What Beautiful Souls

In dusty, breezy classrooms I stand for eight, sometimes ten hours a day, depending on the day. I’m one of the fortunate ones. I don’t have a single classroom, or even a single location. I move from city to city, even on a single day, from school to school, walking across hot blacktop and behind dusty construction. All for the beautiful souls.

I love students, young people, for all their awkward, wonderful, perfect imperfections.

There’s the brave souls who seem to know themselves and push forward in original dress or make up, the shy ones who cower at the back of the class, the jocks, the nerds, the quiet and boisterous, the bright, bouncy, round, and rolling. The variety is marvelous to experience.

There’s the one who know what they want to do every day for the next thirty or forty years of their lives, and the ones who wander lost, stumbling through their education, and the one who thinks they know their sexual power, and the other who hides behind their hair.

They’re all so amazingly beautiful – without really knowing it.

Beauty lies in their movements, in their anxious thoughts, their mistakes and missteps and goals and exceptional struggle to achieve.

Many people are concerned that our future, the future of our planet or mankind is in trouble; but there is hope.

In their clean, fresh faced, pimpled, freckled beautiful souls – earth’s only fountain of youth is our youth.

I sometimes believe I became a teacher by chance, but maybe it was always my fate. In either case, I’m fortunate. One of my professor’s suggested I join the TA program. I didn’t know if I had the time, could afford the low pay. I was certain I’d flubbed the interview. I walked away believing that I would never hear from them. But I did.

And even now, all these years later, I get to stand in front of the class and watch these young people grow and flourish before my eyes. I watch them struggle and see their eyes brighten when they’ve met the challenge. It’s a gift.

I occasionally complain, shake my head. The pandemic and now post pandemic has not been easy. The lack of appreciation. But – the students.

They are not perfect, they are not fully formed, but they are lovely humans just trying to adjust to life. There’s a lot on their shoulders, and they’ve seen so much darkness. Let’s teach them kindness, let’s encourage their open minds and praise their open hearts.

Imperfection, struggle, growth, change, and challenges met create the beautiful souls – and I get to witness that miracle!

You probably think this is about you….

Naming characters, for some writers, is a complicated process. They want an original name for their original character. Perhaps they want something that describes strength and power, or maybe they want something that will tell a reader this person is a nerd. Maybe an old name, from their grandmother’s era, to say something about the character or their family.

For other writers, they log on to baby names and search through for the perfect one. The perfect one might be based on sound, consonants and vowels, rhyming, colors, meanings.

For me, sometimes, characters name themselves. The character develops and the name comes. For Our Gentle Sins, Jack’s name came to me like that. But some of the other characters were actually named for the students in the class that I mention in my acknowledgements. I was inspired by that class.

it was January 2017. The world was changing and people, some of my students, were afraid, others were angry. That semester, I was asked to teach the History of African American Literature. The students were expecting another teacher. When I walked in – they weren’t certain what to make of me or what this class might become.

I said – I love literature and we are here to learn together. If I say something or do something you don’t like – you tell me. Later, I was evaluated by our expert in African American Literature. He said, “never have I seen a class so open to talking about gender, race, culture – and being respectful about it!”

That was my rule – we don’t have to agree, but we should learn how to respectfully disagree.

It was a wonderful class.

Our Gentle Sins began just before the semester, I was so inspired that I would write before class as the students walked in and after class as they walked out. They asked me what I was working on – I told them. At one point, they asked me to read them a section. I agreed.

What I told them is that I’d been so inspired by the class that I’d named some of my characters after some of the names in class. Not after the students themselves because I didn’t match up characteristics between real person and student, just their names. They loved the idea.

Many, many times, I’ve had people think the story was about them or that the character was somehow inspired by them. I had, at least, one person (maybe more) stop talking to me because of a character name. I didn’t realize it right away. It was only when I looked back on our messages that I saw the dates and the topic – the story they were about to read. The name had NOTHING to do with them or the friend they believed the character to be named after. It was just a name and it felt right in that place.

The truth is – if I really disliked a person, I would never use their name, not for good guys or bad guys, not for the character who might die or a stray dog gracing the pages. Why would I want to be reminded of someone I disliked? The name might be similar – but it was never about them. It was a character.

Although my students appreciated I used some of their names, none of them felt I’d used them personally as the inspiration for the character.

Our Gentle Sins is about people finding their way in life – recovering from past mistakes. Aren’t we all?

The Care and Feeding of your Writer

Reviews are so important to the future of our books and our publishing. It’s the first thing customers look for and publishing companies look for when deciding to publish your work. For some reason, it’s difficult to get readers to review on Amazon, GoodReads, or Barnes and Nobel among others.

I get emails, text messages, letters – sometimes I get them through third party systems. And they’ve been sterling. But they have not appeared in any public place.

Please review, review review.

We love personal notes. I’ve had people send me things. How wonderful. I always respond to emails. And I include – please publish this review.

Beautiful Souls, your writer needs your reviews.

Meet the Author – Speaking of Memoir

While Our Gentle Sins is fiction, a number of my publications have been memoir. Ventura Country Writer’s Club asked me to come and speak on the topic. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned and lead a writing workshop. If you’re nearby, stop by!

Our Gentle Sins Now Available!

Ready, Set, Release!

Hello, dear readers!

I’m so happy to announce that today – today – today is the day Our Gentle Sins is available at your local bookstore.

You can also order here –

Another wonderful review came in by my good friend, Jo Rousseau.

“Ms. Lace has written a novel that is both gritty and tender. Her ability to create very real characters with very real emotions makes this novel a satisfying read. What makes the short fiction of Noreen Lace stand out is, not only Lace’s facility with language, but her ability to connect with her reader. She lays the soul of her characters at the feet of her readers and it’s impossible not to respond. In her fiction, Ms Lace creates a world of darkness and warmth. Her characters, although flawed, find a way to triumph over the hand fate has dealt them, moving forward and rising up through enormous odds. The journey: there-in lies the tale.” 

Jo Rousseau can be brutally honest – she told me numerous times during my writing process when the story wasn’t adding up, needed changes, or didn’t follow to a natural end. So – when she gives me a compliment, I know it’s as authentic as she is.

Once you order you read – please, please write a review. Thank you!

Just one more day! Pre-order Now.

You can order the digital copy of Our Gentle Sins now!

Print and digital copies will be available Tuesday, June 21st!

Thank you for your support!

Valerie Graham struggles to solve the growing problems of her new marriage when the full of life, artist and street racer, Jack, comes on the scene. Both her husband and Jack have secrets to protect. But for Valerie, it isn’t just choosing a man; it’s choosing the way she wants to live, who she wants to be. Will Valerie figure out that her life doesn’t have to be determined by a choice between Jack and Alexander before their secrets threaten her?

Our Gentle Sins is a story about recovering from past mistakes. Understanding who to have in your life, when to let go, and how to move forward.

REVIEWS:

“Lace takes a familiar story… and suffuses it with intriguing family drama.”
“…energetic prose…” “this is an appealing novel with relatable, flawed characters.” PW

“Lace has woven a wonderful tale with themes and characters that are universal and recognizable. Such issues as a woman’s personal sovereignty within a relationship, the oppressiveness, both subtle and overt, of patriarchy and the mixed blessings of liberation are explored. A wonderful, readable story, ideal for Summer reading. Kudos to Noreen Lace.” Ron Terranova

“Ms. Lace has written a novel that is both gritty and tender. Her ability to create very real characters with very real emotions makes this novel a satisfying read. What makes the short fiction of Noreen Lace stand out is, not only Lace’s facility with language, but her ability to connect with her reader. She lays the soul of her characters at the feet of her readers and it’s impossible not to respond. In her fiction, Ms Lace creates a world of darkness and warmth. Her characters, although flawed, find a way to triumph over the hand fate has dealt them, moving forward and rising up through enormous odds. The journey: there-in lies the tale.” Jo Rousseau

Book Review for Our Gentle Sins

Thank you to my fellow author and friend, Ron Terranova, for his review of my upcoming release, Our Genlte Sins, June 21!

  “Lace has woven a wonderful tale with themes and characters that are universal and recognizable. Such issues as a woman’s personal sovereignty within a relationship, the oppressiveness, both subtle and overt, of patriarchy and the mixed blessings of liberation are explored. A wonderful, readable story, ideal for Summer reading. Kudos to Noreen Lace.”

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