Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I was almost born on February the 29th. It was a leap year, and my mother went into labor that morning. She told me she worried that I would not have a real calendar-birthday but once every four years, and I still think she willed me to wait until the early morning of March 1st. My best friend and I loved thinking about this, and trying to figure out how many birthdays I almost would have had. We talked about how I was ‘almost just one’ or ‘almost just two.’ It was good for developing early division skills.
When I was six-months old I almost died of Hydrocephalus. A new surgery, just pioneered, saved my life. For years I would joke that whatever cognitive skill I did not excel at was because of that episode. But that Almost saved my life and my cognition, such as it is.
When I was a teen I almost met a prime minister. That story, as told by my mother, went something like this: my mother was a divorced single parent, and I was her designated partner for all cultural events. Once again we were going to a good concert of a world-famous pianist, when I refused to come along. The way I remember it, I had a final exam the next morning and needed to study. My mother took a dear friend instead, and when they came back late that night, their faces were flushed with excitement. Seems that they ran into another old friend who was there with the son-in-law of Golda Meir, then the prime minister of Israel. For some reason the four of them headed to the prime minister’s residence after the concert, and who made them coffee and served cookies? You guessed it. Golda even apologized that the cookies were not home-made. I know you’re thinking my mother made this story up, but if you knew my mother you’d know she hadn’t.
As a writer I’ve had plenty of less dramatic ‘Almosts.’ Almost went to acquisitions, almost made it through acquisitions, and the picture book that made it almost all the way to publication. These are the almosts I know about. There may be some only the great designer of all things knows.
But of all the almosts, it is the missed leap-year birthday that I keep coming back to. I may be excused now for wishing I had a lower birthday count, or maybe hoping for some distinction. It isn’t that, really. It is a sense that something of a tone had been set to my life story. The ‘just missed it by a hair’ strain. For good and for bad.

To be honest, I have had many ‘hits’ and much good fortune, not only near-misses. But this is February the 29th, after all. Today is my almost-birthday.

I raise a glass of sparkling cider (it’s almost champagne)-Cheers!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The incredibly energetic, super-productive Kelly Hashway (she’s also nice and beautiful, but that’s beside the point) tagged me in this bloggers’ game, and my first reaction was- I don’t do these pyramid-tagging sorts of thingies.

My second reaction was that I’ve become old and stodgy way too fast, and I could use some Kelly spirit. So I’m playing this time. In addition to needing an infusion of Kelly’s ‘can-do,’ it’s hard to resist an interview with self.

So I’m playing. Rules/questioned copied are in bold. Here goes-

The Tag rules:

1. You must post the rules!

2. Answer the questions.

3. Tag eleven people and link to them.

4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Questions to answer:

If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
The Garden, before the fall. I’m a bit tired of our species’ machinations at the moment.

Do you read in noisy or quiet places?

Quiet, when I can get it.

What was the first book you ever read?
A book of folk tales from faraway lands, and I lived in one then- Israel.

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m cheating because this is an impossible question- an anthology of the greatest short stories. If this answer is not all right, I’d say the Bible, because it is that and more- history, poetry, philosophy and the rest. The Bible is many books in one.

Favourite author?
Can you tell the original tagger is from England or the commonwealth? Check that^ spelling. (My way of avoiding naming ONE.)

Do reviews influence your choice of reads?

If the summary tells me this is about something I want to/don’t want to read about, then yes.

Fiction or Non fiction?

Have you ever met your favourite author?
I have met one of them, but I’m not telling.

Audio books or Paperbacks?
Paper, always.

Classic or Modern Novels?


Book Groups or Solitary Reading?

Solitary, all the way.

11 people to tag? Ah!

Naming names is the hardest for me. Join only if you think you could use this excursion in your life….

And so I lost steam after ten… Typical me- not playing by the rules.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Ideal Blog Reader

Yesterday I met my ideal reader.

I am thinking of the ideal reader of this blog, not my fiction. I may be speaking of you.

In a place unrelated to the publishing business, someone I don’t know well walked over to me and told me she reads my blog, and loves it. She went on to say some of the most moving words about my writing to have crossed my tickertape. And then she added: “You’re funny too.”

Mind you, she is a busy, productive and accomplished woman. Because she likes this blog, I will add that she is sensitive as well, and has good taste.

And she is not an editor or an agent, nor does she write fiction or buys children’s books. She is not one of the ‘followers’ or ‘Like button clickers,’ or anyone I would have remotely imagined to have a reason to come here.

She likes my writing, that’s all. The ideal reader.

This got me thinking about our readers, the ones we don’t know and would not have guessed we speak to. We read and see movies about the creepy kind. Not much about the sane and the good. We know the ones we know. The others are beyond the sea, where we know there are souls but the naked eye can’t see.

And then, for one brief moment, I remembered the other reason I write. In the roaring traffic’s boom, beyond the confines of my lonely room, I think of you, the reader.
©Painting by Shelagh Duffett
©Happy Valentine’s Day©

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Art and Commerce of Writing

There are certain clich├ęs that abound in Writer Land. One of these is to write from your heart, not to the market.

Literary minded Beta-readers mention it. Editors at conferences say it. ‘How-to’ books exclaim it. Only the occasional blunt agent blog will say otherwise. But they are marketers, after all.

However, every writer who has fashioned stories of real substance has gotten one of those rejections: “The manuscript is amazing. I really love it. Unfortunately it is unlikely to sell well in today’s (fill in the black) market.”

So there lies the dichotomy between internal truths and commercialism.

Or is it? I worry that editors underestimate readers. If they really loved it, so will plenty of readers.

As a writer for younger readers, I’ve also gotten the “kids won’t get this.” Again, the gate-keepers think too little of the readers. I know, because I have test-driven stories with their intended audience.

And then, everyone and their cousin complain about how flat and content-free most of the offerings are in books/movies/television.

Even gifted stock-traders are baffled by the market place, and rarely understand trail-blazers. So too for publishing. If acquisition editors really knew the market, they would be zillionaires.

{All right. I’m whining about good personal rejections. I should also say that they make my day and leave me buoyant. My writer friends can attest to how I barely contain myself as I share positive feedback, that oxymoron writers call ‘good rejections.’ Any response these days is rarer than a red diamond. But yesterday a supremely talented writing friend shared one of her rejections that were in the ‘wonderful-but-not-commercial’ vein. I found my frustration floating to the top. I know her manuscript, and it is far stronger than most I see in print.}

So I’m back to where I started this meditation. My mantra, my answer, is to write the best stories I can. From the heart