“THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE ” by Marilyn Armstrong (Book Review)

Marilyn Armstrong:

Thank you for your kind words!

Originally posted on Traces of the Soul:

The 12-Foot Teepee by Marilyn Armstrong

This is the review I wrote at Amazon.ca for The12-Foot Teepee by Marilyn Armstrong:

I discovered this novel at Ms. Amrstrong`s blog here. I’m so pleased I did! Marilyn Armstrong takes the reader on a journey “with Margaret” as she builds this 12-foot Teepee, we are faced with her decluttering to make room for this refuge…place of tranquility and inner peace. I felt like I was on a two lane highway with her, one leading towards a teepee that will withstand New England winters {which I tried to imagine in my home, Montréal}; the other lane is looking back and painfully processing her abusive and heart wrenching childhood; we travel alongside her as she experiences life, heartbreak, joy, tragedy, grief, God, love and family. Her sense of humour and honesty is so refreshing. I cried on the bus, laughed out loud on the Métro…

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Marilyn Armstrong:

I always feel a little humbled when I realize someone is actually reading — and enjoying — The 12-Foot Teepee, by me. Thank you for this lovely review and for being lovely YOU!

In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Connect the Dots.

Originally posted on soul n spirit:


Yesterday only I purchased this book on kindle which has been written by none other than Marilyn Armstrong, Serendipityfame and today this prompt came as a surprise. For old bloggers Marilyn Armstrong and her blog doesn’t need any introduction. As far as new folks out there……Few words about the author:

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Once upon a time, I built a teepee. I painted the door and filled it with things I loved. I made the poles, sanded each by hand, peeling the bark from the 16-foot saplings we had cut in our own woods.


Then I wrote a book about building it, and about life, transformation, and other things, some funny, some sad, some just whatever. The manuscript for The 12-Foot Teepee took me about 7 months to write, about as much time to edit, then a few more months to design the cover and book. Getting it published, well … that’s another story.

This was my teepee.

It stood, through all seasons, for five years. Through snow and ice, drenching rain, hurricanes and hale, it stayed solidly anchored. This past summer, we realized the poles had rotted through. They could no longer support the canvas. And the canvas itself was mildewed and tears had appeared in various places. Its time was done. We took it down.

You can find the book on Amazon, both as a paperback and in Kindle format. It is The 12-Foot Teepee,  by Marilyn Armstrong.  My life has moved on considerably since then but writing it was a turning point in my life.

And for the years the teepee was mine, it was the one place in the world in which I always felt safe and at peace. I will always miss it. It was also the only space I’ve ever known which was entirely, completely, absolutely mine.

Oasis — A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.


Almost every month, Amazon informs sends me a bit of money from sales of my book. The amounts are enough to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut at Dunkin Donuts, but not enough for a cappuccino or anything at Starbucks. I’m always tickled that someone bought a copy. I’ve set the Kindle price as low as they will allow, so I don’t exactly make a killing on royalties.


I wrote the book in 2007. Publication date is officially September 27, 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” so to speak until 2008. I did lots of “author things.” Television interviews on local cable, radio interviews. I got a bit of nice local press.

I arranged book signings. They were fun, though turnouts were small. I got to meet other local authors, some of whom have become friends.

I sold a few hundred books. Not bad for a self-published book. For a while, I got royalty checks that were large enough for a cheap dinner for two at a local fast food joint. I briefly thought Teepee would be a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing failed. So much for Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. Like all new authors, I had dreams of glory. I dreamed of Hollywood and best-seller lists. I was deluded.

A highly personal book largely based on life experiences will sell only if written by a celebrity. Even celebrity tell-all books don’t do well, moving from display in the front of the store to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …”

Recently, I got to read a lot of books deemed “the best fiction of the year.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of anything. The overall quality is pathetic. Most of them are uninspired, derivative, and trite. Boring at best, unreadable at worst. Many will cause you gastric distress and lead to a burning need to read something involving wizards, vampires, and time travel.

Every now and again I bump into a winner … an author who can really tell a story, and a story that transports me to another place. I live for those moments. It’s too rare.

Which brings me back to my book. It is not deathless literature, but it’s better than most of the books designated as the best of the year’s fiction. My book has characters, humor, and the semblance of a plot as well as a good-faith attempt by the author (me) to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps how not to build a teepee). You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure it won’t bore you into a stupor.

These days, books that sell are mostly cops and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, fantasy, and the supernatural. Is the real world too dull to write about? Are we that boring?

If you are interested, you can buy the paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can borrow it for free.

I worry about the state of publishing. I am sure more good writers can’t find a publisher than can.

Why not publish more books? E-books cost nothing but storage space . Books like mine, published as “print to order”, don’t exist until after they are bought and paid for. It’s risk free and would be good for everyone.

I fear how many authors are ruined by their inability to play the marketing game. Writing a book is easy compared to marketing it. The race by publishers to put out only best-sellers doesn’t work anyhow. Most books flop, just as they always have.

As far as I can tell, most acquisitions editors wouldn’t know a great book if it bit them on the ass. It’s not that I’m so great and couldn’t get a reading, a publisher, or an agent. It’s that what does get published is so dreadful.

Cover Art – Weekly Photo Challenge

Guest host Pete Rosos invites you to imagine the cover of a favorite book, music album, or magazine.

I don’t have to look far for this since I actually did write a book. I wrote it, designed the interior layout and the cover. The cover, spine, and back required multiple iterations, but eventually I think it came out pretty well.


teepee book back

You can, if you like, actually buy the book which is available through Amazon both as a paperback and for Kindle. Some people think it’s great and I deeply appreciate their kindness.

I wrote “The 12-Foot Teepee” about seven years ago. I think. Hard to remember. So much has happened since then and I’m in a very different place spiritually. In other ways, I’m in the same place.

The lessons I learned are as relevant today as they were then.

I don’t know if my “now” place is better, but it’s different. Life … for all of us … is a moving target. Change is part of being alive and we are not the same people from one part of our life to the next. That’s a good thing because if we stop changing, we die — mentally and emotionally. Change IS life. However — when you are a writer, it’s more than a little unnerving to encounter a past self in your own book.

It’s difficult for me to appreciate “Teepee” the way others do. I tend to focus on how I should have phrased that part differently. It reminds me how much I and my world have evolved since I wrote it, which is sometimes as if I am channeling an alternate version of me.

I’ve learned a lot about using Photoshop since I put this together and I think I’d make a classier cover now than I did back then. Mind you, I’m not unhappy with the cover. Pretty good for an amateur.

In any case, I can’t replace these covers. The teepee no longer stands. Last year, after 6 years through all seasons, her poles were rotted and the canvas moldy. A bobcat had taken up residence there. She needed to be put to rest.

I miss my teepee.

THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE by Marilyn Armstrong – Available for Kindle and as a paperback.



Obviously I didn’t write this.I would be embarrassed to say this much nice stuff about me, but I have to admit I’m delighted. In the midst of the craziness of my life, all of a sudden I’m getting wonderful reviews of the book I’d pretty much given up on. It never went anywhere. I’m not even sure I know how to find my publication website … or have any idea what my password is. Or anything.

If nothing else, it’s humbling that there can be such a huge disparity between my perception of the book I wrote and other people’s view of it. That I might not be the best judge of my work goes without saying … but to be 180 degrees out of alignment forces me to wonder what else I’m completely wrong about.

teepee book shelf

In any case, I have taken the liberty of copying and pasting the review here because I have no idea how one reblogs a review that isn’t on a blog. And this is on the Canadian Amazon site, making it even more inaccessible. The title of the book is also a live link to the source, so please visit that site too. The author deserves your support.

I’m beyond grateful for this review. I’m touched and encouraged. This is a difficult time for me, for obvious reasons. Having something so nice happen right now makes me feel (sorry about the pun) heartened.


5.0 out of 5 stars

The fascinating construction of a life Jan. 30 2014

By Jiibo Dyallo

Format: Kindle Edition | Amazon Verified Purchase

Marilyn Armstrong is a widely read blogger on WordPress, and that’s how I became aware of her. I thought, ‘anyone who writes this well must have written at least one book.’ The 12-foot Teepee, in fact, is the name of the book and the basis of the blog’s URL, teepee12 dot com.

Tempus fugit, especially for daily bloggers. Marilyn tells me, in correspondence, that she’s no longer quite the same person as the one who wrote the book. As a former resident of Jerusalem, though, she says she once lived near a place where archaeologists found “a Canaanite temple, on top of which (pillar on pillar) stood a Greek temple. On top of which (pillar on pillar) was a Roman temple. On top of which was – you guessed it, pillar on pillar – a synagogue.” No doubt today’s Marilyn stands pillar on pillar on the one who wrote this book, and I think that that keeps the book current. A life contains its own archaeology, and what is an autobiography (as I assume this is, in essence) if not a tell?

Protagonist ‘Maggie,’ as a child, was sexually abused by her father. That revelation is how the book begins. I worked for an LGBT newspaper in the 1980s and kept current on feminist and lesbian literature during the period when the magnitude of familial incest was first being disclosed to the world. I’ve read many dozens of accounts – brief, elongated, literary, plain, agonized, detached – by people who endured this experience. Also, I’ve read numerous complex bestsellers embedding the theme, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and Anne-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees. I noticed right away that Marilyn was somehow overcoming the saturation factor and writing highly readable text. Perhaps it was her style of writing – plainspoken enough to be nodded at by Hemingway, yet subtly full of craft. Her approach was fresh, and witty at appropriate moments. Perhaps there was some engaging mystery, too, in the enigma of her father as an inconspicuously, but almost incomprehensibly, evil man. I’m not sure if I would even have credited Marilyn with restraining herself from exaggeration if I hadn’t read M. Scott Peck’s monograph on such folk, People of the Lie. I knew that such individuals really do exist. In any case, Marilyn’s way of telling the tale with judicious truth but without a show of anguish, and without the jargon that is now often used in such accounts, made the difficult events completely readable.

The book then progressed through subtly interwoven anecdotes to the unveiling of related tales: the construction of a knock-off Sioux-style teepee as a project for self-healing and for spending quality time with a lively granddaughter; the concurrent battle with spinal problems and surgeons of greater and lesser competence; and the challenges of new-found poverty for Massachusetts people caught up in the tech bust of the 1990s. This all sounds daunting, not to mention rather random and terribly personal, but Marilyn makes it as vivid and coherent a piece of writing as you will find anywhere. She wins your heart. The feeling that you want things to go well for her (I don’t know her personally at all apart from a couple of emails back and forth among fellow bloggers) turns out to be a waterslide of suspense that runs you right through the book from beginning to end. She also integrates a spiritual journey from secular Judaism into Christianity that is neither dwelt upon nor glossed over – it has its time and place in the story – and it also arouses interest – regardless, I should think, of the personal persuasion of the reader. The bottom line, though, is that Marilyn is a writer who can captivate you with a tale of how her son pieced together PVC pipe sections to make wobbly teepee poles. I can’t imagine what topic she couldn’t make interesting.

I think that this book deserves more attention than it’s had. Marilyn is not sure that it does – she says in her email that she has, to some extent, returned to religious skepticism in recent years. Life has gone on. The tell has mounded up further. Where a church once stood in her psyche, a big community teepee for comparative religion and degrees of religious belief now stands, pole on pillar. Its architecture is newer than the book.

If you have a sense of discovery, though, you still need to know how it got there, and this book is the only dig that’s been done.

The 12-Foot Teepee by Marilyn Armstrong

Once upon a time, I built a teepee. I painted the door and filled it with things I loved. I made the poles, sanded each by hand, peeling the bark from each 16-foot sapling we had cut in our own woods.

Then I wrote a book about building it, and about life, transformation, and other things, some funny, some sad, some just whatever.

The manuscript for The 12-Foot Teepee took me about 7 months to write, almost as much time to edit, then a few more months to design the cover and the book. Getting it published, well … that’s a whole other story.

In winter.

This was my teepee.

It stood, through all seasons for five years. This summer, the poles could no longer support the canvas, and the canvas itself was mildewed. Its time was over and it came down.

I don’t think there will ever be another. Building it was a rebirth. A physical teepee is nothing but a bit of canvas and sticks, the rest is spirit, love, and hope. I knew it could not last forever, and it lasted as long as any teepee could in this climate … especially since I left it up through the winter … but I miss it and always will. I had some of my best hours in my teepee … the only place in my world where I could always sleep.

My favorite time in the teepee was when the snow was falling and I was cozy by my fire. It was the most peaceful place in my world.

You can find the book on Amazon, both as a paperback and in Kindle format. It is “The 12-Foot Teepee,”  by Marilyn Armstrong. You can read excerpts from it online. Eventually I’ll post some pieces of the book here. Just not tonight.

My life has moved on considerably since then but writing it was a turning point in my life.