Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War

I’m very happy to have my memoir in my hands after its long gestation. It’s available for pre-sale here on my website. Just go to the “Publications and Projects” button above. The official launch date is May 17, 2014 at Bank Square Books in Mystic. Reading and signing from 4 – 6pm. Refreshments to be served and a party to follow.

Daughters of the Atomic Age

My friend Martha from Oak Ridge, Tennessee has started to write about growing up in a town created by the efforts to build the atomic bomb. Oak Ridge was one of the areas dedicated to the Manhattan Project. Overnight, an entire town was built up in which every adult was somehow connected to the develop of, and the building of, the most lethal weapon the world had ever known. Martha’s father was a brilliant young scientist. Her mother was from the small sleepy town of Sugar Tree, TN. Today, Martha is an accomplished singer and songwriter and she is just beginning to tell her story in prose. She has come to the realization that the best you can do is to tell your story and hope that you can inspire and encourage others because of your journey. Here is the beginning of Martha’s story about the events that shaped her life and all of our lives from that time forward. Dogwood Daughter: 3 ANGELS PROJECT Postcards from the Secret City – In Search of my Atomic Childhood Recently, a new book titled The Girls of Atomic City, the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan, was published.  It’s been a best seller, not only here in Oak Ridge, but even landed on the New York Times bestseller list.   Kiernan’s book features interviews with the now very old women who came to the Secret City, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during WWII to work on the Manhattan Project.  Little did they know, at the time, that they were working on an atomic bomb, the bomb that would ultimately be dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, ushering in […]

Story Circle Star Blogger

Story Circle has been celebrating women’s writing for more than 10 years. I’m honored to be recognized as “Star Blogger” for January, 2014.

An Essay’s Journey – From Rejection to Pushcart Nomination

    In December, 2013, I was notified that my essay, What the Dog Understood, published in O-Dark-Thirty (the journal of the Veteran’s Writing Project) had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I had submitted this piece to more than twenty journals before it was accepted by the editors at O-Dark-Thirty. The lesson here is – perservere. Besides honing your writing skills, you must believe that there will be a home for your work and your light will shine – sometime, somewhere. Certainly it has to do with crafting your best work, but timing is another essential ingredient. This particular essay began more than ten years ago. When I felt it was ready, I sent it to journals whose contents seemed sympatico with my style of nonfiction writing. Rarely do editors tell you why a piece is rejected, but those who did write words of encouragement on the rejection letter alluded to something like, “not right for us at this time.” If you’re like me, you might ask yourself: “What does that mean? Am I too early or too late?” The other thing I did was to pull out a tiny volume entitled, Rotten Rejections, edited by Andre Bernard with an introduction by Bill Henderson, the same Bill Henderson who created the Pushcart Prize in 1976. Reading a few lines from Rotten Rejections always makes me feel better. For example, in 1931 Pearl Buck received these words from a publisher about The Good Earth, “Regret that the American public is not interested in anything on China.” Or – how about this note from a publisher after receiving the manuscript for Mastering the Art […]
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    When Friends Ask for a Critique of Their Writing: The Science and the Fiction

When Friends Ask for a Critique of Their Writing: The Science and the Fiction

HRH could be conferring with a friend about her book, but perhaps she should have asked Ray Bradbury. Ray was not only a highly motivated and prolific writer, but also a ferocious reviser. He said, “When you write – explode – fly apart – disintegrate! Then give yourself enough time to think, cut, rework, and rewrite.” If and when he did show his work to others before publication, he had already logged double-digit revisions. But, most of the rest of us earthling writers need support and encouragement along the road to the finished product. There are those writers who show their manuscript to no one until they think it’s ready for publication, but often, when I’m still revising, I like a nudge now and then from a carefully chosen reader who will be honest enough to say that they have no sense of what I’m trying to say, or they lost interest after the first paragraph, or they just couldn’t figure out what my characters were trying to do. This usually happens when I don’t know what I’m trying to say and I’ve wandered off into a thicket of ideas.  My reader is not going to tell me what to do or how to find my way, however they might offer a clue or notice that there is too much of something and not enough of something else. Perhaps I won’t agree with my helpful reader – but I was the one who asked! Now I can decide if and how I’ll revise. Something mysterious happens, though, when a friend asks me to read their work. Suddenly, in spite of having critiqued many manuscripts, I doubt my […]

Truth and Consequences: When family and friends see themselves in your writing

(a workshop presented at a meeting of the SE Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association in Groton, Connecticut, October 21, 2013) People will always assume that what you write is true – whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.   We cannot know in advance what people will be offended by  – and sometimes you will be shocked. They may resent that you haven’t included them enough in your story.   Vivian Gornick – author of “The Situation and the Story” says that good writing must do two things. It must be alive on the page and it must persuade the reader that the writer is on a voyage of discovery.   Writers of all genres wrestle with putting autobiographical material in their work – and writing things in which friends and relatives might recognize themselves.   For writers who write memoir this is an especially important question. In fiction you can use false names, new settings, or even a different ending to the story. Memoir offers no such hiding places.   With family stories, the stakes are particularly high – especially if family members are still alive. You have to make ethical and practical decisions at every stage of the writing.   You have to decide – what is yours to explore and what should be respectfully left out.   (a large part of this decision is related to what really needs to be in the story. There are some things that should be left out simply because they don’t actually contribute to the story)   Every writer has to make the determination of what is too private and how to know when enough has been said and all writers approach this control differently.   For example, Paul Austin, an emergency room physician who wrote a memoir entitled: “Something for the pain” wrote about his feelings […]

What prompted that? Looking for inspiration in the writing process

    Recently – as I tried to jumpstart another essay – or at least get a few words on the page, I felt that familiar numbness spreading down my shoulders and arms and paralyzing my fingertips on the keyboard. Instead of writing I was listening to the little voice from writer’s hell that likes to play with my common sense. Some writers call it monkey mind. When it happens to me, I feel confused and drained of ideas at the same time.  Of course you have ideas, I prodded myself, but my genius moments were just wisps of smoke –  amorphous, intangible, lost in the jungle undergrowth of my mind. Accessible only to the chimp in my brain. When I reached up to snatch a thought, it was nothing but air. Not even a gnat’s wing of substance.   Dr. Beatrice Hinkle,  who opened the first psycho-therapeutic clinic in the United States at Cornell Medical College in the 1920s and specialized in treating artists, wrote, “ Every writer, …suffers from periods of drought, in which not a trickle flows. He is in full command …carried along on a flood of creation.”   I love her generous sprinkling of adverbs. Hinkle is certainly not the first or only therapist who has tried to understand artistic temperament and productivity, but I like the simple way she describes what is fundamentally an indescribable process; the torturous road of creativity where putting one foot in front of the other seems like an Olympic […]

Why I Write

A recent issue of The Writer magazine featured writer Alice Hoffman speaking about how and why she writes. On the subject of reading and writing she says “Writing serves the purpose that reading used to serve for me. I always feel like reading save my life because it was a place for me to escape. I feel like quitting all the time, but the act of writing is like being in an ecstatic state. It’s like being high because you are not there. You’re experiencing something on a different plane.”   I feel what she means about writing, but what exactly do I feel? Making a list is always a good thing to do when this kind of question comes up. Here is my list of eighteen reasons why I write:   To understand what I’m thinking. To revisit places and people of the past via my imagination. To entertain myself. To feel the magic triangle between ideas, the pen on the page and the written result. To dig for buried treasure. To reflect on common things. To reflect on extraordinary things. To approach an understanding of human nature. To contemplate death. To open a window in my brain. To translate experience into understanding. To be with others through language. To discover my childhood. To describe. To play with words. To find lost worlds. To remember To forget.

Sisters Among the Gold Stars

  It was a muggy July evening in 1946 when five women whose husbands had died in World War II traveled to Hyde Park, New York, to meet with another war widow, Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote in her news column, My Day, that they, “…came for supper, and then went to Poughkeepsie the Lafayette Post of the American Legion had given them permission to use a room for a meeting. It was a small meeting, though the casualties among servicemen from Dutchess County were pretty high.” In fact, more than 175 men from Dutchess County alone were killed or MIA by 1945. The five women who met with Mrs. Roosevelt had grown from an original group of four widows who had first met together in Marie Jordan’s apartment on West 20th Street in New York City in 1945 to talk about how they might band together to support the needs of war widows and their children, and to participate in memorial and recognition ceremonies for the war dead. Their appeal to Mrs. Roosevelt to join with them after President Roosevelt’s death was auspicious. She became one of the original signers when the Gold Star Wives of America was chartered as a non-profit organization whose purpose was to do any and all things to benefit the spouses and children of persons who died in war or as a result of service connected illness. Today there are more than 9,000 active members of Gold Star Wives  and potentially 80,000 more survivors who are eligible for membership. It is not a group that one covets simply because of the very fact of how you become eligible. But, […]

Veteran’s Writing Project: The stories that must be told

I am honored to have an excerpt from my memoir published this month in O-Dark-Thirty, the magazine of the Veteran’s Writing Project. Here is a description of the project written by the editors: “O-Dark-Thirty is the journal for the Veterans Writing Project.   Our editors curate the works submitted to this site. We have two sections. The Report is our hub. It’s where the vast majority of our work will be based.We chose the title The Report because of this quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: The generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. In our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, we have seen with our own eyes, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. The Review is our quarterly journal. It will be a little tighter, more closely edited. It might have themes. It is our plan to present the finest literary writing we can find. One of the tenets upon which we built the Veterans Writing Project is the idea that every veteran has a story. This site is where those stories get told. Sure, there are other places to hear or read the stories: around the bar, on a road trip, in some other journal. But like the man says, “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.” This is our journal. It was conceived by and designed for, is run by, features work written by, and provides voice to members of the military community.” My story, What the Dog Understood, describes a […]
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