Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Stories and a Book Review, Chanel Earl

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is Chanel Earl.

Q—Would you please tell us about yourself?
I spend most of my time taking care of my two beautiful daughters, with the help of (I'm biased here) the most wonderful man in the world. I try to nap every day, I read when I get the chance, and I always have a messy kitchen. I work as a developmental writing teacher at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Indiana.
Q—Would you please tell us about your book, "What to Say to Someone Who's Dying."
This book is a collection of five short stories that ended up all being thematically related. And while the theme is death and loss, I feel that the stories are more hopeful and reflective than depressing. I hadn't intended to collect these stories into this book when I wrote them (a process that took over five years), but as I was finishing up the last story and reviewing all of the material, they seemed to belong together.
Q—Where did the ideas for these short stories come from?
Of course, I found inspiration in many places.
The inspiration for "One Hundred Breaths" came while I was walking through the park with my newborn daughter. It was such a safe and beautiful park, but my mind started wondering what kind of dangers could lie beneath the surface. A minefield?
The inspiration for "Beekeeping" was a story I heard on my mission in Germany. There was a member in the neighboring town who had actually used honey to stick a piece of his thumb back on after it had been cut off. That story was so good I couldn't resist writing a version of my own.
Q—Have you written any other books, poetry, etc?
I worked for the Sanpete Messenger Newspaper as a writer during college and published an article in the Wasatch Journal while I worked there as an intern. I have also published various short stories, essays, poems and academic articles online and in print. For a listing of many of my publications, you can check out my blog (
Q—How did you get started writing?
I don't really remember. Is that a fair answer? I have stories dating back to first grade, I think, and a personal journal that I began at age eight. I think I have always been a writer.
Q—What is one Christmas tradition that you couldn't live without? The one that makes Christmas feel like Christmas?
Giving and receiving presents. Just tonight I wrapped up some gifts for my family. I love wrapping presents and making them look good. I love it when people open them, especially when they are surprised.

Q—What is the strangest thing that has ever inspired you to write?
I heard a weird conversation at a tracks stop in Salt Lake City, right next to See's Candies. When I got home I wrote down what I remembered:
He was upset.
Do you want to squeeze my arm? she asked.
No, I don’t want to hurt you.
Just do it, it wont hurt.
He squeezed, trying to calm down.
Wait, she said, squeeze this one, this is the arm I do heroine with, I can’t feel anything anyway.
He squeezed again.
It’s not squishy, he complained.
Look, I’m going to go get a sucker, do you wanna come?
No, I want something to smoke or something squishy to squeeze.
Well, I’m getting a sucker.
Q—If you were given round trip tickets to anywhere in the world (and safety wasn't an issue--regardless of where you chose to go) where would you go and why?
Germany. I haven't been back since I was a missionary and I would love to visit the people and to see the land in a new way. 
Q—Peanut or plain M&Ms?
Peanut butter.
Q—If you could create your own world where anything was possible, magic, fairies, etc. how would it differ from our own world?
Hard question, I am pretty happy with the world, but I have always wanted to live in a world where I didn't have to sleep. And superheroes would be great to have around sometimes, but it seems that they all come with their own team of super-villains to battle and that doesn't sound very good. I would love to see magic, but I don't know how I would change the world if I were in charge. Hmm, maybe I will have to figure it out and write a book about it. 
Q—Colored lights on your Christmas tree or white lights?
Q—If you could re-write the ending to any book or movie what would it be and why?
I would change the ending of almost every book or movie to include some sort of montage or afterward that tells how the characters end up years later. I always want to know more.

Book Review

Disclaimer:  I was given a free copy of the book "What to Say to Someone Who's Dying" in exchange for a review. No promises were made for a favorable review.

What to Say to Someone Who's Dying
by Chanel Earl

Book Description:

A young boy searches for answers.

A family adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides.

A girl and her mother pass meaningful moments together.

An elderly German woman tends her bees.

This debut collection of tightly written prose weaves together themes of loss and family as well as the hope peculiar to youth. In this slender volume, author Chanel Earl presents five stories of acceptance and resolve that ask questions about love and the beauty of life, while exploring the many faces of grief: the grief of children, parents, those set to die and those left behind.


What is death? How does one cope with loss or prepare for their own departure?

These are just two of the timeless questions answered in Chanel Earl's book What to Say to Someone Who is Dying. The stories don't dwell on the act of death itself, rather the relationship each character has with loss. Each character's unique take is powerful and left me thinking long after I had put the book down.

Each of the short five stories in this compilation were intriguing in their own right. Truth be told I was hoping the first story could stretch on into an entire book it was so well written and so thoroughly entertaining. I wanted to know more of the story behind the ghost young Justin meets, discovering more about the who this dead soldier is and hoping that he can find some peace. I did feel a little let down in not getting more of this story but seriously, if that is THE ONLY bad thing I have to say about the book...that I wanted more...I think that's pretty good.

I was particularly touched by the story Lorelei Remembers and the struggle of a young girl turned old woman and how she comes to grips with death. Her views on death stem from her first experience and the simple explanation given to her by her mother. This explanation affects every death she experiences from that point on and really shows the reader how much influence our youthful experiences have in molding our ideals and expectations. It made me think a lot about my first real experience with death and how it altered my life, how it colored the lens through which I see such loss. It also made me think about how I will one day explain death to my own children. Very powerful.

This short-story collection is wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of it and would encourage everyone to go out and get a copy for themselves. It is well worth your time. Chanel has a wonderful gift with words and I hope to see more from her.

Chanel's book is available in e-book form at Kindle and Smashwords or in hard copy at Amazon or Createspace.

1 comment:

  1. Your book sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



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