Book-a-Day #Giveaway! Whispers from the Tree of Life by Fran O’Donnell


During her early years, Fran O’Donnell often thought of rhymes and phrases, wanting each sentence to form a rhythm and pattern. She enjoyed the association of words as she envisioned the world around her, likened to the vision of an exquisite silhouette from the branch of a beautiful old tree. Words and trees became her friend and companion as she grew hungry to learn more about them. Her book, Whispers from the Tree of Life, is a collection of poems written over many years from her involvement in life, observations, inquiries, experiences, love, and conclusions of and in her life.


Fran O’Donnell writes about what is natural in human life, particularly in the life of an artist and of someone who connects nature to human existence. The free verse and easy language allow the poems to flow along as if carried naturally by wind or water. The artificial is omitted. Fran’s poems are self propelled, organic. The poems are not couched philosophical rhetoric. Fran is an observer of nature and weaves it into her memory poems as she remembers or thinks of others and as an expression of how one strives to identify herself to herself as changes occur over time and the perception of self is recycled. Fran’s use of apostrophe and her nature metaphors for the workings of the inner self allow the reader to empathize with the poet whose persona remains steady throughout the collection. It would be difficult for anyone who has passed through a good portion of life and who has kept an eye turned toward nature not to both appreciate and enjoy Fran’s expression of living.

~ Marc G. LeVasseur, Associate Professor of English, Community College of Rhode Island

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You can WIN a copy of this book! Just leave a comment below. One winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication.



November is Book-a-Day Month!


Each day in November, I’ll be featuring a different book by a Rhode Island author, all leading up to the  4th Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo on Saturday, December 3 (11:00am – 5:00pm) at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet.

There are hundreds of authors located in little Rhode Island, and this is a way for me to showcase some real talent. Each author will showcase one book, and, in nearly every case, there’s a chance to win that book just by commenting on the blog post. Easy-peasy! And just in time for some holiday gift-giving (because we all know books make the best gift).

So be sure you’re following this blog and each day in November you’ll have a chance to win. The contest for each post will run for a week before I let the computer randomly select a winner.

For more info about the Expo, follow this link

Paris Between the Wars – “T” is for Tristan Tzara

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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay
Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay

Born Samuel Rosenstock in Romania, Tristan Tzara was an avant-garde playwright, poet, essayist, performance artist, journalist, art director, composer, film director. He is best known for being one of the central figures of the Dada movement, formed during WWI in Zurich in negative reaction to the horrors of war.

He moved to Paris in 1919 and joined the staff of Littérature magazine, bringing a skill in managing events and audiences, which transformed literary gatherings into public performances that generated enormous publicity. As the cohesiveness of the Dada movement in Paris was disintegrating, Tzara published Le coeur à barbe (The Bearded Heart).

From 1930 to 1935, Tzara contributed to the definition of surrealist activities and ideology. He was also an active communist sympathizer and was a member of the Resistance during the German occupation of Paris.

To Make a Dadaist Poem, by Tristan Tzara

Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.


Paris Between the Wars – “N” is for Anna de Noialles

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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Portrait of Anna, Comtesse de Noialles, by Philip de Lazslo
Portrait of Anna, Comtesse de Noailles, by Philip de Lazslo

Born in Paris as Princess Anna Elisabeth Bibesco-Bassaraba de Brancovan (1876) to a Romanian father and Greek mother (both high-ranked members of their respective societies), she married Mathieu Fernand Frédéric Pascal de Noailles in 1897 and the couple became the toast of Parisian high society.

She wrote three novels, an autobiography, and several collections of poetry, and was the first woman to be received in the Royal Belgian Academy of French Language and Literature. The collection Poème de l’amour (1924) is a long series of short poems. This is from “LXIX,” translated:

If words put you too ill at ease,

Say nothing. Dream. But be not cold.

Let me speak, me, who kiss you, hold

You in  my arms; like woodland breeze

That murmurs low, let me enfold

You in great whispers, hushed, like these…

Anna de Noailles died at age 56, in Paris.


Nov 17 – Meet RI Author Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz

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I wasn’t quite sure how to dress up for my fourth-grade Career Day. I had borrowed multiple books from my elementary school’s library in an attempt to research exactly how one goes about becoming an author, but most of the information I uncovered related to finding work as a freelance writer and lacked the step-by-step instructions and list of appropriate tools and attire that I had hoped to find. So I settled on an outfit that made me happy: my favorite pink shirt, a pair of comfortable pants, and my white Keds, with a cloth-covered journal – one of several from my collection – and pen my only real props.

Years later, after drastically altering my career path and enrolling in medical school, it was that same principle, doing what made me happy, that brought me back to writing. As fascinated as I was by my studies in anatomy and physiology, by the end of my first year I full of facts but empty as a person. When I learned of an opportunity to incorporate an independent writing project into my medical curriculum, I felt a surge of excitement, which was quickly washed away by abiding apprehension. I waited until the night before the deadline to submit my application. In truth, I spent half of that night trying to convince myself that I might actually have something to say.

When I was accepted to the program and awarded a fellowship to help support my efforts, words began to flow from my fingers into my journal, onto my laptop, onto any scrap of paper within my reach. What I had dismissed during my pre-medical studies as a childhood hobby suddenly emerged as an integral ingredient in my efforts to survive medical school and eventually to thrive as a physician. I filled the blank pages of journals that had sat on my bedroom shelves for so long, untouched yet unable to be parted with. And I finally recalled the sentiment that had first sparked my interest in medicine: the desire to understand, to bear witness to, and to offer a hand to hold throughout patients’ stories as they unfold.

Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Health from Dartmouth College and her Doctor of Medicine from Stony Brook University School of Medicine. She completed a residency in pediatrics at Brown University/Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Her work has been published in Pediatrics, Annals of Internal Medicine, The New Physician, The Writers Circle, and Paumanok II, an anthology of poetry and photography by Long Islanders. Her first chapbook of poetry, Tools for Survival, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press. You can explore more of her writing at  The Growth Curve: ruminations of a pediatrician in training. She lives in Providence, RI, with her husband and son.

Nov. 15 – Meet RI Anthologist Deborah Halliday


Oh, to be a writer!

I belong to an authors’ group, and I love it. There I am, surrounded by creative people talking about their latest book or short story, and it is fun. Many of my fellow authors mistake me for a writer, which makes sense since it is an authors’ group, but a writer I am not, at least not of the fiction or poetry variety. When it comes to creativity in writing I remain awestruck and stumped as to where my fellow authors get all of those great ideas. No, I am an appreciative audience member. I admire the perfect turn of phrase, the well-chosen word (if it is almost obsolete I love it even more) and the plot twists I can’t see coming. I have also discovered, in my later years, that I enjoy poetry. Maybe it’s only now that I’ve allowed myself to slow down enough to read it, and allowed myself to read it out loud without fear of seeming foolish.

Because I admire creativity so much, and because I’m a bit of a pack-rat in general, I felt a need to preserve literature from the past that could otherwise be lost and forgotten. I became an anthologist, a poetry rescuer. I get a real thrill from turning a century-and-a-half old page in a deteriorating book, seeing a poem that makes me go “oooh,” and thinking I might be the first person in over a hundred years to have read it. I call it being a literary archeologist. I dig up lost things, things that tell us about a culture of not so long ago. Who were these authors? How were they like us? How were they different? Can they express emotions in a way that resonates with us? As a pack-rat who loves to bring order from chaos and find beauty in the overlooked, what more could I ask for than to discover and preserve old poetry.

When I go to book events where I’m selling my anthologies, I have a small plastic box with snippets of poetry in it. I call it “pick-a-poem,” and I invite passers-by to choose one – like choosing a fortune cookie. Often people will shake their heads and say “Oh, I don’t really like poetry.” But then they take one, and as they walk away reading, more often than not a smile will slowly spread across their face, and they will turn to me and say “thank you. You have no idea how much that fits.” And they’ll pocket their snippet for safekeeping. So while I don’t write poetry myself, I do feel that I’m helping to give a gift not only to authors long dead, but to people today; especially to those who maybe thought they didn’t like poetry.

Deborah L. Halliday curates and anthologizes poetry from Godey’s Lady’s Books, one of the most popular magazines of the nineteenth century. Her books can be found at on-line retailers with a search for “Godey’s poetry.”  Discover her on Facebook here.


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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost 1874-1963
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Illustration by Susan Jeffers
Illustration by Susan Jeffers

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