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Hating the Endings of Otherwise Wonderful Books

This past week, I read two beautifully written young adult novels. Both feature a Romeo and Juliet trope which I also explore in my third YA novel, Leisha’s Song. Interestingly, both books star Hasidic heroines who live in Crown Heights, New York. In Like No Other by Una LaMarche, Devorah, described as “a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing,” gets stuck on an elevator during a hurricane with Jaxon, a boy whose family hails from the West Indies. The two fall for one another and begin meeting secretly. Told in alternating viewpoints, the novel movingly depicts the intensity and beauty of their relationship. Of course, all hell breaks loose when her family discovers their strictly forbidden relationship. Jaxon is brutally beaten up by Devorah’s brother-in-law and his friends, and Devorah is sent away to Hasidic “rehab” while her family plots to arrange an appropriate marriage for her. It’s impossible not to root for these star-crossed lovers, but at the end, Devorah can’t bring herself to leave her family and community. She dumps Jaxon and her consolation prize is to be “allowed” to go to college and postpone marriage. Likewise, in Eva Wiseman’s The World Outside, seventeen-year old Chanie is expected to marry as soon as she graduates from high school. She dreams of becoming a singer, a forbidden career. But when she meets David, a boy outside her tight knit community, he encourages her to pursue her dreams and helps her arrange [...]

By |2019-06-26T11:12:29-04:00June 26th, 2019|The Courage to Change, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Love, not Labelling

Friday night, I marched with a contingent from my Unitarian church in the Gay Pride parade in Louisville. This annual event is very special to me. It’s not only because it expresses my deepest values that we all have the right to be accepted and celebrated for who we are and whom we love. It’s also because it’s just such a “feel-good” occasion! There is something quite magical about folks of diverse ages, races, sexual orientations, and gender identities coming together to celebrate love in a hug-filled, colorful way. For a few hours, I feel as though I’ve stepped into a judgment-free zone. We are who we are—gay, straight, neither—and all have seats (well, make that floats) at the table. I couldn’t help but compare this experience to the one my husband and I had the week before when we attended an evening of cutting edge performances by artists who’d spent a year in a special mentoring program. The program’s theme was “Dis/Comfort Zones.” We’d come to support a former modern dance colleague, Theresa Bautista, who performed her brilliant solo, “I am a pretty girl.” Afterward, we wandered over to the art gallery where viewers were invited to add comments to white boards on what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable. My husband, probably the least sexist, traditional white male I know, not to mention being a strong supporter of gay rights, visibly drew back when he read some of the comments. One person wrote that what makes him/her/they uncomfortable is [...]

By |2019-06-19T10:57:32-04:00June 19th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Still Dancing

I was asked to write an "artist's statement" for my upcoming college reunion. I've always been uncomfortable with this whole "artist" thing-- I've spent my life doing creative work, but somehow, I never think of myself as an artist! But I was inspired by dancing with my grandson, so here's what I had to say: “Alexa, play Run-Around Sue,” my four-year-old grandson commands. He slides off the counter stool, eager to be done with lunch. “Dance party, Mee-Ma!” he cries. “I’ll start.” He launches into a series of twirls. He jumps, gyrates, and slides in and out of the floor. He freezes in a dramatic upside down shape with one leg thrust toward the ceiling. I clap my hands in delight. Time falls away. I’m not only watching my beloved grandson in ecstasy as he dances—I am also gazing at myself all those decades ago in my own childhood living room. Music was a constant presence in our house. I cannot remember a time when I could hear music without itching to move, to dance. Truthfully, I couldn’t not dance. And so, despite parental pressure to pursue anything other than a career in the arts, and despite my strong interest in sociology, I ultimately left my doctoral program and became a modern dancer, choreographer, and dance educator. Looking back, I feel incredibly blessed that I made that choice. To me, dance has always been a life-affirming, ecstatic experience—the marriage of physical, spiritual, musical, and emotional expressiveness. The choice to pursue [...]

By |2019-04-19T15:53:22-04:00April 19th, 2019|Dancing, Uncategorized|0 Comments

One Month Later

It was a little over a month ago that our younger son Joel married Priscilla Hernandez, the love of his life, at Cliffview, a rustic retreat near Red River Gorge. It took him a mere fourteen years to convince his bride to marry him, and I’ve never seen anyone more thrilled than our son! We are incredibly happy for him, and to officially be a part of Priscilla’s family. Our extended families spent the weekend at Cliffview, and it was wonderful to spend time together. Priscilla’s mom Betty and other relatives prepared the most amazing authentic Mexican food. My waist line will never be the same, but it was definitely worth it! Meantime, I have some fun book events coming up. This coming Saturday, November 10, from 2-4 PM, I’ll be signing books at the Hurstbourne Barnes and Noble in Louisville along with other mystery writers in Derby Rotten Scoundrels, our local Sisters in Crime chapter. Then next Thursday, November 15, I’ll be attending Indiana University Southeast’s opening reception for an Authors and Artists exhibit that includes my YA novel, It Should Have Been You. And on Saturday, November 17, I’m thrilled to be a part of the annual Kentucky Book Fair from 9 am to 4 pm at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.  At 10 AM in the Spalding Room, I’ll be a panelist along with YA writers Mindee Arnett, Geanna Culbertson, and Kristina McBride on “Fierce Females in YA Literature,” a topic near and dear to my [...]

By |2018-11-08T13:51:28-04:00November 8th, 2018|Family, Uncategorized|0 Comments

When You Change Someone Else’s Life, You Transform Your Own

We had a guest speaker yesterday at church. His name is David Benson, and he’s the founder of a Southern Indiana-based non-profit called "Dogs Helping Heroes.” As the product of a military family, he’d witnessed firsthand the physical, emotional and mental toll war takes on returning veterans. Many suffer from PTSD and a host of other difficulties that make re-adjustment to civilian life extraordinarily difficult.             Benson, a long-time dog trainer, discovered that training a service dog to be a constant companion for a wounded warrior or first responder, could transform that person’s life and help restore his or her connections to family, friends, and willingness even to venture outside or shop for groceries. After three people suggested to Benson that he start a non-profit to expand his work, he decided the universe was sending him a message, and he founded Dogs Helping Heroes. The operation is a volunteer effort. Rescue dogs are carefully trained, often initially by inmates as part of their rehabilitation, before being paired with their new owners.  Benson showed a video and brought along two veterans and their service dogs to illustrate how life-changing the program has been.             Benson spoke passionately about the program. He teared up when he told the story of being at a celebratory picnic for participants in which a little girl had come up to his father and said, “Your son gave me my daddy back.”             It was so clear that it wasn’t just the recipients of the service dogs [...]

By |2018-07-02T11:27:06-04:00July 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My Favorite Part about Writer’s Conferences

  I just got back from an amazing writer’s conference, In Your Write Mind, at Seton Hill University. It happens every June, and is not only for alums of their MFA program but for any interested writer.  Not only was it chock full of great workshops, panels, opportunities to pitch to agents and an editor, but it was a lovely opportunity to reconnect with old classmates and fellow writers, and get to know new folks. I do have to put in a plug for my alma mater, Seton Hill. I have never encountered a more supportive writing community for popular fiction folks, and that wonderful sense of community continues way past graduation. For me, my favorite part of attending conferences is sharing stories and listening to the stories of other working writers. Writing can be a lonely business and almost every career has its ups and downs. It’s very encouraging to hear from folks who’ve recovered from down periods and gone on to solid publishing careers. This year’s guest of honor, for example, was award-winning horror writer Paul Tremblay. He was delightfully honest in sharing that his first two published novels weren’t well received, and he ended up splitting from his publisher. It was five years before he published his next novel and got his career back on track. I also loved that he was a husband, dad, and school teacher who’d taught for 23 years and was managing to keep writing, despite a very full life! His self-deprecating humor [...]

By |2018-06-26T14:06:45-04:00June 26th, 2018|The Writing Life, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Celebrating Great Dads

Ed with his son Milo Joel with his son Cameron               Someone once told me, “A lousy childhood needn’t sentence you to a miserable life.”  As a corollary, I’d say that having a less than an optimal relationship with your father doesn’t mean you can’t be a great father for your own kids.              My older son’s dad had a father who adored his children, but he was deeply involved in running the family business and was in his forties by the time Mark arrived on the scene.  And in those days, fatherhood was defined more in terms of being a good provider than spending quality time with your kids. Still, I remember Mark saying, “I kept wishing I had a dad who’d play catch with me.”  In contrast, Mark made a point of spending lots of play time with our son and the two children he had with his second wife. He has always been a devoted and wonderful dad.             Likewise, my younger son’s father, my husband Alan, was determined to be a different kind of dad than his own had been. While Alan’s father loved his children, he was impatient, judgmental, and controlling. He considered Alan to be a disappointment because he preferred music to engineering. With both children, Alan was determined to be different. He made a point of offering unconditional love, acceptance, and encouragement for following their own dreams, as well as providing lots of play time and laughter.             [...]

By |2018-06-18T10:50:14-04:00June 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Reflections on My College Experience and Beyond

With a big college reunion coming up, we alums were asked to write an essay reflecting on our lives and college experience-- really made me think about who I was as a college student and the directions my life took. Here's what I wrote: Other than my summers teaching at Interlochen, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more inspiring dance space than the Boathouse studio overlooking Paradise Pond! In fact, whenever I’ve returned to Smith, I’ve been struck by the incredible beauty as well as intellectual richness of the campus. And I’ve wished I could have attended at a later time in my life when I might have been less filled with coming-of-age angst and better able to truly appreciate the experience. In all honesty, Smith was more my father’s choice than my own. I had unsuccessfully petitioned to attend a school with a dance major, which Smith did not have at the time (although I wrote a proposal for one in my senior year). But my dad was determined that his daughters attend Seven Sister colleges, so off we went to Wellesley, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith. Looking back, I had no idea how privileged I was to get a first class education and not have to work and go into deep debt to get an education, as is the case for so many of my college students. At Smith, I discovered a major, sociology, which I genuinely loved, and had professors who took my work and ideas [...]

By |2018-06-11T11:27:55-04:00June 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Antidotes to Making Yourself Miserable as a Writer

  Last week, I wrote about ways to make yourself miserable as a writer and received some excellent additions to my list from two author friends, Katie Kenyhercz and Patti Kurtz. I’m including their suggestions on my updated list: Spend hours each day lurking on social media and reading about the sweet publishing deals your writer friends have gotten while you count your rejection slips. Visit Goodreads often and re-read the awful reviews on your last book; ignore the good ones. Obsess over those writers you secretly don’t think are very good but whose careers are going way better than yours. Make a list of authors whose work is so good you know you’ll never measure up. If you don’t have an agent, lament that you’ll never get one; if you do have an agent, convince yourself that you’re about to be dumped when he doesn’t immediately respond to your last email. Katie: “The way I most often beat myself up is to wallow in how slowly I write and the gaps in my publications that seem to get longer and longer when I have a ton of writer friends who keep nose to the grindstone pumping out book after book. I feel like a bad writer and that I’m letting my readers down/risking losing them.” Patti: “How about, read your fellow writers’ posts about how they wrote 10,000 words in one day while you can barely manage 500 words in the same time period? Or even: read about author [...]

By |2018-06-03T10:16:10-04:00June 3rd, 2018|The Writing Life, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Our Cat Lucy: A Member of the Family

Our Cat Lucy Years ago when I was in grad school in sociology, I remember an article appeared in The Journal of Marriage and Family which pointed out that researchers were ignoring a major role player in family dynamics if they didn’t consider the family pet. At the time, that struck me as funny. But I also knew it was true. As kids, my sisters and I had been terribly attached to our Scottish terrier, Spoofy, and were heartbroken when our dad moved us into an apartment and insisted we had to give him away. I know Spoofy has long since gone to dog heaven, but I still think about him and the days we spent roaming the woods near our old house. When I met my husband, I had a calico cat, Cleo, a gift from my brother-in-law. She was a love bug and lived to be twenty-two. A few years after Cleo, we adopted two new cats from the Humane Society and somehow ended up with four cats, when two others arrived who really needed homes. Unfortunately, they detested each other and nearly drove us mad. When they finally all passed away, we swore we were done with having cats. But a few years later, we decided one cat would work. So we adopted Lucy, a tuxedo cat, from the Humane Society. She isn’t terribly friendly to visitors, but she adores us, particularly my husband, and the feeling is mutual. She spends great amounts of time [...]

By |2018-05-03T09:34:58-04:00May 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments