Monday, December 28, 2020


This is a beautifully told story of love, war, political upheaval that takes shape in the trenches of world war one, expands into the idyllic Tuscan landscape of vineyards and olive orchards. The lives of loves of three families dominate the story as they wrestle to better their lives and improve their fortunes against the forces of fascism and domination that take root in their midst.

I was drawn into this story by the power of joy and love manifested by Isabella, an orphan raised in a convent who gives herself without limit to healing those around her. At times, I wondered if I was reading about a medieval saint rather than the feisty and frank your woman she was. As I read, I realized that this story must have a sequel to resolve all the questions it raises and situations that the reader knows lie ahead.

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Shortest Day by Colm Toibin

 Too soon, and too intriguing to stop.

Little did I realize when I began reading this book, that it would be so short. No, I groaned. I want to know how and why Professor O’Kelly’s life would change after witnessing the elusive but certain shaft of sunlight that pierces the ancient tomb during the winter solstice. How it might or might not affect the lives of the dead entombed there. Who were not afraid of the unknown but honored and lived with uncertainty? Who were these dead who whispered through the long dark of each year? A tomb older than Stonehenge and the pyramids yet built with exquisite designs, spirals, and other geometric shapes.

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Scent of God Now Available in a New Edition

Originally published by Counterpoint NY in 2006 (hard cover) and in 2007(paper), Beryl Singleton Bissell’s memoir The Scent of God has just returned to print in a newly designed and revised edition.

Bissell was a teenager, when a powerful religious experience led her into a cloister in pursuit of divine, unconditional love.

Fifteen years later, her abbess sends her home to Puerto Rico to care for her ailing parents.  While there, she meets and falls in love with Padre Vittorio, a handsome Italian priest/professor at the University of Puerto Rico.

Moving from cloister to tropical island to romantic Italy, the story traverses a landscape of laughter, rage, and tears as Bissell learns that human longing is a but a prelude to life’s most perplexing questions. 
Purchase the Scent of God

In 2006, the Minneapolis Star Tribune named Beryl a Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors for her first book: The Scent of God: A Memoir (Counterpoint 2006, 2007), and a "Notable" Book Sense selection for April 2006. Her second book, A View of the Lake, (Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. 2011) was named a Best Regional Book for 2011 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Meanwhile Beryl is working on her third book, "The Glass Calyx: A Mother's Story" which picks up where The Scent of God leaves off and limns the years leading to her daughter's unresolved violent death at the age of 24 and its aftermath.

978-1-7345539-0-1 (print)
Story Oak Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota
Biography& Autobiography, Personal Memoirs

Saturday, September 7, 2019

From The Heart Fall 2019

Dear Reader

For much of this past year my world was saturated with words too heavy to write or speak. During that year, loved ones have died and my husband Bill still bears the scars of his encounters with respiratory failure, diabetic crisis and double pneumonia. Though it was spring, I felt muffled in a winter world. I moved through each day in a strange inner silence, capable only of coping with visits to the ICU and weeks of entire days spent in three different hospitals. Bill returned home in such a frail and weakened condition I moved in a vaporous world of uncertainty. Would today be my last with him? Would I be alone tomorrow? Thanks, however, to the effort of a blessed crew of doctors, nurses, and therapists and courageous efforts of his own, he is growing stronger. Buoyed by hope and filled with gratitude, I can now reach for words with which to reconnect with you, to let you know that though I was silent, you were never far from my mind.

Conscious of the rapid passage of time and my approaching 80th birthday, I wake each morning with a renewed sense of wonder at the gift of life. Bill is still with me and gratitude floods the entire day. I feel an added sense of responsibility to use this time well.

“We must trust in the small light we are given and to value the light we can shed into the lives of those around us . . . We live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light,” writes Kent Wilburn in his lovely little book Small Graces. I first encountered his writings in 1998 when we moved to Lake Superior’s North Shore. In an environment live with miracles, his quiet reflective words mirrored my desire to live a spiritual life and that is how I’ve tried to live most of my life. To remain open to the light present in every moment. To welcome each day as the miracle it is.
Assisi Heights MN

Our small book club is thriving. Together we delight in discovering the creative world within us. It has renewed my love of writing. While I have still not finished with The Glass Chrysalis, I’ve been working on bringing The Scent of God, which had gone out of print, back to life. I’d hoped to announce the publication of the new edition in this newsletter but life intervened and its rebirth has been delayed. It includes a wonderful new cover, beautiful interior design, the addition of an Introduction and an updated afterword. It should be ready early this fall. I shall keep you informed.
Meanwhile, may you be strong, may you be happy, may you be healthy. May you live your life with gladness. (Prayer of Loving Kindness)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A new presence

I wanted to create a presence of some sort on this very popular blogspot site.

I am a columnist for the Cook County News Herald and a frequent contributor to various regional magazines. My memoir, The Scent of God, was published in hardcover by Counterpoint NY in 2006 and in paperback this April of 2007. The book is basically a love story--love for God and love for a man of God -- and how by opening myself to both I became the woman I am today. It tells of the search for God that led me into a cloistered monastery at the age of 18 and the unraveling of that vocation 15 years later in Puerto Rico when I fell in love with a priest. The book takes the reader from a New Jersey cloister to Puerto Rico to Italy as faith and love collide in a story of love, death, guilt and redemption.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune named me a "Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors," and The Scent of God was a “Notable” Book Sense selection for April 2006 and has been nominated by Booksellers for a Midwest Booksellers Book Award.

My Journey to Publication and Life Thereafter blog is just that -- how an older woman found an agent who loved her manuscript so much that she sold it to a New York publisher in less than a week.

I hope you will come visit me at one or the other--or even better, both of the above blogs.

Into the Fire

In 2013, I attended a writing workshop offered by The Sun, a wonderful literary magazine to which I've subscribed for over 20 years. Titled "Into the Fire," the workshop was held at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Perched on a steep hillside overlooking the rugged Pacific coastline, the location boasted a breathtaking view, healing hot springs, acres of environmentally protected landscape and great food, much of it grown in its own organic gardens. The workshops the Sun offered were taught by authors such as Cheryl Strayed, Michael Shapiro, Ellen Haas  (if you haven't read her best-selling Wild, I'd recommend you do so, sooner rather than later

The Sun workshop

Monday, January 14, 2019

Beryl's January 2019 Newsletter

I began this newsletter on a glorious warm day in January and felt the need to reconnect with all of you, not because I had something important to say but simply because I’ve missed you. Today it is 10 ° F. Based on the paucity of my newsletters, it is clear that Inspiration departed and writers block took its place when we moved from our home on Lake Superior. During the nineteen years we lived within that magical landscape, it was easy to write. I’m saddened I’ve done such a poor job finding inspiration here.

Our new home is delightful. A residence for active seniors filled with warm and bright people who have become a family. It is a very busy, lively place. This busy-ness and immediate access to the many amenities offered by Metropolitan living, has given me an abundance of excuses not to write. When I was asked to help form a writers’ group here at RosePointe, I found a way out of my creative lethargy. I can’t sit by and let everyone write but me.

I have several thick red journals packed with years of quotations and notes on lectures and retreats that inspire me. While poking through current gleanings this morning—hoping to be jolted into creativity—I came across this notation from a retreat given by James Finley (one of Thomas Merton’s disciples and a well-known spiritual lecturer).

The task of spirituality is to allow God to love you. To discern God’s will does not mean to take a particular course of action. Whatever you choose is right even when you’re wrong. God is not waiting for you somewhere else because you’ve gone in the wrong direction. God is present to you now wherever you might be. I find this immensely comforting. Wherever I am, God is with me now. Now I can get up and write this newsletter.

Writing updates: My writing life is looking up now that we have a writers’ group. We had a meeting today in which I led a ten-minute writing exercise based on one of my favorite exercises: filling a page with words (action verbs, colors, sounds, objects and places), selecting five spontaneously, and quickly using them into one sentence. What fun.

Meanwhile, the work on the new edition of The Scent of God is nearing completion. It’s got a gorgeous new cover, intro and afterword. I’m getting back into the swing of the craft and believe that Its sequel might just complete its long gestation in the near future.
I hope the holidays brought you many blessings and that your happy days outnumbered the painful days. I pray this new year will be one in which we might work together to restore compassion to our nation and the world.