Small Off Things: Meditations from an Anxious Mind
In this captivating collection of essays, Suzanne Farrell Smith tells the story of her life, not as a linear progression through time, but as a series of encounters, situations and events that reflect the absurdities and anxieties inherent in living in our world, the “small off things” that can so easily loom large and important. Each section contains six pieces that spring from one of the five major anxiety disorders listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all of which are part of the author’s diagnostic history. Funny at times and often heart-stoppingly poignant, Small Off Things: Meditations from an Anxious Mind examines the fight or flight of everyday life. With a keen eye and ironic wit, she examines the surprising power even the least of our interactions can have.
Order at Littoral Books.
Release date March 1, 2023, by Littoral Books.
In this outstanding collection of essays, author Suzanne Farrell Smith poses existential questions—what is fear, what is memory, or loss, or anxiety – and turns them over and over, examining and exploring, taking the reader with her as she finds her way closer to answers. She captures small moments of beauty, of discovery, of triumph – and works her magic with words, polishing each image to a pearly luster. Readers go back and forth in time with her, through girlhood to teacher to wife and mother, as she takes an unflinching look at the difficult challenges and joys life has placed in her path. At times contemplative, at times raw, these essays will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
—Risa Nye, Author of There Was a Fire Here: a Memoir
Small Off Things is a great big wonder of a book. Thirty brief essays depict the way trauma lodges in the body—a pearl cocooned in an ear, a bone embedded in the gum, a scar blistered onto a back—and becomes you. Writing with both gravity and levity, in clear-eyed prose, Suzanne Farrell Smith guides readers on a journey in which memory is elusive, but where the hole persists, like phantom pain, a constant companion, continually reinventing itself by filling up with life’s bright spots, then, with some new grief, emptying again. I have never read anything like it.
—Jodi Paloni, Author of They Could Live with Themselves
In precise and captivating prose, Suzanne Farrell Smith writes of the “small off things” of everyday life—fear, self-consciousness, worry—among other foibles. In her talented hands, these quotidian things loom large and important, even as they comingle and are juxtaposed with topics of loss, disability, and otherness that both enlighten and challenge notions of what is “typical.” These essays are honest, deep, poignant, and clever. I was engrossed from beginning to end.
—Laurie Easter, Author of All the Leavings
The Memory Sessions
Suzanne Farrell Smith’s father was killed by a drunk driver when she was six, and a devastating fire nearly destroyed her house when she was eight. She remembers those two—and only those two—events from her first nearly twelve years of life. While her three older sisters hold on to rich and rewarding memories of their father, Smith recalls nothing of him. Her entire childhood was, seemingly, erased. In The Memory Sessions, Smith attempts to excavate lost childhood memories. She puts herself through multiple therapies and exercises, including psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, somatic experiencing, and acupuncture. She digs for clues in her mother’s long-stored boxes. She creates—with objects, photographs, and captions—a physical timeline to compensate for the one that’s missing in her memory. She travels to San Diego, where her family vacationed with her father right before he died. She researches, interviews, and meditates, all while facing down the two traumatic memories that defined her early life. The result is an experimental memoir that upends our understanding of the genre. Rather than recount a childhood, The Memory Sessions attempts to create one from research, archives, imagination, and the memories of others.
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Release date August 9, 2019, by Bucknell University Press.
Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
The Memory Sessions is a beautiful, haunting, lyrical memoir that will prompt readers to consider their own memories in new, startling, and important ways. Not only is Suzanne Farrell Smith a masterful storyteller, she is wise and brave, as is this book.
—Connie May Fowler, Author of Before Women had Wings and A Million Fragile Bones
Suzanne Farrell Smith’s debut memoir triumphs over a seemingly insurmountable challenge: psychological awakening from years of traumatic erasure. “I aim for a cloud,” she explains, trying to center herself, “which is nothing, which has no beginning, no history, no end, no form.” And yet, from her amorphous journeys she miraculously creates the solidity of wisdom. Lovingly researched and exquisitely crafted, her reflections fall upon the reader like dazzling sunshowers from nearly cloudless skies.
—Sascha Feinstein, author of Wreckage: My Father’s Legacy of Art & Junk
From its electrifying, heartbreaking opening sentence, Suzanne Farrell Smith’s memoir is a meticulous, brave, beautifully rendered attempt to retrieve a forgotten past. That she achieves a kind of closure, despite overwhelming impediments, is a testament to her will, and to her artistry.
—Robert Leonard Reid, author of Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West
The Writing Shop
Since the 1970s, writing workshop has been a go-to method for teaching writing. It’s helped students of all ages find their voices and stories while developing skills and craft. In The Writing Shop, the author reimagines what writing workshop can be. By studying workshops of different kinds—carpentry, textile, machine—she pushes us to see writing workshop the way other makers see their own shops, as places where creativity is fueled by the sensory experience. When the essential elements of all workshops are adopted in writing workshop, the author argues, writers will flourish. The author builds on writing workshop literature to introduce the model to newcomers, while offering practical advice for those looking to strengthen their writing instruction. The Writing Shop illustrates what happens when writing is taught in an authentic shop: play is prioritized, all types of learners are included, and a host of skills beyond the mechanics of composition are embedded in the process of learning to write. With its stories from diverse workshops and emphasis on exploration and experimentation, The Writing Shop shows us that learning to write can be, above all things, fun.
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Release date March 28, 2019, by Brill | Sense.
Novel in its approach and singular in its voice, The Writing Shop is a must-read book that will undoubtedly make your classroom and your students come alive through the writing process. Every child deserves the kind of writing shop classroom Suzanne will help you create.
—Katie Egan Cunningham, Associate Professor at Manhattanville College and author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learningand Happiness by Design
The Writing Shop is rich. Rich in storytelling, rich in detail, rich in imagery, rich in inspiration. I challenge any teacher reading this book to not be inspired and renewed with a fresh sense of what is possible when children are allowed to play in the process of writing.
—Nancy Cavillones, writer and former New York City English teacher
Suzanne advocates for a playful and stimulating learning environment, without compromising academic expectations. Come take a peek inside her shop and learn from a master!
—Paula Bourque, literacy coach and author of Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2–6 and Quick Writing: Nurturing Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms