In the bestselling memoir, “ The Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls writes about how her mother urges her author daughter to “just tell the truth.”
However, in many families and for many of us nonfiction authors, it’s rarely that simple. Recently, I remembered Ms. Walls’ advice when I read a “New York Times” Modern Love essay, “ Please go Shelter in Another Place.”
The NYT essay is written by a woman whose husband decided to spend part of the pandemic lockdown apart from his wife. …
You know that old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?”
During our 2020 COVID pandemic lockdown, the thing I missed most from my “normal” life was … no, not dining in restaurants, not outdoor barbecues, not shopping centers (yuck), not bars and certainly not gyms (yuck again).
In those late-spring 2020 days, before our state government or our New England weather permitted outdoor dining, the thing I missed most was sitting in a coffee shop or café. I know. In light of all our other deaths and losses, this was a very small complaint, right?
Growing up, we had no household telephone. Instead, in our rural Irish village, we had one of those street-side payphones. You know the ones: They were cream with a green trim. Inside, you had to turn a black handle to dial the operator. Then, you told the operator that you wanted to place a call to a certain number and you let your coins clink through to get connected.
Incoming calls? We didn’t really get any. Sometimes there was an emergency or quasi-emergency, and the post-office lady came to our door or called out over the backyard wall. …
As a writer and as a white woman and as a naturalized U.S. citizen, I cannot yet write about systemic racism and our police murdering my fellow citizens and residents and documented or undocumented immigrants. I cannot write about a COVID-19 pandemic that, in some U.S. cities, has killed people of color at almost four times the rate that it has killed us white folks.
Not yet. I’m too slow. I’m too sorrowful. I’m too disgusted. I’m too furious.
Plus, I’m too Irish to fast-forward or insta-skip from death to mourning to writing.
So like most of us, this morning…
January 6, 2021
In my native Ireland, January 6th is Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Little Christmas, when our mothers were supposed to kick back and relax while our fathers did the housework.
Em .. Right.
Elsewhere, depending on your country, tradition or religious belief, January 6 is either just another day or the Feast of the Epiphany or the 12th Day of Christmas or La Fête des Rois or el Día de los Reyes Magos.
Of course, in 2021, the one-day switcheroo in male-female labor divisions is not supposed to be newsworthy or even a thing.
So nowadays, Nollaig…
(Psst: Most can be bought at your local dollar store)
Got a writer on your gift list this year? Just trot on over to your local discount place.
1. Small, pocket-sized notebooks . We need them for those middle-of-the-night or stuck-on-a-train ideas.
2. Boxes of thank-you cards. I love to send out hand-written thank-you notes to editors, friends, book-discussion group hosts, bookstore event people and others. We can never have too many of thank-you cards.
3. Pens. Many, many pens. Yes, even in this digital age, many of us love to hand-write our drafts. Oh, and highlighters.
4. Post-it notes…
Yesterday I decided to dust off an old, holiday-themed essay. It had already been drafted and re-drafted, so (I convinced myself) it would only take an hour to edit, fix and pitch.
The essay was written in 2011, when I had pitched it to a popular Sunday magazine in which I had been previously published. Back then, the editor returned it with a nice note saying that it just didn’t work for that publication.
Today, thanks to eight years of editorial distance, I understood why my original draft got rejected. …
Recently, a woman asked me if, as a creative writer, I actually had time for any other work--including my paid day job.
The tone and body language told me that this wasn’t just friendly small talk between two just-met strangers.
Instead, the inference was that I was short changing the part of my life that mattered (day job) to feed the other (creative writing and teaching).
Haven’t you been there, too?
You’re so gobsmacked by a stranger’s question that, at best, you respond with something evasive or inadequate.
Then, hours or days afterward, here are all those clever things you…
Sometimes when I’m lying awake at night, I play little ‘what-if’ games in which I present myself with a set of tough choices.
In one fictitious scenario, I ask myself if I would give up creative writing if my paycheck-earning job flat out demanded it?
If my marriage demanded it?
If my husband ever turned from the dinner table to announce, “I’ve had it. It’s the dang writing or me. Take your pick, Girl.”
Just what would my answer be?
This spring, I was invited to give an evening presentation that was partly craft (writing nonfiction) and partly thematic (writing about immigration). Specifically, we were going to chat about short-form nonfiction, and how and why I wrote and collected the personal essays in my just-released book, Green Card & Other Essays.
Half-way through the evening, and long before our Q & A discussion, a woman in the audience interrupted to ask about my current immigration status.
I smiled. I answered. I got back to my pre-prepared talking points.
Then, our woman interrupted again to ask about my former immigration status-as…