Nicky Mendenhall

You Were There Too was full of unexpected surprises. You can rest assured, I am only going to disclose one. This post will not be riddled with spoiler alerts.


After reading a review of this book in the New York Times Book Review, I filled out a form for the Urbandale Library requesting them to purchase it. They notified me when it arrived. I love the Library!


I started reading immediately, meeting the protagonist, Mia, who had recurrent dreams of a man she never met.  She soon meets this man, learns his name is Oliver, and is shocked when he reports dreaming dreams which feature her. Mia’s husband suspects that the man is trying to seduce his wife.



The morning after I finished reading about Mia and her mystery man, I woke up remembering a dream featuring our grandson James. In the dream I asked James how he was and he looked at me with an enormous smile and said, “I’m good!” He said it with so much conviction that when I woke up, I had to call him.  His mother told me of an app we can use to see him in real time. It won’t be a dream trying to download and learn how to use but probably will offer more consistent views of James than the dream world.


I’m fascinated with dreams and wondered how the author, Colleen Oakley, would write about dreams, however, the main reason I kept reading was not because the story was gripping, though sometimes it was, but because it was evident that this author was showing not telling.



One of the rules that seems universally accepted in my quest to learn how to write: Show don’t Tell. I noticed quickly that Oakley was a master at this. For example, instead of a mundane sentence explaining she came home to her husband after a long day, Oakley writes:


“I quietly turn my key in the dead bolt and slip in the front door, eager to get to our room, to curl up beside his warm body in our bed, but what I see when I flip on the foyer light stops me in my tracks.”


See what I mean?


And here’s how she shows, not tells, her response to a psychic reading her friend drags her to:


“Everything stops. The whooshing sound in my ears. The shrinking room. My beating heart. I stare at her mouth.”



I had to keep reading to see how many times Oakley could show me what Mia was going through. I’ll say this, Mia went through a lot in this book!



Why do you keep reading a book? Dawn Downey*, a writer friend of mine, writes that in order for her to keep reading a book it needs to: “Make me cry. Make me laugh. Make me smart.”  This book didn’t make me cry but I did gasp a few times and it taught me the power of writing to show not tell. I’d love to know what keeps you reading a book. Please scroll down and leave a comment.  If you could share a passage from a book that utilizes the adage, show don’t tell, pass it along – I’d love to see what you find.



CLUE: Before you go to sleep  tonight, ask a question that you want a dream to answer. See what happens and let me know.  Can we use the dream world as another source of information?



IMAGE: Photo with a dream-like quality by Mason Hiatt taken at the Sculpture Garden, Downtown Des Moines.


*Check out Dawn’s website at 



4 Responses

  1. Nicky, Thanks for quoting me! I’m fascinated with dreams, too. My dad was a writer and writing teacher, who died a couple decades ago. I was stuck on an ending to an essay and when I went to bed, asked him to help me. When I woke up the next morning, I had the whole ending paragraph in one piece. Had to write it down fast, no editing required. You Were There Too sounds excellent. I’m getting it ASAP.

    • You are most welcome Dawn. I love the story about your Dad helping you with a dream!
      Thanks for sharing that – it is so inspiring.
      Let me know what you think about You Were There Too!
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Love this post, the show don’t tell idea is the thing that makes me love reading. I’ll read a passage that is such a small piece of the book and wish I could write just one thing like that, let alone a whole book. The other thing I notice is that if you are puzzled by something in the book that I am assured it will be clarified in the next few sentences. I wonder if the publisher has a role in this?

        • Boy do I know what you mean – “write just one thing like that” – oh yes – I feel that often.

          As for puzzled by something and then it is clarified – I think the editor is the person that
          makes sure there is a flow and the questions answered. At least that’s what my editor is doing
          for me. “What do you mean by that?” she inquires and I have to work to make it clearer.

          So glad the post connected for you. Thanks for your loyal reading and commenting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *