Shipwrecks on the Shores of Westerly

“They bilged; they mistayed; they blew their stacks; they went down in thick and blowing weather. They were the great company of ships that have been wrecked on the rocks and reefs of the Sounds off the Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut Coasts.”

This is the first paragraph of my grandmother’s book, published in 1973 by my dad and his two brothers to honor their mother’s memory. I’ve been thinking about this book lately, wondering how I might also use her book to develop another piece of writing. I’m learning about “moon cussing” and the “Palatine Light.”

Someone actually used her book to discover a shipwreck,  the USS Revenge, a ship once commanded by South Kingstown native Oliver Hazard Perry. Unfortunately, no news reports gave my grandmother’s name, Margaret Woodbury Carter, as the author of the book. But I will give her credit in whatever I do. She was a woman, a creative soul, who made a space in her home and life for  her grandchildren to explore and play. I will be forever grateful.



Reading This Today

From NPR’s website, (author interviews)….by Nate Klug, a theology student at Yale Divinity School.


Its water-torture-slow
wend in me. Its work

like the reverse of work.
No wonder human

praise won’t stick.
No wonder anger’s

more often summoned,
its hum, ready-made,

that steadies my head
like hospital television,

throwing blue rumor
for hours at no one.


How to Ruin a Story

Maybe I”m just too hard on myself.

Our second fiction writing class put me on a high. Steve used each story in the group to point out what we’d done well and ways to improve. Our “homework” assignment was to either revise, add on, or start again. After rewriting/revising my original story last Thursday and Friday, I realized I’d made so many changes, it had morphed into something new. There’s not much action–my character is in her head, unaware the rest of the world doesn’t swim in the same pond she does. She sees people and events through her own perspective, but I had written the story in third person.

First I tried changing to first person, but I couldn’t make it work. Then I took out all references to outside events she was reacting to (politics, family issues) and tried to “live” in her mind. Finally, I reverted back to third person but changed it to present tense. Anyway, by yesterday morning, the story had been ripped apart and pasted back together so many times, it didn’t make sense. And I was frustrated. (I was rewriting scenes in my head at church yesterday morning–not a good sign!)

Since our story was due that night, I pulled out something else I’d been working on, and revised the point of view and tense to first person present. By 9 p.m. last night, my brain was fried. Of course I couldn’t sleep, wondering whether I should have plugged along with the first piece.

But back to my main point. I am so forgiving of others (at least I try to be).  But forgive myself? Forget it. My internal voice becomes so negative, I turn a small event into a rehash of my entire life, flaws and poor choices ringing in my ears.

This morning, though, I’ve moved past most of it, though some guilt/anxiety will always be with me, I’m afraid. I ran into a friend yesterday who said, “When all else fails, walk the dog.” Well, I can’t do that anymore, but I sure can get myself outside. I’m hoping a long, fast power walk around town will clear my head.

Then I’ll be ready to dive into that first story again–with a better attitude. This should be fun, right?

The End


My first short story is finished. I really thought I had a premise–a character who could only see her own political perspective.

But halfway through my 5 pages, I started slowing….way down. I hadn’t figured out how to end it. Though I finally came up with an idea, I am not happy with it. This morning, I ran across this post, which is helpful. I think it applies to short stories as well.

Writers often struggle with finding the exact right climax and resolution to their novels, memoirs an screenplays.

So much time and thought and writing goes into developing a compelling protagonist with a mysterious back story, deciding where is the exact right beginning of the story, how to make the action exciting and the book concept big, the details just right, the dialogue snappy, the setting exotic, the crisis disastrous…. (see more)

Martha Alderson also has some videos I’m going to watch. Then I’ll rethink what happens to my character and whether there’s a story there.

I’m also wondering if readers will be frustrated by this character. She’s not too likable and she doesn’t change much. I do look forward to Wednesday night’s class to see what others think about her.