I’m having a love affair with a book! I’m reading SECRETS TO HAPPINESS by Joan Silber and, my oh my, it is satisfying and smart. The book is a ring, which means that the stories are linked, but in surprising ways. As you move from one to the next, you don’t know which character will get the mic. A minor character in one story, is the tent pole character in the next. It’s so pleasing to watch Silber draw a web of connection, to guess who might inhabit the next story, and to piece together what the characters mean to one another, what insights I might gain with a change of perspective. Of course, as a reader I extrapolate these connections into my life and wonder, upon whom do I have more impact than I realize? Or—and this is another true pleasure— the story ring causes me to think about how much I don’t know about the lives of loose connections, those people I see in my daily life, the people who enrich my world, but aren’t really friends. If we lived in a world like a Silber story ring, we would all be well served.
I was lucky to attend a zoom conversation with Silber, on the Next Tribe platform. You can watch it here! During her talk, she spoke about intimate gaze, and I had the chance about 39 minutes in to ask her what she meant. Here’s what she said:
“I’m very interested in what the character is saying to herself, or himself, about what is going on. I love that in other writers, I love hearing their version of events as they say it to themselves. That is quite fascinating to me.”
Another favorite moment, in responding to a question about the #metoo movement, Silber said, “I feel it’s great that men are afraid they will lose their jobs if they act like jerks.” But then she went on to comment upon her worry that women are “having too much of a sense of their own fragility.” That feels so complicated and interesting to me. How do we move through our lives, aware of the ramifications of toxic masculinity, in the workplace, in the world, even in our homes, and demand respect we deserve, while at the same time not feel swamped by a sense of fragility? Sounds like an amazing conundrum to address in a short story. 😉
Just a quick reminder, I’ve created a read.write.eat. Bookshop Store, where you can find many of the books I’ve recommend in the newsletter.
I’ve got brand new classes and opportunities for us to work together.
One Day Craft Talks:
- A conversation about conversations, how to write DIALOG that truly earns its place on the page, coming July 17, from 10:00a – 1:00p PST.
- Want to write full and round characters that stay with your reader long after they’ve turn the last page? BUILDING CHARACTERS is coming on July 16, from 7:30 – 10:30a PST.
- Everything that happens in our lives and in our stories happens somewhere. Let’s talk about writing convincing SETTINGS, making the setting work double time to infuse your writing with tone, metaphorical meaning, and verisimilitude. August 20, from 7:30 – 10:30a PST.
Six Week Class:
- I am really looking forward to teaching SIX (LOVE) STORIES IN SIX WEEKS beginning July 8, from 6:00 – 8:00p PST. This will be a playful, generative workshop, using stories from the collection, My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, as a launching point into pieces of our own. Want to revisit that crush from high school? Want to write about unrequited love? The frisson of a first kiss? The motorcycle mechanic you dated to get back at your parents? Your mother’s boyfriends? This class, I promise, will be full of joy, and you’ll leave with lots of words down on the page and ideas to keep you writing the rest of the summer. Only 4 spots left! Don’t wait.
Whew! Now, as a thank you for reading through my offerings, here’s a prompt! I often use this as an icebreaker in my classes.
- What was or would be your most depressing meal?
- Would it be depressing because of the food, or the company?
- What happens around the table?
- How do you feel after?
- Where do you go?
Please do feel free to share with me! I’d love to hear about your depressing meals. 😉
I made this NYC Street Cart Chicken and Riceand I felt so comforted and loved! I don’t know why, but something about this dish, with its norm-core salad, made me feel as if I was wrapped up in my grannie’s crocheted afghan, sitting beside her on the couch and watching Love Boat. I know! What a sweet memory of a crappy show!
For the white sauce:
- 1 c plain yogurt
- 1 T mayo
- 1 t white wine vinegar
- 1 T harissa (more if you like a kick!)
- ½ lemon, juiced
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside in the fridge.
For the chicken:
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 T dried oregano
- 1 T paprika (I used sweet, but you can use hot or smoky)
- 2 t ground coriander
- 1½ t salt
- a few grinds of fresh black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the chicken and stick in the fridge for 30 minutes to 24 hours.
For the rice:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1½ t ground turmeric
- 2 t ground cumin
- 2 c brown basmati rice
- 2 c chicken stock
- ½ t salt
Heat the butter in a pan, add the spices and stir for a minute or two, until you smell the delicious warmth. Add the rice, toss to coat then add the stock and salt. Cover pan and cook until all liquid is absorbed.
For the norm-core salad:
- 1 head of butter lettuce
- 1 big, beautiful tomato
- ½ small red onion, cut in slivers
Tear the washed lettuce leaves, chop the tomato into small cubes, toss in the onions.
While the rice is cooking, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a fry pan over med heat. Place 3-4 (no overlapping) chicken thighs in pan and don’t touch for 4-5 minutes. They should easily let go of the pan at that point, so flip them. Cook 3-4 minutes more. Once all chicken is cooked, hold it in a warm oven.
When rice is finished, chop up the chicken and return to the fry pan with half of the rice. Heat well, scraping up the crispy bits of chicken.
On a large platter, pile the rest of the rice. Lay the chicken and rice on top. Circle the whole thing with the salad. Liberally dress with the white sauce. If you have pita, or naan, well made and worthy, serve alongside. Invite friends! Serve with a fav beer!
Speaking of beer/alcohol. We are drinking less at our house (after pandemic slippage and reliance) which means, I want the alcohol I drink to be very delicious. Enter this NYTs article about the wine of summer. Spoiler alert, it isn’t white or pink!