Weather Report, December 3

American Healthcare : Stock Photo

Our currently featured books, “The Writing Circle,” by Corinne Demas, “After Houses,” by Claire Millikin and “Times Square and Other Stories,” by William Baer, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Author’s page.


There are many ways to address our myriad societal problems in book form.

Authors who employ a journalistic approach generally describe an issue from a thoughtful distance, using descriptions and facts and quotes from experts to bring the situation and those affected by it into sharper focus.

Fiction can sometimes probe more deeply than non-fiction, however, because it relies heavily on the interior thoughts of those in distress and allows them to speak more honestly under cover of a fictional identity.

Or else someone who has escaped the grip of gangs or crime or drug addiction or alcoholism will pour their experiences into a memoir that removes all intermediaries from the tale.

And then there is “Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Story,” by Andrea Brunais, one of our featured books this week on Snowflakes in a Blizzard (

Andrea has been a journalist and novelist (her novel, “Mercedes Wore Black,” was a previous Snowflakes selection), but this book transcends those forms. It is a true description of how she and her husband tried to help a young West Virginia boy with a history of drug use and gang membership save himself through his compelling writing ability.

This book is the second in a series, following “Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Poems,” in which readers get to see Jesse Ray Lewis’ world through his own creative lens.

Writes Andrea: “When Jessie Ray Lews entered our lives, I recognized the makings of a fabulous story. He emerged from family violence and neglect in a region awash with drugs — a region currently the object of a national obsession: Appalachia. He turned out to be a freakishly talented writer capable of poetic rhythms and vivid turns of phrase. My husband and I determined to help him turn his life around, and I believed our mutual struggles would make for a compelling story line. I saw in Jesse Ray more than just a street-smart boy with a flair for poetic expression. I saw a soul who could be saved from a downward spiral. But life never turns out just as we plan, does it?”

In the second of this week’s books, “Refuge,” Nanci LaGarenne deals with the specter of domestic violence.

After becoming a sudden widow, Dr. Rain Miller, therapist for abused women, buys a dilapidated brownstone in Brooklyn Heights and takes in boarders, women who need fresh hope and a new beginning. The tables turn as the wise therapist and den mother of sorts becomes a victim herself and her boarders help her as a result.

Finally, Sandra Beasley offers a wide-ranging poetry collection titled “Count the Waves.”

One reviewer said of it: “The poems are full of subtly arresting imagery, the kind that takes a beat to register…And they all reveal how deftly Beasley wields the final line. A poem’s close can tie it up or blow it apart—and Beasley almost always chooses an explosion, or at least a startling pivot. Her closing words shift speakers, realign priorities, reveal what’s at stake.”



A homeless, drug-addicted teenaged poet — Jesse  Ray Lewis, an age-out foster child — wanders into the orbit of the author and her husband in Bluefield, West Virginia, turning their lives upside down as they discover his prodigious writing talent and work to get his life on track.


The power of friendship and love among a group of women who overcome abuse and find a family they create in a refurbished brownstone in Brooklyn.


Explains Sandra: “In the early phases, collections can gather like moss to a stone—a poem here, a poem there, ultimately spanning a decade’s worth of drafts. But then there’s that fateful moment where the stone goes rolling down the hill and the poet frantically chases after, trying to figure out what it all means. In my case, I realized that I wanted to write about the particular themes of travel, and the nuances of mature adult relationships; or, to combine the two, ‘love across long distances.’”


This month, we will re-visit “The Thundering,” by Megan Davidson, “Shifting Borders,” by Jessie Kwak, “What You Are Now Enjoying,” by Sarah Gerkensmeyer, “The Blue Coyote Motel,” by Dianne Harman,  “The Advance Man,” by Steven Jacques and “Running in Silence,” by Rachel Steil.




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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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