Archive | June, 2013

John Solensten: an Excerpt from The Gibson Boy, An American Hero



From the moment they began to anticipate her, to somehow believe in her, Charles Dana Gibson and Richard Harding Davis had agreed on her attributes, her future in the New World.

In the New World the Girl would be an American thoroughbred. She would appear magically, focusing out of all those moments when Romance was on the town.

And… (A very long and… it seemed)

One week she was suddenly there in the pages of Life–hair upswept in a soft pile, gray eyes gentle yet unflinching. Sometimes she wore a “rainy-daisy” skirt that cleared the ground by six inches, but that was for stormy weather. She was graceful on the tennis court, pursing her lovely mouth as she deftly returned the ball at the other. Quiet and demure she was, but unafraid. The Gibson Girl: American femininity–girl and woman. She looked at you shyly, but with clear steadiness and a bit of mischief in her eyes. A fine intelligence in her eyes, but nothing of the Amy Lowell bluestocking about her.

But in the wondrous matchmaking of romance who was to be the Gibson Boy–the inevitable He?

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WIPs Conversation: Sarah Normandie on Her Work in Progress

Sarah NormandieSarah Normandie is a writer. She’s been making up stories since age 2, when she figured out how to record her stories into her mother’s cassette recorder. To date, Sarah is a law student at Western New England School of Law where she is a merit scholarship recipient, Phi Alpha Delta member, and Cali Award winner. She has a Masters in early childhood development, a Bachelors in child psychology, and several years of teaching and education management experience. Additionally, she has been a student in the UCLA Writer’s program, where she penned her first novel, The Broken Girl.

Sarah is a frequent contributor at and a freelance legal writer/researcher. Her early childhood articles have been featured by the National Association for the Education for Young Children and utilized as teacher trainings modules for early childhood professionals across the country. When Sarah’s not hard at work writing her next novel or studying law, she is a mom to two amazing kiddos. She is happily married to her high school prom date.You can find more information about Sarah and her writing at or contact her at

 Sarah, The Broken Girl’s first chapter is rife with tension, drama, and intrigue. Not just the present situation with Kenny and the car crash finale but also with references to Anna’s past and future—her own abusive upbringing and her unborn daughter. Without giving too much away, can you briefly discuss what’s to follow?

Complications from the accident threaten Anna and her baby. Anna’s struggle to survive, and to save her baby is paralleled with scenes from her own abusive childhood. Anna must face her childhood to truly live.

Abandoned by her Vietnam veteran father, child Anna lives under the ruling thumb of her mentally ill grandmother-a woman on the edge of bipolar and borderline personality disorder. Anna’s mother, incapable of being the mom Anna needs, splits her time between boyfriends, popping pills and under Grandma’s psychotic control. Things take a dramatic turn when Anna’s Aunt Sally is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Anna’s grandfather; the “family glue” is so devastated, he has a stroke. After Grandpa’s death, Anna meets Fanny- Grandpa’s long lost 83-year-old spitfire sister who reveals a shocking family secret that changes everything. While young Anna fears for her safety and sanity, adult Anna fights to survive and save her baby. Mixed with present day family drama as Anna’s family fights by her bedside-the past and the present come together as adult Anna discovers her own strength by letting go of her painful past and finds her own happy ending.

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Sarah Normandie: an Excerpt from The Broken Girl, a Novel in Progress



When I was eight years old, I came up with a brilliant idea. I asked my Aunt Sally to draw a picture of me grown up. I was convinced that the portrait would somehow shed light on my future, just like the Magic Eight Ball I kept on my desk. Sally took on the challenge and dusted off her wooden box of drawing pencils and her Strathmore spiral sketchbook. I sat down across from her at the kitchen table, trying hard not to move. No peeking, Sally teased as she drew. My heart thumped fast as I listened to the scratching sound of her graphite pencil hit the paper, bringing the grown up me to life. When Sally finished, she pushed the sketchbook across the table and sang, “Ta-da!” I grabbed a hold of it, squeezing the wire binding. I looked down and saw that Sally had drawn me with chiseled cheekbones, long, straight hair swept behind my ears, and big, bright eyes outlined in charcoal. I stared at the eyes for a long time. They were the eyes of a grown up girl, one entirely sure of who she was. The problem is, I’m grown up now. I’m not that girl in the drawing.

I think about this as I get out of my car and stand on the cracked pavement of the apartment complex in downtown Willimantic, Connecticut or “Heroin Town” according to 60 Minutes. I’ve caught a glimpse of my reflection in the driver seat window. I pause to stare at it. I certainly look like a woman that’s got it all together, but I know better. Inside, I’m a broken girl still searching for all her pieces. I look away and push my sunglasses up into my thick mess of curly blonde hair. I remind myself that there are more urgent matters at hand; such as this Friday afternoon’s surprise home visit.

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WIPs Conversation: Sharon Leder on Her Work in Progress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASharon Leder is currently the program director of the Teichman Art Gallery on Cape Cod.  She has taken workshops in fiction writing with Kathleen Spivack, Elizabeth Rosner, Kaylie Jones, Paul Lisicky, Sally Gunning, and Eileen Pollack. She is Professor Emerita at Nassau Community College, Garden City, New York, and has taught within SUNY the subjects of women’s studies, literature, and Jewish Studies.  She has authored “The Language of Exclusion:  The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti” (with Andrea Abbott), has co-edited with Milton Teichman “Truth and Lamentation:  Stories and Poems on the Holocaust” and co-edited with Ines Shaw and Betty Harris “Women, Tenure and Promotion.”  After thirty-seven years of teaching, she is now writing fiction and poetry.

Sharon, here in the first chapter of We All Fall Down, the father is a key figure in absentia.  Does that fact continue as the novel progresses, even after his death?

We actually meet Sara’s father Josef in person in the very next chapter and also in subsequent chapters that are flashbacks to the 1950s, when Josef has been forced against his will to reveal his fifteen-year heroin habit to his family.  Sara, as an eight year old, is almost immediately enlisted by her grandmother into the family’s struggle to help her father admit his problem and his abusiveness and to find treatments and cures.  Sara’s relationship to her father—and its emotional effects on her–alter as she moves from childhood to adolescence and witnesses his increasing drug dependency and loss of self-esteem.  When Josef dies, Sara is driven to discover from her mother how he got hooked on heroin. Thus, we meet Josef again in scenes that are flashbacks to the late 1930s and 1940s when the once-wholesome teenager is led to addiction by the clubroom culture that sprang up in New York City during the Depression years leading up to World War II.  The novel also concludes with Sara’s father.  Sara imagines having the conversation she never had with her father about his addiction.  Their conversation takes place on the day he died and is Sara’s way of finding out whether or not he committed suicide.

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Sharon Leder: Private Family Business (Chapter Excerpt from All Fall Down, a Novel in Progress)

November 1963

Sara’s thoughts kept drifting to her father.  Didn’t he realize we’d miss him?  She snapped shut her notebook from Mr. Carney’s history class.  Loud strains of  The Ronettes’ “Be my, be my baby” filtered through her bedroom window and lured her to the street.

She sneaked past the living room where her younger siblings were glued to the T.V. screen watching To Tell the Truth.  Her mother was dozing on the couch, weary from cooking and serving dinner after canvassing on the icy streets of downtown Brooklyn for Fields Department Store.  They didn’t hear Sara click the apartment door shut before racing down the stairs and onto Penn Street where rocky boys in leather jackets listened to transistor radios and leaned against parked cars, while they smoked Marlboros and kissed bold girls Sara’s age in tight sweaters.

The quiet in the apartment confused Sara when she returned.  Most nights Robbie and Rachel’s antics kept their mother busy until ten.  The buzz of the fluorescent lights under the dish cabinets drew Sara into the kitchen.  The clock above the refrigerator read nine o’clock.

From behind, her mother’s voice sounded: “Sara Katz!”  She had been waiting at the kitchen table.  “Why didn’t you let us know?  You left without a word.”

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