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Welcome to Cesena!

Welcome to Cesena! Home of my husband’s family, and home of Arturo Donnini, one of the main characters in my novel, House of Truth. I visited Cesena, Italy (in Emilia-Romagna, which is in northern Italy, very near the Adriatic Sea) for the first time in 2010. I was there with my then-boyfriend Paul (now husband) and we were staying with his family; his aunt and uncles and cousins still live in the same city his father emigrated from in 1957. I spent the first week of my trip in Florence with two friends for a creativity workshop; in the mornings, after eating breakfast in the high-ceilinged pink ballroom of our pensione, my friends and I walked along the Arno in golden Italian sunshine to our class. There, we would begin class by lying on the floor meditating before we set about whatever exercises the instructors had waiting for us. Sometimes we drew, sometimes we journaled, sometimes we worked in small groups. It is absolutely a cliche to say that my week in Florence was magical; the air there tasted different, as if the dust motes carried the remnants of those long-gone Renaissance artists and scholars. The trip changed me as…

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Enemies of creativity

I broke up with my phone. I’ve loved her for a long time, and I’ve broken up with her before. I’ll probably have to break up with her again, even though this time feels very final (they usually do). She is a very demanding (and cunning) little companion so I’m sure she’ll insinuate herself back into my life at some point. I realized something interesting a couple months ago: when my phone is on, I’m irritable. I’m checking it constantly, responding to its dings and chimes (or, if I’ve tried turning them off, I’m checking the screen repeatedly). Since I stay at home with my boys, both of whom interrupt me at the rate of seven times per second, I feel continuously torn between multiple attention-demanders. This makes me really edgy, because I cannot pay attention to two things at once, as much as I want to. And mostly I don’t want to. Also, when I’m writing, I interrupt myself to check my phone whether the ringer is off or not; sometimes this is necessary, like when I have a babysitter and I need to check texts in case she needs something for one of my kids. But mostly, it’s…

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How I started thinking maybe I could be a writer

I still remember exactly when it happened: I picked up a non-fiction book by Elizabeth Berg. Back in the late nineties and early aughts, I read a lot of Berg’s fiction. I wasn’t terribly happy back then, having gotten married to the wrong man and all, and her books, while not exactly fine literature, were cozy and comforting like an old pair of slippers. On a whim, I checked out her book, Escaping Into The Open, which is all about how to get started writing. Before I read that book, I couldn’t admit to anyone, but especially to myself, that I wanted to be a writer. I had been writing all my life, including a diary I started at age seven and dozens of stories and poems throughout childhood and adolescence, and had even won a couple contests with short stories and poetry, but no one ever said, “You should be a writer.” So it didn’t occur to me that I could. I went off to college and majored in history (the first time around, anyway. Later–much later–I went back and majored in English. Just because I wanted to) I read Berg’s book–which was like having a chat with a friend…

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Thought for the day

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.” ~Vita Sackville-West

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The truth

I had to do something unpleasant yesterday: email an editor of a literary magazine where I’d had an essay accepted and tell her I had discovered a factual error in my piece. The journal is due out in only a few weeks, and the error was very minor (a timing issue–something that happened in 1962 instead of 1960 in my husband’s family) but I felt it was necessary to notify them. I was out for a walk when I sent the email. I was very nervous about it; what if they were angry? What if they decided to pull the piece? I didn’t really think that could happen, but I just wasn’t sure. Lucky for me, it all worked out fine; the editor emailed me back and told me, in a nutshell, that they didn’t really care. There’s a lot of flap right now in the writing community about what defines creative non-fiction and just where the line between truth and fiction lies. I adhere to the line that Lee Gutkind, founder of Creative Non-fiction, draws: you can’t make this stuff up. My integrity as a writer is very important to me. I want to be as honest as possible…

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Writing about the personal

I went to a recital given by my piano teacher and her students a few nights ago (I didn’t play…too many months off after having a baby) and got to chat with another adult student. She mentioned that her husband writes poetry and we got to chatting about writing; she asked me what I wrote, and I told her personal essays. She wanted to read what I’ve written, and this is the first time I’ve had someone I know (outside of my writing group and a couple friends) ask to read my work. She wanted to know what I wrote about, and I told her “intimate personal matters.” Writing personal essays that are honest (and sometimes painful) is a strange conundrum: I want my work to be published, yet I never think about who might read it when I’m writing or submitting to journals. It’s actually easy to forget I’m writing about real people. This past spring, I withdrew an essay from a journal after it had been accepted because I realized it would be devastating for the family member I’d written about to read. It revealed family secrets that this family member is unaware of and will likely never…

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Hello!

Hello everyone! Welcome to my new blog! I’m still sort of figuring this stuff out; trying to design one’s own website is not for the faint of heart. But I hope to have it all up and running by the end of the summer, and by then, I’ll start inviting people to read. Thank you for coming here, and I hope to have more soon!  

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