Great writing should not put you to sleep!


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My sister’s cats sleeping together!

I recently learned of a podcast that is pretty funny and useful for settling down. It is called Sleep With Me  ( There are hundreds of episodes and it is designed to help people fall asleep by telling really boring stories. These are “bedtime stories to help grown ups fall asleep in the deep dark night.”

The one I listened to was called “Baked Beans: The Adventures of Mr. Triangle and Isosceles.” A town of math-appreciating people will see a show that they must pay for with cans of baked beans, but there is trouble when it is realized that the wagon scheduled to carry all the cans of baked beans cannot stand the load. This story, told by a man who drolls on and on, often stumbling around for words and deftly emphasizing little parts of speech that make you stop and question what you just heard, breaks all the rules of writing by never getting to the point, using mindless dialogue, reiterating points and leaning on cliches.

The other one I heard was called something like “20 Steps to Self-Skin Care” and the first ten minutes were devoted to applying one’s fingertips to the face very deliberately and specifically in order to execute a light massage he called “running through Strawberry Fields.” It’s hilarious and relaxing and soporific.

I am planning on sharing this with the students in the Creative Writing class come Fall because it really drives home the idea that good writing should not put one to sleep.


Wedding Love Altar


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This is the “love altar” I created as a centerpiece for my son’s recent wedding. A number of women special in their lives were invited to make a table decoration that reflected the love they feel in their lives and particularly as it relates to either the bride or the groom. Each table had a different creation but all had a crystal as the centerpiece. After the wedding the bride and groom took home the crystals and now have a centerpiece there, of crystals, to take into their future that are charged with the love of family and friends.

My card reads, “The authentic bird’s nest here represents the happy home that the bride and groom have created that will serve as the foundation for their love going forward. Mom’s love, the groom’s love for his bride, and her love for him, are sometimes expressed through baking, thus the spatula. Worn but faithful, Spot, is present at this wedding as a reminder of the security found among old friends. They joy, laughter and sense of extended family is tied up in one Wise and Otherwise playing card. The wooden photo frame made by and depicting the groom’s great-great-grandfather hints at the groom’s own creativity, a source of solution should trouble arise. And the idea, no matter how lame, of the groom’s parents as Brazilian dancers, suggests you do not have to be great at what you do together, you just have to mean it.”

Believing in yourself is half the battle


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I’ve heard that creative people are creative in multiple ways and so we should not be surprised to find that Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan also paint pictures. But when you are struggling to be the artist you imagine yourself to be, like me, writing a memoir and telling a story I very much want to share, finding that I have hidden talents is confirmational.

In cleaning out an old trunk in the spare bedroom I came upon this drawing I made when I was sixteen. I’d forgotten that I once believed myself capable of such creations because honestly, right now, I can barely play Pictionary. But possibly if I renewed that notion that I can draw and I put my mind to it, I might win a few rounds.

This sketch is the result of the one drawing class I had in high school, with Robin Burkhardt, who insisted it was about taking the time and seeing clearly. And voila, she was kind of correct! This Bonwit Teller department store ad is a direct mimic of one I saw in the newspaper at the time. The coloring-outside-the-lines I allow occasionally suggests a little artsyness!

Believing in yourself is half the battle.


I am a guest blogger today!



This year, as before, I attended the Hippocamp Writers Conference in Lancaster, Pa and met some wonderful authors and fellow writers. Lisa Romeo is a workshop leader whose program I was most interested in attending because she spoke about using essays and other short works to create a longer piece such as a novel or memoir. She did not disappoint as she walked us through her method of opening up and stretching out essays to insert more story and create longer and more compelling drama.

We ended up at lunch together and I told her about my job at the high school coaching students on their writing. She invited me to write a guest post for her blog, Lisa Romeo Writes, and it appears today at

Take a look!

Hippocamp 2018 Writer’s Conference thrilled me


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This year’s creative nonfiction writer’s conference, Hippocamp 2018, in Lancaster, PA was wonderful. I was particularly delighted with two contacts I made, both offering future collaboration on projects I am thrilled about. This doesn’t even cover the many other writers I met who were fun, inspiring, and helpful, the great speakers, and finding some wonderful books for sale at the book table.

One of the notable speakers was Lisa Romeo, who gave a talk titled, “Reconstruction: Transforming Essays into a Narrative Memoir Manuscript.” I’ve attended her workshops before and always, she had plenty of very useful information to share. This year’s topic, well it is precisely what I need to know right now: how to use what I have already written to recraft the story I want to tell. After the talk I spoke with her further, then ended up at a lunch table with her later in the day. We hit it off so well that she asked me to write a guest blog post for her blog, Lisa Romeo Writes ( about my job as a theme reader at the local high school. I am thrilled to tell people about the cool job I get to do as a writing coach to young people, that also supports my own interest in writing.

The second wonderful encounter I had was with Alexander Monelli who held a session titled, “Call the Doc: How Documentary Filmaking Can Help Creative Writing.” Well, I love documentaries, so sitting in a class where we discussed their structure was fascinating. It was actually a bit frustrating, though, because the instructor kept stopping the video to make a point about how the narrative was developed just as the story was most compelling! Got to watch those online to see how they end up!  ( During the course of a Q&A I realized he might be the perfect person to talk to about producing a short book trailer for my memoir. My book proposal, which goes to various editors, promises that I will put a book trailer on my website once the book is published. Yikes! What was I thinking! No problem, Alex told me, he’d be willing to work with me to put it together. Yay! This story will be continued…

Books matter

When I was in third grade my teacher gave me this 525-page book as a gift. It’s tattered and broken now because I’ve read it many times and because it’s followed me through my life. I thought it was too hard to read and too long at first. I was only eight. But now I see that I loved it so much because it gave me hope and because it showed me how to have a voice.

I was afraid of Mrs. Rarick at the time, but now I wonder if she knew I needed this book, and was being especially kind. Maybe. Thank you, Mrs. Rarick.

Loved being in the New York Times last Monday

Considering the lousy reason I am mentioned in this article, it all worked out pretty well. Wells Fargo gave me back the money a fraudster tricked me out of, I experienced what it is like to be interviewed by a New York Times reporter, and I had the fun of working with a very cool photographer.

Stacy Cowley, the reporter, was so easy to work with, actually sending me a draft of her story about a week beforehand and asking for corrections which she actually took. Take a look, she’s a creative writer too.

Then they sent a photographer from two hours away, to my house, to take about a hundred pictures of me, suddenly, two days before the story was to run. I essentially had a professional portrait shoot without the fee, and have access to some pretty terrific photos for my someday book jacket. Here’s his website. The unusually great shots he took made perfect sense when I discovered he’d done photos for Newsweek, Time and Teen Vogue to name a few.

My former (and true) very weird job

Sometimes you just have to balance out the difficulties of being a grown up human being with a look at the absurdity of it all. Here’s a story I told recently at the West Chester Story Slam for the evening titled “It’s My Job.” Mine is about the time I worked as a research monitor for herpes studies. Watch out, it’s gets a little saucy in spots. See more of my stories on the video tab above.

Too bad I’ll be published in the New York Times soon


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One of these days shortly I’ll be showing up in the New York Times in a story about bank scams. Yes, I made some mistakes and landed at the local branch of my bank looking for help getting my account resecured. It was my son’s money that was taken and when he tweeted about it, a New York Times reporter, Stacy Cowley, who likes to write about Wells Fargo, contacted us and did an interview. Should show up in the financial section soon.

Turns out I’m on the cutting edge of scams relating to the latest banking feature, Zelle. It’s supposed to make it easy to move money out of your account, a bit like venmo or paypal, and I can tell you for sure, it was easy.

After failing to log into my bank account one day because I kept putting in the wrong password I got an email indicating the online access had been shut down due to too many false tries. If you want to reinstate your account click here and log in again, it said. I did that and thought nothing of it since I obviously was the one who had tried the multiple erroneous passwords. In my defense, I was trying to talk and enter my super-secure-confusing-and-difficult-to-remember password at the same time.

This alone was not enough to get me in trouble since there is a two step process to sending money through Zelle. The next day I got seven calls (!) from the same 800 number, all of which I ignored. It continued to the point, though, that we felt compelled to do a google search. That indicated it was my bank’s fraud detection unit so I answered. A wire transfer was supposedly in progress and we could intercept it by blah blah blah. I was texted, from the fraudster via my account and the Zelle function, a code number which I gave them. That was the second mistake. Then he siphoned off dollars as we spoke, but promised to reinstate my account with new credentials he’d fedex in 24 hours.

As soon as I hung up, a gentleman from the bank’s real fraud detection center called, but there was no way to recognize him as real. He was not as friendly, or as easy to talk to as the kindly fellow who had just bilked me, mostly because he wouldn’t even give me his name or the reason for his call, except to say he thought my account was under attack. Same as the first guy. He gave me some unlikely information that sounded suspect about how to be in touch with the fraud detection unit (call between 4:30am and 6:00pm Pacific Standard Time even though we live in the east and I was already on the phone with them right?, for instance), but he did urge me to go into the bank right away. It was unclear whether either of these calls was legit or not. Even the banker was confused once we explained it to her.

Three hours later and after speaking to a Wells Fargo representative at the fraud detection unit I could barely understand due to his accent, and who would not discuss certain elements with me because they had to do with my son’s account (which I have full access to), and after mistakes he made were corrected, we felt secure again. The bad guys sure were easier to deal with, though!

In the end, the bank returned our money in just days.

I want to be in the New York Times but I was thinking it would be for a book review or some other literary accomplishment some day. For now, I am going to bask in the glory of this tangential event and the happy ending Wells Fargo was able to secure.