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SOLACE IN SO MANY WORDS

This Book Will Change Your Life

Struck we are that solace is a tricky thing to articulate as we seek to define it, illuminate it and ultimately try to capture it in the written word with the idea that someone will read it knowing to some extent what our intent is. Are we asking the writer to focus on how we find solace or why we need it? Is the mere act of absorbing oneself in stories and poems fraught with pain, the discovery of it, trying to make sense of it, managing it and ultimately making peace with it a kind of solace in and of itself? We’re not sure we have any answers to these questions, but it would be impossible not to lose oneself in these questions and all the permutations contained therein as one reads SOLACE in So Many Words edited by Ellen Wade Beals, which is often times moving, and very often sad, sad to us anyway, and something which is tricky in its own way as well. As readers and consumers of art, and not just writing, though it is always first and foremost about writing regardless,  we are drawn to joy and ebullience, but it is pain and sadness that we are most likely to lose ourselves in, hence even with a collection such as this which uniformly achieves its goals, no minor accomplishment that, and is filled with fine writing, it is the stories that are most painful to us that linger, A Strange Episode of Aqua Voyage by Joe Meno, because we are fans certainly, but also because he writes about confusion and isolation as well as anyone, Details by Joan Corwin, whose piece on aging hit close to home in ways we would not have anticipated, Stops and Starts by Kathleene Donahoo, which frankly left us briefly paralyzed at points, Alleys by Michael Constantine McConnell, a slice of childhood that just hums with life and Heartbeat by J. Scott Smith which is at times crippling and other times triumphant. Which in its own way we suppose is as good a description of this collection as any we could have hoped to come up with otherwise.

By Ben Tanzer, appearing February 18, 2012 on This Blog Will Change Your Life

Your micro-review round-up: January 18, 2012

When it comes to literary anthologies, it can be nearly impossible sometimes to give an overall critical score to such a varying collection of stories, so today I’m not even going to try; instead, I wanted to at least call your attention to this remarkable new compilation, put together by Ellen Wade Beals and with her mounting essentially a one-woman war over the last year to try to get it out to a wider and wider audience. Inspired by the overwhelming sense of helplessness that Beals felt after the one-two punch of September 11th and Hurricane Katrina, this attempt to even define the word “solace” (which as Beals explains in her introduction is not quite “succor,” not quite “comfort,” not quite “love,” but perhaps a complex combination of them all) boasts an impressive list of contributors, including such big names as T.C. Boyle and Joe Meno; and while by definition the pieces themselves vary in quality from great to only so-so, in general I found this to be a very worthwhile read, a rare statement for me when it comes to anthologies. A good example of comfort food for the literary soul, it comes heartily recommended.

by Jason Pettus, appearing on Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP)


Meditations on the nature of Solace

By Lilli Kuzma Contributor July 12, 2011 Pioneer Press

“It’s not a balm. It won’t tell you how to become happy, not meant to be a guide like the ‘Chicken Soup’ series. This is more of a literary take on the subject, a mixed genre anthology for readers who appreciate literature,“ said Ellen Wade Beals, commenting on her recent book,Solace In So Many Words, published by Weighed Words LLC, in Glenview.

“There is a difference between solace and comfort,” she said. “With comfort, there’s some light at the end, but with solace, sometimes there’s nothing you can say or do. But Solace isn’t a downer book. It’s a contemplative book. But I didn’t want this to be one long dirge, so it’s peppered with some humorous pieces.”

The book of poems, short stories, and essays was carefully compiled and edited by Beals, and includes writings from 52 contributors in 15 states. More than a dozen are Chicago-based. A number of award-winning writers are included: T.C. Boyle, Philip Levine, Joe Meno and Antler.

Many topics

The works that reflect on the theme of solace cover a wide range of topics, including the overwhelming sense of personal loss arising from the death of a child, to universal concerns like war and environmental crises, to simpler subjects like the effects of changing flowers in a vase, watching horses graze, or a boy’s delight in his hiding places around the home.

Solace In So Many Words is a 228-page soft-cover volume, with a soothing blue cover that belies the power of the insightful words contained within. It is a riveting collection of outstanding writing, with works that stand alone and can be read one at a time in any order, but also a cohesive whole on the theme of solace, which when absorbed together provides a compelling panorama of verse and prose.

Real world crises prompted book, explained Beals.

The genesis for “Solace” happened just after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, and the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“I felt a kind of despair about the world situation, and that was an influence on me,” said Beals. “I gravitated to the idea of solace because I instinctively needed it myself.”

Another influence to doing this book was Beals having her poem, “August 1999: light is a measure of time” included in the anthology, Kiss Me Goodnight (Syren Books, 2005), writings by women who were girls when their mothers died.

Universal theme

“I was inspired to create my own collection,” said Beals, “but wanted a theme that is universal, timeless, and one that everyone could relate to at some point in their life.”

For Beals, 54, a Chicago native, with an extensive background in journalism and freelance writing, “Solace” was a project that took four years to complete, and which has involved new tasks for her — the painful process of sending out rejection letters, the business necessity of forming a publishing company, and the marketing demands in promoting the book.

“It’s more difficult being a publisher and editor than being a contributor,” she said. “And I’m not good at self-promotion. But it helps that with this book I’m promoting other writers, something I can easily do, especially since it’s something I strongly believe in.”

Solace In So Many Words is available as a ‘print on demand’ book and will soon be available as an e-book.

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Solace in So Many Words reviewed in Mindful Metropolis

In any bookstore one can find inspirational collections of poetry and stories meant to buoy spirits or help people through transformational times. The new collection, Solace in So Many Words, edited by local author Ellen Wade Beals, brings together many talented writers both from Chicago and beyond to highlight the various textures of solace and how we seek it. The poems, essays and short stories in this collection deal with loss, love, sadness, joy, aging, youth and much more. In one of my favorite stories, “Details” by local author Joan Corwin, we watch a husband don a headlamp in order to explore the body of his wife as she sleeps. This exploration becomes a touching appreciation of her body as a map of their history together, tempering his fears of aging. The perspectives in Solace in So Many Words are thoughtful and well-written, bringing both laughter and reflection. A consoling read when life feels hectic and uncertain.       Maureen Ewing, September 2011

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The Midwest Book Review: California Bookwatch, July 2011 Return to home page

Reviewer’s Choice

Solace in So Many Words offers an anthology seeking to define the nature of solace, and offering a collection of literary reflections on what solace means and how to find it. Faced with her own overwhelming need for solace, she called for writings on what solace means and how to find it, contacting her favorite authors and advertising for works. The result blends poetry, essays and fiction by over fifty writers – some notable such as Philip Levine and Antler, others lesser-known. A powerful literary collection, this is a pick for health and literature collections alike!

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PBR-June 2011Solace in So Many Words

How do you define solace? How do you find it? Author Ellen Beals sought answers to these questions and put a call out to writers for fiction, poetry, and essays.

The result is a moving anthology, edited by Beals, titled Solace in So Many Words. Everyone experiences loss, whether of a family member, pet, or a greater loss (9/11, Haiti, Hurricane Katrina). Before reading this book my definition of solace was narrow – compassion, comfort, kindness. I now realize it is so much more. Solace is love, hope, honesty, ritual, humor, and connection. Susan Spaeth Cherry, in her poem Predictabilities, finds comfort in the expected parts of the day that mean life moves on and continues after loss. Ellen Bass’ poem Jack Gottlieb’s In Love describes an 88 year old’s second chance at love: “Life, that desperate addict, has mugged and robbed him in the street, and then she appears…”

In a world filled with uncertainty and change, the need for solace will always exist. Give yourself a chance to gain new perspective from the words of 52 talented poets and writers. You’ll be thankful you did.

Kathryn Franklin Portland Book Review, 1(2):15, June-August 2011

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ForeWord Reviews

Solace in So Many Words

To be human means striving to come to terms with impermanence, change, and loss. Rationally, one knows that nothing lasts forever, including youth or a perfect moment. But when the hard, cold, unavoidable reality of dissonance destroys the tranquil ideal of everyday life, one’s coping mechanisms are put to the test.

Solace in So Many Words is a collection of essays, poems, and short stories compiled by Ellen Wade Beals in an effort to bring insight, understanding, and comfort to those trying to weather the storms of life. Fifty-two authors contribute works of various styles and approaches ultimately aimed at finding and giving reprieve.

In her introduction, Beals confesses that her own emotional response to the events of 9/11 was almost unbearable. Through it, she gained a perspective of pan-global suffering, which reached far beyond her immediate experiences, and the crushing weight of this pain threw her into a state of despondency. The most pressing concern for Beals became how to make an impact, a dent, any sort of meaningful contribution that would “make the world a better place.” Thus was born Solace in So Many Words.

There are two common threads that tie together the book’s contributed pieces. First, each writer dares to bear his or her soul in an honest, sometimes brutally revealing manner. Second, the quality or artfulness of the prose and poetry is remarkable, each engaging and telling in its own unique way. As the poet Antler relates in “Stop to Think,” sometimes comfort is found in the anti-emotional realm of numbers and the greater workings of the physical universe. In T.C. Boyle’s story, “Hopes Rise,” an aging couple is terrified by the disappearance of frogs throughout the world. They finally decide to take matters into their own hands, ultimately finding salvation when they discover a writhing mass of breeding amphibians in the middle of suburbia. Other submissions are darker. In Jayant Kamicheril’s “In the Wake of My Son,” for example, the narrator loses his son and talks about how he will have to think and speak of his son in the past tense; he explains that, “changing semantics takes time and practice, especially when the need comes with such uncouth speed.”

Beals has done nothing less than stitch a beautiful quilt of essays, stories, and poems with Solace in So Many Words, which only needs to be opened (even randomly) for it to provide comfort during life’s most trying moments. Through shared experiences and anecdotes, her book delivers hope and love, perhaps two of the most important, irrational human emotions in terms of surviving, processing, and navigating life.

Chris Fisher April 29, 2011  (This review is available at ForeWord Review.)

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This review by  Midwest Book Review was also uploaded to our Amazon page (thanks James A. Cox!) and is reprinted here:

That bit of knowledge that everything will be alright is something not to be overlooked. “Solace” is a collection of essays, stories, and fiction compiled by Ellen Wade Beals as she offers the contributions of a wide range of individuals as they speak on the crises of the world all in their own way. With a certain amount of wisdom, “Solace” proves to be an educational and insightful medley of work, a solid addition to any literary collection.

The Midwest Book Review

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Solace in So Many Words reviewed in The Messenger

Editor's Thoughts - Time Marches On At one time or another most of us need relief from emotional distress. Maybe it’s the struggle to remain in a relationship during a time of difficulty, or the death of a friend or family member. Perhaps it’s the emptiness that comes for caring for a dying parent, while your emotional batteries are draining.  Whatever the cause, this collection of essays and poetry can provide you with the respite you need.

All too often books that promise relief from the stressful vagaries of life, fail to deliver. They can be preachy and artificially optimistic, or filled with rules about positive thinking. But Solace is like having a gentle conversation with a friend, and sharing intimate moments that are poignant and meaningful.

Years ago, when I was a chaplain in a children’s hospital, I noticed that the parents of very sick children, some of them terminally ill, seemed to help one another by sharing their stories. They were taken out of themselves by listening to others, and realizing they were no so alone after all.

The reflective words in this book, collected from dozens of writers will help take you out of your personal morass. Through the eyes of these thoughtful writers you might  experience just the shift you need to brighten your outlook.

This is a friendly and welcoming book.  (Reviewer, David Lintner, The Messenger, December 2011)

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Our wonderful blurbs

“Life is wonderful, but as we all know, it can also be trouble. The typical modern response is to fix it up quickly and get back to normal. Another approach is to find solace. This collection of many different kinds of writing, all of it excellent, consistently avoids the easy and obvious answer. Each entry feels fresh, as it offers yet another angle on finding a way to remain intact through life’s complexity. If only psychological writing were so subtle and so beautiful.”
—Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

“The diverse bedfellows who appear here prove artful words can be a balm for pain, one’s own or the wider world’s.The better-known writers (T. C. Boyle, Philip Levine, Ellen Bass, among others) share terrific work, while the rest delight with the grace and originality of their poems, essays, and short stories. The risk inherent in focusing on such an earnest topic is ably avoided with an abundance of humor, dark as it must sometimes be.”
—Susan K. Perry, Creativity Blogger for PsychologyToday.com, author of Writing in Flow

Solace is defined as relief from emotional distress: comfort at a time of sadness, grief, or disappointment. In the poetry and prose anthology Solace In So Many Words edited by Ellen Wade Beals there is indeed a relief from grief, but more importantly the works here will provide a place where the reader can hang his or her hat and find a respite of beauty even in dire straits--in a world that seems to seldom love but is quick to hate. From Dan Sklar’s memory of his days delivering The Long Island Press in his essay “The Paper Boy,” to Antler’s poem about a mother and son literally sharing their precious first and last breath, this collection offers an engaging account through poetry and essays of what it is to be human, vulnerable, and how to keep on loving in spite of it all.”
—Doug Holder, Publisher, Ibbetson Street Press

“Solace should be enough.  Editor Ellen Wade Beals, offers us Solace In So Many Words as a collection of poems, stories, essays, hoping readers find, she says in her introduction, “…insight or a new perspective, something authentic and human….” The pieces included in this luminous volume treat us to so much more.  Humor, wonder, grief, despair…a trip around the world of experience and reflection—explorations of solace in just enough words. Solace would be enough…but this marvelous book offers so much more.”
—Sharon Fiffer, editor of the memoir collections Home, American Writers Remember Rooms of Their Own; Family: American Writers Remember Their Own, and Body, author of Jane Wheel mystery series

“Solace in So Many Words, edited by Ellen Beals, delivers.  It does not matter whether readers read from cover to cover, as I found myself doing, or whether they dip into a poem here or a story there, they are richly rewarded with what Beals intends this anthology to be, a collection of “smart, literary writing on what solace means and how we can find it.”  Readers are treated to jewels from Ellen Bass, T.C. Boyles and Philip Levine among a setting of sense and sound like the poem “Stop to Think “ by Antler, who reminds us there is solace in “Each word you read, each breath you take,/ each time you come, each poem you make,/ the Earth has moved into a new place.”  Readers who buy this book will come back to it often.
—John Evans, Wellness and Writing Connections

 

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