Archive | February, 2014

Blog Tour for Bruce A. Borders: Miscarraige of Justice

28 Feb

Good Vs. Evil by Bruce A. Borders


A huge thank you to all the members of Rave Reviews Book Club who agreed to host me on their site! I am honored to be the Spotlight Author!


Miscarriage Of Justice tells the story of two people, Ethan Rafferty and Mariana Clark. Ethan has just been released from prison after serving fifteen years for a crime he didn’t commit; Mariana is the D.A. responsible for putting him there. As we get to know the characters, their lives are moving in opposite directions. One is continually sinking to new depths; the other is slowly making an ascension to becoming a better individual. It’s the old line of good versus evil – almost. But what happens when those lines intersect? When neither side is exactly virtuous or exhibits an upstanding moral character?


In writing this book, I wanted to bring out that sometimes it’s hard to tell, with certainty, the good from the bad. Sometimes, good and bad seem to run together, with the attributes of both present. I think the majority of people fall into this category – I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “no man is all good, and no man is all bad.” Yet, there is a right and wrong. Most of us inherently know which is which, but events and situations can muddle what we know.


We’re taught that good always triumphs over evil, but what if you’re not sure which side is good and which is evil? Then how do you know which side is going to win?


In the beginning, both Ethan and Mariana are normal people – reasonably normal anyway. But as they respond and react to situations, into which they have unwillingly been thrust and over which they have no control, their paths take them in opposite directions, until…



Miscarriage Of Justice


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RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB “SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR, Bruce A. Borders was born in 1967 in Cape Girardeau, MO. Bruce’s childhood years were spent in a number of states, including Missouri, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
During his high school years, he was a member of the football, basketball and track teams, involved in various non-athletic activities such as school yearbook production and photography, and won numerous awards for his artistic creations. Bruce graduated Valedictorian in 1984.
While in school, Bruce held three part-time jobs; a store clerk, a janitor, and a dental technician, working about 60-70 hours per week. After graduation, he became employed full time as a dental technician. Other jobs have included restaurant manager, carpenter, and grocery store cashier. For the past sixteen years, he has worked as a commercial truck driver, logging more than two million miles.
At the age of fifteen, Bruce decided to become a writer. He began by writing songs, news articles, and short stories. Eventually, books were added to the list. Over the years, he continued to write and currently has a catalog of more than 500 songs, numerous short stories and over a dozen completed books. He writes on a variety of subjects such as fictional novels of legal issues and westerns. Titles include: Inside Room 913, Over My Dead Body, Miscarriage Of Justice, The Journey, and in The Wynn Garrett Series – Mistaken Identity, Holy Terror, Remote ImageImageControl, Judicial Review, Even Odds, and Safety Hazard.


The Story Behind the Stories: The cemetery setting in “Clovis Clementine” from God’s Naked Will

15 Feb

“…He sees his screams and their echoes bouncing off the trees and tombstones of the cemetery like steel marbles that bounce off in all directions after being dropped on a concrete floor.”Image

ImageImageThe slough flows just inside the woods beyond the tombstones, just like in “Clovis Clementine. “They actually performed baptisms at the slough in the story.ImageThe slough flows just beyond the woods. Again, this is just like Lamm’s Chapel Cemetery in the story of “Clovis Clementine.”


“…The small summit fell away to the east and south, and the markers of the graves dotted the easy slope of the hillside.” Image

The slough flowed around the south end of the cemetery before looping back north through these low-land woods.Image

The slough lies just beyond sight in the woods marking the boundary of the cemetery.Image

The Story Behind the Stories: The Cemetery Setting for Clovis Clementine

Many times when I create a setting it is based upon a place I have already visited. For instance, in the story “Stud fee” from the book God’s Naked Will the characters are on top of Mt. Nebo in the state park of the same name near Dardanelle, Arkansas. I had visited MT. Nebo in the past and watched as the daredevils jumped from the mountain top strapped into the hang-gliders. I was fascinated by this and determined to write a story about them.

     In the story “Clovis Clementine” I created a cemetery. I had an idea of what I wanted to describe, and I have even posted pictures on this blog in the past of the cemetery that inspired the location described in the story. Here is the description of the cemetery from “Clovis Clementine” as it appears in God’s Naked Will :

…Clovis diligently maintained the cemetery–mowing the grounds and trimming the grass around the trees and tombstones as needed. The Lamm’s Chapel Church and parsonage sat on the crest of the only hill in the bottoms. The small summit fell away to the east and south, and the markers of the graves dotted the easy slope of the hillside. There had been many floods and storms, and that always meant extra work for Clovis. The rising water always came from the bayou that flowed at the far northeastern end of the grounds where they held the baptism services, and no boundary existed there except the tree-line. Water flowed across the cemetery and back into the swamp, eventually dumping into the Blue Hole of the St. Frances River. The floods covered the lower half of the cemetery until the waters receded, flowing through the south end, leaving all types of tree limbs, old tires, and trash caught in the fence.

I have been searching for a cemetery where I could find water flowing within sight of the tombstones. This has been difficult to find because the fiasco described in the story has repeated itself so many times that cemeteries are now located on high ground. Of course, all high ground near flowing water is subject to being flooded. Yesterday while out driving a came upon the Hosea Cemetery up by Knobel, Arkansas, and I have never found a place that more perfectly fit my description of the cemetery in “Clovis Clementine.” I have included several of the pictures I took for this blog. At the south end, a slough ran east and west. It seemed to curve south a bit before looping around the southern end of the cemetery and flowing back to the north through the woods that marked the boundary of the cemetery. I took several pictures of the place, and the experience was magical, as I felt as if I had stepped into the world of one of my stories into a setting that I had created.
I believe it takes a sense of place like this for writers to create a setting so real that our own readers can experience that same feeling without being there. I realized standing there in that cemetery that the feelings I was experiencing were exactly the feelings my readers should have simply from the words. Then I became a bit discouraged. Was I in fact capable of creating such a vivid description of my settings that I could transport my readers away into the world I had created for them?
I knew I had a lot of work to do!

How true Creative Nonfiction? Detremining MY Definition of Truth for the Genre

14 Feb

Determining My Definition of Truth in Creative Nonfiction


The boundaries of creative nonfiction will always be as fluid as water.

                                                                                                —Mary Clearman Blew


            In an essay titled “Toward a Definition of Creative Nonfiction” that originally appeared in The Fourth Genre and has been reproduced in many other creative nonfiction texts and anthologies, Brett Lott states that “Any definition of the true worth to you as a writer will and must come to you experientially. What creative nonfiction is to you will reveal itself to you only at the back end of things, once you have written it.” This essay and phrase intrigued me. I am now nearly three years post-MFA and still lack a firm grasp on what creative nonfiction has revealed itself to be.

            There can be no discussion of creative nonfiction without a debate over the degree of truth to be observed, and this debate always focuses on the debacle surrounding the James Frey book. (I will not call it fiction or nonfiction.)

            Frey’s mistakes have not furthered the debate over the degree of truth necessary for creative nonfiction, but merely polarized the extreme positions and created an environment where all future memoirists will be required to tag and qualify all creative material.

            At one end of the extreme stands Lee Gutkind, the self-proclaimed Godfather of creative nonfiction. “The importance of providing accurate information cannot be overemphasized: names, dates, places, descriptions, quotations may not be created or altered for any reason.” (Gutkind 10)

            At the other end of the spectrum stands a host of others who allow a more liberal interpretation of the truth. B. Minh Nguyen and Porter Shreve state in the introduction to their textbook titled Contemporary Creative Nonfiction that “a work of personal creative nonfiction cannot guarantee accuracy, nor does it need to—but must still, at its core, be emotionally true.” (4)

            Leeway is given to an author who evokes the emotional truth of the experience he is describing in a manner that allows for a better understanding of the impact of the event.

            Operating at this end of the spectrum are a host of other writers, including Mimi Schwartz, who admits in her essay “Memoir? Fiction? Where’s the Line?” reprinted in Dinty Moore’s textbook The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction, that she has used composite characters:

            …in a memoir about six months in my marriage, I made a few composite characters

of minor characters and wrote this disclaimer in my introduction:

The story is 90% factual; the rest is made up to protect those who didn’t ask to be

In this book…I had three friends who were thinking about divorce, so in the book

I made a composite character and we met for cappuccino. (290)

 The admission by Mimi Schwartz is clear. The character she met in her memoir was not real. The conversations she had in those scenes never occurred. Why, then, is this bending of the truth acceptable, but James Frey is metaphorically burnt in effigy for his creations?

Another example of a wonderful memoir is the National Book Award winner The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. In this book Didion never reveals what caused her daughter’s mysterious illness. For the sake of argument, I want to speculate about this cause. Would Didion’s memoir have been criticized if the daughter’s illness were caused by some personal fault or habit, for instance a heroin addiction? Would Didion have deserved criticism for omitting such a fact?

Perhaps the degree of truth is not as important as the reason for the factual distortion. In the Introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay, Phillip Lopate says:

The personal essayist must above all be a reliable narrator; we must trust his or her core of sincerity. The spectacle of baring the naked soul is meant to awaken the sympathy of the reader, who is apt to forgive the essayist’s self-absorption in return for the warmth of his or her candor. (Lopate)

               In a sense, the author of a piece of creative nonfiction assumes the role of a political speechmaker. If the person giving the speech loses credibility during the course of the speech, the listeners will begin to drift. If the voters cast a vote of confidence for the speaker and learn later they were lied to, they will be outraged. In the Old South, such politicians were tarred and feathered and rode out of town on a rail.

            In Tell it Slant, a textbook about writing creative nonfiction by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, the authors note an interesting fact:

            …when a writer publishes a piece of fiction that contains highly autobiographical elements, no one flinches; in fact, such blurring of the boundaries is often presumed. But to admit fictional techniques into autobiographical work creates controversy and furious discussion. The nature of the essential pact with the reader—that sense of trust—demands this kind of scrutiny into the choices we make as nonfiction writers. (38)

A sense of trust is the most important element of creative nonfiction. When we bend the truth too far we violate this sense of trust. Brett Lott states in his essay mentioned earlier that “It appears that an accurate portrayal of the author is the key to the skewing or omission of facts.” In Diddion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, an omission of any possible causes of Quintana Roo’s illness in no way slants my view of the author. The story is about how the author dealt with the death of her husband during her daughter’s sickness. If the daughter had ever in fact been responsible in any way for her own sickness, Didion acted properly by not revealing this fact. The cause of the illness does not affect the emotional truth of the story–Didion’s loss of her husband while tending to her sick daughter.

The revelations made by Frey about his factual deviations prove that his indulgence with the standard of truth is a different matter. A note from Frey is included in the latest paperback edition of A Million Little Pieces. In this note, Frey states:

I embellished many details about my past experiences and altered others in order to serve what I felt was the greater purpose of the book…I made other alterations in my portrayal of myself, most of which portrayed me in ways that made me tougher and more daring and more aggressive than in reality I was, or I am…My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience. (VI)

James Frey created a version of himself that never existed. That was the James Frey he described in his memoir. His factual distortions were not to protect anyone else, but to portray himself as a tuff guy who overcame his addiction to drugs by fighting a twelve-step system that he actually embraced. This was his unpardonable sin.

With creative nonfiction, the author is saying, “This happened to me.” A literal interpretation of this caveat would make any improvisation or embellishment of fact unacceptable. But writers of this genre do alter facts when they can not remember them. Facts are also altered when authors do remember, but cannot disclose the factual truth in order to protect the privacy of persons involved.

In my own work, I have an essay titled “My Jericho March.” I created a composite scene representing many different issues from my childhood. In this scene, I help my sister bury a puppy, and we talk about the age of accountability. I express my rage over our religious indoctrination by going immediately inside the house and telling my mother I was not going to church with her anymore.

This scene represents a compression of characters, events and time. My sister never had a puppy named Elvis. But we had many puppies that we buried in the exact spot and in the exact manner described in the essay.

I had experienced many instances of rage and frustration over the systematic brainwashing of my siblings in the Pentecostal doctrine; I had heard all my life about that magical moment when I reached the “Age of Accountability” and would burn in hell if I died unsaved.

The framework of the essay—a classroom assignment with 5000 words—made it impossible for me to accurately develop these scenes. So I created the puppy Elvis to allow me to condense the type of relationship I shared with my younger siblings. This allowed me to show in one instance the frustration that had accumulated to the point where I was actually brave enough to tell my mother I would no longer go to church with her.

My description of the confrontation with my mother over attending church with her is factually accurate, but the timing is not. The day I confronted my mother, I had played softball all day long and was exhausted. When I walked in the door, I was told to get ready for church. I walked up to her and said I would not. Then she said that I had reached the age of accountability and God could no longer hold her responsible for my soul.

In reality, I stood waiting to be slapped, just as I had described in my composite scene. The slap never came. In my presentation of this turning point in my life, I believe I created a composite scene with a compression of time that allowed me to accurately depict the relationship between my mother and my family. The setting was real; the characters were real, and the climax of the scene occurred exactly as described. I made no attempt to make me look as more of a troubled teenager than I already was. If she had struck me, the scene might have had more impact, but that would change the entire nature of the moment. Her relinquishment of control over the one thing in my life she absolutely insisted I do—attend church—was a turning point in my life. The emotional truth of the scene lay in her surrender, not in her violence or in the death of a puppy. My apprentice work as a writer is simply a crude attempt to reveal this truth. In “My Jericho March” I omitted many of the worst battles I had with my mother.  But my mother is still alive and has a different view of our confrontations.

In the future a disclaimer may be required at the front of every book of creative nonfiction. This is regrettable. The ridiculous, orchestrated actions of all of the parties involved in the Frey debacle have set back the academic debate over this delicate issue and caused tremendous damage to the art as a whole. Many of the extremists who favor an absolute standard of truth claim vindication. Academics who espoused a relaxed standard on factual accuracy and an absolute standard regarding emotional truth are running for cover in light of the public response to Frey’s revelations. At the AWP panel on creative nonfiction—held in Austin in 2006—emotional truth was never discussed in depth. Frey’s actions dominated the panel discussion.

Oprah herself has been the subject of terrible criticism from such popular culture institutions as Saturday Night Live and the cartoon South Park. The reaction of Oprah to the Frey revelations is depicted in the most degrading manner. And she deserves the criticism—as does Frey.

Oprah’s reaction, if tempered and presented in the right manner, could have elevated the debate and exposed the true flaw of Frey’s mistake—that he lied in order to portray a different image of himself than truly existed. I would have loved to see Steinberg, Gutkind, Moore, and Schwartz debating this issue with Oprah—revealing that an absolute standard of factual truth is not necessary.

The emotional truth is revealed in that moment when the experience of the author becomes universal with the experience of the reader. This is what readers of creative nonfiction yearn for. They could care less if the shirt the narrator wore that day was green or blue.

For all the good she has done, Oprah missed the chance of a lifetime to have a significant impact on the direction and development of an emerging literary genre. The debate now has turned to criticism of the parties involved and strayed from the issue that should be confronted and debated by all. We should still be asking how this episode will affect the writing public in general and the individual writer in particular. Do I need to be concerned about my factual discrepancies when I submit my creative nonfiction for publication? Will publishers in the future—who are increasingly more aware of the bottom line—shrug off publishing creative nonfiction books when the facts cannot be proven by any standard of truth? Will publishers eventually require an investigative background check of all factual claims in creative nonfiction?

The tragic results of this may be a backlash against the genre itself. People read creative nonfiction because of the unique relationship they share with the author. In the future, the buying public may look at all works of creative nonfiction and question the truth contained within those pages. If my fear becomes a reality, page after page of disclaimers will not bring back the readers who feel they have been betrayed and as a result turn their backs on the genre. The tremendous boom in popularity of creative nonfiction could be over.

In a capitalist economy, the buying public eventually decides all issues.

But if the mistake that James Frey made can be clarified and an attempt made to continue to teach and police the proper standards of truth for creative nonfiction, then Frey could go down in history as having a positive effect on the genre.

A new standard of truth could emerge that emphasized the mistakes of the past where truth was sacrificed in order to satisfy the vanity of the author or to sell books. Examples of the tremendous literary talents of Terry Tempest Williams, Joan Didion and Scott Russell Sanders could be used to show how composite characters and compression of events can help clarify the emotional truth of the lives these authors write about—a truth that would otherwise read like the 9-11 report published by the federal government.

The factual truth of that report took hundreds of pages to print. The emotional truth can be seen everywhere.

 Works Cited

Didion, Joan. The Year of Magical Thinking. New York: Knopf, 2005.

Frey, James. A Million Little Pieces. New York: Knopf, 2003.

Gutkind, Lee. The Art of Creative Nonfiction. New York: Wiley and Sons, 1997.

Lopate, Phillip. “Introduction.”  The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology

                          From The Classical Era to the Present. By Lopate, Ed. New York:

                          Anchor, 1995. Xxvi-xxvii.

Lott, Bret. “Toward a Definition of Creative Nonfiction.” The Fourth Genre. Ed.

                            Root, Robert L. and Michael Steinberg. 3rd Ed. New York:

                            Pearson Longman, 2005. 359-365.

Miller Brenda, and Suzanne Paola. Tell it Slant. New York: McGraw Hill, 2004.

Nguyen, Minh B. and Porter Shreve. Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: I and

                            Eye. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005.

Schwartz, Mimi. “Memoir? Fiction? Where’s the Line?” The Truth of the Matter:

                            Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. Ed. Dinty Moore. New

                            York: Pearson Longman, 2006. 286-91.

CD Mitchell: Fighting the Good Fight

8 Feb

CD Mitchell: Fighting the Good Fight.

A review of “God’s Naked Will” and an interview by Leonard Gill of C.D. Mitchell (

The Story Behind the Stories: Goat and Dumplins

5 Feb

The Story Behind the Stories: Goat and Dumplins

As a teacher of creative writing, I have always encouraged my students to keep a journal. In fact I keep several different journals, one for each project I may be contemplating or working on. As I get older, I become more forgetful. When I have ideas, or notions as I sometimes call them, I have to write them down. John Dufresne had a series of blog posts titled “Today’s Short Story Waiting to be Written” and I made a series of entries with that title. I was so impressed with his series that I now require my creative writing students to make at least a weekly entry in their journals by that title.

But simply writing down your ideas still isn’t enough. One must go back through those old journal entries and browse for material or ideas on occasion. The story “Goat and Dumplins” came about as a result of these practices.

Living in northeast Arkansas has given me plenty of material to write about.  I come from a family of storytellers—perhaps that is why religion is a family business. But I remembered an event that happened when I was a kid, and Daddy happened to retell the story in such a way that I immediately went to my journal and wrote a description of what he revealed that day. Nearly five years later, I was camped out during the Fourth of July celebration of 2001 on the Spring River in the Arkansas Ozarks when I had some extra time and thought I’d write a new story. I immediately went to my journal and read through the whole thing.

Daddy had told the story about going out to the St. Francis River to buy goats for us kids. There is a picture on my website of my sisters and me in our barn riding the calves bareback. The two goats Daddy bought that day are also in the picture.–creative-nonfiction.html

I remember loading up with Daddy and driving out to the river to buy our goats. As you drove over the St. Francis River Bridge going east towards Kennett Missouri, you could see dozens of goats on the north side of the bridge. I don’t remember how we got there, but I do remember Daddy buying us a nanny and a kid.

But on this particular occasion Daddy got to telling about the man he bought the goats from. The guy was famous, perhaps notorious would be a better word, for leaving his house doors open so the goats could walk through the shotgun style structure to get to the back yard. He didn’t want them to have to walk too far because it worked the tallow off them. Daddy said when he walked into the kitchen to have the man write him a bill of sale for our goats, the man’s wife was in the kitchen cooking dumplings. On the counter was a white leghorn chicken scratching in the flour.

The day Daddy told that story I went straight home and wrote the tale into my journal. A couple years later I was returning to Paragould from a trip to Destin, Florida. We had stopped in one of the small Mississippi towns along the highway between Hattiesburg and Jackson because one of the girls with us wanted some doughnuts. While in the store, I saw a woman like I had never seen before. She had one gold tooth, right in the middle of her top row of teeth, and she was the perfect description of Doris in the story. The entry in my journal had to wait until we got home and unpacked, but before I went to bed that night, I described that woman perfectly and made a note that I would use her as a character someday.

During my senior year of high school, a man named Joe Thompson used to run a little bar just across the Missouri State line. On Wednesday’s he had free fish fries. He ran gill nets on the St. Francis River and caught loads of buffalo, and he’d cook them up and salt the hell out of them so you’d buy more beer. He’d load up a beer carton full of fish and set out some dill pickles and you could eat all the fish you wanted. All of those Thompson boys were fine people! Joe was the inspiration for the character Bobbie Joe Willie. Although I never met him, Mike Thompson, a nephew to Joe, was killed at Halliday when his vehicle was struck by a locomotive. I mention this accident in “The Mayor of Delbert, Arkansas” as a tribute to the family.

So during that July holiday I found myself with some spare time.  I thought I’d pull my journal out and do some writing.. Thumbing through the pages I went back and reread all of my old entries. The idea for “Goat and Dumplins” was hatched.

I knew I couldn’t just write a story about going to buy a goat. I needed to have some type of a legitimate plot. Earlier that same day I had been engaged in a conversation with some fellow rednecks sitting around a bonfire, drinking beer and discussing the merits of our respective ex-wives. The discussion had boiled down to two-types—the Barbies and the real women. My new friends discussed heartily the merits of each type, and split perfectly down the middle on which type they preferred. It was the basic “Ginger” or “Maryanne” argument. If you have never watched “Gilligan’s Island” and have no idea what I am talking about, simply goggle “Ginger or Maryanne?”

The original draft of the story ended as Jimmy Lee and Bobbie Joe Willie were driving to Puxico. I had workshopped this draft at McNeese where it was roundly trashed. One of the senior members of our workshop even left a rather nasty note, in essence saying if this was the best I could do he’d rather not read anything else I wrote. That kind of pissed me off, but I knew the story still had potential, and I knew just what kind of jerks some of my classmates could be when critiquing stories. So I stuffed it away and waited a year or two before returning to it.

I honestly can’t remember if Kristen Iversen or Cary Holladay at Memphis or Neil Connelly at McNeese had made this suggestion, but someone believed the story ended too soon. I went back and reread the story several times looking for a different way to write the ending. One thing I learned from this revision is that many times, the key to your story is already there. I focused on the rift between Jimmy Lee and Rachel over correcting their child. That was another of those plums I had made a note of in my journal and just threw into the story because I thought it sounded like the kind of thing couples would fight over. But it occurred to me that was the theme of the whole story—doing right for fear of punishment, or doing right simply because it was the right thing to do. The light switch went off. In the story, Bobbie Joe Willie was humping Doris and stopped only because he knew if Claudie Walker ever saw him again, he would kill him. Jimmy Lee had every intention of going to see Gayle, but didn’t after he saw a first hand account of what might happen if Bull Anderson found out about the affair.

The ending came easily after that.