Tag Archives: justice

Saturday’s Softcover: My Mother was an “Elizabeth” Too!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

My mother was named Margaret Elizabeth, but I never knew her to go by Margaret, or any of its wonderful permutations: Maggie, Meg, etc. In fact, she didn’t go by any of the changes to Elizabeth either—it was always full throttle: Elizabeth. And she loved movies. She felt very connected to two famous Elizabeths: Queen Elizabeth, who named her son Charles—my brother, almost exactly the same age, is named Charles. And she loved Elizabeth Taylor. So, when I saw Lu Ann Brobst Staheli’s book entitled Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, I knew I “just” had to read it.

The book is tender, frightening, angst-filled in part, funny, and ultimately— mostly—very happy,81N-fns-EuL__SL1500_ though I was in tears at the end.

Liz, named Elizabeth for the movie star, becomes Beth when she runs away from home. How will this young girl, not yet a teen, make her way on her own?  Actually, a lot better than she can do at home where her mother is too weak to give up the boyfriend who beats her, and Liz cannot fend off the boyfriend’s loathsome son.

Plucky girl that she is, she steals some money from the “boyfriend,” and runs away—but only as far as a fairly nearby town. She finds an abandoned shack at a winter-deserted K.O.A. place, where she manages to have bathroom/water/ electric amenities, ekes out her meager “savings” with school lunch and occasional lunch leavings from other students.

As the school year draws closer to an end, “Beth” must find a way to make a friend, save a lunch lady, let her mother know she is still alive, find a more permanent home, and bring justice to her “real” family, while maintaining a decent GPA so she won’t be “found out.”

At every moment, I was aware that the author had taught junior high school for years: she knew the angst, the failures, the desperation of some, the heartlessness of others, and the pluck of the brave. Just before the ending I was in tears: not because it was sad, but because I was so angry at what happened to “Beth” next: pulling all the threads together, the horrific scene had me crying for the unfairness, the drive, the caring this young girl exhibited. It was a fitting triumph, finally.

I know Liz, the lost girl. I know Beth, the loner. I know Elizabeth, the winner. I’ve taught those high school, junior high school and middle school kids too. Read it, and you’ll know them as well!

 See you day after tomorrow for Monday Moans!

A1YSS+kQ4cL__SL1500_BTW, the prolific Staheli also has a book, A Note Worth Taking, about “best” friends, surviving lost friendships, making new friends—you know, all those things we suffered in junior high or middle school. I’m reading it next—you should too: it’s on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through the end of July.

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Friday Friends: For All of Us Pantsers

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Jeffery ArcherIt was encouraging to see (in The Costco Connection—who knew I’d learn about writing from Costco?) that a famous writer like Jeffrey Archer (Kane and Abel, Best Kept Secret, etc.) said “When I write I never know what’s going to happen in the end.” (And thanks to Rachel Stafler, a freelance lifestyle writer in London, for introducing us to a new Friday Friend through Costco!)

He went on to explain that he “generally knows” what would happen in the 10 pages coming up, and could possibly write another 5 after that . . . but then, “I pray. I haven’t got a clue myself what will happen in the next book.”

I find that hilarious. And comforting. This 72-year-old writer doesn’t know what will come next any more than I do. He’s had an interesting career path: politician (a member of Parliament at 29!), a loser-investor (which forced him to resign and write a first novel to repay creditors, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less), a prisoner (charged with perjury and conspiracy to “pervert the course of justice” which led to A Prison Diary), a short story writer, a playwright, besides novelist (“I am just a storyteller at heart,” he says. And he uses his life to inform his stories, as you can see.

By the time he wrote his third book, Kane and Abel, his name was already recognized around the world.

And here’s what encourages me, frightens me, challenges me, about this writer: he sounds like a pantser. He uses his life for writing ideas. And he works hard!

At 8 hours a day, often for 50 days at a time, he drafts each page by hand, writing around 17 versions. He keeps it close to the vest until about the last three versions which he finally sends to his editor. He easily spends a thousand hours of work on the average book (though nothing seems “average” about his books, if you ask me). And, at age 72, he has now outlined (a pantser? outline?) His next four books, wants to write a set of short stories, and spend at least two years on a “big, sweeping novel”.

“There is no substitute for hard work.” And he should know. Look at his track record. Look at his output!

See you day-after-tomorrow for Sunday Snippets!

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