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Tell Me

I have a friend I don’t see very often.  When I do, and we’re catching up, she launches into stories about her life that are interlarded with names and events of which I know nothing.  It means that I feel both bewildered and shut out.  I think she believes that because she knows all these things I, as her friend, must know them too.  But it frustrates me, and I’m pretty sure that’s not her intent. There are books like that, too. I love twisty stories that demand my full… Read more Tell Me

Miss Vickers Does Not Regret

I love the work of Sinclair Lewis.  Even though I know better. Even when his prose is didactic and braying and he can’t make up his mind who he most disdains: country folk, city folk, religious folk, doctors, lawyers, academics, politicians. Ever since high school I have felt like I needed to apologize, maybe even join a 12-step program, for my fascination with Lewis. And yet fascinated I am. Why apologize? Lewis is respectable, albeit not much in fashion these days. He gave us the terms “Main Street” and “Babbit.”… Read more Miss Vickers Does Not Regret

A Fire on 95th Street

It would be difficult to find a neighborhood more concentrated with left-leaning intelligentsia than the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Which is not to say there are not conservatives, curmudgeons, and random people who think the world is going to hell in a handbag, but the traditional Person On The Street on the Upper West Side is likely, at the very least, to be four-square for the First Amendment. Which is why my daughter burning a book on the sidewalk occasioned considerable outrage.

50 Shades of Perseverance

This is a piece that originally appeared in 2012 in the Book View Cafe blog. Sherwood Smith had a very interesting post on her Live Journal about writer-brains, persistence, and careers.  It comes down to (in my reading): most writers aren’t in it for the money or the fame, but for other, less tangible benefits.  This can seem inexplicable to the writer’s family, friends, and the genpop. In some ways I’m luckier than many of my colleagues, whose families didn’t get any of this and tried to apply the standard… Read more 50 Shades of Perseverance

My Friends at the Graveyard

When I was a kid and we went to Massachusetts every weekend, my parents would sometimes drop my brother and me off at a graveyard next door to the grocery, so we could run about while they provisioned the household.  Thus began my lifelong fondness for graveyards. Morbid?  Not really.  I’m a story junkie, and every gravestone hints at a story.  Some of them tell whole chapters, others are, um, story prompts.  My favorite tombstone ever was that of Miss Lucinda Laird, only daughter of Mr. Samuel Laird, buried in… Read more My Friends at the Graveyard

Violent Beasts

I am a mother as well as a writer, and one of the types I have encountered over my parental career is the parent (usually but not always the Mom) who is trying to raise her child without violence.  I don’t mean, No Spanking, I mean “we don’t talk about the news in front of Little Smedley.”  I mean no Warner Bros. cartoons because of “all the terrible things Wyle E. Coyote does to that poor wee bird.”  I mean the mother whose son horrified her by picking up a… Read more Violent Beasts

Yes, Things Were Different Then

A few years ago, an editor I very much admire said something that made my eyes cross.  I’m paraphrasing here, because I’m too lazy to go look the exact quote, but, in answer to a neophyte writer who wanted to know if she had to do a whole lot of research in order to write historical fiction or historical fantasy, the editor said (paraphrasing, right?): you have to do some, but people are basically people, no matter when/where you set them. Eyes crossing right now. The world has changed since… Read more Yes, Things Were Different Then