On this wet, monochromatic Monday, I find myself wanting to write, but not quite knowing where to begin. Whenever I need a creative push, I turn to the works of others for inspiration, and so I share with all of you a few lovely, funny, thought-provoking quotes about writing. (A shout-out to Goodreads.com for the useful search engine that helped me find these.)Read More»
Last night, I attended the reading of a friend’s play at the Actors Studio. In addition to the work itself, which was impressive, there was much about the process I found fascinating. Although I’ve written scripts for different types of television programs, writing for the stage is an entirely different animal, and there’s a reason I’ve never attempted it. Penning the dialogue for my novel was challenge enough—the most difficult part of the process for me—but having to tell an entire story solely through the characters’ spoken words? Will someone be so kind as to get me a bottle of calamine lotion and an inhaler, because I’m breaking out into hives at the mere thought.
The best literature is capable of taking ugliness and spinning it into something beautiful. By that I don’t mean that it sugarcoats the bad or conceals that which should see the light of day—though writing can do that as well—but rather that it can start from a place of great darkness and transform it into a truer, more enduring reality without losing the essential nature of the thing, like a lump of coal compressed into a diamond. (N.B., despite the proverbs, diamonds aren’t actually formed from coal, so there’s another example of the transformative power of an idea once we’ve collectively agreed to subscribe to it.)
This notion accompanied me throughout the reading of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, a fictionalized account of her childhood years in Cambodia’s killing fields, where somewhere between one and two million people were murdered or died of starvation and disease (about a third of the country’s population at the time).Read More»
Sanity. Is it black and white? As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said of pornography, will you know it when you see it? Or is it a matter of degrees, a tenuous balance that we must always struggle to maintain?
As a writer, the question of how to stay sane is one I face on a regular basis. Fear not: I’m in no danger of being institutionalized, but when your job involves spending hours at a time heading down mental and emotional rabbit holes to plumb for treasure, it’s easy to get trapped underground. Or maybe it’s that I’m driven to do this work precisely because I would have been spending that time spelunking anyway, and the job just gives me a socially acceptable excuse for my behavior.Read More»
It is official! I am thrilled to announce that Lisa Gallagher, of the storied Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, is now my literary agent. Not only is she an amazing woman with years of experience as both an agent and publisher (check out her impressive bio), but she’s also someone who “gets” my novel and what I’ve tried to achieve within its pages. Oh, and she’s a nice person with a lovely British accent to boot. (Everything sounds better in a British accent.) Jackpot!Read More»
I have been AWOL from this blog for a little while, and subscribers to my quarterly e-newsletter know the reason. A wonderful literary agent read the first three chapters of my novel earlier this year and asked me to make some revisions, which I did. Now that she’s read the entire manuscript, she’s come back to me and said that she’s “excited” about the book. She’s asked me to make some additional, relatively minor edits, which I think are appropriate, but she also made a point of saying several times that she thinks I’m “very close.”Read More»
After folks find out that I’m writing a novel about the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, we usually get to talking about that event and its historical context. On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked for my recommendation of books that cover it. While there are some excellent historical sources that I’ve relied on to ensure the accuracy of my fictional story (including anything by the incredible Paul Preston, the British historian who’s written extensively about the war and Franco’s repressive regime), the first book I plan to suggest from now on is Nada, a novel by Carmen Laforet, a Catalan writer that a friend turned me onto.Read More»
Most books are appreciated purely because of their content, but in the case of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, not only did I enjoy the stories she tells and the way she tells them, but I LOVE the fact that this book exists at all—and, even better, that it has become a bestseller. It makes me giddy with joy (and gives me some small measure of hope for humanity) to know that enough folks feel the same way and have propelled it up the book charts.
A music writer and former TV host in the UK, Moran takes on all of the sacred cows of womanhood including dating, sexism in the workplace, pregnancy, labor, abortion, and motherhood, but she does it with warmth and humor. That alone would be enough, but even better is her funny and spirited defense of feminism, in which she offers women a quick way of determining whether or not they are feminists:Read More»
A good friend of mine who works in television passed on her press copy of Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ A Sense of Direction, and I’m sure she sent it to me because, on the surface, it appears to be the story of the author’s participation in the centuries-old tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain—a place that my friend knows is dear to my heart. (It is the city where my cousin Finita lives and where I’ve spent a lot of time over the years.) But surfaces can be deceiving: shortly after I started reading Lewis-Kraus’ book, I realized that—much like the author himself as he sets out on his odyssey—I had completely misjudged what was about to happen.Read More»
Say Her Name is a book of extremes, of contrasts so sharp they cut you coming and going. In it, Francisco Goldman shares with his readers the greatest passion of his life, which is now forever linked to his greatest loss. He recounts the supremely intense story of how he met, fell in love with, and married his second wife, Aura Estrada, a young, vibrant graduate student at Columbia and City College. But like a magical gothic legend, his tale is interwoven with the darkest of threads—that of Ms. Estrada’s death, the result of severe spinal injuries she sustained while trying to bodysurf off the coast of her native Mexico. (I’m not giving anything away here by telling you this; we know about the tragedy from the very beginning of the book.)Read More»