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Praise for Them Springing Fresh From the World

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I’d always heard about it, but had never seen it. It’s a word that finds its way into poems: murmuration. And why not, it sounds amazing, all those delicious m’s and r’s. We took a boat up the Connecticut River to Essex, where at dusk, over 600,000 swallows emerged as tiny dots then as winged things in great masses forming shapes in the air, moving in unison. The show lasted for about 45 minutes, the birds moving to escape a peregrine falcon who was hunting. Everyone on the boat became five years old again as they spotted the great bird formation sweeping the sky. The only thing that could compare to the bird watching was the people watching. More on that tomorrow.

What are you in awe of?

Remember to Let Her Into Your Heart

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Thinking about my mother. Thinking about all the mixed messages I received. I think the one that really did me in was that I would be perfect if I was thin. Ha ha ha. I am perfect, mommy dearest. I miss my dead mother so much. I think about her all through the day. What she would like, what she would disdain. My mother was the original hater. She was also gullible and funny and generous and pro-active. She taught me to revere the dictionary and marveled at my similes. She bought me my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona two tone with a side cartridge. Through her eighties, every few weeks, she took a broom and dust pan into the basement to sweep up the dead mice. She said it kept her alive.

Got mommy drama?

Work Work Work Work Work Work Work

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A writer who I work with has been struggling for a long time with a project. Over the years we’ve hypothesized about what is keeping her from her goal. Covid, a death in the family, toggling between points of view, no apparent structure, then the psychological possibilities: fear, depression, fear, depression. Anger, fear, depression. Her last book tanked, to be blunt, and there’s that, too. The specter of that failure looming like a dark cloud. In the end it doesn’t matter. You are a writer, you are a tank, fuck the fuck out of it. Delicate flowers need not apply.

Do you feel me?

When You Ain’t Got Nothing You Got Nothing to Lose

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A little slow getting out of the gate. I usually love the first day after labor day. I was always better at school than summer camp, better at work than vacation. I also live in New England and the changing colors of the trees is a gorgeous pageant. And then of course long sleeves and sweaters over shorts and and thongs. Somehow, and maybe it’s the terrible shape of the world, makes it harder to root for anything. I think as writers, obligated to no one and nothing, the responsibility, paradoxically, implores us to act. To read and write and publish, to communicate and find meaning.

How are you feeling?

Fill My Heart With Song

I read 140 pages of War and Peace. That’s all I got. It’s damn good so far. I love the way T. describes physical characteristics most of all. Everyone has a large, medium or small mouth. I slept a lot, walked a lot on pretty tree covered trails and with pine needle floors of auburn. I had my favorite dinner twice, hot dogs and corn on the cob. We went to semi-hidden waterfall and the few people there all swam, some naked. Yours truly stayed apart on the rocks. Ever as it was, ever as it will it be.

What does September look like, writing-wise?

Come on the Safari With Me

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I am going on VACAY, as the kids now say. I am out of office. AKA OOO. I am taking War and Peace and I may never come back. I mean I can’t even finish a People magazine article, so ha fucking ha. Do I need to smell the roses, gaze at the stars, drink Smoothies, and pick scabs? Do I need to lose my fucking phone? Do I need to write a screenplay, suck wind, take up smoking American Spirits? I might grow a beard, read old medical records, test drive an e-car. I hate gardening, cooking, and waking up. I’ve never been particularly good at vacation insofar as fun, rest, and new experiences are involved. I’ll be back in two weeks.

What are you doing for your summer vacation? I hope you are WRITING!!!

At Night We Ride Through Mansions of Glory In Suicide Machines

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When I was in college, I was in a writing group with three other students. When we graduated, one went to Martha’s Vineyard to write screenplays. One went to London to write plays. And one went to graduate school for English. Me? I took a job at Morgan Stanley pulling documents in their corporate library. I never took a single day to write. Always had a day job. Was not a free spirit. Far from it. I prefer structure, rules, guidelines, and deadlines. I’m compulsive, rigid, and driven.

Are you a free spirit?

But I Said No No No

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Some authors want to see their rejection letters from editors. Some don’t. For me, the worst is the writer who wants to parse every letter. Of course, I understand the need to unpack all the rejection language, but I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and what I’ve come to understand is this: rejection letters all say the exact same thing: no. And no is uninteresting if you’re in the business of getting to yes. Admittedly, sometimes a rejection letter can be interesting, informative, and helpful. But generally, the editor, when all is said and done, is being polite. It’s not right for them, they don’t have a vision for it, they aren’t passionate, they don’t know who the market is or how to reach them, they did a book just like it, they didn’t connect.

How do you handle rejection?

I Really Don’t Know Life At All

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So tomorrow is the big day, my 62nd. Just in case anyone was wondering, I’m not at my goal weight. Nor have I received an Oscar (though I continue to update my speech). I know I’m supposed to be grateful for all the things I have in my life, but I’m not. I want more bites of the apple. I want unspeakable highs. I want the years I lost to depression. I want a wake up call. I want to tell one person what I really think. I want to push myself twice as hard. I want everyone I love to shine.

Make a wish.

You Don’t Know How Lucky You are Boy

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“I have much more humility about my role in the publishing process now than I did ten years ago, I think that so much depends on luck, so much depends upon factors that are out of your control.”

This quote is by Jonathan Karp, the publisher of Simon and Schuster. I think it’s remarkable given that it’s his job to convince everyone that they know exactly what they’re doing. The truth is you can do everything for a book and it tanks. You can have a book with very little going for it, at least on the surface, and it can be a runaway success. Luck is such an interesting concept. Personally, I think you have to work very hard to be lucky. But even then you have to be lucky.

What’s your definition of luck?