“She writes like a reader.”
I recently received “This Same Small Town In Each Of Us” (Embracing The Human Condition) by Wanda Morrow Clevenger published by Edgar and Lenore’s Publishing House in California. A collection of prose, memoir, and poetry, it was a needed change from many of the essays that I have been reading lately. Her characters felt familiar to me, recollections from different ages and situations brought me to places that I recognized. I connected the prose and poems to many of my own memories and reading this book brought me back to experiences that I have not thought about in years. Small things, like riding on the handlebars of a bike and skinned knees, holidays and little memories triggering larger ones. Clevenger moves from child to mother, past and present, the world of her youth and the world of today, different in obvious ways but also in the sum of many small things that we lived without back then but are an integral part of life now.
Clevenger has this ability to be funny and serious, descriptive without going too far, with her transitions well timed. She knows when to pull the reigns, how much information we need and she doesn’t dump words to fill pages. She writes like a reader.
That is probably a weird thing to say here, this idea of somebody “writing like a reader”, but what I mean there is to describe a certain control and flow that good books have, and writers who read good books seem able to pick up on and apply almost intuitively in time. This is also a feature of practice and experience, and this is the impression that I have of Clevenger: a careful, deliberate writer with discipline. Some of her pieces are short, a page or two, but she says what she wants to say. The same can be said for her poems, succinct and focused.
In small press, different names come up and become familiar, and I was aware of Wanda Morrow Clevenger but not familiar with her work. One of my goals is to spend more time on the body of work from different writers, to get to know their work in a broader way beyond small samples here and there over time. This was a good choice because the book has different styles of writing, but is presented in a cohesive way. Since this was published in 2011, I don’t know the status of availability but she has a blog here.
Elynn Alexander contributes reviews and book discussions on small, independent press offerings. She is the founding editor of Full Of Crow Press.