April 30, 1975


"Bao, wake up. Don't fuss. Hurry. We must go!"

The muffled restraint of my mother's voice woke me from a dream. A dream I had many times pondered over in the morning after. A dream of flight, of rush. A dream just like this moment.

Through foggy eyes I watched her dress my sisters without tenderness. I could see her panic. It became mine. The unfamiliar sound of silence assailed our ears as we ran, crouching low, my mother's hand on our heads pushing us down. I could just barely see the sun setting. The sky was red, stained with blood.

"We must not stop. We must not wait. It will be too late. Hurry, now!" She urged us on.

Ahead of us I could see it. I could hear the deafening whir of the grey metal beast. People were screaming out of anger, fear, confusion. Men pushed me aside, but my mother held onto my collar tightly. Her three children herded in front of her. Our heads were down, always down.

I can hear her pleading. The sickening pleas of a mother torn.

"Lady, there isn't time. You must choose now. There isn't enough room."
"Let them go, I'll stay." She promised, pushing us forward.
"Not possible." He shouted. I could not see his face, but his voice told me how little he cared.

She must choose. Two daughters, one son.

"Please. Please take them. I'll stay."

And there was a brief pause as she stood there thinking. The grip on my collar tightened, the arm around my sisters pulled closer. A man coughed; a woman sobbed. I could hear them shuffle as a stretcher was pushed off the loading bay.

My stomach felt the jolt of the beast as it moved upward. I tried not to look down. Down where those left behind would remain. The running patterns of my panicked neighbors who could not come. They waited too long. They who did not have a mother who loved them enough to push forward.

I close my eyes. Soon I will wake up. Soon the dream will be over.

How Book Reviews Improve Your Query Package

Authors across the globe can support me on this one - reviews are vital to our success. The good and the bad - we need them to show that people have picked up our writing, read it, and felt compelled to say something about it. But they come few and far between. Here we stand, on internet street corners, with pen and paper in hand begging. A cardboard sign at our feet desperately stating: 

Will write for reviews...

We get it, our readers lead busy lives and the fact that they invested a piece of their disposable income and free time in us, their author, is humbling. But dare we ask for just a bit more? 

I've only just started reviewing books and was initially doing so because there are books and authors out there who I absolutely love and I wanted others to know about them. Then it morphed into understanding that I'm doing "my part" in the writing community by supporting other authors and their works.


But as I sat there preparing this week's book review it struck me how each review written was making me better at presenting the material to strangers in a disconnected, informative, (and even eye catching) way. 

I realize now how writing reviews for other authors helps me practice my query letter, synopsis, and pitch for my own writing. And as a writer who seeks to have published work this is wonderful news! We think that writing the novel or book of poetry or essays is the hard part, but really it is just the beginning. While the words can flow through our fingers to the keyboard to create our masterpiece the moment someone asks us to boil its entirety down to a paragraph we freeze. It's a sincere struggle and across laptops everywhere there is a collective groan. Well here's our opportunity to practice the dreaded query package. 

By writing reviews not only are you helping the author, but you are helping yourself. Here are the benefits to you:

Query Letter:

The layout of a query letter is interchangeable depending on the reference source, but the contents are typically the same. 
  • Find a way to catch the publisher 
  • Give a snippet of a synopsis 
  • Explain why your work is different and similar to others in the same genre
  • A bit of who you are
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy - right? Right...?? Yeah. Right. 


When writing a review you are forced to do just that - 
  • Hook fellow reader's interest immediately
  • Give a short synopsis so they know why they want to read it
  • Offer examples of how it is similar to other books and what makes it different
  • A bit of how you reacted to it - in essence, how the book related to your world 

Synopsis:

I think this is what I hear complaints about the most - it requires us to dissect our precious baby, suck out all the key points, and slap them together into some mutilated mix of an interesting, yet informative paragraph. Ok, maybe I'm being dramatic, but when you are looking at a blank page and have to do all the above, it feels rather daunting.

When writing a review you are emotionally unattached to the work - as much as you want to do it justice or make sure your points are driven home, you still aren't invested in the work itself like you are your own writing. This makes practicing synopsis writing all the better because it trains you to distance yourself from the work and focus on what matters. It helps you to trim the fat, so to speak.

Pitch:

You've made it to the final round and are sitting across the table from an editor, agent, or publisher in a quiet room. Your palms are sweaty and for some godforsaken reason your throat has dried up. It's time to give your one minute pitch and the pressure is on. But what do you say and how do you formulate something in advance that will pique their interest? Practice. Practice writing the pitch and practice speaking it. Your opening statement - the hook - the thing that is going to catch their interest is the piece that gets your foot in the door. And it takes practice to be able to come up with a good one.

When writing a review you are virtually offering free advertising (if you are praising it) and so a well written review will hook a reader into becoming interested in the book as well as building a desire to read further into your review of it. Like a pitch, your opening statement needs to be catchy, flashy, boom! Impactful. Maybe it is funny or dark. Witty or a play on words. 

It might feel cheesy or even inauthentic (what I struggle reconciling with the most) - but you know what? 
It works.

Why I Write


Review: The Golden Isle


The Golden Isle, pub. 1947


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dr. Michael Stone has refused a lucrative offer as a slave ship doctor only to find himself kidnapped and floating across the Atlantic Ocean like the stock in the hold beneath him. Although paid for his work, he is made aware that his presence there is negligible to the crew and one wrong step could send him overboard with a bullet in his chest. Dr. Stone makes the best of his situation by realizing he may be the only hope the poor, confined souls below deck might have. In his efforts to create as comfortable and healthy a living environment for the voyage as possible, he, in turn, ensures more slaves survive it; much to the delight of his boss.

After a few years at sea, Dr. Stone finally takes measures into his own hands and releases himself from the bondage of his contract with the slave company - a night which ends with a bang! But it isn't until he reaches the shores of Florida that things begin to really heat up.

As a lover of all things history and adventure, this second-hand-store-find was a lucky strike! Frank G. Slaughter spares no details on the nitty gritty of the slave trade and its consequences. His leading character is noble in nature and progressive in his methods, the author himself being a physician and well versed in the medical world.

In retrospect of the times, I am delighted to see that the author was able to walk the fine line of staying true to the mentality of the slave trade and the era it occupied and the slowly declining racism of 1947 when the book was published. This is a poignant piece of this story - the language, hostility, and honesty shows us just how the African-American race was described through the eyes of a white male in the late 1700's as well as a more modern scope without apology. I will admit that while reading some descriptions and brutal depictions of rape or abuse I felt pangs of the heart. Fiction is best when you realize it must not be far off the mark to what the world truly was like a short few hundred years ago.

The storyline as a whole is enthralling. As a reader you find yourself invested in the happiness and success of Dr. Stone and the characters around him while at the same time rooting for power to be given back to a people.

I highly recommend this sharp glance into a dark time of the modern world. Not only will the story stay with you long after you read it, but the content itself will touch the reality of slavery deeper than any history book ever could.

- Roots -


Run to depths unknown
To find your greater purpose;
Spark growth from the frost.

- Whispers -


Darling, it's bitter.
So meet me beneath the trees;
We'll make our own warmth.

#SeeGirlTravel: Learning to Be Alone

I can't decide if choosing to be alone while I was single was harder than being alone now that I'm married. When I was single there was that stigma of being a lone woman in public, surrounded by happy couples or more attractive women on the prowl when all I wanted to do was have an adventure. As a married woman I feel a level of protection against that stigma because I have a ring on my finger which clearly states that although I am alone in this restaurant, I am not alone in my life.

Strange how our minds go there, but that's part of the challenge of being independent - the self-conscious voice in our heads that tell us we don't belong somewhere if we aren't accompanied by a friend, lover, or family. We live so much of our lives with other people that being alone, truly alone, in a place where no one knows us is embarrassing. 

Yet, as a wife I felt this need and desire to spend all my spare time with my husband. The idea of intentionally leaving him behind while I went out and had fun felt selfish and neglectful. There was guilt when I had a girls date with my friends. Never mind the fact that I encouraged him to do the same with his friends. You see, I could see the value in him taking time for himself, but I couldn't understand the value it held for me. My husband and I did the math; I have lived alone for only eighteen months, in six month spurts, out of my entire life and even then those months were connected to a spouse to some degree. 

Alone time is a commodity we undervalue and ignore all too often. Think about it. We are constantly surrounded by people we're connected to whether it is work, school, family...Even if we aren't around them physically we have this magic little device in our back pocket that lets us stay connected even when we're apart. Tell me, when you're waiting for the bus to come or in line at the grocery store, or for your oil change do you whip out your phone to occupy your time, to fill the awkwardness of having no one to talk to?

Being alone can be uncomfortable and we often times don't know how to handle it. It takes practice and an easing in to little things to be able to go on and do great ones - like exploring the Sahara Desert on camel back!

Five Ways To Learn How To Love Being Alone:  



Take a day-long road trip: Turn off the radio and just drive. See what it feels like to be by yourself for a while. No distractions - just the road and your thoughts. This is a great way to ease yourself into being independent of others and not feel like there are eyes watching you. Your inner voice of self-doubt won't have room to blossom here because there is no one to judge you for being alone. Drive to the ocean only to turn around and drive home. 





Eat in a restaurant: Your best friend will be a book, so put your phone away. I know, I know - you're going to ask what the difference between being distracted with a book is versus your phone. Simply put, the book is a story while your phone harbors your friends and network. I carry a book in my purse and slowly get through it. I prefer this over putting books on my phone or a tablet because I am seeking that disconnection from being connected to everyone and everything all of the time. A book in your hands has a grounding affect unparalleled by today's technology.

Source
Go to a movie: I did this a few years back and it was my first true experience of being intentionally alone. I spent the day at the movie theater watching two movies, back to back, that I really wanted to see. I felt so rebellious being there because, in my mind, the movie theater is a place for couples or friends. It's considered weird to go by yourself and I have to say, it was a blast! I sat right in the middle of the theater, ate my pop corn, and enjoyed the shows. It was the beginning of my own personal independence movement.

Museums and Art Galleries: Stand before a piece of abstract art and contemplate its meaning. What does it mean to you. Walk through the gallery and spend the day enjoying the talents of others. Take notes in a notebook, sit off in a corner somewhere and watch the reactions to your favorite piece by other people. Or learn something new about the world's history by exploring a historical museum. I envy those of you who live in a large city and have such places available to you in such quantity!


Travel: This is a big one. It took me a while to get to this level of comfort, but it only took a spark for me to fall madly in love with going somewhere by myself, where no one knew me, and making friends, exploring the world, enjoying my time fearlessly. And that's the best part - it's incredible the people you meet along the way, the one-on-one exposure to the culture you're immersed in, the absolute control you have over your day's destiny. It encourages you to try new things and broadens your scope of the world and her people.

This is only the beginning of the adventures you will have. 

Do you do any of these regularly? Fill out the survey below!

My Solo Adventures Include:

Writing Prompt One Hundred Thirty One


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Writing Prompt One Hundred Thirty


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
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        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Nine


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
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        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Eight


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
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        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Seven


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
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      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Numb


Each dip of the paddle into the crystalline waters of this arctic river sends droplets of melting ice to my cheeks, the frost of frozen air crowding on my eye lashes. My feet rest against this bottom of the humble vessel of wood and metal, the grains within the boards highlighted with white, icy trails. It is silent, absolutely silent but for the trickle of the paddle against the current, the crackle of the prow through the stiffening glassy surface.

But even the silence seems to have a shimmer to it - a muted, matte buzz against the electrically charged air. So much anticipation lingers in the clouds, so much potential energy forced into static motion. My fingers bite into the wooden oars. The white of my frozen skin; numb to the biting breeze from my forward propulsion. It's too cold for my breath to linger as steam. Too cold for snow to fall. For the blood to pump through my chest.

This was my favorite time to play in the wilds. When all others were too attached to the warmth of their hearths. Out here, alone, gliding through slush filled waters, I could hear the earth moan under her white blanket and watch the slowing of time. Each overburdened tree limb would gently slide off it's white coat of powder and plop it into the ruins of coats at its roots. The river pulls so much harder away from where we used to spend our evenings admiring the trail of stars above us. It pulls so much harder without you here to tug against the pull with me.

I waited all year to get to the winter thinking it would resurrect your memory, but where I sought to find relief I found the freezing of my body. A chill you never let me feel. Without you here, winter simply became just another season. And I am left sitting still in frozen waters.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Six


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Five


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Review: Jane Eyre



My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I only recently discovered Jane Eyre and by recently I mean within the last few years. I acquired my edition (not the one pictured) of the novel printed "under wartime conditions" as a third edition from a used book store for a few dollars. The binding is blue cloth, the pages aged yellow and thick and it sat on my bookshelf for about a year. It wasn't that I was avoiding it so much as I had an overall disinterest in the "classics" which I considered Jane Eyre to be. There came a day, though, when I had nothing else to read and so the book made its way into my hands. Once the cover was opened I was trapped; sucked into a world unknown to me. Enthralled by the opening chapter of child abuse and neglect, curiosity, and fear, a defiant child already self-affirmed in who she was I lamented in having to put the book aside for our present day reality.

I have since read it three times yet it is never far from my nightstand. It gets better with age and with each reading your appreciation will grow for characters and author. It didn't take long for me to become completely obsessed in finding a movie adaptation which would satisfy and honor it adequately. The 2011 version comes mighty close and who can complain of Michael Fassbender's Mr. Rochester? No one.

While this may strike you as a love story at first, I encourage you to look deeper into the character of Jane. Charlotte Bronte has done a magnificent job at portraying a life of sharp corners and hard tongues in which a young woman is created as one of the strongest, most thought provoking heroines I have ever read. With exacting self-control and unwavering connection with her inner self Jane inspires me almost on the daily to be strong and true to who I am. If such a character can endure so much compared to my so little; who am I to waver? THAT is what this novel can do.

I won't ruin it for you, but her speech to Mr. Rochester in a moment of truth is just stunning. They are words I wish I had written. This level of writing is that which I strive to be able to mimic. It's absolutely brilliant.

Mirrored Images

To begin, I want to give a loving, sincere shout out to all the parents (in every shape, age, and form) who work diligently to ensure the mental and emotional health of their children and the children around them. You are warriors against an established community thought of how we are supposed to look, supposed to act, supposed to exist. Not only are you fighting this with awkward conversations with your children, but you are fighting it within yourselves as well! You, the parents of today’s youth, have one of the hardest jobs in the world and I tip my hat to you.



I was inspired to write this by something I read in my Facebook newsfeed – a friend of mine, who I have known since middle school, has just recently had her first dose of painful self-esteem reality with her three year old daughter. A daughter who is afraid to go to school dressed a certain way because the other children will laugh at her. It is heart breaking. What do you say to something like that? How do you build her in strength rather than encourage doubt? How do you make sure she feels loved and brave and smart and beautiful all day long when you aren’t there to remind her?

Now, I may not be a mother, but I have worked with children as a pre-school teacher and as a component of Child Protective Services (which is the same thing, right? Riiiight.) In that time I have observed some interesting psychology. Mostly, and this should come as no surprise, that children are a mirror of you. Absolutely and completely. If ever I was curious about the home life of the three year olds in my classroom all I had to do was watch them playing “house” or dress up. We even had a little girl shout out to a kid on the playground when his mom arrived “You better get your f**kin coat!” (We all about died.)

Children pick up on our ticks. Our fears. Our speech patterns. Down to the inflection in our voice and the placement of our hands when we are angry. It’s a terrifying thought. These little people are watching our every move, immolating us. Even when we think we’re alone, they’re watching. Listening.

They are watching when we take selfies and say, “Oh God! I look awful! Let’s do it again.”
They are watching when we step on the scale and sigh in defeat.
They are watching when we decide not to eat a cookie because we are on a diet.
They are watching as we put on our make-up.
They are watching when we complain about hating our job, but still go every morning.
They are watching when the self-doubt creeps in.
They are watching when you talk on the phone with your mother or your friend about your neighbor.
They are watching as we throw our clothes around the room because we can’t find anything to wear.
They are watching as we pinch our sides and thighs and upper arms.
They are watching as we airbrush and edit our photos.
They are watching as we yell at the television over a football game.
They are learning.

They hear our negative self-talk and they grow to believe it is normal. And they take it all in as gospel. I remember learning to focus on a child’s actions rather than their character – so saying things like “Thank you for sharing” or “Thank you for using your walking feet” or “Use your words” rather than telling them they are good or bad. The idea is that by not focusing on their character it offers them the opportunity to build it themselves rather than believing they are simply good or bad.

Now let’s take this and apply it to ourselves. What defines you as an individual, a parent, a spouse? What words come to mind immediately when you talk about yourself to yourself? Are you beautiful? Are you honest? Brave? Stupid? Fat? Weak? Strong? Perfect? Overwhelmed? Afraid? Unstoppable? Intelligent? Diligent? Organized? Spiritual?

What words would you like your child to use when describing themselves? What words do you fear they will use?

It is your job as a parent to remind them every chance you have how inspiring, kind, and loving they are – how absolutely perfect they are just as they are.

It is my job to remind you every chance I have of how inspiring, kind, and loving you are – how absolutely perfect you are just as you are. On your days of doubt I want to remind you how flawlessly capable you are of all things laid before you. When you can’t find the words, I am here to remind you they aren’t necessary – your spirit, your time, your embrace is enough to heal all wounds and is often the best medicine. You, my darling friends (and strangers), are uniquely beautiful in action. I love you all.

Never forget the light within you burns brighter than the confusion of this world. We might push it down and hide it underneath layers of magazine covers and false inadequacies, but it is always there, always burning.

And I can see it. 

The Prodigal Son of Pendleton, Oregon

Pendleton, Oregon isn't known for many things. In fact, unless you know where it is you probably would drive right past it without a second glance. Perhaps, on your trip across Oregon and into Idaho you've stopped to use the restroom at a roadside gas station or McDonalds. You'd have no reason to drive into the downtown area, to take a detour... until now.



It was just as much of a surprise to me as anyone else to find a brewery, a restaurant of such high quality in a small town of 16,000 people, but there it was: The Prodigal Son Brewery. Large glass windows bracing the street front, pic-nic styled tables out on the sidewalk, and a huge open area inside. These outdoor tables were perfect for us since we had our dogs and could not leave them in the car in the mid-summer heat. They even had a water dish out there for our four legged fur babies. What more could we ask for? A good menu? Yep. They have one!




There really is something for everyone here, including vegetarian options that are more than just a salad - I'm talking a portobello mushroom burger, people! There was so much to choose from it made it hard to pick just one thing, but in the end we survived the pressure and ordered our respective meals.

Sitting outside was great, but the inside was even better! The wide open dining hall was coupled with a bar deeper in. Cool lighting hangs from the high ceiling and the environment as a whole just felt welcoming. A long wait for your table? Send the kids to the playroom while you enjoy reading in the mini library... or.... sit down for a table game of PacMan!





It took a little while for our food to come out, but it was definitely worth the wait!


Overall, I highly recommend swinging through downtown Pendleton if you're driving through or in the area. You won't be disappointed!