What are you reading?

I've learned over the years how important reading is to writers. I feel I can always learn something from another author - even if I don't particularly like his or her book. So I try to keep reading and competing in the Goodreads yearly book challenge helps. Last year I committed to reading twenty-five books - yes, I know that's not a very big number, but it was plenty big for me. Even so, I overshot my goal and read twenty-eight last year. This year I've committed to reading another twenty-five books, and I've already finished my first and I'm well into my second. I'll be reviewing my first book of 2019 here on January twenty-fourth when I host the author while she's on her WOW! Women On Writing virtual book tour. As you will see from that list of books I read in 2018, I'm a very eclectic reader.  I even mixed in a few politically themed books and included some poetry volumes. By far my favorite book of the whole year is Michelle Obama's Becoming. It is so … [Read more...]

What’s happening?

Isn’t it funny how some of us start conversations with people these days with this question: “What’s Happening?” And then the poor person being asked the question is in the hot seat having to come up with a quick and meaningful answer. Well, my answer today is: writing is happening in my life. I feel like I’ve been at my computer these last few days since the new year and even before the holidays, almost non-stop. And that’s a good thing. I gotten myself back into writing small stones, which are a couple of lines about anything. This month I started writing one every day, concentrating on a theme that has to do with something I observe in nature. By the way, I’ve written small stones for years, but recently took a break from them. I’m glad to be back. There’s a Facebook group in case you’re interested in joining in. This month they’re called January resolutions – the name changes every month. My main project, however, is my new memoir about aging. I wrote a list of thirty topics … [Read more...]

Poems for the new year 2019

I have Michael Schaub of the Los Angeles Times to thank for this New Year's Day post. He's picked some wonderful words to greet the new year from five favorite poets. I'm especially taken by his choosing the words of Naomi Shihab Nye and Dorianne Laux. I've worked with both of them in poetry workshops and consider them my mentors. Five hopeful poems to usher in the new year By MICHAEL SCHAUB DEC 31, 2018 | 11:50 AM Filipino revelers watch as fireworks light up the sky to welcome the new year at the seaside Mall of Asia in suburban Pasay city south of Manila in 2017. (Bullit Marquez / Associated Press) Even if you're one of the nine or so people in the world who actually understand what "Auld Lang Syne" means, you have to admit that Robert Burns' traditional New Year's poem is getting a little old. Luckily, there are other poems you can use to pay tribute to the year that's gone by and celebrate the potential of the one to … [Read more...]

Writing memoir helped me deal with grief

As I am inching toward December 31, which would be my son Paul’s forty-seventh birthday, I think it makes sense to revisit some of the tools I used in dealing with the grief I felt after his death and still feel now. Memoir writing and writing in general were/are a huge help. Maybe that’s why I’ve turned to memoir again. I’m almost twenty thousand words along on a new one; however it’s not about Paul, as my memoir, published in 2011, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is. Here’s a piece I wrote early on about how writing memoir, journal entries, and poetry all worked for me. In fact, everything I wrote in the piece below still applies today. How Memoir Writing Helped Me Deal with Grief I signed up for a writing class three months after my son Paul’s death. We sat in the instructor’s living room on couches and big easy chairs in a comfortable and forgiving atmosphere. Each week the instructor told us t … [Read more...]

Yes, you can write political poetry

Two op eds - one in the New York Times book review section and one in the Los Angeles Times editorial section - appeared yesterday. The gist in each is that we poets and other artists need to stop avoiding writing or producing other forms of art about politics. We must use our voices to provide the meaning for all that's happening in our world these days - as offensive as it might me. The last time I wrote a poem along these lines was after the buildings collapsed on September 11, 2001 - that is until I did the Robert Lee Brewer poem a day challenge this past November. I found myself writing one political poem after another. That became the most important subject for me in response to a lot of the prompts the Writer's Digest poetry editor put out, and now I feel validated. While Brewer kept admonishing us to  "poem nicely," I even ignored this admonition. And I suspect I'll continue to do so. I've copied both articles verbatim here and hopefully acknowledged the authors and … [Read more...]

Poetry writing in Santa Cruz

I just spent five days in Santa Cruz, CA at a poetry workshop held at 1440 Multiversity. The instructors were one of favorite poets, Sharon Olds, and a poet I wasn't familiar with before, Naomi Shihab Nye.  The entire experience was great. Last year four of us - Linda, Stacy, Maria and myself - worked together at a poetry workshop led by Ellen Bass at Esalen in Big Sur, CA. So we decided to meet up last week at 1440.  Although twenty-six other poets were with us lapping up the wisdom of Sharon and Naomi, we four  spent some wonderful time together. Here are some pictures. And no, I won't be sharing any of the seven poems I wrote while I was there yet. I want to see if I can get any of them published first. … [Read more...]

David Myles Robinson has returned

I'm pleased to welcome David Myles Robinson back to Choices, while he's on his WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour for his new book, Son of Saigon. I couldn't resist reading another one of his mystery thrillers after the great time I had reading The Pinochet Plot. See my post about that book and my review here. His latest book is called Son of Saigon, and it doesn't disappoint. Here's a brief synopsis: Hank and Norm were living the good life: two friends with plenty of money, homes in a lovely California retirement town, and no problems except for the boredom that felt almost fatal. Then Mai came into the picture, the love of Hank’s life during his CIA days in Saigon, desperately needing his help to save the son he’d never known he had. Boredom was over, as Hank and Norm hit the road, following the few clues Mai could give them in search of a man who desperately wants not to be found. What they find is a slew of lies and hidden truths, strange characters, improbable dan … [Read more...]

Keep writing and keep submitting

This has been a good couple of months for my poem submissions. Story Circle Network accepted my poem, "Reaching for a Star," to include in its 2018 anthology, Real Women Write: Sharing Our Stories, Sharing Our Lives to be published in January;  three of my poems  – "Stop and Go," "The Lesson," and "Underarm Dingle-Dangle" will appear in the Poetry Salon anthology to also be published in January, and Story Circle Network’s True Words section in its December journal accepted my poem, "The Wishing Dream," to be published this month. The main lesson is – keep submitting your writing. That’s the only way to make sure your words get out there and get noticed. I won’t publish any poems here that haven’t been published elsewhere before, but since the Poetry Salon asked for previously published work (highly unusual), I can share a couple of those. I wrote Stop and Go while at Esalen at Big Sur, California a couple of years ago and edited it extensively while in a Poetry Salon worksh … [Read more...]

Writing up a storm

I got a note back from a writing friend after I congratulated her on her new book of poetry. She said she hopes I’m writing up a storm. We met years ago at a poetry writing workshop at Esalen in Big Sur California. Plus, I took two of her classes through UCLA’s writers program: How to Write Your First Novel and her Novel Three class. Well, I think I am writing a lot. Today for instance I’ve already written to two poem-a-day (PAD) prompts – one to make up for yesterday and one for today. Plus I have this list of writing yet to accomplish: this blog post, another thousand words or so of my new memoir, and my everyday journal entry that usually goes about five hundred words. That’s a big assignment, but isn’t that what we writers are supposed to do? Another thing that’s on my writing plate is querying small presses, hopefully to get them interested in publishing my novel. So far I’ve queried three. It’s very slow going and, as I’ve said before, a scary one. My son is an actor and … [Read more...]

Should we write fiction about real people?

I'm excited to have Cindy Fazzi here today while she's on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. She discusses her new book My MacArthur and how to write fiction about a famous person. I love this subject matter so much that she's inspired me to find a famous person to write about too. Perhaps a dead famous person like she did. Here's Cindy! Three Tips on Writing Fiction about a Famous Person By Cindy Fazzi Writing a novel about a real person is difficult—the more famous the person, the greater the challenge. Writing about Douglas MacArthur, an iconic World War II general, was certainly not easy, especially because I focused on a little-known love affair he had with Isabel Rosario Cooper, a Filipino actress. Here are a few things I learned from my experience writing my historical novel, My MacArthur. 1. Choose your subject well; remember that you can’t defame the dead. Under American law, the party who claims that he or she was defamed may file a lawsuit. Obviously, a de … [Read more...]

It’s November PAD time again

As usual, I'm writing a poem a day (PAD) from Writer's Digest poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer's, prompts. During the year he posts a prompt on Wednesdays except in April and November when the prompts come once a day. Our assignment is to put the best into a chapbook and enter it into his chapbook contest at the end of the month. So far I've written a poem a day for fourteen days. I'm not thrilled with the products yet, but plan to keep plugging along. Maybe I can edit them into something passable for the contest. And it's funny that this year I've gotten a little political in my subject matter. Really? Can you blame me? So here are three poems of the fourteen I've written so far this month. I've included the prompts so you'll know where they came from. *** Write a poem with an occupation as the title. For instance, the titles might include: “Governor,” “Teacher,” “Architect,” and “Engineer.” Or go with some of these creative job titles I found: “Director of First Impression … [Read more...]

Using educator skills to build fictional characters

Cheryl Carpinello, our Choices WOW! Women on Writing book tour guest today has used her years as an educator and observation skills to create characters her young readers can relate to. Author of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, Cheryl shares how using the traits of her students helped her build believable characters for her award-winning fiction.   Being an Educator Helps Me Build Believable Characters By Cheryl Carpinello Writing characters that readers can identify and bond with is difficult at the best of times. When writing for young readers, I transport myself back to my classroom where I watch my students working and discussing. I wander the school hallways and observe students’ interactions with each other and with other teachers. Doing these exercises helps me develop characters that my readers can relate to and see pieces of themselves. As an adult writing for ages 9-15, it is important that my characters come across true. Kids are really amazing and at t … [Read more...]

WriteGirl – a huge success story

I am contemplating volunteering to be a writing mentor at a Los Angeles-based nonprofit called WriteGirl. Launched in 2001 by Karen Taylor, #WriteGirl provides weekly one-on-one mentoring, schedules monthly workshops on a variety of writing genres, shares mentee work in public meetings, and publishes books with writings by its mentees. Where do WriteGirl mentees come from? WriteGirl mentees come from high-density public middle and high schools in central Los Angeles. These girls are recommended by their English teachers and are both low and high achievers. Where do I fit in? WriteGirl searches for professional women writers and women with strong communications skills who use writing in their careers in all genres – some like me, who work in multiple genres – who will volunteer to mentor these teen girls. I first heard of WriteGirl at a friend’s birthday party. My friend asked for donations to WriteGirl instead of gifts and hosted WriteGirl staff, volunteers, and mente … [Read more...]

Querying and editing again – oh my!

It's been almost two months since I declared my novel finished, and I still haven't sent out one query letter. That is not to say I haven't been working up to it, but it's been a long process. I've been googling small presses - ones that specialize in feminist books, and so far I found only one that might work. I've also been studying how to write a query letter. To that end I found a short book called, Literary Agent Secrets Revealed: Create the Perfect, Unrejectable Query Letter, and it has been quite helpful. It's main advice is that the letter should have two main sections - a two-paragraph novel synopsis and an author biography. And no matter what, the letter should be no longer than one page. Sounds simple, right? Not so simple I found out. Here's a few other hints: In the synopsis, introduce your main characters, lay out the main plot points , and make your writing exciting and engaging Create a one-paragraph author biography that only contains relevant in … [Read more...]

13 TED talks that will make you better at business

I don't normally discuss TED talks or business here, but since I'm a daily follower of Seth Godin, I thought I'd share Website Planet's pick of the following TED talks that will help make you better at business. And if you scroll down a bit, you'll see a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, about changing the way we view creativity. Seth's talk about how to spread ideas is way down toward the end of the list. I think there's something for everybody on this list. Please let me know what you think. Website Planet > Blog > General > 13 TED Talks that Will Make You Better at Business 13 TED Talks that Will Make You Better at Business by Esme Mazzeo 18 SEP 2018 Based on the TED founding principle, there is one qualification to being a speaker at a conference: having an idea worth spreading. The company was founded in 1984, but has seen a surge of popularity in recent years. TED talks are free to distribute and pretty short (about 12 minutes o … [Read more...]

More about the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is so much in the news these days, it's time to mention her on Choices again. The Los Angeles Times reported this morning: "The latest in RBG fever: The first museum exhibition about the justice’s life and work, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” opening Friday at the Skirball Cultural Center." Ari Richter's "RBG Tattoo II" (2018) is on view at the Skirball Cultural Center as part of “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg," opening Friday. (Courtesy Ari Richter and the Skirball Cultural Center) Why an exhibit now: the people at the Skirball feel "there’s an urgency now to her message, and the message of the exhibition, which is ‘work hard, stay the course, things will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean they’re hopeless.’" The exhibition, co-organized by Skirball associate curator Cate Thurston and the co-authors, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik of the book Notorious RBG, marks the 25th anniversary of Bader Ginsburg … [Read more...]

My 60-year high school reunion already – oh my!

This weekend I’ll be attending my sixtieth New Trier High School reunion. Sixty years! Really! Amazing! And besides this excitement, four couples will stay together at a high school friend’s house. One of each of the couples were in the same class at New Trier, took a journalism class from Dr. Robert R. Boyle – still a long-time friend, and all worked on the school newspaper together. Since reuniting at our twenty-fifth reunion, these friends and their spouses and my husband and I have remained very close. We gather together at each other’s homes besides attending reunions together. Unfortunately, though, a couple of news team members are no longer with us, and one dear friend, who was the editor-in-chief of our paper, is too ill to travel. Events for the reunion start on Thursday night with a get together at the famed Hackney’s on Lake in Glenview IL. It’s a restaurant I used to love to go to with my family. Friday morning is golf – my husband will participate i … [Read more...]

Water disaster aftermath

I am very happy to say that we’ve been back in our house one day less than two weeks, and things are almost all back to order. Just a few stickies up in the kitchen to remind my contractor and his crew that they still have a little bit of work to do. A preview of our new kitchen My main concern since Servpro, the water and fire cleanup and restoration company, brought back our furniture and boxes of our possessions that they moved out while the demolition and restoration was going on, are the broken items and those pieces that at this point seem to be hopelessly lost. Right now as I sit at my desk in my writing room, the file folder stand that used to sit to my right is not there, the black scotch tape and stapler set that used to be on my left is missing, and the Relax the Back foot rest that was under my desk does not make sitting here more comfortable, since my feet don’t touch the floor without it. One of the broken items is a silver floor lamp that had been in my fam … [Read more...]

Wine while you write

Ha ha! Needless to say I'm thinking about a glass of wine as my alcohol fast ends in a few days!   … [Read more...]

Welcome! Mary Maurice, author of the Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe

Choices is very pleased to have Mary Maurice visit while she's on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour of The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe. She has also given us her thoughts about the failing use of the word, Please - a word that has always been well-used in my family - along with its companions, Thank You. At least Ms. Maurice has a sense of humor about it. Here are her thoughts! PLEASE, WHERE ARE YOU? by Mary Maurice Has anyone seen, Please? You know, to please or not to please, that is the question. Whether it is pleasurable to please, or polite to say please, is becoming a mystery to people, at least that what it seems to me as I pace through this unconscious society. Just another word that’s lost its meaning and status in our vocabulary. I can still hear Mom saying. “What’s the magic word?” Or maybe it’s what the techno world is turning humans into. Rude, insensitive, self-indulged individuals, who think because they have the world at their fingertips, as they thumb … [Read more...]