My books

Earlier this week my closest friend from high school put this on my facebook wall, and I felt relieved as soon as I read it. I have, these past few years, found it oddly impossible to articulate the importance of physical books in my life. Their impact is far, far more than simply the impact of a story or a set of facts on the human mind. Frenemy's post jogged many memories of my life with the paper book. I don't like to be more than an arm's reach from one; they are talismanic to me, magical, life saving. To imagine my life without physical books is an impossibility. I would be  a completely different person. I don't think I love anything in the world as much as a great book, except possibly a great swim. Go back and forth between the two and you have a perfect day. I do not read while I am waiting to do other things. I do other things while I am waiting to read.

As a child I used to lie on my parents' bed to read picture books with my father; as he'd fall asleep the pages we'd already read together would flutter haphazardly in the wrong direction, and I didn't have to turn to his face to know he had fallen asleep.  My mother used to take us to bookstores and libraries on any free afternoon (actually, she still does, even though we are all in our twenties) and I specifically remember the moment I moved from looking at Sweet Valley Twins covers to Sweet Valley High covers. I knew, even then, that those books were trashy, but they signified something about adulthood to me, with their sheer thickness and pink and purple spines running down the shelves to an infinite point in the distance.  I read so many of those books, largely on the floor of bookstores themselves. And in libraries I found subjects I didn't know existed, or allowed myself to drift back to the books I had loved as a child, or see with a jolt that someone else I knew in our small town had checked this book out before or-- even better-- that I was the first one to take this one home in ten years.  I had a teacher who required us to write papers on ten different French impressionists, and going through those Matisse and Seurat prints all spread out in a library was one of the great intellectual thrills of my life, to be replicated in college with French revolution political cartoons and original editions of The Yellow Book. I worked at that college library, checking in brand-new books and wedging them Dewey-decimal in with books that had been at Skidmore for many decades. To shelve a book was to immediately place it in a historical context.

I love stories, yes- I love movies and improvisation and a good old tall tale told at a dinner table. But I love books more. For most books that I've read since I was a teenager (and that's a lot, trust me) I could tell you where I read some or all of that book. With that kind of tactile memory, I can place these books within the context of myself. It is important to me that I read Anna Karenina on the beach in Wells, Maine, sitting in a chair because it was just too exciting to read belly-down on a towel.  Or that I turned the last page of the huge The Executioner's Song sobbing, in my first apartment in Hartford as my boyfriend walked in the door. I have thrown scary books across the room in terror, I have passed many paperbacks back and forth with friends who have all signed the inside covers. Every Christmas, my family has more book-sized shapes piled up than any other kind of present by far. I learned how to nurture kids when I was a teenaged babysitter by reading to them in bed. I read the same four books over and over in Ghana because that was all I could carry. I read them on buses, in cities, by a lantern in a village with no electricity. In China I read anything I could find in English just for the pure sweet understanding, and I would hold those books in my hands and think Thank God. And speaking of God- I turned thin pages of Bibles and hymnals with more reverence for the beautiful binding and paper than the text itself.  I used to read many books about books- The Neverending Story and Farenheit 451 and Fun Home-- and in all of them books have a transformative power that nothing else in the world does. They are more than story. They are to be interacted with, to be saved from burning, to be discovered. The book I am reading now I found randomly on a shelf in New York last Sunday, and I love its font, its thickness, the person who sold it to me, the way I have read it at lunch tables, and the people who have commented when they have seen it in my hands.

These things are meaningful. Books are not just books; they are art; they are artifact. My shelves tell me what I have tried to know and what I have promised myself to know someday. They have weight and they take up space, but that is what they are supposed to do. They are not just a transfer of one human mind to another. They are a physical part of the world, and I will never forget that. Before they are in my memory they are in my hands.


One of the best pieces of advice I ever received on writing nonfiction was this: become an expert on something. A good nonfiction writer is really just a very serious editor; the world is spread out before him and he sculpts away all the negative space until he is left with a tiny nugget of information or interpretation. And we, the readers, love having someone point to the great things under our very noses. That's why books like Salt and Blink and Stiff and Better and Cod and Andrew Jackson strike the public so hard. Someone is pointing to this thing and saying hey, look at this! Cool, interesting, and important! Add this grain of sand to your ever-expanding information age knowledge!

Fiction writers, lucky ducks, are experts on the worlds and characters of their own invention (I happen to be reading Ender's Game and it's shocking how the world, like all good fictional worlds, feels not only real but inevitable, obvious).

I say all of this because today I am reassessing my expertise. My life thus far has been devoted to learning in a disorganized way. I made a study of studying for a while, and then of having adventures, and then of reading and writing (which is cheating because I read and wrote about zillions of different things), and of getting and quitting jobs, of course, and then of friendship and laziness and all sort of things.

So I am left, these days, with a fact that many memoirists know: the only thing I am an expert on is myself. And not a terribly interesting version of myself, either, but still, there I am, putzing around waiting to be investigated. Montaigne changed the writing world with his observations about himself and thousands of others have not shied away from the self as subject. But today, I hesitate. I'm tired of myself. I want to look outward to this very interesting world.

And so I search for new expertise...

Writing at Home

Tonight I am at home. Also in my home are, as I can see from a random look around, a cactus, a kitten, an overdue and crooked tree, a book on human anatomy, a recently completed puzzle on top of a table with too many chairs around it, and a stack of written but unsent letters. This will all become important later. Tomorrow at the Twain House we are having a writer, Anne Trubek, come to discuss her book A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses. I am currently midway through the book (as well as, as we discussed back in September, three or four other works) and find Trubek's skepticism interesting. She harshly posits that our cultural interest in authors' homes is little more than a mundane, cloying interest in irrelevant aspects of a writer's life. Trubek says that the books are all that matter.

At first glance, and as a happy employee of The Mark Twain House, I rolled my eyes. Come on. We visit writers' homes because we want to see that they, too, were human, a part of history, and could emerge from their historical moments to create something enduring and emotional. The way we create heroes out of our writers is the same way we create heroes out of any historic figure, and although of course we can never really know a complete person once the myths are made, no one would say a person who's changed history or literature isn't worth considering. And writers have the special benefit of handing over a voice. Often it feels as though they are speaking directly into our ears, saying this is who I am, this is who I am. That's what makes reading feel magical: the brain-to-brain transfer over vast swaths of time. It's amazing, really.

On the other hand, the devil's in the details. The fact that I listed two plants and a puzzle in my earlier selection makes me sound a lot homier than I am. Now I'll tell you that the plants are all dead or near dying and that should your perception. Or what if I had told you that in my house I had a completed puzzle, a completed Rubik's cube, a huge amount of IKEA furniture, and a hand-built computer? Makes me sound like I have good spacial reasoning. But I don't. Greg built all that stuff for me. (I helped with the puzzle. Along with twelve other people.) Or I could mention in some letter that I am drinking a glass of lemonade and, a hundred years down the line, somebody might be throwing an annual lemonade-themed birthday party because that's the only drink I ever mentioned in a letter.

It's just so easy to find evidence of any trait here in the middle of the room. Lazy: unsent letters, tons of beer bottles in the recycling, unmade bed, deployed recliner. Compassionate: rescued kittens, sympathy cards, pullout couch, open digital picture of a wounded friend. Dumb: seltzer next to computer, cheap stupid novels, misspelled words, pathetic bank account and receipts for unnecessary items. Smart: books and diplomas and whatnot. Socializer: texts and notes and missed calls and thousands of emails. Lonely: well, I'm the only one here right now, aren't I?

The point is, our objects can never fully represent us unless we fully represent them. And that would be exhausting. I can't point to everything I have, remember everything I once had, or describe everything I want. And yet these may be the things that someone uses to create a memory or a myth about me.

Faced, as I often am, with the impulse to list things, I will try and keep in mind that it is all part of one story. A story of myself, and my life, which I cannot completely control, but which I can edit carefully before I invite the skeptics in.


Books I Have Not Read

Right now I am home for the first weekend in a very long time, so I am cleaning up and clearing out. It seems I do this all the time and yet there is no change in the amount of objects floating around my apartment, overused or underused.   We've all experienced this (see: George Carlin) but I have a particular problem that I think some of my comrades might understand. I have,  in my studio apartment, at least a few hundred books that I have not read. I bought or borrowed them all in moments of good intention.  These are books that I want to read; books that should be read. They look good.  Here is a random sample of books I have here but have not read.

  • Biographies of Ghengis Khan (two, actually), Edith Wharton, Edgar Allan Poe, and Chick Austin
  • The last couple books of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series
  • The collected stories of Amy Hempel, John Cheever, Leonard Michaels, Isaac Babel, Anton Chekhov, and H.P. Lovecraft
  • Bleak House, Oliver Twist, Tristam Shandy, Don Quixote, The Aeneid, The Sun Also Rises
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Krik? Krack!, Song of Solomon, The Savage Detectives
  • Historical accounts of the Dust Bowl, the colonization of Africa, generations of Chinese women, pop music, Lewis and Clark, US Prisons, and Wilderness and the American Mind
  • You don't even want to know about the poetry.
  • And you REALLY don't want to know how many works by and about Mark Twain I bought in the throes of new-nerd-job ecstasy and haven't felt like hunkering down and reading after 40 hours of talking about Sam per week.
  • Workbooks to learn Spanish, Chinese, and how to use my Nikon D50.
  • The magazines!  Oh, the magazines.  Damn you, Granta; damn you, American Scholar; damn you, Georgia Review.  I love and hate you for coming without warning.

I am pathetic.  I essentially have an entire library in here and I continue to acquire more books. There's a heavy emphasis of late nineteenth century (European and American) and essays  (almost all of which I've read, thank goodness) but otherwise: I have a lot to learn that I have already committed myself to studying. This apartment is a record of everything I want to know but have no time to study. If someone would only donate food to me for a year, I think I could conceivably quit my jobs, read about a book a day, and catch up with my intentions.  Any takers?

Anyway, just as soon as I finish Inkheart, The Little Friend, I Know This Much is True, The Quiet American, One Ring Circus, and the style issue of the New Yorker, I guess I'll start with Genghis and work forwards in time.

How do you people with more than one room even keep a head on your shoulders?

- Julia

P.S. The movies from China and the Netflix queue will be year two.  Couch buddies welcome.

List Anxiety

I am alone at a Bed & Breakfast in Westbrook, Connecticut.  I am supposed to be writing. In fact, I have cranked out some draft material of a new essay, but I have a confession to make: just the simple fact of writing it is kind of cheating on myself.  If published, the essay/article will help me with another one of my jobs. I'm not sure if this is a conflict of interest or just plain multitasking. It's been a long time since I've been alone and unscheduled for more than 24 hours. Lately, even my free time has taken on a rather rigorous quality, and I've turned into the sort of person who says to her other half first thing in the morning: "so what's the plan for the day?" instead of just letting it happen. Well, this is a day I just have to let happen. I'm not getting lonely (I think I could spend a month alone without feeling true desperation to hang out with another person) but I am freaking out about being productive and proving it.

When Greg drove away after dropping me off I promised pages: either twenty good ones or thirty passable ones. For a single weekend, that's a lot, but I'm a very fast writer and my every waking moment is supposed to be words on paper. Like I said, I've got some down, but the panic is starting to take over.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I brought along my September to-do list which has fifty-two items that I've ordered myself to complete by October 1st. I confess here and now that I have spent some of my day gloriously completing tasks and crossing them off with an almost carnal pleasure. One of the tasks is "maintain blog," and that's what I'm doing writing here now. Others I have crossed off today include writing a press release, scheduling my essay submissions for the month, planning my other writing retreats, and beginning the aforementioned piece of writing.

Listing has become almost an obsessive tic for me, a way to measure my achievements in incremental, quantifiable form. I like to make lists for whole months and carry around those lists until they look like they've been through the battle that is my attempt to juggle all of my obligations. But, overcome by the pleasure of the list, I opened up a document from June 2009 that listed my big goals for June 2009- 201o.  It is depressing:

"By my 27th birthday I would like to have:

  1. Eliminated credit card debt entirely; gotten ahead in grad school payments; saved $2,000 for permanent savings; have $1,000 buffer zone in checking account.
  2. Maintained goal weight & toned up.
  3. No longer worry about messiness at all.
  4. Published 5 pieces of writing & have 5 on the burner.
  5. A birthday party with friends to celebrate all of these goals."

I will tell you, dear readers, that I accomplished absolutely zero of those goals. I did pay off my credit card and get ahead in my grad school payments but I did not save anything. I am way less physically fit than I was in 2009. I am still messy (although someone improved). I published one little thing and everything else has been on the burner so long it's stuck to the pot. For my birthday I don't even remember what I did. The planner is unrevealing.

However, the list does not reflect the unexpected things I did since 2009 (when, after all, I hadn't begun at any of my current jobs): became a publicist and marketer, attended an academic conference, founded an improv group, won this fellowship, created this blog, etc.  And it certainly doesn't reflect the unlistable things that bring me actual joy: swimming and sitting around having beers with new friends and reading and rescuing kittens and trying new jobs.  I suppose anything listable is too predictable for me to love as much as unlistable things.

But I still will make the lists, and I will still finish them. And you will note that "maintain blog" has tricked me into writing quite a bit more, on this writing weekend, than I have in previous posts.  Good job, list.

- Julia

No Business

The other night I was telling a friend about walking straight and simply out of the theater world when I was seventeen years old. In my public high school my reputation had been tied to a stage persona (I actually have an essay about this, "High Status," that I've been shopping around to no avail) but as I approached graduation I realized that theater had wreaked havoc on my body image and personality. In short, after too many musicals I had become sort of a jerk, and it was a relief to head to college as a nerd instead. Only very recently have I realized that I am almost fully submerged in the theater world again and have felt none of the same anxieties as I did ten years ago.  Surely some of the difference is the difference between being seventeen and twenty-seven, but I also have come to realize how immensely proud I am of the particular work my theater collectives are doing.

HartBeat Ensemble is a group of professionals who have been poking their noses around the issues that Hartford is sometimes a little too squeamish to address.  HartBeat interviews all sides of the community and creates new work based on those interviews. They also run a wonderful program (called Youth Play Institute) in which kids from different schools write a play together.  I think I would have had a very different view of what theater could be to myself and to a community had I experienced YPI in my own high school.

And then of course there's Sea Tea. Even though improv is clearly a theatrical  discipline, I feel entirely like myself while doing it.  Being onstage requires only basic stagecraft, respect for your audience, listening, and responding. That's basically it. Any concern about showing off  is only a hindrance.

The basic principle we use in Sea Tea is "make your partner look good." Every moment onstage we are attempting to make the other players look good by accepting what they're offering and going with it. We're also trying to make our audience look good/feel smart by using their ideas and suggestions to create hilarious scenarios.   Come to think of it, HartBeat is making their partner look good too- every good work they do is reflected right back into the city.  HartBeat makes Hartford look really, really good if you ask me.  And Sea Tea too.

Today I'm going to try to figure out who my partners are around here, and how to help them do their best. That's the kind of theater I'm into these days.

Roughing It

The last time I wrote (a lifetime ago by all accounts; by one specific seasonal account: since then I've been swimming in Walden Pond twice, swimming at midnight in Nyantic, swimming at the edge of a holly forest, and swimming in an unusually warm Cape Cod Atlantic), I was hoping to deliver a lecture on "Wit" at the Twain/Tolstoy symposium in Boston. Against my expectations, my proposal was accepted and I am delivering that lecture on Saturday morning.  I'm nervous.  This is a coming-out party for an academic life; this is a transition from student to scholar.  I'm particularly worried about my own fallibility: what if everything I say is wrong? What if my research is wonky and my conclusions overeager?  This room full of experts will be the test of my thinking and of my education.

Now I'm sitting at my desk rifling through the books I'd like to take along with me, and I just re-opened Roughing It, one of Twain's travel accounts.  He wrote it as a moneymaker in the early 1870s and I haven't had the time to read it all the way through yet.  However, the Prefatory is amazing:

"This book is merely a personal narrative, and not a pretentious history or a philosophical dissertation.  It is a record of  several years of variegated vagabondizing, and its object is rather to help the resting reader while away an idle hour rather than afflict him with metaphysics, or goad him with science.   Still, there is information in the volume. . . . Yes, take it all around, there is quite a good deal of information in the book.  I regret this very much; but really it could not be helped: information appears out of me naturally, like the precious ottar of roses out of the otter.  Sometimes it has seemed to me that I would give worlds if I could retain my facts; but it cannot be.  The more I caulk up the sources, and the tighter I get, the more I leak wisdom.  Therefore, I can claim indulgence at the hands of the reader, not justification."  -- The Author.

When I read this I remember that my concerns about truth, memory, accuracy, exaggeration, scholarship, and reputation have all been shared by the writer I am honoring.  Sam was our nation's Great Exaggerator; I will try not to exaggerate but if I do I will be in good company.

In improv we always talk about the audience: their needs, their expectations, their hopes, their sense of humor, not ours.  I will lecture as Twain would have lectured: for my audience.

Looks like I have some rewriting to do.

Wit and wisdom

I am dying to be on a panel at the Twain/Tolstoy symposium at Boston University late this summer.  This morning, I'm writing and submitting an abstract to speak on Mark Twain's wit as a representative of The Mark Twain House.  I'm hoping that my day to day operations at the Twain House, my MFA in Writing, my recent grant, and the shocking fact that I am now a semi-professional improviser (we do get paid, after all) will add up to a new and simple fact in my life: I might be an expert on this topic. It is strange to think that I might be an expert in anything at all-- I am so often the least-informed person in the room.  But I traffic in wit now.  I use wit to entertain and contribute to Hartford's revival; I work with the wittiest team that ever was; I am employed because of a writer who we only remember because of his incredible wit during his lifetime.  My academic interests have always been wit-related (anybody remember me waxing about Oscar Wilde?) and I have informally been making a study of wit in pop culture in order to improve my improv.  I seem to be taking wit a little too seriously.

The academic question is: what is wit?  As I work on this abstract, I notice that wit is usally in tandem with either wisdom or brevity (thanks, Shakespeare).  I believe that both of these are true, that wit derives from intelligent observation, and that there are quite a few more subtlties I will think about all day.  Can't wait.


Here I am with a list of tasks for each of my jobs, my writing life, my personal life, and my family life.  Almost all of them involve sitting down in front of a computer and hunkering down with my responsibilities. Lately I have been finding it nearly impossible to focus, and so I work in 5-15 minute increments.  Those little spans have been, I believe, damaging to my brain.  I blame no one and nothing but myself, and it is sending me into a panic. So now I am trying to relearn focus.  First, I am training for a marathon.  For me, running is nothing but an endurance test, a true challenge of the mind, more so than any of my intellectual or artistic endeavors.  One foot in front of the other, with no praise or authority figure telling me to move forward.  Just me and my focus.   The marathon even recommends running without music, and so I suppose that in October I will be truly alone with my thoughts for several hours at a time.  It's frightening but vital to my writing life, I believe.

Secondly, the kittens.  I mentioned in my last post that I was aiming to catch and socialize some feral cats on the Mark Twain House property.  At this moment in time, I have caught two, and hope to catch the remaining three as soon as possible.  I realized the other day that I have spent an incredible amount of hours sitting there in the bushes staring at cats.  Now that my brain is so focused on them, I am regaining the urge to write.

The things that made me want to write the most are the things that are furthest from writing: being outside, in the world, not thinking.  Now I'm off to practice the long gaze.

The hawks and the pussycats

There are some kittens I'm planning to catch.  The five of them live with their mother on the hillside between The Mark Twain House and its accompanying museum, acting out an idyllic cat life in the bushes and sleeping in a green drainpipe. I have caught kittens before, in my previous life in the South Bronx.  I caught them then to bind myself closer to my friends there and to the community-- well, actually, I would have caught them no matter what, but at the time there was something incredibly special about picking up these small sickly creatures, seemingly born out of the toxic rubble of our neighborhood, and placing them amongst the things I'd collected over the course of my life, and letting the kittens mess everything up.  They ruined things, those kittens.  Plants and books and furniture and evenings.  At the time I was unemployed and I spent hours lying on my stomach on the ground waiting for them to be a little less wild and come one inch closer.  After a while my very good friends adopted them and they all live together now.  It was one of the greatest times of my life, hanging out with those cats and an essay about them to get into graduate school.

Later I did it again, beginning with a tiny black kitten so small that he looked like an underfed bat.  He slept on my pillow and hung out for a few days in my tshirt drawer (by his own choice).  His brother joined us, wounded and shy, and now they both live very happy lives in suburban New Jersey.

So, back to the Twain kittens.  Of course I want to save them.  There are hawks on the property.  But it's more than that-- I want to be a person who saves things, who keeps things alive beyond a writer's legacy.  I want the kittens to remind me of what it was like to be alone in an apartment, not knowing where you or they were going, not caring what was ruined as long as their safety was preserved.

Time after time after time

I am currently doing one of those very mundane things that writers have to do every now and again:  looking at my planner and scheduling in when to write. I adore being busy-- it gives me a rich life and so many writing subjects, too.  But sometimes all this business gets in the way of actually processing my thoughts and ideas and writing them down.  For example, on Tuesday, I got up early, wrote a press release, went to a string of meetings for my second job as a publicist for a theater company, booked it to the Twain House, went back to Hartford at 5:30 to have a drink with a friend who needs support, went to a 3 hour improv rehearsal, got home and passed out.  Wednesday was 6 AM exercising, Mark Twain House & then seeing the play of Tom Sawyer at Hartford Stage, and Thursday I stayed late to run a book club and then booked it to another improv rehearsal.  Tonight I'm seeing another friend's play and having dinner with another friend.  Tomorrow I'm seeing yet ANOTHER play and Sunday I'm performing in a mother's day improv show.

When the hell am I supposed to be privately creative instead of publicly?

One result of all this insane running around is that work has become a kind of haven.  I actually do a ton of writing and thinking about writing for both of my jobs.  I write letters to editors, pitch longer pieces, review biographies, and brainstorm new stuff.  There isn't too much time for quiet thinking but at least I'm engaging a lively part of my brain.

Now, though, I have this fellowship and I have promised that I will use the money to isolate myself and write.  Ha.  Next weekend: 6 hour hike, poetry slam, 2 improv shows; the following my sister's graduation; the following my cousin's wedding; the following my college reunion; the following a huge Twain event I'm running; the following visiting friends; the following an improv festival; the following July 4th.

So here I vow:  I will still write. I will still make the time.  Beginning tomorrow, Saturday, at 6 AM.  And I feel great about that.

Whose story is my story?

Yesterday I posted a short article I wrote for the Star-Ledger about the differences between Twain biographies.  Today, at work at the Twain house, I was given a little article in a Norwich paper to refute.  (The article states that Hartford was irrelevant to Twain's writing.  Very easy to refute, in my opinion.)  Doing my preliminary research for my rebuttal, I had a conversation I've had several times: "Now if you've got to read one biography, read the Kaplan.  This is the one.  Unless of course you want the early years.  Then it's not the one."

"Oh, yes, I've got to get to that new one.  Dammit.  So much to read."

Here are the Twain biographies I feel like I should read before I can consider myself an expert-- wait, forget expert-- before I can consider myself the most basic of Twain scholars.  Kaplan's, Powers', Fishkin's, this new one about the early years that I can't remember the name of, Twain's own Autobiography (of which there are several versions, and certain parts aren't really true), and his nonfiction The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It, A Tramp Abroad, and Life on the Mississippi.  Most of these books I've read parts of to find out what Twain thought about music or New Jersey or ghosts.  Keep in mind, I just reviewed Loving, Shelden, & Trombley's biographies.  And the letters.  Oh, my, the letters.  There are approximately 5,000 and I have learned that they can be used to prove anything.

What I'm wondering is how much we read about a person before we can really know them, or at least speak for them.  You have to imagine the people of the future sifting through blogs and facebook posts and writing contrasting books (and facebook posts) about what they may have wanted or believed.  Or maybe none of that matters; maybe all you need to know about Twain is contained within Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  And how many biographies before we feel we've really made a decision as to who he was?

That last thought, though, is silly.  We have already decided who and what he is to the culture: important and hilarious.  The rest is possibly just an excuse to spend more time with and understand a man who is collectively admired worldwide.  You have to hope that when you, dear reader,  write your memoirs, letters, emails, and what have you, that future generations will see that that isn't the complete version of yourself.  That you are worth uncovering again and again.  That any human life is so complex as to be studied for centuries, and the more details that are available, the more fuel there is to draw new conclusions.  That there is no final word on you.

My Old New Jersey Home

Yesterday my parents came for a visit from New Jersey.  We headed over to a classy Derby party, picked a horse that sounds like a discount grocery store, and went home with some cash.  The last time I bet on a horse, I was in the Off Track Betting facility out in the wastelands by Bradley airport.  The horse was named Spanky Fishbein and I made a few dollars that day too.  Sometimes the various ways we can experience the same thing truly amazes me. Then, this morning, I found that the Star Ledger published a short review/essay about Twain I wrote for the museum.  Thanks, New Jersey!


Last week I found out that I am one of sixteen recipients of a Writers Fellowship from the Greater Hartford Arts Council.  I'm stunned and honored.   Now that I am essentially a public artist instead of a private one, I launched this little website to keep track of my life as a writer.  I plan to use it to both keep up with my professional progress as well as toss up little excerpts of what I've been writing, reading, thinking, and doing as new writing fuel. Please don't hesitate to comment on any and all posts.