Saturday, December 3, 2016

Speaker: Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard website
Rachel Howard: Memoirist, fiction writer, writing coach and founder of YubaLit which brings remarkable writers and readers together to celebrate the written word in the Sierra foothills of Grass Valley/Nevada City.

Author Statement: I think in all my endeavors, I’m fascinated by faith in art, and in what happens when people are able–or forced–to shed their social status and find unexpected freedom.

Workshop: How to Offer (and Receive) Truly Helpful Feedback, Session  1, 10:50 - 11:50

Lunchtime Author Round table, 12:00 - 1:00

Workshop Description:  Usually the members of writers' critique groups or workshops really do want to help each other--but they get stuck reading for line-level "fixes" or pronouncing personal judgments.

The result is frustrating for everyone: a pile of superficial, contradictory advice.  How can you offer deeper feedback to others--and how can you create an atmosphere for people to offer deeper feedback to you?  Over ten years of teaching workshops, I've developed a method that allows writers to pause, reflect, and explore what a work-in-progress is really "about," letting that guide discussion of how the writing might reach its fullest manifestation.  In our session, I'll model this response method for you by workshopping pieces by session attendees.

I'll also offer general advice for building a mutually sustaining writers group, and make time for open Q and A.


Please bring a sample of your writing (limit 500 words) and read Eileen Pollock's article What We Talk About When We Talk About Theme.

But it's also OK if you hndaven't.

More from Rachel:

I write memoir, fiction, personal essays, and dance criticism. My book The Lost Night, a memoir about the emotional aftermath of my father’s unsolved murder, received a lot of nice reviews, including this one that meant a great deal to me in the New York Times. I am currently writing a spiritual memoir about how singing at The Alley, a piano bar in Oakland, changed my life.

My fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Gulf Coast, ZYZZYVA, Waxwing (nominated for a Pushcart Prize), OZY, Canteen, Berfrois, the Arroyo Literary Review, and elsewhere. My journalism and dance writing has appeared in The New Yorker Online, the New York Times and the Hudson Review, among other publications.

I also love to write about the craft of writing, as in this piece for the New York Times’ “Draft” series, and this appreciation of Jean Rhys at Fiction Writers Review.

I wrote about dance for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than 15 years, serving as chief Dance Correspondent for six of those. A portfolio of my journalism work is here.

I live in the Sierra foothills these days, but have remained a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, a workspace co-op. I teach writing at the Grotto and frequently at Stanford Continuing Studies. After receiving an MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College, I served as Warren Wilson’s Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow, and then Interim Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing. I served as Visiting Writer in the MFA Program at Saint Mary’s College of California for the fall of 2015. I run a bi-monthly reading series called Yuba Lit. description. 

A deeply moving story of one woman’s search for truth and meaning in the aftermath of her father's unsolved murder.

On the night of June 22, 1986, ten-year-old Rachel Howard woke to a disturbing sight: pools of blood on the hallway carpet and a glimpse of her father clutching his stabbed throat. Stan Howard died minutes later, and his bizarre small-town murder was never solved. Rachel’s father was thirty-two, a laid-back, handsome man who loved the music of Rod Stewart and had no known enemies. Faced with her family’s shock, Rachel decided she would cope the only way she knew how: By keeping silent and trying to pretend the murder had never happened.

Now, seventeen years later and recently engaged, Rachel attempts to uncover for herself what happened that night. Finally reconnecting with her father’s family, she sorts through her relatives’ memories of his death and presses the less-than-helpful detectives. Still bewildered, she seeks the only other two people present at the murder: her former stepmother and stepbrother, neither of whom she has seen since her father’s funeral. The result is a tender portrait of a father and a keen investigation of memory, truth, and how a family moves on from a tragedy for which they may never find answers.

Highlighted Review:

You must check it out!
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on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover

Lost and Found - a past reclaimed

I finished Rachel Howard's "the lost night" at 3 this morning. From the minute I cracked its spine, the pages turned themselves, inviting me to ignore every routine chore of mine: dirty dishes, daily exercise, even meals (though I did manage to go to work and feed the cat).

Masterfully written, the book tells a riveting story of the murder of Rachel's father when she was only 10 years old. How she handled the loss of this beloved man, her protector and playpal, is a glimpse into how children cope with tragedy of this magnitude. The experience retrospectively defined Rachel, her relationship with her family and also with her stepmother Sherry, her father's third wife when he was murdered. Rachel, the product of divorce, was spending a few summer weeks at her father's home during this time. She was witness to his last waking minutes and remembered details that would replay themselves with increasing vividness as time went by.

But memory is elusive...and selective. The author comes to realize that her memories were circumscribed by the limited frame-of-reference of a young life.

What I found so compelling here is the child's perspective. I have read (and probably own!) just about every true-crime/courtroom/forensic book that exists, yet I never read such an account from a 10-year-old point-of-view. Rachel illustrates the sometimes graphic, sometimes muted terror-of-the-night children of murdered parents are heir to, their wispy and unexpressed--indeed unconscious--suspicion of significant-others, and their necessary dependencies on adults who, often not comprehending the nuances involved, believe that by trotting the kid to therapy, they absolve themselves of the pain of revisiting the circumstances themselves. In Rachel's case, her father's family remained largely silent with her about that night. They may have felt that openly speaking about the murder with someone so young would somehow legitimize it for her. In fact, their passivity had the opposite, and quite damaging, effect on a young mind hungry for assurance and validation.

Palpable throughout Rachel's memoir is its raw honesty. The writing is often brutally introspective, devoid of the self-pity and lachrymose language which the author might easily --and justifiably-have indulged. She is seeking information and answers, and by the last page, I realize she has found those things, and some peace along the way.

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