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Showing posts from June, 2014

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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

Swept Away

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I thought he was God. Or Robert Young on Father Knows Best. Take your pick. Except that in my eyes my father was even more glamorous than Robert Young. I didn't know about God.

He and my mother met at the tail end of World War II when he was home on leave in England. He wooed her in French, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic and he danced like a movie star. They fell in love and then he went away again, back to the western desert, back to the end of the war. Her family, her friends, all warned her about him. He was no good. He'd been around. She was only twenty. He was thirty. Forget him, he was too old. At thirty, her grandmother pronounced, he would have done everything already. He would be jaded, world-weary, they'd have little to share together. Forget him.

She couldn't forget him. He sent stockings, Italian shoes, and letter after letter from the prisoner of war camp in North Africa where he was coaching the Italian prisoner's football team. He came home and three yea…

Graduation Day Redux: A Familiar Trip

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I'm deep into my high school head space right now - the last bit of memoir I wrote and posted this past week, " I Was Just 17 " takes place the summer before my senior year, and since it's June I've got Graduation Day on my mind. I wrote this almost twenty years ago with the class of '95 in mind; it's painful to see that the essay, published in the Daily Breeze in 1995, shows that the issues I struggled with back in high school are the same issues I struggle with to this day. What a waste of time. It's possible that if I spent less time flailing with self-doubt and spent more time honing my skills I might have not have given up, I might have something to show beyond a handful of old publishing credits. Again, I say, what a waste of time! Do yourself a favor, don't waste yours. 




A Familiar Trip


We were the class of '71 and believed that graduation day (now over 40 Junes ago), really was the threshold. Bold new worlds to conquer. Exciting new vist…