dry, boring, tasteless, “scientifically formulated nuggets” recommended by Dr. Annie. “For weight control,” she says. Humph! Ffffup! thought Py. The truth is we have to substitute good flesh food for dry prefabricated crunchables because the rrroars make sure the good stuff is hidden away in the humans’ grocery store. Her nose told her there was fresh fish to be had and – Bastet willing – some of that fish would be hers.

Pywacket (Py)

Slowly a strategy began to form in Py’s mind. Her dear but scattered human was forever forgetting something when she left for work. It was her habit to leave the front door open while she ran back into the apartment to find her misplaced keys or to grab her almost-forgotten lunch. For once, Py decided, I’ll take advantage of that. High stakes call for high risks.

Her chance came the very next day. When her human so predictably left the door open, Py escaped. She did her best to stay out of sight and for a while camped out behind a dryer in the laundry room.

Time passed slowly, Py slept, and then waking with a start, she listened to the stillness. She sensed all the humans in the building were gone for the day or settled down to watch their soaps on TV. Now’s my chance! She shot across the street like a Roger Clemens‘ pitch and scooted behind some bushes to assess the situation. It was there that she met a handsome red-coated fellow of her own kind.

At last the rrroarrs were empty and gone and the humans disappeared into the store. Py and her new-found friend, Fluffernutter, high-tailed it into the store’s receiving room.  They maneuvered past the stacked boxes of canned food and cleaning stuffs, their sensitive noses tracking the sweet scent of wild Alaska salmon in the fish monger’s section.

Fluffernutter (Nutter)

Once out of receiving and into the store they knew they were vulnerable. They decided Py would be the distraction while Fluffernutter went in for the kill. Py wrapped the luxury of her softly furred self around the leg of the fish monger. She purred seductively. Naturally he bent down to pick her up. Who could resist? The man immediately adored her and fed her a scrap of sea scallop in gratitude for her attention. As planned, the fish monger was so taken with Py that he never noticed the theft in progress.

Fluffernutter nabbed a hunk of salmon and made his way unobtrusively back to receiving and on to safety. When the monger gave Py another bit of sea scallop and regretfully set her free outside, she headed straight for the apartment house where Fluffernutter – whom she soon came to learn is more nutter than fluffer – was waiting for her. What a feast they had and it turned out to be just the first of many …

* * *

It’s been almost four weeks now. Py and “Nutter” – as she calls him affectionately – have their routine down. The silly fish monger is still deeply enamoured of Py and has no sense of her cunning. It’s hard to tell who is more devoted to the little feline goddess, man or Nutter.

Earlier today Py went with her human to visit Dr. Annie, who chastised the human for overfeeding Py and not keeping her safe inside. She’s now up from a petite eleven pounds to a voluptuous thirteen and pregnant to boot.

Pywacket & Gypsy

© 2012, story, Gypsy Rose and Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved * Gypsy blogs at The Cat’s Meow

© 2012, Pywacket (Py), from the family album, please be respectful – Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

© 2012, Pywacket and Gypsy, from the family album, please be respectful – Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ rrroars and Fluffernutter by Junior Libby, Public Domain Pictures.net

 

SATURDAY ReVIEW: Writing Your Self, Transforming Personal Material

Copyrighted cover art, fair use.

We wrote the book because we believe that personal writing is very potent both for the writer and the reader, because some of the greatest literature is rooted in personal material. Myra Schneider in an interview HERE.

The subtitle of this book about personal writing is “transforming personal material.”  I think it is implicitly also about personal transformation. It always seems to me that writing and reading about life is a healing activity, a way to live hugely, and a way to empower ourselves and others. If we can do it well enough to engage others, whether our purpose is to leave a record behind for family, to set the record straight, or simply to share and entertain, the experience is rewarding.

Writing Your Self is the most comprehensive book of its type that I’ve yet to read, and I’ve read many. It is organized in two parts:

  • Part I: Here the focus is on life experiences, the exploration of those human experiences that are universal. These include childhood, self-conceptions, relationships, displacement, physical and mental illness and disability, and abuse.
  • Part II: Here the focus is on writing techniques, recognizing material that is unfinished, working on refinements, and developing work projects.

Writing Your Self is rich with examples from known and unknown writers including the authors. By example as well as explanation the authors reinforce what we all intuitively understand to be true: that telling stories preserves identity and clarifies the human condition. It helps us understand what it means to be human. The experience of working through the book was something like a rite of passage.

I very much can see the use of this book by individuals training themselves and by teachers of adult learners who wish to write memoir, poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. It would be useful in hospital therapeutic writing programs or in writing programs for active seniors.

Memories, both recent and distant, tell us who we are and so play a crucial role in our experience of life…

You may have memories which you want to plunge into or you may have material like a diary or letters which summon them up. There are other ways though of triggering memories. We offer a series of suggestions. Chapter 13, Accessing memories, secret letters, monologues and dialogues, visualizations.

I think Chapter 13 alone is worth the price of admission. I work a lot off of childhood memories and even the event that happened two minutes ago comes back to me with a dreamlike quality when I sit to write. I have not thought of the things I do naturally as triggers, but indeed they are. It was quite interesting to see these natural aids laid-out and organized on the page to read: objects and place as starting points, physical sensation as triggers, people in memory, and predominant feelings. The section on secret letters – that is, letters that you write someone and never send – was particularly interesting. I’ve only done this twice in my life, but I know some folks who do it all the time. I’m sure it is a common practice and would make a fine jumping-off point for some. The authors go on to monologues and dialogues – now everyone does that in their heads – and visualization. Hey, if you can see it, you can write it.

I’m an experienced writer and I enjoyed the book and the exercises and learned a few new things, got a few new ideas. If you are inexperienced or stuck midway in a transition from one form of writing to another, you’ll benefit from the exercises, ideas, and instruction in Writing Your Self: Transforming Personal Experience. This one’s a definite thumbs-up.

Myra Schneider  is a British poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and author of the acclaimed book: Writing My Way Through Cancer. Your can visit her HERE.

John Killick was a teacher for 30 years, in further, adult and prison education, but has written all his life. His work includes both prose works and poetry. You can visit him HERE.