My new memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing, describes my existential childhood, the radical sixties, going crazy, and how all that led me to becoming a writer. It was a big mess when it happened, but it made a great story afterwards.
I was fortunate growing up in that my parents filled my brother and my lives with wonderful children’s books that I lived in and through. That’s why I love writing for children, playing with words and ideas, rhyme and rhythm, as well as writing for adults. Most importantly, I try not to take myself too seriously!
When my family moved to Florence for a year, I had my new Italian life all planned – long afternoons gazing at masterpieces of Italian art at the famous Uffizi, leisurely evenings at a trattoria, sipping wine. In the mornings, I would work on the memoir I was writing (no distractions like back home!) while my husband taught at NYU’s Florence Campus, and our four-year old, Annelise, attended an Italian preschool. This was going to be so great! Walking with Annelise to school that first morning, the gold Italian light shone softly on the ancient, shuttered buildings. We passed a man in a leather apron standing outside a shoe repair shop, a fragrant panneteria, and a pint-sized piazza that gave the neighborhood a charming small-town feeling. My spirits soared. What a great experience for all of us! At home, I settled down in the breezy, light-filled living room to write. But suddenly noises exploded in the apartment overhead – pounding, … Read on
When I was in eighth grade I wrote two short stories for our English teacher, Mr. Mortem, a malevolent-looking man with a low brow and small beady eyes. We joked that he moonlighted as an axe murderer. But he was even scarier as an English teacher. He snapped girls’ bras in the hallway and terrorized us with menacing-sounding exams called “evaluations,” which turned out to be ordinary multiple-choice tests. When we turned in our stories, Mr. Mortem said he didn’t believe I’d written mine. How would he know? All he’d ever seen of my writing were checkmarks on his “evaluations.” He also didn’t know how disenchanted I was in school, or how passionate I was about writing. “I’m going to keep this story so you won’t try to use it again in high school,” he said. My stories, according to Mr. Mortem, were too good for me to have written.Inside, I was seething.Just wait. Someday I’ll be a real writer. … Read on
1. I didn’t like school because my second-grade teacher was so scary. She had long red witch-like fingernails. She used to clunk us on the head with them when we weren’t paying attention. Once she had a conference with my mom and I thought they would talk about why I wasn’t getting better grades, but instead my teacher wanted to know how my mom got my socks so white. 2. I always loved reading, especially the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. I planned to get to Oz, just like Dorothy and I even packed a little picnic basket to take down the Yellow Brick Road. I started down our street one sunny Saturday morning, all ready to go, but somehow I never made it there. 3. My father was a well-known scientist and my brother is a entomologist (bug doctor.) That sounds like bugs go to him when they’re sick, but actually it just means he knows a whole … Read on
You know what they say about comedy coming from deep pain. That’s I why I laugh at rejections. Below are my nine top funny rejections. Be on the look out for these standbys; they may show up in your “in box”! 1. The rejection used to repair furniture “When my office was moved yesterday, your enclosed manuscript emerged from underneath my desk. I am sorry.” Hey, it’s okay to use my manuscript to prop up your desk! 2. The rejection for something you did not even write “Thanks so much for being kind enough to return the errant manuscript you received from us. We’re thinking perhaps one of your envelopes attached itself to the wrong manuscript.” 3. The rejection for a fan letter sent to a favorite author A friend of mine wrote a fan letter to author E.L. Konigsburg, and got it back from the publisher – rejected. 4. The one-minute-per-book rejection I once had ten picture book … Read on
Do you like being a writer? Most days I love being a writer. I have a short commute, right across the hall, and I get to wear comfy clothes, and be my own boss (I’m a very strict boss to myself.) I like dreaming up ideas and shaping them into stories, and I love being able to buy real, concrete things (like a new washing machine) with money I earned from sitting in a room by myself, writing. I even love–uh, oh, here comes my boss. I’ll talk to you later! Is being a writer hard? Some days, when things aren’t going well, being a writer is really hard. I used to rent a house on a farm and while I was writing I would look out the window and see the farmer mowing his field. What a life! I’d think to myself. He mows the field once, and he’s done. He doesn’t have to mow it over and over, … Read on