Weather Report, December 17

Image result for Starling + photo + free

Our currently featured books, “Renato the Painter,” by Eugene Mirabelli, “Far Country,” by Timothy Kenny, “Mending Dreams,” by Bonnie Schroeder and “Nasty Water,” by James Nolan, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.


If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping (or, in the case of some, started it), you might want to visit the Authors page on our site (, scroll down to Books by Subject, and take a trip through more than 500 potential gifts. If you find a title that intrigues you, you can then click on that author’s name on the same list for more information.

Each of the four titles offered this week on Snowflakes in a Blizzard illustrates a different aspect of the power of books.

The photo to the right is intended to call attention to David Chorlton’s book of poetry, “Reading T.S. Eliot to a Bird.”  He did, indeed, once read poetry to a pet starling (without getting much of a reaction), but his book goes far beyond clever animal verse.

David writes: “I used to think of ‘nature poetry’ as something intended to comfort and reassure us, but that impression came from long-gone school days. The strains we humans continue to put on the natural world make writing about nature into a much more tense affair. As much as we might wish art could repair what greed and politics have damaged, it has limited powers. For all that, I believe that poetry is better for being relevant to greater concerns and want to spend my creative time dealing with what I feel to be important.”

Sometimes the best way to approach a highly charged issue like climate change is by partially concealing the author’s point of view in something that is simply a pleasure to read. Thus, like medicine disguised by orange juice, the argument is presented without an argument — but might take hold upon later reflection.

Image result for columbia space shuttle disaster + photos + free

(Space shuttle explosion, New York Daily News)

Newspaper accounts and TV news are often described as the “first draft of history.” But because these news stories have such a short shelf life these days, it is often left to authors like Kathryn Schwille to come along behind and try to fill in the unanswered questions that remain hanging.

So it was with the 2003 space shuttle explosion, in which fragments of the doomed craft rained down on an area of rural Texas.

“In February of 2005, two years after the Columbia shuttle disaster,” recalls Kathryn, “I saw an Associated Press story in my local newspaper filed from a New Orleans conference of forensic scientists. Sharon Brown, a police document examiner from Israel, had delivered a talk about the unique assignment she’d undertaken. Eighteen pages from the diary of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon had been found on a forest floor in East Texas. The pieces of metal-bound notebook, which had survived two months in the elements, were battered and stuck together, some even wadded. Sharon Brown’s job was to separate the pages and see if there was anything for his widow to read.

“I was intrigued. Why hadn’t I heard about the discovery of this diary? What else was recovered that most of us hadn’t heard about? I was in the middle of another project, but this one started taking over. I couldn’t get it out of my head. A year later, I was on a plane to East Texas. I thought it would be a rich backdrop for fiction, and it was.”

What emerged was “What Luck, This Life,” a sort of fiction/nonfiction hybrid. The explosion that killed seven astronauts was all too real, but Kathyn also used her imagination as a way of presenting the tragedy as those who lived beneath it might have experienced it that day — not simply as witnesses quoted or recorded in news accounts, but in the larger context of their lives.

Meanwhile, in her novel “Retrograde,” Kat Hauser also used fiction as a teaching tool.

“I was interested in writing about amnesia because I’m fascinating by memory in general, and by the specific role the past plays in relationships. People often express a wish to go back and start over, but is that possible, and is it really what they want?”

Finally, poet Jeanne Larsen’s collection “Why We Make Gardens” demonstrates the way poetic language can sail above the limitations other forms of writing place upon language, creating unique and exotic combinations of words the way adventurous jazz musicians bend notes.

One reviewer wrote of it:

“To read Jeanne Larsen’s poetry collection is like taking a bite out of a ripe, succulent pear that’s just fallen from the branch: refreshing, textured, complex, crisp….Densely packed and yet wholly accessible, WHY WE MAKE GARDENS is a thriving garden of words: Larsen’s poems interlace, blossom, and push softly but irrevocably into the mind, sure to return again in subtle and significant ways.”



On a warm summer day in Berlin, Helena is hit by a truck while crossing the street. She awakens to the loving face of her husband Joachim. In addition to a few broken bones, she realizes she can’t remember anything about the accident, or even the last few years leading up to it. Retrograde amnesia the doctors call it and assure her that with time, she should regain her memory. At loose ends after another botched relationship, Joachim doesn’t intend to lie to his estranged wife. But when he realizes that she doesn’t remember their separation, he can’t bring himself to tell her. So he does what any rational man would do: he takes her home and pretends they were never apart. As the lies accumulate, Helena senses something isn’t quite right. When the outside world encroaches, she must face an unsettling truth and decide what the past will mean for their future.


Sensuous, transient, human-made: this sequence of poems leads you into all kinds of gardens—from “A Trespasser’s Garden” to “A Garden Indoors”, from Anne Spencer’s hidden almost-Eden to Louisa May Alcott’s dooryard to Hart Crane’s troubling vision of Pocahontas’s land. They’re in shapely free verse, and they sound pretty good when you read them out loud.


What Luck, This Life begins in the aftermath of the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, as the people of fictional Kiser, Texas watch their pastures swarm with searchers, and reporters bluster at their doors. A shop owner defends herself against a sexual predator who is pushed to new boldness after he is disinvited to his family reunion. A closeted father facing a divorce that will leave his gifted boy adrift retrieves an astronaut’s remains. An engineer who dreams of orbiting earth joins a search for debris and instead uncovers an old neighbor’s buried longing. In a chorus of voices spanning places and years, What Luck, This Life explores the Columbia disaster’s surprising fallout for a town beset by the tensions of class, race, and missed opportunity.


David explains: “Most of the poems are from 2014 to 2016, a part of whatever occupied my writing mind at the time. They were picked out for their companionship to each other in addressing the era of climate change. A few earlier poems are included, as they relate to the themes present here. The uneasy relationship between humans and the rest of living systems is the major common issue of our time. I don’t set out to write a “book” as much as notice the way subjects of individual poems reflect on each other.












Published by


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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s