The “Write” Word

A person sitting on the ground in front of water.


“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.â€

Mark Twain



There are many reasons I should not write. It is hard work and it takes a lot of my time.  Closeted in my “woman-cave†bent over my computer,  I become unavailable to friends and family, my exercise program crumbles, meals are hastily thrown together, my sleep is interrupted.   And worse, I willingly put myself  in the path of constant rejection.   So why write?

I write because I love to write and I love to read.  I love everything about books: the covers that promise hours of enchantment, their heft in my hands, the sweetly musky smell. I love  rows of
books stacked neatly on bookshelves.  I love remembering first book, its colorful pictures,  the A person sitting on the ground in front of water.delight of  learning to translate the symbols on the page into words that conjured fantastical thoughts, faraway places, exciting ideas.  I find comfort in bookshops and libraries.  I love being surrounded by books and by people who love books.

I learned to love writing from my heroes;  Mark Twain, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stegner, Maya Angelou, Anias Nin, Jon Hassler, Amy Tan, Elizabeth Berg, Richard Russo, Barbara Kingsolver…and so many others.  Their words drew me in, not moralizing, prideful words, but  awkward stumbling words,  anguished, hurting words that gave voice to my feelings.  Thrilling words, words pulsing with danger. Angry words, hateful words.  And words pregnant with joy, melodic with peace and love. I loved them all.   Their words opened new worlds to me,  urged me to revisit old ones, challenged my beliefs, made me laugh and sent tears streaming down my face;  told me who I was and showed me who I wanted to be.

I love everything about the  “Worddom” and I want to be a part of it.  I want to provide a link in the wordchain to our children’s children and their children’ children.    I want them to know my stories and my truths. It is why  I compulsively, painstakingly, rummage through dictionaries, thesauri and lexicons for that one word that compels the reader to feel the emotion, see the landscape, love the character, believe in her.  And once retrieved, it is why I must measure its texture and its heft in my mind,  imagine its hue, hear its sound.  It must tell the truth.

This kind of writing does not come easy for me.  By nature, a curious soul, I am easily distracted by  the  “busy-ness” and business of writing;  intimidated by the daily deluge of blogs, posts and tweets, hawking elite and pricey workshops, conferences and retreats where I am sure to optimize my platform and craft a best-seller.  And  above all, I am admonished to devote large A person sitting on the ground in front of water.blocks of time daily to write, regardless of how inappropriate,  to write anything at all, no matter how nonsensical and vapid,  in order to attain my daily  “word count”.   Oddly, there is little in this daily digital tirade about the art of reading or the craft of writing.  I wonder what Mark Twain’s  reaction would be.  Somehow I don’t see him worrying about his Twitter account.

But, this is the digital age, after all,  and I acknowledge its importance as well as the need for marketing.  I maintain a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  I read blogs.  I subscribe to writers magazines and attend a few workshops.  All of this is helpful and entertaining.  But  I have decided to spend what time I have to reading and word-smithing.   If this brings my truth to the written page, and if my words touch the hearts of a reader or two, it will be enough.



Cameo: Natalie Baszile

Queen Sugar is an intriguing new novel about Charley, an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana. The author, Natalie Baszile,  is not a Louisiana native. Her father was born in southern Louisiana, and much of his extended family still lives there. But while she often visited on vacations and holidA person sitting on the ground in front of water.ays, Natalie grew up in Southern California and currently lives in San Francisco. She comes to writing as a scholar, the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, having studied at UCLA and Warren Wilson College. So even though she writes about the South, she is not a “typical” Southern woman. When I asked if she considered herself a Southern woman, she replied, “I have a Southern Heart.” Indeed she does. And at the end of the day, that Southern Heart is what unites us as Southern women; that spirit not defined by zip code, politics, race, religion, socioeconomics, or any of a number of other tiresome labels.

In Queen Sugar, Ms. Baszile portrays the South as She really is. She has no truck with stereotypes and plows deliberately through to the underlying truths about the lives of her characters.  Through Charley’s eyes, we experience the  outlandish beauty of the South as well as its senseless injustices.   We feel the gravitational pull of Southern family bonds and the joys of unexpected friendships. We are outfoxed by the seductive Southern charm that blankets pain with an illusory veil.   We confront  our unrecognized prejudices.  And through Charley’s trials, we witness the outrageous persistence of Southern women in the face of hardship.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book: “Because life should be as simple as a bucket of fish caught a few miles offshore and a van full of produce bought at a roadside stand. It should be as sweet as a cube of melon the color of your heart.” (Ch. 6)

This is not a book review.  But Queen Sugar goes on my list of favorites.  If you’re looking for a beautifully written story with an engaging plot that presents an authentic picture of the present-day South,  here it is.   It’s an honor to claim Natalie Baszile in the sisterhood of Real Southern Women.






Writer’s Workshop

A person sitting on the ground in front of water.It has been my great joy and privilege to have spent the past week at Elizabeth Rosner’s Writer’s Workshop in Matha’s Vineyard.  (Liz is the cool lady in the photo.) Find out more about her workshops, speaking engagements,  and most importantly,  her exciting new novel, Electric City, at her website

My expectations were exceeded.  Liz’s morning talks were  inspiring and packed with practical writing tools.   She is a born writer and a talented teacher who knows instinctively how to balance  discipline with playfulness in writing and respect with challenge in teaching.   The  experience has given me a  better sense of my  “voice,†and has helped me to envision a more workable  path toward  my goals.

Afternoon reading sessions were informative,  encouraging,  contemplative and always surprising. The writers (my “writing buddies)   came from diverse parts of the country and  backgrounds,  had varied writing experiences and aspirations,  and were wonderfully supportive.   Much fun and rowdy laughter always followed the sessions at our incredible gourmet dinners.

The workshop was held in Martha’s Vineyard at the Noepe Center for the Literary Arts, a restful and supportive space for artists of all types, situated conveniently in historic Edgartown.  More about the Noepe Center’s history and services can be found at their website  It goes without saying that Martha’s Vineyard is an ideal setting for a writing workshop.

So thank all y’all.    Liz, for your outstanding teaching and mentoring,  Justin and Jack  for keeping everything running smoothly,  all my “writing buddies† for your support and encouragement,  and  Chef Nisa, for those incredible dinners!  It was an amazing week.