Knitting My Way to Clarity

Knitting’s addictive and it’s soothing, and for a few minutes anyway, it makes me feel closer to my mother.” ― Anita Shreve, Light on Snow

I am knitting.

“Not writing?” You might well ask.

No, I’m knitting. Knitting, I have discovered, is very conducive to writing, which, for me, always happens after a lot of thinking. Knitting allows you to sit and think.

Here’s my dilemma. Maggie’s Girls has too many characters. Some have to go. Maybe they will show up in another book but now they have to leave this one. The problem is, I have become fond of them. So, I’m knitting and I’m thinking. Who should I kick out?

Thinking is one of the great benefits of knitting, second only to the fact that you can’t eat while doing it. Something you can do while writing. Unfortunately.

I have a friend who often refers to “my culture”.  As in, “You know how in your culture…” Huh? I thought we were from the same culture. Obviously, from her perspective, we are not.

We have come through, more or less, months of nastiness, name-calling, finger-pointing, and shaming. Life-long friendships have been shattered and families polarized because it turns out that maybe we didn’t know each other as well as we thought. And those cracks continue to widen as we head into a new year.

Knitting my way through two small sweaters, ironically, one red and one blue, I have thought a lot about “my culture”.  And where I do come from and, upon even further thought, how that culture formed the values I try to live my life by.

I learned to knit when I was ten. Here’s what I remember: bright pink yarn, cream-colored needles with black tops, and lots of holes that were not supposed to be there. I remember my mother, my beautiful, hardworking, talented and extremely frustrated mother, trying to teach me what to do with my hands, the needles and the yarn I kept tangling.

Here’s a snapshot of “my culture”.  I am a blue-collar girl born in what was then considered to be a working-class suburb of Boston, two generations removed from Ireland, Italy and Switzerland. I was the second in my family to go to college, following my cousin to Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts. My parents worked four jobs between them to pay for it.

My mother and father came of age in the heart of the Great Depression. Life was hard and nothing was taken for granted. They used and re-purposed – although it was not called that – everything and never missed a chance to earn a little extra money. For years my mother spent her evenings after working all day managing a bakery, making Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls – popular then – to earn some spare cash.

My grandmother was a dressmaker who carried her sewing box into the homes of wealthy Boston women in order to measure them and then make their clothes. My mother, too, was a talented seamstress tackling things liked bound buttonholes and French darts. I, on the other hand, was a disaster when it came to anything involving the needle arts.

Still, as was expected from girls of “my culture”,  I slogged my way through it all: several ill-fitting skirts and dresses, one quilt, a hooked rug, a crewel picture and numerous knitting projects. None of the output was more than marginal. My head was always in the book I was reading or the story I was making up. My mother despaired, often taking whatever I was making a botch of from my hands to fix and then finish for me.

Maggie’s Girls is a story of mothers and daughters and of sisters – several groups of sisters. This should not come as a surprise as I write Women’s Fiction. The older women, the Hudson sisters: Honoria, Grace, Stasia and Charlotte come from the heart of “my culture”.

It turns out that I do a lot of ripping out when I knit. Sometimes, I lose my way in the pattern and as the Irish say, it all goes wrong. Not at all unlike what I have to do as a writer when a character takes an abrupt right turn from the plot.

So I sit and I knit and I think about which characters have to go.

Sometimes, for just a moment,  I feel my mother’s hands gently guiding mine and then she’s gone.

Francesca's Foundlings

At Last: Francesca’s Foundlings

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to a develop a thick hide.”  Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and gave to American literature, Atticus Finch, one of the most beloved characters ever imagined by a writer. A reported forty million copies of the book have since been sold.

Harper Lee never wrote another book after she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. Her recently published Go Set A Watchman is the original draft of a story that evolved into the book so many of us first read in school and came to cherish.

I realize it might seem very presumptuous of me to compare myself to Harper Lee. However, if Harper Lee hesitated, you can only imagine how hard, indeed, terrifying, it is for the small indie writer to “do it again.”

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade. My father, always my champion, urged me on. Life and a lack of courage intervened. I wrote and published MacCullough’s Women four years ago to see if I could be a writer. Enough people told me they enjoyed it for me to feel good about having written it. I had written a book. “See that, Dad!” I told my long-dead father.

While I was working on MacCullough’s Women, the idea of creating a series of four books set in my fictional little city of Lynton, New Hampshire began to grow. My novels are character-driven and I love my characters. They are almost real to me. As much as I was happy and relieved to finish the book, I also felt a sense of loss. What was going to become of Franny? Were Brid and Neil going to have more than a fling? Would Sofia ever grow-up?

I am happy to offer you Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series. Francesca’s Foundlings is the story of an unconventional family, complete with an imperious cat and a grieving Tibetan terrier, created from need and bound together with love. In today’s global world, where individuals often live far from the families into which they were born, you will discover more and more families like this one. Maybe even your own.

Cover for Francesca's Foundlings

Cover for Francesca’s Foundlings

The Lynton Series is about women and the men they love. Women who though flawed, prove themselves to be resilient and willing to change in order to meet the challenges life throws at them. Women very much like those who read my books.

Roskerry Press has just launched the e-book version on Amazon (link to Kindle version).  If you do read it soon, please post a review.

The paperback version will be released later this fall.

Thank you all for your interest and support. My readers (you!) are the best.









What I am Reading – The Glass Wives

Why did God make women so beautiful and man with such a loving heart?”Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins


I was intrigued by the idea that a wife and an ex-wife could be friends when I was working on the plot of  MacCullough’s Women. I wanted to write a novel that explored that idea. I concluded while it makes perfect sense – obviously they have at least one BIG thing in common – the only way it might work would be if the husband in question was dead. I added that element to the plot ; and MacCullough’s Women was born.

I am not alone in exploring the idea in fiction. If you read a lot, you know very few plots are unique. Human behavior being what it is, not all that much changes besides the supporting details; letters written with quill and ink give way to texting. I was intrigued to see what Amy Sue Nathan would do with the idea in The Glass Wives.

The plot of The Glass Wives swirls around the two wives – Evie, the first wife and Nicole, the second –and  the three children of the late Richard Glass. Some of the story is predictable; Richard leaves Evie and their twins for Nicole, his much younger hair stylist, and then has a baby with her. I found it confirming my own theory when Nathan chose to kill off the husband as a means of opening a path between the two women that doesn’t exist while he’s alive. This is not a spoiler; the reader knows he’s dead in the first chapter. Money  – who has it, how much is enough and where and how to get more of it – drives a lot of this plot. This is often the case in blended families and Nathan does an excellent job of portraying its impact on the two women.

 The Glass Wives examines how a family is formed and mutates in today’s world where people are often brought together through divorce and remarriage. The novel is the story of what comprises a family as much as it is about the relationship between the wives. The make up of family, both what it means to be one and what it consists of, is featured in a lot of women’s fiction today. This makes sense to me because historically it is women who nurture family.

I hope you enjoy the book. Do you think wives and ex-wives can be friends?





What I am Reading – Tapestry of Fortunes

“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.” ― Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society


My recommendation for you  today is a radical change from last week. I am recommending Tapestry of Fortunes. I have always loved Elizabeth Berg’s books. I think it is  because she is writer who brings the bits and pieces of her own life experiences into her writing. A nurse before she became a writer, her background informs and influences many of her books, perhaps most notably Talk Before Sleep, her poignant novel about a woman dying of breast cancer. You see it here in this latest book as she describes her main character’s work as a Hospice volunteer. Her books are about women facing issues most women can relate to. Her plots are not complicated but her characters are always layered and never boring. It doesn’t hurt that we are the same age, which places us well beyond cute and perky and encourages me in my own efforts to write books women will enjoy reading.

 Tapestry of Fortunes addresses issues most women will deal with at some point in their lives: the need to downsize and let go of possessions that no longer make sense, to let go of people we love, try something new, forge new relationships and look back to where we have come from perhaps to return there.

Cecilia Ross, the main character, decides after the death of her best friend to sell her home, downsize her life and move into old Victorian in St. Paul with three strangers. Each of these four women is attempting to understand the personal tapestry she has woven with her life. Each is trying to make sense of where she is now while at the same time to rectify a mistake from the past. Lise wants to figure out where she went wrong as a mother. Joni is searching for a career that will make her happy. Renie desperately desires a “do-over” from a mistake she made in her teens. Cecilia needs to find out if she can rekindle an old love.

This is a happy book. It will make you smile. It is not literary fiction which I rarely read anymore but rather the kind of book it’s okay to get sand in when you fall asleep on the beach. What shines through, is the inherent generosity of women toward one another despite differences in social class or age.

If you missed Talk Before Sleep (1994), I urge you to read it. A funny and at the same time sad book about how the strength of a circle of women guides a friend through the ravages of breast cancer.


I hope you enjoy it.

I hope you enjoy it.




What I am Reading – Reconstructing Amelia

“I still maintain that the times get precisely the literature that they deserve, and that if the writing of this period is gloomy the gloom is not so much inherent in the literature as in the times.” ― Bill Styron

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight is a difficult book to read and may leave you feeling very sad. So now I have warned you. I think it is an important book because it is a cautionary tale for the times in which we are living.

This is the story of a single mother (Kate Baron) and her daughter (Amelia). Kate is a rising star at a New York City law firm and Amelia is an honor student with a bright future attending a prestigious private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She is headed to a selective summer program at Princeton. Both do their best to excel. Kate strives to make sure her daughter’s future is secure only to tragically lose touch with her in the present.

The story is told from the alternating points of view of mother and daughter. Kimberly McCreight very effectively uses social media in the form of text messaging, Facebook, blogging and online videos to move the plot forward. In doing so, she drives home the terrifying fact that in today’s world of cyber bullying there is no place children are safe. You many never look at a gaggle of teenage girls madly texting away on their cell phones in the same way again.

Reconstructing Amelia impresses me as a writer because I found the voice of Amelia to be so true. McCreight takes you into her world: the parties, the boys, the academic competition and the girls. Any reader who is, or once was, a girl, can immediately relate to Amelia’s desire to be accepted. The inherent cruelty of girls in a group is instantly and painfully recognizable as is the reality that even the nicest girl can be mean or do something very stupid in the effort to belong.

Kate learns, as so many of us do, mistakes we make in our past have a way of following us through life. In the real world, there are no “do overs”.

Some of the plot twists ask a lot of the reader, but I believe the characters of Amelia and Kate more than compensate for that. McCreight keeps you hanging on their fates throughout the book. Kate Baron does things that at times make me want to shake her; I also understand why she does them. She loves her daughter and misguided though she may be, that remains apparent to the reader, if not always to Amelia.

Amelia Baron has lingered in my mind long after I finished this book. As a reader, there is no higher compliment I can pay to a writer.

I hope you find the book worth reading.

Picture of Reconstructing Amelia



What I am reading – So Far Away

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”  – Havelock Ellis

Meg Mitchell Moore tells a story within a story in her novel So Far Away, seamlessly integrating the past with the present. This is a book about women. The men are consigned to play supportive roles. The writer effectively captures the voice of each generation even though these voices span more than a hundred years and cross social classes.

A story of mothers and daughters, one who has lost her child and one who is losing hers. This book will ring true with any mother, but especially single mothers, who have raised a teenage daughter alone.

Kathleen Lynch, the main character, is an archivist working at the Massachusetts Archives in Boston when Natalie Gallagher, a lonely teenager from Newburyport, walks into the Archives looking for information for a school project. Kathleen lives a small life that is centered around her job, and her aging dog. She is not getting any younger herself and is haunted by the loss of her daughter, Susannah. A loss she feels is somehow her fault. In her mind, she is constantly trying to figure out what she should have done differently.

The character of Natalie brings to the reader a chilling insight into the devastating impact of cyberbullying. I felt myself overwhelmed by the desire to do something to help this girl but at a loss as to what I, or Kathleen Lynch, could do.

Sprinkled throughout the book is the story of a “bridget” the name by which all female Irish servants were called. The character’s name is actually Bridget O’Connell. A fact her employer finds vastly amusing. Bridget’s story captures the immigrant struggle and accurately depicts the hardships of the life of an Irish serving girl in Boston, as well as both the good and bad characteristics of human behavior that never seem to change.

Apart from the excellence of Moore’s writing, there are personal reasons that So Far Away caught my eye. The main character and I share a first name, I was once the single mother of a teenage daughter, and my grandmother, Catherine O’Connor, was a “bridget” in a large house in Boston.

So Far Away is a nuanced book. Look a little deeper when you read it. I thought the actions of the minor character, Elsie, were especially interesting.  A great book, I strongly recommend it.


Another great cover...


The Start of a New Year

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Les Brown

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday. I realize blogging about it might at first glance seem a little narcissistic but I do have a point to make connected to my writing.  So I am asking you to indulge me.

A year ago, we were getting ready to launch the e-book version of MacCullough’s Women. The plan was to go with the e-book in August and follow in October with the paperback.

I was a wreck. As I poured over the final edits alone in my office night after night, I definitely heard voices – all negative.  I wondered if my dream of being a writer was a foolish pipedream. I was terrified nobody would like the book.Was I kidding myself by thinking it was a good story? At one point, no doubt tired of listening to me, my husband said, “Then don’t do it.”  I will always love him for being generous enough to make that offer after all the work we both had done in order to publish the book.

I found that I couldn’t abandon the book. You may not understand this if you are not a writer, but it was not about me, it was about them – Brid, Franny, Neil, Drew, and the others. I felt they deserved a chance.  So we pressed on with the plan.

Last Friday, I was invited to join the Wilson Training Language Book Club at their monthly meeting. It was the third time I met with a group of readers who had read MacCullough’s Women. I have had a wonderful time chatting with each of these groups. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is as a writer to listen to what my readers have thought about my book. The ladies I met with at Wilson understood the characters and they also understood the theme that I hope will be present in all my books: the amazing willingness of seemingly very different women to help one another. And they told me that they really enjoyed the book.

In looking back on this year, I am thrilled with the success of MacCullough’s Women. I am happy to have found that it has touched women of different ages and life experiences because that was my intention when I wrote it.

Publishing and promoting MacCullough’s Women taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself. I hope that I am a better person because of that. I am grateful for the support of so many people: family, friends, friends of friends, women in my neighborhood, women I went to high school with and many others. This was hard for me and their support is what has gotten me through this exciting and challenging year.

There are years and there are years. This was a good one. I received a note this morning from someone who is very dear to me, whose friendship I will always view as a precious and unexpected gift. This is what she said:

Today I am reflecting on what a magical year it has been for you. It’s quite impressive to see you realize some of your significant dreams – and expand on them! I know the next year will be even better. May you have continued good health, happiness, laughter and love!

I do consider this to have been a magical year. Notice that I didn’t tell you which birthday I am celebrating. I considered it. If you have been reading this blog, I have given you enough clues to figure it out. I decided that in the end, how old I am doesn’t really matter. I am old enough to know that some years are NOT magical which allows me to savor this with one. My goal for this upcoming year is to continue to improve my writing and to finish Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series.

I am also old enough to look back and realize that I have been given many gifts and blessings in my life. On my birthday, I always think of the one that in the end probably for me made the difference. I had two wonderful parents. They were the best.

Thanks, Mom and Dad for everything.


In case you were wondering what was in the box: garden shears and pearls. What can I say? I have a great husband.













What I am Reading – Beach House Memories

To me, the glass is half-empty some days and half-full on others. Sometimes it’s bone-dry. Or overflowing. – Mary Alice Monroe

The first of June has always meant summer to me even though I realize the official start signified by the Summer Solstice is later, not until June 20th here in North America. I thought I would recommend a delicious beach read from Mary Alice Monroe. Beach House Memories is the prequel to The Beach House, first published in 2002, followed by its sequel, Swimming Lessons.

Beach House Memories slowly unveils the answers to the questions the reader is left with after reading The Beach House. The trilogy is set against the background of the plight of the endangered loggerhead sea turtles on the Isle of Palms, one of the barrier islands off the coast of South Carolina. The story centers around the passion of the main character, Olivia “Lovie” Rutledge, to rescue them. It should come as no surprise that saving the sea turtles is also a passion of  the writer, Mary Alice Monroe. The story is filled with fascinating facts about these noble creatures and the lengths they will go to ensure their species survives.

Lovie is an elderly lady, as she was in The Beach House, when this book opens but very soon the reader is back in 1974 and we meet Lovie when she was a young Charleston matron living a very correct life as the wife of Stratton Rutledge. Stratton is the son of an old and very proper Charleston family with a home on Tradd Street and everything that comes with it.

This is women’s fiction at its best. Mary Alice Monroe is a master of  the genre. Beach House Memories explores the relationship between Lovie and her husband, her two children, her mother, and her friends.

This is also a love story. Stated more clearly, it is a story about the people and the turtles that Lovie Rutledge loves and it explores the decisions she makes in order to remain true to those loves.

Beach House Memories stands alone. You don’t have to read the other two books in the series to understand and enjoy it. I bet you will though. Once you meet these characters you will want to know more about them. You can read it anywhere but, if you can, take it to the beach. The sound of the ocean is the perfect soundtrack for this story.

I hope you like it as much as I did. Prepare yourself to fall in love with the sea turtles.

A great book to take to the beach