Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Every writer should have a professional library that includes books aimed at both the craft and business of writing. Here are a few of the resources you'd find on my shelves. (This list is tailored for U.S. writers, but I am sure there are equivalents in your countries.) You won't need every book or magazine on this list, but you'll definitely find at least some of them useful.


Some of these will get you started. They won't all work for you, but they will get you started.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Big News!

I am pleased to announce that my debut novel, Darling Girl, will be published Fall 2018 from Green Writers Press / Green Place Books! Official press release to follow.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Moon Walk

48 years ago today, a boy drove an old post office truck from Atlanta to Baton Rouge across a hurricane-ravaged coastline to spend the day with me. He brought two friends to share the driving. They arrived in our temporary home, a two-bedroom apartment – a stop along the way to some other place. My mother fed them and found room for them to sleep while she moved me into her room along with my youngest brother to preserve my virtue. I remember being glad my father wasn’t there to spoil it all. That night, he and I, with my family and his friends, watched a man walk on the moon. After that wonder, we made out in the back of the truck, so hot and so sweaty in the Louisiana dark that we could hardly hold on to one another. He held up my long and heavy hair and blew on the back of my neck to cool me off. I touched his face – high cheekbones, straight nose, soft lips to memorize it forever. We were the only two people in the world when men walked on the moon. In the morning, he and the other boys drove away while I cried and my heart broke. Later, I lay on the couch with my head in my mother’s lap while she stroked my hair and told me there would be other boys. There were, but none like him.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Novel News

The Untitled Manuscript finally has a title. I can't reveal it just yet, but I'll be letting you know very soon. I am so excited!

Monday, April 24, 2017

It was the early nineties and I'd just embarked on my third career as a middle school Social Studies teacher. I meant to be an English teacher but there wasn't an opening at the school where I wanted to teach. The principal called and said she had a social studies opening and the certification test was tomorrow and I should take it. I did, I passed, and now I had 150+ 8th graders to whom I was to teach  mostly American History from the arrival of humans through Reconstruction, along with some geography, civics, and some other stuff I wasn't sure about.

I wasn't exactly prepared. My history was learnt mainly from old movies with Paul Muni playing a leading role. I'd been taught the America Revolution as the War of Colonial Rebellion in Australia and the American Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression in Atlanta. I knew more about the Boer War and the English atrocities committed therein than I did about the Genocide of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S.

Nevertheless, we muddled through. I was often only paragraphs ahead of my students. Sometimes we learned things simultaneously. We didn't always follow the syllabus exactly. We weren't tested in those days so there was some flexibility in what I taught. We made windows for imaginary cabins out of brown paper and lard. We cooked cornbread in Dutch ovens we buried just off the soccer field.i dressed as Christopher Columbus when we read from his ships’ logs.

About the time we were to start studying the Articles of Confederation, I learned that the kids were to read The Diary of Anne Frank in English class. I asked my colleague what she taught about the background and was stunned to learn that the two brief non-fiction selections in the textbook were all she had planned. There was no time for more, not if they were to cover the play in one six weeks. That’s right, the play not the actual diary. Not the text written by a girl their age in her own words that exquisitely describes what it is to be an adolescent, but a forty-year-old play script. Not the book that I devoured in Johannesburg one cold and wet weekend. Not the book that helped shaped the way I look at the world. (BTW: One of my pet peeves: unless you are involved in theatre, you are never going to need to read a script. You can learn that on the job. Total W.A.S.T.E. of time. You want to teach kids about plays, take them to the theatre!) But not my department, not my concern. I bit my tongue and moved on.

Then one day, as kids entered my classroom, I overheard, “I don’t get it. Why were they in an attic with people they didn’t know? Why didn’t they just leave?”
I flipped into overdrive. Screw the Articles of Confederation. We were going to background the heck out of the Diary. My students would understand why the Franks hid in the attic. They would understand what led up to their going into hiding. They would understand who the Nazis were and what they did. They would understand.

Daily boxes arrived containing copies of the diary so they could read the original text, videos that showed Kristallnacht and reproductions of propaganda. The Holocaust Museum in D.C. had just opened and I got them to send me everything they could including the biographies of 120 children who were murdered during by the Nazis. I took a seminar in Boston from Facing History and Ourselves. We immersed ourselves (as much as we could) in what it was like for European Jews during and after the rise of the Nazis. Colleagues asked if I was Jewish and, if not, why did this matter to me. I just said that it was important that they understand the context of what they were reading. My students devoured whatever I offered them.

Then, and I don’t remember this part very well, I became involved with the Day of Remembrance committee. My friend Regina Rogoff, whose daughter Sarah would later be my student, may have introduced me. Ultimately, my students were offered the opportunity to participate in the Yom Hoshoah activities to be held at the state capital, a ten minute bus ride from our campus.  I could only take one class, the one just before lunch – thirty-two eighth graders. We would only miss my class and lunch which we’d brown bag on the capital grounds after we done our bit.
Our bit was to read names for an hour during the twenty-four hour vigil that was being held in the new underground rotunda of the capital expansion. The committee provided us with a list of names of victims of the Holocaust. We divided our list and each student spent hours practicing the unfamiliar Eastern European names which proved challenging for tongues accustomed to the rhythms of Hispanic and English names. I mustered a roll of quarters, a bunch of brown bag lunches, a bag full of bananas for desert, our list of names, and the courage to load 32 eighth-graders onto a city bus.
As we boarded and they dropped quarters into the fare box, I watched the horrified faces of the passengers. We might have been a Mongol horde descending from the steppes to pillage civilization. The day before our outing I had given them a version of the speech my mother always gave us when she took us out in public. “Remember, today you represent not just yourself, but all eighth-graders. You represent your families, our school, the Austin Independent School District, and your respective ethnicities. Finally, you represent the people whose names you will read. You cannot let any of thee groups down.” No pressure.

Our bus ride involved minimal pillaging although one kids left his lunch on board and a passenger chased us down to return it. We trooped into the capital under a vow of (almost) silence. We signed in and took our places in line, each child clutching a photocopied paper with the names they were to read carefully highlighted. They ran the show; I was a bystander in this event.
The underground rotunda is divided into a group of skylighted alcoves. A reader stood in each of these alcoves, names read non-stop for twenty-four hours. I watched with pride as my students flowed in and out of the alcoves, carefully reading from their prepared lists and returning to our line, now formed up slightly out of the way. Somehow, a sunbeam illuminated each reader. One student told me that it was if we were sending the names up to God. We were quietly discussing our luncheon on the lawn when one of the organizers approached me. The next group of readers wasn’t here yet. Could we fill in for a while?

You don’t just spring things on eighth-graders. They need preparation. They don’t like to be surprised. I turned to the group waiting and asked, “What do you think?” Their response was immediate and unanimous. Yes, they would do it. Just give them the names. One student voiced a concern I know they all shared, “What if we mispronounce the names?” Another answered him, “God will know who we mean.” I coughed and turned away to hide tears.

We kept rotating through. Occasionally a student would check with me about pronouncing a name. I stood and watched as they took over organizing which names would be read next. They ate lunch standing in line waiting to read, making sure they didn't make a mess in this secular space space become a sanctuary. They were their best selves. When relieved, we raced to the bus stop, pushing our deadline. We disembarked at the corner nearest the school and suddenly they were their everyday selves again, jostling, laughing, noisy kids as we raced to their next classes. I hope that on Yom Hoshoah, those students remember victims of the Holocaust with true understanding, but that they also remember themselves on that day

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The State of the Thing

My novel is now closer to done than not. This picture shows the view behind my desk. The chapters in blue are complete and edited. Chapters in pink are in progress. Chapters in yellow are yet to be written down but are in my head. The chapters in green are really well written but don't advance the plot. I'm calling them interludes. They may have to go. Or maybe I'll post them here as "extras." Keep watching this blog for exciting news about my novel.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Writing Retreat

Revised 11/4/2016

     Last weekend I attended a writing workshop that, in some ways, I found transformative. A diverse group in age, geographic origin, style, and more, it was incredibly informative to be immersed in my craft and to be exposed to such variety of voice, tone, and style. Hosted by the talented and inspiring Ariel Gore from the Literary Kitchen, it helped me explore topics that I usually avoid. One of the writing prompts inspired the following which I plan to use as I work on my novel during NaNoWriMo 2016.

On the Altar of Writing

  • The perfect journal
  • My music playlist/mix tape – music that features in the book
  • Museums everywhere – Vermeer, Van Gogh, Velasquez, Khalo, Gentileschi, Cassatt, Matisse, Mondrian,
  • The family picture in which I wear a yellow sweater and all of us wear frightened looks
  • My passports – past and present
  • Rocks from the beach where three oceans meet
  • The sound of my mother’s voice reading aloud
  • The warmth of my father’s gaze when he was happy
  • The loss and gain of moving and moving and moving…
  • My mother chewing her lower lip
  • My Granny, hand on her cheek, little finger on her lip, and all her memories in one dented cookie tin
  • My grandfather’s round belly which is now always with me
  • My grandmother’s tight-lipped mouth and saved ration cards. You can’t use the cards if you have no money.
  • Uncle Larry’s glass eye
  • Long dead aunts and uncles I never met
  • Colored pens and pencils
  • The grocery money that sent me to junior college dressed as a candy striper
  • A long history of women making bad decisions over men and making bad decisions in general
  • The memory of dead babies – hers and mine
  • Every word I ever read
  • Australia, Africa, Antarctica, China, and all the other places I have been
  • The sound of my father, my father, my father
  • Every word, every word, every word…


I seek the perfect journal; the one which will reveal all the stories I have to tell. Hand-tooled leather. Silk wrapped. Hand-made paper. I have shelves of failed attempts at perfection, some still wrapped in plastic. All beautiful but sterile. They offer no respite from this longing to deliver what waits inside me.

I know only parts of my mother’s story, the parts that intersect with mine. She is puzzle forever missing pieces. I see her as if from the corner of my eye, fleetingly in and out of focus. Gone before I can turn and catch her.

Someday, somewhere in a nursing home, I will show my passports to anyone who stops to pass the time with me. “See,” I will tell them, “I went to China to teach English. To Antarctica to see the penguins. To South Africa the year that Nelson Mandela went prison for life.” I was not always this remnant, this cast off. Men and women came when I crooked my finger or smiled a certain way. 

Not one of them knew I cared.
tbc