Friday, September 4, 2015

Syrian Children

My son at two
knew nothing of war.
Darth Vader
and Emperor Palpatine
all he knew of evil.

My son at twenty-two
has marched 
for #BlackLivesMattter
picketed before the offices 
of hard-hearted corporate-college 
capitalists denying janitors
jobs and a fair wage.

My son is safe
-- for now.
But with all he knows
he writes songs
that make hearts
ache like his often does
for the sons and daughters
of others.

We all
love our sons
love our daughters
beyond words.
But our photographs?
They're as different
as our tongues.

Copyright 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015


I have so little to say, which is a Rare Occasion.

Here's to LOVE and EQUALITY and JUSTICE for ALL.

Dedicated to Paul R, Beth, Paul F, Katharine, David, Howard, and Terry, just a few of the so many family members and long-time friends for whom I'm celebrating today!

Let's always remember 6/26/15! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

A REVIEW: Going Over, YA by Beth Kephart

There are so few novels about teenagers in the East and West sections of Berlin that I was excited to find Kephart's slender volume about two young people in love in the early 1980s. As far as I know, this teen more-than-a-romance, based on true stories of escaping East Berlin, may be the only one in English--I am now on a feverish search for more in German.

Kephart sugarcoats nothing in this beautiful story written in evocative prose. Her fascination with and love and admiration for the people of Berlin are palpable.

Indeed, Berlin is a city that continually reinvents itself, which it could not do without the indomitable spirit of its people.

Oh, Berlin, your air is both heavy with tragedy and the past, and shining with optimism and hope. You are alive with art and music. When with you, I feel the sorrow of your people, the hope of those who are determined to keep sight of strong beliefs and love for family, friends, and justice. Berlin, you propel me backwards and forwards simultaneously, even while I stand in awe, breathing your presence, the present. You are richly represented in Kephart's novel--your young and your old; your hope and your despair; your regrets and your penance; your revolutionary spirit, intellect, and solidarity.

Every time I fly into Berlin I feel like I've time traveled, but I can never pinpoint to which time. Along the Spree I loll in a time of peace, picnics, and privilege; by the Gedächtniskirche and Denkmäler I admire the willingness--almost obsessive acceptance of responsibility--of your young people to own their parents' mistakes; in the streets of your many neighborhoods I commune with generations and linger over plaques in the pavement and plaques on the walls. By both the Fernsehturm and the Galleries Lafayette I marvel at the hypocrisy and vanity of us all.

By the Leere Bibliothek im Bebelplatz I feel the presence of Heinrich Heine in his powerful words: Dort wo man Bücher verbrent, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen: "Where men burn books, in the end they will also burn people." But the thing is--Heine's great Romantic spirit lives there, both presaging men's brutal folly and mourning his own people. What an emblem of consciousness and spirit, warning of the darkness within humanity, and testimony to the timelessness of brutality, the fragility of honor, compassion, and ethics.

Currently, I am planning and researching a novel about teenagers in Berlin. Since I was a college student, I've wanted to write about the revolutionary spirit and courage of young Germans who as part of the White Rose (die Weiße Rosa) believed in freedom, courageously acted upon their convictions, and were silenced by the Nazis. Now, I can write about those who helped freedom come to pass so many years after Sophie and Hans Scholl and their compatriots lost their lives in an attempt to prevent fascism from doing its filthy work. However, now aware that the law of unintended consequences also ruled Der Fall der Mauer and die Wiedervereinigung, I have some additional thoughts to share ... and will do so in my next long writing project. Beware! ;-)

Meanwhile ...

Ich danke Ihnen, Beth Kephart, für Ihre Darstellung der Anstrengungen und Kraft für das Weiterleben der Berliners ! Ein schöner Roman! Fünf Sterne!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#Bloomsday My Style

Shrimpy, plump Becky Birdie stumbled into her infinitesimal bathroom, bearing a chalice on which an emory board and a toothbrush lay crossed. A terrycloth robe, unbelted, clung to her legs in the humid June air. She held the chalice aloft and intoned:

Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Halted, she peered out her one narrow window into that of the neighbor across from her and called out sweetly:

--Come over, Ralph Waldo the XXIInd! Come over, you fearless Unitarian.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cognitive Dissonance

My son just graduated yesterday, on his 22nd birthday. I'm finding it hard to hold all my emotions together: pride, joy, fulfillment, nostalgia, gratitude, wistfulness, admiration, and fear--he's moving far, far away.

When have you experienced a multitude of emotions at once? Can you name them, oh fellow writers?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Comfortable Shoes

Today, I'm here not to write something creative or clever, but to tell a story.

My grandparents were immigrants, as was my father.

I have never given much time to researching my ancestry, but relied instead on stories my father told me. I love his account of what the prior generation--my grandparents I never knew--were like, and what they did. However, come to find out from relatives who are better at research and more devoted to truth than I, some of what my father said was only tangentially related to the facts.

I always believed we were Russian, and that my father came to this country hand-in-hand with his older brother, Peter. I always believed that the two of them missed getting on the Titanic because they never got out of Russia, because my father, as a wee boy, told officials they were emigrating to America.

Some of that didn't make sense, as they came in Pre-Russian Revolution times. But it was a good, romantic story, and I liked it. It made me feel special, too, because what if they'd gotten on board? My very existence hinged on the honesty of a child.


My father also told me his limited memory of Russia was of a long, one-story house with a red tiled roof (a big deal at the time in Ukraine), of a shoe factory the family owned. My father always wore expensive well-fitted shoes, even when he could only afford one pair. He insisted that we do, too.

Only recently did I learn that my grandmother's family were Ukrainian landowners who farmed. Their land attracted my grandfather, who was descended from Cossacks. Yes, there was a shoe factory, and workers, but none of that would have happened without my grandmother's land.

My grandfather was the first to leave for America. He sought a better life--which was wise, because shortly after that, the Russian aristocracy starved the Ukrainians, and the rest of my grandfather's family didn't fare very well. They wrote letters to my grandfather and my father and uncles, pleading for just a few dollars to keep them fed through the last harsh winters of their lives.

In my grandfather's search for this better life, he got a little distracted, at first. Maybe it was the Cossack in him that gave him Wanderlust, and also a resistance to adhering to rules?

Just a year or so after Grandfather arrived in this country to establish himself and then send for the rest of his family--a family already consisting of three young sons--my grandmother learned by letters from friends in the Boston Russian Orthodox congregation that he had "taken up with" another woman.

My Baba got herself on a boat post haste, my father in her arms. She tracked him down and before long was pregnant with my Aunt Olga, who left this earth last summer at 103 years old.

Last week, the youngest of that generation, Sophie (for whom my daughter is named), also left us for whatever is next. She made it to 102 years old.

Sophie and Olga both were at profound peace when they left. Both had unflagging faith and had stayed true to the practices of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Every time I imagine the experiences of the generation just before mine, it blows my mind.

None had the easiest life for the first, oh, 40 or so years. First of all, they had my more than slightly unhinged and volatile grandfather as their dad. At one point, he pitched himself into the Boston Harbor, a desperate man plagued by depression, a man disappointed, I'm sure, that his better life in American involved laboring in someone else's shoe factory. Someone fished him out of the Harbor, but it didn't go well after that. Second, they had a martinet for a mother. But at least they didn't starve.

My father? He did pretty well! He got involved with politics--his lifelong passion--as a very young man. He started law school, and was close to finishing when the Great Depression hit. He was disappointed not to finish, but he had an interesting life, played politics for decades, and watched three amazingly wonderful daughters grow up ;-) The eldest fulfilled his dream in becoming an attorney; the second daughter a dentist and professor of dentistry. I ended up a writer, but oh well, someone has to be the artist (loosely used term). My mom was pretty awesome, too, and beautiful, and he loved her with abandon.

That generation of my family grew up in Jamaica Plain way before JP was hip. Far too young, Aunt Olga lost her one true love, her husband--a post office worker but also a poet, yay him! Aunt Sophie lost a child, and had a rotten first husband, something she confirmed, as the story goes, by hiding in the back of his car while he was on his way to pick up his paramour. Sophie's second husband's family wouldn't accept her because she was Russian Orthodox and they were conservative Jews. For years, they kept their marriage secret and lived in two different households. When his parents finally learned about their marriage, they disowned him, not to reappear until his funeral. Naturally, this loss was something they bore together. She must have been quite a gal for him to have made that sacrifice.

Both of my aunts loved to laugh, as did my father, although he carried with him the family depressive gene. At least he never pitched himself into any large bodies of water ... but when I was a young teen, he sat for months in a darkened room, questioning his life. I guess I am a lot like him and my grandfather. I'm no stranger to Wanderlust, resistance to rules, or depression. He became much happier, perhaps only by learning the dark was not for him.

Me, too.

Despite their humble beginnings, my aunts lived well, and for so long! Their lives ended up very different. Aunt Olga's life remained modest; she worked for the Boston School Department, while Aunt Sophie traveled the world and kept a gorgeous home in a beautiful, upscale community south of Boston, Hingham.

Aunt Sophie had the best shoes. I always wanted "Aunt Sophie shoes," and eventually, I got them, but they didn't fit my inner self. Now, I wear comfortable shoes, as Aunt Olga always did. Surprise--I'm more like her than I thought. But I carry all of their traits.

Aunt Sophie, after losing her second husband (he smoked too much), followed her faith and a "spiritual advisor" to a Russian Orthodox community in California, starting life anew after 60-some years. What a woman. She only moved back to New England when her daughter insisted that she be close by in the years when she might have to be cared for--in her "declining years." She was in her late 80s then, and lived on her own for another 10 years.

My aunts were both inspirational women. Both never missed a day of life. They showed up for everything.

I don't always show up for everything in the outside world. At times, I've been severely disappointed by it, just like my dad and grandfather were, and sometimes I just need to remain cloistered so I don't get to the point of pitching myself into the Harbor. Once, my life required that I be public, and before that, a socialite, if only on a small scale. Now, I'm a recluse at times, but mostly every day, I show up for writing, just like for more than 20 years, I showed up every day for my kids.

Perhaps Aunt Sophie eventually chose quiet and retreat in California because she, too, was done with frippery and outside expectations. I'm not sure--she never said. But I wonder what kind of shoes she wore in California.

I learned from that generation to accept life as it is, to carry on with determination, and to find great joy. My father found it in the garden, my uncle his farm, my aunts their families, friends, and faith. The last of my uncles went to WWI, survived three of the most deadly battles in that war, and ultimately sacrificed his joy. But that's another essay. Suffice it to say I owe him quite a bit, too.

My hope is not that I can live to 100, but that I feel a similar peace when it's my time to go--not a Russian Orthodox kind of faith, or even a Roman Catholic kind, but instead a peace of faith that like the prior generation of my family, in living every day to its fullest, and trying to pass their courage and grace forward, I too have done what the universe sent me here to do.

That generation is now in the next world, whatever it may be. Will I see them again? If so, I hope they will forgive me my frailties. I hope they can see now how much they taught me, and how much I try to put it to use.

I am blessed to have been theirs. I am grateful for my birth into this family. Because of them, and the lessons they gave me that I've finally learned to apply, I am never starving, in any meaning of the word.

Word, Walter, Olga, Sophie, word.

Off for my day in my Sauconys. And prior gen--it's never goodbye. To paraphrase that celluloid font of wisdom, E.T., you'll always be right there.

To those of you who read my blog for prompts, please write about the prior generation in your family.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Stems burst
giving birth
to more than
just fruit
Why is
the quince
so tasteless
when the blossoms
make me
smack my lips

Copyright 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teen Writing

Teen writers!

I just had my first teen creative writing workshop at the Franklin Public Library (America's first public library!) last night and it was loads of fun! We freewrote and brainstormed about characters and dialogue between girls and their annoying perfectionist parents ... and just got to know one another. There's a lot more to come. If you're in the Franklin, Massachusetts area and between the ages of 14-18, you belong with us every other Tuesday evening.

Above is a great book that gives lots of great tips to serious teen writers. You might want to look for it at your local library, or recommend it to your librarian!

Teens, want a prompt? Today, think of someone who was punished unfairly--at least in your mind. Write about why.

Adults, want a prompt? Think about a day in your past when you were treated unfairly--at work, in a relationship, in the family. Write about how you handled it! Would you do something differently today?

Happy writing!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Noitalever, aka That Light Bulb Moment

My kids used to laugh at me when I would share that I'd had a revelation. Usually I had something backwards until I refined what I'd learned in that light bulb moment.

Hence their term: "The Noitalever." Clever kids. From the mouths of babes and all that.

What revelation have you had, or has one of your characters in your writing had, that proved to be totally wrong, ass-backwards, dumb as a rock?

I'll give you an example. I once woke up believing that I had the answer to all my recent questions about a character. Of course! She will hook up with that cute guy with the hair flop, who will encourage her to write the best poem she was always meant to write, and she'll get a fellowship based on it!

You all would have told me to avoid the hair flop guy, right?

What ends up happening to that character? She falls in "love," writes a dippy poem, doesn't get the fellowship, and has to try harder to figure out who she really is. And of course hair flop guy turns out to be a better friend than boyfriend.

I love it when those characters surprise us. All we have to do is put our fingers on the keyboard, and the surprises emerge.

How about you? Real life "noitalever" or in your fiction? Write it out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Briefly Stated Truths


We've all been told we need a platform to entice an agent or editor. But sometimes, tweeting seems worse than writing, or takes over when writing should come first. Delilah Dawson at Whimsy Dark has some great advice.

For those of you just starting, have you discovered a community on Twitter? We are a lonely tribe. Twitter can amuse, inform, and accompany us on our journey.

Me, I like to post nonsense when I'm not posting that I've posted something new on my blog. What nonsense would you Tweet if you could say ANYTHING YOU WANT without embarrassing yourselves and/or your friends and families?

Enter this information in your journal. 140 characters per faux Tweet. Then get a padlock ... or a good hiding place.

Where do you hide your journal?

Happy writing day!


More practice on writing something brief ...

What are a few of your favorite quotations from well-known writers? Here's one of mine:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 

It's from TS Eliot's "Little Gidding" and I have thought of it repeatedly when life proves it to be true.

If you were to speak one of your truths, something you've learned from your life journey, what would it be? Try out several, and then write one out in 50 WORDS (not characters). Tomorrow, see if you still believe it to be one of the truths you would share with a younger you.

Happy writing!


This morning, I read an interesting quotation from Hannah Arendt:

Nur das ist wahr, dem wir bis zuletzt die Treue halten.

I am hardly a perfect translator (if there is such a thing), and Ms. Arendt isn't hanging around here to help me out, but I take from those words, The only thing that is true is that in which we keep faith. 

Obscure, right? Or is it?

Now let's get a little less philosophical ...

Here's my one and only Dorothy Parker-ish quip:  I have been more faithful to the Red Sox than to any man. 

Haha, right? But it's true! I believed in them in 1967, and I believe in them now. That's pretty long! In 1967, I had a crush on Carl Yastremzski! That's not who I'm crushing on now. (Yes, 50-somethings still do that ... and I'm fortunate to be living with mine.)

Finally, in 2004, 2007, and 2013, the Red Sox validated my belief in them, my faith that they could break The Curse and win the World Series. In 2013, they embodied Boston Strong and I got a maybe too big Sox "B" tattoo to celebrate my 55th birthday.

What else have I believed in that long?

I believed in myself as a writer in 1970, when I wrote a newsletter about my Girl Scout Troop's activities.

I believed in myself as a writer in 1981, when I worked at a publishing house and participated in a writers group. But writing didn't go well for me then, so I had only a wobbly conviction.

I believed in myself as a writer when I started graduate school in English Lit in 1985, thinking that if I read the masters, I'd be able to emulate them. In fact, the masters convinced me that at best I was a minor talent. My faith in my writerly self faltered ...

I have published a lot since then, and certainly I can spin out an essay that will move you, or write a poem that captures a moment or emotion. But I still have not finished a novel--and I've always wanted to write one and polish it to my own satisfaction (or as much satisfaction as any novelist ever feels). I've always wanted to see it published with a real cover and an ISBN.

Last fall, I almost gave up. My daughter in publishing said, You can do this. You are a writer, Mom.

I went back to it. I'm getting closer.

The only thing that is true is that in which we never lose faith.

I believe in unconditional love. My parents gave it to me and I to my own children. And my children return it. They would never judge me for giving up. But they want me to fulfill my dream.

What faith in other faulty, fallible human beings do you hold? Including yourself? You can express this faith in fewer than 140 characters--I know you can.

I believe I will publish an important work of fiction.

The only failed writer is the one who gives up.

To whom have you been faithful since you were ten years old? Or to what idea, hope, goal? Write it out in 140 characters or fewer. Now, expand on it. What does that faith mean to you? Let it be as philosophical as Arendt's or as personal as mine.

See you next week! Happy writing!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015



This post is a three-part set of prompts! Get your notebook/journal/laptop ready, and then read on ...

On Writer Unboxed, I found a post by Sarah Callender that really touched me. It's about how being on the bi-polar spectrum can be difficult but usually also means you are a very creative person.

Most importantly, Callender points out that if you're on that spectrum, you can live very well! You don't have to be depressed if you take care of yourself. And all those high emotions can be relieved by writing--and can result in really amazing writing, too!

With all the attention lately to mental health and how it can affect someone's work (Germanwings) it's important to realize that mental health issues can be regulated. It took a long time for me to grapple with my own depression/anxiety/bipolar tendencies, but lately they're pretty well under control, at least when I'm not pushing myself to be someone I'm not. As a writer, I'm so happy, as long as I take all the measures necessary to keep myself healthy--medication, exercise, plenty of sleep, avoiding anxiety-ridden situations (like working for a creep).

Have you ever dealt with a mental health issue? Do you know anyone who has? How does it affect your creativity, or another's? Even if you haven't, do you sometimes get so deeply into your creative state that you experience "flow"? What is that like?


Write today about someone you know, or you, yourself, who has been affected by mental health issues or situational depression or anxiety. Tomorrow, we'll examine how writing about that made you feel physically, so keep that in mind as you write!

And if you know someone who is currently going through a  mental health issue or who has a chronic one, reach out. Tell that person you love him or her. If it's you, tell yourself you are worthy of living a joy-filled life. 

Oh, about the crow, pictured above. Check out Sarah Callender's blog. You'll find a wonderful blog and a great explanation of how one word can mean many things.


Today, describe the PHYSICAL feelings you had yesterday while writing about your or a family member/friend's mental health challenges. Reread yesterday's writing. How does your body react today? Take some quiet time to connect with your body. Using words that apply to your physical state only ... no slipping into the emotional! :-)


Today, choose an object or a living thing that represents somehow your physical response to your writing about conquering mental health issues, or living joyously and productively with them. Who cares if you start with something trite or overused ... a track star leaping hurdles, a bear emerging from hibernation ... I'm going to stop here because I don't want to steal them all!

Make the comparison. If you get more than a paragraph, great, but one paragraph is a good start. You can always select two symbols and see how different symbols lead to different descriptions, different meanings!

You've had a great week of writing. Congrats! See you next week.


Saturday, April 4, 2015


Trails through 
scented but 
rocky with
steep declines
I pause
brave hyacinths
trusting only
today's sun
and soil

Copyright 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Freedom of Speech and a Learning Opportunity

When it comes to pornographic and misogyinist material, I wish it didn't exist. But we can't afford to control freedom of expression. It's the last bastion of freedom we have in an increasingly corporatized and militarized America.

Watch CBS Morning News, and then watch Democracy Now's morning news. You'll see what I mean. Mainstream media not only reports on a bias, whether it's the far right Fox News or the progressive MSNBC, but also tells stories and manipulates social media to seize the public's imagination, promulgating stories of little importance on days that stories of huge importance are taking place. Take for example the day of the blue dress and the escapee llamas. Do you know what else happened that day? I bet not.

So today, should we forgive Trevor Noah's his earlier unfortunate punch lines that rely on stereotyping of gender. race, religion, and ethnicity? What do you think? What's okay and not okay when it comes to political humor? Why was Jon Stewart so entertaining? When you tell or hear jokes, do you take into account whether they are exploitative or offensive to anyone, anywhere?

I'm a little political today, and taking a look at political correctness. Oh, you noticed?

Here's an interesting perspective: That Guy T

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Freedom prompt #2


Today I was "freed" from a job I never liked in the first place, after months and months of going back and forth about what was to happen ... I am now a full-time writer of my own work, not anyone else's. Yes, I have to feed myself, so I am also seeking other meaningful work, but purposeful, meaningful work that won't derail my writing.

Whereas I was neither in solitary confinement nor wrongfully imprisoned, I was in a place toxic to me. It hurt.

Have you ever been in a place like that? Or a relationship like that? Can you figure out, in writing, how it turned out to be that way? If you're still in one, brainstorm a way out ... No matter which topic you choose to write about today, before you put down that pen or close the laptop, reflect on how you tried to make it work until, well, you just couldn't. List those ways. Congratulate yourself for the effort.

Catch ya tomorrow, writing buds!


Monday, March 30, 2015


“If they strain me up tight, why, let 'em look out! I can't bear it, and I won't.” ― Anna SewellBlack Beauty

Today's Goodreads quote, above, just made me so happy that I decided to use it as a prompt, and my lovely daughter Sophie as an example of how my making myself free taught my kids a lesson--BE WHO YOU ARE, and EXULT IN IT!!

Sophie runs half marathons--she just completed her fifth. I was there to see her response to this one, and it was inspirational back at me. I've run all my life but am much less religious about it these days. My knees hurt and I weigh more than I ever did before which makes it hard to go all out--something I really love. Running flat out makes me feel like I'm flying, bursting through barriers as intimidating as many other barriers I've burst through.

When I was a high school kid, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be, but after getting into a prestigious college, I spent a lot of time conforming, and losing sight of that. Now, I'm back to what I wanted to be--a writer and a teacher, if only teaching at the library as opposed to my one-time goal to be a tenured professor. But really, which type of teaching is more freeing, anyway? And as a tenured professor, I wouldn't be joyously writing young adult fiction. 

Not every day as a writer is joyous, but man-oh-man is it better than anything else I've ever worked at doing. When I'm deeply into the creative process, I have no idea what's happening around me. It's flow.

So for this week's prompts, I'm going to focus on freedom. What freedoms did you give up to become a responsible adult? Which would you like back? Brainstorm for a few minutes, and see whether you can get a paragraph or two out of that. I'll post some more ideas tomorrow.

Have fun!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Spinning yarns

“When it comes to life, we spin our own yarn, and where we end up is really, in fact, where we always intended to be.” 
― Julia GlassThree Junes


This Julia Glass quotation is so perfect for me. Is it for you? In one paragraph, write the condensed story of your life. What would you like to part of that story might be a point you'd like to explore more in writing? Pick one. Write another paragraph and then wait for tomorrow's prompt ;-)




If you are the person who rewrote and chose a different episode/event/life experience, come back tomorrow.

Hello, person still using the life experience you wrote about yesterday ... you, my friend,  may continue on ...


Okay, you left that writing (above) for a day. Do you still see the episode you identified yesterday as interesting enough and important enough to you to explore more? If no, write a couple of paragraphs and return tomorrow. If yes here's your next prompt:

You were the protagonist in the paragraphs you wrote. Now imagine that this event features not you, but someone else. Create that person. Day dream. Jot down ideas. Now describe him/her, including both physical appearance and personal characteristics. Try to keep a bit of yourself in this new character, but also include some different traits. Write about this person in third person: He did this, she felt that. Give this person a setting, with detail. Include place, using as many senses as you can. Include time of year. Include weather. Think of the weather and setting as a character, too, influencing the outcome of the event and the feelings of the character.

Guess what?

You just started writing fiction. We all mine our own lives for important life events. We all create characters using some of ourselves and some of what we know about others.

Tomorrow, we shall go forth again ...

Know that this exercise is not just about becoming a fiction writer. Nope. I have hidden motivations.


STOP HERE. I MEAN IT. ;-) See you tomorrow. 


Yesterday you described your character. Now take those sentences and instead of using adjectives to describe him/her, show the same things about him/her through action and dialogue with one other character. You can be the extra character yourself if you'd like! Imagine ... it's sort of authorized talking to yourself! All writers are pretty crazy anyhow. Get used to it.

One more part coming ... tomorrow.


Yesterday, you created a scene, mini-scene, start of a scene, idea for a scene. You know, something sort of scene-like. Today you get an easy assignment. Scenes in a short story, novel, memoir, bio, etc. relate to one and another. One scene leads to the next in a kinda sorta cause and effect relationship. Reread your work from yesterday. What might a following scene contain? Journal on it.

And guess what?

You just finished multiple days of writing like a "real" writer. Which makes you one, too. It's in the doing ... See you next week!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Banning the rant

Did you every try to advocate for someone or something--or yourself--and get so angry and frustrated you ended up acting in a way you wish you hadn't? Why did you struggle to right what you saw (see) as a wrong? How might you have handled it differently? How might you have been more effective? How might you have found more serenity with the outcome? How did you keep the energy flowing meeting obstacle after obstacle?

I'm really interested in this prompt myself. After thinking about it for a day or so, and working on other writing, the answer came. That it took me a couple of days to be able to write about it is meaningful in itself.

My heart races. I pace. I want to email and phone everyone I know to tell them about the travesties I've just observed, and how I could fix them, given a chance. Texting and emailing sometimes also work but are much less satisfying. Facebook and Twitter should be shut off at moments like this.

Been there?

I've worked hard on not getting obsessed to that point, but I can still go from zero to sixty and work up a pretty loud and lengthy rant, complete with exquisite detail and gorgeous, eloquent passion. What friend of mine, or complete stranger, for that matter, wouldn't want to listen, right?


In fact, I'm that ten-year-old stomping her feet because she just knows the world will be better place if she has a puppy, and her mom disagrees. I'm not fixing a damn thing, and I just might break something fragile, like another person's equilibrium.

Let me give myself some credit--I have grown up a little. Although I still do feel for homeless puppies, I now get my most worked up trying to change things for other human beings less privileged than myself, which is a tough charge, because although I live a modest life, there are million and millions of people living in much worse conditions than I do in my white American world.

Neither do I suffer from the delusion that if I were to run the world, there would be an end to starvation and the start of world peace. But I have my own bias--that my truths are more certifiable than the truths of others. And that's how I start looking certifiable myself.

Yep, before I know it, I'm standing on a corner handing pamphlets about the impending apocalypse to passers-by who then wish they'd taken the bus.

I seriously need to stop and take a breath, knowing that the earth won't stop revolving in the next few hours.

Then, I need to remember who I am. I'm a writer. I deal in fictions, and probably, my so-called truths are just as fictional as other people's narratives.  I need to put my story in words that appear on a screen or a page, and never, never hit send until the following day--if then.

Hemingway believed in Truth and most Religious Folk preach it.

I actually believe in many truths. It's just easy to forget that before I start sounding like an evangelical. "You too can be saved! Come hear The Way!"

The beauty of writing is that through the process, I learn what I didn't know I don't know. And if I'm dedicated to exploring through narrative, I most often locate a whirlpool of new ideas that ironically spins me into a more organized me.

Words and stories are magical that way.

Then and only then can I stop demanding a puppy and find empathy for those with other realities, like my mom, who had to pay for the vet bills.

I am still a child, and like children, I am so not in charge, but when I write out my thoughts, I am at least somewhat closer to being an adult. Not that we so-called grown ups are in charge of much either. And therein lies the real secret that helps.

None of us is in charge.

I am only one of the many practically drowning in rushing waters and hanging onto the only branch they can grab--their truth of the day.

When I know that, I can take myself one step closer to peace, and recapture the one truism that is my branch in the swirling waters: Peace within is the only way toward peace without.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Today: A revision

After sharing my poem with others who remembered my family friend whom I called Tietia, the Russian for aunt, I gained perspective that led to this revision. Today, share something you've written with others. It will lead you to new insight and inspiration!

In Lent, for Mrs. Syx

When pansies emerge
between deep freeze
and sunblock
I remember Tietia
her long nylon
stockings drying
in a rose-scented
dusky room with
a bed too narrow
for her proud
Russian spirit
Others remember her
standing wrapped
in a fur collar
and dignity
at the back of the
Orthodox Cathedral
leaning on a cane
or regally presiding
over guests enjoying
her tangy Waldorf
salad and хлеб
with масло
and чай
(some of the few
Russian words
I still know)
I remember
that she loved
deeply but quietly
that she kept her
door locked against
loneliness and
never missed the
Hallelujah Chorus
on Easter no matter
how loud the radio
had to be set
Despite being
hard of hearing
she lived
at full volume

Copyright Lisa E. Paige 3/18/2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Writing prompt: If you were to write a letter to one person you knew in your youth, who would it be? What would you say? And if you don't want to do the long version in your journal, post a short answer on your Facebook page and ask your friends to chime in! Here's mine: 


Pansies with
colorful faces
Waldorf salads
homemade dressing
sweet sour cream
and vinegar 
like life
Sunlight gracing
a vast porcelain
sink where you rinsed
fragile floral china
Dusk in a 
narrow bedroom 
scent of roses
Nylon stockings
for long legs
striding through
pain in your hips
Door locked
against loneliness
Car driven 
with cataract eyes
Alleluja chorus
on Orthodox Easter
Proud Russia Tietia   
Stark tired love

Monday, March 16, 2015

Do you have a pet peeve?

We all have pet peeves.

When I hear lay and lie confused, it's like fingernails on the chalkboard. (You lay a book on a table. You lie down on the bed. It's a question of which is transitive, but we don't really want to go there, do we?)

When someone says, "Me and him are going to a concert, and you can't come. It's just for him and I," I want to lay my grammar book on the table between us, then lie down in bed and weep.

One pet peeve I cannot seem to shake affects my life a lot more, however. It is: people who enjoy using their little bit of power. I call it Gym Teacher Syndrome, and anyone out there who teaches phys ed, kindly forgive me. I'm sure not all gym teachers have it. But the ones I had, did. Climb those ropes! Ten more pushups! Ropes give me burns and I can't do more than three pushups on a good day.

Why does this syndrome bother me so much?

For many reasons that are undoubtedly better saved for the therapist's couch, I have felt since I can remember that I have little to no control over structuring my own life. It starts with doing what your parents tell you to do, including being nice to family members you wouldn't mind shooting to Mars in a rocket ship. It continues with sitting properly in class and following instructions on how to follow instructions. At church, we as small children believe what we're told to believe, or else our souls turn into those dark shadowy filmy things that escape from our bodies and screech like banshees as they head toward purgatory.

Okay, so we go to see our shrinks, and we set up some boundaries, right? We learn how to protect ourselves and make some of our own choices. We learn the word, "no."

But there are so many places where "no" isn't acceptable. Such as at work, for example.

Oh, sure, we can always say, "It's all about them, not us."

But guess what? What is about them affects us, even if we become experts at, as some pop stars might sing, shaking it off?

Being this way means I don't fit in well. It means I'm not good with authority.

Maybe I should have been Empress. But that's not a job category I could ever find on

Besides, I feel badly saying, "Let them eat cake," and my feet don't fit in AAA-width shoes. They're more the peasant kind, good for digging potatoes.

And maybe because of the feet, I prefer to just stand on my own, which is challenging enough. I don't want to tell anyone else what to do, unless it's to hold hands and look both ways, and you're two.


What are some of your pet peeves? Jot these down. Select one. NOW WRITE!

Friday, March 13, 2015


 Please please please, fellow writers, don't begin your memoir, "I am born." It worked for Charles Dickens in David Copperfield, but really, how much of your infancy is all that interesting to your readers?

Do try beginning with a great line that shows your personality. Try starting here ...

Many think I'm not all that noteworthy, but in fact ...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Writing Prompts!

Prompt #1 March 12, 2015

If I could see one face I missed, it would be that of ... GO WRITE!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ansel Elkin's Autobiography of Eve

Not my poem. Great poem. Love this poem. You will too! Hope to get her permission to use it in the YA mss I'm working on ... Check out the poet at!

Autobiography of Eve, by Ansel Elkins

Wearing nothing but snakeskin
boots, I blazed a footpath, the first
radical road out of that old kingdom
toward a new unknown.
When I came to those great flaming gates
of burning gold,
I stood alone in terror at the threshold
between Paradise and Earth.
There I heard a mysterious echo:
my own voice
singing to me from across the forbidden
side. I shook awake—
at once alive in a blaze of green fire.
Let it be known: I did not fall from grace.
I leapt
to freedom.
Copyright © 2015 by Ansel Elkins. Used with permission of the author.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Late To the Party

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

This YA novel has been out for a few years, but I just picked it up a few days ago. It started out slow--intentionally, I'm sure of it. I was thinking, "Oh, no, not another one about rich white girls with boy and popularity struggles, not to mention the drinking, the smoking weed. And gaa, throw in a gratuitous car accident."

But by the middle, the top of my head had lifted off. By the end, I was crying, but also cheering.

She hoodwinked me with the opening! And if she hoodwinked me, she hoodwinked sooooo many YA readers whose attitudes and outlooks have to be improved by this oh-so-not-heavy-handed but incredibly compelling narrative.

And isn't that the point? To make the world a better place? While leaving some gorgeous lyrical prose?

I can't believe I missed this brilliant debut when it came out. I really have to start paying more attention to my daughter Annie Stone's recommendations.

Her most recent rec? All the Bright Places  by Jennifer Niven.

I just put it on reserve today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Black Lives Matter

Last week I had the great privilege of meeting Kekla Magoon, a relatively new on the scene novelist who specializes in YA but oh-my-god it is so not only for young adults. I picked up a copy of her most recent novel. How It Went Down, and couldn't Put It Down. 

Based on a shooting similar to that of Trayvon Martin, the novel has nineteen narrators, all characters directly and tangentially involved with a shooting in a not-so-nice Baltimore neighborhood. White man jumps out of car and shoots young black man who looks--to him--threatening, and maybe has a gun. 

Or is it a Snickers bar in his hand?

Blood is spilled and a young life is lost.

Every voice in the novel is distinct and recognizable. Every scene is poignant. Every character is affected. 

And it doesn't stop with them.

Last week, after getting to know Kekla just a little bit at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, I met my son by the Boston Common to grab a quick dinner and catch up on one another's lives before I headed back home to the suburbs on the commuter rail. He had to duck out of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) meeting early to meet me because I had to catch that last train out. 

For at least an hour, his head was still in the meeting. He was distracted. He hadn't wanted to leave. He wanted to participate in the discussion of open space protests. He's already marched several times. I felt guilty at taking him away from this important work.

Last week, while this issue was at the forefront of my consciousness, Yale police detained a young black man leaving the Yale library. NY Times' columnist Charles Blow's son is that college student. 

My son is a student at Tufts. In his nearly four years there, never once did he leave the library in his ever present hoody to be accosted by a Tufts police officer. Is it fair to assume that because he's not a black college student he doesn't look threatening?  

It's easy to understand why Kekla is so passionate about the issue, as is Charles Blow. As President Obama said years ago, that young man could have been his son out there. 

It's less easy to understand why a "white" college senior takes time away from campus and studying to participate in BLM meetings and marches.

However, it's quite simple. My son has white man guilt. My son has a conscience. My son is angry, sad, outraged, and compelled to speak up.

Perhaps, with more young men like my son joining the movement, young men with lives as disparate as Mr. Blow's and Mr. Martin's will become more valued and respected. I would like to hope that the melding of both privileged and underprivileged white voices and both privileged and underprivileged black voices will make a difference.

This is our nation. We need all voices to speak. I am not a marcher by nature, but I am a writer. And I assure you this issue will be in my writing. I will not let this go on without my own form of protest.

Join us however you can. Otherwise, those voices we lose on the streets of Miami, New York, and all our communities, already tragically disrespected, neglected, and silenced by gunfire, will fade.

The voices in Kekla's brilliant novel cry loudly for all of us to step out of the silence.

See you there?