free the pen, a blog for writers

July 30, 2011

This Site Is To Bring Writers Together

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 1:51 am
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Have a book you would like reviewed? Contact me and let me know what the book is about. I’d like to offer this blog to authors who would like to share their works with readers. It is difficult enough in this highly competitive market to get noticed. So I’d like to offer my site to help support writers. I prefer to review self-published books so those of us struggling to get noticed can do so here. So send me a comment.

In the meantime, are you in the middle of a project? Stuck on something? Want an idea? Bring it up here.

One idea I’d like to throw out if you happen to be stuck on a manuscript. Take one character and build it as much as you can. Describe his/her physical features, his profession, how would he handle witnessing a murder, a robbery, a rape, the birth of a baby, a man proposing?? What does he smell like, what are his annoying habits or the ones that drive women crazy with passion??

Take one scene from the manuscript and write 1,000 words on it without stopping. Just let your pen or your fingers race and your mind ramble until you hit upon an idea that pulls at you.

That’s it for now. Check out my website on which we can talk about topics brought up in my books or letters you write in the penpals category or writing tips in the splash category. Why the category splash?? Well, splash was the first big word I learned in first grade, I thought it was a fun word and I still do. So take those writing tips and splash your ideas onto the page.




July 22, 2011

Author Jeanne Simonoff’s Interview

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 11:30 pm
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I would like to introduce you to another special author, Jeanne Simonoff. Jeanne took thirteen years to write her memoir, Saving Myself, A Los Angeles Childhood. Although Jeanne is a poet and has written a chapbook titled 13, she writes prose so beautifully you would think you were reading a long poem. In reading Jeanne’s answers let them inspire you to think of your own life-then pick up your pen and write a full page or more of your own story. It is my pleasure to intruduce you to Jeanne Simonoff.

1. Why did you write this book?

To reform and remember that part of my life I pushed down and repressed after the death of my birth mother; to bring my story out from the caves into the light to heal. There is much more, but that is the most succinct answer.

2. Tell us about a few experiences you had in writing this book for the last 13 years.

Writing, for me, is a practice of bearing witness–that my story was real, that it did happen-that it is possible to bring back one’s life and fill in the holes, the gaps, to transform who I was and create a positive life. Each time I formed words on a blank page, I was amazed that the story was calling itself forth, one experience at a time, in random order, not like linear time. Mind tells stories the way each individual remembers them. It is like Gertrude Stein’s  “A rose is a rose is a rose,” and each time I wrote, the story changed slightly, became fuller, more complete. Poems became prose. Images sang out in different forms. My dreams were filled with memories where there were none as I  brought the memoir into the world over time.

3. Is it true Oprah wants you on your show?

Wouldn’t that be something? We will be sending a copy of the book with a packet to the new network. Hopefully people who resonate with the memoir will write to Oprah and ask for the memoir to be on the show. Who knows–anything is possible.

4. How do you think the experiences you had as a child, 50+ years ago, apply today?

Everything changes and everything remains the same. Statistics show that early childhood loss has increased with the wars we are fighting leaving children parentless with war deaths. The media talks about the epidemic we are experiencing with bullying in the schools and the many suicides. The difference is that today they are talking about it. When I was a child the loss of my mother was hidden, not spoken of, not acknowledged. In the 1940’s parents didn’t talk about death with young children in order to spare the child pain, but as a result, silence became something children never get over.

5. I‘ve heard people say that your book is important for our times…Could you elaborate on that?

One Sunday morning this spring, there was a program on early childhood loss. It stated that it is something a person never recovers
from. And the numbers are rising because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Children are calling each other names and causing physical and emotional harm in the name of differences and diversity instead of letting those diversities become something to enrich each other. My book can teach children to bear witness to the inequalities that they experience with racism and bigotry by helping each other understand loss, whether it be the death of a parent or the death of their identity because they are different. Workshops will be structured to help them learn to tell their own stories of loss and inequality and learn from each other’s experiences.

6. How has this book saved you?

By writing the memoir, l learned that I did, in fact learn how to save myself. It has brought up to a conscious level that I did find ways to cope, ways to get away from the enemy, run faster, stand up and defend myself. I learned to be myself and be in the world, a world that is cruel and unjust, but a world in which a young child can survive and live to tell the story.

7. How did you remember all those details from 50 years ago?

Mind categorizes and files itself away. A word, a phrase, a sound, a smell can release a long held memory. The sound of a fountain pen– (I write with an old pen which I fill with ink, the old fashioned away, on unlined white/sketchbook paper), releases memory from bondage and frees it onto the page, one grain, one word at a time. It’s a magical process that I never would have believed existed if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. It’s a practice Natalie Goldberg calls writing practice and like any other practice, the more I did it, the better I got at bringing my childhood experiences forward.

8. Do you think your book will turn into a great film?

It’s a small, quiet book with great visuals. It could happen. Look at Little Miss Sunshine and Avalon. A dream world emerges on the screen. A story once flat becomes alive, three dimensional.  A screen writer, a producer and director, with the help of a sensitive cast, brings such
stories alive on the screen. I could envision all of this for SAVING MYSELF: A LOS ANGELES CHILDHOOD.

9. Are you looking for a producer or film agent now?

People who have read the memoir tell me the book comes alive for them. They see it as a film. I need someone as excited about it as I am. People inhabit words and phrases. We all imagine, especially those who used to listen to the radio. We “picture” characters. It’s the next evolutionary step. Yes, and anyone who sees or hears this interview, and is interested can contact me on my website, I look forward to opening a dialog with them.

Untile next time,


10. How can your book help educators and students?

I will have study questions and modules with topics and issues for educators to discuss with their classes using the book as a guide, such as how to learn by example, how to deal with early childhood loss, how to silence the bully.

11. What is your next project?

I am working on a second memoir called JUST NOW: THE ALZHEIMER’S JOURNAL, about living with my family’s alzheimer’s and dementia and relating it to the now because there is nowhere else for them to go. It will be a mosaic, with poems, a two page play, and stories. The second project is a psychological thriller about a performance artist called CENTURY, another memoir forming called VENICE BEACH DAYS, about growing up and coming out in the late 50’s and early 60’s in Venice Beach, California, and lastly, a performance piece based
on the Queens of France in Luxenbourg Gadens in Paris, France.

July 16, 2011

Ever Hear of Author, Shawn Kirsten Maravel?

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 2:42 pm

Ever hear of author, Shawn Kirsten Maravel?? Probably not, because Shawn is a new author– so let me introduce you to her. Author, Shawn Kirsten Maravel is a writer with spunk, talent and a gift for telling a story. Her two new books, Volition and Severance are a series and can be ordered on If you read Volition, I promise you, that you will want to read Severance. I read each book in one weekend. I was lucky to have Shawn agree to an author interview. I submit it below.

But first, I want to give you my review.

Volition is about a young woman named Charlotte Rush who faces every woman’s nightmare: someone slips a drug into her drink while she is out with her girlfriends. The plot twists and turns as Charlotte meets a man (or is he??) and begins a romantic relationship with him. Now, this is no ordinary romance novel and I hate to say anymore than this. The plot is too amazing to reveal before you get a chance to read it for yourself.  In Severance, Shawn picks up Charlotte’s life where Volition ends and throws it into yet another twist of fate that will have you leaving dirty dishes in the sink, forgetting to feed the dog and leaving your husband waiting outside with the car running until you finish the book. But don’t say over until you have read the last word. Just as I was getting to the very end and thought the excitement was over, Shawn threw another one at me. All I can say is: I wanted more. The story is so compelling that it will have you overlooking a few spelling errors and some of the things seasoned writers know about plots. But I promise you, Shawn Kirsten Maravel’s books are so fascinating that you will instantly forgive her  and keep reading, overlooking the fact that she is new at being an author. I can’t wait to read her next book, which Shawn described is almost finished.

Without any more hesitation, here is my interview with Author, Shawn Kirsten Maravel:

                            Shawn has recently changed the covers, although you might still see these on I do not have books with the new covers.

1. What made you come up with your story idea?

Volition started off with a question that I’d asked myself, “Who cares for you in spite of your flaws, has been there in your darkest hours, wants your happiness over their own, and loves you more than anyone?” I answered that question with a paranormal character, Joel.
From there the story and the plot unfolded.

2. Do you have a writing regimen?

If by that you mean a set time that I write, no. Every story I write takes a different amount of time to write. Volition spanned over about nine months start to finish while The Wanderer was written in less than two months. What I try to do every day is keep writing, promoting
my other books, and researching my current book when it’s not the right time for me to write. I take breaks in my work and let ideas come to me as opposed to forcing it. I’ve happened upon a lot of great twists and turns in my stories writing in this way. If I feel that the writing runs the risk of feeling stagnant and repetitive I step away for a bit until I can find something fresh to contribute to the story.

3. What do you like best about your books Volition and Severance?

What I like best about the books is how they work together yet they stand alone. Severance has a lot more going on than Volition does because Volition was a build up to Severance. But without it Severance wouldn’t work. I think that they complement one another well and had
I tried to make them one book it wouldn’t have worked, nor would stretching them out to three books.

Author’s bio: Shawn Maravel was born in a small New Jersey town parked right smack dab in the middle of farm country. She has a twin sister and two kid sisters. When her husband joined the Army and was stationed in Germany she packed up her things and moved to Germany to be with him. Making the most of the Army life Shawn has traveled around Europe as much as possible and considers Germany her home. She
has lived there for  the last two and a half years there. She spends most of her time reading, writing books, and spending time with her husband, faithful Rottweiler, and ninja cat.

I do hope you enjoyed this interview. I welcome any and all comments and if you have an inclination to check out Shawn Kirsten Maravel’s books, please go to

Until next time,


July 12, 2011

Cleaning Up Your Life to Stay Healthy

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 6:47 pm
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Seventy percent of the current population is chemically sensitive– right now– so if you think this article does not apply to you, think again. You might not be as sick as those in Dr. Rei’s clinic in Dallas, the only clinic for the environmentally effected. But I promise you, there is something in the environment that you cannot be around and be comfortable. Think about it. Cigarette smoke is one of those major smells that deleteriously effects many people, perfume another and also the smell of gasoline while pumping gasoline into a car.

Considering the fact that we are exposed to approximately 80,000 chemicals a day — we are in big trouble. This statistic makes the preponderance of cancer understandable. The unfortunate aspect of all this is that as long as we stay busy, take medicine instead of searching out the cause of illness and remain complacent about what the EPA and other companies are getting away with, we will remain physically in danger. There is a fantastic movement by Earthjustice, Wildlife Federation and other organizations to save our planet. Trust me! As a woman who has been so sick in the past (thank you God) that I couldn’t be around scotch tape, we cannot live without our environment. Pres. Obama just lessened the limit on formaldehyde that companies put into plywood and particle board. If you are remodeling or building anything, know that insulation, OSB products, paints, thinners, you name it — all contain formaldehyde. AFM is a great company to get organic building and household products. They ship out of California and Colorado. Get Co-op Green America for a telephone book directory ($10) for a list of all sources.

I could write a book on this and maybe one day I will sit with all my resources and do just that. For the time being, I’m going to suggest a few things to slowly change into your life. This can seem overwhelming but a friend of mine changed one or two things each time she shopped and within a year her home was organic and non-toxic.

So–here is what I recommend:

1. Buy organic foods. If you can’t afford them or they are not available then soak in white vinegar and rinse well. Keep in mind white vinegar is edible.

2. Clean your house with non-toxic products. If you are using standard products you are toxifying your home. Use white vinegar, lemon juice, borax and baking soda. I have a spray bottle of white vinegar and water and spray it on everything. White vinegar is an anti-microbial and anti-fungal and is more effective than bleach. Check out Gaiam’s website for clothing and household products.

3. Don’t use any product with 1. fragrance or 2. corn syrup

4. Wash new clothes with 1/4 cup of white vinegar to help remove toxins. It might take several washes for this to work. Buy clothing made with organic cotton, bamboo and soy. It is amazing what caring people are doing to save the rest of us from ourselves. Check out Gaiam, Dreamwords, Bio-Kleen, Indigineous Design, Earth Speaks.

5. Don’t use your cell phone in your car. Now I know you are thinking that this request has to do with safety and yes, it does. What happens when you use cell phones in your car is that whatever the cell phone gives off hits the metal in your car and comes back at you. If I had my way there would be no cell phones. Brain tumors are up 5% because of them and Canada and I believe Sweden has banned them for children under 12.

Be willing to face the discomfort of changing your lifestyle a little in order to save your life.

That’s all for now. If you follow these suggestions during the next month you will have made a huge step towards keeping you and your loved ones healthier.

Until next time, Jan

July 6, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 6:51 pm

Do you have an illness or condition that makes no sense to you? Would you like to spend ten minutes digging deeper? Try this:

List all the words you can come up with about your illness or condition. For example, you might say: oppressive, obstacle, nuisance. Make the list as long as you can until you can’t come up with any more. Then read the words until they bring to mind a person, relationship, or experience. Each word should match that person, relationship or experience. Now you can see that your health has a direct connection to your life’s unresolved matters.

For those of you who know TAT (Tappas Acupuncture Treatment) hold this position while you read each word visualizing the experience of the illness for that word, then the person, relationship or experience it connects to. For those of you who don’t know TAT here is what you do. Cup your right hand around the base of your skull. Take your left hand and place your thumb and ring fingers on each side of your nose near your tear ducks. Then place your middle finger on your third eye. The spots your hand and fingers touch are acupressure points. Keep your hands in this position while you say each word. As you say each word think of the person, event, experience that you targeted as matching the words, then think of your illness or condition and how it effects your life. Do this for each word. If your list is long take a break in between. Drink a glass of water then take a few deep breaths and continue.

I’d love to hear your experience in doing this technique. I just happened to stumble upon it while I was suffering from a chemical sensitivity and I was amazed at who and what came up when I called out each word. I feel as if I’ve just taken a leap in my healing.

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