The Prompter Room

For Friday, July 28, 2017:


Making art is all about humans and our psychology: who we are, how we behave, what we do with the hand we’ve been dealt.  It’s closer to your own bone when it’s a memoir, but the bone is still the bone.

A. M. Homes


The Prompter Room

For Friday, June 16, 2017:


The subject of autobiography is always self-definition, but it cannot be self-definition in the void.  The memoirist, like the poet and the novelist, must engage with the world, because engagement makes experience, experience makes wisdom, and finally it’s the wisdom – or rather the movement toward it – that counts … The poet, the novelist, the memoirist – all must convince the reader they have some wisdom, and are writing as honestly as possible to arrive at what they know.  To the bargain, the writer of personal narrative must also persuade the reader that the narrator is reliable.

Vivian Gornick






We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog reading for …


On behalf of my dear friend Brian Baker, I am excited to announce that his book Mitigating Circumstances: A Detective’s Stories of Forgiveness & the Fruit of God’s Love is now available for early sales!  (If you order before copies reach bookstores in June, you can save up to 33%.)

Click here to order from  You can visit Brian at his Website at, and on Facebook at his Detective Brian Baker, Author page.  He’s also on Twitter.

I was privileged to serve as the primary editor for this manuscript as it was in process, so I am beyond delighted to see and share the finished and finely-polished product!  Mitigating Circumstances: A Detective’s Story is a remarkable, memorable, and moving account of how Brian grew from a gritty PI into a more loving, compassionate, and God-centered advocate for criminal offenders and their families, and for victims and their families.  Whatever the circumstances, lives were, and still are, changed for the better.

Brian has a Master’s degree in criminology from Vermont College.  In addition to his work as a private investigator and security consultant, Brian is an adjunct professor at Penn State in criminology and intro to criminal justice.

Please do yourself a favor and read this book!  The people and their stories – and Brian’s story – will stay with you for a long, long time.



~~ Genie


The Prompter Room

For Friday, March 17, 2017:

In loving memory of Anne Marie Marra and Helen O’Leary, both of whom had more than a little of the Irish in them, and who left us much too soon.


Memoir is not about perfect accuracy of the remembered event; it’s more about finding perspective and making meaning of that particular slice of one’s life.  The struggle for emotional truth is central to memoir.

Maureen Murdock

The Prompter Room

For Friday, January 6, 2017:


As you start out in rough drafts [of your memoir], setting down stories as clearly as you can, there begins to burble up onto the page what’s exclusively yours both as a writer and a human being.  If you trust the truth enough to keep unveiling yourself on the page … the book will naturally structure itself to maximize what you’re best at.  You’re best at it because it sits at the core of your passions.


The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, December 27, 2016:


Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, whereas literature teaches us to notice.  Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.


Quoted in THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr


Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.

Maya Angelou

It’s been too long since I’ve read anything but snippets or quotes — like the above — by Maya Angelou, and this memoir by Tavis Smiley (with David Ritz) reinforced that lack on my part.

Even though the book is about Dr. Angelou, not by her, I could hear her voice throughout.

As the title suggests, Smiley writes of the decades-long journey he shared with Angelou as his mentor and friend.  In addition to specific times that they met, visited and spoke with each other, he highlights some of her poems along with her humor, wisdom, and insight. The quote above is not in the book, but it could have been, for that observation seems to be much of what drove the deep relationship between the two, even if it’s only implicit.

One of the things I most enjoyed were the accounts of when Maya Angelou and Smiley together broke into the gospel hymnody in which they’d both been raised.  I loved, too, the descriptions of her appearances before crowds and audiences and her more intimate times with friends.

According to Smiley, she was always comfortable, poised, and gracious, even as her health deteriorated, but he made it clear that her first priority was hospitality for others and to put them at ease.  It’s easy to see why when one reads the heartbreaking story of her rape as a child and the subsequent five or so years when she was rendered mute as a result.  While her famous poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and her first memoir are based on the trauma, and while both she and Smiley acknowledged what happened, the courage of Angelou’s life and works more than transform that horrific time.  And she has transformed the world, one person at a time, one poem, one book, one class, one friend at a time.

My Journey with Maya by Tavis Smiley, with David Ritz.  2015: Little, Brown and Co., NY.