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Friday, July 29, 2011


I was at a writer’s conference recently where various speakers took the stage to give their version of  “The Marvel That Is Me.” speech. 

One performed the, “Aw, shucks, I’m just a regular guy, writing regular guy stuff,” talk. 

Another chose the “Forgive my tears but I find myself and my professional journey unbearably touching” talk.

And the third delivered the, “I deserve my success because I worked way harder, way longer than any of you slackers” speech. 
This is not to imply that my presentations are any less riddled with narcissism. The point is that all these presenters were attempting to create a coherent narrative of why they had succeeded in a realm where so many fail. 
And, as annoying as these speeches can be, they address a subject that attendees at writers’ conferences are eager to hear about. The question of -- What separates the speakers from the listeners? What information can be gleaned to transform today’s listeners into tomorrow’s speakers?  
Some writers may believe the narratives they trot out for the unpublished. But most of the writers I know are privately, just as flummoxed by their good fortune as their conference audiences. And whereas the wanna-bes may believe that their lives will be bliss evermore once they get published, the old-timers know that success is punctuated with failure and that you win a few, and lose all the rest. 

Rejections are sprinkled throughout, but with each we worry that our most recent success will be our last with nothing ahead but the hell of the has-beens and used-to-bes. 
Getting published is one hurdle. Staying published is another. And both rely largely on chance and the changing whim of fashion and finance ... or in other words; Luck.  

The luck to find the right editor at the right house for the right book at the right time.

How maddening to know that we can work so damn hard, and still be at the mercy of luck! On the other hand, how fabulous that luck can still strike!


PS Let me know you're out there! Comment!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Welcome Wally!

Meet the new kid
 Wally G. Koss
(Author assistant in training) 

So far so good!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Mitchell is away on a freelance assignment for another week so it seemed the perfect time to marshall the team and head for the pound.

My kids and their boyfriend & girlfriend and I wandered the heartbreaking rows of outdoor cages at the Pasadena Humane Society.  Many many soft faced pit bulls,  German shepherds, corgi mixes, and all kinds of unknowable combos, plus one alligator, two chickens, a bunch of bunnies.

Our crowd thinned as members peeled off, each attracted by a different dog.  I could barely meet all the beseeching, or resigned dog eyes as I dragged cage to cage feeling weepy.

And then I saw Wally.

Wally couldn't be less like Sweetie.

Sweetie was our ancient big black lab. Wally is a young, white, curly haired, poodle-ish looking, mid-sized muppet. Sweetie slayed us with her dark eyes. Wally has no discernible eyes.

Wally (who we named in the car on the ride between the pound and frozen yogurt celebration) is not just not Sweetie, he is also...his own Wally self, whoever that is. 

We don't know anything about his political leanings, his taste in music... Will he torment our rabbit and Guinea pig? Does he dig up the garden? Escape and chase cars? Chew up shoes and books? Bark constantly? Growl at guests? Pee in closets? Knock over the garbage and spread it around? Choke on fish bones?

Well, we'll learn these and many otherwise unpredictable and no doubt lovable things about him, starting Tuesday when we bring him home.

Meanwhile, here is one more memorial picture of Sweetie, before the era of our boy Wally begins.

Time do march on, don't it?

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Home from my visit home. Or -- back in Glendale, CA after ten days visiting fam in Farmington Hills, MI where the air is smogless but fetid. Fireflies, mosquitoes, long sweaty days caught in the sticky strands of the family web.  Watching my parents being erased right off the page.

Momba nearly blind no longer reads novels, can barely get through the Times. Tentative gestures, unfocused. Even her handwriting has gone small and spidery. Poppa so thin his pacemaker pokes through his shirt. Each with an array of illnesses and worn out parts, but glad to be alive and glad to have us there.

Sobering. Not only watching my once powerful parents diminish and fade, but all the other history and chills of a visit home. There are so many more dead people there. Some who I keep forgetting have died  in my absence, seem to die all over again every time I visit home. Others who were once old it turns out I've now outlived.  Plus, an ex husband.  The road not taken.... well taken, but median jumped, U turn pulled.

Anyway, in spite of the insult I could NOT risk letting my old deaf, blind, frail, hesitant, parents drive me or my kids around, so we seized their keys --- and smashed up their Lincoln on a round -about.