Amazon, Publishers, The Sun, The Wind & Writers


Long ago, the Wind and the Sun fought about who was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on. Aesop’s Fables

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“When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness. He was sure the pain wasn’t caused by hunger or trapped gas; it was from the buildup of months and months of worry.”

Here’s today’s reason we should support independent bookstores. Not long ago, I was browsing deep into the shelves of the Porter Square Bookstore, way past the “New Releases!” and “Staff Picks!!” tables, when the spring green binding of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin drew me. I’m not sure I would have found it any other way, so thank you reading karma that led me to Porter Square and Shoneyin’s book that day.

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Before She Wrote: Robin Black’s Former Selves


Guest Post by Robin Black


It’s strangely easy for me to forget now how miserable I was over a period of many years when I was still unable to write. My thirties. It’s not a time I like to think about, much less talk about, not because doing so brings the unhappiness back but because I’m ashamed.

You see, I wasn’t nobly unhappy, or quietly unhappy. I wasn’t graciously unfulfilled, strategizing with my husband in reasonable tones about possible changes I might make. I was a tantrum-throwing mess. I was a shoe-hurling, pan-slamming, screaming – literally screaming – nightmare. Not all the time, not frequently, and not with any human targets – often not even for the screams. But regularly, and memorably, for sure.

There was a hotel room in Aspen. “I hate everything, everything. I hate everything. I just can’t take it anymore.” Why in Aspen? “I hate everything, absolutely everything!”

I don’t know why the dam broke there, that time.

But this I do know: I did not hate everything. I hated myself. A lot. I so, so, so, so wanted to write. I so, so, so, so wanted to write. And yet, every time I made a start, I stopped. Not because I disliked the result. I thought I might be pretty good if I could just keep going; but instead I quit. I always quit. And I couldn’t understand it. How could a person simultaneously want to do something so much and be the only thing standing in her way?


The older I get, the more convinced I am that a lot of us suffer from this. We don’t let ourselves have what we want. We don’t even give ourselves a chance to try.  Often, I think, we don’t believe we deserve to have what we most desire, so get caught in this hellish place of knowing what our dreams are and being the obstacle to any chance of having those dreams fulfilled.

It’s been years and years since I felt anything like the rage I used to feel at my own inability to follow through. I have never, not even momentarily, been as angry at anyone else as I was at myself for all that time. I have never been as confused by anything as I was by the prison in which I had myself caged. It takes work now to remember the intensity of those feelings, but once I do . . . I don’t entirely understand how I survived such unhappiness, so much self-directed wrath.

Those were terrifying times for me.

But now, painful as those memories are, I find that I don’t want to abandon the woman I was. I don’t want her erased from the narrative, her anger and her many failings buried in a blizzard of smiling selfies: Late Bloomer Poses With Second Book.

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Ten (More) Books to Read This Summer

So, I was lucky enough to get asked to be on Greater Boston’s Summer Books programs with Julie Wu and Jabari Asim (whose recommendations were incredible) hosted by the book-loving Jared Bowen. You can see it here:

The problem though, was picking one book per the categories they put forth. I wandered my bookshelves (scattered among 6 rooms) trying to stay faithful to the rules they made (bring the book with you—and I lend books out all too easily) and those I made (a book that has stayed with me for more than a year, thus guaranteeing that it truly passed the barrier and entered the bookish bloodstream, but that I’d read (or re-read) within the past few years, and last, not be so old that folk couldn’t get it easily. Plus, the authors had to be alive—don’t even ask why

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How Jobs Taught Me What To Write

wordificator (2) Our writer’s code, written into our secret writer club rules, remind us that day jobs stand between us and a published novel. I understand. For years I thought if only and when and someday. And yes, working one, two, three jobs at a time took a big bite out of what would certainly have been my fast track to a Pulitzer. But slogging through, learning at, loving, and hating a number of jobs, that’s what formed and hold up my novels.

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James Patterson’s Grants to Independent Bookstores: Why They Matter

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Last Friday, Henriette Lazaridis Power and I spoke about writing, lying, rowing, Greece, shoplifting, being a chicken, infidelity, domestic violence, adoption and cookies in front of what seemed to be over 150 ardent readers. (I won’t say which topics where Henriette’s and which were mine. Sealed lips.) We were lucky enough to be chosen for the Friends of the Wolfeboro New Hampshire Library Annual Author Luncheon.

Many things were lucky for us: it was a truly warm, smart and engaged crowd. (They laughed at our jokes!) We got well cared for, well fed. The setting (Bald Peak Colony Club) was exquisite. The women in charge were on top of every detail. And, of course, hovering on the top of any author’s wish list: our books were sold. In a steady stream.

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I Am A Coward


If a coward dies a thousand deaths, and a brave one dies but one, then I have died at least a million times.

I live my life cowering (at least in the corners of my mind.) Okay, I may appear bold to some—haven’t I always stood up for my children, for other people’s children? Don’t I stand up to street toughs? Didn’t I work with criminals for many years?


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Give Mom Some Schadenfreude for Mother’s Day!

A year ago ago, at an event at the incredibly wonderful Reading Public Library (in Reading Massachusetts) one of the librarians bought my 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 Mother’s Day like cheating, anger, and hating-being-a-mother for Mother’s Day!”
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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Can You Define ‘Women’s Fiction’?


How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete? —Author Unknown

When did women’s fiction come to be? In 1956, the New York Times reviewed Peyton Place. It was called lurid, an expose, and earthy.” Grace Metalious is compared with Sherwood Anderson, Edmund Wilson, John O’Hara and Sinclair Lewis. I have no doubt that today (in our more feminist times?) she would be classified as a writer of ‘women’s fiction’ I’ve hit the caste system of novels before, from commercial versus literary fiction, to racial reading divides, to micro-indignities. Even name-calling. I thought perhaps I’d give it a rest this year, but alas my (woman’s? human?) hackles have once again been raised. A dear friend, whose soon-to-release book (okay, you pulled it out of me, it’s Robin Black and the book is Life Drawing) deserves everything from the NYT bestseller list to a National Book Award, has received excellent early reviews. (Life Drawing “might be the nearest thing to a perfect novel that I have ever read.”—The Bookseller, UK.)

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How Reading Formed Me, Saved Me & Opened My Eyes


“I go along with Albert Camus, who famously said, ‘The responsibility of the writer is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves,’ ” Matthiessen said. “And that’s always been kind of my informal motto.”

Listening to the soundtrack of my life this weekend (Yes. NPR. I am that person.) I caught the above quote from Peter Mattheissen, who died on Saturday, on a replay of his 1989 Fresh Air interview. He was fascinating for many reasons—for instance, when he founded  The Paris Review (with George Plimpton) it was tied in with his stint at the CIA, using the magazine as a cover for his spying activities. Then, he moved dramatically to the left politically.

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