Book Review: Emily’s Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway

I love the short story forum. It’s a daunting task to set a limit on words to tell a tale. But it’s something to weave a collection of stories together to form a bigger story. “Emily’s Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway” by Leverett Butts, is such an example. The crux of these stories tell the tale of Thomas, a young man trying to make sense of the world. But it’s not as simple as he believes. And after meeting Emily, a girl with issues of her own, the world becomes more complicated. And it doesn’t help that friends like Gardener Smith twist his way of thinking under the guise of educating him. The stories compose a journey of a young man struggling to find his place.

Leverett Butts does a wonderful job of integrating these stories into a tale that doesn’t pull punches. Leverett’s description of Owen, Georgia is so rich for a small town. The characters and their relationships have range and complexity. No one is squeaky clean, not even Thomas. And by the end, you get the sense that all of them are doomed to be stuck in the environment they were raised in. 

Leverett Butts includes a variety of poems and short stories. Some stories take place in the same universe of the main series.  Some deal with loss, some about revelations. “Misdirection” is a favorite. It’s about a hit man who approaches a crossroads in his career. “Requiem” is another good one where a young man recollects where he met the girl of his dreams and the friend who refutes it. And “Gods for Sale, Cheap” takes a satirical look at how we approach religion. I found that one fascinating. 

I want to write a series of stories that center around a theme, a character, a town, whatever. “Emily’s Stitches” is an example of how to approach such a task. What Leverett Butts does with this world and these characters is wonderful. He’s definitely an inspiration to follow. 

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The Absence of Satisfaction

Last week, I finished a short story that’s been a year in the making—I think. I changed the names of characters. Outlined and outlined some more. Went through numerous false starts. After all that, I finished this story. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. I mean, I finished a story. That’s great. I should be thinking about the next one, right? Only, I feel like there should be more. 

I went to Twitter and the Ten Minute Novelists page on Facebook about this and everyone offers the same encouraging statement: “At least you wrote it. Congratulations!” And yes, that should be comforting, but I don’t feel that way. 

Two reasons. One, it took me this long to write a short story. I read different articles that say writers should be able to write a short story in one sitting. Regardless if it takes a few minutes or a few hours. Unfortunately, I’ve never been one of those writers. One problem is that I write and edit at the same time, which is detrimental to the process. The other is that I have daily obligations to meet. So getting to a laptop is not that simple. 

And two, the story lasted five pages. This was the frustrating thing about this story. I thought this particular story would last longer, given the time I took to prepare it. I wrote out certain scenes in my phone. I had them looked over with a fellow writer. I incorporated the advice. I wrote it out. When I finished, I pulled up the stats window. And after all was said and done, over 1600 words and five pages worth of story. 

Again, this should be no big deal. But I remembered writing stories that took twice as long. Maybe it’s because I felt a strong connection to it. There are some personal ties. So I am a little disappointed.

I should look on the bright side, though. One, it’s done. Two, I exercised some personal trauma. Three, I sent my story to the same reader that looked at the snippets and I got some good advice on making the story better. So, there will be a second draft, and I can get more of these feelings out.

I know this is more of a rant than anything, but I felt I need to expunge my emotions on this story. Maybe it’s the universe telling me I have more to work through. If that’s the case, I’m going back in. 

Old School vs. New School

It’s still summer, yet retailers are prepping for back-to-school. For me, it feels different because this will be the first time I will be school shopping. (My daughter starts kindergarten in a few weeks.) It’s still one of my favorite times of the year because I can get certain supplies at a discounted price, like pens and notebooks. 

I read and commented on the debate between old school and new school writing. Many writers adopted writing with smartphones, tablets, and the like. Apps like Evernote and Google Docs make note taking and letter writing easier and more convenient. Computer programs like Scrivener give the writer a way to organize their story notes while writing their “great novel.”

Still, there are writers who use the old school method of writing with paper and pen. They have notebooks full of free write sessions and scenes of stories that may or may not have been used. In the margins, there are probably notes or doodles or whatever. They may have a stack of notebooks and journals they are unwilling to throw away. (I’ll cover that in another post.)

I admit that I adopted to the new school way of writing. I have a journaling app on my phone called One Day to write random stuff. I can write scenes of stories and email them to people. I use Evernote for note taking. (Even now, I’m using my phone to write this post.) But as much as I am “connected” in terms of writing, there’s a part of me that yearns to go back to old school writing. Recently, I handwrote a scene from a short story. I felt a connection that can’t be replicated on a laptop or a smartphone.

So while having this tech is beneficial and a necessity in some ways, there’s no reason to completely abandon old school writing. I believe writers can use both methods to improve their writing and enrich the writing process. 

What about you? Do you still write with paper and pen? Or do you use tech to write? Or have you incorporated both?

I’m Nominated for a Liebster Award

First of all, thanks to Marion Ann Berry for nominating me. And thanks to everyone who reads my blog and comments on my posts. In the year and a half I’ve been blogging, I never thought I would be nominated for anything. I started this blog to share stories, lessons I’ve learned, and opinions about whatever goes on in the world and in my life. Never in a million years did I think it would garner enough attention for anyone to nominate me. I am so honored.

So, here’s how it works. I answer eleven questions from the person who nominated me. Then I turn around and nominate eleven people and create eleven questions of my own. Let’s go!

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author is Natalie Goldberg. I read Wild Mind in college and loved it. I got so much out of the exercises, especially the one where you write down five nouns and seven verbs, and create sentence using those combinations. I still have it and bought Writing Down the Bones. Her books are my go-tos for inspiration and ways to jumpstart my creativity. I want to read “Banana Rose” if I can find it. Out of all the authors I’ve read, she’s the one I want to meet the most. 

What are your thoughts on e-readers?

I’m not a fan of e-readers. I’m so used to old school hardcovers and paperbacks. But I have to say that I’ve lost a book or two at work, so I can see where having an e-reader has its advantages. But I fear that would get lost or stolen, too.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done (that was also legal)?

The most exciting I’ve ever done is go on a real roller coaster at Kings Island–the kind that twists and loops. This may not sound exciting, but I was afraid of heights when I was younger. My brother and I went with some friends from Missouri, and they wanted to ride the tallest coaster around. I went with them, not wanting them to think I was afraid. After the ride, I felt a rush that I had never experienced before. At least, not until Lake Lanier. 

Does your family read your blog?

Sometimes. They know the blog exists. I have it where if I post something, it’s automatically posted on my Facebook page. I don’t get a lot of comments from them. 

What is your favorite movie and why?

My favorite movie is The Princess Bride. I could literally quote it word for word. It’s got just about everything for every movie fan: action, drama, fantasy, comedy. What’s not to like?

If you could invite any two famous people to dinner (dead or alive), who would it be and why?

If I could invite any two famous people to dinner, besides Natalie Goldberg, the first would be Sidney Poitier. I think he’s an excellent actor. Although I haven’t seen any of his work, I would love to hear what inspired him to pursue his dream. The second would be Matthew Quick. He wrote one of my favorite books in recent years, Silver Linings Playbook. I want to know his inspiration behind it.

If you won the lottery (we’re talking the big jackpot), what three things would you do first?

Here are the three things I would do. One, pay off all my debts. Two, hire an accountant to handle my winnings. Three, buy a cabin overlooking the lake.

What has been the most meaningful piece of literature in your life?

The most meaningful piece of literature in my life is the Bible. I try to read and study passages first thing in the morning and try to apply to my life.

Do you listen to music while you write/blog?

Sometimes, I do. It depends on what I’m writing. I don’t have a particular station that I go to, nor have created a playlist. But it’s something to consider. 

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading Emily’s Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway by Leverett Butts. It’s a continuous short story collection and a few independent stories.

What is your favorite movie sequel?

My favorite movie sequel is The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker rivals that of Jack Nicholson. Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent/Two-Face was incredible. It’s the best film in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. 

I had a great time answering these questions. So now, here are my nominees for the Liebster Award. I have to admit this is a little harder than I thought. Most of the blogs that I wanted to nominate are already nominated. It took a little time, but here’s my list (in no particular order).

  1. ARHtistic License
  2. Trials and Tribulations of Writing Fiction
  3. Even More Bonusparts!
  4. Amanda Staley
  5. Buttontapper Press
  6. Continuous Strings
  7. LitLatte
  8. Denise D. Young
  9. Caren Rich
  10. NV Rivera
  11. Chris Negron

Now, here are the questions:

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?
  2. What is your favorite genre to read/write?
  3. Where is your ideal writing spot?
  4. Before writing, what did you do for a living?
  5. Are you old-school (pen and paper) or new-school (laptop, smartphone, tablet)?
  6. What’s your favorite food?
  7. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
  8. Did you go to college? If so, what was your major?
  9. Is there an a famous person people say you look like?
  10. What book would you like to see made into a movie?
  11. Do you listen to music while you write?

And there you have it. If you got nominated, write a post, following the same format:

  • Thank the person who nominated you. 
  • Answer the eleven questions I wrote on my post. 
  • Nominate 11 blogs–preferably those with less than 500 followers. 
  • Come up with 11 questions for your nominees to answer. 
  • Add the Liebster Award sticker to your post. (You can go the Liebster Award website to get stickers.)

That’s all there is to it. Take care everyone and have a good weekend.