kl: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps by Nikolaus Wachsmann


Title: kl

Author: Nikolaus Wachsmann

Narrator:  Paul Hodgson

Publisher/Date:  HighBridge Audio, 4/14/15

Format: Regular CD, 25 CDs, 31 hours

Genre:  Nonfiction, history

Source: Audiobook Jukebox

This was a difficult book to listen to and I imagine it is no easier to read.  To be honest, I had to take breaks from the book as the stories of the Nazi atrocities became overwhelming to listen to for long periods of time.  Still, it’s a book that I highly recommend people take the time to listen to or read.  The author has taken the time to research the history of the concentration camps from their beginnings in 1933 to their end in 1945.  By presenting the evolution of the camps, it provides the reader an opportunity to see how the Nazi’s began detaining less socially desirable persons and then created fear of anyone different.

As a nonacademic I can’t do this book justice in my review.  This is a scholarly work and I don’t have the knowledge or background to speak to its qualities as an academic work.  I will leave the scholarly review to others and instead focus on the aspects that impacted me.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist*

Initially the concentration camps  Konzentrationslager; abbreviated as KL in German, were used for the detention of the political enemies of the Nazi regime.  These were people that the Nazi’s saw as enemies of the state, persons who were subverting the country.  They also detained asocials and the work shy.  These groups included the homeless, prostitutes and petty criminals, persons with mental illness or alcoholism.  Here we begin to see that politically the Nazi’s chose populations who were less likely to have supporters and for whom there would be little uproar.

Wachsmann outlines the lack of organization or structure of the kl initially and then overtime it becomes more structured with policies and procedures governing the running of the camps. From the beginning harsh penalties and violent treatment of the prisoners were expected.  The author makes the point that not everyone was violent however, it was difficult to see the exceptions in his narrative.Beatings and whippings were the rule rather than the exception.  None of this information is new to anyone who’s lived in the world.  The stories of the atrocities that occurred in the camps are many.

The impact of the book often comes in the words of both actual survivors of the camps as well as Nazi’s who ran the camps.  With each new category of detainee, (Gypsy, homosexual, Polish, Slovak, Russian, Jehovah witness, Protestant, Jew) there became more people with less resources.  The author shows examples of people who created their own families within the camps who helped each other survive and other stories of the fighting over scraps of food and clothing.  As the years went on there were more people that there was space to hold them.  They often had to sleep on the frozen ground while they built their own housing.  There was no sanitation which led to epidemics of typhus.

The stories were mind and soul numbing.  As a listener, I found myself trying to distance myself from the horrors. What human would not?  And yet as I listened trying to believe that we would not allow this to happen again, I couldn’t help but look at the present.  How often do we distance ourselves from people we don’t understand?  How much easier is it or us to lock away people who make us uncomfortable or scared?  How different is our Guantanamo Bay facility from that of the early concentration camp with political prisoners?  We talk of building walls at our borders and I think of the Jewish ghetto’s. It is not my desire to oversimplify in making these comparisons or to underplay the horrors of Nazi Germany.  Yet it is a mistake not to learn from the scholarly research, the first person stories, and historical documents and not ask these questions.  It is so much easier to look back with the knowledge of the outcomes and say they were wrong and not quite so easy to make those assessments in the present.

The book brings a new way of seeing the kl by seeing its beginnings and it’s evolution to the end.  It gives a fresh perspective on how things changed politically, socially and economically in the Nazi government and in the camps.  For historians, I would encourage reading the book as there is a wealth of details on political personnel as well as the camp guards and commanders. However for the person who wants a broader understanding of this period and the role of the concentration camps, the audio version was quite good.  I had some concern going in; history can sometimes be quite dry. The narrator kept my interest.  When the text was quoting other sources the narrator changed his speech and accent to denote another speaker. He spoke with a gravity that befitted the subject matter but was not monotone.

This work provides a wide breath of information.  To be honest, I never thought about how the camps were run outside of their brutality.  The changes in the political structure of the governmental offices that ran the kl and the infighting was interesting.  So much has been written abut the extermination camps but this book looks at the variety of camps, and their functions.  The discussion of the brutality of the officers made me wonder if every Nazi was a psychopath or sadist.  The inclusions of material from survivors of the camps and interviews with Nazi officials made the history come to life.  It’s not an easy book but it is an important one.  It makes one wonder, “What would I do to survive/”

*First They Came by Pastor Martin Niemöller – There are a few different versions of this poem.  It is said that when he spoke the pastor spoke extemporaneously and would change the names and the order of the different groups.


A Charming Love Story

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I love stories. On this blog, the focus is on the stories told in words. But there are so many different ways people share their stories. Photographs are a wonderful way. I recently saw a story on the news about a man who would choose strangers on the street and pose and photograph them. The photos were amazingly beautiful and intimate.

It’s wonderful to see people breaking down barriers when the world seems to becoming more and more an instant messenger. Mind you, “I love you”, are three simple words that can mean the world. But to me, they lose a certain intimacy when spread through Facebook or Twitter. I admit that as a woman in her fifties, I don’t fully get the mass communication route for some intimate messages. And don’t get me started on Kim Kardashian’s swimsuit shot and her lover’s tweet.

Having never really considered myself a romantic or old-fashioned, I realize I yearn for days when people wrote letters to each other and talked on the phone. These forms of communication seem much more intimate than the more modern versions.

It also makes clearer what drew me to my new business.  I mentioned in a post last year that I had become a custom designer for Origami Owl Jewelry.  One of the things I love about it is helping people tell their stories.  And there is something a little old-fashioned about taking the time to choose just the right charms and dangles to tell that story.

As a learning experience, I created a YouTube movie of Valentine Day charms. Each one is a love story that I set to Frank Sinatra singing My Little Valentine. It’s my first try at creating such a thing so be gentle.

What story would you tell…in words….in pictures….with jewelry…or in any other way?  If you feel comfortable, please share your story with me.

The Writer’s Connection: Sharing Our Common Humanity

writer connection

“We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away–our stories. I guess that’s what I love about books–they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.”

Sharing our Common Humanity
By Marjorie Deluca

I spent thirty years as a high school English teacher before I left the confines of the classroom and became a full-time writer. I still chuckle, however, when I think of the questions commonly listed in well-intentioned curriculum guides, that ultimately led to tortured and puzzled expressions on the faces of the seventeen year olds sitting in my classroom.

One of the most popular questions was, “What is the theme of this novel?”

Here’s how the discussion usually went:

STUDENT: What’s a theme, Mrs. DeLuca?

MRS.D: A theme is a thought or idea the author presents to the reader that may be deep, difficult to understand, or even moralistic (standard definition from most literary guides). It can be extracted while reading the work.


MRS. D: (throwing the literary guide aside)Well, it’s a message about life that the author wants to communicate to you, the reader.


MRS. D: Because it’s important to that writer. Important enough to want many people to know about it.

STUDENT: And how do you know that?

MRS D: Because I’m a writer and that’s what drives me to sit alone for hours on end in my office, in the hope that one day someone – maybe you – will find a connection with my theme, my message, my idea, my story. That you will share a place, a character, an image, an idea that was meaningful to me – that resonates with you and has an emotional impact on you. That links you in some way with me, the writer.

Each story we write is driven by a desire to share something unique with the reader. In my first novel, The Pitman’s Daughter, I wanted to transport the reader to an impoverished mining village in North-Eastern England during the 40’s and 50’s, where people fought to survive and ultimately escape to a better life. In my YA novel, The Forever Ones, I wanted to pose the chilling question, If we could genetically modify people to stay nineteen forever, who would control the technology? Big Corporation or Big Crime? In my novel, Unnatural, I wanted to explore the terrible injustices Victorian women suffered when eminent “mind doctors” claimed an indisputable link between reproductive problems and insanity. 

In all cases I hoped the reader would uncover the important idea that inspired me to write the novel. That even though they didn’t live in that time or place, they could find something in the story that was relevant to their own life experience. In other words, a connection.

My experience with all those high school students showed me, however, that books resonate in different ways with different people. That’s the beauty of reading – of sharing the human experience. The writing process becomes even more rewarding when the conversation goes both ways. When the writer reads reviews or joins the book club discussion of his/her book, the connection becomes even stronger as both reader and writer share common perspectives, experiences and emotions, those “thin strands of humanity” that link us all.

Oh – and by the way – those tortured students really came to understand this idea when they wrote their own stories. They really had to think about what they were trying to communicate to their readers. It was the most scary but thrilling experience for them to share their stories with trusted peers in a secure workshop setting. That’s when they learned the most about each other and about what unites us as human beings. A lesson I hope they’ll never forget.

Marjorie DeLuca

Marjorie DeLuca spent her childhood in the ancient cathedral city of Durham in North-Eastern England. She attended the University of London, became a teacher, and then immigrated to Canada where she lives with her husband and two children. There she also studied writing under her mentor, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Carol Shields. She’s written two historical novels: The Pitman’s Daughter (available on Amazon) and Unnatural (out for submission to publishers). She also loves writing for teens and her YA Dystopian novel, The Forever Ones, is available on Amazon, as well as her YA contemporary suspense novel, Busted Out.

Contact Information:
Amazon Author Page

About the Books

Pitmans daughterThe Pitman’s Daughter

Rita Hawkins fought all her life to escape from Crag Street, the grimy street of colliery houses where gossip reigned, tuberculosis killed, and mining families slaved to make ends meet. There she met George, the last surviving son of a poor mining family forced against his wishes to start work as a miner. Her life becomes inextricably tied up with his but love eludes them, though events in their lives constantly throw them together. George the high-minded idealist gets caught up with the miner’s union, while cold, hard cash drives Rita, the pragmatist, towards independence and success in business. Their relationship is complicated by the tragic Maggie, abused mother of seven children and Ella, the childless street gossip with her nose in everyone’s business.

Years later, when Crag Street is torn down and rebuilt in a museum, Rita receives an invitation from George to attend the Grand Opening. The visit forces her to face painful memories about George, Maggie and Ella and to revisit the tragic incidents of the last days she spent on Crag Street.

A vivid tale of love and loss, joy and tragedy, The Pitman’s Daughter spans five decades and portrays the colorful tapestry of life in a Durham colliery village. Filled with unforgettable characters it is also a story of ambition and identity that shows no matter how hard we try, we can’t escape our past since it shapes us into the person we become.

forever onesThe Forever Ones

Paige is nineteen and genetically altered to stay that age forever. She lives with other “Forevers” like her in the secret IdunaCo. compound, a place where age reversal and immortality has been perfected and the only rules are to live in the moment. Enjoy every minute to its fullest. Be what you want to be for a while and when you get sick of it – be something else.

It all seems perfect until Paige realizes her friends are disappearing. The official word is they’ve been kidnapped by criminals on the outside who want to use them as feeders. Feeders have a short and brutal life – kept in captivity and sucked dry of all their youth cells so the Crime Lords can stay young forever.

When Paige has a breakdown she’s rescued from the Psych Centre by her mysterious but attractive friend Junius who involves her in a daring escape from the compound. Their purpose is to infiltrate the IdunaCo organization and find out what’s really happening to the missing “Forevers”. Paige’s journey is complicated by charismatic musician, Chale, a Keener whose attraction to Paige is flattering but causes tension between her and Junius.

When Chale is slated to disappear Paige and Junius save him in the midst of their escape.

Once outside they learn more about their own special powers, reveal clues to their real identity but also realize the extent to which humans will go to achieve immortality. The mission becomes so dangerous Paige is forced to the limits of her endurance and has to make tough decisions about who she can trust – Junius or Chale.


Busted OutBusted Out

On her morning run, seventeen year old Katie discovers a frozen body lying on the snowy forest trail. The story goes back three months to trace the events leading up to the tragedy. Who is the victim?

Is it Mike, the import car fanatic who worships his older brother, Frankie, a hotshot graduate who’s gone East and developed big spending habits fuelled by poker winnings?

Is it Jay – the budding musician whose father wants him to be an NHL player even though he hates hockey?

Is it Kim, the math whiz and talented artist whose mother recently died and left her alone with a cold and abusive father?

Is it Nick? Forced to be a parent to his two young sisters while his single mom goes off for days at a time and drowns herself in booze .

Gambling changes their lives until events spiral out of control and in the final showdown one of them will find love, one will be a hero, one will be the victim of a near-fatal accident and somebody will die on the snowy forest track.

Set in a Canadian prairie city, this story explores the complexity of family conflict and its impact on teens who are searching for love, acceptance and identity.


A special thank you to Marjorie DeLuca for sharing her experience as a eriter and teacher and sharing what she has learned about what brings us together readers and writers.

Please take a moment to leave a comment for our guest today.

A New Year

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December was a crazy and unproductive month for me so I’m skipping my contemplating December and moving on. Although I do want to thank my guest author for her wonderful post in December’s The Writer’s Connection. Katharine Britton wrote a wonderful post that evoked some thoughtful comments from this blog’s readers. If you missed it, check out Turning Words into Conversations.

2014 book

It’s a new year and I’ve set some goals for reading in the new year. I didn’t achieve my modified reading goal for 2013. My initial goal was met and then increased about half way through 2013. This year, I’m planning on decreasing my books read. My 2014 goal is 36 books or an average of 3 a month. I may read more than that but with my current schedule I want to be thoughtful about the books I read. I’ve already chosen 12 of the books by signing up for Roofbeam Reader’s 2014 TBR challenge. Another twelve books will be determined by in IRL book club. That leaves another 12 books to decide on throughout the year.

I completed my first book for 2014, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Although I don’t know if its fair to count it since it was started in 2013 but I’m counting it. The next book up is Wild for the book club and then the first book for the TBR challenge which I haven’t chosen yet.

My other book related goal for the month is to create a book locket. Last year I announced that I had begun selling Origami Owl jewelry which has lockets and charms. I’m in the process of designing my first book locket based on one of my favorite books from last year. As soon as I have it done, I’ll post it for your reviews.

That’s the book news for this week. In other news I’m living in an area of the country which is looking at a cold snap. Here’s the picture of my next few days.

Monday weather

I anticipate that I will be reading tomorrow. All my errands were completed today in the balmy 31 degree weather today. So I leave you with this poem.

winter cold

Happy New Year!  Here’s hoping that the new year brings you a lot of great books to read.

Wrapping up

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Well, it’s almost the end of the year and I haven’t met my latest reading goal for the year. Originally I had set a goal of 25 books and when I saw I was going to meet that goal halfway through the year I upped it to 50. I started slowing down and have only completed 45. I still consider that a victory. When reviewing the books I’ve read this year it wasn’t difficult to come up with my favorites.

End of Your Life

I started the year on a high note.  I was drawn to The End of Your Life Book Club for two reasons. One it was about books.  But the other was that it involved the journey of a woman’s treatment for cancer.  Being a cancer survivor myself I was intrigued.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  What amazes me the most about this book was that if I hadn’t read it I would have missed getting to know about an incredibly fascinating woman in Mary Ann Schwalbe.  I was so moved by the story and frantically looking for an online book club to discuss the book.  It was during this search that I found Goodreads and it was also the beginning of my endless TBR list.

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Calling Me HomeHistorical Fiction is one of my favorite genre’s and there are a number of books in this category on my list.  Calling Me Home was a buddy read with my friend Elyse. The story alternates between present day and 1930’s Tennessee.  Isabelle has asked her friend and hairdresser to drive her to a funeral in Cincinnati. During this trip she tells the Dorie a story of falling in love with a black boy; a forbidden relationship both of the time and place.  Author Kibler creates a world of racial tension and divide that fills the reader with tension.  As a reader I could help but root for these two to find a way to make the impossible work.  Keep a box of tissues nearby for the emotional ending.

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A Bitter VeilAnother historical fiction book.  I received this an audio copy of this thanks to Audiojukebox and Audible.com.  This is a love story that takes place in 1978 during the overthrow of the Shah of Iran.  This time period is one that I remember well.  Anna met Nouri while both were in college in Chicago.  They return to Iran where they live with Nouri’s wealthy family. The country shifts politically and their relationship becomes under stress.  Narrated by Diane Pirone Gelman, the story builds slowly creating tension and suspense.

I caught the happy virus last night

When I was out singing beneath the stars.

It is remarkably contagious

So kiss me.


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The Translator I got this on audio for AudioGo and Audiojukebox.  I’m going to just repeat my review here.  This is also one of my favorite covers.

Hanne Schubert is a fifty something woman who is translating the greatest work of a well-known Japanese author.  Language is Hanne’s passion, she speaks several.  We observe her as she painstakingly thinks through all the interpretations of the Japanese words and phrases and the appropriate English translation. Hanne is absorbed by the work and she has clearly developed a fondness for the main character.

After finishing the work and sending it off to the publisher Hanne has an accident, falling down the stairs.  She wakes up in the hospital where she discovers she’s lost the ability to speak all languages except Japanese.  Released from the hospital she finds herself lost, disconnected with the people around her, unable to communicate with them.  She accepts an offer to give a presentation in Japan and hopes to meet the author she spent over a year translating.  To her horror, she meets the honored author when he shows up at her talk and confronts her in front of the audience, accusing her of ruining his work.  His work was inspired by the great Noh actor and she has dishonored him by her translation.  Hanne, embarrassed and angry decides to try to meet this actor and see if he indeed was like the character she so admired in her translation.

Hanne moves through the rest of the book on a transformative journey.  Meeting the great actor who is all spirit and emotion, living in the present, Hanne is bewildered by him. She doesn’t understand him but she is also drawn to him.  She revisits her own memories of growing up as well as memories of her marriage and raising her two children. She shares stories of her daughter, Brigitte, a bright and sensitive girl with a talent for languages whom Hanne tried so hard to nurture, while trying to teach her resilience. Brigitte who has refused to see her these last 6 years.

This book explores so many ideas.  Do we really understand each other?  Words can be so powerful and yet they can miss the true essence of a persons being.  Do we use language to create the story we already know or the one that we want to tell?  I found myself asking, “Am I hearing the meaning that this author was hoping to share or have I taken my experiences and applied it to her words and created the story that I know?”   Are words a bridge between people or do they create a chasm of unplumbed experience? Everyone is a translator of their own and others in their lives. Nina Schuyler has created a beautiful meditation on language and relationships.  Don’t miss its poignant message.

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Golem and the JinniOh, how I loved this book. And I highly recommend you buy a hardback copy of the book. It is absolutely gorgeous. It is my favorite cover of the year.  The page edges are also a beautiful blue.

First and foremost, this is a wonderfully written story. While our main characters take center stage, there are a cast of supporting characters including turn of century New York city that are brought to life by this author.

Weaving two tales from different cultures; the Golem, a creature made from clay using Kabbalistic rituals – dark magic that is frowned on and the Jinni a being of fire from the Syrian desert. We learn how these creatures come to be in New York and watch as they attempt to blend in so they are not discovered . Each enters the human world and lives as best they can while struggling with their own natures. They will meet and learning who the other is begin a tentative friendship; Jinni, impulsive and the Golem, cautious. In the end each will meet their master and enslaver and be threatened with the end of their lives.

Yet there is so much more here than this wonderful story. It raised questions about the use of power, the role of religion in our lives, and asks can we overcome our nature?  The biggest question that arose for me was “what makes a human?”  I hope the author will forgive me when I say I thought a lot about the The Velveteen Rabbit while reading this book.  Unlike the children’s book, the answers in this book are more complex but both books brought a little magic and a lot wonderful moments to this reader.

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fin& ladyThis is also received a copy of this from Audiojukebox and the publisher.  This takes place in New York in the 1960’s. As many in my generation, I’ve always had a lot of romanticized ideas of the 60’s. Lady is a socialite in her 20’s who raises her half-brother when both of his parents die.  It’s a coming of age story for fin but the story that captured me was the story of Lady; a young woman who moves from a socialite on the east side of NY to a free spirit in Greenwich Village.  The transition isn’t an easy one and watching her struggle to change her ideas of womanhood was engaging.  Cathleen Schine brings the 60’s alive in this wonderful novel.

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Me before you2I avoided reading this book for quite some time despite all the rave reviews. I finally gave in when I learned the author was coming to Madison.

Jojo Moyes presents us with a story that will make us think.  What would it be like if I couldn’t use any of my limbs, if I was dependent on people for everything?  Would my life be worth living?  Speaking as someone who is aging, I find myself limited by bad knees, fatigue and an energy level that have decreased from when I was younger.  These are natural events that happen over the course of people’s lives.  There’s a process of grieving these small changes in the course of living.  So I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and have my whole life be different.  And thanks the author, I don’t need to.

The characters in this book were instantly involving.  The author gives the reader a glimpse of Will’s life before the accident and then after allowing the reader to really see just how much his life and he have changed.  Louise – called Lou throughout the book, is the antithesis of Will.  She has no dreams or visions beyond the life she is living.  The real joy in this book is that the two of them are so different and yet each has so much to offer to the other.

This is not your traditional romance and as such is beautiful in its own way.  There is no instant chemistry but a gradual knowing of the other person.  It is beautiful to watch these two people get to know each and grow to understand and then love each other.

I admired Lou. from early on in the book.  She is so strong.  I loved her openness to seeing Will as an individual rather than a disabled man in a chair.  We see this early on when she talking with her boyfriend, Patrick about Will’s ex-girlfriend showing up to say she a former colleague of Will’s are getting married.  Patrick doesn’t blame the ex-girlfriend for moving on and says that if he became paralyzed he wouldn’t want Lou to stay out of pity.

And Will… well I fell in love with him too.  He is handsome and intelligent, charming and sarcastic, depending on the situation.  The story is told from Lou’s point of view with a chapter here and there from other characters.  But the only real glimpse of what WIll is feeling or thinking comes from his actions and his words. Moyes never allows Will’s thoughts to be heard and it is a smart choice.  It allows us, as the reader to imagine but not really know what it’s like for him.

The other cast of characters, Nathan, the medical assistant, his parents, were interesting and offered opportunities to see how Will’s accident impacted them as well.  Lou’s family and boyfriend broadens our understanding of how Lou has become the person she is today.

The tension in the book is driven by Will’s belief that his life is over; he has nothing left to live for and Lou’s determination to prove him wrong.  I looked forward to seeing what she was going to try next and how it was going to turn out.  It’s through these trips and failed plans that each grows to know and like each other which turns into love.  And here lies the irony.  In a scene in which the two of them are dancing Lou makes an observation.

Will would never have seen her in his old life.  It is because he is where he is that he meets and appreciates Lou; a person that would have been invisible to him before his accident. She becomes a reason to get up in the morning.  Can she be enough to give him the desire to want to live?

The answer is one that will have people thinking.  This book will engage the reader in contemplating what quality of life means for them.  What gives our life value?   Meaning?  What is enough?  Like I said in the beginning, this is a forever book.  These are questions that will follow us throughout our life.  It’ll be interesting to see if my answers are the same over the next 30 years.

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the ocean at the end of the laneWell Met Mr. Gaiman

Can you believe I’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman before?  Yes, it’s true. What I’ve missed.  But I’m working on catching up.  My first Gaiman book was The Ocean at the End of the Lane and it was love at first listen.  Yes, I listened to this on audio and everyone is right, Neil Gaiman is a master at reading his own books.  My dream is to some day meet him, so I’ve made it a priority to also own hard copies so I can get his autograph.

Part fairy tale part mythology, it’s a mistake to not at lease give him a try. And when you’re ready to give-in and admit the mastery of Mr. Gaiman, pick up his book The Graveyard which is a children’s book but just a pleasure to read.

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Honorable Mentions:

Under the domeI wouldn’t have taken this on without it being chosen for a book read in one of my online book clubs. It was over 1000 pages but I listened to it on CD. It was 30 CDs. It was one long book.  But it was so nice to be reminded of how much I enjoy Stephen King.  It hasn’t replaced my favorite, The Stand but still a great pleasure.  My goal is to get to The Shining next year.

Guernsey LiteraryThis is another audio read.  This one is a series of letter’s between the characters during WWII.  It was a guilty pleasure and a wonderful reminder of the simple joy of letter writing.


Thanks for sticking we me through this long post.

For those who celebrate holidays at this time of year, may they be filled with happiness.

Happy Holidays from Karen & Gypsybelle.

Happy Holidays from Karen & Gypsybelle.

The Writer’s Connection: Turning Words into Conversations

writer connection

“We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away–our stories. I guess that’s what I love about books–they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.”

Turning Words into Conversations

by Katharine Britton

All my life I’ve enjoyed stringing words together and watching what appears on the page. While, initially, the writing process is solitary, at some point you bring in readers. Some authors do this early on: members of their writing groups read ten to fifteen pages every few weeks throughout the gestation period. Others, like me, wait until the whole manuscript is finished before handing it off to a few trusted readers. We then wait, anxiously, for their feedback. It’s not unlike sending your child off to school for the first time. Will others like her? Will he behave? Is she as delightful and precocious as I think? (Yes, yes, and no.)

You ask for feedback and, guess what? Your readers give it. Thus begins the first of many conversations you, the author, will have about your manuscript. A manuscript that is no longer entirely yours once you open the door and invite others in. “I liked this part.” “I found this part (the same part) kind of boring.” “Loved the protagonist.” “I just couldn’t relate to the protagonist.”

And so you turn to the solitary task of revising, but the writing feels different now because others have read your words and been moved by them (for better or worse). A conversation that you previously had just with yourself now has other people listening in.

Then you send the manuscript to your agent (or an agent, or many agents) and the conversation grows. The agent sends it to an editor. The conversation grows even more. That editor buys the manuscript, and the conversation grows again, and now it’s no longer just about the story. It’s about marketing and cover art and blurbs and reviews and marketing.

Soon publicists become involved and managing editors and copy editors. And the marketing department is still weighing in via your editor. And then you’re talking to booksellers and bloggers and media people. Once the book is published you again hear from readers. These are not all family and friends (although some, maybe a lot, will be). They won’t all like your book. But, if you’re hearing from them, through email or reviews or in person, they were moved by your words and are now part of the conversation.

A whole little industry evolves around your manuscript. A manuscript that started with you, alone at your desk, coming up with an idea, writing down that first word, and then the 80,000 or so that followed.

Writing is a kind of alchemy. Authors assemble letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs… And, in doing so, create emotion and conversation. What an amazing process that I’m blessed to be part of.

With that, I hope you’ll leave a comment about this post, or books that moved you to contact an author or write a review, or any other topic that seems relevant.

Author Katharine Britton

Author Katharine Britton

Katharine Britton’s first novel HER SISTER’S SHADOW was published in 2011 by Berkley Books (Penguin, USA). Her second novel LITTLE ISLAND came out in September 2013 from the same publisher. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and a Master’s in Education from the University of Vermont. Her screenplay, “Goodbye Don’t Mean Gone,” was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. Katharine is a member of the League of Vermont Writers, New England Independent Booksellers Association, and The New Hampshire Writer’s Project. She has taught at Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth, Colby-Sawyer College, and The Writer’s Center in White River Junction.

When not at her desk, Katharine can often be found in her Norwich garden, waging a non-toxic war against the slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles with whom she shares her yard. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand-wringing, after the fact.

Twitter: kbrittonvt

About Little Island


ISBN-13: 9780425266359

Publisher: Berkley Books (Penguin Group, USA)

“[A] deeply compassionate story of an extended New England family beleaguered by loss, misunderstandings, and terrible secrets…[Britton] understands how, through love, the human heart can overcome just about anything.”—Howard Frank Mosher

“Acutely rendered details of a beloved natural landscape and [a] wise understanding of complex human hearts. The tale is touched with heartbreak but leavened with humor.”—Reeve Lindbergh, author of Under a Wing and Forward From Here

Katharine Britton’s Little Island flows with such luscious writing I wanted to slow down to savor it and a plot so compelling I tore through the book as if I were reading a page-turner mystery.The complicated, flawed, generous Little family reminded me of my own, and how, in the midst of the risks and raptures and currents of life, we save one another. –Nancy Thayer, author of Island Girls

To read Chapter One, please visit my website http://www.katharinebritton.com Available for book group visits or call-ins.

Her Sister’s Shadow

ISBN 978-0-425-24174-5
Her Sister's Shadow

Publisher’s Weekly: “Shifting between present day and the late 1960s, two sisters confront their tragic past in Britton’s touching debut. Britton seamlessly alternates between the two eras to unravel a tale of rivalry, tragedy, love, and the corruptibility of truth.”

To read Chapter One, please visit my website http://www.katharinebritton.com

Available for book group visits or call-ins.

Reader’s guide available on line.

With GratitudeKB