Balancing Shrill, Skill and Shill


“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln

Selling–the worst part of writing. Writing a book takes a certain set of skills: intense concentration, imagination, the ability to read the same 400 pages time after time, and the fortitude to take criticism (excuse me, ahem, critique) without weeping.  You must learn to shut out all noise at a given moment and you must love solitude.

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Worshipping at the Library Alter


“The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church.” A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.

Some books etch themselves on your soul. I don’t remember how old I was when I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Perhaps eleven? (Francie’s age when the book begins.) How many times did I read it after that? Ten? Twenty? Enough so that every scene, every character indelibly marked me.

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Before there was the movie, and the other movie, there was, The Book.

I liked the first movie.

I loved the second movie. Denzel Washington. John Travolta. Luis Guzman. What’s not to like?

But the book, ah, I loved the book.

“Steever stood on the southbound local platform of the Lexington Avenue line at Fifty-ninth Street and chewed his gum with a gentle motion of his heavy jaws, like a soft-mouthed retriever schooled to hold game firmly but without bruising it.”

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Rescuing Children With Happiness, Once Again


Being invisible is pretty hard for a kid. Crummy childhoods take many forms and usually it’s an amalgam of yuck. Smacks and screams thankfully have a time limit, but neglect is the evil gift that never stops.

Even the most benign neglect—like being a latchkey kid—can foster loneliness.

When trouble fills a family, kids are pushed to the background. I lived in a land of my own imagining, where I believed my real parents, President Kennedy and Jackie, had left me to fend for myself, testing a ‘cream will rise to the top’ theory. Meanwhile my beleaguered sister, by nine, was trying her sullen best to cook me supper.

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Posted in Childhood, Family, My Life, My Opinionated Self, Sisters | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments

The Push and Pull of Mothers and Daughters


2 Mom in GownI never met a book by Ruth Reichl I haven’t loved, and my adoration continued with this book. Where others were hearty meals, Not Becoming My Mother (retitled for the paperback as For You Mom, Finally) was a deceptively simple snack. (I’m certain that Ms. Reichl, editor of Gourmet Magazine, would find a more elegant food analogy, but I, alas, am but a quick and dirty cook, though one who loves reading the work of educated ones—like Ruth Reichl)

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mom in gown
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Give Mom Some Schadenfreude for Mother’s Day!

Two years ago ago, at an event at the incredibly wonderful Reading Public Library (in Reading Massachusetts) one of the librarians bought my second novel book, The Comfort of Liesfor her mother. For Mother’s Day. Using a large amount of not-usually-available-to-me control, I didn’t say any of the following:

“Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like a cheating, anger, and hating-being-a-mother book!”

In fact, that’s true. Who the heck wants to get Little Women on Mother’s Day? Not me. Does anyone want  to psychically compete with Marmee?

No. I. Don’t.
I want to be feted with a pile of books that say:

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Writers on Stage: 10 Tips for Readings in Public

man with feet in water

The first time I read in public (a Grub Street open mike event at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Mass.), I sucked.

Years later (no more experienced) with my debut book launch looming, I had to do better. Pre-publication months were spent attending bookstore events with a notebook (and money*) in hand.

Many of the ‘rules’ below I learned from either the awful readings I attended or the great ones. My first lessons in how-to-not-bore-people-to-death came from listening to and watching Boston (and Grub Street) authors Steve Almond (enormously funny, edgy, and self-deprecating) and Jenna Blum (extraordinarily entertaining, honest, and generous.) Learning by watching was invaluable.

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Debut Books by Writers Over 40

(first published in 2011)

Originally, I tried to resist writing this—especially after my plea against categorizing authors.  Plus, so many of us hide our age in this world of never-get-old, unearthing this information, even in our Googlized world, was difficult.

But when , along with the plethora of lists of writers under 40, I was faced with the declaration that, as headlined in a Guardian UK article about writers, ‘Let’s Face It, After 40 You’re Past It.”

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The Book I Miss this Week: Ice Bound a Doctor’s Incredible Battle For Survival at the South Pole, by Dr. Jerri Nielson with Maryanne Vollers

icebound book

(first published in 2009)

In the continuous stream of NPR that is my life, I just learned that Jerri Nielson died of breast cancer. Dr. Nielson wrote a book I’ve read more than once, and that has now become the final solidification of my vow not to lend out well-loved books.

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A Little Santa Baby on the Side



Oh, Santa. Baby. I’ve been writing about our tortured love for how many years?

In 2009 I shamelessly pled for you, staying together until finally breaking up in 2012.

In 2013 we acted like friends with benefits.

In 2014 we pretended everything from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas was one big bacchanal for us.

Then we went to therapy.

I think this might be the year of just having a little on the side (wondering if I should have married a member outside the tribe for the sake of the tree.)

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