An Unfinished Essay about Unfinished Essays

It boggles my mind why someone like Roxanne Gay can seem to write and publish so many essays, yet I can’t finish one. She must endlessly think about interesting things in general.


It isn’t because I don’t read, I do. I read a lot of non-fiction as well. I watch TV programs, news, biographies, NOVA, BBC, you name it. But yet, when I sit down to write something the mind becomes constipated.

Maybe I just don’t have deep thoughts?

No that’s not it.

Actually I find myself thinking about all kinds of things, but how to write about them?

I start writing about something and then I say, “Ah this is no good!” and leave it alone. Sometimes I go back to it if there is something that gnaws at me. I have a ton of unfinished essays, but why?

I lack confidence. That is what Roxanne Gay ha
s that I don’t. She knows what she has to say is something others want to hear. She is unapologetic about it. It’s not that I am not unapologetic about what I have to say but I question if I really want to go down that particular sewer drain. I mean, I can write an entire book of essays about my mother.

I know one only gets confidence by writing, so that is what I must do. I must write the essays and I must finish them, and then I must submit them (get rejected) submit them again, and continue ad nauseam until….voilà…one is published.




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My Thoughts on 2 Fiction Novels

Title: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Fiction


College intern Aviva Grossman has an illicit affair with a congressman.  However this story isn’t

1) Just a story about a young woman and an older married man’s indiscretions.
2) Told from solely Aviva’s point of view or the congressman’s point of view,

The five parts of this novel are told through different points of view, and they are told in different ways which gives the novel added interest.

Part I – Bubbe Meise – This is a first person POV told by Rachel, the mother of Aviva Grossman.

Part II – Wherever You Go, There You Are – This is a first person POV told by Jane Young.

Part III – Thirteen, or a Few Interesting Facts About Maine – This is in an epistolary fashion through email. Jane Young’s daughter, Ruby has a Pen Pal named Fatima in Indonesia whom she corresponds with. Through these emails, we learn a lot about who her mother (Jane) really is.

Part IV – Angel in the House – This is a first person POV told by Embeth (the congressman’s wife).

Part V – Choose – This is a second person POV told by Aviva Grossman. It is also in an epistolary form (diary entries).

I enjoy stories that are told through different lenses. Sometimes third person Omniscient (even close third) can get boring.  I like to see what people are thinking about a situation and what is going on in their lives while this situation is going on.  Even though as the book progresses, we know ‘what’s up’, it is interesting to see, Ruby for instance, trying to piece it together.

Usually second person POV drives me nuts, but here (Part V) it is done so deftly, that it reads as if it were you.


Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Genre: Fiction


Sometimes I pick up a book, not knowing what to expect. I read the synopsis and it sou

nded mildly interesting. There are books that I read that stay with me long after, this will be one of them.

The point of view switches between Astrid and Noa in alternating chapters. Astrid atrapeze artist from a German circus family and Noa, a young Danish woman who was kicked out of her home because of an unexpected pregnancy become the unlikeliest of friends.  Two woman that lose everything, find each other.

I know it sounds hokey, but it is a really really good story. I stuck with it and by the end, I needed a tissue.

I haven’t read much Historical Fiction this year. This one takes place during WWII in Germany and it has all the bells & whistles of a book set in that time without being cliché.

And to read about circus folk.  I am always shying away from it, but when I do finally pick up a book with this theme, I thoroughly enjoy it.


These posts will be for my reading journal for my MFA program. They will come periodically.

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Most Interesting Books Read Jan – Jun 2017

My reading was all over the place this year. I read current and I read classic. I had no theme, genre or author binge (I usually do). These are some of the books I read in the first half of 2017. These are not necessarily my 5 star books, but they were the interesting ones. No spoilers or synopsis. Just my thoughts on the books.


The Mayor of Casterbridge – By Thomas Hardy (5 Stars)

This novel was read for school, although it would have been something I chose for myself. I’ve seen the BBC production of this so the story wasn’t foreign to me. It was one of those books that I would get around to reading one day.

Talk about scandal and nonstop ‘monkey wrenches’. This is far from a boring dry classic. I needed a drink when I finished this one. The BBC production didn’t do the novel justice.



1984 – By George Orwell (5 Stars)

I might be the only adult that wasn’t assigned this book in high school. Years ago I attempted to read it, but the copy of the book I own has type smaller than baby ants, so that wasn’t happening. After the 2016 Presidential election, it charted again. I was curious as to why…I’ve heard things.

What took me so long? This was a fantastic work of dystopian fiction. Creepy in its foresight. After I read it, I understood why people became re-interested in this particular dystopian novel.



Never Let Me Go – By Kazuo Ishiguro (4 Stars)

Another assigned read. I’ve seen the title on book lists but ignored it. I can honestly say that this book was ‘different’. I often read books and things have me think, but this book had me thinking deeply. I thought a lot about society, race, gender, age, discrimination, and a whole lot of other things no one wants to really think about, but should.



Crime and Punishment – By Fyodor Dostoyevsky (3 Stars)

Yes people, I got to it. I read the whole thing too. Not my first Russian, but the first one in years. It wasn’t as challenging as I thought and it is another book that makes you think about society and morals. Don’t worry, this didn’t become a theme. My brain can only handle so much deepness.

Out of the 42 books I’ve read from January – June, these 4 were the most important reads for me. The second half of my reading year is shaping up to be very interesting indeed. What I read when I’m left to my own devices!!!


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I Don’t Need a Man for That!

I’ve always told my now 18 year old daughter that she should not count on anyone else’s help and always have a plan B. Many people may think this sounds anti-social but in reality, it is survival.

She has a good head on her shoulders, and she already figured this out (or maybe listened to me when I said it before). I try to prepare her for the fact that she may have to do things on her own when she is an older adult.  One of these things recently fell on my lap.


A baby bat found its way into my bedroom one night. I live in a New York City apartment so you can imagine my surprise. I could not have screamed any louder. I ran into my daughter’s room an

d needed to figure out what to do. Luckily she had her phone, because in my panic, I left mine on my nightstand in said room.

At 1:30am it is hard to find anyone to help you with a stray bat in New York City. Eventually 4 police officers came to my apartment and attempted to coax the bat out. No luck. Of course I wanted them all to stay and protect me from the big bad baby bat, but they had better things to do, so they left.

After only 3 hours sleep, I secured my room and went to work.  I called Animal Control. Bats are not their specialty, but they have to try…right? The dispatcher took my information and said someone would call me 1 hour before they came.  I told them I’d be home around 6pm, but I may get their earlier, so they can call earlier. 

I know bats are nocturnal, so I thought they’d come later rather than earlier.

No one called, no one came.

I had to spend another tense night in the apartment.  I got a lot of info from my Facebook friends and other friends.  I tried the only option that I really had and that was to leave the windows open and hope it flies out.  Mother Nature was cooperative at well and kept the rain at bay and the temperature down. I hope the bat got cold and hungry and found his way out.  I haven’t seen it or heard it, so here is to hoping.

If I had to physically tackle it alone, I would have. There was no one else to count on. This is not the first time I had to tackle vermin on my own, but never a flying one.

I called Animal Control and the dispatcher said that someone called me around 8pm. Really? Where was I? Oh yeah, I was glued to my phone waiting for a call. So we are lying now?

Me: I’ll have to take care of it myself, obviously

Dispatch: So you want to cancel the home visit?

Me: Why not? Not like anyone is ever going to come. I’ll take care of it myself.

Dispatch:  By….

Yes, I hung up.

Yes the bat freaks me out, but there is no one I can depend on outside of myself. My daughter lives with me, so I have to think of her safety as well.

When you have this mindset, it is amazing what one can do. I will never buy it when a woman says, “But I need a man for….”

If it ain’t for procreation, ya don’t need him!!!

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That MFA Look



When I tell people I am getting my Masters they smile and asked “What in?”

I smile back and say, “An MFA in Creative Writing.” Then they looked confused.

“What will you do with that?”

“I can teach if I want to, but I got the degree for me. I’ve always wanted it, and so I did it.”

These people know I’m not a youngster. I have a well-paying job that I don’t hate. I’m not trying to climb that corporate ladder at this stage in life. I’m enjoying life.

At some point, I may teach, but at the moment I’m concentrating on learning how to write as well as I can.

There are so many books on the market that are beyond bad. It is not because the idea is not worth reading, but the story is poorly written.

The phenomenon of self-publishing (made easy) has saturated the market with mediocre and sometimes inadequately written books. I am far from a book snob, I don’t go for the erudite. I just like a good story well written.

I read the Grisham’s and the King’s. I don’t read Fifty Shades’. I don’t read Twilight’s. I read genre fiction and sometimes they are very good. I’ve even read some really good self-published works.

Perhaps because I’m a writer the slow cringe creeps up my spine when I start to read bad writing in book form. No one is perfect and even some of our beloved authors have put out some stinkers, but the stinkers are usually well written, just poorly executed.

At the Writer’s Digest Conference, one of the speakers put up on the screen a story written by one of her students. It was awful. Not a criticism. Lord knows some of my earlier works could feed a large bonfire. But this person was a student, she was in learning mode. I get irritated when this writing is put between a glossy cover and sold to the masses.

There are some people who think writing is easy. Perhaps to some, it does come naturally and a good editor can fix things like grammar and continuity mistakes. As for myself, it isn’t easy and it doesn’t come naturally.

Writing is hard work. I’ve heard that writing cannot be taught, I’ve heard it can. What can be taught is writing well. Part of that education encompasses reading. But reading widely, in and out of your genre, and reading often, constantly, endlessly. Read what the current literary leaders are writing. Read what the lauded dead authors wrote.

Some will vehemently disagree, but sometimes the truth stings. Don’t expect to write well, if you can’t bother to pick up a book.




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Muse Came in Late Summer


I went on my summer break in May. I planned to work on my novel all summer and emerge in September with a finished first draft of my spectacular book.

The reality was I had to de-compress from the whirl wind Semester. I thought I’d give myself to mid-June to do that.

Once that happened I realized I’d better get all my outdoor fun and binge-watching done while I had the time and the strength (and the attention span). I binged all six seasons of The Sopranos. It was research after all. That took me straight through to mid-July.

I had events to attend on the weekends: Pow-wows, Festivals, Fairs, and Conferences. So of course I was too busy on the weekends.

But how much writing on my novel did I actually get done? Not a whole lot.

My friend was writing up a storm, I told her I wasn’t having the same motivation or inspiration. She suggested we do weekly writing prompts. This opened the flood gates. Although the prompts were not associated with my novel, they allowed my brain to start to get back in full-writing mode. I wrote several short stories from these prompts. We did this for a few weeks, and then it died.

I went through an old journal where I wrote that I was going to write one short story a week. I thought it was time to resurrect this. I was back in writing mode, and was working on my manuscript once again. But sometimes I need to step away from that, and do something else writing related. Work on something totally different.

In the past three weeks (since I made this decision) I’ve written two stories and a personal essay. They need a lot of editing, but they made it to the page.

School starts in a few days. I will most likely not be able to keep up my one short story a week. But maybe I can try for one a month. Although working on the manuscript will be my main focus.

At least I have a nice collection of things to work on and submit. So my summer wasn’t totally wasted.

And I did learn a lot watching The Sopranos.



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The Writers Guides to !!!!

The Writers Digest Conference had a booksellers table. I got several books on the craft including Steven James’ very useful text, Troubleshooting Your Novel and his other book Story Trumps Structure. I also purchased Windy Lynn Harris’ book Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays. I bought both of these books the first day I was there.

On the second day I hadn’t planned to buy any books, so I just let my eyes fall on the titles. Nothing I wanted, so I chatted with one of the ladies that stood behind the counter about the bookstore she works in. I was about to leave when my eyes fell on a book that if I had been looking for it I would have never found it. A book I didn’t know existed, a book I needed.

Now you might be thinking why on earth would anyone need this book. All this information is online. Well…maybe, but it isn’t in one place.

This book deals with various (and the most popular) firearms (and ammo) used in literature. It also has a section on knives. It is a practical reference guide.

It discusses firearms that were manufactured in the 20th century or later. So Historical Fiction guys, I’m sorry, this one will not be of use.

  • The descriptions are in-depth.
  • There is a section on the biggest weapon myths in fiction, TV and Film.
  • A review of major gun and knife laws.

I haven’t sat down and really combed through this book yet, but the ten minutes I did have with it, I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t know. My gun scene was so inaccurate.

This book even discusses recoil, hand size and the like.

I’m sure some people would say, “Well I know all I need to know about the gun I’m using in my story.” To them I say, “Fantastic…wish I did.”

But now I will be able to look it up and be accurate. And my small 18-year-old female character will not shoot a Desert Eagle at 100 feet.



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