Friday, August 17, 2018

Hello Coupeville!

The thing about the Pacific Northwest is that there’s water everywhere, and where there is water, there are islands. These islands of Puget Sound – Anderson and Fox, Vashon-Maury, Blake and Bainbridge, Whidbey and Camano, Guemes and Fox – to name just a few, are gems, each with its own island identity and small towns. 

I’m not a regular ferry commuter like many in the area, and I don’t visit the islands as often as I’d like. The islands and the ferries needed to reach many of them can confuse, yet the pull to explore is strong. So, when Coupeville Library invited me to lead a memoir-writing workshop, I did a google search to figure out where it was, how to get there, and what I could learn about the area. I was intrigued by this town of 1,831 residents on Whidbey Island. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Coupeville is a historic district is within the federal Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve. The reserve was established by Congress in 1978, as the first and now one of the largest National Historical Reserves in the nation.[8] Its 22 square miles (57 km2) also encompass farmlands, Fort Ebey State Park, Fort Casey State Park, shorelines and beaches, parks, trails, and 91 buildings and structures on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Of course, those of you who live there already know the facts and the appeal. I look forward to exploring your town and island next Monday, August 20.

If you’re a reader or a writer, if you have an idea for a memoir and need some help getting started, or if you’ve got a work in progress, please join me at the Coupeville Library.

Writing Memoir: What? Why? How?
Coupeville Library
788 NW Alexander St
Coupeville, WA 98239-0745
Monday, August 20, 2018

1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, July 27, 2018

With a Little Help from My Friends

Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key

            I spent a week on San Juan Island in mid-June. Every morning I sat at a small table in a lovely guesthouse perched on a hill, with a panoramic view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Canada only eight miles in the distance. Laptop open, I dug deep, at peace in the solitude and beauty surrounding me.
            When my writer friend offered me this solitary writing retreat, I grabbed at it with both hands, grateful for the time and place to complete the draft of my latest memoir project. My friend was the perfect host. She left me alone. I wrote from early morning until late afternoon, when it was time for a shared dog walk and dinner. By week’s end, the draft was complete.
The Ex-Mexican Wives Club is the story of my ex-pat years in Mexico City in the early 1980s intertwined with the story of reconnecting with the women I once knew there thirty-five years later. Each of these women is an integral part of the story about a time that left an indelible mark on all of us. I know I have opened Pandora’s box of memories, not only for myself, but for all of us by writing this memoir.
From the small table perched on the hill, I sent the completed draft to seven women inviting each to share any comments, concerns, corrections she may have. Then, I packed my bags, caught the ferry, and headed for home. Within days, I had heard from most of the seven and my heart sang with delight.
As another writer friend told me: That’s what memoir writing is all about. That’s what this memoir is – the threading together of your life. Her comment made me think of the story quilts Sue Monk Kidd describes in The Invention of Wings. The creation of memoir through patches of cloth, images to tell stories, images threaded together in much the same way a memoirist threads story and creates images through words on the page.
I may not be able to stitch a straight line or sing in tune, but I certainly could not get by without the help of my friends.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Australia Reads Citadel

Writer and teacher, mentor and friend, Jack Remick is featured in an exclusive interview with Jasmina Siderovski for the Australian publication, eYs Magazine.

Jack Remick is a award-winning poet, short story writer, and novelist. Citadel is his latest work. This is an interview I'm sure will be of interest to readers and writers alike. It begins ...

Click here to read the complete interview. You'll need to flip through the magazine to pages 51-57, but it's well-worth the effort. Enjoy!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Do You Have a Story to Tell?

Have life events left indelible marks? Do you feel the urge to examine and voice those experiences? What's holding you back?
Memoir  is important to me - writing about memory, writing about memoir writing, writing about reading memoir. Most recently I posted a piece I prepared for a Seattle coffee shop reading: Memoir and Why I Do It. It makes sense then, that when Andrea Murray interviewed me for her blog, my thoughts turned toward memoir.

On Facebook, Andrea writes: Join Arleen as she talks about facing her fears, not asking for permission, and keeping the ideas flowing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Memoir & Why I Do It

Here in West Seattle we have a wonderful spot called C & P Coffee Company. In this welcoming environment, PoetryBridge hosts monthly events with featured readers and a community mic organized by Leopoldo Seguel. More recently, Leopoldo has launched PoetryBridge Times. I am grateful to him for publishing this piece and happy to share it with you.
         A while back, I was driving home to Seattle from eastern Washington with my sisters. I sat in the back seat. As we drove over Snoqualmie Pass and started the descent into the Puget Sound lowlands, I noticed two police vehicles parked in an open area, perhaps a weigh station parking lot, to the north of the highway. One was an SUV, the other a sedan. Both were black. They were parked head-to-head with the drivers’ windows aligned. The SUV was on the highway side, almost blocking the view of the sedan.

         “Looks like that’s where the cops take a break,” I said.

         “But there’s no donut shop around,” said my sister, the one riding shotgun.

         We laughed and thought nothing more of it.

         Five minutes down the road, a police SUV passed on our left. A moment later they’d pulled someone over.

         “Where’d that guy come from?” I wondered.

         “Same one we just saw,” my sister said.

         “No way. The parked cars were black. That one’s white.”

         “No,” my sister said. “It’s the same white SUV.”

         So what happened? The paint color of the cop cars obviously hadn’t changed, so one of us had to be wrong. Was it her or me? Was the white SUV the same vehicle we’d seen parked or another? Was it possible that when we joked about donuts, my sister and I were actually looking at different cars?  Read more...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Poison Apples?

Perhaps all mothers of daughters possess a secret talking mirror that announces when their young womanhood begins to fade and their daughters’ begin to blossom. As in the fairy tale, the experience can unleash a lacerating jealousy in some mothers, which turns up like poison apples on the daughter’s doorstep. It can also usher in fears that I would’ve sworn I’d never have. Of invisibility, anonymity, irrelevance. And deeper down, fears of decline and death.
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story 
by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

My four sisters and I gather four times a year – winter, spring, summer, fall – to celebrate our birthdays. Sometimes we meet in a restaurant, other times in one of our homes. I am hosting a late summer celebration of two landmark birthdays this year. My eldest sister will be turning seventy. My youngest is hitting sixty. Six years younger than the eldest and four years older than the youngest, I am close to the middle marker, slowly edging toward Medicare.

When I read Sue Monk Kidd’s thoughts and fears on aging written on the cusp of her fifties, I realized how unaware I had been of those feelings a decade ago. Late in coming though they have been, I am very aware of them now, over a decade later. Still a late bloomer perhaps?

I don’t believe I have left any poison apples on my daughter’s doorstep, but I certainly have felt the tentacles of ageism Sue Monk Kidd names: invisibility, anonymity and irrelevance. And while I can say, at least now, at least at this moment, that I do not fear death, decline terrifies me. I face decline on a daily basis. I face it in my need to stretch each morning in order to abate the deep muscle ache that will otherwise pester throughout the day. I face it in my inability to hike or cycle or garden with the energy and enthusiasm of only a few years ago. I face it in the mirror’s reflection.

Facing age – the havoc wreaked on body and mind – with grace and dignity is a challenge. Still, it is a challenge I’m eager to take on with all the energy I can muster. Better that than the alternative, right?

In my mind, birthdays are a time to embrace life. Each passing year and each coming year merits celebration. I often quip that I believe in week-long, no month-long birthdays. A single day simply isn’t enough. As I plan the celebration for my eldest and youngest sisters, I wish for something more than a simple afternoon of delicious food, cold wine, and warm conversation in the garden, but it must suffice. We will brush away invisibility, anonymity and irrelevance, we will share an afternoon together, and it will be enough.   

Friday, May 11, 2018

Exciting News!

In April 2008, my first book was published. On this 10th anniversary, I am very pleased to announce the re-release of The Thirty-Ninth Victim.

The Green River murders were headline news throughout the 1980s. By the time the perpetrator was finally arrested over twenty years later, at least 48 young women had been killed in the worst serial murder case in history.

In THE THIRTY-NINTH VICTIM, Arleen Williams tells the story of her family's journey before and after the Green River killer murdered her youngest sister and offers a window into the family dynamics behind this life-altering tragedy. The redemptive power of finding and facing truth are at the heart of this powerful memoir.

As you may know, writing this memoir reshaped the course of my life. Publication gave me voice and launched an unplanned and much cherished writing career. The book sparked memorable conversations with readers and earned numerous positive reviews.

A courageous and insightful memoir that stands as a tribute to a beloved sister and that opens a revealing window on family dynamics in the face of an unspeakable crime. Arleen Williams's account is measured, thorough, factual, and heartbreaking.
            —Priscilla Long, author of Fire and Stone: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

You can find The Thirty-Ninth Victim here. If you have read the first edition, perhaps you might want to gift a copy to friend or family. This 10th anniversary edition sports a new epilogue as well as a sharp new cover by designer, Loretta Matson.
 As always, thank you for your interest and readership (and for your Amazon reviews).

Friday, April 20, 2018

Thank you!

Shortly after I finished Biking Uphill, I had lunch with friends who were concerned about illegal immigration. I found myself wanting to say, "But I know someone who's been through this and she…" Then I realized I was thinking about Antonia and that her story had touched me so deeply I almost forgot it was fiction. This is the power of Arleen Williams' writing. She's a born story-teller.
Susan Knox, author of Financial Basics: A Money-Management Guide for Students

Sometimes a good review is just what the “writing doctor” ordered. I remember first reading the above review. Tears filled my eyes. I felt like a writer, like I’d touched a reader’s heart, like I’d accomplished something important. Readers’ reviews can do that for a writer, for this writer. They can encourage and vindicate. Many thanks to all of you who take the time to post your thoughts.

Biking Uphill is on sale this weekend for only $0.99. If you haven’t read it, now is a great time to download your copy. Just click here!