Monday, December 18, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Meredith Lombardi

This year on the holiday series Book Your Stocking, readers are sharing children's books from their past or present. Perhaps you'll stumble upon forgotten books or discover a title you somehow missed. Should the book find its way into a stocking near you, all the better.

Today's reader is Meredith Lombardi of Spokane, Washington.


What the Sisters Predicted

by Meredith Lombardi

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a book that I read in childhood that has left a lasting impression. I think it still stands out to me because I was a young girl when I read the book, and the author portrayed the sisters as such unique women. They all had dreams, struggles and responsibilities but were ultimately respected as individuals. They demonstrated empathy, sacrifice and patience but still found their way. I think it made me feel like life wasn’t always going to be perfect but that I could be myself and still figure it out.


About Meredith Lombardi: Meredith is the owner and director of Spokane Montessori North, Preschool and Kindergarten. In her spare time, she travels, teaches yoga, walks her dogs, hikes, reads, and enjoys her family. 

Meredith the morning before hiking
into the Grand Canyon

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Wake to Words and Brew Some Coffee (December 17, 2023)

It wasn't until I typed out December 17 that I realized how far into this month we've come. Thanks for bringing your coffee today to listen to good poems by other people. Today's reading is for my good friend Steve Parker who is home in bed when he'd rather be in the mountains.

  • The Plan by Wendell Berry (from his book The Peace of Wild Things)
  • Hiking with the Old Acorn Lady by J.W. Rivers (1988)
  • Mason Jars by the Window by Alberto Rios (1988)
  • Last Hike Before Leaving Montana by Patricia Traxler (from her book Naming the Fires, 2015)
  • Grace by Wendell Berry (1967)
  • The Hike by Neil Weiss (1955)
  • The Burial of the Old by Wendell Berry (1967)


🠊 Catch the live show Sunday mornings at some time-ish: 

Book Your Stocking 2023 with My Mom

On this year's Book Your Stocking, readers share children's books from their past or present. Perhaps you'll stumble upon readers who loved the same books as you, or you'll recall books  important to your own childhood. Should the book find its way into a stocking near you, all the better.

I'm pleased to welcome my mother to the series who begins by remembering her own mother.


From Listening to Reading Aloud

by Carol Pringle

Mother read to us The Bobsey Twins series. Then, I read a lot of forgettable library books as a child and owned only one book (dog vs. cat) until ordering a Scholastic romance book as a high-school freshman. So, I wasn’t an avid reader until I became a teacher who read to children. My all-time fave is E.B. White's Charlotte’s Web. Loved his Trumpet of the Swan, too, and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest books. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren was one my third graders enjoyed hearing. Others liked Little House on the Prairie; Old Yeller also comes to mind. 

My 2024 reading list is going to contain mostly children’s book titles. This week, I’m reading all of Kate Dicamillo’s books (Because of Winn Dixie, et al).

My mom reading to my son
About Carol Pringle: Carol taught elementary school for over thirty years after a stint in social work. She grew up in Evansville, Indiana between her older sister Judy and her younger brother Gary--a sibling position to which she attributes many of her personality traits, faults, and desires. She is now retired, volunteers at the local library, and is an active member of her church community.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Book Discussion with Erin Pringle on Rendezvous with a Writer OutWest

Last night, I met up virtually with Bobbi Jean Bell and Jim Bell for a discussion about my newest book Unexpected Weather Events. I met Bobbi Jean several years ago when she co-hosted a different book show entitled The Writer's Block. Thankfully, she continued a writer-interview radio show and podcast even after the death of her co-host, the wonderful Jim Christina. 

This is my third time talking with Bobbi Jean, and for good reason--she is SO easy to talk to, thoroughly reads the work, and it really feels like a conversation and never a template. I wish I wrote faster so that I could know the next time we get to talk at length about writing. Luckily, Bobbi Jean and her husband Jim interview a writer every Thursday, so you can tune in live or listen/watch recorded shows.

If you missed our recent conversation on L.A. Talk Radio, you can view the show via YouTube (below) or on the L.A. Talk Radio website

An audio-only version is also available here:



Friday, December 15, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith

On this year's Book Your Stocking, readers are sharing children's books from their past or present. Perhaps you'll stumble upon readers who read the same books as you, or will start remembering books important to your own childhood. Should a book find its way into a stocking near you, all the better.

Please welcome Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith from Detroit, Michigan.


The Poem I Ate Up

by Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith

Growing up, I was blessed to have had a nice selection of music and literature to accommodate any mood I was in. I would often escape into a world of my own through an array of sights and sounds that were a radio or book shelf away. One in particular "Eat-It-All Elaine" became an instant favorite. "Eat-It-All Elaine" is a poem by Kaye Starbird, published in 1963. 

In 1980s elementary school, my then gym teacher Ms. Williams, needed a moment of downtime and opted for a storytelling day in place of our usual regimen. This would be the day I was introduced to Starbird's fun and succinctly direct work. The tone of Ms. Williams voice and the focus of consonance and end rhyme made the poem flow like a folk song. 

Starbird wrote what felt like an Edgar Allen Poe prose . . . for a Dr. Seuss audience. The character Elaine was so unbothered by the gaze and whispers around her as she took up space with her peculiarities. She wasn't concerned with The Court Of Public Opinion! She was a loner, odd and maybe a bit gluttonous, but she was herself. I think that this story aided in the affirming of my self-awareness and building of my self-esteem. Through Elaine, Kaye Starbird issues a license for us to simply BE! After all, Elaine with all her ick and weirdness become the most admired and decorated amongst her peers. It was a pivotal moment in the young lives of those of us who were just learning about the world and the distinctions of the people in it. 

Thirty-five years later, I wonder how many of my elementary schoolmates remember that story--that day--that revelation. 

I certainly do.


About Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith: Deidre is a poet, rapper, writer, and community activist. She works as a lecturer in the music department at University of Michigan. Learn more about her here:

Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Yes, you should definitely read Ann Beattie's story collection What Was Mine

Cover of my copy of What Was Mine by Ann Beatie

It has been about a year since I first picked up Ann Beattie's short story collection What Was Mine (1991). I can't remember where I bought it, and the bookmark that fell out of it is from a bookstore in a town I've never been to. Regardless, I'm glad that I own it and that I pursued the stories over all of this time. I've never read Ann Beattie before, so it's a lovely surprise to learn how much I love her writing and that, luckily, there is much else by her to be explored. 

I finished the last story of the collection this evening. The collection holds twelve stories, and each follows a character often reflecting on his or her life and the unpredictable pathways that, jutting this way and that, have somehow led to where he or she sits now--divorced, married but restless, in strained parent-child relationships, and the like. 

These are people who, having followed the given scripts of life, now find themselves in an ongoing lull in the script--a sort of blank on-goingness; life continues, taking them with it, regardless of how fulfilled they or their partners, neighbors, or friends are. The stories remind me of Carol Shields writing in tone and subject, and I'm also reminded of this particular poem by Daniel Halpern, "Argument" (of the same time period) in which the voice of the poem is surprised to discover that his wife has become damaged because of her playing of the role of wife. 

In Ann Beattie's story "Home to Marie," a man watches a caterer carry food into his house for a party his wife is throwing, only to find out that there is no party--never was a party--and that his wife is leaving him. The premise of the party was so that he could finally feel as she has for so many years--waiting for him to show up. 

In another story, "Horatio's Trick," a divorcee plays marbles on the kitchen floor with the chocolates her ex-husband's wife has sent--mentally noting the new wife's handwriting and that the previous year the family gift had been in his handwriting; meanwhile, their college-aged son is upstairs on the phone with his girlfriend--the girlfriend went to her own home for Christmas but her dog is in the backyard. The woman feels alone and left out, and every moment of possible connection--whether at a holiday party or in opening presents with her son--ends up in awkward disconnection. She wakes up on Christmas night or early morning to headlights staring into her living room, only to find a car wreck. One driver is drunk, and the other driver's car is caught on her fence; she can tell that there's no way the car can reverse itself out of the accident--despite the intoxicated driver calling out directions to free the car. She thinks of recounting the story to her son in the morning.

My favorite of the stories is "You Know What" in which a man, Stefan, finds himself raising his daughter, working from a home office, and doubting the monogamy of his financially successful wife. He feels constant dread and still is unsure that his wife would have married him if not for becoming pregnant. There's much about her he feels helpless to understand, though he continues to wonder--following the possible causal paths that could help him but don't. Meanwhile, his daughter's classroom rabbit dies, and the teacher has them write goodbye letters to it. Then the school janitor's brother dies, and the teacher has the students write him sympathy cards.

At a parent-teacher conference, Stefan learns that his daughter tells many long-winded stories at school, and that the teacher is concerned--wondering what might lie beneath the stories--some darker truth or inner concerns. Stefan thinks it's a habit from her mother, even though he clearly is the giver of this habit. The teacher shows Stefan the replacement rabbit and says she puts the rabbit in the children's coat closet overnight because the janitor worried about the lights shining in at night and making sleep hard for the rabbit. The teacher assures Stefan, though he has no concern, that she always remembers to bring the rabbit out of the closet in the morning. 

Later in the story, Stefan and his wife become close during a playful date, and he feels momentarily balanced in the relationship. When Stefan receives a phone call that their daughter's teacher has died unexpectedly, he starts to dwell on the classroom rabbit left in the closet overnight, and now all day since no children would be in the classroom. He contacts the janitor. The story ends in the daughter's classroom at night with the janitor and Stefan checking on the rabbit. The rabbit is fine. The janitor removes love letters from the teacher's desk drawer, admitting an affair. There in the dark classroom, in a style reminiscent of Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie has Stefan confess to the janitor that his whole life has felt like a series of accidents:

"McKee," Stefan says, walking beside him, "all my life I've felt like I was just making things up, improvising as I went along. I don't mean telling lies, I mean inventing a life. It's something I've never wanted to admit."

The janitor assures Stefan that he knows what Stefan means. And that's the story. 

I love it. 

I love the unpredictably reasonable turns that the story takes. 

I love the rabbit left in a dark closet and the letters that the teacher has her students write to the dead rabbit. That the teacher's affair with the janitor is the actual impetus for her having the students write sympathy cards--this assignment as love gesture to him through her students' notes.

The story beneath the story.  

The myriad ways to tunnel back into the story once you've read the whole thing.

What I appreciate about Beattie's stories is her care in writing them (nothing is dashed off), the well-put details, the seriousness she allows her characters to have when examining their lives, and how, by the ends, the stories require time to linger and dissipate before readers can step into the next story and world. Any one of the stories want to be lived in. For a while. 

There is humor, darkness, surprisingly methodical turns in the stories. I'm so glad to have read them and to add her to the growing list of writers that I love. I think you will, too.


Allegory Books and Music, the bookmark in my copy of What Was Mine

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Regi Claire

Welcome back to this year's Book Your Stocking, a holiday series in which avid readers recommend books for your stocking. This year, readers will be sharing children's books from their past or present. Perhaps you'll stumble upon readers who read the same books as you, or will start remembering books that were important to your own childhood. Should one of those books find its way into a stocking near you, all the better.

Please welcome our next contributor, Regi Claire from Scotland.


Adventures while Dishwashing 

Ron Butlin in a book and family
 moment, picture by Regi Claire

by Regi Claire

My choice is the witty, fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat YA adventure Steve and FranDan Take on the World by Scottish author Ron Butlin. 

Cyber-bullied at school, Steve and hapless Dan escape on a homemade raft together with Fran, Dan’s brainy twin sister, and Nessie the dog. They soon find themselves confronted by some seriously dangerous adversaries and the story spirals into a thrilling chase that keeps you turning the pages. 

I was lucky enough to have the book read to me passage by newly handwritten passage every evening by the author himself – my husband! – while I was cooking dinner (and then doing the washing-up). Every morning I would urge him to write faster, so that I might hear another instalment that evening.


About Regi Claire: Swiss-born Regi Claire is a prizewinning poet and fiction writer based in Scotland. She teaches part-time at Edinburgh University. Learn more about her at

Regi Claire

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Wake to Words and Brew Some Coffee (December 10, 2023)

We are two Sundays into December, and I think finally on a streak of poetry without dropping a Sunday. Thanks for joining me again for good poems by other people.



  • The Blackboard by W.S. Merwin (from his book Garden Time)
  • This Compost by Walt Whitman (from Complete Poetry and Selected Prose, edited by James E. Miller, Jr.)


🠊 Catch the live show Sunday mornings at some time-ish: 

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Peter McClean

Welcome to December and this year's version of Book Your Stocking, a holiday series in which avid readers recommend books for your stocking. This year, readers will be sharing children's books they remember reading as children. Perhaps you'll stumble upon readers who read the same books as you, or will start remembering books that were important to your own childhood. And if one of those books should find its way into a stocking near you, then all the better.

Please welcome our first contributor, Peter McClean from Dublin, Ireland:


Shipwrecked in Hospital 

by Peter McClean 

Published in 1857, 100 years before I was born The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne is a tale of survival on a desert island; it contains things that would not be regarded well today, but those things left a lasting impression on my mind. What I remember is the sense of adventure and excitement. Three boys are shipwrecked and are the sole survivors of the sinking. They must fend for themselves and learn how to survive on a Pacific island that is totally alien to their experiences to date.


I read The Coral Island fifty-five years ago, as an eleven year old boy confined to a hospital bed for several days. My memory of the detail in the story might, understandably, be a bit sketchy at this time distance, but I have strong memories of having been engrossed in the book and having found it exciting and interesting. The boys in the story were determined to survive and their adventures kept my mind occupied as I recovered from my surgery.

On the day I was admitted to hospital for a scheduled surgery, my older brother was an emergency admission suffering from appendicitis. He was put into the fifth bed on my right. At that time the hospital was run by an order of nuns, and as such it was ruled over by “Matron”. In the hospital, or any hospital run by a “Matron”, Matron was the rule of law. She was all powerful. What Matron said or thought dictated the actions of all her underlings. Even the medical consultants would think twice about going up against Matron’s instructions.


Every evening Matron would go on her rounds of the hospital and in each ward she would visit every patient and have a brief conversation with them to ensure they were comfortable and felt they were getting the attention they required. When Matron arrived at my bed on the evening of my admission day, she greeted me and asked me how I was and wished me luck for my procedure. Then she said, “I see there is another McClean in the ward. Is he a friend of yours?”


In the nature of an unthinking eleven year old boy, I responded, “No! He’s my brother!”



About Peter McClean

I am into my seventh decade on this planet and have reached what some call my Third Age. Having retired from full-time employment in the world of operations management and consulting I can now devote more time to my reading, the activity that I used throughout my career to counterbalance the stresses of the day-job.


Peter McClean


Erin Pringle on Rendezvous with a Writer OutWest, December 14

On December 14, I'll be chatting with Bobbi Jean Bell and her husband Jim on their radio show Rendezvous with a Writer. I'm especially looking forward to the discussion because I've talked about my other two books with Bobbi Jean Bell on The Writer's Block, an LA Talk Radio show she co-hosted with her friend Jim Christina. 

I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Bobbi and Jim. They'd read the books, had real questions, and we told good jokes between the more poignant exchanges. After our discussion about The Whole World at Once, Jim sent me a coffee mug with the show's name on it, and a book that he thought I'd like. During our second interview, this time about Hezada! I Miss You, Jim and I decided we'd meet up for lunch at a diner, as he'd moved to Idaho not so far from me. 

But before we hammered out the details, Jim died. 

You'd think that having only talked to him for two hours in my life that I would not have cried on and off the day I learned, but of course I did. Maybe it's because writing is an extremely personal thing--I put all that I am into it. Maybe because my writing largely revolves around grief and death, and so in talking to Jim and Bobbi about the stories, I connected them to the people I have cherished and lost. And so talking with Jim and Bobbi over the years about my writing has been important and real. 

When Unexpected Weather Events, my new book of stories, was about to be published, I reached out to Bobbi to let her know about it. She invited me to talk about the book on her other radio show, Rendezvous with a Writer OutWest. She has hosted it for a number of years, and while I do not write Westerns, I do live out west, and so here we are.

Please tune in to hear the show.

Rendezvous with a Writer OutWest

December 14, 2023

6 PM (PST)

Also, The Writer's Block episodes are still available: