watch pleasure bloom


read

I’ve been such a scattered reader lately. Does that ever happen to you? Truth be told, I’ve just been a scattered person. Dealing with above mentioned life bumps, I find my concentration evaporates. So, I’m reading, Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs, by Beth Ann Fennelly, and it’s just the thing. Some of the pieces a mere sentence long, others run to five pages. She’s funny, insightful and real. Consider this one: “Married Love, IV. Morning: bought a bag of frozen peas to numb my husband’s sore testicles after his vasectomy. Evening: added thawed peas to our carbonara.”

I’ve also been reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck, by Mark Manson. Some of it is a bit too bro-y for me, but there’s solid advice about fear, failure and art making (or rather, NOT art making) that hit home for me. Manson says, “We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.” Or, how about this gem, “…if it’s down to me being screwed up, or everyone else being screwed up, it’s far more likely that I’m the one who’s screwed up.”

Finally, I did read straight through Tessa Hadley’s gorgeous new novel, Late in the Day. Hadley is one of my favorite authors and this book soars. It’s a novel full of the aches that attend long marriages, long friendships, children, art, aging. People pay attention in this book, which, as I mentioned above, has lately been a struggle for me.



write

With whom do you share your drafts? Of course you know it’s terribly important to have a crew. I’m super lucky to have peeps to send work to, and a writing group to sit around with once a month, drinking wine and workshopping pages. But sometimes that isn’t enough. Perhaps an outside editor is the ticket.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a stalled (I’ve changed the language from failed to stalled…and who knows, it might be failed) novel hunkered like a troll under my desk. Getting pals to read your novel is a big ask. When (if?) I’m ready to face it again, I may enlist a hired gun. In planning for that moment, I recently sent a story to Will Allison at the gushing endorsement of a friend. He was terrific! He’s got chops (check his bio). He’s smart, clear, funny, and helpful. The best editor works to support your vision of your work. Will does just that. I won’t lie, it isn’t cheap to hire an editor. But, if you can no longer see your own work and want a path through, I vote for Will! Plus, he’s a great writer. I’m currently enjoying his novel, What You Have Left.

I asked around and here are a two other outside editors friends have used and been happy with the comments and support they received: 5E: Creativity, Editing and the Business of Publishing, and Michelle Wildgen Editorial Services.

Quick update: Remember in a previous r.w.e. newsletter I told you I was aiming for 100 rejections in 2019? Well, 5 so far. Ouch and keep going, right?



eat

Okay, that thing about a poor attention span? Well, I’ve been watching a bit of TV. I am in love with two cooking shows, both on Netflix.

First off, this show is more an eating and traveling show. Somebody Feed Phil is about this nebbishy guy who travels the world and enjoys food. He has no deep insights, no experience in the kitchen, but man, it’s fun to watch pleasure bloom on his face when he takes a bite. Eater wrote an article, 5 Problems with ‘Somebody Feed Phil,’ and the thing is, these 5 problems are exactly why we like it. Phil’s like a dorky friend telling us about a great trip. Plus, it’s priceless when he Skypes with his aged parents at the end of each show.

Another person who is exquisite at showing pleasure? Samin Nosrat. Her show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is fantastic. Unlike Phil, Samin knows her way around a kitchen and is rigorous in her selection of ingredients—fresh, unique, beautiful. I’ve cooked her Buttermilk Marinated Roast Chicken, which could not be easier or more comforting. I also made the Bean and Roasted Veg Salad, which I got the gist of from watching the show. Check out the Heat episode for some sweet mother/daughter exchanges.

Quick Update: Remember my New Year’s Resolution to bake a cake a month? January was Banana Cake. February I’ve made a Carrot Cake. (I know, enough with the fruit and vegetables! Chocolate coming soon. In fact, do you have a favorite chocolate cake recipe I should try?)

 

hope, chocolate chip cookies, and osmosis


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Some writers avoid reading fiction if they’re writing fiction. They swear off memoirs as they work on their own. I am not one of those writers. As I finish up my linked short story collection, I’m taking a deep dive into short fiction (also some self-help, my not so secret side squeeze). I like being intimate with the form in which I’m working. If I steep myself in amazing work—structure, characterization, language, tension, endings—all of it will enhance my work, sort of like putting the book beneath my pillow at night, hoping for osmosis to do its magic.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon, The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan. A story of mine was accepted at One Story (I know! I’m so excited and pleased) and Patrick Ryan was one of the editors who selected it. His stories are vivid and varied, funny and sad in equal measure, just like life. His work reminds me of another terrific short story writer, Stephanie Vaughn. I’ve pressed her collection, Sweet Talk, into the hands of friends and family. Rife with conflict and irony, full of insights and humor and deeply moving characters, I wish I could read it again for the first time. You can hear Tobias Wolff read, “Dog Heaven,” and Tea Obreht read, “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog,” over on the NYer story podcast. Both stories are fantastic and definitely worth a listen. I know people resist short stories, and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why. The way I see it, short story : novel :: port : pinot noir, both are meant to be savored, just from different sized glasses.



write

I was reading a profile of Grace Paley in The Guardian and she had this to say about the stories of Raymond Carver: “I sometimes think he doesn’t give his characters a chance. The stories cut off too soon and you feel that if he had given them one more day things might have turned out alright.” I love this so much. One more day! Sure for our characters, for our stories, but also for our lives, right?

I recently gave a class on finding flow in our work. It was no problem for me to understand that fear is at the core of all our creative blocks. Fear of failing. Fear of discovering something about ourselves we may not wish to know. Fear of harming someone we love with our version of the truth. Fear of the inner critic that tells us we are losers. (Check out this NYTs article about Julia Cameron who imagines her inner critic is “a gay British interior designer she calls Nigel.” Nothing is ever good enough for Nigel, she says.)  In preparing for the workshop, I came upon a startling truth for me. The opposite of fear is faith. This nugget may not astonish you, but it did me. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, the other shoe has already dropped and I’m still here. Faith. You can get your story on the page. Faith. It’s hard, I get it, yet the best way to build faith in our work is by doing it. Just keep doing it. Faith. Get words on the page. Give yourself, your characters, your work, one more day.



eat

A picture of chocolate chip cookies on Instagram lead me to buy a new cookbook. Dining In, by Alison Roman, is an absolute dream. First of all, I LOVE how she opines. Consider, “I’ve always found chocolate chip cookies to be deeply flawed.” Or, regarding lasagna, “…I’m not really into béchamel. Cooked flour and milk is not my thing.” Avocados are not so much an ingredient as “a lifestyle choice.”

Okay, so far I’ve mostly been reading the recipes. (I did make the cookies, and I added hazelnuts. Next time I plan to sub out a little flour for buckwheat flour. I cannot wait to make the Sour Cream Flatbread, and Clam Pasta w/Chorizo & Walnuts. Plus there’s an entire chapter on Knife and Fork Salads!) But you know what? Even if I delay, I consider buying a cookbook an act of hope. It suggests a belief in the dinner party, in the beauty of gathering friends and family around the table to share a story and a delicious meal. I sort of lament NYTs Cookingwhich don’t get me wrong, I love, use it all the time. But a cookbook, an actual book to thumb through and plan, it feels different. It feels sturdy and real and more of an investment in community and well-being. I’ll let you know what I make next. I’m certain it will be delicious, and I’ll invite a passel of friends to dine in.

 

strange connections


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Just finished listening to a great novel, Come With Me, by Helen Schulman. The characters are fantastic, the story deeply moving, complex, funny, and sad—the very best combination. I also enjoyed her last novel, This Beautiful Life. She writes about people in midlife, dealing with children, family, loss, identity, and alternate realities…it’s all my jam.
I’ve also been reading Samantha Hunt’s weird, and haunting book, Dark Dark Stories. Her work speaks truth about fear, love, partners, children, our animal bodies and ticks! At times funny, often strange in the very best sense of the word. I’m reading the book slowly, wanting to relish each story. Also, they’re so dense it seems like my teeth might hurt if I read them too fast! If you’d like a sample, check out the New Yorker Magazine’s, The Writer’s Voice, podcast to hear her read, “A Love Story.” So fantastic!



write

Last week I was at a terrific writing conference with a lot of smarties. I spent four days on the Oregon Coast at the Tin House Winter Workshop. The weather was fantastic, the workshops leaders inspiring (Nafissa Thompson-SpiresElizabeth McCracken, and Samantha Hunt), and my cohort offered smart and careful reads of all the manuscripts. If you can ever put yourself in the way of smart people, do.
Samantha Hunt gave a talk on apophenia—the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. She discussed exploiting this tendency to great advantage in your writing. The idea being, give yourself a list of completely unrelated, disparate things: bridal shower, training wheels, thunder storm, flight delay, and give yourself 10 minutes plus/minus to write about each one separately. You may be surprised to discover connective tissue—themes, images that lead to a story, a pattern of behavior worth exploring in your memoir, or foisting upon the main character of your novel. Make your list weird and unique. I think you’ll be happily surprised!



eat

It’s cold here in Portland, which is happy news at our house. Tis the season for binge watching and eating dinner from a bowl. I’m not talking soup. Usually our bowls are vegie heavy, include a grain and some salty, spicy crunch. Here are three bowls we have loved, still love. When you make this Miso, Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl, be sure to triple the sauce, no joke, it’s so delicious you’ll want to have tons on hand. Okay, yes, technically this Forbidden Rice Salad w/Thai Coconut-Lime Dressing is a salad, but don’t let that stop you. Serve the rice and chicken hot, sauté the cabbage in a little oil, then dress with a splash of toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar. Replace the snap peas with some steamed green beans and you’re good to go. Finally, there’s this bit of deliciousness, which I had for dinner last week, Crispy Rice and Egg Bowl w/Ginger Scallion Vinaigrette. Here’s what I suggest to make it even more wonderful. Wash and julienne about two hefty handfuls of spinach and throw them in with the rice as it cooks. (This is only if you are NOT using left over rice.) Next, slice up a bunch of shitakes (I love mushrooms so I used a giant pile) toss them w/salt and olive oil, roast on a sheet pan at 450 degrees for about fifteen minutes. Keep checking, you want them to be nearly crispy. When you assemble the bowl, layer in the mushroom heaven with the cucumbers and carrots. Oh man, we’re all in for some fine times. Please, send me a note and tell me what to watch!

 

cake resolution


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I discovered a great podcast, 3 Books with Neil Pasrichain which he asks inspiring people to name 3 formative books. I’m loving it! I’ve listened to the illustrator Emily McDowell (who makes fantastic cards), and I felt like such a smarty when I discovered the same weird book that gave her permission to create had also inspired me. David Sedaris had 3 books I love, plus an interesting conversation about aging and money. The pod got me thinking about my three (at least today, so far):

  • Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne. Man-0-man! My mom read this book to me, and I adored it. I see us now, cuddled on my twin bed, my pink hula hoop slipped between the bed and wall as a makeshift headboard. The intense kindness and closeness of Christopher Robin and the animals in the 100 acre wood made me feel safe. Yes, they had adventures, yes they were scared, stung by bees, caught in a river, lost tails, grumpy and silly, but the animals always had each other. Things pretty much worked out for Pooh, Piglet and their pals, even miserable Eeyore. My family was tiny, just me and my mom, Winnie the Pooh taught me that even if you aren’t lucky to be born into a huge clan, you can build a family of caring friends.
  • Victory Over Japan, Ellen Gilchrist. In college I’d been reading lots of Cheever and Carver and Flannery O’Connor, and was beginning to write short stories when someone handed me this book. Instantly I loved her voice, her frivolity and depth, and her characters who felt more like me (though I am neither rich, nor from the south, nor did I have a doting daddy) than other characters I’d encountered. Her work was closer to what I wanted get on the page.
  • Home Cooking, A Writer in the KitchenLaurie Colwin. I found this book when I was a young mother. I fell in love with Colwin’s warm and breezy essays about family and young adult life, complete with recipe! After discovering Home Cooking, I devoured everything Laurie Colwin, her novels and stories, and, oh joy! More Home Cooking.

What are your three formative books?



write

In preparation for a class I’ll be teaching, Becoming Unstuck, I read Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk, by Danielle Krysa. It’s a cheeky and pragmatic look at overcoming the fear of the blank page, at the excuses we use to put off creative work, and at how our inner bully shuts us down (Who am I kidding? I can’t write! I’m a fraud. I have no original thoughts. Who’s going to want to read anything I write? Loser).  Krysa, a visual artist, has some great ideas. A few quick ones I love:

  • Rebrand your inner critic. Give it a name–like Wilbur. How can you take Wilbur seriously when he tells you you suck?
  • Go out of your way to do some seriously bad writing. “Throw one project under the bus right from the start.” Krysa goes further, suggesting the ugly writing exercise could be “a ridiculous amount of fun—especially when done with a group of friends on a Friday night with some delicious food, and maybe a glass of wine or two.” (I feel a tradition brewing!)
  • Finally, you know the list of crappy things your inner critic, I mean Wilbur, says? Krysa suggests writing them down and then writing the exact opposite statement. As in, I can write. I have lots of experience getting words on the page, telling stories. My story is mine and no one else’s, it is unique. People will want to read my work. Winner. (Okay, that was torture! Writing out the anti-Wilbur language is really hard.) Krysa suggests not only writing it out, but taping it up on the wall.

What do you do to quiet your Wilbur? To prioritize your creative work?



eat

I’ve made a New Year’s resolution. I wasn’t going to do it. I was just going to stick to the promises I made to myself to lower expectations and embrace mistakes. But, I decided to bake a cake once a month. Cakes are celebratory, delicious and frivolous—all things I want in my life. This week I baked a Banana Cake. I used this recipe, subbing whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour, and, this stroke of genius: I slow roasted the bananas, in their peels, in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. They turned black and gooey and slid from their peels in a disgusting way, but the resulting cake was powerfully banana-fied! Since I try not to eat much sugar, I sought a frosting that didn’t use powdered sugar, hence this! I subbed crème fraiche for the sour cream, just because I had it on hand. It was all delightful. And, the banana cake got me to thinking about my grandma’s love of Sara Lee Banana Cake. (Okay, did you click on that link? What a creepy commercial! It’s like a cake #metoo moment.) I also wrote an essay here! (Thank you, Laurie Colwin for combining recipes and writing.) My entire rainy Sunday was consumed by banana cake, and let me tell you, that was terrific.

 

self-renovation


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Ever scan the important and serious calendars meant for men and then glance over to the flowery, aspirational, aphorism filled calendars marketed to women? What’s that about? Are women being told we aren’t good enough, or, are women strivers? Are these calendars a nefarious marketing tool preying on women, or, are they a response to women’s desires to become the best humans we can be? Do men just prefer not to be lectured at in their day books? My fabulous friend, Karen Karbo, is working on a book about exactly these questions. Yeah. No. Not Happening, will be a “funny, philosophical, feminist rant against the tyranny of self-improvement” in Spring 2020.
Me? I am a feminist, and I’m always up for self-renovation. As Viktor Frankl says in Man’s Search for Meaning, there is tension between what one has achieved and what one wants to accomplish. “Such a tension is inherent in the human begin and therefore is indispensable to mental well-being.” So, I’ve amassed a stack of books to read this January. Here are just a few:

Do you visit the Self-Help section of your bookstore the same way you visit the snack aisle at the grocery store? Your mouth watering for umami and a better you? Any gems you’d like to share? If you’re of the Yeah. No. Not Happening, ilk, good on you! How do you do it? Seriously.



write

Hey, I want to challenge you. Can you get 100 rejections in 2019? Seriously, I think it’ll be really good for you, and me! Lit Hub has a great article here, espousing the virtues of rejection collection. In 2018 I received nineteen rejections (three included invitations to submit more work) and zero acceptances. I don’t think that means my work isn’t strong, I think it means I didn’t send enough into the world. If we strive to amass the rejections, there’s bound to be acceptances sprinkled in, right? 2019 will be my year to slingshot stories, applications for residencies and grants into the world.
To be certain we’re offering our best work and targeting the most likely Yes!, check out this editors roundtable discussion from The Southeast Review. What do editors want in the submissions they read? 1. To be surprised. 2. A strong voice. 3. Well-wrought characters. What are the biggest mistake they see in submissions? Writers who don’t read the guidelines or know the zeitgeist of the journal to which they’re submitting. And, go figure, dick poems! One editor says, “For the love of all that’s holy, please stop sending.”
Where will you send your fine work? Here are some resources:

I’m all in on this. How about you? “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Thanks, Samuel Beckett)



eat

I’m writing this note on the Solstice, which to me is more important than New Year’s Eve. After tonight (finally!) we circle back toward the light. I’ve been struggling to tamp down my list making, time managing, goal oriented behavior, and allow for lounging, reading, soaking in a tub, and napping during these very short days. I am trying to embrace stillness and enjoy the yen toward cuddling-up in the dark afternoons. What am I cooking during these swell and long evenings? Soup of course. Last week I served this vegetable forward, light yet hearty Beef Barley Soup w/Lemon to my writing friends. Tonight I’m serving this gorgeous and rich French Onion Soup. I love the way the Dutch oven looks when you pull it from beneath the broiler, the cheese bubbling with crisp borders. I’m serving a Roasted Garlic Caesar which subs candied walnuts for croutons and has a healthy dose of roasted garlic in the dressing. I plan on sprinkling some pomegranate seeds over the top, because: 1. I have them.  2. They’re beautiful. 3. I think they’ll add to the zing of the dressing. Do you know the trick of extricating seeds from the pomegranate?
Soup, salad, a nice glass of this terrific red wine, then we’ll settle in with a pal to watch Roma. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect longest night of the year?

 

I confess to snobbery and laziness!


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Because I feel better about myself when I’m doing two things at once, I listen to a lot of audio books. I listen on long walks or while folding a mountain of laundry, and I choose something plot heavy, something that will keep me walking or folding. Since I can’t take margin notes, or underline favorite sentences, I usually pick books I consider guilty pleasures—something light to divert my anxiety in this time of political unease on our overheating planet. Recently I listened to Good in Bed (in its 57th or some such crazy number print run) which many of you, me included, will consider chick-lit. Yes, I’m a snob. Yet, Jennifer Weiner has a lot to say about ghettoization of women’s stories, and, hello, I write about women’s lives. Plus, I really like her op-ed pieces in the NYTs. I think she’s a smart and funny feminist who calls bullshit on everything—body shaming, anti-choice agendas, misogyny, frat houses, and Justice Kavanaugh. She cares deeply about all our girls. The novel is an absolute fairy tale in which the big girl gets the job, the baby, the friendships, and finally the man, all by virtue of her own pluck and humor. (Yes, the novel is very hetero-normative, and even perplexed by the sole gay couple.) It also includes shopping, shoes, and handbags as signifiers, which aren’t really my jam. But I liked Cannie, the main character, and I laughed out loud. What makes it chick-lit is the adorable bow at the end. I’m not going to lie, I would LOVE an adorable bow in my life about now! But in a novel, I feel cheated when everything works out so well. What’s your guilty pleasure? And if you write to tell me it’s Russian Novels, or Gilgamesh, or some other humble brag….just, please, don’t.



write

Like you, I have a stack of resource books on my desk. Books I think will make my work shine with insight, help me master structure, invent interesting situations, create compelling characters my readers will care about, and write snappy dialog. And they might—if only I would read them! Lately, my most pressing need is getting unstuck. The Practice of Poetry, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell, is full of terrific prompts to use at your desk, or to share with students. Here’s one from J.D. McClatchy that I go to often:

  •       Find a seed poem in the world that you particularly love. (It’s great when the poem  aligns thematically, or in voice, or setting, with your writing project.)
  •        Type the poem out in triple space.
  •        Write your own lines between the lines.
  •        Erase the seed poem.

I sometimes do exercises like this to loosen up, in the same way an athlete stretches. When I’m stuck in my story, I do this exercise with my own words, cutting and pasting a paragraph or section onto a new page, triple spacing the lines and filling in with details, internalization, action.

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process, edited by Joe Fossler, has great short essays. Aimee Bender waxes on the value of memorizing poems. Mary Gaitskill thinks about Anna Karenina and the momentary access we sometimes gain to our hidden, true selves. Yiyun Lee writes about looking at strangers and imagining their lives.
I’d love to know of resource books you love. Drop me a line.



eat

I’m finishing up this newsletter with another guilty pleasure—popcorn for dinner. My husband travels a good bit and when he’s away, I pop a giant bowl, generously butter (seriously, like ½ a stick) and sprinkle on truffle salt. I pour a glass of big red wine, slip into sweatpants (okay, stay in my sweatpants–my writing uniform), my dog curls up at my feet, and I fire up Netflix! Honestly, I’m getting a little misty-eyed and hungry thinking about it now. Just so you know, this is the absolutely best, most amazing popcorn popper. (A perfect gift!) Right about here you might be shrugging your shoulders, lamenting the missing link to a fantastic dish or cookie, but it’s the holidays, Babe. We all need an easy night. What is your go to for a simple evening in?

boosting habits and flavors


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Last month I read Sigrid Nunez’s novel, The Friend, about grief, friendship, the love (and broken heart) of a bed-hogging Great Dane, and so much more. The novel, both funny and mournful, was deeply satisfying. Nunez and her beautiful novel will deservedly be brought to the attention of many by her recent win of the National Book Award, and I too encourage you to snag a copy as this book is definitely in my top ten for 2018. Of particular delight are Nunez’s glib and precise jabs at the death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts nature of writing. The unnamed narrator, who is a writer and a teacher, says, “If reading really does increase empathy, as we are constantly being told that it does, it appears that writing takes some away.”



write

Lots of writers I know express frustration around getting writing time in. We have daily goals (1000 words or 2 hours or ???) and, we fall short. (Cue the cycle of disparaging self-talk at which I excel!) So, I’ve been doing some reading about habits, and I’m all in for cleaning up mine. The Power of Habits, by Charles Duhigg, explores keystone habits and rewards. The idea is, change just one habit that will then (fingers crossed) change everything. My target habit: lingering in bed with coffee and the paper every morning, which is pleasant, but what if (hold on…) I went straight to my desk instead? Duhigg suggests creating a reward around the new habit. For example, open my writing project file first thing and then reward myself with the coffee at my desk. Along with the coffee reward comes the satisfaction of getting words on page, and the diminishment of negative self-talk. If I do this enough (some say it takes only two weeks to establish a habit) anticipating the rewards at the click on the file (the coffee, the satisfaction, the new kindness) reinforces the habit. I know this isn’t revolutionary, and I know, sadly, I’m reward dependent. But, maybe you are too? How do you get the work done?



eat

Who goes to New York City and eats at the same restaurant twice? Apparently we do. With the ongoing knee replacement saga, my husband was interested in propping up his leg and feeling comfy. Hearth was just the ticket. Oh, man, dinner was fantastic (polenta, greens, rabbit, autumn squash), but even if you ordered only the chicories salad and garlic bread you would be delighted. Roasted mushrooms and Spatchcock chicken were also terrific and I plan on duplicating them at home with these fine recipes (thing onething two).  Finally, here’s a quick article from Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth, and Tammy Walker, a certified food coach (really? who knew?) listing five flavor boosters to  tastify our meals.

in which I celebrate flouncing


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My classes are all ending, and while I adore my students and love reading their work, I am so excited to dig into these two beauties. First, Your Duck is My Duck, by the funny and amazing, Deborah Eisenberg. I mean, Eisenberg uses flounce to describe a sunrise, as in, “The plane took off in frosty grime and floated down across water, from which the sun was rising in sheer pink and yellow flounces.” And that’s on page four. Imagine the gems and delight that awaits!  The other book I can’t wait to read is Evening in Paradise, the new collection of stories by Lucia Berlin. I loved her collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women(if you haven’t read it, turn immediately to the story, “Toda Luna, Todo Año”). Oh, yes, and then there is this one, which I think I’ll give a listen.



write

Because I recently wrote a story with a couple of rabbits in it, I felt tenderness for Judy, the rabbit in this Modern Love column. Of course I love a good read with my coffee and Modern Love often delivers…and/but am I the only person with a folder full of failed Modern Love essays? I did a little digging and found some places you might want to send your personal essay that didn’t make the cut in the Sunday Times.
Try Dame/First Personfull grown peopleThe Rumpus, and Bustle (where they are currently accepting pitches for first person essays about literature and identity pieces about your relationship to literature). As always, be certain to check out the site, familiarize yourself with tone and content to see if your work is appropriate. Let me know when and where your work appears! You’re welcome.



eat

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, or regularly read the newsletter, you know my husband has recently had a total knee replacement. Okay, yay for technology, and, wow…it is a big surgery with a long recovery. Housebound as we’ve been, I’m nurse, chef and laundress. Here’s a quick list of some excellent dishes that I’ve delivered to the sick room:  Meatloaf ParmesanMa-Po Tofu (to which I added a sh*t-ton of shiitakes),  Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies (I add dried cranberries and toasted walnuts with terrific results), Baked Cheesy Pasta w/Wild Mushrooms, (I added butternut squash, and, I’m thinking this would be a great dish for cubed leftover turkey), Roy Choi’s Braised Short Ribs (scan the readers’ notes, don’t add sugar, use an Asian pear instead) Brussel Sprouts w/Pomegranate and Walnuts (these definitely deserve a place at your Thanksgiving Table!) And so much soup.  So. Much. Soup.

to burn or not to burn


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I decided to burn my journals. I know, it was kind of a big deal. They were tucked away in a grocery bag on the top of my closet and every time I glimpsed them I felt burdened. If I were to suddenly die, would I want anyone reading my private, messy thoughts? Absolutely not! It was like I had a bomb on my top shelf. Before I struck the match, I read through them, sometimes skimming and other times absorbed by my ideas, my worries, things I found funny in the world. And then I started asking around, what were my friends doing with their journals? Had they read their mother’s diaries? I wrote about the burn here. I’d love to know what you plan on doing with your journals, or, if you’ve read a loved one’s private pages. Shoot me a note.



write

Here’s a confession. I’m ridiculously weak when it comes to the crack pipe of likes on my Instagram feed, on FB, and to the sweet ding of an incoming text or email. I’ve definitely noticed a shift in my attention span. And the pathetic thing is, I’m the person in control of where I put my attention. Aren’t I?
Here comes the irony, my device is saving me from my device. I’m certain most of you know about Freedom, an app that allows you schedule lock downs, denying your computer internet access. But you might not know about Forest. It’s an app that rewards you with the growth of virtual trees when you commit to NOT looking at your phone. (I see you shaking your head at me!) Say you commit to 90 minutes of no phone, you’ll grow a tree! Build your forest! Earn points to get new varieties of trees! And, if you fail…your tree dies. That stricken tree skeleton will populate your forest to remind you to be stronger. Go ahead, judge. But you might find that while you work on your novel, your stories or essays, you grow a forest as beautiful as mine

I also kept Grace Paley by my side. Something about her gossipy, smart voice makes me feel I’m at a beloved auntie’s kitchen table. Paley says, “The outside world will trivialize you for almost anything if it wants to. You may as well be who you are.” I brought along, Grace Paley, The Collected Stories to read before sleep each night. Paley also says, “But what’s a writer for? The whole point is to put yourself into other lives, other heads—writers have always done that. If you screw up, so someone will tell you, that’s all.” Unshackling screwing up from shame and failure is a great gift.



eat

I was in DC last week and had a chance to eat at the fantastic Tail Up Goat. Not only was the food amazing, the wine delicious, but the staff was so much fun to be around. My husband and I sat at the bar and chatted with Jo Beth, who didn’t even realize her name came straight out of Little Women. One of the many delights was a vegetarian cabbage, apple butter and sweet potato dish. The best thing about it? Delicata squash chips which I am going to try to duplicate at home. Sprinkle them on soup? MmmHmm. Substitute them for croutons in a salad? You bet. Eat them to revive from an afternoon slump? Yes, please. I found a couple recipes online, here and here, depending upon whether sweet or spicy is your jam.

fix a broken heart


read

Calypso: I’m a longtime fan of David Sedaris. This collection is so tender, it made me wonder, do we all get more tender as we move through middle age and life beats us up? Have no fears about Sedaris losing his edge and slipping into sentimentality, Calypso is scalpel sharp, funny, and a beautiful love letter to Sedaris’ dad.



write

A question that rises up for me when times are hard, “How can I stay engaged with creative work? How can I write fiction when I am suffering?” When we’re in pain, life seems oh so long! When considering all that we’d like to accomplish, man, life is short! So, I took a look at ways to write through suffering and here’s a couple things I found.

Feeling better can begin with art. Check out this article, “Writing Therapy: Using a Pen and Paper to Enhance Personal Growth.”I especially like this little nugget, “Write down what makes you want to write in the first place.” And this, “End smart, re-read what you’ve written and reflect with a sentence or two.” Both of these are excellent tidbits for the memoirist to keep in mind.

If it hurts, put it in a story. Turns out narrative expressive writing does wonders for your health. Loved this piece over at the Big Think, “Can You Fix a Broken Heart by Writing About It?



eat

Okay, this new project…this newsletter is letting me do some fun food exploration.  I thought for this first one I’d share a food blog I’m loving.

Everyday Dorie from Dorie Greenspan, who “gave up working on her doctorate in gerontology to bake cookies.” These savory treats look delicious to nibble with a glass of pink wine!

And, finally, here’s a recipe I cannot wait to make. Watermelon Poke I know…it sounds whack, but in these dog days of summer, it checks all the boxes–salty, sweet, crunchy and cold.