Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – A Fiction First: “Beware the Ides of September” by Elizabeth Gauffreau


Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020

This is the first post from Elizabeth Gauffreau and she is sharing a short story that she wrote for The RavensPerch magazine in February 2019. I am sure that you find it as moving as I did.

My first ghost story, “Beware the Ides of September,” was published in The RavensPerch in February 2019. I wrote the story back in the fall because I was feeling the loss of my dad, and I thought that writing a ghost story would be a way to see him again. The writing did not go as intended.

I submitted the completed story to The RavensPerch because of how much Elliott enjoyed writing his column for the Aroostook Episcopal Cluster newsletter. He titled it “From the Crow’s Nest,” referring to himself as le corbeau. Sadly, I never got the opportunity to ask him why.

Beware the Ides of September

Until this morning, September was a time of open windows, Indian summer coming through, a smell of sun and warmed earth, cricket-song recalling Septembers past and Septembers yet to come. Until this morning, I had no fear of September.

The windows in my study were open this morning, the scent of wildflowers dying under a cloudless sky lending a tender poignancy to the essays I was grading. When I looked up briefly to savor the slowing of the earth’s rhythms as they prepared for the season’s turning, I found that I was no longer alone. The spirit of my father stood next to my chair. He was wearing the gray and white flannel shirt from L.L. Bean I had given him for Christmas sometime around 1990.

I tried to think. The spirit of my father couldn’t have been borne through the open window on the warm September breeze. My father died on the Ides of March–a poignant harbinger of a changing season, yes, but not this one. Where had he come from, and what was he doing here? “Lynn!” he exclaimed, so happy to see me, “When did you get here?”

As soon as I heard the hoarseness in his voice, I knew which incarnation he was, “I live here, Dad. This is my home.”

Befuddlement slackened his face, “When did I get here?” He looked around the room, “Where’s your mother?” I thought to close my eyes, but when I opened them again, the unwelcome incarnation of my father was still there. Living on borrowed time Dad. Medical miracle Dad. The Dad we cursed with seven more years of life that day in the sunny alcove of Brookline Hospital in our tight little family group. Like Eos wanting eternal life for her beloved Tithonus, we knew but didn’t reckon with the laws of unintended consequences.

“Where do you live now?” the spirit wearing my father’s L.L. Bean shirt said. I willed him to go away. As hard as I could, I willed him to go away–but he wouldn’t go. He just stood there next to my chair, stooped and befuddled, looking at me, looking for answers, wholly unaware that any answers from me would disappear into the Bermuda triangle of his brain never to be seen or heard from again.

“I live here,” I said; “I’m in New Hampshire.”

“Where do I live?” I again thought to close my eyes. This was too much: A spirit should know where it lives. Its home would be on some plane of existence unknown to me, the same plane of existence where reside all of those Divine Mysteries my father cited to explain the suffering of the innocent, the incalculable cruelty of mankind, the same plane of existence where all is revealed.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“How did I get here?” He shuffled into the hallway. “Where’s your mother?” I reached for my cell phone to call my mother to come and get him, until I remembered that she had stopped driving and sold her car when the bottom fell out of her depth perception.

“What day is it?” the spirit of my father said.

“Saturday.” I waited, but he didn’t ask the month or the year. I thanked God for small favors.

“I don’t think I finished my sermon,” he said; “I drafted it but I didn’t finish it.” His eyes were darting around the room: my desk (actually my father’s desk), my chair, the computer, the window, the printer, the bookcases with books piled helter skelter, “I need to finish my sermon,” the spirit of my father said. “I have VFW tonight, and I need to finish my sermon for tomorrow. Can you help me?”

Of course not. When it comes to matters of faith, I am no help at all.

Now my eyes were darting around the room, looking for some way out of this madness the Ides of September had wrought. I spotted the box of sermons my mother had saved and given to me when she sold their house. In keeping with good stewardship, my father had typed them on the back pages of leftover church bulletins. They were all nicely nestled in a photo box. I slid the box from its bookcase clutter, removed the lid, and held the box out to him, “There are some in here,” I said.

He took the box and looked at the page on top, “Thank you, dearest, but I already delivered these.” He shook his head, “I never recycle a sermon, don’t believe in it.” He was still holding the box, and it finally dawned on me that something wasn’t right here. He was holding the box in his two hands, the same as I had held it. How could that be? There was some kind of trickery happening here, some kind of deceit. His spirit could appear to me as an image, certainly, but it could not resume its corporeal form. That box of sermons should have been on the floor.

“I once had difficulty with homiletics,” the spirit of my father said, “But now I don’t.” Still holding the box, he sat in the armchair under the reading lamp, took the first sermon out of the box, and started reading it. His eyes were steady, and some of the slackness had left his face.

Apparently, he had no intention of dematerializing any time soon, so I figured I might as well get back to grading essays. We spent the next hour in companionable silence, he and I, as the smell of Indian summer drifted through the open windows. Then he stood up, upending the box in his lap. The sermons spilled onto the floor, “Where’s your mother?” he said; “Where has she gone?”

“She’s at home, Dad.”

The slack befuddlement descended over his face once again, “She doesn’t live with me,” I quickly added; “She lives on her own.” It was a small lie, albeit a very large fib.

“But I’m at your house,” the spirit of my father said; “Why am I at your house?”

“Don’t you remember?” I said, trying to trick his poor, befuddled brain into inadvertently producing the answer I needed. What are you doing here? Why have you come on the poignant September breeze when you died on the Ides of March, in the heavy dank slog of mud season?

He shook his head, “I’m going to find your mother.” He shuffled into the hall, headed for the stairs. I followed him, fearful he would fall. He navigated the stairs without mishap, opened the front door, and walked outside. So this would be how the spirit of my father would leave me? Just walk out the front door? It seemed reasonable enough. Then I saw him heading for the garage, and I realized he had taken my car keys. I was going to have to drive him to my mother’s.

I grabbed my purse and ran after him, reaching the garage just as he was opening the driver’s side door of the car, “Why don’t you let me drive, Dad?” I said; “I already know the way.” He handed over the keys without objection and got into the passenger’s seat. We fastened our seat belts. I started the car, and the radio blasted the Black Keys.

“Barbarous cacophony,” the spirit of my father said, pronouncing judgment on Black Sabbath instead. I turned off the radio and put the car in Drive, knowing full well that I was about to make an already untenable situation even worse. How would my mother explain the presence of her husband’s spirit in her tiny assisted living suite? How would she explain him to her caregivers? Who would take care of him? Where would he sleep? She would never, ever have the patience to explain to him where all their furniture had gone, what had happened to their little blue house in Maine, what had happened to his scrapbooks and his motorcycle and his Big Band cassette tapes. She would never, ever have the patience to explain to him how she had gone from the giver of meds to the taker of meds.

When we got to Exeter, I stopped at the Phillips Exeter Academy crosswalk to let a flock of phone-gazers wander into the street, “St. Andrew’s!” the spirit of my father exclaimed; “I taught there. Arrogant little bastards.”

I let that one pass and resumed driving. Arriving at RiverWoods, I parked at the Monadnock entrance. Inside the lobby, I didn’t want to take the spirit of my father up the back stairs, so we had to wait for the elevator. On the other side of the sliding glass door in front of us, a wheelchair held a despondent old woman cradling a baby doll. An ankle bracelet showed beneath the leg of her sweatpants.

“Do I have nursing home calls today?” the spirit of my father said; “Did I forget? Where’s my prayer book? I don’t have my Communion kit. I need to go get them. Wait right here.”

“No, Dad,” I said, “You didn’t forget. We’re going to see Mom.”

The elevator doors opened, and he followed me in, “Joan’s in a nursing home?” He shook his head; “No. No. No nursing home.”

“She has an apartment here,” I said as firmly as I could, trying to adjust his misfiring synapses with the quick turn of a syntactical wrench. The elevator stopped, and we got off. We made it all the way down the hall without either of us tripping over the ugly new carpet, being accosted by a nurse, or interrogated by an Alzheimer’s sufferer about the occurrence of lunch.

As the two of us stood in front of my mother’s door, I held my breath, pinched the absurdly small knocker between my thumb and forefinger, and knocked. My mother’s voice called out, “Come in!” I turned the knob and pushed the door open without entering or standing aside. “Joan?” the spirit of my father called from behind my shoulder, “Is that you?”

“Lynn?” my mother called from the bedroom, “Is that you?” Her voice got closer, “Is there someone with you?” I had no choice but to stand aside as the spirit of my father took a step forward to embrace his beloved Joan as he cried out her name.

“Oh, no,” my mother said, taking a step back; “I can’t have this. I won’t have this. I have to take care of myself now.” She closed the door. The spirit of my father looked at the closed door in disbelief, his faith finally shattered.

“It’s all right, Dad,” I said, turning from the door; “You can stay with me.” There was nothing left for the two of us to do but trudge back down the hall, past the white board telling us the date and the weather outside, and get back on the elevator. When the elevator doors opened and we got off, the despondent old woman had managed to get herself, her baby doll, her wheelchair, and her ankle bracelet too close to the sliding glass door to the lobby, which in turn had triggered the lock on the door leading outside, meaning the spirit of my father and I couldn’t get out until an employee came to punch in a code on the keypad to unlock it. For our part, I explained the delay as a malfunction of technology, not the vain desire for an escape to a place that no longer existed.

On the way home, I again had to stop at the Phillips Exeter Academy crosswalk, this time to let a gaggle of phone swipers scurry into the street, “St. Andrew’s!” the spirit of my father exclaimed; “I taught there. Arrogant little bastards.”

This time, I didn’t let it pass, “I remember,” I said; “I didn’t last teaching high school either.”

When we pulled up to the house, he asked me where we were and why I had brought him there. I told him that we were in New Hampshire and he could stay with me. Once inside, he and I stood uncertainly in the living room, each of us transfixed in our own version of time, I suppose, unable to break free. Finally, I said, “Would you mind if I finished grading my papers? I told the students I would get them back on Monday, and some of them are pretty hard to get through.”

“I remember,” the spirit of my father said. He followed me up the stairs to my study, where he resumed his seat in the armchair under the reading lamp. The breeze from the open windows had scattered the pages of his sermons around the room. I gathered them up and sat on the floor to put them in order before replacing them in the box. When I was finished, I looked up, and the spirit of my father had gone, leaving me with the image of September sunshine through a hospital window, my father’s hands grasping mine, his eyes fierce as he tried to speak around the tube down his throat:

Help me.

©Elizabeth Gauffreau

About Telling Sonny

Forty-six-year-old FABY GAUTHIER keeps an abandoned family photograph album in her bottom bureau drawer. Also abandoned is a composition book of vaudeville show reviews, which she wrote when she was nineteen and Slim White, America’s self-proclaimed Favorite Hoofer (given name, LOUIS KITTELL), decided to take her along when he played the Small Time before thinking better of it four months later and sending her back home to Vermont on the train.

Two weeks before the son she had with Louis is to be married, Faby learns that Louis has been killed in a single-car accident, an apparent suicide. Her first thought is that here is one more broken promise: Louis accepted SONNY’s invitation to the wedding readily, even enthusiastically, giving every assurance that he would be there, and now he wouldn’t be coming. An even greater indignity than the broken promise is that Louis’s family did not bother to notify Faby of his death until a week after the funeral took place. She doesn’t know how she can bring herself to tell Sonny he mattered so little in his father’s life he wasn’t even asked to his funeral…

One of the recent reviews for the book

D. W. Peach 5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written  December 10, 2019

This is a beautifully told story. Until the last few chapters of the book, the story belongs to the teenage Faby Gauthier who becomes pregnant in the 1920s and hastily marries the future baby’s father, a hoofer on the vaudeville circuit. For four months, she goes on the road with Louis Kittel aka Slim White. There are moments of kindness, but she is often left alone to rue her choices, and eventually returns home to Vermont to have her baby, Sonny.

Telling Sonny is a biography that reads like fiction with the perfect details to bring Faby’s world – settings, experiences, and emotions – to life. She’s a well-rounded and sympathetic character, and I found her narration engrossing. Secondary characters are equally strong, and though in many ways a sad tale, this is also a story about the strength of family. The book moves along at a moderate pace, and yet I was unable to put it down.

The title and blurb are a little misleading as they refer to the bookends of the story, not the longer tale between. The story begins and ends with Faby as a middle-aged woman fretting over telling Sonny about his father’s death. The meat of the story covers Faby’s short relationship with Louis. The structure makes sense in the end, giving a sense of closure to Faby (and the reader). A highly recommended book for anyone who enjoys biographies, literary fiction, women’s fiction, and well-told tales in general.

Read the reviews and buyAmazon US – and : Amazon UK – Follow Elizabeth: Goodreads

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

I have always been drawn to the inner lives of other people–what they care about, what they most desire, what causes them pain, what brings them joy. These inner lives become my characters. I write to tell their stories.

My fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines, including Rio Grande Review, Serving House Journal, Soundings East, Hospital Drive, Blueline, Evening Street Review, and Adelaide Literary Magazine, as well as several themed anthologies. Telling Sonny is my first published book.

I hold a B.A. in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Currently, I am the Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont.

Connect to Elizabeth

Website/blog: Liz Gauffreau
Family History: http://genealogylizgauffreau.com.
Facebook: Liz Gauffreau
Twitter: @lgauffreau

My thanks to Liz for sharing this wonderful and touching story and I know she would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #Fiction – Telling Sonny by Elizabeth Gauffreau


Many of you will have enjoyed Elizabeth Gauffreau’s recent archive posts and I am now delighted to add her novel Telling Sonny to the bookshelves of the Cafe and Bookstore.

About Telling Sonny

Forty-six-year-old FABY GAUTHIER keeps an abandoned family photograph album in her bottom bureau drawer. Also abandoned is a composition book of vaudeville show reviews, which she wrote when she was nineteen and Slim White, America’s self-proclaimed Favorite Hoofer (given name, LOUIS KITTELL), decided to take her along when he played the Small Time before thinking better of it four months later and sending her back home to Vermont on the train.

Two weeks before the son she had with Louis is to be married, Faby learns that Louis has been killed in a single-car accident, an apparent suicide. Her first thought is that here is one more broken promise: Louis accepted SONNY’s invitation to the wedding readily, even enthusiastically, giving every assurance that he would be there, and now he wouldn’t be coming. An even greater indignity than the broken promise is that Louis’s family did not bother to notify Faby of his death until a week after the funeral took place. She doesn’t know how she can bring herself to tell Sonny he mattered so little in his father’s life he wasn’t even asked to his funeral…

One of the recent reviews for the book

Telling Sonny is a moving and poignant book about a young girl, Abby, growing up in the rural town of Enosburg Falls in Vermont, whose dreams and aspirations are altered forever though her choice of man.

Faby is fun loving and full of idealism about the life of entertainers who participate the the vaudeville shows in the early 1920’s. It all looks so exciting and different from her own staid life with her parents and sister. She aspires to more than becoming the wife of a farmer and continuing her rural existence. When the vaudeville show visits the theatre in her small town and one of the “hoofers” Slim White shows interest in her, it completely turns her head and she ends up disregarding the advice of her sister and her sensible and conservative family upbringing. Faby shows Slim White around town and, on his last evening in town, succumbs to his sly advances, losing her virginity in the back of a borrowed car.

Faby discovers that she is “in trouble” a while later and manages to contact Slim White who, after leaving her in limbo for a few weeks, decides to marry her and settle down. Faby believes she has no choice but to marry him, thereby averting bringing shame on her family through her unfortunate pregnancy. The author’s ability to convey Faby’s doubts about her husband due to his careless and insensitive behaviour towards her and her parent’s seeming ignorance of the reasons for her shotgun wedding is amazing and I am in awe of Elizabeth Gauffreau’s beautiful writing.

Ms Gauffreau’s characterisation is incredible and the reader fears for Faby’s future life in the hands of as selfish and self centred a man as Slim White from early on in the story. Slim, whose real name is Louis, is not deliberately unkind or negligent, he just has very limited sensitivity to Faby’s needs and situation and, while he is happy to have her accompany him on his nomadic jaunts around the country in pursuit of work, he will not allow her to restrict him in any way or interfere in his lifestyle and plans.

Faby is innocent and selfless, she wants the best for her baby and hopes that she and Slim will create a family together. She cannot see that a life on the road of a small time hoofer is total unsuited to this ideal, but she really does try to make the best of things.

I found this book utterly heart wrenching in how it portrays trust and innocence betrayed and also Faby’s parents own ignorance of the ways of the world and their inability to arm their daughter with the tools she needed to protect herself in the world of adults. Maman Aurore, Faby’s grandmother, while hard on her and quite a difficult nature, is the most sensible of them all. She knows up front that this situation is unlikely to end well for Faby and tries to give her good advice to act upon when the time comes.

Sonny is the result of Faby’s impetuous behavior and grows up to be an excellent young man, despite any bumps in his own personal road. When Louis dies unexpectedly, Faby is left with the unpleasant task of letting Sonny know.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

Read the reviews and follow Elizabeth on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18740495.Elizabeth_Gauffreau

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Gauffreau/e/B07NTZFVSF/

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

I have always been drawn to the inner lives of other people–what they care about, what they most desire, what causes them pain, what brings them joy. These inner lives become my characters. I write to tell their stories.

My fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines, including Rio Grande Review, Serving House Journal, Soundings East, Hospital Drive, Blueline, Evening Street Review, and Adelaide Literary Magazine, as well as several themed anthologies. Telling Sonny is my first published book.

I hold a B.A. in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Currently, I am the Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont.

Connect to Elizabeth

Website: http://lizgauffreau.com
Family History: http://genealogylizgauffreau.com.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.gauffreau
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

Thank you for dropping in today and I am sure that Elizabeth would love to receive your questions and comments.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – A Few of My Favorite Words 2017 by Elizabeth Gauffreau


This is the final post from the archives of author Elizabeth Gauffreau who has some wonderful posts, including an interesting look at her genealogy journey, seeking out her family history.

A Few of My Favorite Words 2017 by Elizabeth Gauffreau

Do you spend much time thinking about your favorite words, calling each one to the forefront of your mind so that you can explain to yourself once again just how much that word delights you and why? I tend to have these little reunions with my old friends when I’m driving to work in the morning.

Allow me to introduce you to a few of them.

Leonard Cohen

Lugubrious. Now, “lugubrious” is a fellow I love dearly, but I just can’t take him out in public. How I long for an opportunity to say, “I have a deep appreciation for the lugubrious musical stylings of the late poet-singer-song-writer Leonard Cohen,” but the opportunity never seems to present itself.

Family Photo

Pixilated. I was introduced to “pixilated” years ago in a work of regional fiction (Southern, I think, although it could have been New England). It was used to describe an eccentric old woman who behaved as though taking direction from pixies. I can’t imagine a more delightful way to live: charming and mischievous, with little thought given to responsibilities and no need to justify oneself. Unfortunately, I can never introduce “pixilated” into a conversation because she’ll always be mistaken for her homonym “pixelated,” what happens when your Netflix video starts breaking up.

Modality. “Modality” is one of those words that I am unable to take seriously because of the way it sounds. While I understand its place in the health care lexicon, I simply cannot say it with a straight face. I have to syllabicate it and put air quotes around it: “It is regrettable that the latest treatment ‘mo-‘dal-i-ty’ has had no salutary effect on her regrettable condition.”

Snark. I can appreciate “snark” because it connotes a certain agility of thought and facility with language that the simple passive aggression or petulance of its cousin “sarcasm” lacks. Think of Samuel Johnson’s description of poet Edward Young’s poems: “Young froths, and foams, and bubbles sometimes very vigorously; but we must not compare the noise made by your teakettle here with the roaring of the ocean.”1

Buffoon. Now, as insults go, few come better than “buffoon.” So much more elegant than [expletive not inserted]. By far, my favorite use of the word was by a former colleague to describe a dysfunctional department. He referred to the department as a “cadre of buffoons,” going so far as to label them as such on a flip chart! They had a certain cohesion and delineation of roles that enabled them to function as a group, but individually and collectively they were completely inept.

And I’ll end with “edification,” which is what the purpose of this post should have been but wasn’t.

1 Jack Lynch, ed., Samuel Johnson’s Insults: A Compendium of Snubs, Sneers, Slights, and Effronteries from the Eighteenth-Centry Master (New York: Levenger Press, 2004), 68.

Image of Leonard Cohen by Rama, Wikimedia Commons.

Image of Cover, Samuel Johnson’s Insults, Levenger Press.

©Elizabeth Gauffreau 2017

Perhaps you would like to share one or two of your favourite words in the comments…

About Telling Sonny

Forty-six-year-old FABY GAUTHIER keeps an abandoned family photograph album in her bottom bureau drawer. Also abandoned is a composition book of vaudeville show reviews, which she wrote when she was nineteen and Slim White, America’s self-proclaimed Favorite Hoofer (given name, LOUIS KITTELL), decided to take her along when he played the Small Time before thinking better of it four months later and sending her back home to Vermont on the train. Two weeks before the son she had with Louis is to be married, Faby learns that Louis has been killed in a single-car accident, an apparent suicide. Her first thought is that here is one more broken promise: Louis accepted SONNY’s invitation to the wedding readily, even enthusiastically, giving every assurance that he would be there, and now he wouldn’t be coming. An even greater indignity than the broken promise is that Louis’s family did not bother to notify Faby of his death until a week after the funeral took place. She doesn’t know how she can bring herself to tell Sonny he mattered so little in his father’s life he wasn’t even asked to his funeral…

One of the recent reviews for the book

Apr 05, 2019 Debbie Richard rated it Five Stars

In Elizabeth Gauffreau’s “Telling Sonny,” the strength of the characters is one of the irresistible aspects of this well-crafted novel. It was as if I stepped inside the book and was observing each character from a short distance, strolling with Faby through her neighborhood in Enosburg Falls, Vermont:

“…on every porch was a tin box for the milkman to leave milk, cream, butter, and eggs, with the occasional quart of buttermilk, for those who had a taste for it.”

“…halfway down the street, Mrs. Gibson’s house had gone unpainted since 1910, the year her husband died, the window shades pulled down, as though Mrs. Gibson couldn’t bear to look out and see that life on the street had gone on without him…”

Later, boarding the train in Vermont to travel the vaudeville circuit with Slim White, young Faby was leaving behind all that was familiar, her sister Josephine, Maman, Papa, and Maman Aurore, yet her adventure was just beginning. The landscapes she viewed from the train were as varied as each city they played. ”Telling Sonny” is an intriguing ride.

I missed Faby when the story ended as if I were saying goodbye to a new friend. I look forward to Elizabeth Gauffreau’s next book.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

Read the reviews and follow Elizabeth on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18740495.Elizabeth_Gauffreau

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.

Much of Liz’s fiction is inspired by her family history, and lately she has developed an interest in writing about her family’s genealogy. Learn about her attempts to stick to the facts of her family history at http://genealogylizgauffreau.com. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband; their daughter has flown the nest to live in sunny California.

Connect to Elizabeth

Website: http://lizgauffreau.com
Family History: http://genealogylizgauffreau.com.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.gauffreau
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

My thanks to Liz for permitting me to share posts from her archives and I encourage you to check both sites yourselves.. Your comments are always welcome… thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck #Poetry – Surprised by Joy” 2018 by Elizabeth Gauffreau


This is the third post from the archives of author Elizabeth Gauffreau who has some wonderful posts, including an interesting look at her genealogy journey, seeking out her family history. This week a post by William Wordsworth, which reminds us of those moments when life or nature takes us by delightful surprise.

Poetry – Surprised by Joy” 2018 by Elizabeth Gauffreau

The Joy of Sunlight Glimmering on Blue Water off the Coast of Maine, September 16, 2018

William Wordsworth’s phrase, “surprised by joy,” comes to mind whenever I experience one of these unexpectedly joyful moments of life. But I always, always forget that “surprised by joy” was occasioned by immeasurable grief. It’s only when I go back to the poem that I remember.

Marie H. Reed Breakwater Park, Rockland, Maine, September 16, 2018

XXIX [Surprised by joy–impatient as the Wind]” is in the public domain. Retrieved from https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/xxix-surprised-joy-impatient-wind September 16, 2018.

©Elizabeth Gauffreau 2018

About Telling Sonny

Forty-six-year-old FABY GAUTHIER keeps an abandoned family photograph album in her bottom bureau drawer. Also abandoned is a composition book of vaudeville show reviews, which she wrote when she was nineteen and Slim White, America’s self-proclaimed Favorite Hoofer (given name, LOUIS KITTELL), decided to take her along when he played the Small Time before thinking better of it four months later and sending her back home to Vermont on the train. Two weeks before the son she had with Louis is to be married, Faby learns that Louis has been killed in a single-car accident, an apparent suicide. Her first thought is that here is one more broken promise: Louis accepted SONNY’s invitation to the wedding readily, even enthusiastically, giving every assurance that he would be there, and now he wouldn’t be coming. An even greater indignity than the broken promise is that Louis’s family did not bother to notify Faby of his death until a week after the funeral took place. She doesn’t know how she can bring herself to tell Sonny he mattered so little in his father’s life he wasn’t even asked to his funeral…

One of the recent reviews for the book

Apr 05, 2019 Debbie Richard rated it Five Stars

In Elizabeth Gauffreau’s “Telling Sonny,” the strength of the characters is one of the irresistible aspects of this well-crafted novel. It was as if I stepped inside the book and was observing each character from a short distance, strolling with Faby through her neighborhood in Enosburg Falls, Vermont:

“…on every porch was a tin box for the milkman to leave milk, cream, butter, and eggs, with the occasional quart of buttermilk, for those who had a taste for it.”

“…halfway down the street, Mrs. Gibson’s house had gone unpainted since 1910, the year her husband died, the window shades pulled down, as though Mrs. Gibson couldn’t bear to look out and see that life on the street had gone on without him…”

Later, boarding the train in Vermont to travel the vaudeville circuit with Slim White, young Faby was leaving behind all that was familiar, her sister Josephine, Maman, Papa, and Maman Aurore, yet her adventure was just beginning. The landscapes she viewed from the train were as varied as each city they played. ”Telling Sonny” is an intriguing ride.

I missed Faby when the story ended as if I were saying goodbye to a new friend. I look forward to Elizabeth Gauffreau’s next book.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

Read the reviews and follow Elizabeth on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18740495.Elizabeth_Gauffreau

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.

Much of Liz’s fiction is inspired by her family history, and lately she has developed an interest in writing about her family’s genealogy. Learn about her attempts to stick to the facts of her family history at http://genealogylizgauffreau.com. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband; their daughter has flown the nest to live in sunny California.

Connect to Elizabeth

Website: http://lizgauffreau.com
Family History: http://genealogylizgauffreau.com.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.gauffreau
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

My thanks to Liz for permitting me to share posts from her archives and I encourage you to check both sites yourselves.. Your comments are always welcome… thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – The Chet Arthur Five Play Jeffersonville: Some Thoughts on Verisimilitude 2017 by Elizabeth Gauffreau


This is the second post from the archives of author Elizabeth Gauffreau who has some wonderful posts, including an interesting look at her genealogy journey, seeking out her family history.  This week a post on the art of writing a short story that is believable but does not come across as a documentary.

The Chet Arthur Five Play Jeffersonville: Some Thoughts on Verisimilitude 2017 by Elizabeth Gauffreau

The Chester A. Arthur Birthplace, East Fairfield, Vermont

And here I thought I had this verisimilitude thing down. I even remember Tony Ardizzone’s lecture on it from the first fiction workshop I took with him at Old Dominion University. (Never mind how long ago that was.)

For straight realistic fiction to engage the reader, it needs to be like real life, to suggest real life, but not transcribe real life. Contrary to the “show don’t tell” edict, what happens when you show a character’s boredom too realistically? You bore the reader. Faithfully transcribe actual conversations as dialog with all the false starts, pauses, repetition, ums and ahs? Barely intelligible and maddening to read. Phonetic representation of regional and ethnic dialects, in the Uncle Remus vein? Cringe-worthy.

uncleremus
So, if I know all this, why am I worrying about it now? Well, the fact of the matter is that just because I know a convention doesn’t mean I know enough to follow it when I need to.

Several years ago, I wrote a story, “The Chet Arthur Five Play Jeffersonville,” based on a real-life experience I’d had in high school. I was very pleased with the story because I had faithfully represented everything about that experience in perfect “show don’t tell” detail, including a whole series of excruciatingly repetitive drunken conversations. Did I mention that “The Chet Arthur Five Play Jeffersonville” is a coming-of-age story?

So I sent “Chet Arthur” out to make the rounds of literary magazines, and every time it came back with a rejection slip, I reread it to confirm just how good it was.

Until it wasn’t.

Much to my dismay, I discovered that the whole thing was hackneyed and boring. What to do? The first order of business was to stop sending it out to bore other people and embarrass myself. Then I moved on to other projects.

Last week, I started thinking about the story and wondering whether it might be salvageable after all. My memory told me that the problem was a hackneyed coming-of-age storyline, and I was trying to think of ways that I might experiment with form to put a different spin on it. I even considered setting the story up as an algebra equation. (Never mind.)

However, when I opened the story this morning to work on it, I discovered that the problem wasn’t with the plot. The problem was how faithfully I had rendered my real-life experience, particularly the excruciatingly repetitive drunken dialog.

As well as I understood the concept of verisimilitude, I had fallen right into the trap of letting the actual experience that inspired the story drive the fiction. I also discovered that the story started and ended in the wrong places: it began too soon and went on too long. Needless to say, I’ve revised the story. Only time will tell whether I’m still deluding myself that it’s any good.

©Elizabeth Gauffreau 2017

About Telling Sonny

Forty-six-year-old FABY GAUTHIER keeps an abandoned family photograph album in her bottom bureau drawer. Also abandoned is a composition book of vaudeville show reviews, which she wrote when she was nineteen and Slim White, America’s self-proclaimed Favorite Hoofer (given name, LOUIS KITTELL), decided to take her along when he played the Small Time before thinking better of it four months later and sending her back home to Vermont on the train. Two weeks before the son she had with Louis is to be married, Faby learns that Louis has been killed in a single-car accident, an apparent suicide. Her first thought is that here is one more broken promise: Louis accepted SONNY’s invitation to the wedding readily, even enthusiastically, giving every assurance that he would be there, and now he wouldn’t be coming. An even greater indignity than the broken promise is that Louis’s family did not bother to notify Faby of his death until a week after the funeral took place. She doesn’t know how she can bring herself to tell Sonny he mattered so little in his father’s life he wasn’t even asked to his funeral…

One of the recent reviews for the book

Apr 05, 2019 Debbie Richard rated it Five Stars

In Elizabeth Gauffreau’s “Telling Sonny,” the strength of the characters is one of the irresistible aspects of this well-crafted novel. It was as if I stepped inside the book and was observing each character from a short distance, strolling with Faby through her neighborhood in Enosburg Falls, Vermont:

“…on every porch was a tin box for the milkman to leave milk, cream, butter, and eggs, with the occasional quart of buttermilk, for those who had a taste for it.”

“…halfway down the street, Mrs. Gibson’s house had gone unpainted since 1910, the year her husband died, the window shades pulled down, as though Mrs. Gibson couldn’t bear to look out and see that life on the street had gone on without him…”

Later, boarding the train in Vermont to travel the vaudeville circuit with Slim White, young Faby was leaving behind all that was familiar, her sister Josephine, Maman, Papa, and Maman Aurore, yet her adventure was just beginning. The landscapes she viewed from the train were as varied as each city they played. ”Telling Sonny” is an intriguing ride.

I missed Faby when the story ended as if I were saying goodbye to a new friend. I look forward to Elizabeth Gauffreau’s next book.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

Read the reviews and follow Elizabeth on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18740495.Elizabeth_Gauffreau

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.

Much of Liz’s fiction is inspired by her family history, and lately she has developed an interest in writing about her family’s genealogy. Learn about her attempts to stick to the facts of her family history at http://genealogylizgauffreau.com. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband; their daughter has flown the nest to live in sunny California.

Connect to Elizabeth

Website: http://lizgauffreau.com
Family History: http://genealogylizgauffreau.com.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.gauffreau
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

My thanks to Liz for permitting me to share posts from her archives and I encourage you to check both sites yourselves.. Your comments are always welcome… thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Failed Novel, Anyone? 2017 by Elizabeth Gauffreau


This is the first post from the archives of author Elizabeth Gauffreau who has some wonderful posts, including an interesting look at her genealogy journey, seeking out her family history. This post will strike a chord with many who have, like me got a drawer where previous creative ideas lie waiting for rejuvenation…

 Failed Novel, Anyone? 2017 by Elizabeth Gauffreau

When I went to college to learn the craft of fiction, the prevailing attitude was that the short story was a stepping stone to the novel. The short story was where the young writer could serve out her clumsy apprenticeship in the sandbox making mud pies until sufficiently skilled to create the multi-tiered cake of the novel which people would actually buy. Chekov, Joyce, and other masters of the short story aside, you could never arrive as a writer of fiction unless you published a novel.

Then I heard Raymond Carver read at Old Dominion University’s annual literary festival. Not only was “Feathers” unlike any story I had ever read, Raymond Carver was not a novelist. He was a living, breathing master of the short story. His short stories were so powerful he didn’t need to write novels.

But still, I wanted to write a novel. The first one I attempted was actually an abortive novel, rather than a failed novel. Damage Control told the story of the breakup of a marriage from alternating points of view: the young, shell-shocked wife and her equally troubled young husband. The narrative pretty much collapsed under its own weight, and I gave up on the whole thing. I subsequently tried to get control of it by paring it down into a novella, but it never gained any traction, and I gave up on that version, too.

Years later, I think the problem with Damage Control was that I didn’t have the skill as a writer to sustain a book-length narrative, and I didn’t have the life experience to pull off the husband’s point of view. Who knows? Maybe now I do.

My next attempt at a novel was driven in part by the desire to focus on writing a book, which would take longer to finish, send out, and get rejected than a short story. (Hey, I’m just being honest here.) This novel went through a series of pretentiously lame titles that I won’t repeat here. (I don’t want to be that honest.) I did complete the novel, and I didn’t give up on it for a very long time.

When the light finally dawned, I realized that the whole was less than the sum of its parts because of an episodic structure that includes a series of vignettes triggered by old photographs. The main character is an elderly woman who has disposed of all her furniture and household goods to move to an assisted living facility. She then refuses to leave her house until she has sorted through all of the personal effects of family members who had passed on before her.

The basic conflict seemed like a compelling idea, but, again, I didn’t have the skill to sustain a book-length narrative, particularly a book-length narrative of someone who is by herself for the majority of the novel’s ongoing time. Then there were all those random dead relatives who kept popping up for no apparent reason, other than once having had their pictures taken.

In the final analysis, the parts weren’t all bad, as six of the chapters from this failed novel have been published as stand-alone stories

©Elizabeth Gauffreau

About Telling Sonny

Forty-six-year-old FABY GAUTHIER keeps an abandoned family photograph album in her bottom bureau drawer. Also abandoned is a composition book of vaudeville show reviews, which she wrote when she was nineteen and Slim White, America’s self-proclaimed Favorite Hoofer (given name, LOUIS KITTELL), decided to take her along when he played the Small Time before thinking better of it four months later and sending her back home to Vermont on the train. Two weeks before the son she had with Louis is to be married, Faby learns that Louis has been killed in a single-car accident, an apparent suicide. Her first thought is that here is one more broken promise: Louis accepted SONNY’s invitation to the wedding readily, even enthusiastically, giving every assurance that he would be there, and now he wouldn’t be coming. An even greater indignity than the broken promise is that Louis’s family did not bother to notify Faby of his death until a week after the funeral took place. She doesn’t know how she can bring herself to tell Sonny he mattered so little in his father’s life he wasn’t even asked to his funeral…

One of the recent reviews for the book

Every family has secrets, old feuds and disagreements, but not many have a past like Faby’s. Telling Sonny, by Elizabeth Gauffreau, is a novel of inter-generational memories and a past that embodies every little boy’s dream—running away to join the circus. Only in this case it was a carnival and a 19-year-old girl. The reader is quickly and easily drawn into the wonders of the old carnival world as Faby travels with Louis, who has taken her under his wing and into his bed, only to discard her several months later. The past comes to light after Faby, now the mother of a son about to marry, receives a phone call from her former sister-in-law, telling her that Louis has died in a single-car accident. Louis had promised to come to Sonny’s wedding, even though he’d spent a lifetime of ignoring his firstborn son.

Faby considers his apparent suicide just another of Louis’ broken promises. How can she tell Sonny that his father’s family thought so little of him, they didn’t even bother to let him no his father had died, or that the funeral had already been held? This novel shines a light on a time that most of us would never even dream of…traveling with a carnival in the twenties and seeing first hand the underbelly of that world. Plus, the wonder in the eyes of beholding exotic exhibits for the first time. What will now-conventional Faby, who works for the telephone company and has dinner every Saturday with her sister, tell her son about her old life? Will she ever forgive Louis? And will Sonny finally see Louis beyond the charming exterior he’s occasionally beheld?

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Telling-Sonny-novel-Elizabeth-Gauffreau-ebook/dp/B07NRV2GJ7

Read the reviews and follow Elizabeth on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18740495.Elizabeth_Gauffreau

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.

Much of Liz’s fiction is inspired by her family history, and lately she has developed an interest in writing about her family’s genealogy. Learn about her attempts to stick to the facts of her family history at http://genealogylizgauffreau.com. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband; their daughter has flown the nest to live in sunny California.

Connect to Elizabeth

Website: http://lizgauffreau.com
Family History: http://genealogylizgauffreau.com.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.gauffreau
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

My thanks to Liz for permitting me to share posts from her archives and I encourage you to check both sites yourselves.. Your comments are always welcome… thanks Sally