Classic Writer Tries to Find This Country

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Travels with Charley in Search of America

by John Steinbeck

Copyright 1960

 

From the author of The Grapes of Wrath and The Red Pony comes an account of his travels cross-country to see what America was like. He describes driving from his home state of New York a full circle around the country with Charley, his French poodle, in a pick-up truck outfitted with a camper he had specially designed for the trip. He talks about people he met along the way and sites he saw, discusses visiting the place in California where he grew up and how it changed over the years, and reflects on hunting, being alone, and other topics. He describes a rally in New Orleans to protest black students attending white schools and how it affected him.

I believe John Steinbeck was in his fifties when he took this trip, about the same age as me, but this isn’t something I want to do, maybe when I was younger but not now. In fact, I hate traveling, especially by plane. I only do it out of necessity when I want to visit my brother in Florida or attend a writers’ conference. However, this book is a great way to go back in time and across the country without leaving the comfort of one’s arm chair and paying an arm and leg for gas.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Review: The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

Abbie-1The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Copyright 2016.

 

This collection of short fiction, poetry, and essays spans from Thanksgiving through New Year’s and beyond. In “The Thanksgiving Phone,” a blind woman finds a cell phone belonging to another woman whose son is in the military, serving overseas. In the title piece, a widow gets her long-awaited Christmas wish and more.

In “The Puppies of New Year’s Eve,” a dog breeder and a woman who buys two of his puppies discover they have a lot in common on a stormy New Year’s Eve. The author’s essays and poetry explore her holiday experiences while growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, adventures with her guide dog, and other topics. Instructions for playing a Thanksgiving poetry game and making Christmas cards are included.

I met Alice several years ago when she joined Behind Our Eyes, a writers’ group to which I belong. She’s a delightful lady who has inspired my own writing and helped and supported me and other writers.

Most of the material in her book has appeared on her blog over the years, but I enjoyed reading it again. For a second time, I was indignant after reading accounts of people in Catholic churches refusing to shake hands with homeless men during Mass and of one woman who told a homeless man he didn’t belong there. Again, I was moved almost to tears when a soldier serving overseas was reunited with his family at Thanksgiving. Many pieces in this book are appropriate for all ages, so I suggest families make it an annual tradition to read at least one of the stories together during this time of the year.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Review: Upwelling

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Upwelling: Poems

By Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2016.

 

The poems and essay in this collection cover a wide range of topics. In “Line by Line,” the author reflects on the process of writing poetry. In “The Marriage Pot,” she compares an ordinary pan to her relationship with her husband. In “Verona,” she takes us through the labyrinth of emotions she feels when meeting her guide dog for the first time. Other topics include death, eroticism, and a disturbing dream.

I could relate to the material in this book. It was all straightforward, down to earth, surprising, and heartwarming. I met Ann through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. In the dedication at the beginning of the book, she acknowledges our organization, calling us the “Blue Grass Pals” which is actually the name of our email list server.

Ann isn’t the only one who writes poetry based on her life experiences. The poems at the end of each chapter in My Ideal Partner were inspired by my six years of caring for my late husband Bill after two strokes paralyzed his left side. I think you’ll find it just as much of a good read as Ann’s book.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Four Ways a Dog Looks at Life (Poetry)

1.

 

I’m too outspoken

so I must wear a special collar

during the day while no one’s home.

When I alert the empty house, the collar

vibrates against my throat, feels weird. Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable,

causes me to whine when I speak my mind.

Life is “ruff.”

 

2.

 

“Turkey muffin, turkey muffin,” you squeak,

as my leash clicks into place.

What’s a turkey muffin, anyway?

It doesn’t sound nearly as appealing

as that rotten fish head in the alley.

Now, that’s what I want.

 

3.

 

Oh, you’re hungry.

You don’t live here

so you don’t know where anything is.

You can’t see very well, huh?

Well, how about some potato chips?

I know where they are, in the pantry.

Open this door–they’re right here on the floor.

Now, here’s one for you, five for me,

one for you, ten for me, one for you, twenty for me,

one for you, forty for me. Oh, the bag’s empty.

Just throw it away.

They’ll think you ate all the chips–ha ha.

 

4.

 

What’s that on the other side of the fence?

A white stick it is, rolling along the pavement.

A human pushes it.

I want to chase it

so I bark and bark and bark,

leap in the air many times,

try to fly over the fence.

I’m ignored–human and stick

walk and roll away.

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I decided to write the above poem when I read Francesco Marciuliano’s book, I Could Chew on This: and Other Poems by Dogs. It was also inspired by my recent visit to Florida, where my brother has two dogs, and my experiences with other canine friends over the years. I wrote four poems but then combined them into one. Click this link to hear me read it.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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