Hello, Hermits!

Herman’s Hermits…great band, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the lonely journey we writers take on.  It’s crucial for your writing life to have a writing support system.  I’m surprised there isn’t a Writers’ Anonymous.  You can laugh.  We are anonymous in our writing lives until we are read.

But how?  Connect with other writers.  Find what works for you.  Some writers groups are…novice.  Some are too big.  Some aren’t cohesive enough.  But keep trying.  Live in the Boonies and there isn’t one?  Make one.  Take on the leadership role.

Connecting with other writers is one way that you get read, get confidence, and get inspired.  After all, some people have the misconception that publishing is everything.  It’s not.  Sure.  It’s great to see your work on a final canvas–a tactile delight you can hold and be proud of.  But simply to be read by others is enlightening.

For more on this subject, you must read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.  Of all the books I’ve read or perused on craft, this is practically the only, almost pocket-sized bible you will ever need.

Get out there.  C’mon.  You can do it.  Open your office door.  Climb down from the attic.  Get off the couch…wherever your writing space happens to be…



For other ideas, simply “Google” things about “writers group” “constructive criticism” etc.

Write on!




Am I collecting data?  No.  Am I publishing something professional? (not in a sense.)  My purpose in this project is inspired by my chosen religion (notice the key word CHOSEN), Unitarian Universalism.  We talk about being our best selves, our authentic selves, and being the best that we can be for others and OUR WORLD.  By our world, I mean EVERYONE–NO EXCLUSIONS.  So often, with social media promotion, we struggle to present our best selves–we edit “selfies,” and delete “bad” ones.  This morning, I looked at my hair in the mirror.  I had just thrown it up into a hair clip.  I hadn’t washed my face or brushed my teeth…I still had my pjs on.  Obviously, I had no makeup and not even my glasses nearby.

I took a selfie.  I was looking in the mirror and realized that wow, we should be proud of who we are, no matter what.  What have I been struggling with?  Not enough self-kindness, too much body judgment…and here it is, a typical Wednesday, and I paused for a moment to appreciate what God has given me.  I was tempted, after posting on Instagram, to insert my usual humor:  oops, I forget to remove the mascara-covered sleeper from my eye…or, well, you can tell I have a lazy eye…or, wow, wish I could afford to fix this crooked tooth…or other such comments…and then I didn’t.  I didn’t, because I suddenly had the inspiration to start a movement to better the world, beginning with my own perspective.

“Are you who, who you are?  You are who, who you are…” (Pearl Jam, of course).

Join me, won’t you?  Share a natural, unedited photo of yourself with a resting “content face.”  I suggest closing your eyes, choosing your best angle, and meditating just a moment on your self-worth and sense of beauty.  Let that positivity shine across your face and hit the button.  Share it #authenticselfproject and stay tuned for a new blog that will inspire you to celebrate your own spirit and fill the world with positivity.

Blessed be all of you.

Write on,


Right. Write About Music

When I was writing for my MFA I was unable to listen to music…but then there came a day when I couldn’t think.  Well, you know (if you’ve read my music blog) that I’m a huge music fan.  I remember a high school teacher once put on classical music during standardized tests.  He said there was a study done that classical music helped students have a better outcome on the dreadful things (my opinion, but not mine alone.)

So, when my day was maxed out and my brain went numb, I started listening to classical music while writing and researching.  It worked.  My Pandora station even helped me have a favorite composer:  Haydn.  I noticed every time I said, “Wow, that’s an amazing piece!” it was always good old Franz Joseph.

When I was but a young fiction writer (10 years old, notebook and pen in hand) I used to write like wildfire to whatever album I was listening to.  I noticed I hadn’t done a lot of my creative writing to music, and yet, most of it had music involved in it.  I recently also read a YA novel called 13 Reasons Why where the author, Jay Asher, said he listened to Buffalo Tom’s “Larry” over and over again to craft the end of the book.  I happen to love Buffalo Tom and love that song.  I now can picture the end when I hear it, and that’s okay.  Music, movement and memory are all interconnected.

So, when this new YA project I’m working on came about, The Cure spoke to me.  I’ve been writing solid for a month and they have helped me craft my characters and the mood of some of my scenes.  So give it a try.  What era are you writing your story?  Pick a piece of music and listen to it to “get you in the mood,”

Be well and rock and write on,


on Phil Levine’s passing

Well said, Brian Fanelli. It’s always a sombre time when we lose a great poet to the Great Beyond.

Brian Fanelli

By now, the poetry world knows that former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine has passed. There is so much that I could say about Levine’s work. Simply put, when I was younger and bought copies of What Work Is, News of the World, and The Simple Truth, it had a profound impact on my poetry. Levine taught me much about the narrative form, poetry of place, and finding dignity in work, even the grueling factory jobs he worked for all of those years. He taught me that I could draw from personal experience and memory and use it to carve out poems and find my voice.

To mark Levine’s passing, I offer an elegy, written by my friend, Dante Di Stefano, and published a few days ago by Rattle. Read it here. Celebrate the man, and celebrate his work.

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National Poetry Month


I like April.  Violets and daffodils abound…breezes blow warmer (unless you’re in NEPA and are having winter flashback…will it ever be spring?  Or will it–please say no!–go right into a burning valley summer?)  I do like April.  I like that the Nation recognizes it as “National Poetry Month” but for us poets and writers and poetry lovers alike…is it ever NOT poetry month?  We know that poetry is a year-round celebration.  It’s almost May already.  I put up a poetry display at work; I work in a public library.  I’ve been sending out email blasts “a poem a day.”  My poets were sometimes “the greats” like Dickinson, Plath, Frost, Sexton, Levine…but I featured local poets…poets I met through my MFA program.  Poems that made my heart snag.  Poets who, in my heart, equal and sometimes excel those great poets that came before and made their ink stamp on paper…

Here are some personal poets I know that you should check out:

Kim Loomis Bennett
Alexis Belluzi
Brian Fanelli
Dawn Leas
Amye Archer
Rachael Goetzke (I finally give myself credit and identity as such!)
Edward Lupico
Iris Johnston
Jason Carney
Richard Aston
Mischelle Anthony
Neil Shepherd
Christine Gelineau

Philip Brady
Steve Flannery
Tony Morris
Tom Hughes (though he mainly writes poetry for me) :)–he does write a heck of a good sonnet.
Charles O’ Donnell

This list could go on and on…and I know as soon as I publish this post I will have neurotic worry that I left about a billion more that I love that I feel I should have mentioned.

Who are some of your favorites?

Of course, I cannot forget my favorite poets who write children’s poetry but that is not, of course, restricted to children:

Shel Silverstein
Dr. Seuss
Jack Prelutsky

So I leave you with two of my favorites:

A Prayer in Spring by Robert Lee Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today; 
And give us not to think so far away
as the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white, 
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; 
And make us happy in the happy bees, 
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard, 
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, 
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love, 
To which  it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will, 
But which it only needs that we fulfill.


Last night I Dreamed of Chickens by Jack Prelutsky

Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.

They were on the chairs and tables,
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners, 
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens
for as far as I could see…
when I work up today, I noticed
there were eggs on top of me.

Truth:  I made friends with an elementary school girlfriend at age seven because I was enthralled that her dad was a poet.  He was like a celebrity to me.  We ended up writing stories together and being good friends in childhood.  

Creative NON-fiction

Recently, I was revising my memoir and found an error in one of my references. It was inescapably music-related but I thought I’d post here since it’s more about writing. People still debate about what exactly “creative non-fiction” is. Some say it’s how a writer remembers something, and memory is imperfect. Embellishing too much from your real-life experiences crosses the line into “realistic fiction.” If you are looking to keep things as honest as possible, then you know you have to double-check everything.

When you get to the eighth or ten thousandeth read-through it is harder to focus on being meticulous because you almost have the manuscript memorized…but take care to get things right that you can easily verify. For example, I bet I have seen Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” about 100,000 times. When writing the excerpt about seeing it for the first time, I noticed an error in content. I was very specific about the way the camera pans to this boy doing crayon drawings. It does show these images, but not until the second verse, whereas I had it pinned as immediately after the first. Going through my “thorough” edit process, I discovered the mistake. I stopped and tried to envision it and then it occurred to me that I should check the facts.

So, there I was, at 6 a.m. watching Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” after a number of years of not seeing it. I noticed the error and corrected it in my writing but seeing the video also helped inspire me to enhance the imagery in that particular segment even more. Seeing that video a billion times as a young teen and then seeing it in mid-adulthood was quite a contrast. Perhaps with all the recent gun violence in the U.S., this tragic representation seemed all the more haunting. The song and video are true creative non-fiction at its best. The band’s artful response was inspired by actual events, sadly. But the video is such a good vehicle for the awareness of emotionally neglected children. The band enhances the intensity of the subject matter by using a series of intertextual themes, such as writing a Bible verse on the blackboard, and having bold, black letters contrasted against bright white pages.

Representations such as these that blend song, images, words and art together can enhance and inspire your writing. And that’s no tall tale.

Be well and write on,