From my very first post I wanted to pay homage to the speech which inspired the title of my blog, Ain't I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth. Such a beautiful speech, such a beautiful name, such a beautiful woman. It is one of my favorite pieces. I strive to emulate this style in my own work. Poetic and powerful. Honest and unafraid. Memorable. And I like brevity. It too is beautiful. This is the standard I wish to be held to as I explore the question with you ~ ain't I a writer?
"Obliged to you for hearing me, and I do have a few things more to say..."

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Sunday, February 26, 2017


     Yesterday I gave a brief talk about Ona Judge Staines, the subject of my novel, for a group of mostly young people who had never heard of her. That is why I wrote the book in the first place - I wanted to make sure her story was never forgotten. While I thoroughly enjoy sharing the details of Ona's life, I think my favorite part of the talk was when we had a moment of silence in her honor. Yesterday was the 169th anniversary of her death.
       Yesterday felt like Ona's day. For some reason, I kept thinking about a piece of art created by Karen Battles that is also a tribute to Ona. Maybe because like me Karen is a creative artist who wanted to tell Ona's story through her art. I saw it when it was on display in Portsmouth a few months ago. It, like Ona's story, has stayed with me from the first. Though I have no money to spend on art right now, I contacted Karen and asked her if it was for sale.
       Yesterday the sun shone so big and bright, but made it too warm for the month of February. It was like a gift one knows she does not really deserve, but accepts, with both guilt and gratitude.
       Here is a pic I took of the art;

Monday, February 13, 2017

WxW short

     I lost the WxW short short competition this was written for, so thought I would share it here. The rules were: 

    Your piece can be fiction, non fiction or memoir, but it must contain a New Year's resolution, a Mustang or a mustang, the name of a Mountain Range, a reference to a seventies song, comfort food, and hope. Word Limit:  300 Words

Take It Easy

    The doctor had said, “You’ve got to lose weight. Do you really want being fat to be your cause of death?” I knew my family wanted me to lose weight too. I’m old, and have no more time for putting things off.
    So on New Year’s Day, I resolved to loosen my load. To lighten up while I still can. I want to lose enough weight to climb Humphrey’s Peak, but told only my cat. I decided to start training by walking to town, and put on my sneakers for my first trek. I hadn’t gotten more than two miles behind me, when I found myself wheezing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona staring into the window of a shiny new diner. The smell of mac and cheese and French fries immobilized me. Oh, how I faltered.
    Just when I was about to breakdown I heard an engine behind me and let the reflection in the diner window come into focus. It was a girl, my Lord, in a mustang ford, slowing down to take a look at me. I turned to see my granddaughter, looking embarrassed at the sorry sight of me.
     “Open up, I’m climbing in,” I said. She helped me lower myself into her car and drove me home. Parked, we stared out the windshield at the mountains and talked of our hopes for the future. Both seemed so distant. Mine to lose weight and stay alive long enough to witness hers, to become an architect, and build things of great beauty. Feeling frustrated at going it alone, we decided we’d buddy up to get things done, that we would both get to where we wanted to go if we help each other. “Take it easy, Gram,” she advised.
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     Her sweet love is going to save me.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Bruised Ego

      I guess this blog post is a confessional, a lame little lament about a battering my writer's ego has recently taken, and how I have humbly recovered from it, and am ready to plod on.
     Many of you know that I spent five years of full-time work researching and writing a historical novel about the life of Ona Judge Staines, and that much of the last year was devoted to seeking representation for it.
       A few weeks ago I discovered that a non-fiction account of her life has been published by scholar Erica Armstrong Dunbar. I confess my immediate reaction was a panicked little sense of loss, which has mostly dissipated. I am truly glad for her accomplishment and know that her book is needed having been frustrated by the lack of such books when I was doing my research. I wish her the utmost success.
       Here is a piece the NYT put out yesterday about the story.

      At about the same time that I learned about Professor Dunbar's book, I came to a realization about my own that was another humbling blow. After getting feedback from some outstanding literary agents who all said similar things about my story being "almost, but not quite, good enough" I have decided to hire a developmental editor to help me revise it again. I found one who specializes in historical fiction, and once I accepted the idea that it is necessary I have become excited about working with her. It is an expense I can't really afford but after investing five years and a lot of money into writing the story, skipping this step just seems silly now. Together we will spend the next few months polishing my pages and then I will start the querying process all over again. That will also give me time to read Ms. Dunbar's book and perhaps change anything I may have gotten wrong in my research. I also hope to meet Ms. Dunbar. There is no doubt we both share a special love for a woman who was almost, but not quite, lost to history.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

WxW short shorts

      My current financial status is tight. Leaner than it has been since I was about 27 years old, a long time ago. I'm learning to live on my lean means and have found that most luxuries one can give up by being happy with the memory of having experienced them at an earlier time. Concerts for example, I used to attend every good show that came to town, but now find the cost of most shows prohibitive. But one thing I am having trouble letting go of is attending writing retreats. I miss them!

      So I invested a few hours yesterday writing a short short for a competition that will award free tuition to attend the WxW 2017 writer's conference-
Boulder Generative Workshop with faculty 
Andre Dubus III, Camille Dungy and Pam Houston .
Imagine being able to work with them for a few days! Pam is one of my sheroes, and well, Andre in person, makes me swoon.
      I had so much fun writing the entry. Here are the rules:

    Your piece can be fiction, non fiction or memoir, but it must contain a New Year's resolution, a Mustang or a mustang, the name of a Mountain Range, a reference to a seventies song, comfort food, and hope.Word Limit:  300 Words

     I just love the challenge of these kinds of crazy prompts. Wish me luck!

Book-Only-Web 3

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Eve excerpt

From my novel seeking representation:
With letters from Lafayette and Martha at his breast, Washington purchased gifts for his wife, and for the children Nelly and Wash. Set solely on retirement, he and his fellow, Billy Lee, crossed the Potomac on Christmas Eve, under a night sky pregnant with yuletide snow. After riding their beasts hard, they delighted at seeing his windows awash in candlelight, knowing what feasts of good fortune awaited them inside.

1784 ~

When the men arrived home after eight years away, they were followed to the front door by several of the yard slaves, and everyone in the house assembled quickly in the front hall to greet them. Ona and the children were afraid and excited as they made their way downstairs. All eyes were on the General, many wet with tears.
            Ona wore her blanket around her shoulders as she was wearing only her shift. Her bare feet felt the cold that had come in with him. She looked at him from his boots up to his hat as he removed it and handed it to the butler. She thought she had never seen such a large man before. He towered over everyone in the room. His size and presence filled the space that the words she’d always heard of him had carved before he came. She knew she should not look directly at his florid face, but it seemed impossible not to look for the briefest moment, at his eyes. They were the blue his Missus had once spoke of. They seemed to see her. She knew she had to look away but could not. Everything about him was mesmerizing, especially his eyes. When he spoke everyone stilled. His voice was surprisingly soft and warm. He looked about the hall, and addressing everyone said flatly, but with his eyes twinkling happiness, “My family, how happy I am to see you.”
            He brought change to the room, to the people. Missus was beaming, the usually noisy children were dumbstruck, but most notable to Ona was the change to the slaves who were present. She knew these people well, and had never seen them this way. Their bodies never more erect, their voices never more deferential. His home and property were diminished by him, though not by his actions, which were genteel in every way. He greeted each person in the foyer individually. First a warm embrace of his wife who remained on the bottom stair so as to be a bit taller for the moment that caused her cheeks to redden, then he knelt on one knee before the children, his sword knocking the floor each time. The children politely returned his affectionate greetings with sleepy but interested eyes. Then he acknowledged the slaves individually by name and nod, each acknowledging him in return with a bow or curtsy, until at last he came to Ona, standing behind Nelly.       
            His size, his sword, his air, and of course, his authority, frightened Ona immeasurably. She trembled when he spoke to her. “So this is the little slave girl we have taken into Mount Vernon?”

            Her voice was almost inaudible. “Sir,” she chirped like a little bluebird in response, bowing her head in her perfectly executed curtsy, instantly satisfying her masters, who continued in their joyful holy night reunion. The slaves remained standing in the periphery of the light and the love.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Interview with Jeannine Atkins

Some excellent holiday gift choices available from this author: