Monthly Archive

August 2015

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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