Tag Archive for: Book Club

The Letter I’ll Never Forget

Here it is again, a new year. A fresh start, and yet, a hint of gloom still permeates the air. We’ve all had to navigate through and adjust to new realities. How are you managing?

Whenever I’m struggling, I lean on the philosophy of someone I fell in love with years ago:

Vincent Van Gogh.

I was in my twenties and slightly adrift when I picked up Dear Theo, a compilation of Vincent’s letters to his brother. A few years earlier, I had visited the museum in Amsterdam dedicated to him. Though he wasn’t my favorite painter at the time, his spirit spoke to me through his art and grabbed onto something deep inside.

Van Gogh’s letters are an almost-daily account of his struggles. They vividly detail his miserable existence. Yet through it all, he kept working to be better.

The one I’ll never forget

A letter he wrote in 1884 has kept me going through rough moments in my personal and my writing life. Here’s a bit of it, lightly paraphrased and edited for brevity:

One mustn’t be afraid to do something wrong sometimes… You don’t know how paralyzing it is, the idiotic stare from a blank canvas that says you can’t do anything. Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas. But the blank canvas is afraid of the truly passionate painter who dares…

Life itself likewise turns toward us an infinitely idiotic and meaningless blank side. But however meaningless life appears, the person of faith, of energy, of warmth, doesn’t get discouraged. He steps in and builds up…

Substitute an author’s blank page for the painter’s canvas, and this is my daily inspiration.

Did you know that Vincent was also a book lover? Here’s this: It is with the reading of books the same as with looking at art. One should, with assurance, admire what is beautiful.

And this: So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me and reminded me that there are good things in the world.

And on another subject, this: A woman is not old so long as she loves and is loved.

Yes, he led a tragic, troubled life. Worse than most of us can imagine. But he never stopped wanting to capture truth and beauty in his art and his life.

Perhaps we all could take a lesson from Vincent, dare to face the blank canvas that is 2023, and choose to make this year into our own work of art.

Wishing you a year full of love and good health. And good books!


Gay Yellen writes the award-winning

Samantha Newman Mystery Series:

The Body BusinessThe Body Next Door,

and coming soon in 2023: Body in the News!


Homework or Not, Why I Attend Book Clubs

Does anyone remember in our school-age years when our
instructors handed out assignments and we had X amount of time to complete? Sometimes
students had a week. Often, work was due the next day. Many times, I felt
ill-prepared and handed in work I considered less than my best. On those days I
was left with a dry mouth and a pounding heart as our teachers collected our
homework. And don’t even get me started on the pop quiz!

I don’t miss those days at all, although when it comes to
writing books, that same tendency seems to follow when I turn in a novel. Maybe
just one more read-through. Do the characters work? Does the goal, motivation,
and conflict hold up, and did I get rid of any dreaded plot holes?  Thank goodness for critique partners and

Some call what I’m talking about a perfectionist quality,
which during a period where books are getting written faster and faster, can be
detrimental to a writer. For that reason, a nose-to-the- grindstone mentality
and fearless creating has to come first in my world.

Still, I want to be supportive to my fellow authors. In
Sisters in Crime Colorado, we have a program called Book Club where we Zoom and
discuss our fellow chapter mate’s books. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about
the myriad talent among us, and what the author had in mind when writing the novel.

I used to get that same dry mouth, pounding heart feeling I
had in school when I attended—especially if I hadn’t finished or even read the

No more. These authors are as busy as I am, and I’m sure
they are grateful for a peer just showing up. This isn’t completely altruistic
on my part. I often sign off adding their books to the top of my To Be Read

I want to tell you about a few authors I have read AFTER I
attended book club:  Margaret Mizushima’s
Striking Range,  J.v.L Bell’s The Lucky
Hat Mine, Becky Clark’s, Punning with Scissors, George Cramer, The Mona Lisa
Sisters, and Ann Dominguez’s The Match, and just last weekend Author Theresa
Crater, Into the City of Light.

Attending Book Club and listening to the author talk about
the passion that went into the novel whets my appetite for reading the book
better than a back cover blurb. Thanks to book club, I’ve learned about K-9
dogs, crossword puzzles, family history, a physician’s residency, action adventure
and magical realism. Thanks to book club I’ve traveled through Colorado now and
in its history, through Europe, Chicago. I’ve learned about Tibet, Peru and
Chile. Do I feel guilty if I can’t read the book before book club? Of course. I
feel equally guilty when I can’t attend all the book clubs of my fellow

Ideally, I make it up to them afterward. Number one, I’m
there to support them, and I sign off fascinated.

Did you ever experience that sickening feeling of being not
ready? Do you enjoy book clubs?

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning
author, including finalist in the 2020 Colorado Book Award, and the 2021 New
Mexico-Arizona Book Awards for her first straight suspense
Black Pearl.
Book two is on her editor’s desk and she’s working on Book Three. You can learn
more about her other romantic suspense books or find her on Facebook, Twitter, or Bookbub. Sign
up for her newsletter at