Welcome to my website—

I’m excited to introduce my new novel, The Empty Cell. It’s about a 1947 lynching, and how it changed the lives of four people in Greenville, South Carolina.

In the wake of the lynching in 1947 of a young Black man named Willie Earle by a mob of cab drivers in Greenville, South Carolina, four people on the periphery of Earle’s life find their lives upended. Lee Trammell, one of twenty-eight cabbies acquitted at trial, is tortured by the idea that not guilty is not the same as innocent, and escapes in the only way he knows how. Alma Stone, who loved Willie when he was a child, loses her religion and flees the South, only to discover that Harlem is not the Promised Land she sought. Lawton Chastain, a closeted gay prosecutor, realizes he must destroy his settled married life if he is ever to have a chance at happiness. Betsy Chastain, on the cusp of adulthood, embarks on a passionate interracial affair that teaches her the power and limits of love and sex.

Against the backdrop of the social and racial strictures of the fifties, each of these characters struggles to find his or her own version of freedom. Each experiences loss, sorrow, and growth as the South begins its long march toward racial equality. Deeply authentic, rich in psychological insight, and eloquently told, The Empty Cell will keep readers immersed in its pages from beginning to end.

Paulette's Books


The Empty Cell by Paulette Bates Alden

A historical-literary novel, The Empty Cell follows four characters whose lives are upended by a lynching and trial in South Carolina in 1947 as they search for their own forms of freedom during the Jim Crow fifties up to the early days of the civil rights movement.

Feeding the Eagles

Feeding the Eagles is about loyalty and honesty, attachment to people and place, love and the inevitable losses of life.

Crossing the Moon

A woman’s struggle to have a child yields a joyful surprise- the birth of a new self.

The Answer to Your Question

After raising her son as a single parent, Inga Daudelin, reserved and steady, has accepted her somewhat lonely, quiet life, until she is blind-sided when her son is accused of the murders of four young women.

Unforgettable: Short Stories

The nine stories in UNFORGETTABLE: SHORT STORIES are about the presence of the past, the power of memory, and the enduring nature of love.

Paulette's Craft Articles

During my years of writing and teaching, I’ve written many pieces about what I’ve learned, especially from other writers, about the art and craft of writing. I hope you’ll find something of interest here.

Vivian Gornick on Situation and Story

  In her short book called The Situation and the Story, Vivian Gornick describes one of the most useful and…


Henry James’ Weak Specification–eek!

I live in fear of weak specification.  I consider it the eighth deadly sin: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy,…


Russell Banks’ Descriptions and “Try Harder”

I’m reading the new Russell Banks’ novel, Lost Memory of Skin, and I’m pretty enthralled with it. I’ll review it…


Louise DeSalvo’s Stages of the Writing Process

In an earlier post (July 24, 2011) I mentioned Louise DeSalvo’s excellent writing book, Writing as a Way of Healing, and…


William Sloane on Density in Writing

to discuss because it is not a separate element like plot or even characterization.  Rather it is a part of…


Shape in Writing: What is it and How do you achieve it?

Sometimes when I’m critiquing a piece of writing, I find myself trying to describe the indescribable. There are certain concepts…


Elizabeth Bowen’s Brilliant, Impossible Notes on Writing Dialogue

I had intended this piece to be about how brilliant Elizabeth Bowen’s notes on dialogue are, from her essay “Notes…


“Brainey” Ways to Write a Novel

I wish one (or more!) of you would tell me how to write a novel. I’m trying to write a…


Show AND Tell

“Show, don’t tell” is probably the most well-worn saw in teaching creative writing, supposedly originating with Aristophanes.  It’s not bad…


Writing a Book-length Memoir

For starters, you’re going to be overwhelmed. We might as well get that up front. Writing--or trying to write a…


A Writer Learns about Creative Process from Two Artists: Hopper and O’Keeffe

“So much of every art is an expression of the subconscious, that it seems to me most of all the…


Examining a Passage from The Goldfinch

I posted earlier on the brilliant, beautiful novel The Goldfinch.  I had to do so in broad swaths, given how…


The Goldfinch: A Brilliant, Beautiful Novel

A friend and I were talking about hyperbole in book blurbs and reviews the other day (I confess I don’t…


The Silent Wife: A Fascinating Novel Both Psychologically and Technically

I first became interested in The Silent Wife in when I read an August 4th, 2013  piece in The New…


A Hologram for the King: a Terrific Novel by David Eggers

I read a terrific novel while I was on vacation: Dave Eggers’s Hologram for the King.  Since I bought the paperback…


Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Writing Our Own Non-Studies of D. H. Lawrence

Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage [Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence] is just about the best non-study of D.H. Lawrence that…


Darin Strauss’s Memoir Half a Life: What Did He Owe the Zilkes?

This week in the online memoir course I’m teaching, the students are working on characterization, both their own and that…


Rachael Hanel’s “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter” plus Two Questions

The cover of Minnesota writer Rachael Hanel’s memoir, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a…

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

The Still Point of the Turning World: A Moving and Uneven Memoir

Emily Rapp was a creative writing student of mine at St. Olaf College in the early 1990s.  She was an…


The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers: a Mixed Review

I’ve been putting off writing a review of The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers’ novel about the Iraq war.  It was…


Contact Paulette

Sign Up for My Mailing List

All fields are required*