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

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 …

If a tree falls in the forest ... should it be used to make the paper for my novel?

I’ve been working on a novel for the past year and a half, a process which has made doing any kind of creative writing here in this space more and more difficult. I’ve kept up with my book-to-movie blog at Chapter1-Take1.com but that’s a very different kind of writing. When giving out factual information, I don’t require inspiration. 

Now I’ve finished the book and I’ve begun reaching out, searching for an agent. An easy sentence to write, a horrifying, intimidating, paralyzing process to undertake. The first chapter, one I was happy with before, now strikes me as sophomoric, tedious, garbage and any number of cliche criticisms. Is it? Or is that my fear talking? I don’t know. I’m in a place where I can’t imagine my novel is worth the paper it’s written on—about 1/3 of your typical paper-suitable tree. Which is why I still can’t find the energy to get back to memoir pieces. My writing brain needs a break. 

So in lieu of a writerly post, I’m posting photos instead. If you follow me on Instagram you might be thinking, for f’s sake, don’t you share enough pictures already? Yeah, I do. But not often of trees. And I do so love trees. Not in the creepy dendrophile way where some tree huggers literally hug—and more—giant Redwoods and the like, the trees literally sexually arousing them. Not like that.

My love is more of the nemophilist variety. That very old word is new to me and means one who loves trees so much they tend to haunt forests and such. A regular Lorax you might say. Anyway, I’ve endowed one of my characters with that somewhat nerdy trait and I happen to know he’s especially fond of Sycamores because of their large, luscious leaves and beautifully peeling bark. Can you blame him?

That’s three pictures and accompanying verbiage, logging in at roughly 210 words. More than I’ve managed in quite a while. Time to look at that chapter one more time.


  1. I like trees, too! I used to take people on winter hikes at a nature center to teach them how to identify trees by the bark. I was good at it then, but it's a skill you have to keep using or it disappears.


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