May 17, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Marlene Cullen is the editor of Connections, a collection of stories, poems and anecdotes which is destined to become part of an anthology. This is the second book in The Write Spot to Jump Start your Writing series. Ms. Cullen says she is passionate about writing. I would say she is obsessed, but obsessed in a good way. She not only writes herself but she wants everyone else to write as well. I can appreciate her intensity as I have always had a love affair with words.
First of all, she has assembled a stellar class of participants. Most have been published before. But the literary group also includes a marriage and family counselor, a teacher, a professional sailor and those who have been worked in journalism, radio and film. But what makes this compilation unique is that in each section there is a piece written by a mother followed by another piece written by their offspring, son or daughter. A few best friends will do follow-ups as well and sisters and even grandmothers get into the act.
Stories are diverse. Some are light-hearted such as a recounting of some precious lemon bars that were stolen by bullies from a school lunch pail and the revenge that was eventually extracted and how one little girl eagerly looked forward to the first day of school only to find to her dismay hat her mother had written down the wrong date. A gentle recounting of a favored childhood tree is a narrative which I could relate to having had a leafy friend as a child. There is horror here too. A group of kids explores an abandoned carnival as it lies deteriorating in the forest. The results are gruesome. The tone is macabre in a brief vignette about some malevolent wolves. Even death itself is addressed as “The Visitor.” An abstract Zen-like piece that has people walking through walls that, “...obstruct energy from flowing”.
Subjects are various because each selection is responding to a different prompt. Prompts range from Snoopy's classic, “It was a dark and stormy night” to memories of a teenage summer to a consideration of the velvet hands of death. We are introduced to each author by a mini-biography after their work and a nice vintage photograph as well as a philosophical rumination on perhaps, a note to a younger self, what I wish my younger self had known, if I had my life to do over or just life advice.
The tone of the entire collection belies Ms. Cullen's fervor. She gives us hints and lesson plans, and a bibliography but all she wants is for us to put pen or pencil in hand and just write, write, write!
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