Thursday, April 30, 2015

Making It Real: An All-Day Writing Workshop in North Carolina

I love it when people ask when my next all-day writing workshop will be. These workshops produce so much wonderful discovery, spiritual growth, and encouraging fellowship between those who attend. We eat, share, write, cry, and drink lots of tea and coffee. The meeting room is a large conference room at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh/Cary, North Carolina.

So since there is an interest, now there will be a workshop!

This all-day workshop is open to anyone who wants to discover the benefits of writing from heartache. There are many sorrows in life; writing through them brings healing, health and hope! Join us if you are going through or have been through a rough season and want to find helpful ways to pen your anger, lessons learned, frustration, or even joy. Let's be authentic! Let's make it real.

Be sure to sign up today to get the Early Bird Special!

Making It Real:

An All-Day Workshop of

Writing From the Heart

Date: Saturday, August 8, 2015

Time: 9:00 AM to 4 PM

Location: Hampton Inn and Suites

111 Hampton Woods Lane, Raleigh, NC 27607

Phone:(919) 233-1798

Facilitated by Alice J. Wisler

Alice is a bereaved mother, author of six novels, one devotional, a cookbook compiler (in memory of children), freelance writer, social worker, and instructor of many writing through grief workshops. She travels the country presenting her workshops of healing, health and hope.

In addition to having plenty of time to freely write, we'll focus on the following:

*Emotions in writing and how to make them real in our work

*How to write realistic dialogue

*What to leave in, what to keep out of our writing

*Tips for self-critiquing our own work

* Learning from the Greats --- how to write better prose

* Discovering our unique voices in our writing

* How to help others through our tough seasons

A light breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks, will be provided and are included in your workshop fee.

What you need to bring:

*Your own notebook or journal

*A comfortable pen

Click here to: Sign up today!


Friday, April 24, 2015

See why this novel is invited to Japan!

I grew up in classrooms filled with kids and teachers from all over the world. My high school, Canadian Academy, located in Kobe on top of a hill, had a view of the harbor which looked beautiful. My school also had a grassy area where we ate lunch in the warmer months. I recall looking around at my senior friends and noting the countries they represented. Malfrid from Norway, Sophie from France, Jules from Canada (the French region of Quebec), Sangeeta from India and Japan, Nada from Lebanon, Katie from California, USA. We are like a United Nations, I thought.

I know I almost failed algebra. And hated biology. But I never recalled learning anything in history about internment camps for Japanese-Americans during War World II.

I wish I had listened. One of my classmates' mom was in a camp during her youth. But that didn't register in my mind until long after I held my high school diploma.

It would be years later when I felt the need to write about this period of history. It would be when living in another country, at another setting. In North Carolina, I heard my friend Artie Kamiya talk about his mother who had been forced to spend years in a camp in Colorado after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. Shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed, those of Japanese descent on the West Coast of the U.S. were sent to various camps. Many forced to these camps were American citizens. Most had never even been to Japan.

This shows just has strong fear and prejudice go and how they eat at people's hearts and minds. Americans, born in the United States, had to leave their homes, board trains with one suitcase each, and head to bleak camps where barracks became dwelling places.

I wrote Under the Silk Hibiscus with the help of materials I received from Artie's mom. I was also able to interview Terri Takiguchi, a woman in my church who was sent from her life in California to a camp in Arizona during the war.

And this time I listened. At my computer, I heard the voices of dozens of others as I watched videos about one camp in particular---Heart Mountain in Wyoming. This camp became the setting for my fictional family, Nathan Mori, his siblings, mother, and aunt.

When I got the news that my high school wants me to come to Japan as an alumni author in residence, I couldn't believe it! Even now, most days, I think that I'm still dreaming. It's been since 1988 when I was there last as a teacher of English.

Early next year, I'll be flying to Japan, the country of my birth and childhood. In addition to going on a field trip with ninth graders to Hiroshima, I'll share about being an author and how I researched for my novel. I hear authentic food calling my name, too: Unagi, katsudon, chirashizushi, oyakodomburi, an pan, and of course, green tea ice cream (as pictured below).

I know it will be a most wonderful reunion.

You can read more about Under the Silk Hibiscus here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Recipe for Scones!

I found a delicious recipe for scones. I made them and shared them. Today I want to share the recipe with my readers, so here you are.



2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup dried currants
2 teaspoons fat-free milk
2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 425°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine 1/2 cup milk, vanilla, and egg in a bowl. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist (dough will be soft). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle surface of dough with dried currants. With floured hands, knead 4 times or just until the currants are incorporated.

Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut dough into 12 wedges, cutting into, but not through, dough. (This is tricky to do. You can see from my photo above, that I could have cut a bit deeper.) Brush 2 teaspoons milk over surface of dough; sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm, or cool on a wire rack. Cut scones into wedges. They are moist and delicious!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Guest Post: Cooking With Author Trina Matous

Welcome to my blog, Trina! First we have a bit about your books and then a recipe for stollen. Like you, Trina, I associate Christmas with stollen. My mother used to buy one at Christmas when I was a child growing up in Japan. We'd eat it Christmas morning.


The Christian Living Bible Study Series is easy-to-read,will help you understand difficult passages and shed new light on familiar verses. Each chapter includes three sections. The Background gives context for the Bible current chapter. The Overview elaborates on ancient cultural practices, religious customs, and original language words unfamiliar to today’s readers. The Insights offer application to life today as well as thought provoking questions for personal meditation and for small group discussions. As you learn more about the history and purpose of each verse, you will find yourself growing in wisdom and knowledge.

You can read more about the books here at the links on Amazon:
Paul’s Letters
The Epistles

About Trina
Trina has a Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry from Ashland theological seminary. She uses her speaking and writing talents to share the Trinity's overwhelming love, grace, mercy, and compassion with those who are lost, hurting, and in need of peace.

Trina's current series, Christian Living Bible Study, is born out of a desire for people to read the Bible regularly and better understand both what they read, as well as how these ancient texts apply to our lives today.


Recipe By Betsy Oppenner
Yield: 1 large or 2 medium loaves

I make Stollen bread at Christmas and love the fruit and almond paste combination. It is great on its own or toasted with butter!


2 cups fruit, dried, mixed, apricots, currents, raisins, craisins, dates
3 tablespoons rum, dark, or orange juice

For the Sponge
1 tablespoon yeast, active dry, or 1 (1/4-ounce) package
1/4 cup water, about 110 degrees F
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup flour, white, unbleached

For the Dough
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mace, ground
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
3-4 cup flour, white, unbleached

For the Filling
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, melted
2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
3 tablespoons sugar
3 ounces almond paste

For the Topping
1/2 cup sugar, powdered
1-3 teaspoon cream, heavy, whipping


1. Prepare fruit: Combine the mixed fruit, raisins, and rum. Cover and set aside. Shake or stir the mixture every so often to coat the fruit with the rum.

2. Prepare sponge: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 110 degrees F and add it to the yeast along with the honey and 1 cup flour. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and let rise until light and full of bubbles, about 30 minutes.

3. In the mixer bowl, add the fruit mixture, honey, egg, butter, zest, salt, mace, almonds, and 2 cups of the flour to the sponge. Using the paddle, beat the mixture on medium low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Change to the dough hook. Continue to add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just begins to clean the bowl. Knead 4 to 5 minutes on medium-low.

4. First rise: Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Shape and fill: Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. For 1 large loaf, roll the dough into a 9 by 13-inch oval. For 2 loaves, divided the dough in half and roll each half into a 7 by 9-inch oval. Brush the melted butter over the top of the oval(s). Between 2 pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap, roll 3 ounces almond paste into the lengthwise shape of half the oval. Fold the dough in half lengthwise and carefully lift the bread(s) onto a parchment-lined or well-greased baking sheet. Press lightly on the folded side to help the loaf keep its shape during rising and baking.

6. Second rise: Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise for 45 minutes.

7. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

8. Bake and cool: Bake for 25 minutes until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees F. Immediately remove from the baking sheet and place on a rack to cool.

9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. OR drizzle the top lightly with powdered sugar mixed with enough heavy cream to reach the consistency of honey.


This bread freezes nicely for up to 6 months. If freezing it, do not sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. To serve, first thaw the bread, then bake on a baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Recipe Notes
Long before the Romans occupied parts of Germany, special breads were prepared for the winter solstice that were rich in dried or preserved fruit. Historians have traced Christollen, Christ's stollen, back to about the year 1400 in Dresden, Germany. The first stollen consisted of only flour, oats and water, as required by church doctrine, but without butter and milk, it was quite tasteless. Ernst of Saxony and his brother Albrecht requested of the Pope that the ban on butter and milk during the Advent season be lifted. His Eminence replied in what is known as the famous "butter letter," that milk and butter could be used to bake stollen with a clear conscience and God's blessing for a small fee. Originally stollen was called Striezel or Struzel, which referred to a braided shape -- a large oval folded in half with tapered ends -- said to represent the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothing. Around 1560 it became custom that the bakers of Dresden give their king, the ruler of Saxony, two 36-pound stollens as a Christmas gift. It took eight master bakers and eight journeymen to carry the bread to the palace safely. This custom was continued for almost 200 years. In 1730 Augustus the Strong, the electoral prince of Saxony and the King of Poland, asked the Baker's Guild of Dresden to bake a giant stollen for the farewell dinner of the Zeithain "campement." The 1.8-ton stollen was a true showpiece and fed over 24,000 guests. To commemorate this event, a Stollenfest is held each December in Dresden. The bread for the present-day Stollenfest weighs 2 tons and measures approximately 4 yards long. Each year the stollen is paraded through the market square, then sliced and sold to the public, with the proceeds supporting local charities. Although there is a basic recipe for making the original Dresden Christollen, each master baker, each village and each home has its own secret recipe passed down from one generation to the next. There are probably as many recipes for stollen as there are home bakers. The commercial production of Dresden stollen is carefully licensed and regulated to ensure quality and authenticity. Authentic German stollen is usually sprinkled heavily with confectioners' sugar prior to serving. I personally have never liked this topping and choose to drizzle the tops of my loaves lightly with a simple icing (confectioners' sugar mixed with enough heavy cream to reach the consistency of honey).