Monday, December 12, 2022

Pure Joy

Last week I got an email that read “Congratulations! You qualified to have a chance to sign a deal for your very first movie adaptation.” I’ll admit it caught my attention.

I read further despite being fairly certain it was a pay-for-representation offer. At “...  upon scrutinizing your book …” I almost hit Delete. Instead, I emailed back asking which of my six books he was interested in representing.

After some back and forth, I knew this was not an avenue I was interested in pursuing. Still, the interaction got me reading the Amazon listing of The Alki Trilogy for the first time in ages. What I found was pure joy.

In today’s world of online shopping, reviews matter. The joy I found were the wonderful reviews from readers I do not know. Don’t get me wrong. All reviews are great no matter who writes them or even if the reader finds fault with the book, but reviews from readers who do not know me personally indicates my books have traveled beyond my small circle of family and friends.

With deep gratitude to all readers who take the time to share their thoughts, I’m including a few reviews below. You are of course invited to read more online. 

If you are enticed to read my novels or gift them this holiday season, the eBooks are on sale for one week, December 13th to 20th for only 99 cents!

5.0 out of 5 stars Running Secrets 

I read this book in one weekend. It was hard to put down and only did when I had to. I loved the characters in the story and the building relationships, especially the mother/daughter relationship between Chris and Gemi because I was adopted as an adult and I know how that can heal old wounds. Wonderful book. Highly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 stars Some books are a great read, but other books are ...

Some books are a great read, but other books are a great reading experience couched in an important read. I feel that Biking Uphill is the latter. In Biking Uphill, Arleen Williams captures your attention with the pictures she paints, which somehow evoke the warmth and sincerity of photographer, Paul Taylor's pictures of the migrant workers from an era more than half a century before. Her story is a rich and earthy stew of friendship, desperation, triumph, and the power of love in the face of hopelessness. All these are wrapped in a running theme of the gross injustices of humanity. But it's her gift for imagery that prevented me from putting the book down. It's not symbolic imagery, but real, almost photographic pictures she presents of the characters and places, right down to the smells and the light....all my senses were aware while gathering more secrets of each character. I felt more like I was watching a movie than reading a book. As for the story itself, it's timely and brave for its vivid portrayal of the universal pain caused by arbitrary borders, learned prejudice, and the sorrow of separation these things create. She is making an important contribution to society through her honest writing, and I am certain, through her teaching, as well. I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy!

5.0 out of 5 stars A Trilogy to Savor Again and Again

If you're an avid reader, you know well the thrill of stumbling upon a book that resonates with you so powerfully you just can't put it down. When it ends, there is a feeling of sadness and a longing for more. That is how I felt when I first discovered the Alki Trilogy by Arleen Williams. It started with Running Secrets, the story of a young woman hurtling toward self-destruction before meeting Gemi Kemmal, a healthcare provider and survivor of the horrific political and civil clashes in Ethiopia.

Gemi is the binding thread in each of the books in the trilogy, which continues with Biking Uphill, and culminates with Walking Home, a beautiful and very true-to-life story of an Eritrean refugee called Kidane seeking to build a new life in Seattle. Sadly, in spite of Kidane's best efforts, he remains plagued with nightmares and flashbacks from his own struggles in the Horn of Africa, until he, too, meets Gemi. This time, the caregiver becomes the care receiver at the heart of a tale that brings each character from the trilogy together in beautiful fashion.
What I appreciate most about Walking Home, Biking Uphill, and Running Secrets, is that each of the characters are so believable. So real. So many authors choose to make their characters human, but still somehow detached from reality. Williams doesn't. Instead, each of her characters, from Kidane and Gemi, to Talisha, Kidane's future wife, and their growing circle of friends, is so true one half expects to visit the Alki area and run into them.
Also, unlike other novels of the genre, or similar genres, the drama the characters face is also believable, and therefore makes it easy for readers to identify with in some way. I found myself in Chris, the main protagonist of Running Secrets, right away, but also saw glimpses of me in others in the trilogy as well.
What I especially appreciate is that each of the books is so compelling, you'll want to read them again, and because of Williams's flowing style - not too lofty and not too simplistic - you can and will discover something new when you do. But I caution you, there are moments in these books, particularly Walking Home, that will leave you breathless and stunned. There is a plot twist so unimaginable in Walking Home it spins the head. But do continue reading until the end or you'll miss an amazing finale.
I truly hope that Williams continues to gift readers with more stories with rich, multifaceted characters, stunning backdrops (if Alki Beach is real, I MUST visit!!), and stories that leave readers feeling a sense of "yes!" after the last page. Williams is a gifted writer and storyteller, and the Alki Trilogy proves it.

Monday, August 29, 2022

What an August ...

... and it's not over yet!

We began the month in Bloomington, Indiana for a family reunion to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. We planned a ten-day visit and enjoyed most of it exploring Bloomington and Lake Monroe, doing watercolors on the Indiana University campus, and visiting with relatives.

It was lovely until day nine when we were awakened with the news that one of the cousins had tested positive for COVID-19. Within a few hours and a flurry of texts, we learned that many others in the group, some already enroute home, also tested positive.

My husband, Tom, our daughter, Erin, and our grandson, Jack were staying together in a small rental house. Using the tests I’d thrown into my bag at the last minute, we tested. Three positives. Only my husband was still negative.

In a flurry of decision-making, we cancelled our flights, extended our car rental, packed our belongings, and began a four-day cross-country trek home to Seattle. So much beautiful country we drove through without a single sight-seeing stop!

Jack was a little trooper. Can you imagine four days strapped into a kid’s car seat? At least the big people could squirm around a bit for comfort. After long days of continuous driving and three nights in roadside motels, getting home felt like checking into a 5-star hotel. That evening, Tom tested positive.

Fortunately, none of us were horribly ill. The fatigue lingers, but it is manageable. I am so glad that not only the three adults (and everyone at the reunion) were fully vaccinated, but that even two-year-old Jack had already received two of the three injections in the recently approved protocol for young children.

Two weeks later, we were on the road again. This time for less than four hours to Cape Disappointment State Park at the mouth of the Columbia River. Erin had booked the reservation to coincide with the International Kite Festival in Long Beach, and fortunately, our son-in-law, Elliot, was able to join us on this trip. It was such a joy to watch all the amazing kites, but even more so to watch Jack learning to fly his own. It was more like walking a dog than standing or sitting in one spot like the pros, but the adorable factor made up for any deficiency in skill.

Home again it’s time to settle into a routine of writing and drawing, cycling and watching Jack a day or two each week. And just maybe we’ll finish this summer’s home improvement project – a backyard patio to replace the hazelnut shell surface, I enjoyed for years. It seems I was alone in that appreciation, but I'll admit the new brick surface will be lovely!

What about you? How have you spent this August? What have you planned for the remaining month of summer?

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Join Me for Indie Author Night!

I'm pleased to invite you (again) to another COVID-cancelled/now rescheduled book event! 

As described on the Brick & Mortar Books website

Indie Author Night is an event that we host in order to support local self-published or small-published authors. Join us to celebrate our local writers and learn about their latest books!

Participating authors: Marie Ballard, J.P. Barnett, Kelly Vincent, Gowri Nat, Alison Kimble, Arleen Williams, Deborah Voll, Brent Archer, Laura Smestad, A.E. Hearn

This will be a fun opportunity to hear ten authors talk about their books, ask questions, and purchase (perhaps discounted!) signed copies of books for your own reading pleasure or perhaps a few gifts.  

The authors each have four minutes to present their work. I'm looking forward to sharing my three memoirs with a special focus on The Ex-Mexican Wives Club.

In this third memoir, I return to my years working as an undocumented teacher in Mexico City in the 1980s and reconnecting with the women I knew during those turbulent years.

Please join me ...

Brick & Mortar Books

Redmond Town Center
7430 164th Ave NE Suite B105
Redmond, WA

Monday, July 25, 2022
6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

Monday, May 9, 2022

It's Happening!

The "tenth" anniversary celebration of PoetryBridge is happening! 

PoetryBridge, a monthly reading series in West Seattle hosting two featured readers and open mic, had a 10th Anniversary celebration scheduled for March 2020. Eight of the poets and writers who had been featured during the first decade of PoetryBridge were invited to read. 

When the coronavirus hit, the party was cancelled. Leopoldo Sequel, self-proclaimed "Chief Provocateur inciting suspected poets, storytellers and other word-artists to commit the act of sharing their art," graciously moved into the cyper world of Zoom and YouTube, keeping PoetryBridge active and thriving throughout the pandemic.

Last spring, the "10th" Anniversary was rescheduled as a live reading, but a COVID surge caused a second postponement. So here we are, two years later, in May 2022. I hope you can join us for an in-person reading this Wednesday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this 12-year-old community event!

Please contact Leopoldo at to get your name on the guest list. Not in the Seattle area? The event will also be live streamed on YouTube at

PoetryBridge Anniversary Reading
C & P Coffee House
5612 California Ave. Seattle
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Friday, March 18, 2022

It Didn't Work (For Me)

The practice of keeping two journals I explored in my last post– one for personal writing, the other for works in progress – didn’t work for me. Two journals just created two problems.

First, I don’t want to carry two notebooks around with me. I usually carry a notebook stashed in backpack or purse wherever I go. Always when travelling, even cycling or backpacking. A recent trip to visit family in California and explore Joshua Tree National Park showed me the absolute flaw in my experiment. I travel light and rarely check luggage. An extra notebook was one too many.

The second problem, more important than a simple space issue, is that I am uncomfortable with what for me feels like a clumsy separation of personal and public writing. As a memoirist, and even when writing fiction or the infrequent poem, my mind and my pen flow freely between the personal and the current work-in-progress. I found having two notebooks stymied rather than supported my creative process. 

I’m currently working on a memoir of the COVID years. The working structure is in the form of letters to my grandson. As I write morning pages in a personal notebook, I may think of something I want to tell Jack, but I stop myself because I in the “wrong” notebook. By the time I get to the “right” notebook, I forget whatever it was I wanted to capture. The muse is gone.

But if I return to my one notebook protocol, what will I do with all those lovely, gifted notebooks I planned to use for my morning pages? Simple solution – I’ll use them for ALL my writing, mixed up and messy like it’s always been. I will set aside my compulsion for steno pads and use the wonderful variety of notebooks stashed away in that desk drawer.

And The Artist’s Way group with monthly zoom meetings led by an on-line writer friend? Unfortunately, the schedule doesn't work for me. The meetings are at a time when I’m giving Jack his afternoon snack or we’re heading out on an adventure – with a notebook tucked in my backpack just in case there’s a free moment to scribble.

What works best for you? Are you a multiple notebook or a one-at-a-time writer? 

Monday, February 7, 2022

Pages Waiting for Words

Because I write, it is not uncommon to receive blank books as gifts. These books come in a wonderful variety of shapes, sizes, and decorative styles. Despite using assorted blank books in my early years, since beginning my first memoir two decades ago, I have used steno pads. I buy them in bulk from my local office supply store and use them for all my writing. 

This past holiday season, I was gifted two lovely blank books. As I went to add them to the unused collection, I hesitated. At a holiday book club gathering, a dear friend presented a blank book to each member suggesting we write moments of joy during this difficult pandemic, something I readily agreed to do. As I fingered the texture of the cover and admired the floral line drawing adorning it, I could not stuff it into that tight drawer.

The same month a writer-friend on the opposite coast invited folks to join her in a year-long Artist’s Way workshop. I'd read Julia Cameron’s book early in my writing career, but I'd completed the 12-week program alone. I was curious about taking a 12-month zoom journey with this distant friend, and I decided to write my “morning pages” in the beautiful floral book. Within seven weeks, the pages were full of joy and anger, dreams and disappointments.

After filling the final page, I returned to the desk drawer and extracted a stack of blank books. I will use them for personal writing, for “morning pages” whether I write in the morning or evening, whether I write daily or less-than-daily. I will journal in these thoughtful gifts just as I will continue writing first drafts of my public writing on the pale green pages of steno pads. It will be interesting to see where this leads me.

Do you keep a journal? Do you write longhand? What kind of notebook do you prefer? 

Perhaps you’re wondering how to organize those journals into memoir. Or perhaps, you have a story you’re struggling to get on the page. If so, and if you’re in the Seattle area, I invite you to join a one-day memoir class I’ll be teaching at Hugo House.

To learn more and register, CLICK HERE.  

For information on scholarships, CLICK HERE.  

Monday, January 17, 2022

Silence and Reflection

2021 has ended. The pandemic has not. The group reading to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PoetryBridge at C&P Coffeehouse originally scheduled in 2020 and cancelled because of COVID, rescheduled and cancelled again in 2021, was on my calendar for January 12, 2022. Then Omicron surfaced and the 12th anniversary was also cancelled.

These are the times we are living. Times demanding difficult decisions and flexibility. While we never know what will come next in life, the current reality is unique in that it is a shared event with no clear parameters. Risk-tolerance varies from person to person as does the need to return to a sense of normalcy. But what will the new normal look like?

So, what to do? I continue to read and write, walk and cycle. I juggle my need for solitude and creativity with the joy and exhaustion of caring for an active nineteen-month-old grandson. A little boy who stands before a large houseplant, the heavy iron fireplace screen, a stack of Grandma’s books, hand extended, eyes twinkling, waiting for me to say “No!” before reaching for the object he knows he is not to touch. I’m learning to silently remove him from temptation. When he grabs my hair, I swallow my screech – he loves loud noises! – unravel my hair from his small fingers and walk away.

I’ve been thinking about solitude as I read May Sarton. Perhaps the need for solitude grows as we get older. Or maybe it’s self-awareness that grows with age. Solitude is a choice which should not be confused with isolation or loneliness. In Journal of a Solitude, Sarton writes “I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse [than the challenge of maintaining balance in solitude.] I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces.” I understand this. I share these feelings.

My daughter had a wonderful primary school teacher who established a regular practice of “Silence and Reflection.” He usually took the children outdoors. Journals in hand, they each chose a place to sit at a distance from one another to write or draw or daydream. And while there was no true solitude, there was silence. For my girl, this was at times boring but always settling. Perhaps I need, perhaps we all need, time each day for silence and reflection in our overly loud, overly screen-dominated, overly stressed world.