Monday, July 15, 2019

Does Pain and Suffering Make Us Better Writers?

This is how it happened for me. On a memoir-mentor's blog, a question was posed. I can't remember the exact wording because it was over a week ago . . .  or was it two weeks? . . . Perhaps a month?

Does Pain and Suffering Make Us Better Writers?

Anyway, her question prompted me to reply in the comment section of her blog. I wrote a lengthy response. The blog was the kind that comments have to be approved by the owner. An hour later it hadn't been approved yet.

I waited.  And I tweaked my response a bit. Editing is always a good thing.

A day passed.

My comment still had not been approved.

I wrote to the author.

She replied. (That's always encouraging.) No, my comment had not been banned or tossed aside, she reassured me. She would look into it.

Ten hours later my reply appeared on her blog.

So what was that question?
Oh, yes. Does Pain and Suffering Make Us Better Writers? Do you have to have gone through suffering in order to produce a believable story about suffering?

I wrote:
I know that the first part of my life was much easier than the last two decades have been. Before I think my writing showed stories of life on the “more happy, less sad” spectrum. Now my writing (fiction and non-fiction) reflects the suffering I have been through (death of a young son, bipolar alcoholic ex-husband, adult kids making a number of sad choices, etc.). I’d like to think that the longer I live, the more I’m able to incorporate suffering into my writing with it coming across as “reality” and not “woe is me”. I aim for being authentic. I don’t want to edge away from truth, which, I think is, that the world is a broken place with lots of hurting people carrying loads of baggage. I also believe it is a place where slices of beauty show up and where love abounds. I want to read the works of those who have lived through (or are living through) suffering and show the rest of us how it is done well. I don’t think someone who hasn’t suffered can write a story with hardships that will be believable. One of the reasons I feel this way is because I read a novel where a situation that was something I have been through was done wrong: A mother forgot the day her child died. She had to be reminded by a friend. That just doesn't happen. All the moms I know who have lost a child remember the death date. Always. I do. I think we need to be careful that we really know our subject, especially if we are writing about a suffering we have never experienced.

So now I ask you:  Does having experienced pain and suffering make us better writers?

How about better people?

Feel free to leave a reply in the comments below.  (And rest assured, your comment will appear immediately; no approval needed.)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

This is How You Eat Watermelon

This is how you eat watermelon.

Fully committed, no regrets, all in.

Daniel was three and had just been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a malignant tumor in the left side of his neck. He'd had surgeries and a double-lumen catheter surgically-implanted in his body. His hair was going to come out, hence, the bowl-hair-cut, just to tidy it up until the inevitable happened.

Eight months later, he would die. His fun-loving and intelligent brain would suffer due to not enough oxygen. An infection was the culprit. That was the beginning of the end. The cancer wouldn't kill him; the treatments to get rid of it would.

But on this day in early June 1996, Daniel was happy. He was discharged from the hospital and there was watermelon waiting at home. He and his big sister sat on the driveway with their slices. Rachel picked hers up and took small bites. But not Daniel. He planted his face into his slice. Juice dripping down his chin, his cheeks, his neck.

Because that is who Daniel was. Full-throttle, energetic, silly, fun, not afraid to try something new. Enjoying our laughter.

In the twenty-two years since he has been gone, I've become extra fond of watermelon. Each time it is served to me, I feel I'm being honored with the memories of a precious kid. I want to remember; I want to dive into those special times he brought to our lives.

I miss you, Daniel.  Thanks for showing me how to plunge in---even into the unknown---and not be afraid.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Adversity, Lilies, and Why We Don't Give Up

My son gave me bulbs for Mother's Day. I asked for them; it's nice when kids listen to their mamas.

I'm not sure why a woman with no ability to cultivate growing things other than perhaps, children and pets, would ask for flowers. Of course I love flowers and the way they make me feel alive and joyful. But I have never had the proverbial green thumb like my neighbors do.

In my garden, I wait each spring for the purple irises to bud. Those bulbs were planted by the previous homeowner. I don't have to do a thing and they flourish and look pretty.

Days after I received the Mother's Day bulbs-----Oriental Lilies----I planted them. I read the instructions on the back of the package that the six bulbs came in. For the region I live in, the hot and humid South, planting season was May and since it was May, I was right on target. My husband bought a set of garden tools so I didn't have to dig the holes with my bare hands. I read the instructions again, not wanting to miss something. We non-gardeners have to be careful. Eight inches deep, plant one bulb, plant the next three inches from it, and so on.

I watered. I waited. I got excited when I saw a green shoot come up. It was only a blade of grass.

Each morning I went to check on my bulbs.

And then one day something that was more sturdy than a blade of grass poked out of the mulch. It was green and thick and I was sure it was a lily's stem.

We went away on a vacation and while gone, Durham had heavy rains and even flooding. When we returned a week later, the stem of that one lily was even larger. Days later a new shoot appeared.

According the the package, the Oriental Lilies are to bloom in late summer. So for now, all I'm going to see are green stalks. But each time I water those beginnings-of-what-is-to-come, I have hope that in a few months, they will look just like the picture on the package. 

Currently I am in a position of waiting. Which is nothing new, really, I am one of those who ends up waiting on something often---from the small to the extreme: A check to arrive in the mail, a kid to change his attitude and lifestyle, a friend to be discharged from the hospital, a business to take off and make money for bread and meatloaf. This month as I water the ground where I planted the bulbs, I think about waiting a lot.

And I learn. Like the bulbs, we grow. It takes time to be all we were created to be. But slowly, we do push through and push forward. We have to fight at times not to give up on ourselves and on others.

So whatever you are waiting on today, keep waiting. Use the time to grow---whether it be in patience or some other way. If you are like me, a writer waiting to get a manuscript accepted by a publisher, be strong. Keep improving your craft, write other things (like a blog post). Try not to sink into despair, which by the way, I have done, and will most likely do again in the future. I doubt the big things in life, and the small. I have to trust that the printed instructions about how to plant the bulbs were correct, and that these bulbs are really lilies and that they will look like the beautiful lily on the cover of the pouch one day. And I also have to protect them from bugs and critters that like to feast on their leaves. Otherwise, I am wasting my time watering and waiting.

Like the life of my bulbs, set-backs will happen (flooding), perhaps all you wanted will not happen (I'm not sure the other four bulbs will make a debut), and you will grow older (but hopefully in the process, much stronger and more lovely instead of bitter or eaten by bugs). If I can learn valuable lessons about myself, God, love, and hope along the way, I will become gracious and wise.

The two stems greet me every day and if they could talk, I think they would say: Keep the faith, grow on. And don't forget to smile into the sun when you are able.

How do you handle the tough challenges of living? What works for you?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Cooking with Author Han Gibson!

Welcome to the Patchwork Quilt!

Thanks, Han, for joining us here and for sharing a recipe and your books.

Han Gibson: I was actually surprised not to have to go and think about which recipe to share. My ultimate dish is a childhood favourite and traditional coconut milk tart / pudding I adjusted to suit a busy family.

Makes 4-5 standard tarts.

Crust:  4-5 packets of coconut shortbread biscuits. Crumble and add a bit of coconut oil or butter until it makes a dough. Press out thinly into tart dishes and normal bake until golden brown or crispy.

Filling: In a large, heavy bottomed pot, place 2 cups brown sugar (or less to taste), one and a half litres of milk and 8oz (226gr) of butter. Bring to the boil over a high heat stirring continuously. While waiting to boil, blend 3/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of corn starch with a bit of milk or water. Add 4 large, beaten eggs to the flour mix and add to the pot when contents tart to boil. Put on low heat and keep on beating the filling to avoid lumps. Boil for 4-5 minutes or until the taste of the flour is no longer evident. Add 5ml of vanilla essence or real vanilla. When the mixture is stiffening, pour out into the cooled crusts. 

Allow to cool. Sprinkle cinnamon powder over cooled tarts and refrigerate until cold.

Devour everything in one sitting.  

Alice:  I think I will devour in one sitting. This Milk Tart has so many of my favorite flavors---shortbread, brown sugar, vanilla, and that creamy custard.

Tell us about yourself and your  books. You had a traumatic experience that led you to write an autobiography and then your fiction. How awful to have to go through the accident for you and your family!

Han Gibson: In 2004 I was caught up in a cooking oil explosion, sustaining third degree burns to 35% of my body including my face and both hands. I twice went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated by the emergency personnel. It took quite a while for me to get back to functionality, with healing, physiotherapy and two small children to contend with (my baby was seven weeks old when the accident occurred.)

In 2008, after the scarring finally started to heal with the products my husband had developed for me, he gave me a laptop, encouraging me to stop saying that I would one day like to write a book and actually do it.

One book quickly became a 2-million-word series packed full of reading excitement.

After the autobiography about my near death experience, Living a Multidimensional Life, The Han Storm Saga continues to unfold.

The Chronicles of Han is loosely categorized by readers as real life past life adventures enhanced with metaphysical/paranormal undertones, a good dash of romance and a sprinkle of horror.

It was not my original intention for people to grow and heal through reading The Chronicles of Han. I started to write the books to heal myself. My husband and a host of fans cannot wait to read the rest of my re-tellings, finding them extremely exciting stories.

If you love Avatar, The Matrix, Dune, Stargate or Lord of the Rings, these books will suit you.

My books are not on Amazon. You will have to purchase directly from me. Some books are available for free on Smashwords.

You can contact Han Gibson at these social media places:
Facebook: @ChroniclesofHan

Alice: Thank you, for joining us, Han, and sharing here!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

There's nothing more dangerous . . . A chance to win our new cutting board!

So when my husband and I find a quote we like, we often engrave it onto a cutting board.

A few nights ago we watched the movie, The Wife (based on the 2003 book by Meg Wolitzer.). When actress Glenn Close said this line, we had to rewind and listen again. And again. I elbowed my husband and he grinned at me.

Here's the quote: "There's nothing more dangerous than a writer whose feelings have been hurt."

As a writer, I can relate to that line. Can you?

So, the quote has been engraved and the cutting board is ready to view.

Here's your chance to win our bamboo cutting board. Simply follow the instructions below to win this 13 3/4" x 9 3/4" bamboo cutting board. It's free to enter.

You can also find out more about this cutting board here at our Etsy shop.

Enter the contest:
1) Post a comment in reply to the statement: "There's nothing more dangerous than a writer whose feelings have been hurt."  Agree with the line? Disagree? Have a witty line to tell us?
2) Must be in the USA to enter and win.
3) Names will be drawn (without peeking) later this month.
4) The winner will be notified on Facebook in a message from me.
5) Once the winner has provided her/his address to me, the winner will be sent this engraved bamboo cutting board.

Leave your comment below.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Cooking With Author Yvonne Robertson!

Today I welcome author Yvonne Robertson to the Patchwork Quilt Blog's segment, Cooking With Authors.

Yvonne Robertson was born in Holm in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. She grew up in Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire. Her father was from The Shetland Islands, the most northerly part of Scotland and closer to Norway than to the Scottish mainland. Her mother came from the beautiful county of Argyll on the west coast of Scotland. She has four brothers and one sister.

In 2007 Yvonne, her husband, and sons, made the momentous decision to relocate to the USA. They packed up and moved 4000 miles to Atlanta, Georgia where they still live today.

Yvonne has a recipe for us.  It looks delicious.

Sticky Toffee Pudding 


     100g/3½oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
     175g/6oz light muscovado or brown sugar
     2 large eggs
     225g/8oz self-raising flour
     1 tsp baking powder
     1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
     3 tbsp black molasses
     275ml/9½fl oz full-fat milk
     Whipping cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

For the sauce

100g/3½oz butter
125g/4½oz light muscovado or brown sugar
1 tbsp black molasses
300ml/10fl oz whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla essence


1.    Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Butter a wide shallow 1.7-litre/3-pint ovenproof dish.
2.    Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and molasses into a mixing bowl. Beat using an electric handheld whisk for about 30 seconds or until combined. Pour in the milk gradually and whisk again until smooth. Pour into the prepared dish. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until well risen and springy in the center.
3.    To make the sauce, put all the ingredients into a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. Bring to the boil, stirring for a minute.
4.    To serve, pour half the sauce over the pudding in the baking dish. Serve with the cream or ice cream.

About the Book . . .

Cuckoo in the Nest: Lauren is the first book in a contemporary romance trilogy, each has a 'Happy for now' ending but there is continuing suspense that's revealed in the third book. The second book is also available and the third will be released in a couple of weeks.
The beautiful Baker triplets, Lauren, Madison and Angel.

Children's book illustrator Lauren Baker takes a break from work and goes to Scotland to try and uncover the truth behind her birth almost three decades earlier, after a shocking death bed confession by their father. He admits in his confused state that he and his wife Nancy were not the birth parents, but the sisters don't know which one of them he was talking about.

Reeling from the implications, she rents a cottage in the quaint Scottish village in the beautiful Angus countryside to begin her search for the truth. Distraction is the order of the day however in the form of local Adonis Dr. Daniel Reece and his adorable son Dylan. Innocent Lauren finds herself caught up in a love affair so intoxicating she puts it above all else.

And then there's Anna, his late wife's sister, cold, calculating, beautiful and out to catch Daniel, anyway she can. When Lauren finds evidence that Daniel has been intimate with him, she flees from him, her heart crushed.

From the bright lights of Atlanta to the beautiful Scottish countryside, follow these strong, independent women as they fight to uncover the truth about their identity and find love and passion along the way.

This is Lauren's story. 

See more about her novel and get a copy of Cuckoo in the Nest: Lauren here on Amazon.

So glad you joined us today, Yvonne!