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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 …

A tree is a tree is a tree: finding a passion

I know I haven’t shared anything new here in ages, the truth is I’m working on a novel and with a book-in-progress on my mind, my creative spirit is otherwise engaged. 


There is one aspect of the writing process I’d like to share here, to see what you think, and that’s the interest that the main male character, Jacob, has in botany, trees in particular. Part of the pleasure of writing the novel has been following his passion, learning more about trees myself. Like my female protagonist, Alex, I also find myself noticing different kinds of trees everywhere I go. The stunning pink flowering tree pictured above with its hibiscus-like blooms is an example of the Silk Floss tree a South American relative of the Kapok tree. This one caught my eye as I was walking by the Pan Pacific park here in Los Angeles in early October. The tropical species does really well in Southern California’s generally warm and dry climate. While they’re clearly gorgeous, the Silk Floss tree is more than just a pretty face, they’re also known for their large seed pods which contain a bounty of cottony fiber that’s used in cold-weather gear like parkas as well as pillows! 

While today’s botany lesson hasn’t found its way into the novel (yet), I have a hunch Jacob would know all about it.



In case you were curious, Jacob’s passion for trees is NOT to be confused with dendrophilia, indicating a sexual attraction to trees. His is the perfectly normal appreciation a nature lover might have for the leafy bowers, the vast differences in types and shapes of leaves, the varying textures of tree trunks, without being twisted into something sordid and ugly. But for those who do find the eye catching flowers of the Silk Floss tree something of a turn on, I give you this image of the tree’s thorny trunk! Mother Nature’s stern warning, just you try it buddy!

While nothing is set in stone, I’m enjoying discovering more of both of my characters’s passions. How much will stay, remains to be seen. 


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