Tuesday, January 26, 2021



    My wall calendar tells me today is Australia Day.

To Australians, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, which is the beginning of the country of Australia we know now.

To me, it’s a reminder of a classic. Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

First published in 1972, it’s still a best seller and an iconic text. Alexander, an American kid, is having such a bad day that he thinks moving to Australia will solve his predicament. It’s logical, in the way kid logic works. Australia is far away. Australia is upside down, in the southern hemisphere. Australia is shrouded in otherness and it’s “not here.”

Many adults never outgrow this sort of thinking. When “here” is hard, “elsewhere” will be better.

At the end of his terrible no good day, his mother assures Alexander that tomorrow is another day and, besides, there are bad days “even in Australia.”

I’ve never been to Australia, but my Aussie friends and acquaintances gave me the impression Australia is culturally rather similar to the United States, especially when compared many other parts of the world.*

Viorst’s choice here is poignant, because there is no running away from challenging times. There’s only moving forward, for tomorrow is another day.

 *(Incidentally, in the Australian and New Zealand version of this book, Alexander wants to move to Timbuktu, which I find less successful. He could have wished to move to the United States for a similar effect. )

This kind of Australia Day I can celebrate, and do every day. The assurance that tomorrow—  everything is possible.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Are We There Yet?


You’ve heard the question, and likely asked it yourself.

“Are we there yet?" ask the children, sitting in the back seat of the car.

“Are we there yet?” asks the dog, waiting for the next feeding.

“Are we there yet?” asks the writer of the editor, hoping the last revision nailed it.


The question reminds me of the late great Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a professor of chemistry and a religious philosopher. He said to be wary of anyone who tells you when the messiah will come, for the messiah is always coming but never there yet.


After the year we’ve had, I hear this question almost daily. If not from others, then inside my head.

But then I remember Leibowitz, and answer myself. We are always on the way, never there.


Living in the moment.

©by Shelagh Duffett

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Double and Triple-layered Lives

Say you found out someone you were related to and thought you knew well turned out to have been a major spook? Not a little cog in a big machine, but an honest to goodness give-away-the-store (i.e. vital national security) sort of spy?


That’s what happened to me about half a year ago. Someone (now gone from this earth) turned out in now-released documents to have spied for the K.G.B. on the state of Israel. He wasn’t just “someone,” he was a member of the Israeli Knesset, (think of the American Congress or Senate) and a member of the most security sensitive committee there at the time of becoming, what the documents describe, “ a K.G.B. agent.”


He was also a published poet and a founding part of the state. Go figure.


All this is only a bit surprising. Put another way; upon reflection, some pieces fell into place.


And all this is a crisp reminder that fictional characters must be layered, too. They have the presentation all can see, the presentation only the closest to them see, and the layer no one sees. 

Truth is richer than fiction? Right. But the storytellers’ control of their characters means we must never forget to have this third most hidden layer present in some form, even if it’s never explicit on the page.


Passive construction in this post is deliberate. Hidden operators and hinted obfuscation in actions require this vagueness. 😎

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Should a Writer Have a Website?


The question of what sort of web presence a writer should have comes up regularly on chat boards.

I’m not a fan of shoulds. If you’ve read my past posts, you probably know that. I won’t deny the discomfort I felt when I first made a website with my name domain. Touting one’s work and personal self feels weird and also somewhat unseemly.

But I also think there’s gigantic cognitive dissonance in wanting to be published (i.e. make public) and at the same time wanting to personally hide.

Unless you dream of doing a J.D. Salinger act, which means writing a classic and then disappearing as an ever-growing mystic aura radiates from the mention of your name, writing to publish means having some public presence. This is true for traditionally published authors, aspiring writers, and even more for the self-published who effectively become publishers and marketers.

While social sites are nice places if you like such hangouts, there is no substitute for a site you control under your own name. I think this post by agent Jennifer Laughran says it well, in her own take no-prisoners verbiage.


A few common reservations you can wipe off the deck immediately:

*It doesn’t have to cost much, though free options are not as good for various reasons. There are many inexpensive options that won’t force ads or a domain of the hosting company.

*It doesn’t require hiring a professional web designer. Nice to do (and worthwhile) if you are independently wealthy or already successfully published. But most web hosting services have templates that are intuitive and even non-techies like me can work with.

* It doesn’t have to blow anyone’s socks off, like the sites of famous bestselling authors. Start small and plain, but start.


Your website, under your own domain name, is your bit of real estate in the digital world. It’s a place to see you, (photo, please) your books if you have any, and a way to connect.


Of course, you don’t have to. You don’t have to write or publish anything. You only have to eat, drink, sleep, and try to be kind to others. But if you wish to share your work, get thee a website.

©From Author Vashti Harrison’s site