Review: Lost Son


Let’s start with a confession: I’ve never read anything by Rainer Maria Rilke. When all of the hip kids in graduate school were exchanging knowing glances and speaking the author’s name as if it explained everything, I played along and pretended to know what they were talking about, but in all honesty, I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even know whether Rilke was a man or a woman, alive or dead. All I knew was that the author was apparently at the center of a sublime cult, the members of which were transfixed by the beauty of his (or her) work. They spoke as if reading Rilke was akin to being touched by the hand of God. Either you got it or you didn’t. Unfortunately, I suppose, I didn’t. Upon reading Michael Allen Cunningham’s Lost Son (Ubridled Books 2007), however, I’m beginning to wish that I had.

Lost Son is a work of historical nonfiction that examines the emotional and intellectual development of the author in question–and does so beautifully. From the opening pages, the reader is transported to turn-of-the-last-century Europe, and Cunningham does a wonderful job of depicting Rilke’s world in a strikingly visceral fashion. When Rilke arrives in Paris on a cold and wet winter day, it’s impossible not to feel a chill. More importantly, Rilke emerges from the narrative as a complex figure, and his early efforts at writing a biography of Rodin prove both amusing and insightful… At least to someone who’s never read Rilke.

Clearly, this novel is well-researched and written with passion. Cunningham, in other words, is one of those guys I used to play along with back in grad school — nodding and pretending to have joined the cult when I actually had no clue. And, I should add, I still have no clue. Maybe one day when I find the time, I’ll read some Rilke. In the mean time, I have to content myself with Lost Son. All told, not a bad deal.

Michelle Wittle On Blogging

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

I guess it is only fair that I discuss this subject at least once. I am going to be honest; I haven’t done any real research on the subject or anything. I only have my opinion on it and that is what I am going to share with you today.


The way I see it, blogs are important for both the readers and the writers. Blogs are on-line journals that give their writers instant gratification that they are being read by someone. It is far too lonely to write something that you think is great and told time and again that it isn’t good enough. A blog is a forum in which you can say how you feel and others who are suffering from the same affliction can join you and rally with you.


Writers, no matter how much they want to say on the contraire, put a piece of themselves in everything they write. It might be a small strand or it could be a loosely veiled autobiographical piece, but either way a writer’s life is in their work. Since I feel that blogs are on-line journals, then it is extremely important for fans to read their favorite author’s blog. It will give you a better understanding of the writer’s life and what they are thinking in their heads. You will get another piece of the puzzle that will help you solve the why in a story.


Since blogs can be about anything, it helps people get things they have been thinking a place to go. I actually lost a lot of weight by writing everyday on a blog. It was like my confessional box. I would write about how long I went to the gym, what I did when I was there, and how much weight I lost. Sure, it wasn’t all out in the public like most blogs (I didn’t want people I didn’t know seeing me as a fatty), but the encouragement I got from knowing people were reading my blog and rooting for me helped me stay on track. I knew I would be held accountable for not going to the gym or eating that Tastykake, so it really helped me.


Simply put, blogs are on outlet for everyone. They are an on-line journal that you can determine what you want it to be about and how public you want to make it. For readers, they give fans a daily dose of their favorite author and help readers understand their favorite authors better. As for writers, it can help newbies get their name out there and for an established writer, it can give them a way to reach all their fans quickly (a lot quicker then a book being published).


The publishing world is changing. Blogs are pushing new writers on the scene that may not have had a chance to be discovered so quickly. Maybe someone who never even thought about writing a book sees the importance of getting their material and their voice out into the writing and reading community. I’ve said before the book, as we know it will never die; but I do believe blogging will help us create more readers and more writers.  

Michelle Wittle On Memoir Writing Day 4

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Well, I have good news and bad news. What would you like first? You want the bad news first? Okay, well, I didn’t write four essays yesterday. I know you are disappointed in me, but wait until you hear the good news. I reworked my Barbie story until I couldn’t see anything but Pepto-Bismol pink and I even sent it out to a magazine. I am sure it will get rejected. I guess I am in that mood today. You know the one where everyone hates you and you should go eat worms (Man, I loved the Kids in the Hall).


I think that maybe I am forcing myself way too much and because of that I am letting myself down. It is like I am giving myself impossible goals and then when I don’t meet my totally out of reach goal, it adds more fuel to my negativity. Let’s look at the good stuff I did yesterday. I reworked my story and sent it out. It has been like what a good two months since I have tried to put anything out there? Also, I did write one essay yesterday. I could have just packed it in after the Barbie one was done, but I stuck with it and wrote something else.


Here is the real reason I am pushing myself so hard. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that on October 18th, Philadelphia Stories is having their second annual writing conference. There will be so many people who can open so many opportunities that I just want to have something in hand to show them. Also, I am opening the open mic portion of the day and I just want something great and wonderful and fresh to read. Maybe if I read the coolest thing in the planet an agent might be like, “Yeah…send me your stuff” or maybe an editor from a publication could be like, “That was hilarious. We need to publish that now. Send it to me”.


I was so dumb because last year when I was there (I was the girl with the red plaid heels) I didn’t bring anything with me. Here were all these editors and I was just sitting there looking at my empty hands. Talk about someone missing a golden opportunity! As I look back, maybe I wasn’t fully developed into the artist I want to be and maybe that was why it was so difficult for me to walk up to someone with my story and say, “Is this crap”. But the again, I am a writer and I can twist anything to make it into a positive light.


This year will be different for me. I refuse to let opportunities smack me in the face and just roll over and take it. I want to be armed with something great. So, here it is, roughly twenty-ones day until the event and I seriously want to be in my second draft of a great book. I gave up teaching to become a writer, not this pile of coke zero, blood, and bones that I am now. I just want my former students to know, again, I didn’t become a looser…I became a writer.


Come on Yoda, help me out!

Michelle Wittle On Memoir Writing Day 3

Michelle Wittle On

Ugh! I didn’t write yesterday. I was planning to…I really was going to write. But then I got another invitation to a bridal shower for the same person. I was confused because what is the proper rule here. I already sent the one gift out because I couldn’t go to the first bridal shower. But, I can go to this one. So, what? I just show up empty handed? I couldn’t do that. So off I was to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy another gift. I get there and they print out the “this stuff wasn’t purchased yet” list and it is only three pages. Of course all the really expensive stuff is left on the list and I am already annoyed, so this just makes me even more upset. So, I am forced to put down another two hundred dollars.


I want you to realize that I am not a cheap person (even though that last sentence totally sounds like I am). If I were working and bring in money, I would have purchased the whole registry. This is for the bride of my male cousin. Although I haven’t been around much of his life, I really do love him a lot. I would seriously do all that I could for him. I guess it all boils down to me just being upset that I am not working and I am annoyed that I can’t do all the things I want to because I can’t find a job.


After coming home with another negative two hundred dollars, I didn’t really feel like doing much of anything. I tried to read a book. I tried to will the Phillies to win. I tried to take a nap. Nothing worked for me. Even Yoda closed his Dagobah world because he knew there was no talking to me.


Here it is day three of my memoir writing and all I have to show for it are two stories that are only three pages long each. I have already started fixing them in my head. My goal was to write two stories a day and get the basic outline done. Then, I would start editing two stories a day until the book is where I want it to be before I start sending it out to an agent. I am already behind and that upsets me, too.


I am trying to motivate myself. I think the first thing I will do is rework my Barbie story. Maybe get that to the point where it can see the light of rejection. Then, I just have to write four stories today. It shouldn’t be all that difficult because I am just recalling the past. But, my luck, I’ll check my email five hundred times, go on facebook another five hundred times, and drink seventeen cans of coke zero. Yoda is looking at me and he is smiling. I wonder if he thinks this is amusing or if he is just trying to pass gas.

Michelle Wittle On Agents

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

I know…I know…I should be writing my memoirs. But I couldn’t help it. I needed sugar and my favorite tea. Also, Tuesday was such a nice day that there was no way I was going to just sit inside chained to my computer. I just had to go on location.


So, I grabbed a notebook (but I also went to an office supply store and picked up pens and legal pads) and I headed out to my local bookstore. I started looking through the writing periodicals and I picked up Writer’s Digest. They had the issue devoted to agents and I thought that was pretty cool considering Philadelphia Stories’ Second Annual Push to Publish also has some agents represented and a workshop on the importance of having an agent.


The article looked pretty good. They explained the basic premise behind having an agent and they also gave tips on the top ten things not to do when approaching an agent. All of this was pretty basic stuff and not a lot of detail. I saw the article as a good starting off point in learning about agents.


Well, they also gave a list of 28 agents who are looking to work with new writers. My mouth dropped when I saw two special names. Jamie Brenner and Adam Chromy from Artists and Artisans were listed. I was first like hey…hey…I know those names. How lucky and fortunate are we that these two people listed in the article will be at the Push to Publish event!


It is like I said before; the writing world is a big and small world. Paths tend to cross. I am so thrilled that they agreed to come to the conference and it was more exciting to see them mentioned as agents looking to work with new writers. That is just the thought process behind the whole conference…pushing yourself to get in touch with the people and places you need to in order for you to get your work out there.


Here is the website with the article if you would like to read more about this subject


Also, if you are interested in learning more about the Push to Publish Event or would like to register, go to


I’ll see you there.