Monthly Archives: December 2015

Hanging with a One Year Old

So, the nanny’s on vacation which is what brings me to NYC for the week to hang with my one year old grandson Milo. Ordinarily, when I come to the Big Apple, I’m running to MOMA and the Met. But this week, I’m doing my running around a roomy loft in Tribeca chasing the world’s cutest grandchild (an honor he shares with my other three grandchildren). Hanging with him has reminded me of a few things: As a writer, I know how important it is to incorporate the senses into my work. Hanging with a baby is like watching a master at tuning into them. Babies have the touch, taste, see, smell, hear thing totally down—whether it’s running their tiny fingernails over the ridges on the couch pillows, clapping their hands to the Toot-Toot song or seeing what it feels like to kiss and smell their high chair tray (definitely a giggle-worth experience). The drive to learn, discover, and explore the world when everything is brand new is incredibly strong. I’ve always thought I was a pretty energetic person—but my one year old grandson can run circles around me—or were those zig-zags? In fact, I don’t need meditation to practice being in the moment. Milo not only models being fully present in whatever he’s doing—he also requires my attention to what’s happening right this minute. Nope—no zoning out, or there may be an unfortunate spill off the couch or an unhappy dog whose tail has just been yanked. Hard. Naps [...]

By |2015-12-31T18:20:58-04:00December 31st, 2015|Family|1 Comment

The Last Time We Say Goodbye, Book Review

Dear Friends, When I fall in love with a book, it stays with me long after I’ve finished reading it. I wanted to share a review I wrote about a novel by Cynthia Hand that deeply moved me. Here goes: The Last Time We Say Goodbye: A Stunning Foray into Teen Realistic Fiction by Cynthia Hand Cynthia Hand, best-selling author of the paranormal romance trilogy, Unearthly, has departed from the world of fantasy to write a deeply moving realistic teen novel about the impact of a sibling’s suicide. In doing so, she neatly avoids the problem with the “problem novels” that first gained  tremendous popularity in the 1970’s. While heralded for taking on realistic problems teens were facing, such as suicide, substance abuse, and unwanted pregnancy, early problem novelists such as Jeanette Eyerly often made the difficult problem the focus rather than character development and growth.  Hand, however, joins the ranks of outstanding contemporary YA novelists like Laurie Halse Anderson and Chris Crutcher by tackling painful subject matter with fully developed characters who struggle to grow and heal in the wake of devastating experiences. As the novel opens, it’s been 47 days since Lex’s younger brother Tyler committed suicide. Lex, a brilliant math student and high school senior, is numb with grief. She’s broken up with her equally brilliant and devoted boyfriend Steven and distanced herself from her friends. Meantime, she tries to hold her mother together who’s drinking too much and crying at random times. When Dave, her therapist, [...]

By |2015-12-23T17:53:10-04:00December 23rd, 2015|Review|0 Comments

About Caregiving

Dear Friends: Wanted to share these comments I made at a recent church service on caregiving. I’d love to hear from you about any experiences or concerns you have in connection with caregiving. Here goes: A few years ago, a small group of us sat in a circle at church doing some New Year’s sharing. I talked about how my stepmom was experiencing a lot of memory loss. I was not only constantly worried about her, but I was also grieving. Slivers of my then 91-year old mother were disappearing. Although she was very much alive, I mourned the loss of this fearsomely bright, endlessly energetic woman who for decades had finished her Christmas shopping by October and never encountered a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle she couldn’t figure out. Afterward, a friend came up to me and said, “You really need to drop by our monthly caregiver’s support group.” “But I’m not a caregiver,” I said. “You’re a long distance caregiver.” And so I went, even though I felt like an imposter, sitting and talking with amazing folks, many of whom were caring fulltime for loved ones who were no longer the same people they’d been raised by or married to. It really was helpful to share our experiences and feelings, and know that we were not alone. But still, I think one of the emotions long distance caregivers like myself deal with is guilt. It’s not that I’ve checked out on my mom. I call her every [...]

By |2015-12-16T17:54:51-04:00December 16th, 2015|Family|0 Comments

Are We Always Writing the Same Book?

Years ago, I was at a writer’s conference chatting with a New York book editor. He asked me who my favorite YA writer was. I named her, and he said rather dismissively, “Yes, she’s good, but she always writes the same book.” To which I replied, “But it’s such a good book.” In fact, there was a theme or pattern that ran through many of her works at the time. Older teen woman by choice or circumstance leaves home and becomes part of new community in which she builds authentic connections and finds her way to adulthood. Now that I’m working on my third novel, I’ve begun to see some familiar patterns and themes in my own work.  In large part, they stem from my own experiences.  My sisters and I grew up with a single parent dad in a household where there was a definite script we were supposed to follow for our lives. Our father was well-intentioned, but I was thirty years old when the therapist I’d begun seeing asked me: “What do you want?” I was startled and amazed at the question. I could not recall having ever been asked this question—not only by my father, but by anyone in my family. Not surprisingly, this is coming out in my work. Although the settings and plot lines of my books are quite different, a central challenge for the protagonist in each book is figuring out who she is and what she wants as distinct from the messages [...]

By |2015-12-10T22:16:09-04:00December 10th, 2015|The Writing Life|0 Comments

What to Give the Writer in Your Life

Since I’m about to finish my MFA from Seton Hill University in Writing Popular Fiction, I’ve been doing some shopping for gifts to express my appreciation to the terrific professional writer/mentors I’ve worked with. Surfing the net for “gifts for writers” has made me reflect on the gifts folks have given me over the years. As a writer, what has made my socks roll up and down? Truthfully, it hasn’t been anything that arrived in a box. Instead, it’s been the gift that came from folks who shared with me that readers enjoyed my work. The other day, for example, a writer/middle school librarian friend emailed me that she’d put my novel, While I Danced, on her shelves. “It’s already checked out and has a waiting list of about 10 kids,” she wrote. “The girl who is reading it now is singing your praises and it is spreading like wild fire.” I levitated through the rest of the day. Wow, I thought, there are actually kids out there reading my book—and enjoying it. How cool is that? We all need to know that our work is appreciated, and that in some small way, it makes a difference. I think this is especially true for writers. We spend lots of time alone working on projects for which there’s no guarantee there will ever be an audience. So, if you’re looking for a really great gift for a writer you care about, don’t worry if you have a limited budget. Pass on [...]

By |2015-12-02T16:47:49-04:00December 2nd, 2015|Holidays|2 Comments