Writer Yoga: Walking Along the Edge

There’s a phrase I use a lot when I teach yoga — I let participants know we’re looking for the space between “easy” and “ouch.” You know that space. It’s not just in yoga. In anything we do, there’s a place where we’re challenging ourselves, but not setting ourselves up to fail. That’s the Edge, the line where we need to walk if we’re going to improve our skills at whatever we’re doing.

On the mat, it’s where we feel the muscles stretching and lengthening, gravity and our alignment assisting us into the pose. The easy is when we don’t feel the stretch; the ouch is when we go too far and all of a sudden we’re hobbling around for a day or two.

Off the mat, the easy is Continue reading

Meet the Characters: Chris Kimmett

Exeter State music instructor Chris Kimmett has loved playing since he was a child, and now spends most of his time either creating music or helping others improve their performances.

“Music is a huge part of who I am,” Kimmett said. “An injury in college prevented me from making performing a career, but I’ve found I like composing and teaching just as much. There’s nothing like helping somebody master a new skill. And working with so many musicians feeds the part of my brain that creates music — I often get home from a rehearsal and sit down to compose because the ideas are just flowing out.” He grins. “Fortunately for our neighbors, I use a practice mute when it’s late at night.”

Kimmett, who plays the trombone, came to Exeter for grad school, but ended up staying after he met and later married Dan Reilly, one of the sons in Reilly & Sons Contracting.

“Dan’s encouraged me Continue reading

Review: A Thirty-Something Girl by L.M. Stull

L.M. Stull’s debut novel A Thirty-Something Girl has a fascinating main character: Hope has been living a lie, covering up what she sees as her imperfections until they come crashing down around her on her birthday. Hope has hit rock-bottom, and we get to follow her on her way back up.

I had to read this book in two sittings for time reasons, and when I got to the first point where I had to  stop, I was seriously tempted to keep going and deal with the missing sleep the next day. Hope’s story sucked me in and I couldn’t wait to see what was next on her journey. I loved her first meeting with Sam and how things developed between them. She has a gift for creating characters to care about.

In a lot of ways, that was a bad thing, because Continue reading

Around Town: The Exeter Ledger

The paper is still downtown, an old building that stretches back to the block behind it. The Stoneburner family started the paper back in the late 1800s, publishing twice a week. The Exeter Ledger was one of three papers in the town at the time, and soon ended up as the only one. The paper moved to this building in 1903, with a special two-story room in the back of the first floor for the printing press operation. The paper does Scout troop tours several times a year, and the printing press is always one of the highlights.

The troops come in at night, when Continue reading

Indie Interview: Roz Morris

Roz Morris is a best-selling ghostwriter and book doctor in the UK, but when it came to publish her own work, she decided to go the indie route because what she wanted to write wasn’t what publishers wanted to sell. She talks about her choices, including a decision to serialize her literary novel and what it takes to make that concept work. She mentions further down, the differences between British and American spelling, usage and punctuation make it difficult for her to feel comfortable editing an American work, so as an example, I’ve left the British elements intact. 

Tell us a little about your indie book or books, for readers who aren’t familiar with your work. 

I’ve indie published two titles. One is non-fiction — Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. The other is a contemporary literary novel — My Memories of a Future Life.

After ghostwriting so many books for traditional publishers, what made you decide to publish your own work? 

Both my self-published books were accepted by agents and sent to editors. But although I was known as a ghostwriter — indeed a bestselling one — my own books were very different.

With the novel, the ghostwriting opened doors. I had Big Six editors querying me, in fact. They knew I’d ghosted thrillers and were hoping I would write them something that was easy for the marketing department to sell. When My Memories of a Future Life was ready they liked it very much, but said it was too original — marketing departments wouldn’t want to promote an unconventional novel from an unknown debut author.

Some of them said that if I made it more like a conventional thriller, or a timebending murder mystery they might take a punt. However, I wanted to explore deeper questions and take the story in unexpected directions, so I stuck to my guns. And the feedback told me that if those editors had bought my novel in a shop, they’d have told their friends it was a good read. Going indie was the obvious choice.

That may seem unjust, but it’s the state of the industry. Writers sell either by publishing in a genre or by having a marketable name. If you don’t fit either of those categories, you’re a risky proposition. And you find when you try to sell your kooky novel by yourself under your obscure name what a hard job it is. Indie may be easy to start, but it’s not easy to make a success of.

I would never have self-published my novel, though, if Continue reading

Softening Our Grip on Outcomes Through Nonattachment

Back when I had a yoga studio, I had a weekly yoga philosophy discussion group. It started as a short workshop at The Sacred Circle, a local bookstore that carries some wonderful yoga and meditation books, among other things. In the workshop, in the discussion group, in every yoga training I’ve taken that’s touched on this and in my own teaching, nonattachment has proven to be the toughest concept to grasp.

At its most basic, nonattachment means letting go of our grip on outcomes. That’s a tough concept for most of us to first understand and then to live. I got a hard practical lesson in it while going through yoga teacher training at the same time the newspaper industry seemed to be melting down through round after round of layoffs. That lesson was probably also the greatest gift I could have received because Continue reading

Meet the Character: Riordan Boyle

You might not have met Riordan Boyle, but you’ve probably seen him telling stories, maybe even stopped to listen while shopping at O’Leary’s Market or on your way to a table at Corcoran’s Pub.

Boyle’s a third-generation lawyer, and is well-known in town for taking on cases other atttorneys wouldn’t touch. He does pro bono work for clients of some of the local social services agencies, and credits longtime friend Becca Stone with opening his eyes to some of the groups that needed help.

But when people talk about him, Continue reading

Six-Sentence Sunday: Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter

From Thrown Out, the title story in my short-story collection Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter.

He swallowed and made himself take a step into the alley. The trash bins along the wall smelled of stale beer, and bile started to rise in his throat. He forced himself to take another step, reminding himself the wall was cinderblock, not brick. A third step. It wasn’t nearly as late, the sky still the blue of dusk, not the black of night. He started to take another step, but a noise stopped him; he looked back for the source.

If you like the excerpt, the collection is on sale for 99 cents, a third of its usual $2.99 cost.

Review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Lauren Myracle’s Shine drew attention after the National Book Award fiasco back in the fall, and while the situation was unfortunate at best, it drew lots of attention to a well-deserving book. Shine is a gem of a young adult novel, compelling in its ability to wrestle with difficult issues while entertaining. Myracle’s rural Southern mountain village and its inhabitants are well-drawn, with plenty of dimension. She doles out backstory carefully, hinting and giving us just enough to entice without  annoying. When Cat’s secret is finally revealed, we have a good sense of what generally happened, and then the details start to make other elements of the story fit together.

Watching Cat learn how events, people and relationships she assumed she understood differ from reality sets the stage for the final revelation of the book, and Myracle’s storytelling skill gives us a cohesive, compelling tale filled with interesting characters. This book will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Around Town: Exeter Train Station

At mid-day, the Exeter train station is quiet, the small depot shut up. The low-roofed building peaks in the center at the station’s heart, before flattening to a slope just barely steep enough to allow snow to run off of it during the winter.

The bricks are faded from time, the original clay red softened to a brownish orange. The original slate roof has patches of different colors where repairs have been made over the years. A white MBTA board with purple strips top and bottom shows the Worcester to Boston line that runs through here; a small plastic container bolted to the map has a few schedules inside, the purple ink faded from exposure to the sun.

Morning and evening, the station bustles with people headed one way or the other to work, choosing the train to avoid traffic or gain some extra time to read, work or study. Most of the trains on this line stop at Framingham, but enough run all the way to Worcester to make commuting possible.

The first train leaves about 5 a.m., and by six, most of the riders who work in Boston have left. The ones headed to Worcester are more likely to drive, but a few students line up to catch the 8 and 10 a.m. trains, messenger bags slung over one shoulder. More students get off, coming from Framingham or further east to take classes at Exeter State.

In the evening, Continue reading