San Fedele Press: The Second Ice Cream Social | reviewed by Jennifer Bryce

Most of us here in Australia were sipping coffee rather than eating ice cream when we logged into the Ice Cream Social at 7.30 am Eastern Australian Daylight Time on Sunday 31st October – it was 4.30 pm Saturday in New Jersey. Patricia A. Florio, the founding publisher of American Writers Review, was a most welcoming convenor.

This was a celebration of the huge achievement of putting together the 2021 edition of American Writers Review, an anthology titled Turmoil and Recovery in recognition of the exceptionally difficult year everyone has faced. The first reader was Andrea Rabaduex, winner of the 2021 AWR contest judged by Jean Colonomos, Richard Key, Lenore Hart, Patrick O’Neil, Holly Tappen and our very own Elwood Writers member, Margaret McCaffrey. Andrea’s poem, ‘Requiem for Believers’, was written when her husband was serving in Afghanistan. Phrases I found particularly poignant were, ‘the sun still shone somewhere that day’ and ‘This is how to exhale God – quietly / into the humid space before dawn’s clouds / meet pale mourning.’

Then our own members read their pieces that had been selected for publication in the anthology. First was Barry Lee Thompson, who read his short story ‘Glassy’. Barry was complimented on his beautiful reading. There was opportunity for questions, but, as with the poem, people were quite stunned by the beauty of the writing. A woman walking by a river sees an empty green wine bottle and there is communication between her and the bottle: ‘… a vibration. High pitched and faint, like a tuning fork … A confidential whispering of its glass body.’

Helen McDonald firstly read her poem ‘Restoration’:  ‘I wish I had a broom and could climb / mini-sized into your beautiful brain / to scrub and clean punctured vessels …’ This prompted discussion with an audience member on the themes and inspiration for the poem. Helen then read ‘COVID Lockout’, explaining that a haibun is a short piece of prose followed by a haiku that resonates with the prose. She was congratulated for her beautiful writing.

The next reader, Shelly Gill Murray read her Covid-inspired short story ‘Meeting Grandma at the Window’, a moving account of visiting her 98-year-old grandma who was in isolation in a facility. Their meeting was inevitably diminished by having to meet looking through the barrier of a window and having to talk through a phone. In the end each put their hands up to the pane of glass, but they couldn’t actually touch. Members of the audience said that Shelly’s story touched their hearts and reminded them of attempts to meet their mothers and other vulnerable people during these hard times.

Anita S. Pulier joked about her transfer from legal writing to being a poet. She started by reading a love poem she’d written during lockdown, ‘Memo’. It was about the love of older people who have loved each other for a long time: ‘what once was morphing to what is’. She then read an extraordinary poem on a similar theme: ‘IF (Barbie discovers that Ken is a Proud Boy)’.

The next piece to be read was by Ana M. Fores Tamayo: ‘New Day Dawn/El Amanecer’. Donna Ferrara (editor of AWR) read what was described as an interpretation rather than a translation from the Spanish – you cannot literally translate poetry. It was a poem of stunning imagery: ‘The wolf dog sniffed the stillborn air’ … ‘yet soon the sun would break its silent inkwell’.

Co-winner of the 2021 contest was Anne Casey, a Sydney-based Irish poet. Her poem, ‘Our Prime Minister Says the Vaccine is Not a Silver Bullet’, was read by Patricia Florio. It expresses the anguish during lockdown of hoping to have a reunion with her father in Dublin; the poem moves between Australian scenes of a kookaburra in ‘the flagging liquidambar’ and ‘icy sleet / piercing the winter’, where her father is in Ireland.

The anthology is beautifully illustrated, particularly with artwork by Holly Tappen and Carol MacAlister. After the reading of Anne’s poem, Carol passed on thanks and congratulations to Donna and Patricia for the fine publication and all of the work that had gone into judging the pieces and producing the anthology.

American Writers Review 2021: Turmoil and Recovery (San Fedele Press)

We in Australia cherished this ‘hands across the ocean experience’ – how wonderful to be able to participate in this event as it happened in New Jersey! Very few good things have come from the last two years dominated by pandemic, but although international borders have been closed, we have become more adept at using technologies which enable us to be with groups such as the Jersey Shore Writers and have the privilege of experiencing their welcoming hospitality.

If you’d like to read and appreciate more of the writing and artwork in this anthology, American Writers Review 2021 can be purchased from the link here.

A question of websites: Margaret answers

Writings and Musings of Margaret McCaffrey

Why I Write my Blog

I set up the Writings and Musings blog because I wanted to have an online presence without being tied to the imperatives of the more ‘instantaneous’ or immediate social media platforms.

The focus of my blog is primarily the craft of memoir. I am fascinated by how people write in general, whether it be fiction, poetry, screenwriting or song. My musings are personal reflections, such as ‘Putting the Me in Memoir’ or ‘The Interface between Memoir and Fiction’. I mix these thoughts with other items of interest. ‘Where do you Write?’, ‘Writing in Bed’, and ‘The Car Park’ all touch on where and how one writes (the latter being about working outdoors during an interminable Melbourne lockdown).  

When my group Elwood Writers (EW) has a shared activity, such as a book launch, a soiree, or a radio presentation, I like to notify people of that.

The blog is intended for anyone who likes to write, and for people drawn to such themes as veterans of war, the relationship between fathers and daughters, and how to write about the ‘self’ – not always an easy task. Occasionally I have military folk visit my site. I am never sure if my point of view coincides with theirs. But no matter their views, I’d like to think that the posts are occasionally helpful to them.

More than anything, the blog is helpful to me. We are all surviving something, and writers are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to build worlds and stories from their experiences and imagination. Cunningly, as Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) has it – this is especially true for the memoirist – ‘life never works except in retrospect’. For me, discussing ideas on writing allows discourse with the wider world – which in turn helps me collect my own thoughts as I go.

Besides, it’s fun.

‘How to Maintain a Thriving Writers Group’, by Barry Lee Thompson

Barry has written the October guest post on Lee Kofman’s blog The Writing Life, over on Lee’s website.

‘How to Maintain a Thriving Writers Group’ offers practical tips to anyone thinking of starting a group, or for those who want to inject momentum into an existing group, or shore up their solidarity, or what have you. Maybe you’re curious about how we work. Or you might want to compare the group to your own experiences. There’s plenty in the post to think about. While you’re there, it’s worth checking out the rest of Lee’s website. Have a wander, linger a while.

Thanks to Barry for writing about Elwood Writers. And thanks to Lee for welcoming us to her blog.

Happy reading and writing to everyone!

A question of websites: Barry answers

Thanks for inviting me to answer your website questions, Elwood Writers. Here are my responses.


What was your original intention when setting up your website?

It was a while ago, but if I cast my mind back, one of the main things was having some kind of online presence, in line with advice I was hearing at literary events. I spent ages debating the pros and cons, on paper and with Elwood Writers. The details are swirling in the mists of time, but I concluded that it’d be a good idea to start a blog. I began with wild and ambitious ideas for its direction. It would be different to anything that had ever gone before (!), an experimental fictional adventure. I would write a brand new post every day. Or more! These were early ramblings, and useful to have had because now I needn’t wander there ever again. It’s been invaluable throughout to discuss aspects of building an online presence with the group. In a sense, we all came to the brave new online literary world together, so it’s been very much a shared experience.

Continue reading “A question of websites: Barry answers”

A question of websites

Elwood Writers is in a slightly introspective mood. Maybe it’s the change of season, or the gloomy weather, or the world news. Whatever the cause, our self-reflection has led us to wonder what makes the group tick. In particular, what makes us tick online. We have maintained a group website, the one you’re reading now, for quite some time. But three of our four members also have their own individual websites, and have for a number of years. Their sites contain active and fascinating blogs, each with a rich history, and each vastly different from the others. You can access Barry’s here, Jennifer’s here, and Margaret’s here.

So we’re throwing out a few questions to Barry, Jennifer, and Margaret:

  • What was your original intention when setting up your website? What are your reasons for maintaining a blog?
  • What audience are you trying to reach?
  • What do you hope to communicate through your website?

If we go alphabetically, then maybe Barry could start the ball rolling? It’s up to you how you approach this. You could choose just one question, or address them all if you want. There might be a bit of overlap between the questions, anyway. You could also say ‘no comment’ or ‘I’m too busy’, and we wouldn’t be offended. Though our curiosity would continue to nag.

We look forward to seeing the responses over the coming weeks. In the meantime, we’ll go back to gazing through the window, watching the rain, and wondering what it’s all about.

Elwood Writers

American Writers Review 2021

American Writers Review 2021: Turmoil and Recovery

Barry just sent us this picture of him holding his newly arrived contributor copy of American Writers Review. Nice hat, Barry. He says he’s really been enjoying delving in to the book since receiving it a few days ago. It’s the ideal companion, he says, for curling up with on chilly winter nights in old Melbourne town.

The theme of this year’s edition of the journal is ‘turmoil and recovery’, and the anthology features work from an array of international writers and artists, including stories and poetry from Barry and fellow Elwood Writer Helen.

To find out how you could also be posing in a beautiful garden setting with your very own copy of this wonderful book, head over to the journal’s website at the link here.

Happy posing and reading!

Back in March …

Back in March, Helen read a selection of work from the Elwood Writers anthology Every Second Tuesday, on Castlemaine’s 94.9 MAINfm program The Quiet Carriage. The four pieces were: ‘Ironing’ by Margaret McCaffrey; ‘On a Sunday Morning’ by Jennifer Bryce; ‘Deluge’ and ‘Stark against the sky’ by Helen McDonald.

In case you missed the original broadcast, the recording can be found here. The Elwood Writers segment kicks in around the 33-minute mark, though we’d recommend listening to the entire show. If at any time you fancy another listen, the sound file will soon be accessible within the podcasts and recordings area of this website.

The Quiet Carriage is MAINfm’s dedicated literature show all about books and authors, hosted by Paul J Laverty every Friday at 1:00pm. More details including listening info is available here.

Thanks to Paul and the station for supporting our work so enthusiastically, and to Helen for reading it so beautifully.

Happy listening!

Elwood Writers

American Writers Review 2021: Turmoil and Recovery

As of this writing, the pandemic continues, killing record numbers of people. Moreover, countries that had enjoyed democratic governments are facing authoritarian attacks. Divisions run through the fabric of our homes, our families, our nations. At the same moment, there are wellsprings of hope, love, and connection.

‘Our 2021 Issue’, from American Writers Review website

A brand new edition of American Writers Review has just been released by San Fedele Press, and once again we’re excited to see the journal featuring original work from our own Elwood Writers Helen McDonald and Barry Lee Thompson.

American Writers Review 2021: Turmoil and Recovery

Helen has three poems in the book: ‘Aftermath’, ‘Covid Lockdown (an Haibun)’, and ‘Restoration’.

From Barry, there are three short stories: ‘Glassy’, ‘Afterdark’, and ‘First Day Of Summer’.

For more information, including how to get hold of a copy of American Writers Review 2021: Turmoil and Recovery, follow the links found here.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this latest issue. We can’t wait to get our hands on it.

Happy reading and writing, as always.

Elwood Writers

Special offer: Every Second Tuesday

It’s come to our attention that Book Depository is currently discounting Every Second Tuesday in every country they service. For example, in Australia they’re offering the book at A$20.24, which represents a saving of A$1.76 on their cover price. Factor in their free delivery worldwide, and it’s a great opportunity to get your hands on a copy of the anthology. So don’t miss out. Check it out here. You can alter the currency to whatever’s appropriate to your location, at the drop-down near the top right of the page .

The mix in Every Second Tuesday is eclectic, the stories and poems deliciously delightful, crammed full of the unexpected and perfect for those with only a small window of time to indulge in their gentle obsession of reading the written word.

Janet Mawdesley, Blue Wolf Reviews

There are memories of childhood, recollected experiences, and overseas travel, the tense facing up to teenage thieves with knives, to a baby suddenly slipping over the side of a boat. There is the sharing of the pleasure found in the ordinary task of ironing, to the threatening suspense of ‘The interrupter’. All in all there is an amazing variety of snippets of life contained in this slim volume that make for compelling reading.

Helen Eddy, ReadPlus

Happy shopping and even happier reading!