Treading Water


Treading Water by Noreen BramanAuthor: Noreen Braman
Publisher: Noreen’s Digital Dreams (2011)
Number of Pages: 151
How long it took me to read: 1 day
Where I got this book: Uncustomary Book Submission
ISBN: 978-1-105-23444-6

Like a Moth to a Flame

Using water to tell a story about life’s difficulties stood out enough for me to take notice. It made me wonder whether I had an element, a color, or a name that shows up every time I’m about to hit a bump in my road. But more than anything, I wanted to see how Braman mopped up all of her life’s puddles—maybe she’d have some advice for me.

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Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “For me, getting over the rainbow is less tangible. Younger than Carol, but also recently divorced, it is the weight of time that leans on me. Time for my children, time to start over, time to write. For at least 20 years time has been my ally, my guardian, my temptation and my foe.” (p.64)

4. “It may take some convincing, some kicking, screaming and foot-dragging, but when a writer finally gets “computerized,” she soon forgets what life was like without one. Gone are the days of carbon paper, correction fluid and endless retypes. They’re quickly replaced by long nights in front of a blank screen, instruction manual in hand.” (p.51)

3. “Today, ravaged by multiple pregnancies, and the weight gain brought on by having to work for a living instead of spending hours prancing around at a health club, I have finally faced the reality of never again wearing a bikini or a halter top. Nowadays, my bathing suit is better constructed than my house, and scout troops could camp out in my bras. I’ve got a ski machine and exercise bike serving as planters and doorstops in my house, and a whole collection of exercise videos holding up a shelving unit.” (pp.62-3)

2. “My family traveled uneventfully to Niagara Falls, crossed over to Canada and headed immediately for the best vantage point. The Horseshoe Falls were majestic, but the American Falls were just a dry pile of rocks. Earlier that year, in an effort to stop erosion, repairs were begun to shore up the American Falls. A dam across the Niagara River diverted all the water. After our initial disappointment, we realized that while millions of visitors had viewed the cascading torrents, relatively few would ever see what was under all that water. We spent the rest of the time enjoying the unusual view.” (p.26)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “After attending a Writer’s Conference at Trenton State College last April, I came home feeling especially inspired. At this conference I met Patricia Gallagher, an author whose success is due, for the most part, to aggressive self-marketing techniques. She firmly believes, and convinced me, that the most successful writers may not be the most talented, just the most persistent.” (p.46)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“Incredible. Ironic. Somewhat of a bitch. I’m sitting here, in my mildly jet-lagged and highly caffeinated state, reading the disclaimer of Braman’s book where she talks about how she’s not responsible for the water that comes into your life while reading her book. Meanwhile, I can actually feel my hair growing into a flossy, tangled ball of Floridian humidity as my clothes fall into the heavy depression that all clothes succumb to when they pass through the wall of wet that greets them as they disembark the plane. I’m soaking up water. I’m walking through it as I cross the airport lounge to fill my bottle with…water. Makes me sort of miss the dusty, dry, recycled air of my current Californian reality.”

“From a marketing perspective, the book lacks in cover-appeal (homemade, pixelated and over-saturated photo), the font is too large and the pages are both too wide and too tall, making it a floppy read. Of course, this is just the aesthetic first impression, but if we’re going to self-publish, lesson No.1 is that it’s about a lot more than just the writing.”

“I’m reading about drive-ins and wondering whether Braman’s ever taken Netflix out for a spin. I have the vague recollection of watching movies at drive-ins with my parents. The recollection’s vague, but that’s not because I’m so miserably old that I can’t iron out my wrinkled mind well enough to remember; it’s vague because when I was a child, I would fall asleep minutes after getting into the car. (Who am I kidding? I fight hard not to continue the tradition into my 30’s.) So, my most vivid drive-in memories involve pillows and blankets cushioning my backseat bed instead of 40′ sharks and salty snacks at intermission. But I seriously doubt that watching a flickering projection through my smudged windshield (do you honestly have time to get your car washed?) is better than touring the HD foreign film circuit in my softest jammies while snuggling on the couch having some raw, gluten-free brownies and a 1.5-liter bottle of Junmai Daiginjo (each).”

“I really don’t understand Braman’s marital conflict over what Christmas music should flood the house during the holidays. Alvin and the Chipmunks obviously gets first priority, and it certainly wouldn’t be Christmas if the whole vinyl record wasn’t played, from beginning to end, at least twice a day. Obviously. And there is no way it would be Christmas without Boney M belting out their funky festive tunes in the wee hours of the morning as you fight with yourself to remain in your last REM cycle long enough to dream up the perfect way to kill the 30-year-old speakers that just seem to get louder with age.”

“It escapes me how the first chapter is connected to water—threading it or drowning in it. Despite some short scenes where it can perhaps be argued that water played a minor part, there’s no real connection between the way the book is marketed to the reader and its content. Is this a case of the trailer not matching the movie?”

“I have to admit, Braman ranting about the annoyance of authors publishing writing wrought with typos is funny…and ironic.”

“The end of chapter 2 and I’m still eager to read water-related disaster stories that end with empowering messages. So far, it reads more like a collection of short, unrelated blog posts.”

“When Braman starts to talk about Carol, I start to feel the book. I start to hear its voice and understand why she wanted to write it. All of us want to be heard; we want to find a way to make sense of the mental chatter that has the power to keep us up at night and to convince us of what people must be thinking.

“For writers, seeing words helps us make sense. I haven’t figured out whether the courageous part is admitting our thoughts to ourselves, or sharing them with readers. I do know that it’s when we scavenge deep within those moldy, sticky, damp places inside of us and write about our relationships with them that the writing becomes real; it absorbs its purpose and nourishes those whose pages and screens it caresses. When she lets go of the irony and the sarcasm and the attempts at laughing at the difficulties of life, and when she allows herself to melt into her authentic voice, that’s when the book starts for me.”

“When putting together a book of essays, it’s very important to ensure that:

  1. When read in sequence, their individual tales tell a bigger story.
  2. They don’t contradict one another.
  3. They don’t overlap.

“There are some instances in this collection when the stories do repeat. I think they would have resonated more with me had some sections been rewritten to connect the random dots. For example, the crawlspace in the house of Poltergeist doesn’t need to be reintroduced each time it’s mentioned, neither do the junky cars in front of houses or the tenacity of the ingenious rats. I would actually argue that some of these don’t have to be mentioned at all.”

“Unfortunately, this is the case of a book that was self-published before it was ready to go to press. Persistent self-marketing alla Patricia Gallagher might not always be the best approach. Perhaps the second edition will do the author justice.”

2 Comments

  1. […] Treading Water by Noreen Braman […]

  2. Kat Kiddles says:

    A very gracious response to the review from the author of the book: http://roderama.blogspot.com/2012/02/monday-kind-of-day.html. (Makes me wonder what’s around my editorial corner…just kidding Universe! Just kidding.)

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