Friday, March 26, 2010


Review of Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

Reviewed by Cher'ley Grogg

Shadow Tag, written in narrative form allows the author, Louise Erdrich, to move seamlessly between characters. The novel revolves around a single family. The father Gil America, his wife Irene and their three children; 14 year old son Forian, 11 year old daughter, Riel and 6 year old son Stoney. The family is American Indian and their heritage plays a vital role in the story.

Gil is an artist who has become famous by painting a series called "Irene America". Irene and Gil met when as a young maiden she started modeling for him--they fell in love and married. His personal intimate relationship with his wife allowed him the freedom to paint her from virginal girl to sensual woman. Gil painted her in every pose imaginable, pregnant, on all fours, with the impression rape, dismemberment, death by smallpox, and in ways that only he knows what they represent.

Irene hangs on to the elusion of becoming an art historian and has an office in their basement to do work on her studies. In a bottom drawer, covered with ribbons and wrapping paper, in the very back of a file cabinet is her Red Diary. She begins to suspect that her husband is reading her diary. Once she confirms this, she uses it to manipulate him. She still has the need to write out her feelings so she buys a safe-deposit box where she keeps her true diary, the Blue Notebook.

Gil has invaded her privacy and everyday she grows more resentful; everyday she drinks more wine. The marriage goes from rocky to turbulent.
The two older children affected by their parents' stormy relationship cross boundaries that kids their age should not be crossing. The youngest, a budding artist draws many pictures of his family. His mother asks him about the "stick with a little half-moon" that he always paints at the end of her hand. With the simplicity of a first grader he answers, "the wineglass".

A few happy times appear in the novel and one evening, during one of those times Gil and Irene ran outside with their three children to play a Native American game called shadow tag. If you step on a person's shadow, you capture them. Irene felt Gil had captured her and that she had no way out.

Shadow Tag starts out as a slow read; the scenes feel stretched out a little too far. The explicit scenes and language do little to increase the pace. As the book progresses there is redemption because interest grows for the characters.

This book explores human relationships and the intricacies of a broken family. It feels as if the author has had first hand experiences with these issues.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Caution, friends, I want your opinion!

Some days I don't know what comes over me. Basically, a friend threw down the challenge for me to enter a writing contest. Convinced to do so, I became so happy to oblige that I managed to write two entries.
Since I don't have a writing group I belong to (because of time constraints), I decided to send out a draft of the essays to friends and family--I wanted to know which essay worked better, based on the contest guidelines.
That's it.
Like most writers, I appreciate constructive criticism when a reader stays on topic. However, I wasn't interested in line edits, digs at a friend's own spouse, my "poor" selections of reading material or contests, my faulty memory or negative comments about my choice of friends and their challenges.
I think the responses shed many lights on the joys of writing: the subjectivity of one's readers and the inevitability of leaving one open to criticism, no matter the subject.
But when I run into someone who has read my blogs or one of my newspaper articles, I hear how wonderful the piece is...and then, why won't the newspaper do a better delivery job in their neighborhood. Interestingly, I never hear the negatives and just glowing accolades (which seem slightly unrealistic, but who am I to fight that battle?).
But, ask someone by e-mail and you learn a lot more about your friends and family than about your writing or the topic of your essay. It was certainly an eye-opening experience, probably one I'll hesitate before trying again, especially since voting is running neck-and-neck between the essays. It will be tough to decide which essay to submit. I'll have to rely on my own faulty subjectivity. Yikes.
So, next time a friend convinces me to enter a contest and I decide to send out the essay, I'll just leave my more vocal family members off the e-mail list. They can just read about it on my blog...and comment, nicely, in person.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who wishes she could use her delete button a lot more than she does. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009


Participate in Family Relationships Mass-Blogging Day Oct. 13

Be a Blogging Buddy - Write about Family Relationships

When: October 13, 2009 (Tuesday)

Where: On your blog

Why: Therese Walsh's debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost they were teenagers. The Muffin is organizing a mass blogging, "Everybody's Talking About...Family Relationships," to celebrate the book release on October 13. Therese will be at The Muffin (here) blogging about family relationships and she'd like some buddies writing on their blogs about family relationships that same day.

What to blog about: The theme is "Family Relationships." You can write about anything from tracing your family history to the family feud between your mom and Aunt Martha to planning activities that bring your children closer together. Use your imagination and have fun!

What to include in your blog post: If you'd like to participate, please email us and we'll link to your blog on The Muffin. Make sure you include the following blurb about the blogging day at the top or bottom of your post:

"Today I'm participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We're celebrating the release of Therese Walsh's debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost they were teenagers. Visit the Muffin to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit to find out more about the author."

How to participate: Contact Jodi at if you'd like to participate and we'll include you and your blog on the list of Therese's Blogging Buddies running on the Muffin on Oct. 13. It's a fun way to introduce your blog to The Muffin community while helping a fellow writer.

If you have any blogger friends who may be interested in participating, please feel free to forward this post to them.

Goodies: Besides link-love, we have several goodies to give away (gift certificates, t-shirts, books, subscriptions). We will hold random drawings for all bloggers who participate. :)

Come blog with us!

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