The Undercover Soundtrack – Myfanwy Collins

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I wrote an Undercover Soundtrack for THE BOOK OF LANEY.

My Memories of a Future Life

for logo‘Tenderness, fragility, an understanding beyond her years’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative environment – perhaps to connect with a character, populate a mysterious place, or hold  a moment still to explore its depths. This week’s guest is Myfanwy Collins @MyfanwyCollins

Soundtrack by Jessica Lea Mayfield

Before she was fully formed on the page, I knew who I wanted Laney to be. She would be 15, tall and gangly, with a face that would not seem immediately beautiful to the young world but an astute adult would know how she would bloom fiercely and beautifully one day. Laney would not be an obvious intellectual, but she would think long and hard in an emotional way. People would often say to her, ‘You think too much’, a sentence she would find curious and staggeringly ridiculous. Yes, she does think a lot but…

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Exquisite Duet: Helene Cardona and Myfanwy Collins

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Grateful to have been included in this exquisite duet.


the-duetExquisite Duet (formerly Exquisite Quartet) is not so much a composition between two writers, but rather something created within the murky midlands of each author’s mind, yet set off by the same first sentence. Meg Tuite chooses two writers each month and gives them a first sentence to start with and a 250-word limit to finish an exquisitely mesmerizing story or poem. These duet-dueling writers will craft two completely different cosmos that have rotated, pitched, and blasted from the depths of their cerebral cortex to the twitching nerve endings of their digits onto dueling keyboards and separate screens until their sublime duet is prepared to see the light of an audience.

All the Sweetness in the World

by Helene Cardona 

The dreary memory of those two words spewed out
while she lay unconscious, a place in chaos.
The truth is you can never believe what anyone says.
I flash back…

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My Hijab Day (#myhijabday)

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I recently took a quiz to find out which values of life are important for me to pass on to my child and how those values line up with the values of different countries. At the end of the quiz, I found out that my parenting values most closely resemble those of parents in Sweden. I was given a set of 11 values to place in order of importance to me. At the top of my list was Tolerance. This was not on the top of the list for Sweden. However, it was at the top of the list of the United States values, which I otherwise didn’t mesh with.

Though tolerance may be at the top of the list for the American parents who helped create this list of values, America does not feel like a very tolerant country to many people. Many people feel afraid because they are perceived as different than the supposed status quo. I do not blame these people for feeling afraid. The news is filled with horrible stories of people being killed in cold blood, not because they have done anything wrong, but because they happened to be near someone who was intolerant of their difference.

Last week my friend gave me a wonderful opportunity to discuss intolerance, sexism, and Islamophobia with my child, when she, a Muslim, invited me to take part in a new movement called my hijab day (#myhijabday). The idea behind this movement is for women of all colors, faiths, ages, and nationalities to:

stand in solidarity with us! Help us shatter stereotypes about women with hijabs/headscarves. We believe women should be free to wear ANYTHING they want without the fear of being judged, ridiculed, attacked, or murdered by others. Here, we would like to break the cycle of oppression by spreading tolerance and understanding. And we need YOUR help to do this.

We invite you to cover your hair for a day and share your experience (and your photo too, if you like) with us. Please use the hashtag ‪#‎myhijabday‬ to reach more people. Help us spread the message that wearing hijab is NOT a symbol of oppression. On the contrary, it is a symbol of women’s agency over their bodies.

It is a wonderful movement and I support it wholeheartedly. As soon as my friend invited me to take part and wear a head scarf for a day, I immediately went online and ordered a proper one. It didn’t arrive until late on Saturday and so I chose Sunday (yesterday) as the day when I would wear it.

I didn’t have it in my room when I woke up and so I put on another scarf on my head until I could get it. When my son first saw me, we talked about why I had covered my hair on this day. We had discussed before that I would be doing this but I didn’t tell him when. He quickly got used to seeing me with my hair covered and decided to write about it himself on his own (private) blog. I consider this an extremely positive thing to already come out of my taking part.

My plan was to go out for a run but we got a late-season snow squall and so that idea was squashed. Instead, I spent the day quietly, as I do most days, until a friend visited mid-day. She brought her dog over to play with our dog. I explained why I was wearing the hair covering and she became very excited about the idea of borrowing the hijab I had purchased and using it within her preschool classrooms at some point.

By the end of the day, I felt like I might let my friend down by not having anything more to report than me going through my daily life with my hair covered, but then I realized that is the point. There does not have to be something dramatic about wearing a hajib. You may wear it because it is a part of your faith that you choose to adhere to, or you may choose to wear it because you like the way it looks and feels. You may choose to wear it because you are proving a point of some kind. Or you may choose to wear a head scarf for fashion. No matter what the reason, it is really no one’s choice but your own for why you wear it and when you wear it.

My friend chooses to wear her hajib and I support her in the choice.

I believe in that choice and when February 1, 2016 comes around and it is once again World Hijab Day, I will make the choice again myself.

Until then, I thank my friend for enlightening me and my small corner of the world.


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From the day he was born, my son has been my greatest teacher. Here’s what he taught me today:

It’s not the gift, but the giving that brings us joy.

We are comforted and made happy by our traditions and rituals.

Spending time with those you love is the most precious gift.

Friend, I know this day of celebration for many is difficult for others. I know that there are those of you who do not celebrate Christmas and might feel left out on a day when the joy of others is thrown in your faces. I know that there are those of you who have lost someone you love and are in mourning. I know there are those of you who are in the process of losing someone you love. I know that for some of you this will be your last Christmas. I know that there are some of you who feel unloved. I know that there are some of you who are bitter and sad and I know that there are some of you who are alone and lonely.

Friend, there is a place for you at our table today. We have an empty spot that I will set and think of you when I do. I will think of those I have lost and those you have lost. I will think of those of you who are  in need of comfort and camaraderie.

Merry Christmas, Friend. Today, the chair is for you. Today, you are part of our family, a participant in our many traditions. Today, you are one of us.


GUEST POST: Bonnie ZoBell: My Writing Process

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Below is a guest post written by Bonnie ZoBell.

Bonnie ZoBell: My Writing Process:  Blog Tour

Today I’m taking part in the #MyWritingProcessTour. It’s so interesting and instructive to see how other writers go about their work. I was nominated by my friend, Susan Tepper, writer extraordinaire.  Be sure to get a copy of Susan’s latest book, The Merrill Diaries, beautifully written and a thought-provoking romp through the U.S. and parts of Europe.

The awkward part about writing this blog post is that at the moment I don’t have much of a writing process because besides teaching, I’m in the process of birthing my newest book, What Happened Here: a novella & stories. I’m doing everything I can to ease her passage into the world, making sure she’s nurtured in every possible way, and giving her a good wholesome introduction with the hope people will be as good to her as they’ve been to me. At the moment, it’s on pre-release and available only on my site, but she’ll be officially launched on May 3rd. What I’ll do here is write about my process when I’m writing. I warn you: This process isn’t entirely the healthiest for children and other living things, in other words younger writers. Don’t show this to your students.


Final Cover What Happened Here 1-10-14 What am I working on?

I’ve gone back to an old novel, most recently called Animals Voices—which I worked on for many years—because I think I’ve finally figured out a solution to a problem I was having. The story starts out with some young kids, the boy very curious about the unusual girl, after he gets over her strangeness and the way all his friends make fun of her, because she can communicate with animals. They grow up and marry and he is diagnosed with AIDS in the early years. Communication is difficult when no one will acknowledge the disease, probably even more so than communicating with owls. Then I’m going to go back to another novel that I also spent years on called Bearded Women, about a woman who goes to an electrologist because she’s hirsute. There are class issues between her and the electrologist, and it comes down to the main character needing to pluck other parts of her persona as well.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’d call what I write literary fiction, though I’d like to write more magical realism. Oh, give me anything to read that contains beautiful language and a good story, and I’ll devour it. Perhaps mine differs because of my love of setting. I’m thrilled going back to Animal Voices, getting the chance to revisit the southern part of Del Mar in San Diego, land filled with an estuary, all kinds of unique crawly life, and the magnificent Torrey Pine trees. These gnarled pines grow crooked because they’re on the bluffs right above the ocean and therefore get a lot of strong winds. They’d be creepy if they weren’t so beautiful.

I’m no minimalist, though I try to be as spare as I can. I like to think that sometimes I’m successful at writing beautiful, in-depth descriptions that let you see images in life in a unusual way without going overboard.

I’m whimsical.

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I love language and because writing fiction helps me figure out the world. I’d be lost without it.

How does my writing process work?

This is the unhealthy part: I’m a binge writer. I can go for days, weeks, even a couple of years and do nothing but write. I ignore my husband and animals, my hair gets dirty, my bills don’t get paid, and I wear clothes that should have been recycled some time ago if I get really passionate and possessed about what I’m writing. But it takes a toll. So after doing this for a while, it’s hard to allow myself to go back there—there’s so much deprivation. Unfortunately, the other side of it is that I can also go for a long time not writing at all. That’s where I am right now while I promote and regroup from my collection. But I’m daydreaming about those Torrey Pine trees

My tags

I’m tagging four of my favorite writers who will take the baton next and telling you about their writing process:

Myfanwy CollinsLiveson the North Shore of Massachusetts with her husband and son. She has published her debut novel Echolocation, a short fiction collection I Am Holding Your Hand, and her YA novel The Book of Laney is forthcoming.

James ClaffeyJames’ collection Blood a Cold Blue was published earlier this year. His writing has appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies, and he is currently working on a novel based on his childhood in Ireland.

Tamara Linse – Writer, cogitator, recovering ranch girl ~ broke her collarbone when she was three, her leg when she was four, a horse when she was twelve, and her heart ever since. She lives in Wyoming, and just released her collection, How to Be a Man.