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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 …

#11 BEACH MUSIC: A time of tans, blonds and hot pants

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IT WAS A TIME OF TANS, BLONDS AND HOT PANTS, WHEN THE ENDLESS SUMMER WAS JUST A SHORT WALK DOWN A HOT SIDEWALK
Beach Music, an On the Street Where I Livestories is really a tale of two cities; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California. It was originally published in the LA Times Sunday Magazine.



Beach Music We came to California from Canada, with a detour to Puerto Rico that lasted one endless summer of a year. A year in which I turned 15, and my hair turned blond from living in the sun. “Psst,” the boys and men would call after me in the blue-cobbled streets of San Juan. “Psst! Hey, blondie. Psst! Hey, cutie pie.” I was devastated when my parents said we had to go, that it was time to leave the island so that my older brother, Russell, could get a first rate education. The plan was to drive cross country from Miami and settle in San Francisco so that my brother could finish high school before going on to UC Berkeley. But, once we got there in the fall of 1968, we found that …

Preston, North of England Way

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My dad could always make us kids laugh when he put on a Liverpudlian accent, pretending to be one of the Beatles. While Liverpool was only forty odd miles to the south of his hometown of Preston, Lancs, the Liverpool dialect was slightly different from the way he grew up speaking. These days they know Liverpudlian as 'scouse', a dialect influenced by the Scandinavian as well as an Irish and Scots influx of workers via the Liverpool seaport. My dad didn't have that terminology; he just called it 'thick'. Thick it is, almost like you've got a cold or something nasty stuck in your throat. 

He had left home at seventeen, left England even, escaped to Egypt. Time and distance, and a bit of a determined effort on his part to sound more cosmopolitan had softened the way he spoke, erased his broad north country accent, replaced it with something more elegantly BBC-ish British. 

Now, our dad warned in a long-distance phone call, when my sister and I, at sixteen and twenty…