Tuesday, October 26, 2021



Literary success conjures up visions of going on multi-cities tour, winning the Pulitzer Prize, having one of your books get to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list, and making much money, or at least enough not to need any other source of income. In all likelihood, this is how most people who do not write would define it.


          For some writers I’ve known, who wrote literary and esoteric fiction never intended for the masses, literary success is having an appreciative and dedicated following for what would never be mass-market success as in the above.

        For others, it means being traditionally published. It's a milestone many try to reach.


          I think all of the above qualifies. But I have long held to a definition so modest that only writing friends would recognize it. Literary success is when you get to the finish line with any of your stories. You thought it, you outlined it, you drafted it, you revised it X times, and you called it done.


          I wish y’all much such success 👍 because this sort depends on you alone.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Month of Changes


October, like its mirror April, is a month of changes.

Days turn from pleasantly moderate to cold, only to abruptly switch to oppressive heat and back again.

Still air yields to wind gusts, before they leave to wherever blustery winds retire to.

In the San Francisco Bay area where I live, October is the month of earthquakes and great firestorms.

When it comes to planning on what’s next, this is a time of not knowing.

Which is why it’s the best time to start contemplating a new novel, and marvel at where the emerging story may go.

Because you never know.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Our Children’s Birthdays


Many years ago, my mother, herself in her sixties, had a friend who was in her thirties. Her friend, of Japanese descent, told my mother that she celebrates her own birthday by giving flowers to her mother, because her mother was the one who gave birth to her on that date.


I asked my mother if she was telling me this because she thought it was something I (cough-cough) should do as well. My mother laughed. “Oh, no. We don’t do this,” she said. “Maybe it’s a Japanese thing?”


Years later, I became a mother myself. Every one of my children’s birthdays meant more to me than my own. Unlike them, I have a memory (a visceral one at that) of the original day, the day they were born. I remember it minute by minute. Both my kids' birthdays were the most monumental days in my life.


We don’t do the flowers thing, as my mother said. But I now get the wisdom of this tradition. Whether it was idiosyncratic or a cultural thing, it evokes a sense of awe.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

My Little Phoenix


I have this orchid plant that I’ve given up for dead too many times to count. 

It was given to me too long ago to remember who the giver was. Back then, it had a long elegant  stem with two large leaves at the bottom and a cluster of three open blossoms on top. It reminded me of a giraffe, my favorite animal.


I don’t have a green thumb. If fact, you would not be insulting me if you called my thumb grayish black. I expected my new friend to last about as long as the rest of the plants formerly in my care and now in in great garden in the sky.


True to my prediction, the orchid died. Its blossoms shriveled and its leaves got yellow and then brown. I was ready to add it to my weekly garbage pickup at the curb on pick up day, but for some reason  I kept forgetting to do it.


For another reason I will never fully understand, I kept giving this dead plant a weekly watering. It was a sort of, “as long as you’re here, might as well...”


It surprised me. New leaves replaced the old ones, and new blossoms appeared, like hands clawing up from a grave.


Another person gave me a second orchid. It, too, joined the first in the cycles of death and re-birth.


The last year has been hard, and despite all the TLC and the happy talk I gave, both orchid plants had finally given up. I was sad, but nothing lives forever.


And then, this happened:

I think of it like the muse, whose death is an illusion.