The Year Google (and Goya) Saved Thanksgiving


I don’t care how many people shed tears for the good old days, before we were so connected, before life sped before our tapping fingers: Web, thee did save me.

My sister and I may not have grown up rife with traditions–when when Jill and I hung our socks on Christmas eve, the flat unfilled sight of them the next morning may have reminded us that Santa didn’t stop for little Jewish girls–but darn it, we had the stuffing handed down from Grandma Millie. If we were on death row, our last meal would be the stuffing.

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Get a Manuscript Critique and Help Care-Givers: One Stone, Two Great Birds


There is a wonderful Yiddish proverb that describes those carrying troubles: “God gave burdens; he also gave shoulders.” But sometimes those shoulders need help. In the case of this CAREGIFTED fundraising initiative, writers–from world-renowned to beginners–are providing that help as writers bid on manuscript critiques provided by celebrated authors.

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The Ben Chart

wheel with ben font


From Accidents of Marriage. Read an excerpt here.


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Break-Your-Heart Books

Write a book that breaks your own heart. That’s one of the reminders I wrote myself before outlining my novel. (The other was don’t rescue your characters—a reminder not to fall so in love with them that I couldn’t bear having them in pain.

Whether or not a book digs deep and delivers the bones of an author’s truth—through memoirs revealing facts or novels delivering emotional authenticity—is apparent upon the reading. These are the books that pop me in the heart or provide moment of reality mirrored back.

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Halloween nears. Winter approaches. In the Northeast we face snow shoveling, icy roads, and bleak grey skies. Our rewards? Sundays curled on the couch with a great book. I could offer lists of classics you can finally settle into, uber-literary masterpieces to read with your dictionary at your side, or I can tell the truth. There’s nothing like a ‘gotta know’ book to get you through a blizzard. (Think Gone Girl … those books you absolutely must finish, cause (as Stephen King says in On Writing) you ‘gotta know’ how it ends.

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A Furious Love

Alan before

While readying to write about Professor Cromer Learns to Read, I searched for a quote or statistic that would put in perspective the overwhelming job families have caring for brain-injured loved ones, words that said how much we are failing brain injured soldiers returning from war, athletes cast aside after they’ve suffered irreparable damage to their brain, those who’ve fallen, those who’ve been in car accidents—all our mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, friends, partners, and children who struggle to make it back and most of whom will never be the same.

As Cromer says about many things, “all the above is true”, but instead, I’ll offer the words Janet Cromer said to her brain-injured husband each night:

“Alan, the joy of my life is waking up with you each morning. The joy of my life is going to sleep with you each night.”

Before his acquired brain injury, anoxic brain damage (and later dementia

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From Metal Sculptor to EMT to Novelist: “An Unseemly Wife”— A Fascinating Look At E.B. Moore


Nichole Bernier talks to E.B. Moore about publishing her debut novel at 72: “The Amish life is exotic to behold and comforting, a little like going to a habitat zoo to watch the slow march of elephants cropping grass with their trunks and blowing dust over their backs.”


When I first moved to Boston and began attending literary events, I noticed a striking woman who seemed to be at all of them. She was statuesque and ageless, with long white braids piled on top of her head, blue eyes twinkling and, at the same time, penetrating behind wire-rimmed glasses. Reserved, but appeared to know everyone. Usually in jeans, wool socks, sneakers, and a sensible Oxford blouse. Extraordinarily good posture. Who was she?

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20 Fiction Techniques . . . Quickly

During my (self-guided, self-nagged) courses in my ‘Homemade MFA’ I did many things: I read stacks of books, I read multiple favorite novels with an analytical eye, I participated in multiple writer’s groups and revised, revised, and then revised some more. And, I wrote ‘papers’ for myself, in an attempt to distill down all the fantastic advice I’d gleaned from those book stacks.

What I couldn’t learn from the books was ‘voice,’ ‘passion’ or ‘perseverance’ — that required mining my own soul and level of commitment; what I could learn was those all important, and too often ignored, techniques that make one’s prose more sophisticated. Gathering from all the sources I could find, I make my “Cliff Notes for Fiction Techniques” otherwise known as Common Fiction Issues in Super-Short, Simplified Format.

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First Paragraph Love


I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Opening to Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I read that sentence and I immediately want to re-read Middlesex.

Sometimes I think I can write an entire  book in the time it takes me to revise the first paragraphs of a novel. At the very least, I can write 3 chapters in that time. Lately, as I’ve been lost in the world of revision, when I read, I find myself studying the first paragraph.

What do I want from that introduction? Set up. Intrigue. A gotta-keep-going.

After my brother went missing, my parents let me use their car whenever I wanted, even though I only have a learner’s permit. The didn’t enforce my curfew. I didn’t have to be excused from the dinner table. The dinner table, in fact, had all but disappeared, covered with posters of Danny, a box of the yellow ribbons that our whole neighborhood had tied around trees and mailboxes and car antennas, and piles of the letters we’d gotten from people praying for Danny’s safe return or who thought they saw him hitchhiking along a highway a couple states away. I didn’t have to do any more chores.” Opening to The Local News by Miriam Gershow.

It’s impossible for me not to continue reading a book with that beginning.

Each time I try convincing myself that I don’t have to spend hours, weeks, days on the opening, I remember my own book buying habits:

Go to bookstore. Pick book up (based on some inexplicable reaction to the title, recognizing the author’s name, or perhaps the color of the jacket?)  Open book. Read first paragraph.

Read book flap. Glance at blurbs. Briefly. Neither of those will make or break a purchase for me, but the next step will. I open the book and read the first

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Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped the Frank Family By Miep Gies with Alison Leslie Gold

anne frank book

“I am not a hero. I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I 

anne frankdid or more—much more—during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the hearts of those of us who bear witness. Never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened then.


More than twenty thousand Dutch people helped to hide Jews and others in need of hiding during those years. I willingly did what I could to help. My husband did as well. It was not enough.” (from the prologue.)

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