~ Mary Kennedy Eastham
~

TOC from
Squinting Over Water
TOC from
The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget
Shadow
Book Reviews

 

SQUINTING OVER WATER
Stories

by Mary Kennedy Eastham

2013 WILD-CARD Runner-Up Winner in the Paris Book Festival


She doesn’t sugarcoat things. This is one talented writer. —Kurt Vonnegut, Author “Cat’s Cradle”, “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Breakfast of Champions”

Squinting Over Water

There are no perfect people here.
The characters in Squinting Over Water are you and me

trying to make sense of things - good and bad - coming up with a Plan B when life gets messy.

One early reader said she would walk across continents to get to this book. These whimsical stories transformed her, made her believe once again in the true beauty and playfulness of life.


You can’t stop thinking about Eastham’s characters like 16 year old Rebecca Louise in After The Dance. Raised by her single mother, she longs to get to know John Monroe, her father, the man who wasn’t ready for parenthood when she was born but who now wants to meet her. And then there’s poor Harry in Cat’s Eyes, sipping cheap champagne, watching his mother patch together the few strands of hair on Husband Number Five’s head with those long, lean fingers of his childhood. Johanna Dane is losing the daylight in Delicato as she searches for her twin brother Mica, missing after a devastating flood in their small, sweet town of Dane’s Crossing. There are mood-tints bursting forth here, a poignant sense of time’s passage that Hollywood Indie sadcore crooner Lana Del Ray would magically rework into a dreamy song. These two creatives need to meet. —The San Francisco WE’RE NOT SKINNY BITCHES Book Club.


6"x 9" ~ 146 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61170-093-0

Purchase "Squinting Over Water" from Ingram or from any of the links below.
Amazon UK
Delivered FREE in the UK
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Kindle edition of Squinting Over Water is also available.


TOC Squinting Over Water
  • “Cat’s Eyes” won FIRST PLACE and was published in Paris Transcontinental

  • “After The Dance” and “Delicato” were Literary Award Winners in the Academy Arts Press National Fiction Contest

  • “Delicato” also won a Literary Prize in the Los Angeles Writer’s Network & was published in Circle Magazine

  • “Soft Spots” & “The Woman With Her Skin on Backwards” won a $4,000 Literary Grant from The Arts Council Silicon Valley

  • “Destiny of Joy” was published in “The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget”

  • “What He Left” won several Literary Awards and was published in Pearl

  • “Squinting Over Water” won a $5,000 Literary Grant from The Arts Council Silicon Valley


Mary Kennedy EasthamMary Kennedy Eastham, M.A., MFA has had the good fortune of growing up in a small New England town. She spread her wings and moved to New York City, San Francisco and Malibu which is where many of her stories took shape.

Her book, The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget, now in its Fifth Printing, was a 2011 WILD CARD winner in the HollywoodMary and her dogs Book Festival and a 2010 Celebrity Achiever Award winner by the National League of American Pen Women.  Her poem 'Points of Love' a Top Ten winner in the 2012 Poetry Superhighway Contest.

Her award-winning poetry and short stories have appeared in over 75 books, magazines, small presses and e-zines in the United States and abroad. The publishing list includes ‘Glamour’ magazine, Paris Transcontinental, the Circle Magazine, THE BEST of Map of Austin Poetry, the Paterson Literary Review, Poetry Superhighway, muse apprentice guild, Pearl magazine and the Red Rock Review to name a few. She has been awarded over $25,000 in Literary Awards. Her work has received a Chekhov Award, an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and she is a two-time award winning recipient of Literary Grants from the ARTS COUNCIL SILICON VALLEY. 

Mary calls herself a Word Actress letting her characters perform different roles on paper which is of course weaving her own needs, her own fantasies, her love, her loss and her joy into the poems and short stories she writes. She is currently finishing up "Channeling Ava Gardner", the last story in her short story collection The Possibilities of Love, and is excited to be close to finishing her first novel Night Surfing.

Mary's life has been filled with confusion, chaos, fun and love. She lives in San Jose, California with her beautiful Golden Retrievers.


Paths to Publishing: Mary Kennedy Eastham || SQUINTING OVER WATER Stories

My mother gave me the wonder of words and storytelling by teaching me to read at age four. I was hooked. My first grade teacher Mrs. Hebert even made me her teaching assistant, helping with the kids who couldn't read. I won a writing award in fifth grade and always admired the stories women writers had to tell, but I guess it never occurred to me I could be one of them.

A move across the country from New York City to California with my husband kicked my butt into gear. I was the bigger breadwinner while he was in med school, so now it was my turn to live my dream. I signed up for a summer writing course at UC Berkeley, applied to grad school and two years later had my MFA in Creative Writing. As writers, we all face the 'what next' question so I just kept writing - short stories, poetry. I took an online class called Buzz Your Book offered by MJ Rose which was perfect in getting me to focus on what my first book could look like. I came up with a title -The Shadow of A Dog I Can't Forget: Prose & Poems, decided what to include, my husband designed the cover. A graphic designer friend created a hand-pressed beautifully rendered version of the book, I sent it out to an LA writing contest and WON. That gave me the courage to find a publisher who could do a print version... Read More.


FEARLESS FRIDAY
by Brenda Whiteside

I'm sure you'll all enjoy my guest today, Mary Kennedy Eastham. How fearless is she?

Thank you Brenda Whiteside for finally letting me have a go at one of my favorite words! Fearlessness reminds me of a quote I keep nearby for those times when I'm sensing I need to do something, that nagging something that may not be easy to do. ..The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom...

How do we as writers do that with our characters, release their fearlessness, making our stories more complex and memorable? Since actress Jennifer Lawrence at 23 was just named one of the most powerful women of 2013 in the latest issue of the Hollywood Reporter, it reminded me that we all need to HUNGER GAMES up our stories. Katniss Everdeen moves toward everything with zest and a fearless abundance of courage. She has her downfalls before hitting her stride but she never wavers. A life woven with threads of fearlessness doesn't come without some loss...Read More.


Click here to read article in Savvy Authors:
Where I Began As A Writer & Where I’ve Ended Up (With a Take-Away from each phase) by Mary Kennedy Eastham, MA, MFA


5 starsCathartic Short Stories ~ Randall Radic
Mary not only writes well, but she has an easy intimacy with the architecture of short stories. Essentially, Mary has a knack for what I call `self-memorandums,' which are reminders. Stories that remind the reader what it is to be human; unrelenting, secretive looks at just how parochial human beings are. In a sense, the stories could be classified as morality stories. Not in the do what's right sense, but rather like fairy tales, where there's a moral to the story, something to be learned. Similar to Silverstein's The Giving Tree.

For example, Cat's Eyes, which is a story about a young man, who, on his way to his mother's fifth wedding, recalls his life with a mother he has always considered selfish and self-centered, a notorious reality that is, on the one hand, charming, while simultaneously, on the other hand, suspect because she didn't act or live her life like mothers are supposed to. During and subsequent to the wedding, he undergoes a change of attitude. He comes to realize that love doesn't arrive pre-packaged according to an established set of rules, that love is a matter of the heart.

There's a state of disturbing propinquity to Mary's short stories. By that I mean they engage the reader in a visceral manner, because the reader has either gone through a similar experience or knows someone who has. Each story has a vitality of its own. And Mary's writing style, along with her `voice,' provide a sense of imminence, exhibiting an emotional refinement that leaves the reader refocused on Life and all it entails. Inner truths are exposed, which in turn brings about an emotional catharsis. To put it bluntly, Mary demonstrates via stellar storytelling that although existence is extremely complex and things tend to fall apart, optimism persists. Humans learn, grow, adapt and move on. The best is yet to come.

Squinting Over Water is a delicate book, full of humor and pathos. After finishing the book, my attitude was a curious composite of envious approval, grudging admiration, and unwilling loyalty to a superb writer. Frankly, I wish I could write half as well as Mary Kennedy Eastham.

5 starsA poignant collection of short stories ~ digsblues
There are eleven short stories in Squinting Over Water. I bought the took 6 months ago, read "What He Left" and teared up immediately. It's only 3 pages long, but in that short space, the author shows you love, loss, and a new beginning.

I waited another few weeks to read "The Cat's Eyes" and was not disappointed. In it, a man makes peace with the mother that neglected him as a child.

"After the Dance" is about a father who walks away from his pregnant lover, only to return to meet his daughter when she is 16.

Many of the characters are so true to life that you will never forget them. It's amazing how a writer can develop such an attachment in stories that are so short.

I took my time reading, looking forward to savoring the next tale. It's finished now, and I'll revisit from time to time.

Highly recommended, even for those who think they don't like short stories.

5 starsVignettes on Life remind us of what is Most Important ~ Martha Jette (Hamilton, Ontario)

Award winning author Mary Kennedy Eastham begins her book with a back-story about losing some of her writing due to a computer glitch. She could not simply forget them and move on. Then one day a woman handed her a fortune cookie saying that if she wished upon a star, she'd receive everything she wanted. The following day, her puppy was playing with a tennis ball that rolled into a closet. Much to her surprise and delight, in that closet she found those missing stories among a pile of Christmas ornaments.

I tell this for one very good reason. Just like those lost stories, Eastman offers up a series of vignettes that each contain a hidden jewel - a message that may have become lost on you - a message that runs deep within, without her actually saying it - that you can use to change your own life for the better.

For instance, in the chapter entitled Cat's Eyes, a son grapples with feelings of intense loss, his mother having left his father just months after his birth. Now preparing for her fifth marriage, the son arrives with a deep-set resentment against a mother who seemed more concerned with savoring every moment of life rather than being a dotting mother. However, he soon learns how swiftly life can end, leaving only the Cats Eyes that he played with as a child, as the only reminder of what is truly important.

Each story gives us a peek into someone else's life - just for a moment in time - each including a profound message but don't worry. This is not a collection of `poor me' tales. Eastham's quick wit eases the tension and reminds us that laughter is also vital in our lives.

When you read Squinting Over Water, take your time to let each message sink into your soul. Only then will you realize the true value of Eastham's thought provoking work.

5 starsExceptional Characters ~ neuroticwriter
The reason these short stories are so engrossing is because Mary's characters are 100% genuine people that are going through real life problems and getting through them with grace and humility. They are the kind of people you want to be, and each story takes you into the heart of their everyday struggles, shows you how it feels to be in their situation, how to cope with it, and then how to deal. All the characters face their issues head-on and come out better for their pain. We can only wish to be so resilient. The stories make you feel as if you know each character intimately, and want the best for them.

Mary packs in a ton of character development and story into each one of these bites of life. It is quite amazing that so much goes on in such a small time, but the stories never feel rushed or forced. She has a true talent for telling us all we need to know in a brief span of words. I write short stories too, so I know how difficult it can be to tell a complete story in such limited space. Mary does it each and every time, and all of the stories leave you wanting more.

I would recommend this collection to anyone that wants to escape from their world, but not stray too far from the heart of truth and real human emotion. The stories sometimes leave you feeling sad, but hopeful, joyous but wary, and every emotion in between. One thing these stories all do, is give you a glimpse into the hardships and lives of everyday people that overcome some uncommonly trying times and are better for it. We are left hoping that if ever faced with similar circumstances, we too can rise above and beyond the pain, go on with our lives, and be a greater person for having gone through it, just like Mary's strong

5 starsFlying High ~ Martha Alderson "Plot Whisperer"
Kurt Vonnegut has described Mary Eastham as "one talented writer." That Mary shows her characters develop emotionally and in the end transform each in uniquely different ways is a rare and awesome gift. She delivers unexpected twists and a depth of truth. I look forward to the day she produces a novel so we can hang out with her winning characters longer!


4 starsSquinting Over Water" ~ Meg
abookisaffair.blogspot.com

It's books like "Squinting Over Water" that are really continuing to open me up to reading more short stories. In the past, I haven't really liked to read too many short stories because I sometimes have the fear that a short story, which can only cover so much ground, is going to leave me unfulfilled and wanting more. This book most definitely does not fall into that category! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author, Ms. Eastham has a the art of packing a punch in a short amount of time down to a most perfect science.

Some of the stories in this book deal with some pretty serious subject matter. I really enjoyed all of the stories but there were a handful that were real standouts to me (What He Left was my absolute favorite out of all of the stories). The subjects are completely different but they were so good and so well written. What He Left is only a couple pages long but totally blew my usual fears about short stories and being unsatisfied far, far away. I really don't want to give anything away so I'm not even going to give you a synopsis of what the story is actually about but know that it is a really, really hard subject that would be difficult for anyone to write or talk about. I was thoroughly impressed the way that Eastham is able to tell a full, really well detailed story in such a short amount of space. There were some turns of phrase that were really fantastic. I know they are going to stick to me for a really long time. The story definitely made me a little teary.

This book would be a fantastic pick for anyone who is looking for a serious well written read. After seeing and falling in love with the magic that Eastham wove in this book, I would love to read more by her in the future


5 starsWho Would Have Thought ~ Lisa Fitton, MA, MEd
Writing Consultant, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, NJ

At first, you might be tempted to call this collection of short stories a work of fiction. But as you read, you find a piece of yourself somewhere in the consciousness of the main character, where all at once some forgotten memory opens up in such a way that you relive it, but this time from a different perspective. “Cat’s Eyes,” for example, makes you want to hit rewind at certain places in your life and try again, if only you could. And that’s just the opening story. Fast-forward to “The Woman with Her Skin on Backwards” (my personal favorite). It digs at the shallow graves in which we bury pain too great to think about—unless it’s provoked, that is. Then the floodgates open and it’s all over…This story is about healing. Although you don’t approach it knowing it in advance, it sort of comes into consciousness, little by little. But as much as you want it to be a pretty little story with fictional characters in situations you yourself have never experienced, in the end it is about you, and the people you think about, and the holes that ache to be filled. There are more facets than you might have thought. It’s as if, through your reading, you realize you are not alone—that others have gone through something like this. And thus, you see it in its wholeness and realize, as Sting once sung, “how fragile we are.” You forgive yourself, and maybe even someone else.

If you so choose, then, not only do you have a collection of short stories, but you also have some self-help along the way. Who would’ve thought?

But then there’s the craftsmanship of the writing itself. Take, for example, “What He Left,” where the efficiency of each word and deliberate inclusion of just the right details make this snapshot inside someone’s grief poignant and yet in the end more satisfying than brevity has the right to provide. Likewise in “One Strong Girl,” where character development would seem impossible in a one-page story, yet it happens nonetheless.

As for happy endings or morals or…whatever, “Destiny of Joy” provides us with a title to live by (before the story even gets started!). Here the sensory details move the characters through the situation in much the same way as a streetcar would transport passengers from one place to another. Mary Kennedy Eastham’s trademark visuals make this gem both filmworthy and satisfying.

By the time you get to the piece de resistance—the story that named the book, you come to expect lines that ring so true they seem to come right from your diary. You just don’t expect the happy ending to involve a sleeping tarantula, something only Mary Kennedy Eastham could pull off with such sincerity and grace.


Reviewed by Karl Wolff
Since Mary Kennedy Eastham is a longtime friend of mine, I will state that this will not be an objective disinterested review; but this bias shouldn't overshadow the merits of Squinting Over Water, Eastham's latest short story collection. The self-published book presents a diverse array of stories, from short shorts to longer narrative works. The short stories represent another aspect of Eastham's literary repertoire. Having previously reviewed her poetry, I found the stories containing the same qualities. The short shorts read as prose poems, beautiful image fragments that resonate in the reader's imagination. The longer stories vary in style from realistic to fantastical. Eastham has a way of drawing back the everyday reality to reveal a mysterious, occasionally vicious underbelly.    ~Read the rest of Karl's review ~ 


About “Squinting Over Water” Ann Humphreys of The SUN wrote: “You have real gifts. I am drawn to your measured, deliberate, packed style. I loved this story.”

…”These brilliant little gems pack a lifetime into just a few pages. You will want to read them again and again. Mary combines her best talents here - singing and writing -giving you lyrics for living. This collection is just wonderful.” - Kathy Handley, Author, “A World of Love & Envy” and “Birds of Paradise”

About “After The Dance” the Academy Arts Judge said: “Striking and complex characterization raises this common set-up to touching proportions. The mother/daughter relationship is beautifully wrought. The shifting points of view in the story are handled effectively. This format often fails with many less talented writers, but the author pulls it off with style and efficiency. The progression of the relationship, the fear of the mother, the nervousness of the daughter, are all credibly portrayed. The ending is evocatively touching.”

…”Guts, grit, emotional truths - there is so much resilience here. Reading these stories makes you stronger somehow and just better.”—Dawn Pier, Writer, Activist, Surfer, Blogger at Dawn Revealed

About “What He Left” Marilyn Johnson of Pearl said: “This story is told with such lyrical intensity and economy of language that the difference between poetry and prose is almost indistinguishable.”

“Mary won so many times in the Short Story category of my writing contest, I made her a Judge. She’s a dream to work with—she’s fun, committed, she’ll judge any category I give her, she even created a new Humor Category because she said the world needs more funny stories. I am thrilled for Mary with this exquisite story collection. She is the best of the best, a writer’s writer. “ —Eileen Malone, Poet, I should have given them water Founder/Director The Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition

…”Mary Kennedy Eastham writes about the sunny paradise of Southern California, giving that paradise an emotionally raw-edged humanity. With precise turns of phrase and narrative control, her stories glitter with memorable images, intriguing characters and haunting scenes.” —Karl Wolff, Book Reviewer for the  Chicago Center for Literature & Photography



The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget

Poetry and Prose

Mary Kennedy Eastham

"Storytelling for readers
who like their words wrapped in silk."

6"x 9" ~ 76 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9727721-7-4


Are you Ready to be seduced?

Mary Kennedy Eastham's work has been called darkly beautiful, erotic, lyrical and haunting. One reviewer said sitting down with her poems blew his hair back flat reminding him of when he was in high school laying in the grass at the end of the runway as the jets took off.

In this carefully crafted world of runaways, mystical goddesses, happy strippers, and Marilyn Monroe returned to us to comment on her life being auctioned away, the poet's words nag at us the way only a great seduction can ...like liquid pearls falling from the sky above/as soft and easy as a fortune teller's dreams/We are beautiful alone with ourselves/they seem to say/evening snowflakes floating/beneath a faint moon/like fingertips about to touch/a new piano/each sound, each song/a miracle.

In the title poem, 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' a woman, married for only sixty days, deals with feelings of melancholy by inventing a mysterious dog only she can see.


Mary was a Top Ten winner in the 2012 Poetry Superhighway Contest for her poem 'Points of Love'.

Mary is a 2011 WILD CARD Runner-Up in the Hollywood Book Festival and she received the 2010 Celebrity Achiever Award from the The National League of American Pen Women.

'A Hymn for Wish' is Mary's SUPERSTAR poem. It was a Top-Ten Prize Winner in the 2008 Poetry SuperHighway International Poetry Contest, was featured in the 2009 'Best Of' Map of Austin Poetry's On-Line journal during National Poetry Month and will be featured in the upcoming 'Best of the Shine Journal Anthology. Her poem 'Valentine's Day' appeared in Vision Magazine ~ February 2008 issue and has been chosen to promote peace and community connection by the International Valentine Peace Project. 'Points of Love', a poem from this book was a $5,000 award-winner in the Dorothy Sargent Rosenburg Annual Poetry Competition. The last poem in this book 'A Hymn for Wish' appeared in Shine' magazine ~ October 2007 issue.

Purchase "Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget" from Ingram, or from any of the links below.
Amazon UK
Delivered FREE in the UK
with Super Saver Delivery
Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget
Table of Contents:
Is there ever such a thing as a tiny betrayal?
The Soul of a Red Rock
Breaking Them In
The Making of Names
Find The Men Who Killed the Horses
Terrorism
Malibu
Clouds
Points of Love
16 Parisville Place
What Marilyn Says About Her Things Being Auctioned
Untitled
The Priestess Who Sang at Midnight
Chiaroscuro
Kissing Harrison
Hands
Home
Valentina Pearl
Magic in the Dunes of Pismo Beach
Imagining the Colors of a Taos Sunset in the Rain
Hopscotch
What He Did at the End of His Life
The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget
Beauty
Stripping for Blind Men
Undress Me
Destiny of Joy
Forgive…Move On…Remember
The Anniversary
One Strong Girl
A Hymn For Wish


AUTHOR TALK WITH MARY KENNEDY EASTHAM by Ceri Hebert
Hello all! I’m very pleased to have Mary Kennedy Eastham with me today.

Ceri: Welcome to my blog, Mary. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
... Click here to read the interview with Ceri Hebert


Book Review by BD Whitney
www.bookwenches.com

The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget is a short collection of poems and prose by Mary Kennedy Eastham. When asked to review this book, I immediately felt self-conscious and a little bit intimidated. I mean, it’s poetry, for heaven’s sake, whatever do I know about verse? In general I avoid it in favor of prose, and when I do read poetry it’s usually the rhyming kind, à la Lewis Carrol or William Shakespeare. And so it was with some trepidation that I waited for this book to arrive.

Once this volume fell into my hands, I immediately fell in love with the cover. I thought, mine, and I placed it in my briefcase and carried it around with me, just so I could stare at it and enjoy the pretty blue picture. And when I opened the cover (queen of procrastination that I am), I discovered a different world of words.

These aren’t toss away reads. Each entry encourages the reader to slow down and actually think, to process the imagery, and to perhaps even read it again. And again. Each entry tells a story, inspires an emotion, or asks a question. I’m not going to pretend that I understood each and every poem or scene. I will, however, profess to have been utterly hooked by a quite a few of them. They contained words that spoke directly to me and images that captivated me.

I dare anyone not to be moved by the poem “Forget…Move On…Remember,” written to commemorate the first anniversary of the September 11 disaster. It brought tears to my eyes. I also enjoyed the scene titled “Destiny of Joy,” in which two runaway boys, so cocky and self-assured in their newfound independence, watch jets take off, fantasize about the passengers, and slowly begin to understand the importance of family. Ms. Eastham paints such a clear picture with her words that I can clearly vision these two losing their bravado and suddenly wanting to go home. And another poem, “Points of Love,” appealed to the romantic in me. It feels like a series of vivid snapshots as it describes a New York snowstorm and several women in different stages of a romantic relationship.

In all, The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget was a very pleasant surprise. Ms. Eastham is a talented artist with words, and this little volume will definitely be read and re-read in my house a number of times.


Book Review by Karl Wolff

Mary Kennedy Eastham’s book, The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget, contains poetry ranging from the elegiac to the erotic. The verbal economy and stunning imagery leaves you breathless while you travel among the denizens of a very strange, very beautiful Southern California landscape. Think Six Feet Under episodes set to poetic meter. The poems confront and explore issues like nature, identity, class, and desire.

In one memorable poem, “Find the Men Who Killed the Horses,” an incident about two Marines who killed 34 wild Mustangs builds in rage towards an unexpected ending:  I will tell them this is war / they must strip naked / while I use a mop to cover their bodies in Mustang blood.

She continues: ...and I will whisper to the bobcats / "Go on, find them, find the men who killed the horses"...

Eastham’s lines work their magic, infusing the scene with images, dreadful and pagan. Nature, destroyed by the rampaging Marines and their “high-powered rifles,” seeks to right the balance as bobcats are set on them. In this regard, Mother Nature is not a pacifist. The poem reminded me of “The Bear” by Galway Kinnell.

Another poem, “Stripping for Blind Men,” ends with visceral images:   I start to crawl / closer, then push away / closer, then push away / toward restless fingers snapping / me, this mind stripper, who lets hang from her panties / a velvet pouch full of eyes...

Up to that point, I found the poem mildly amusing. To strip for blind men, an activity full of whimsy and playfulness shifts suddenly to an image of horror and power, ferocious and surreal.

The book is studded with poems like these. Marilyn Monroe, loners, and other strange figures fill the book with wonder and danger. I was moved.

The Shadow also includes the short story “Delicato” and an "Ask the Author" book discussion in which Eastham tells about her inspirations and the context of her work. "Delicato" is the story of Johanna Dane losing her brother, Mica, during a flood of the Eldorado River. During Johanna's search, she meets people like Parsifal, mystic mayor of Dane's Crossing, and Sylvia Tobacco. Sylvia and Corenna Tobacco are Johanna's 90-year old neighbors. Everyone in the town is a lovable eccentric. The disaster forces these quirky individuals to band together. It is a wonderful story, the settings and characters powerfully evoked. Eastham is a master of both poetry and prose, showing the reader there is the thinnest veil separating the genres.

I look forward to reading more work by Mary Kennedy Eastham. Her poetry places a humane, dangerous, and strange perspective on the lives we live.


Book Review by Lisabet Sarai

You wouldn't guess that the title belongs to a love poem, would you? You'll find many surprises in Mary Kennedy Eastham's slim volume of poems and prose, most of them wonderful. Ms. Eastham's poetry is sharply observed and emotionally genuine. It encompasses both humor and pathos. While not all of the pieces in Shadow of a Dog are erotic, many focus on desire, love, and loss, and in particular, the power of fantasy and memory.

Poetry, like music, is a highly personal taste. When I turn on my favorite songs, my husband holds his hands to his ears. Some poems resonate, setting up harmonious vibrations of emotion. Some do not. Not everyone will enjoy Ms. Eastham's style, superficially casual but cutting to the bone. But I did.

My favorite poems in this book are the ones about love and desire. "Kissing Harrison" chronicles a fantasy relationship with a "bareback meteorite cowboy" who comes to town looking for a "good girl/bad girl" who isn't the narrator. And the dark imagery in "Stripping for Blind Men". Then there's the stunning prose/poem that opens the book, "Is there ever such a thing as a tiny betrayal?" The non-erotic poems are equally powerful "What He Did at the End of His Life" brought tears to my eyes.

Poetry is difficult to describe. It exists only as first hand experience—hence all my quotes, frustrating attempts to convey the emotional impact which, really, can only come from reading an entire poem, the way the author intended—perhaps re-reading it, a second or a third time, seeing new angles, feeling new emotions.

If the quotes above resonate with you, pick up a copy of this book. And read it more than once.


--> Donna Gillespie, the author of two historical novels, 'The Light Bearer' and 'Lady of the Light'.

Mary Eastham's 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' Runner-Up for 'Best Poetry Book' in USA Book News 'Best Books of 2007' is far more than a collection of striking prose poems and short stories, these gems are enchanting narratives as well.

Here you'll find achingly poignant explorations of love and loss, first encounters with death, glimmers of bright, painful adolescence, pathos over our betrayal of nature. Eastham knows how to illuminate the telling detail that reveals a life, while calling up what's missing in your own. No, this is not a book about dogs, though dogs do lift their metaphorical heads. These poems and stories introduce you to real people - who live inside us all. 'One Strong Girl' illuminates the whole of a life, it is a condensed eternity. 'Find the Men Who Killed the Horses' brings up a primal rage against those who commit brutal acts against the defenseless.

Eastham can write of ...' a hand that has not been held for years,' and bring up a sorrow for all humanity. This writing is intense. A man whose wife died in the Towers during 9/11 seeks comfort against a 'pain that feels like thunder trapped under the skin.' Eastham can shift instantly from the deadly direct to the hauntingly suggestive. You'll get used to encountering lines that beg to be read aloud so you can get the feel of them on the tongue.

This collection is a strong potion meant to be slipped slowly. I would suggest treating yourself to a poem or story a day. Afterward, you'll find yourself more alert to the extraordinary hidden within the ordinary.

--> Writers Digest ~ 15th Annual Int'l Book Awards Commentary ~ Judge: 18

These are beautifully written, intriguing poems. The cover image is an excellent match to the book's content. I enjoyed the lively language, unusual imagery, and the poet's unique vision.

--> One Awesome Writer ~ Martha Alderson "Plot Whisperer" (Los Gatos CA)

Lovely, lovely words and feelings, images and emotion. Amazing writer you are, Mary. What an imagination and talent you have for moving your reader on a deep level.

"When asked to describe her childhood, she said it was like riding a bicycle through sand." Ahhhhhhh. Perfection.

Kissing Harrison sent me on a journey of emotion that comes from rich and authentic details. In the end, I ached for her lost love. Same with the title poem. Beauty, too. Loss and love, the two thematic threads tie the book together. Universal, thus evocative.

Undertones, deliberate? or not? hint at deeper themes. A man can't give her what she wants because another woman has already stolen his heart. hmmmmmmm

To love and to lose. Mary's book leaves me determined to live fully in love while thumbing my nose at the impending loss...

--> Prevailing!! ~ S. Lorraine "Author & Poet" (Independence, KY)

Mary utilizes colorful phraseology in her deep and passionate verse. Her contemporary style evokes promise unlike those in similar fashion. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys avant-garde, thought inspiring poetry.
--> The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget ~ Jan Pitcher "Artist/Author" (Los Gatos, CA)

This little book of poetry is so ecclectically dramatic, deep, gristy and full of lightness sans the fluff, every time I pick it up and then reluctantly put it down, I'm left empty and full and changed in the same moment, wanting more. Beautifully done, Mary Eastham!
--> A reviewer

If you liked Susan Minot's 'Evening', Mary Kennedy Eastham's 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' has the same beatiful language and the same themes of love and loss threaded throughtout.
--> The most memorable poetry book I've read this year ~ D. Gillespie "Donna Gillespie" (San Francisco, CA,)

Mary Kennedy Eastham is a natural storyteller the way some athletes are thought of as naturals. I think one on-line reviewer said her stories were like lullabies for adults. I, too, found a kind of ecstatic beauty in the lyrical quality of her writing. She challenges you and makes you emotionally stronger at the same time. 'Shadow of a Dog' is a good read...wise, funny, intense, and always entertaining. Here are poignant tales of real people; this book will haunt you long after you've read it.

--> Great book beyond a shadow of a doubt! ~ Todd W. Walsh "Co-Creator, Surf Stronger™" (Coastal California)

Mary's poems surprised me in a good way, like the waves down in Santa Barbara when I'm night surfing. She's a word temptress, keeping you challenged, enchanted and always wanting more. I can't wait for her next book to be out - The Possibilities of Love


GUEST BLOG: MARY KENNEDY EASTHAM

Where is the Want?

What does your character wish for? We all have something that we think will make us whole, happy. The fun we can have as writers is to go inside our character's heads on the page and NOT give them what they want OR give it to them and make sure that once gotten, it's somehow lacking, not at all what they expected. Backstory to me is the storyteller's gold. It is that silk lining woven into the hem of a favorite skirt, not seen, but so lush and soft against the skin. Sitting at cafes, coffee shoppes, in a comfy leather chair at Borders, I eavesdrop on people and get fabulous backstory ideas to use in my stories...Read More.




Mary and Sholeh Wolpe (Southern Cal poet/activist)
at the LA Bookfest

Mary flew to Mexico to read the wedding poem
she wrote for her friend Katie.

Mary and Jonathan Antin

Mary has done voice-overs for a number of independent films and was featured in the trailer for the
reality show BLOW-OUT
with Jonathan Antin.

 


Please Welcome Author Mary Kennedy Eastham (MKE)
Interview Posted by Hales (NS)

http://NovelSisterhood.blogspot.com/

Novel Sisterhood’s mission is to provide a place for our members to get to know one another. We strive to help all members learn more about the writing industry, whether they are interested as a reader or want to become better writers. We aspire to provide a friendly place to share, find support and make life-long friends.

NS: How long have you been writing?
MKE: I've made up stories since I was a little girl. I told my first grade teacher I didn't have parents and lived in a tree-house in the woods. I've had lots of jobs that had writing components to them - Grant Writer, Advertising Copywriter, College Professor. I have a side business helping high school kids write their college essays. I've been writing fiction and poetry for over a decade now.

NS: Do you have a daily ritual before you begin writing?
MKE: I read recently about a writer whose artist mother told her to approach her writing as a daily prayer - something she must do every day with passion and joy. I like that. I've got four dogs so I usually get them exercised and fed first thing in the morning. I belong to several online writer's groups, so at around 9:00 a.m.I faithfully check my e-mails. There are usually HUNDREDS! Then it's on to commenting on blogs, where I try to get as much exposure as I can for myself and my book (s). I try to go to bed each night (and believe me, this isn't always possible!) thinking about whatever story I'm working on, hoping I might wake up with some brilliant idea that is just what my story needs. It doesn' t happen often, but when it does, boy, you sure feel glad you're a writer!

NS: What are your inspirations for writing? Do you use art or music to prod your muse?
MKE: The thing that fascinates me most about writing and it's probably what keeps me doing it is the fact that the world around you is just one giant inspirational bin. I remember when I first moved to California from New York City, I signed up for an Intro. to Fiction Writing class at UC Berkeley. The instructor said I had a good ear. I thought to myself, wow, these people are superficial! Of course I later found out it meant I had the gift of listening and paying attention to everything around me, never knowing where something might be able to be slipped into a poem, short story or novel. I love art and music so yes, I draw ideas from that all the time. My poem 'Breaking Them In' was formulated around an Andrew Wyeth painting I just couldn't walk away from.

NS: What is your favorite health...brain food snack while writing?
MKE: I live in California, the land of clean living and eating, so I do try to eat healthy most of the time. I've been a vegetarian for the past three years, so I have to be creative about getting enough protein. Sometimes I just dip a spoon into the peanut butter and lick away. We have beautiful carrots here at Whole Foods, they almost look like a bouquet when you gather them together. I make a simple fresh guacamole with mashed avocado, fresh lime and salt and I dip the carrots into that. Sometimes I buy this amazing 9 grain bread. I cut out a heart silhouette from the center, brown it just slightly in a frying pan, then plop an egg in the middle. That's just plain fun! I always like munching on walnuts, pecans, pieces of peach or apple. I know, I sound SO California!

NS: What type of exercises do you do to stay healthy while writing?
MKE: I break a sweat every day. I've been a runner for most of my life, though I now do mostly sprints to save my knees! Exercise is a passion of mine. I Spin, I do this class called The Barre, the most intense non-stop 65 minutes of movement I've ever encountered. I do Zumba dancing. I work on my core every day on the Bosu, doing a Plank on an exercise ball, I do pull-ups, push-ups, surf core exercises, I hit the punching bag, I read Men's & Women's Health, always looking for new ways to keep me motivated. Lately, I've been doing alignment exercises so I don't get injured. That's been a real plus for me. My motto is: I haven't met an exercise I won't try! Next challenge - Stand-Up Paddling.

NS: When did you seriously sit down and say to yourself, I'm going to write a novel?
MKE: I started my novel Night Surfing a little over a year ago. I had one book out, The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget and I just knew the novel was the next thing I had to tackle.

NS: Have you ever thought of writing out of your comfort zone? Is there any other genre you'd love to attempt but are leery of diving in?
MKE: My friend is writing a historical novel. It is over 400 pages with charts that break my heart. She is so committed to the period she's writing in, the character's timelines, the time consuming checking of facts. I am in complete awe of that kind of writing. I honestly don't think I could do it. I'm more of a seat-of-the-pants, making-shit-up-as-I-go kind of writer.

NS: How have your techniques for character development changed since you've been writing? Is it still the same, or has it developed over time. If so how?
MKE: What makes me different than some writers is that I write in fragments. I think about my story all the time, jotting down character traits, plotlines, ideas I may or may not want to use down the line. I usually clip pictures of what I think my characters look like from a magazine then I paste them onto a storyboard. The novel and characters build from there.

NS: How do you hook your reader into a story?
MKE: I spent my 20's as a New York City advertising copywriter working under a woman famous for hundreds of commercials that earned her the advertising world's equivalent of an Academy Award. We would sit in her huge Madison Avenue office, high above the streets of New York City, brainstorming a product's history, which we called Storyboarding. It's similar to what many writers are doing today with their book trailers and what movie producers have always done with their movie trailers. She taught me how to grab people in that first sentence, how to write fabulous dialogue, how to move easily from scene to scene, what hot actor/actress would best 'sell' the product. She also taught me probably my best lesson in writing fiction - how to break the rules!

NS: What do you find the most difficult to write: Dialogue? Back Story? Emotion?
MKE: Like a lot of writer's, I get stuck in the middle of the story. So I guess the more you know about back story, the easier it will be for your characters to move seamlessly through the middle of the story to the end. I love the mystery of life and love that we find in every character's back story. If life or love were easy, we'd have all the answers, wouldn't we? I still want every character to surprise me. That is the wondrous, magical gift of writing. And I'm thrilled i get to go on this crazy roller-coaster ride every day.

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Be on the look-out for other books from Mary Kennedy Eastham:

…The Possibilities of Love – Short Stories featuring the story CHANNELING AVA GARDNER about a young woman who buys a used copy of AVA GARDNER – ‘Love is Nothing’ only to find Post-It notes tucked into the book’s pages, presumably written by Miss Gardner herself, helping the woman with life decisions she’d been trying to make.
 
…Night Surfing
‘I don’t know how this happened but I don’t have anyone.’
And so begins Night Surfing, the odyssey of Sosie Bend, a woman obsessed with love and surfing, only she’s not very good at either one. Brokenhearted after her fiancé of five years leaves her to have a baby with a Mormon make-up artist, Sosie downloads a Playlist of love songs and sets off across the country to Malibu to reconnect with the family that helped raise her when her parents Tripp and Kitty Bend, out for a night of fun, took a wrong turn down a twisty road ending up dead in a ravine. Calling herself a Love Amnesiac, Sosie starts a blog called Love, Sosie promising to spend the rest of her life trying to find this one thing she really wants. Her first blog post: Can you be so determined to find the love of your life that you have to dream him up walking straight out of the surf into your arms? ...Love, Sosie

Her Blog  THE-ONE-AND-ONLY-MARY (found at Blogit) has been called ‘exuberant’, ‘a beautiful weaving of your life and writing’. 

Mary would love to hear  from you. She is available for bookstore and Book Club Readings, Workshops & Residencies.
You can contact her at marylovesdogs@sbcglobal.net




Robertson Publishing, USA

California 408-354-5957 or Toll Free 888-354-5957