Winter Wonders

Winter wonders are not all about men in red suits and loud celebration. I have watched in wonder as birds have come to my small backyard bird feeder. Too awe-struck to photograph them or records their songs, I’ve just watched them.

I filled a small bird feeder and put it in my beloved dogwood tree. The dogwood has repeatedly complained that throughout the winter months when we abandon the backyard, she is without company. The feeder has brought many visitors including

(top to bottom) the beautiful Downey Woodpecker, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, The Mourning Dove, and the Tufted Titmouse.

Listen to my audio recording of Back Along The Octoraro, a story of avian enchantment. This audio includes some bird sounds recorded near my house last spring.

Back Along The Octoraro read by Breena Clarke

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Joy For The World




The Gleeful Goddess

at the crux of fear and flame ’tis the season of joy.


I’m happy to be celebrating the sixth consecutive year of platforming and presenting the work of women writers at the annual Hobart Festival of Women Writers co-founded with Cheryl Clarke and Barbara Balliet. We had a great weekend of rejuvenation and inspiration in the beautiful Catskills this past September 7, 8 &9th.

View more photo highlights here:

Festival of Women Writers 2018 photo highlights

A ROOM OF HER OWN FOUNDATION, a global organization of creative women with which I’ve been associated since its first writer’s retreat in 2003 has rolled out a wave of treasure this December, Gifts of Fellowship which include unique opportunities for the givers. You can donate to support this great consortium of creative women AND have a chance to win an expert book doctor consultation with Esther Cohen, OR secure a winter artist’s/writer’s residency in Santa Fe at a charming casita OR you can experience an empowering ONE-ON-ONE session designed to build your skills and confidence in reading your own creative writing with Breena Clarke.

Are you ready to read your work for an audience?  Do you shake in your boots at the thought of performing your own writing? Consider donating to A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Edna Payne Clarke Gift of Fellowship and you could win an opportunity to work with me. Find out the full details and donate-to-win a Gift of Fellowship at A Room of Her Own Foundation:

 Winning fellows will be announced January 4th.

In this one on one class with me which is named in honor of my mother, Edna Payne Clarke,  you’ll get email and video-conferencing interaction. I’ll help you select the right material to read and I’ll share my tips on preparation and some techniques for a smooth and exciting reading.


Check out Hobart Festival of Women Writers Holiday Gift Guide. A book is always the right size.

Gift books

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Give a gift of truth and beauty. Purchase a Hobart Festival of Women Writers Calendar

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Twisting The Night Away






“We used to dream about Sam Cooke. We imagined we might be his girlfriend one day. I always think “we” because of my childhood BFF, CeeCee. She was my partner in Sam Cooke workship”    – from an essay by Breena Clarke in IDOL TALK

IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives edited by Elizabeth Searle and Tamra Wilson is a collection of forty-four essays on the women and men who influenced the mature selves of women writers. These are the figures who guided our growing up. In these delightful essays, we authors are at times lighthearted, but we are also frank and revealing and aware and descriptive of the zeitgeist of the teen idol era, that time between the end of the World War II up to and including the modern Civil Rights Era. And our idols were, by and large, rebels, visionaries, geniuses, innovators, and damn good lookers. And their looks were integral as they were served up to us on magazine covers and TV, the medium through which we came to know a great deal about our American culture. We know them as well as we know ourselves because we became ourselves, in some measure, because of them. I write about the sweet, dreamy, velvet-voiced Sam Cooke. Sam Cooke on YouTube  I still have a palpable reaction to his singing. I’m convinced there is no other voice like his or ever will be.



The victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing

I also write about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. I was twelve then, and Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson were fourteen years old and Carol Denise McNair was eleven. The four girls who died that day were casualties of the horrors of white resistance to civil rights. And the next year the Beatles came into my life in February 1964 and a little later Sam Cooke died in troubling circumstances in December 1964.

Young Breena

Breena Clarke

There’s Bonus material in IDOL TALk, too. The “then and now” photos of the writers including glasses, braces and goofy hairdos are fond, familiar glimpses of our youths.

I’m in great company in this anthology. The essays are written by Elizabeth Searle, Tamra Wilson, Darlene R. Taylor, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Kate Kastelein, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Lee J. Kahrs, Judy Goldman, Nancy Swan, B.A. Shapiro, Michelle Soucy, Amy Rogers, Ann Harleman, Linda K. Sienkiewicz, Janice Eidus, Katharine Davis, Jill McCorkle, Marianne Leone, Susan Lilly, Ann Hood, Lise Haines, Marianne Gingher, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Susan Shapiro, Marjorie Hudson, Morgan Callan Rogers, Leslea Newman, Leslie Lawrence, Katie Hafner, Lisa Williams Kline, Mary Granfield, Leslie Pietrzyk, Susan Woodring, Caitlin McCarthy, Stephanie Powell Watts, Ann Rosenquist Fee, Shara McCallum, Heather Duerre Humann, Lisa Borders, Mary Sullivan, Diana Goetsch, Emlyn Meredith Dornemann and Susan Straight. Wow! We cover a lot of ground.

Peter Noone, the former lead singer of Herman’s Hermits and a certified Teen Idol, wrote the foreword to IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives and he and his group are on our cover. I still remember my excitement the hot afternoon that I saw him perform on The Steel Pier at Atlantic City

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link here for a flash of fiction by Breena Clarke Bess


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Are you in NYC in August?  Come out to KGB Bar  for a reading from
IDOL TALK: Women Writers on their Teen Idols
Wednesday, August 8, 2018, 8:00 PM
85 East 4th Street, New York, NY
link for the reading lineup:


Motherhood in the time of slavery

Dossie Smoot

read this sensual yet troubling story of a pregnancy in bondage

The Summer Lolly

Also by Breena Clarke

Stand The Storm    purchase Stand The Storm at  Word Books in Jersey City or ask for it at your local bookstore.

From the beginning, Annie refused to pull back caring for her boy though. As well as she knew that she toyed with sorrow, she clung to the child. Hope was a feature on his face. She had put it there and she resolved to be clever and keep him. And if he were lost, then it would be her portion to swallow, for she was committed to love him. She later pledged in her heart to Ellen, too, but she was less ardent with her. She had got used to the hurly-burly exercise of love when Ellen came and could easily choose between the two. Annie guided Gabriel—nay, she had cut him if the truth be told. Here was a man she had shaped. She had trained him to be clever and she guided him to the clever path. The woman helping her bring Gabriel had been short with her, impatient of Annie’s writhing and bucking labor. The woman handled the baby roughly when he emerged and let him squall long minutes before bringing him to Annie. “Don’t give him the tit too quick! He’s got to learn right off that he’ll wait for his vittles like everybody else. He ain’t no king on a throne,” she growled. But Annie took him up and clutched him, and he latched to her breast and sucked and would not be loosed until his head fell back sleeping and a trickle of milk came from his mouth. “Ah, you’ll cry,” the irritable helpmeet pronounced as she left with her bandages and slop pans.

from Stand The Storm by Breena Clarke

read an essay on motherhood and loss Fifteen on MOM/EGG Review                   fullsizeoutput_32d1

Parenting in the time of slavery is necessarily fraught with peril. In Breena Clarke’s novel, ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE, young Dossie’s parents do the most difficult thing imaginable. They send their child off to uncertainty rather than have her suffer as an enslaved person on the Kenworthy plantation. They embrace a hope that, with the help of others, she can become free and live a better life (even if they don’t actually know what that better life would be). For them, the knowable horror of Kenworthy plantation is worth risking this child’s life and separating from her forever. Breena Clarke discusses

ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE and its depictions mothers, fathers, patriarchy vs. matrilineal constructs and parenting in the time of slavery.

. . . the most damaging aspect of the institution of slavery is the destruction of familial relationships through separation and the inability of enslaved parents to protect their children. It is in the interest of preserving families that the people of Russell’s Knob built a community, preferring to live apart from the mainstream in order to stay together with loved ones.

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Curiosity Tales on Four O’Clock Flowers

Beautiful green bird Link to Listen

Back Along The Octoraro

read by Breena Clarke

“Birds had already brought word. That was how she knew her beloved Papa was still alive though near his end. She was skilled in understanding the conversation of birds. She was accustomed to mimicking the talk of birds. She knew their cheer, their come-hither calls, their fear, their caviling, their dirges, their territorial songs. They recognized her gifts and, though they did not engage with her in direct conversation most times, spoke in her presence. They debated, they gossiped, they testified to facts and events around her.” from “Back Along The Octoraro” by Breena Clarke


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I learned to swim later in life. I learned well after I wrote a book about a girl who swims against great odds and in the face of personal tragedy, a fictionalized account of my mother’s young life. Read a synopsis of RIVER, CROSS MY HEART I learned to swim well after the death of my only child in an accidental fall. He’d been a swimmer. It means a lot to me to have learned this skill at age 49. It’s the linchpin of my health and fitness routine. I was brought to tears recently by the story of a young man who rescued seventeen people and a dog because he could swim because he was determined because he was courageous because his heart was strong. Most of all because he knew how to swim and was unafraid of the water. Virgil’s story  He was unafraid to act and I’m glad he’s getting a Civilian Medal of Honor. Check out the surprise his community gave him.


Virgil Smith (l) with his friend, Keyshaun whose life he saved

And then there were the two sisters, one of whom competed in the Rio Olympics on the refugee team, who swam for three hours in the Aegean Sea to prevent a boatload of refugees from sinking to their deaths. They were the only swimmers aboard and they saved eighteen people and themselves.  The two women leaped out of the boat, into cold waters and pushed the boat for three hours in open water to prevent it from capsizing — eventually making land.  Young Syrian woman saves a boatload of refugees   



Yusra Mardini


As summer approaches let’s make sure each child has the opportunity to learn to swim. In many cities, access to pools and swimming lessons is sparse. Be sure your municipality offers swimming instruction and access to safe pool environments for all young people. Encourage your youngsters to learn this valuable life skill. They may save a life, their own or others. They will acquire a lifelong practice that will help maintain fitness, promote confidence, and create a healthy mental state.  Check here for swimming classes in Jersey City Swimming classes for children and adults

Google your town for places offering swimming instruction and access. You may be nurturing someone who has the courage and intelligence to save others. They just need the skills. Make sure your child learns to swim.

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Personal Blueberry Cobbler





Mountain blueberries, held to have the power of magic healing in these environs, benefited the girl immediately. She gorged on them in a bowl of milk. It was said by lowlanders who had seen the mountain folk that they grew long-tall and lanky for reaching so far above their heads to dine on blueberries on the bushy tufts in the crevices of the highlands. Through the summertime in Russell’s Knob, few of the children’s mouths were colored anything other than dark purple. Each one a contented and laughing face.

——  from Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke read an excerpt

Highbush Blueberry

Blueberries are perennial flowering plants with indigo-colored berries. They are classified in the section Cyanococcus within the genus Vaccinium. Vaccinium also includes cranberries. Commercial “blueberries” are native to North America, and the “highbush” varieties were not introduced into Europe until the 1930s. – wikipedia

Dossie waited and let them ride up and tie the horse. She stood when Hat came onto the porch, and Hat nodded to her with formal courtesy as the woman of the house. Hat held out the buckets of blueberries and grinned.

——  from Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke read an excerpt

Blueberries are considered a superfood for their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Arthritis sufferers, get some. Click here for useful Blueberry Facts

I enjoy this low-sugar, portion-controlled blueberry dessert as often as possible.


Personal Blueberry Cobblers

for the diabetes-friendly diet

Four small ramekins

Two cups of fresh blueberries

One frozen pie crust

2/3 to 3/4 cup of Truvia baking blend – read the package for complete info

Two tablespoons of cornstarch

One teaspoon of ground cinnamon – also useful for arthritis

Two teas. of lemon juice

Two tablespoons of butter

Combine cornstarch, Truvia and cinnamon, add rinsed blueberries and lemon juice. Stir to coat the fruit. Fill each ramekin halfway. Cut four circles of dough with a large biscuit cutter or cup. Put strips of dough in berries. Fill ramekins, dot with small bits of butter, cover each with a circle of dough. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes until filling is bubbly and crust is lightly browned. Let cool.

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