A Storyteller’s Perspective by L E Barrett

What does one writer tell another?  We all know the basic techniques of writing and grammar, or at least we believe we understand the major rules. But, will a writer that writes grammatically correct sentences and finely crafted paragraphs create an interesting reading experience for their readers?  I believe in many cases it creates the opposite effect.

I refer to myself as a storyteller. Because I believe the soul of all good writing,as well as great reading experiences, is a well thought out story.  Without a good story to begin with you often end up with a patchwork quilt of smartly conceived sentences or clever words. You end up developing a book or a poem with only a beginning, middle and an end.  Your reader will most likely put your book down and wonder why you even took the time to write the book in the first place.

I recently published a book of thirteen short stories called A View From The Side Of The Road. Though I still continue to write in a number of genres; as I have a new book of poetry The Maine Poetic, a new play called The Shadow of the Soul and will soon come out with a coffee-table book on the fiddlehead called Fiddlemainia. Regardless of the type of writing I am doing, I first focus on telling a complete story.  I believe for any author to be truly successful; whether they are writing fictional books, poetry or screenplays,they must first learn to tell a complete story. If for no other reason than it is the gift all readers want to receive from a writer. 

The same concept that applies to fiction also applies to nonfiction. I know a writer who is busy writing a historical nonfiction book on interesting crimes that were committed in the last two hundred years in one of our major American cities. In our discussions on the development of his book,what appears clear to me is the similarity between nonfiction and fiction when it comes to determining voice, movement and perspective in an effort to maintain the reader’s attention.While these concepts are also all characteristics of good story telling, everything you write requires a complete inner story in order to be developed beyond a listing of facts and events. 

I can’t imagine a game or a sporting event that is not connected to some kind of geometric shape.  In the same way you cannot have a poem or book that doesn’t have an internal core story.  For even a book on microbiology will have a point of view and a hierarchy of selective points to cover. Once you see the purpose of the core story, you will quickly grasp that all writing -whether it be the Bible, a geometry book, a daily planner for your next vacation or wedding, has a core story. 

A mistake made by many new writers is the belief that they can create a story around a few clever concepts or action events. The reader will be amazed and taken in with their brilliance and they will sell a ton of books. It could happen, but most likely your book will end up in the dollar bin.  In my own writing, I am always aware of the story I want to tell even before I begin to focus on the style, details, dialogue and characterization associated with that story. By the time I write my story, I already believe that my story is as real as any other event in my life. 

A typical story might be that at the age of fifteen I spent a summer in Paris where I met a young French girl who I fell in love with and then met twenty years later in a Paris café and she was still wearing a gold heart necklace around her neck that I had given to her.  It is a very uncomplicated, but a universally appealing story about a possible lost love or a youthful romance that continued through time. Regardless of the details of the story, it is a story your reader will follow along with and if it is well crafted, with an ending that flows from the details of the story, it will be a story your reader will come to enjoy.

My advice for other writers is to work at becoming a good storyteller. Learn to recognize the elements of a good story. Tell yourself and others stories about any subject that interests you. Learn to recognize the kind of story you want to tell and never write a story that doesn’t emotionally appeal to you at some level. When you see two octogenarians holding hands in the park, invent a back story to go with them -or if you’re at an event, watch the faces in the crowd and pick out faces that are story material and tell yourself a story about them.When everywhere you go and in every conversation you have, you are constantly thinking in terms of there being an underlying story you will naturally become a good storyteller.

In my own case, I am constantly weaving my storytelling through different writing styles. Few, if any, short story writers today are writing stories that demonstrate as much diversity of style and theme originality as you will find in A View From The Side Of The Road. Each one of the short stories has its own unique writing style, voice and flavor. The book reads as if it was written by thirteen different writers. But, each story is an independent component of an expansive work that looks at the human condition from multiple angles. What makes this book special is its appeal to a broad range of readers. A reader will always find two or three stories that they will claim emotionally moved them, had them laughing out loud, or were written with people or places that they are familiar with. 

Whether it is a ghost pirate looking to consecrate his bones, or a crazy old playwright who believes someone killed his wife, or a lonely woman struggling to find meaning in her life, a feud between a rural mailman and a newcomer to rural Maine, you will find in each and every story characters and ideas that will stimulate the reader’s imagination. What A View From The Side Of The Road does best is open up thirteen new worlds to the reader. 

A View From The Side Of The Road is a collection of stories told by a storyteller for readers who need the short story format as a late night snack, or a long commute distraction, or an afternoon beach read which can be totally consumed in one or two sittings and has the texture and feel of a literary appetizer. What will make this particular book memorable for all readers are the finely crafted characters the reader will meet along the way. The characters will stay with them long after they have finished this book. Like a great film that lingers in your mind for days or years, A View From The Side Of The Road will also fasten itself to your imagination. Much Like Dickens’s Oliver who wanted more, many readers who have already read this book have stated that the worst thing about reading the book is that when you finish it, you feel like there should be at least one more story.

Guest Book:


Guest Blogger Bio

The road began for L E Barrett in Hallowell, Maine. It has taken him several times around the world. He grew up in a small Maine river city. At a young age, he enlisted in the Marines and served in Vietnam. He eventually had both a military and senior level government career. He is the father of three sons. He received a Bachelor’s Degree from Northeastern University in Boston, MA and a Masters Degree from the University of Maine in Orono, ME. All along the road, he wrote, he thought, and he wrote some more and more. So that before his days drain away, he will have said what he came here to say! He currently has three books in print (A View From The Side Of The Road, The Maine Poetic and The Shadow Of The Soul) and can be found on Amazon or Kindle.


Other Books:



Interview with Author Belinda Y. Hughes

My guest today is Belinda Y. Hughes.  Hello, Belinda!  Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you here today.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book? When did it come out? Where can we get it? 


Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 was released in Fall 2013 on Amazon. It’s the second edition of my lacto-ovo vegetarian cookbook. I’m vegetarian trying to go vegan, but, like my readers, eggs and cheese are my biggest weakness. Confessions features vegan options for those who want to try them and those who prefer fully vegan recipes.

There are fantastic nutrition tips from an international team of registered dietitians and food bloggers and fun nutritional content hints below the titles. There’s also a Resources page, with links to the ingredients’ web sites, where you’ll find coupons, specials and more vegetarian recipes and products.

I’m most excited about reader feedback that kids are having fun helping in the kitchen and eating more fruits and vegetables, like the Fruity Patooty Burrito. Unless they’re told, meat-loving spouses aren’t missing that ingredient in these dishes, particularly the Smoky Sausage Ommmelette (sic). In addition, health-conscious moms, singles and retirees all appreciate the nutrition, flavor and convenience of recipes like the One Bowl Frittata.

Is there anything that prompted your latest book? Something that inspired you?

It was the winter of 2010. I was keeping warm in the kitchen and rediscovered my passion for cooking. While thumbing through Joy of Cooking and waiting for the oven timer to ring, I became inspired by Top Chef, Iron Chef and Chopped and began playing with my food again. Back under the blankets, I buried my nose in foodie mystery and romantic comedy books by Joanne Fluke (Strawberry Shortcake Murder), Joanna Carl (The Chocolate Pirate Plot), Rachel Gibson (Not Another Bad Date) and Jennifer Crusie (Getting Rid of Bradley). While tinkering with my own recipes, it all merged in my mind, and in 2011, out came Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover, a vegetarian cookbook with a spicy title.

Great!  So, when did you know you wanted to write?  Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

Writing was always my favorite assignment at school. I was also a margin scribbler. I found more writing time by working in my high school and college libraries. That’s my connection with Murray Alfredson, whose interview I very much enjoyed.

My first official fan was my high school freshman English teacher. She caught the abrupt change in voice and subject knowledge when my well-meaning mom tried to finish the last couple paragraphs of a Shakespeare paper on my behalf. This was on a heavy homework night, after I gave out and went to bed. When she phoned us the next evening, Mrs. Hall confessed she regularly enjoyed reading my authentic work. Mom never touched a pen to my homework again.

The heartbreak of rewriting first hit me in college. I was assigned a contrast comparison paper on my choice of The Canterbury Tales and any current event. It emerged as a satire poem on the Wife of Bath and the downfall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Although it was well written and showed a grasp of the topics and the contrast comparison concept, it wasn’t in the assigned MLA format. So, I had to rewrite it to satisfy the syllabus.

Then I discovered the University of Life. Like many writers, I waited tables and enjoyed the endless parade of characters on the vampire shift. I jotted notes on napkins while I waited on orders to come up in the window.

In my medical sitting career, each patient had a unique background and perspective on life, and most lived in historic homes. I wrote in spiral notebooks on the window seats while they napped. It was during this time, at age 19, that one of my poems was published in the Odessa Review, opposite one by the late Judson Jerome, former Poetry Editor for Writer’s Digest. That was my most prestigious publication to date.

My biggest challenge was typing. I couldn’t do 40 WPM until I took a temporary word processing job entering 20 years of call records for a suburban police department in the Dallas area. The records chief parked me at a desk in his own office. One morning he sat holding his wristwatch and looked across at me. When I stopped for lunch, he drawled, “I should give you a ticket.” “For what?” I replied. “For smokin’ my keyboard. I’ve clocked you at over 100 wpm.” I could have kissed him!

In early 2005, I read a writing book by the owner of WritersWeekly.com and Booklocker.com, Angela Hoy. I sent her a fan email and she replied with a generous offer to publish my first book, Living Proof. It’s my memoir collection of short stories, including my personal experience with domestic violence at the end of my first lesbian relationship, a drive-by shooting, and how some of my pets and I became a family. Angela normally didn’t publish memoirs, I had no experience in cover design and my writing quality was not what it is now, but she did it anyway. I am eternally grateful to her for helping me get out of the gate.

In December 2013, I tried my hand at science fiction, both flash fic and poetry, and had my first experience with beta readers, all of which were fabulous. Thanks again, Kendyl Peebles and Rafael Morales! And thanks to you, Marie, my first guest blog post was just a few days ago.

As for what’s next, I’m hoping to finally complete a first novel, an LGBT romantic comedy mystery, and have a go at erotica. I’ve already got new beta readers lined up and waiting.

On March 13, 2014, in honor of my almost-Red Hat birthday that weekend, Tamara Woods has invited me to do a Writing and Ageism guest post on her blog, penpaperpad.com.

Do you have any favorite authors?

In addition to the aforementioned authors, I’m also influenced by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Sue Grafton, Lilian Jackson Braun and Kasey Michaels. At the moment, I’m beta reading a mystery for Morgan Silver and lovin’ it!

Do you write in a specific place?  Time of day?

I write with my old labradachs on the banquette alongside, my laptop opened on our dinette table near a window. It’s close to the kitchen and reminiscent of a restaurant booth, which is really conducive.

Through the window, I draw inspiration from the wildlife, trees, weather and astronomy. These are great, since I prefer Asian poetic forms, which are typically nature themed.

Sometimes the need to stay healthy and conserve resources in extreme weather dictates my writing time: nighttime in summer; daytime in winter.  

Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers?  Any advice?

Read. Soak up all the details in real life like a sponge. Switch pieces or genres when you feel stuck.

Network. Support your writing friends in every way imaginable. The benefits are infinite.

Write. Do NaNoWriMo. Take risks. Get beta readers. You can do anything you want to do, including write, publish and toot your own horn.

Thank you so much for this interview opportunity, Marie Lavender. Your own sharings and support for your fellow writers are altogether beautiful.

Here is the blurb for Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2:  Lacto Ovo Vegetarian Recipes.

Whether you only go meatless on Monday or embrace the whole plant-based lifestyle, you'll find food to love in Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. With recipes ranging from family-fooling mock meat omelettes to kid chef-friendly fruit burritos to brain restoring biscuits for the menopausal set, there's something for everyone - and nutrition tips to boot!

Don't miss the healthy lifestyle tips from Rebecca Subbiah, RDN (UK & USA), EmmaCarder, RD (UK), Lauren O’Connor, RD (USA), Cynthia Strawson, MSc, Nutrition & Metabolism (Canada), Dan Hanley of The Gay Vegans blog (USA) and Andrea Zeichner of Cook Easy Vegan blog (USA). 

Here are some excerpts.

Fruity Patooty Burrito
Quick and easy energy for kids and grownups.

1 large soft tortilla
1/8 c apples, chopped
1/8 c oranges, chopped
1 Tbsp dried cranberries or cherries, minced
3 Tbsp almond, soy or peanut butter or Nutella®
2 Tbsp sunflower kernels or seeds

 Spread nut butter onto tortilla.  Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon, sunflower kernels and dried fruit.  Arrange apples and oranges on half of tortilla.  Fold the bottom of your burrito over one end of the apple-orange row.  Fold up a side over the fruit row and roll across.  Wrap with paper towels, due to juicy orange slices. 

TIP:  Keep pre-chopped fresh and dried fruits in the fridge and other items within easy reach.

Aloha Sweet Potatoes
Ladies, start your estrogens!

1 can sweet potatoes, drained
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
1 Tbsp. shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds

Heat sweet potatoes in microwaveable dish for 1 ½ mins. on HIGH, covered.  Add pineapple chunks and stir.  Garnish with coconut then almonds, and serve.

Note: I’m in perimenopause, which starts early, lasts long and really puts women through the ringer, so one of my health issues is estrogen. Women with high estrogen need to go easy on soy, but sweet potatoes are an excellent alternative plant-based source for those who need it.

Dreamy Jambalaya

Balance your blood sugar and smooth your skin.
1 box Zatarain’s Jambalaya with Cheese mix
or Reduced Salt mix
1 can Trappey’s Okra with Tomatoes, do NOT drain

Pour jambalaya mix rice and seasoning into large bowl.  Add water and follow microwave directions.  Stir well to break up any caked seasoning mix.  Add okra and tomatoes.  Stir and microwave 1 minute on HIGH.

Author Bio    

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, exclusively on Amazon. Cafe Belinda, her food blog, offers dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, Kosher, vegan and vegetarian recipes, reviews and giveaways. A longtime published poet and publicist, her works have been published in the Odessa Review, Long Story Short, Amaze: the Cinquain Journal, (Lake Charles) American Press, (MSU) Contraband, Jambalaya News (now the Louisiana Jam), New Day Publications and others. She recently completed her first scifi flash fiction and micropoetry collection. In 2014 she hopes to nurture her lifelong fascination with Asian culture.

Social Links: 

Facebook: Personal/Writing: facebook.com/belinda.hughes.1656

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/15889523-belinda-hughes



Living Proof

by Belinda Yvonne Hughes



Featured Post

A Character Interview with Dillon from MOUNTAIN BLAZE, plus a conversation with author Debby Grahl!

Today we're bringing something different to Writing in the Modern Age in the form of a character interview. These character interviews, ...