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Speak Right On

A book is usually a one-sided affair: only the author reveals her thoughts and feelings. The airing of readers’ reactions typically is left to book groups. But not now, not here.

With this blog I want to hear what you have to say. Though I will use Speak Right On as a springboard and reference point for my blog entries, you don’t need to read my book to join the conversation.

Just speak right on, from the heart.

“He who does his best for his own time, lives for all times.”

African proverb

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Proverbs are not always right

The young cannot teach tradition to the old.

Yoruba proverb

Hmmm. The proverb seems reasonable, but the times they are a-changin'. 

Tradition is not always right. Traditions of greed, war, guns, hatred, and brutality have not left us, collectively, in a good place. 

I'm excited and hopeful when I read about millennials supporting Bernie, youth protesting the treatment of blacks by police, young people all over the globe who are less isolated within their own heritage and more representative of a confluence of cultures. I'm feeling old myself these days. Time is in short commodity. But I do take heart from the young. I think they have much to teach us about both tradition and change.

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
You're right, of course: the betterment of the world is not just for the young. We all can change, inwardly and outwardly. Your bo... Read More
Monday, 05 September 2016 14:17
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Don't be afraid

I spend a fair amount of time reading about changes in publishing. Recently I've noticed a few articles that are addressing diversity, or rather its lack, in the industry. Publishing Perspectives offered a great article by Porter Anderson that focused on Sisters in Crime, a writers support group with chapters across the US. It seems they annually release a "Report for Change," and this year they spoke up for "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Mystery Community."

Apparently, they looked in the mirror and weren't satisfied with their reflection:

Source: Report for-change-psr2016 from sistersincrime

In addition to the racial and ethnic groups identified in the chart, they also looked at groups within their ranks such as LGBT and disabled writers.

The introduction to the report begins:

Becoming a successful writer is hard work. For writers who belong to the groups often referred to as "diverse," there are factors that make it even harder. But talking about diversity can feel like walking across a minefield. Some people show angry resistance to having the conversation at all. Even those who see the need for change can be stuck because of fear: fear of getting it wrong; fear of seeming to pander; fear of being criticized; fear of making things worse. [Emphasis mine]

Sisters in Crime

I couldn't agree more: fear holds us back from the important conversations that are needed in order to better understand each other. Yet I also believe it is incontrovertible that if we can expand our knowledge of each other, we can begin to create meaningful change.

When I sought publication of Speak Right On, I was filled with fears, the worst of which was that I would be pilloried as William Styron had been for his Confessions of Nat Turner. Styron was criticized for perpetuating harmful racial stereotypes, some of which I guessed were subconscious.

In other words, I feared betrayal by my own subconscious: 

  • What ugly stereotypes might be lurking there? 
  • Had any deviously slipped into my writing? 
  • Was I exposing myself as another white person who just doesn't get it? 
  • Would this overshadow any merits the book might have? 
  • What might I discover about myself that I wouldn't want to admit?

Obviously I did publish it, and the enthusiasm and graciousness with which I have been treated as the author continues to surprise me. But it also helps me have more confidence; it helps me keep trying to have the difficult conversations. And I know this will be true for others who demonstrate curiosity and respect when they eclipse their own fears and engage in dialogs about race.

Take courage, speak right on.

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Jeannette, I share your dismay. I am reminded of the Jewish entreaty: Never Forget. This phrase reflects the atrocities of the Hol... Read More
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 05:02
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A good road is walked on twice

If a road is good, you walk it twice (Igbo proverb)

I have been well-and-truly sick for several days, and it's been a blessing. The enforced hiatus has allowed me to realize that I've been pounding compulsively on a single track for months now—and for me, that's never a good or healthy thing.

The track I've been on is, as you all know, re-releasing Speak Right On. I feel loved that so many have been enthusiastic about my efforts and outcomes. And I'm proud of it, proud that it's back in print; I believe it's a good thing.

But I tied re-releasing the book to this holiday book sales idea, and that's where things went haywire and I came down with marketing fever, the symptoms of which include:

  • Not quietly sitting and reflecting on my day, my actions, my interactions
  • Not reading anything that isn't advice on marketing
  • Not really listening to and participating in my husband's ideas and activities
  • Not initiating a conversation that isn't task/goal oriented
  • Not walking the dogs or taking a walk
  • Not maintaining my afternoon time with the cats
  • Not calling my friends and family, just to say hi
  • Not taking a scenic drive to see our amazing aspens turn golden or even noticing the sunsets through the window
  • Not filling the birdfeeders, no less bird watching

No wonder I got sick!

So what's my new outlook for the next, nearly two months remaining of the holiday sales season: Bah Humbug! I read an article today that convincingly asserted that all marketing is about getting a reaction. Hmmm. But the fine print was about getting a reaction that leads to sales.

I sat back and quietly asked myself: what reaction do I want?

I want:

  • Ideas to be stimulated
  • Voices to be listened to
  • Conversations to be sparked
  • Lives of all creatures to be exercised freely and joyfully
  • Relationships to be strengthened
  • Compassion to be buoyed
  • Experiences to be shared
  • Connections to be discovered
  • Birdfeeders to be filled, and birds to be watched and admired

It's this experience I want to share now: don't make yourself sick. Stop. Just stop and take a moment to quietly reflect on your day, your actions, and your interactions. What questions have arisen during the day that you'd like to explore? Who comes to mind when you think of picking up the phone?

And don't forget to fill the birdfeeder. You'll be so glad you did. 

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Welcome back, Jeannette. Now the challenge is to act on what rose up in my consciousness, to accept and implement my thoughts. Tha... Read More
Saturday, 21 November 2015 19:14
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  2 Comments

About the Author

When you grow up with the surname Edsell, you learn to have a sense of humor. I like to joke that I came out the same year as the beleaguered car.

I've always loved to read, and I studied literature and creative writing in college and psychoanalytic psychotherapy after that, doing a short stint as a therapist before returning to writing. I wrote in technical fields until 1994, when I began my own business: interviewing individuals and writing their memoirs, family histories, and organizational histories.Having authored two dozen such books, I developed an ear for first-person narrative and an abiding interest in depicting the fully-lived experiences of a past era that remain relevant today.


Prior to Speak Right On, I wrote poems, short stories, and—always—a private journal.My short fiction has won awards and been recognized by the Sacramento Public Library, ByLine Magazine, the Mid-American Review, the Alligator Juniper magazine, as well as the Whidbey Island Writers' Association. My story "Gray" won the 2009 William Van Wert Short Fiction Award.

Speak Right On is my first and only novel. The Pacific Northwest Writers' Association honored it in 2004 for being among the best unpublished first novels. In 2006 it found an enthusiastic publisher in Matthew Miller, of The Toby Press (now Koren Publishers, Jerusalem). The novel and my writing received a good deal of praise from major review publications as well as individual readers. In 2008, rights reverted back to me.

In the nearly ten years since Speak Right On was published, I have watched silently as society challenges the civil rights gains of the mid-twentieth century. And I do believe the maxim, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I need to take my own advice and speak out.

There is much in Speak Right On that touches upon this country's racial strife, so I am re-releasing it, hoping to have many honest, respectful conversations about the divide between white and black. With a new foreword by Lynne Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Harriet and Dred Scott—who also has much to contribute to this national dialogue—I am emboldened to ask others what they are thinking, what they are feeling.

A book doesn't usually do that; it's usually a one-sided affair, with only authors revealing their thoughts and feelings. The airing of readers' reactions typically is left to book groups. But not now—now I want to hear what you have to say. In my blog I will use Speak Right On as a springboard and reference point, but you don't need to read my book to join the conversation. Just speak right on, from the heart.

I have been married since 1991. Andrew, my husband, is a scientist and now retired university administrator, currently working as a painter, photographer, and videographer.I have no children, though I am fortunate to include Andrew's daughter Hannah as one of my closest relationships.I work at home in Santa Fe, and I love words and books almost as much as I love our little family: cats Scout and Jem (named for the characters in my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird) and dogs Max and Honey (who named themselves).

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