Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

BLOG TOUR CALENDAR & REVIEWS FOR JANET’S “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music”

JUNE

Week One

1 Velda Brotherton on “On Being a Writer" includes Janet Riehl as part of her stories woven in time. Velda and I are both members of Women Writing the West

2 Kendra Bonnett & Matilda Butler welcome Janet to Women's Memoir where everyone has a story to tell. Guest post on the theme of using story poems as an approach to writing your memoir. Kendra and Matilda are both members of Story Circle Network and we all blog on SCN’s Telling Her Stories .

1 & 3 Gwyn Ramsey's News Corner Interviews Janet on her 2008 return journeys to Africa and "Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music."

4 Susan Tweit interviews Janet on the themes relating to place that reaches out to include the metaphor of quilting and the writing process. Susan’s blog is named after her newly released memoir “Walking Nature Home.” Her blog presents thoughts and conversations on living a green and generous life, rooted in place wherever we find ourselves. Susan and I both belong to Women Writing the West and Story Circle Network. We both blog for the SCN’s Telling Her Stories at storycircle.typepad.com. Susan and I have often carried on what I call “Blog Duets.”

Week Two

9 Claire Applewhite interviews Janet on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Book Blog where she is a contributing writer. Claire’s most recent and fifth release is The Wrong Side of Memphis, a noir mystery novel. Claire and I are both members of the St. Louis Writers Guild.

11 Kendra Bonnet & Matilda Butler welcome Janet for a conversation on memoir Follow the link for the recording.

Week Three

17 Sharman Apt Russell interviews Janet on the theme of love, place, and meaning at Love of Place, a group blog celebrating place and a greater relationship and intimacy with the natural world. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico.

Mary Ruth Donnely reviews Sharman’s beautiful memoir “Standing in the Light” on www.Riehlife.com the same day. Learn more about Sharman and her work on www.sharmanaptrussell.com

17 Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler’s Book Raves, their book reviews for Women’s Memoir discusses "Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music."

18 Isabella Mori hosts Janet’s guest post in Dialogue with Sarah Luczaj: Who Owns the Poem?at change therapy — making lives better, making better lives

Week Four

23 Eden Maxwell interviews Janet. His motto is that "You can't outsource your soul work.” Eden has appeared several times on www.riehlife.com on Dharma and Artful Living (http://is.gd/DxXj) and Rejection for artists of all kinds. His useful and soulful handbook An Artist Empowered: Define and Establish Your Value as an Artist—Now is available on Lulu.

Week Five

June 30 Antona Smith interviews Janet on Pink Latte Publishing…a wonderful little space for a writing journey. Pink Latte Publishing is Antona’s creative writing muse. Check out Antona’s main blog Musings of a Latte Queen: Narratives of Everyday Life.

July 3rdYvonne Perry interviews Janet with a blog post, podcast, and book review. Yvonne is a Freelance writer, editor, award-winning author, speaker, and owner of Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services Nashville, TN. Check her main blog here. Yvonne is a long-time supporter of my work and blogging buddy. Her son-in-law, Scott Kidd was my fabulous audio engineer for “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music.”

JULY
Week Six

4 Molly Lundquist welcomes Janet for a guest post, review, book club suggestions, and Midwestern recipes. Lit Lovers is a well-read community dedicated to books and book clubs.

8 Janet Muirhead Hill interviews her sister-Janet (there is a club of us Janets!). There are two posts. The first one discusses impermanence and how we are shaped by our childhoods. The second one focuses on Children and Grief. Janet Muirhead Hill is the author of the Miranda and Starlight series of books for children as well as the founder of Raven Publishing.

Check out her two websites: Janet Muirhead Hill & Raven Publishing. Janet and I are both members of Women Writing the West. Janet has written several guest posts for Riehlife on critiquing and rejection.

1 Susan Gallacher-Turner interviews Janet on Susan's Art & Word, where Susan shares insights on living the creative life with essays, interviews, book reviews and articles. Her main website is http://www.susangt.com where you’ll see images of her beautiful work.

Week Seven

14 Janet Elaine Smith hosts Janet Riehl on her internet radio show “Marketing for Fun and Profit” on PIVT (Passionate Internet Voices). See her main website where you can learn more about her fun faith-based fiction for the whole family. Janet and I met through the Independent Authors Guild.

15 Mary Cunningham WOOF! (Women Only Over 50) hosts Janet’s guest post on achieving your dream after 50 through collaboration. Simultaneously, Mary will feature the audio book on Bookland Heights, reaching new heights in the land of books.

Mary is the author of a fantasy/time-travel series, co-author of the soon-to-be-released book, WOOF: Women Only Over 50, an uplifting collection of personal anecdotes and poems about how it feels and what it means to be a woman in her fifties. She lives in the beautiful mountains of West Georgia and is a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a frequent commenter on www.riehlife.com.

17 Janet Elaine Smith interviews Janet Riehl on her her blog. See her main website where you can learn more about her fun faith-based fiction for the whole family. Janet and I met through the Independent Authors Guild. She refers to herself as "Janet, the original." I refer to myself as "The Other Janet."

Week Eight

20 Bookland Heights features Janet's audio book with a short interview. This is a follow-on from Janet's guest post last week on WOOF! about Elder Power and Collaboration.

21 Damaria Senne (pronounced Da-maria Sen-nay) interviews Janet on “Story Pot: A Writer’s Online Journal". Story Pot cooks the complexities of modern African life with traditional spice.
Damaria is an award-winning writer based in Johannesburg where I visited her in August 2008. She kindly arranged for me to visit her family in her home village. We are long-time blogging buddies, exchanging posts.

Damaria’s current focus includes relationships, HIV and AIDS, and career development. Damaria's first children’s book The Doll That Grew was published by Macmillan SA in 1993. Her second reader, Boitshoko ("perseverance" in Setswana) was listed by Heinemann SA in 1996 and translated into 4 languages.

22 Hal Manogue interviews Janet Hal shares insightful thoughts for the 21st century and considers that the now is waiting. Hal’s main website invites us to live an ordinary life in a non-ordinary way. Hal is a poet and essayist who authored the books: Short Sleeves Insights, Short Sleeves Spirit Songs, and Short Sleeves: A Book for Friends.

Hal is a long-time blogging buddy. He read the introduction to Janet’s audio book. He lunched with Janet and Yvonne at the Yellow Porch on her first trip to Nashville when she recorded the studio portion of Sightlines and met Scott Kidd, her audio engineer. He met with Janet again when Janet returned to Nashville this year for her celebration launch dinner with the team that made the project possible.

Week Nine

27 Irene Watson hosts Janet’s guest post on “How to Make and Produce an Audio Book” on Blogging Authors, a gathering place for writers and readers. This site is a brain-child of Reader Views, which Irene founded. Book reviews and interviews of “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” plus my father novel “Cattle Country and Back Trails: Two Tales from the Thompson Western Series” are located here. Irene is author of The Sitting Swing. She is the Managing Editor for Reader Views and lives with her husband in Austin, Texas. Irene earned her MS in Psychology, with honors, from Regis University in Denver.

30 Carol Cole Lewis hosts Janet on the final stop of the internet tour as they chat about the tour as a case study in internet marketing. Carol provides authentic, sustainable Internet and media marketing for small business as she considers the question: So, you gotta have a website…now what?

    SIGHTLINES AUDIO BOOK REVIEWS

WONDERFUL COLLECTIONS HONORS FAMILY & HISTORY
By Sarah Moore "Sarah" (Nashville, TN)

When we diligently read our history books as part of our school's curriculum, we learn about the famous men and women who earned their spot in print as world leaders, great businessmen, explorers, military heroes, or even criminals. While all aspects of history fascinate me, I must confess that my interest has always been more with the everyday folks who loved their families, took pride in their work, and, although they may never be studied in a classroom, made a lasting impact on the people who knew them. My ninety-eight-year-old grandmother has an amazing memory and can recount in detail an incident that happened with a playmate in 1917. She is also a musician who shares songs and piano melodies that remind her of being a teenager or raising her children during a war. I know from her that the retelling of family history and traditions is the best way to capture a picture of a bygone era. I have discovered a treasure that beautifully captures this appreciation for the warmth of family and home. The new audio book Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music by Janet Riehl is a compilation of very personal music and poetry that is not to be missed.

Riehl's audio book developed from her written text, Sightlines: A Poet's Diary, which was published in 2006. With the new release, Riehl adds the elements of down-home music and her own voice bringing life to the poems she created. The musical component features her father's singing and fiddle playing as he is joined by other musicians for recordings that took place in his living room. The fact that the music was not performed in a high-tech professional studio makes its inclusion even more appealing and appropriate. As you listen to old friends gather to play music, you feel so fortunate to be let into the intimate gathering. I felt that I should be sitting in a rocking chair with my eyes closed as I let the simple beauty fill my soul. Each piece provides a seamless transition for the subjects of the poems it connects.

The poems by Janet Riehl are divided into five groupings that are spread over four CDs. The first section is devoted to her sister Julia (also known as Skeeter), who was tragically killed in a car crash several years ago. The emotional images Riehl creates through her words examine Julia's work, her love of life, the moment of her death, and the longing of those she left behind. Riehl goes on to share equally captivating poetry about her father, her mother, and two places that have special meaning to her-- the family home in Evergreen Heights and her later residence of Clear Lake in Northern California. In addition to the poems themselves, Riehl provides emotional commentary that fills in the missing pieces and develops a more complete memory for the listeners to enjoy. Her words are straightforward, beautifully crafted, and offer a wonderful piece of storytelling.

From beginning to end, the new audio book Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music is a delight for its listeners. The passion that Janet Riehl has for her family, her history, and the beauty that surrounds her is obvious. Even if you already read the printed version of Sightlines: A Poet's Diary when it was released several years ago, you will want to enjoy the extra features and meaning that are offered through this listening experience as well. The audio segments have been expertly compiled and edited to create the comfortable atmosphere of someone's home while also displaying professional detail to recording quality and content progression. Each moment of the CDs is filled with warmth, humor, and a deep connection to those who have come before us. Sightlines is a must-have audio book for anyone who appreciates a good love story with the perfect musical accompaniment!

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POEMS OF LOVE AND SORROW
by Edith O'Nuallain
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
(www.storycirclebookreviews.org)

Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music by Janet Grace Riehl consists of 4 audio CDs, which combine the poems previously published in Riehl's book of the same title. This recorded version of Sightlines: A Poet's Diary (2006) expands on the original 90 poems by including brief clips of 40 songs played by her 93-year-old father and his Sunday Afternoon music group. The poems are further set in a wider context with her father's stories, and he reads the poems he wrote that open Sightlines, along with the lines of dialogue that appear in poems sprinkled throughout. In this unique offering, we glimpse the lives, past and present, of the poet and her family.

Together words and songs weave a magical tapestry of myriad threads, recounting family folklore in the warm timbres of Riehl's quiet-spoken voice, each story-poem set in the lively rhythms of fiddles, guitars and mandolins, music reminiscent of a bygone era. The sometimes slightly discordant notes of the violin merely add to the beauty of the tales told.

This series of poems and songs is a memoir. It is also a series of love poems, composed in memory and celebration of three people and two places Riehl loves. She traces the treasured reminiscences of a childhood shared with her two older siblings--her sister, Julia Ann, and her brother, Gary, tenderly watched over by loving parents. Her attentiveness to detail is evident in the images and words which reflect her considered awareness of who she is and where she comes from. Here is where Riehl composes the haunting and lyrical songs to her sister, tragically killed in an automobile accident, an experience so devastating that almost every succeeding poem is written in reference, either directly or obliquely, to it. The mother and father captured on her pages are our mothers and fathers, the love she expresses for them is the love we feel for our own.

One striking feature of Riehl's poetry is the unmistakable sense of presence that the author brings to her subject matter. Pick any poem from the book, and almost immediately the reader comes face to face, as it were, with the poet. She recounts, sometimes in devastating and searingly honest detail, her mother's progressive dance towards death. She is not afraid to open herself to the suffering of returning and re-living the death of her sister, a tragedy that changed everything. Riehl is a woman who has seen a lot, more in fact than many of us would wish to encounter. Yet her presence assures us that we too can survive the unthinkable; that we can live to tell the tale. And what is more, that in telling our stories we become more of who we are destined to be.

If we can locate the bravery within ourselves that Riehl points us towards, then we too may become in time as compassionate, caring, understanding and yes, even forgiving, as she. For indeed is this not what the best memoirs do? They do not point the finger of blame, but rather paint a picture of a wholly believable individual, someone who might have been our sister or brother or mother or father.

In the end it is the universality of her subject matter that renders her poetry so accessible. We read her poems not just to peep through a window into her life, but to lift the veil a little on our own, so that we may perhaps learn something about ourselves and our loved ones, even while we swim in the subterranean waters of her words.

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ABOUT LOVE AND LOSS AND LIVING ON
By Marcelline M. Burns (Oxnard, CA)

Even though it is June, the evening air from the open window is cool here at the beach. I am warmly wrapped in a blanket, sitting alone as the last light of the day fades. I am listening to the audio book Sightlines: A Familiy Story in Poetry and Music, and I am warmly wrapped in the words of a poet, Janet Riehl.

I had read Sightlines: A Poet's Diary and truth be told, I did not want to listen to the spoken version. I feared that my personal experience of the written poems, which had been profoundly moving, would be diminished. I need not have feared. Although listening was a different experience, it was as rich and meaningful as reading had been.

The poems speak of a family's love and of the anguish when Julia, the first born dies in a traffic crash. One hears and feels the emptiness in the family homestead when the mother follows Julia out of this life. Erwin Thompson, the king of this clan, says that the last years have been hard ones, and who would not understand if he chose not to speak of his losses? But speak he does with voice and with music; this is not a man who asks to be spared because he is old.

Sitting now in a dark room, I listen to music that takes me back through many years. Long-buried sorrows roll into my mind, and tears roll down my cheeks. But wait--together Erwin Thompson and Janet Riehl laugh as he reminisces about a pet chicken from his boyhood. As they honor their losses with story and song, they go forward. I wipe away my tears.

This is poetry and music to treasure. It may be that the very young, who as yet know little of anguish, will not understand...but listen with an open heart. You will hear a family story about loving and losing...and living still with joy.

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Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music
reviewed by Kendra Bonnett

Women’s Memoirs, Book Raves - Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

My introduction to the work of Janet Grace Riehl has been through her new audiobook Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music . Janet’s ability to express universal human experiences of times past and present, spaces loved, characters living and lost is powerful.

But before I talk about her writing, you need a little background: The audio book is an extension of Janet’s 2006 memoir, called Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary, which she wrote as part of her healing process after the death of her older sister Julia Ann Thompson in a car accident. Julia, by all accounts, was a brilliant and dynamic physicist who was also a beautiful soul with a love of music, poetry, cooking and helping other people. She was just 61. Julia and Janet’s mother, Ruth Evelyn Thompson, Julia’s husband David Kraus and their grandson were all injured.

Although Sightlines is very personal, the reader is not left outside to be a distant observer, peering through a cracked door or listening at the keyhole. The reader recognizes the history, the humanity, the process as if they were her own. The experience is both calming and reassuring. But there’s more. Janet moves beyond the physical and emotional loss to grapple with the meaning of the loss.

She starts by dividing Sightlines into five sections. The first is for Julia, or Skeeter as she was called. The second is for her father Erwin A. Thompson, nicknamed Slim. The third section is called Sweet Little Dove, after her mother’s nickname. The last two sections are named for the places Janet called home: Homeplace is for the family homestead Evergreen Heights in southwest Illinois and Lakeside for Lake County, California, where Janet lived at the time of the tragedy.

Janet examines selected pieces of her family’s lives, picking them up, turning them over, scrutinizing them like pieces in a giant jigsaw puzzle. She tells the story of each piece as a vignette…with a twist. Narrative is not Janet’s medium, but rather something she calls the story-poem.

I admit, at first I was skeptical. I’m not a big fan of poetry—nothing against it; it’s just not my thing. Story-poems are different, and when strung together to paint a larger picture, to define a life or to give meaning to special places, they are things of beauty. Story-poems are spare, yet rich in sensory description and emotion. As you read, you become engrossed…a story unfolds. There is logic, if not always a chronology, to her story-poem progression.

Here’s an sample story-poem taken from the excerpts on Janet’s website. It’s from the section named for her father, Slim.

STOMACH
Back in California I give my Midwest cooking a rest.
Pizza out of the freezer passes for supper.

In Illinois I concoct elaborate stews and spetzle.
To cosset my father’s appetite.
To help his stomach march through Julia’s death.

His savor for life no longer sat
at the dining room table after the accident,
if that’s what it was.
“We’ll get through it,”
stubbornly flung over his stoic shoulder.
Her absence, his first-born, hard to stomach.
Punched us all in the stomach,
making it hard to breathe, let alone eat.

His pants lie low on his slim hips.
He sucks in the pain
like he sucks in his stomach.
“Slim,” a work nickname from gasfitter fame
could still apply at 89.

His back bends over
as though to pick up an imaginary pebble.
By some slight of hand,
he’s looked the same to me
since I had the sense to look.
I need to catch up,
to wake up to the march of his mortality.
How can I digest this news?
A world without him in it,
would be no world at all.

It’s one thing for the reader to read the story-poems for herself. It’s quite another thing to have them told by the author. I found myself caught up in each poem’s cadence, its economy of words. But this is not your typical audiobook. Listen; you will hear emotion, sensory description and deep feelings worn openly as if on frayed shirt cuffs. These 90 poems are an emotional experience made all the more compelling by the sprinkling of music (40 songs); family memories, like personal artifacts, told in dialog and narrative; and spontaneous laughter—verbal ephemera now captured for eternity. The slightly homespun sound only serves to enhance its charm.

With the Sightlines audiobook, Janet has given us more than a heartfelt family chronicle. She breaks barriers for the memoir genre that should get every memoirist thinking. The writer in me is inspired to create something unique for my family.

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