It’s been nearly ten-years since I went through all the breast cancer crap. I’d just published my first book, turned 50, was about to begin my audacious empty-nester life, when I received the breast cancer diagnosis. In a pique, I posted on social media that up to that moment, each time my phone buzzed with an unknown caller, I’d pretended it was Oprah, gushing. Hence forth unknown caller meant a different O–oncologist. (Sad trombone sound is appropriate here.) And yes, all is well. I’m grateful and happy and healthy.
But what I want to talk about is kindness and literary citizenship. After my family and inner circle heard my news, I wrote that sad-trombone post and my friend Cheryl responded immediately. She also responded immediately after my book was skipped over for an award. She also was the first writer I met in Portland, who made time to meet me, talk about the city, and about writing. She is a grand example of generous human and stand-up literary citizen. (Thank you, Cheryl!)
Now, it’s hot. I’m lethargic, and instead of turning into a sludgy-ice-cream-eater, I’ve turned myself into an imitation of Cheryl. I’ve been sending a lot of supportive emails and snail mails. I wrote fan letters to two writers. (Guess what? They both wrote back!) I’ve been meeting and supporting writers over zoom. I’ve connected a handful of writers and agents and editors. I took a writing class! I’ve been putting myself in the world in a positive way. You know, I don’t feel as sludgy, and a lovely friend sent me flowers!
Who can you send a little love note to? Who can you link up? I promise it will lift you!
’m antsy with excitement to read HYSTERICAL by Elissa Bassist. I just took a Funny Personal Essay class from her and let me say, she is hilarious, smart, quick, so generous, and she has a Yorkie named Benny who I know Stanley would love! Please, put HYSTERICAL on your TBR list. Here’s a description:
Growing up, Bassist’s family, boyfriends, school, work, and television had the same expectation for a woman’s voice: less is more. She was called dramatic and insane for speaking her mind; she was accused of overreacting and playing victim for having unexplained physical pain; she was ignored or rebuked like women throughout history for using her voice “inappropriately” by expressing sadness or suffering or anger or joy.
Because of this, she said “yes” when she meant “no”; she didn’t tweet #MeToo; and she never spoke without fear of being “too emotional.” So, she felt rage, but like a good woman, repressed it. In Hysterical, Bassist explains how girls and women internalize and perpetuate directives about their voice, making it hard to emote or “just speak up” and “burn down the patriarchy.”
I’m nearly finished with THE LATECOMER, by Jean Hanff Korelitz and I’m conflicted. Two thirds through the novel, I despise all the characters. Either cruel or pathetic, I keep asking myself, why am I still reading? And yet… the writing is so strong. The plot keeps me deeply engaged. Who are these a-holes? Will they get their comeuppance? There’s a bit of a (pretend) mystery–for much of the book we are “supposed” to wonder who the hell is narrating. The novel has a wildly dysfunctional family. I promise, your family will shine so bright compared to these prigs. And then, Part 3! Finally someone to care about and now everyone seems redeemable. I’m having a hard time putting it down. I have a feeling there’s a group hug coming…in the best sense!
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.
OMG! Please take a writing class—from me, from anyone. It is such a joy to be in a room with striving writers! Check Literary Arts, Grub Street, my teaching page, Lighthouse Writers Workshops, Hugo House, and Catapult for writing opportunities.
A prompt from my recent teacher, Elissa: Grab a book off your shelf and find a sentence. Here’s the one I found from the wonderful Lorrie Moore, in her collection, BARK “I watched her broad tan back and her confident gait. She was a gorgeous giantess. I was in awe to have such a daughter. Also in fear—as in fearful for my life.”
Elissa asks you to change up the sentence using the same parts of speech but making them your own. Here’s my sentence. “He heard her skittering footfalls and imagined her moving about the kitchen, scooping vanilla ice cream into a small bowl. She was a sugar-fairy, a hummingbird in the dark. He was in awe to have such a girlfriend who delighted him with midnight snacks. Also afraid, as in terrified that he would come to depend upon her playfulness.”
Your turn. Go forth. Find a sentence. Change it up. And then send it to me!
I’m having a secret affair with ice cream bars. Throughout the day I obsess, I visit, take a nibble, and leave them open, in the freezer, awaiting my return.
Midnight Pasta (from the NYTs)
- 1 large head of garlic
- Kosher salt
- ½ c plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 c firmly packed parsley leaves
- 1 lb. spaghetti
- ½ t red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
- Black pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Decapitate about ¼ inch off the head of garlic to expose the top of the cloves, place on a piece of foil, cut-side up. Sprinkle exposed cloves with salt, then drizzle with 1 t oil. Wrap the garlic in foil and roast until soft and golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven, open the package and let the garlic cool.
- When you’re ready to make the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Finely chop the parsley leaves. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, in a large Dutch oven, heat remaining ½ cup oil over medium heat. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the oil and cook, breaking them up with your spoon, until very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red-pepper flakes and a few generous grinds of pepper. Remove pan from heat to infuse the oil while the pasta finishes cooking.
- When the pasta’s done, heat the garlic oil, add the cooked pasta, ½ c reserved pasta water and the parsley, and simmer, tossing constantly and adding more pasta water as needed, until the pasta is glossed with sauce.
- Serve with more red-pepper flakes, black pepper and Parmesan.
A little program note: I’ve been writing and sharing what I love for nearly 3 years! I love it and many of you write to let me know how much you enjoy my thoughts and recommendations, and for that I am truly grateful. Honestly, it makes my day to hear from readers. Also, it takes time and consideration to put my thoughts together twice a month. Maybe you’d like to show appreciation buy clicking below:
buy me a cup of coffee!☕️