The “Royal Order” of What, Now?

July 10, 2017

Here’s something I’ve often wondered about: Why do English speakers innately grasp the natural placement of adjectives in sentences? For instance, why do we always describe a “creepy little old man” instead of an “old creepy little man” – or even an “old little creepy man” – in that precise order? And why is it some strings of adjectives get separated by commas while others don’t… like a “hideous, barbaric monster” or an “unkempt, disheveled urchin”?

These are the things that keep me awake nights… when I’m not being awakened by our left-side next-door neighbor’s rooster going off at odd hours or the right-side next-door neighbor’s yappy dogs.

Oddly enough, there’s an actual reason for this – the adjective order and the commas, not the stuff that wakes me up at night. It’s because of something called the “Royal Order of Adjectives” (not to be confused with the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo, for those of us old enough to remember watching The Flintstones). The Royal Order of Adjectives is a set of specific guidelines by which English-language sentences are structured, regarding the placement of adjectives.

Nine descriptors comprise this Royal Order. They are: determiners; observations/opinions; size; shape; age; color; origin; material; and type. Because observation/opinion precedes size, which precedes color, we’d say “creepy little old man” instead of any other configuration. And because they fall into different descriptor categories (cumulative as opposed to coordinate adjectives), they require no comma.

Conversely, strings of adjectives within the same descriptor category do get separated by commas, because they are of equal weight (for lack of a better way to describe this).

Let’s explore those nine descriptors.

  1. Determiners – these specify the item being described (e.g., that, my, their)
  2. Observations/opinions – subjective descriptions (e.g., crumbling, hairy, disheveled)
  3. Size (e.g., medium, microscopic, gargantuan)
  4. Shape – physical dimensions (e.g., round, rhombic, star-shaped)
  5. Age (e.g., Art Nouveau, antique, seven-year-old)
  6. Color (e.g., blonde, crimson, cerulean)
  7. Origin – the item’s place of origin (e.g., Chinese, American, Tibetan)
  8. Material – what the item is made of (e.g., cotton, iron, maple)
  9. Qualifier – this refers to specific properties or type, and may be considered part of the name of the item being described (e.g., boudoir lamp, cellular phone, electric guitar)

Go ahead and use any number of descriptors in your writing – just be sure to put them in the proper order. You could describe “her clingy blue skirt”; “his rusted, clunky [note: You’d use a comma here because both adjectives are observation/opinion descriptors] oblong red wagon” or even “my sleek antique black European spruce grand piano.”

And now that I’m fairly certain I won’t be kept awake wondering about adjective placement, I might just get a good night’s sleep tonight. What more could I ask for?

Advertisements

Book Review – Christy Wright’s Business Boutique: A Woman’s Guide For Making Money Doing What She Loves

April 17, 2017

In Business Boutique: A Woman’s Guide for Making Money Doing What She Loves, you’ll discover everything you need to begin living your dream of running your own business. Christy Wright walks you, step by step, along the road from “finding your why” (the reason you want to go into business in the first place) to identifying your customers and meeting/exceeding their needs and expectations… all the way to keeping your business in the good graces of the government when tax time rolls around.

Christy’s lived it. From her earliest memories, Christy watched her own mother live it. She knows how challenging it is to juggle full-time work and family and friends, manage a household and run a successful side business. She knows all about the little niggling nay-saying inner voices that derail our dreams and keep us from pursuing what we love. Christy understands how difficult it is to step out in faith and take that first terrifying step… her stories about perseverance in the face of fear and soul-crushing adversity are both heartening and empowering. And her personal stories (about facing even the small hurdles we women tend to turn into gigantic boulders in our paths) are hilariously human.

Having attended Christy’s first two Business Boutique two-day events in Nashville (in 2015 and 2016), I can attest that Business Boutique: A Woman’s Guide for Making Money Doing What She Loves distills the lessons presented – and keeps them close by as you need them. It’s like having a one-on-one session with Christy right at your fingertips; she’s there, coaching you and reassuring you at every step. And trust me – this is one book that won’t languish with all those ‘start your own business’ books on your bookshelf; it’ll be right on your desk, where you can access it at a moment’s notice.

Follow the guidelines laid out in this book and you’ll find yourself equipped with all the tools you need to succeed in realizing your dream.


They Like Me… They Really Like Me! (At Least They Like My Writing)

April 11, 2016

This past weekend, at the Tennessee Mountain Writers 28th annual conference in Oak Ridge, I was honored to have spent two-plus days among nearly a hundred of my fellow wordsmiths. Together we learned from such gifted writers as Courtney Stevens, Judy DiGregorio and Michael Knight (along with master storyteller Saundra Kelley).

Moreover, at the Saturday-evening banquet, I felt further honored to have won two literary awards: second place in the Joy Margrave Award for nonfiction; and third place for the Patricia Boatner Award for fiction.

My winning nonfiction piece, “Xena’s Adventures in Doggy Hell,” is a distillation of this post from March 2009. The fiction entry is Chapter 4 of my forthcoming novel, Glimpse of Emerald. Below is that winning entry. But first, some backstory: Seventeen-year-old Gary Sheldon has had a hell of a year. Last September, his mom abandoned him; since then, his alcoholic father has been beating him. The only people in whom Gary can confide are his grandfather, Edward Sheldon, and Father Justin Maynard, dean of St. Joseph Academy.

I hope you enjoy this piece. Please feel free to offer feedback, and to share this post with others.

Chapter 4

(16 June, 1981 – Tuesday)
Edward welcomed Gary that bright June day and promptly solicited his help. He’d bought the cottage on the Milford shore in 1950, to enjoy summers with the family. Now, thirty-one summers later, it was time to make it a permanent haven.

Gary savored the invitation.

Too old to do it all himself, Edward was glad of the help and the company. Besides, it’d keep Gary’s mind off his troubles at home. He afforded his teenage grandson ample opportunity to hang out on the beach. Gary usually declined, saying he’d rather help with the renovation project.

For ten weeks, morning to night, grandfather and grandson worked side by side. They measured and cut, hammered, drilled, sanded, rewired and painted. They laid insulation in the attic, hung windows and installed new plumbing and heating. Every night, Gary fell into bed exhausted, lulled to sleep by waves lapping at the shore. Each morning, he awakened to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee – and with a sense of purpose. After supper, they’d sit on the porch to talk. Anything was open to discussion: the future, the past, work they hoped to accomplish; whatever was on their minds. Edward related stories of his early years with Josie. And occasionally – reluctantly – Gary talked about his troubled home life.

“I don’t wanna go back,” Gary confided in August, staring out over the water as darkness crept across the shore. His shoulders sagged under his lingering depression. “He makes me feel so insignificant. Like I’m not even there. Know what I mean?”

Edward nodded. “I do.” He wondered whether this was his cue to take Gary out of there, reunite him with Diane. “But, Gary, it’s only another year ’til you graduate; then you’re off to college. And you can spend summers with me. You’re always welcome here; this is your home, too.”

They watched the last pinks fade to blue, then grey. It was a long time before Gary spoke. “I never told anyone – not even Ellen…” He studied the weathered floorboards. Edward leaned close. “It got so bad” – he sighed with the weight of secrecy – “last Christmas I… almost killed myself.”

Edward’s eyes widened in alarm and concern. “Gary! Why would you even consider that?”

Cries punctuated the teen’s words. “Have you ever felt so desperate and so – alone… that suicide seemed like the only escape from the pain? D’you know what that feels like? Do you?” Edward was silent a moment too long. Fists clenched, elbows gouging into his knees, Gary spat the words. “Well, I do. It feels like emptiness and failure!” He dropped his head against his fists.

“Oh Gary…” Edward pulled Gary to his feet, enveloped him in a mighty hug. “Why didn’t you tell me it was that bad?” He tried not to sound like he was scolding. Fear took hold as reality seeped in: He’d lost a son too soon, and that had triggered Josie’s depression. He couldn’t bear to lose his grandson. “Gary, you’re seventeen – you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. What would make you feel like you had no other choice than that?” Edward’s embrace was too much to fight; the tears won. Sobbing, Gary clung to him; tears soaked his grandfather’s shirt. Finally, Edward spoke again. “Let me get you out of there. I can get you into Milford Academy. You could live here.” He wasn’t sure Gary had heard, because he didn’t answer right away. Gary shook his head, mumbled something about not wanting to leave Ellen. Edward figured as much, but he had to offer. He promised to stay in closer contact; then he posed the question he dreaded asking: “Is your father hitting you?”

“N-no,” Gary stammered. “Of course not! Why would you even ask that?”

He’s lying… telling me to mind my own business, Edward mused. I have to respect that. If he wants out, he’ll tell me.

 

Gary crumpled back into his chair. His chest ached from crying – and his ribs hurt from Grandpa’s embrace. And now he’d just lied to him! It felt awful, but he didn’t think he had a choice. If Grandpa knew the truth, he’d tear me away from Ellen. I can’t risk that!

Patting his grandson’s shoulder with a giant hand, Edward fetched him a glass of water. Gary accepted it gratefully, drinking the cool liquid in great, rushing gulps. It felt refreshing, but it couldn’t soothe away the guilt over his lie.

Edward set the empty glass on the floor. “C’mon. Let’s walk.” Obediently, Gary followed. The night sand felt cool and soft against his bare feet. “Tell me about it,” Grandpa persuaded, draping a comforting arm around his grandson’s shoulders.

For a second, Gary thought he meant, Tell me why you lied. Then he realized Grandpa meant, Tell me why you wanted to kill yourself. Reluctantly, he discussed his anger at Mom and the insecurity, inadequacy and loss that led up to his thwarted suicide attempt.

“Holidays are rough when you’re depressed. Grandma struggled with depression herself, years ago. I understand how overwhelming it can be.” Gary turned toward Grandpa in the moonlit semi-darkness, his eyes asking the question he couldn’t find the courage to voice. “It was a deep depression that lasted a long time – back when your father was a little boy,” the old man answered the unspoken query.

“What happened?”

“It took a long time, but she eventually came out of it.”

“No, I mean: What caused her depression?”

Edward chose his words carefully. “When your dad was little, we learned Grandma was expecting,” he said. “About six months along, she lost the baby. She couldn’t have any more. We’d always wanted a large family and that news was devastating. Our friends were having second and third babies, and she couldn’t give me another child.”

“I never knew that,” Gary said soberly.

“I never meant for you to. But I figured you deserved to know now.”

“Because of what I told you?”

“In part,” Edward said. “I wanted to be honest with you. I understand how destructive pain can be.” Gary nodded. His deception twisted in his heart. “Whatever pain you feel, there’s nothing so deep, so awful, you can’t share it. There’s no reason to suffer alone.” Edward slipped an arm around him. “I love you, Gary. I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you – especially if I could’ve done something and you didn’t reach out to me. Capisce?” That was Italian for “Understand?” Edward managed to pick up a few words in Josie’s native tongue during their marriage. He ruffled his grandson’s hair.

“Yeah.” The near-darkness hid a hint of a smile.

*****

The Gary who returned to Pine Cove at the end of August was markedly different from the one who left in June; not just because of the auburn highlights in his hair, his deep tan and well-defined muscles. His confidence was buoyed and he carried himself with a certain self-assurance.

Edward phoned Gary weekly. And prayed for him daily. Within a few weeks, those prayers had begun to bear fruit. By October, Gary’s depression seemed to have lifted. He began attending Mass regularly and paid more attention to his studies. His grades picked up to Bs and a few As. And he and Ellen talked fleetingly of marriage.

In December, Gary was accepted at Boston University. He expected to be congratulated when he told Dad. Instead, he got, “Great, another twelve grand a year I’ll have to shell out for you.”

Like her mother and grandmother before her, Ellen applied at Wellesley; she was accepted a week before Christmas.

When her family went away over New Year’s, Ellen invited Gary over. He arrived with a bottle of Asti; she greeted him in a skimpy bathrobe, which she quickly shed. They made love in her parents’ bed, using the only condom he brought. A champagne-tinged midnight kiss ended sometime after two. Gary couldn’t be sure if it was the bubbly or the absence of a condom that made the resulting sex so intense. In the morning, they made love again, then quickly made up the bed before her folks came home.

 

Five weeks later, a weeping Ellen approached Gary in the library with the unsettling news.

His heart pounded crazily. “Are you sure?”

“Gary, I’m never this late,” she insisted.

“Maybe you counted wrong.”

“Or maybe I’m pregnant,” Ellen hissed.

When her fears were confirmed, they agreed to keep it a secret while they figured out what to do. They tried to keep up appearances, but soon they stopped sitting together at lunch and study hall. When they had to work on class projects together, they bickered constantly. He stopped going to her house; her parents and sisters began to wonder why. Even the guidance counselors asked what had soured between them; but Ellen and Gary revealed nothing. By the end of March, they’d stopped speaking altogether. By mid-April, she’d begun showing.

*****

In the privacy of his office, Fr. Maynard counseled Gary gently about the sanctity of marriage and the seriousness of his actions. Deeply ashamed, the teen hung his head and said nothing. “I can only imagine what you’re going through, Gary; but, it isn’t the end of the world; and ohh, our Lord is forgiving! All you have to do is ask Him.”

Remorseful, Gary nodded. “Forgive me?” he whispered.

Laying his hands on Gary’s bowed head, Fr. Maynard prayed. “Dear heavenly Father, hear our cries for forgiveness; show us Your mercy and kindness. Send Your Holy Spirit upon Gary, cleanse him from his sin, and grant him Your pardon and peace. We ask this, as we ask all things, through Christ, our loving and compassionate Savior.” Giving him a mild penance, the priest offered Gary absolution. Then he embraced the teen. “Your sins are forgiven, Gary. Go in the peace of Christ.”

Gary left Fr. Maynard’s office with the boulder lifted from his heart.

Next day, it seemed the young priest had somehow talked Msgr. Streng into letting them finish their course requirements with tutors; they’d get their diplomas, but wouldn’t be allowed to attend graduation.

To stave off his guilt, Gary put in long hours at the station, filling in on air whenever he could. He also tried to fix things with his dad, who remained angry and aloof. Making things worse, Ellen refused to see him, even threatening a restraining order

 

Three days before they would have graduated, Gary’s boss called him into his office. “I don’t want you thinking I don’t appreciate your work,” Paul Ramsey began. “We all do. You’re talented, dependable and we love working with you. And I said if anything full time opened up, I’d hire you.”

“I remember,” Gary said expectantly, nodding.

He laid his palms flat on the desk, fingers splayed. “Unfortunately, I have nothing to offer you.”

“Are you letting me go?”

“More like pushing you out of the nest.” Paul slid a business card across his desk. “Here; give Steve Reynolds a call. He’s interested in talking to you.”

“Why would he wanna talk to me?”

“’Cause I sent him your ‘New Music Monday’ demo.”

“Not that!” Gary groaned, appalled. “Paul – I did that as a joke!”

“Well, he liked it enough to want to meet with you.”

“Really?” Gary took the card, smiling for the first time in weeks. “Thanks, Paul.” Now he studied it. “Hey, wait a minute – he’s in the City!”

“Yes he is; it’s the big time.” Paul’s air of confidence both encouraged and terrified Gary. “Or, at least, it could be. One kid in a million gets a break like this. And if it’s gonna happen, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see it happen to.”

Gary called Steve Reynolds that day. They scheduled an interview for Thursday at ten.

It was 9:47 Thursday morning when Gary poked the call button in the mid-Manhattan office building whose address was embossed on the business card in his jittery hands.

Steve was amazed Gary was only eighteen. “You’re very talented. Great on-air presence, quick wit, a terrific voice – and a good ear for music. That’s important in this business.”

“Thanks,” he replied self-consciously, not knowing what else to say. He still couldn’t believe Paul had sent that tape. It was just a goof!

Steve stood. “C’mon. I’d like to see you at work. Let’s go see what you’re made of.”

Gary’s nervousness got the best of him during his production audition; he criticized himself silently all the way back to Reynolds’ office, where Steve handed him a card. “Here. Pete Donovan’s got an on-air opening; I think you’re just who he’s looking for.”

Gary stared at the card. Middlebury, Connecticut. So much for the Big City. “Thanks.” He tried not to sound too defeated. “I’ll give him a call.”

“Don’t look so down. Know how many other kids I’ve referred to my PDs in the last three years?” He held up two fingers. “You’re the third. Most folks I see aren’t good enough. But if I had an opening here, Gary, I’d snap you up in a second!”

 

(2:37 p.m., 4 June, 1982 – Friday)
“Listen. I know things have been rough lately… but I know we can work through it – I still love you.” Gary gripped the receiver. “Marry me, Ellen.”

“You must be joking. Why would I want to marry you?”

“Because I love you – and you’re carrying my baby.”

“What makes you so sure it’s yours?”

Her question ground Gary to a nauseating halt. “Whaddaya mean? Of course it’s mine… Isn’t it?”

“Maybe.”

“At least let me help financially. I – I don’t have much, but I can help you wi–”

“You’re too late,” she interrupted. “I got an abortion.”

Gary felt the color drain from his face. “No!” The topsy-turvy feeling returned; the phone nearly fell from his hand. “Ellen, no…

“I didn’t want that baby, Gary; and I don’t want you. I never want to see you again. If you come near me, I’ll have you arrested! I mean it. Now, leave me alone!”

 

Didn’t want that baby… don’t want you… got an abortion. Ellen’s words hammered in his brain. Dizzy and weak, Gary curled into a ball; he couldn’t absorb her words. Ellen loved him – he knew that! But she said she didn’t. And aborted the baby? Mom would’ve known what to say. She’d have sat on his bed, stroking his hair, soothing him; she’d have held him and wept with him over her lost grandchild. But she wasn’t here. She’d left him. And he was left to mourn his baby alone.

That night, after tossing back a hefty scotch, Dad confronted Gary about his impending fatherhood. “You’d best be planning to make an honest woman of her. Though I can’t see why she’d marry a no-good bum like you!”

“I asked her. She said No.” He didn’t mention the abortion. He won’t care anyway.

Sneering, Dad refilled his glass. “Well, who could blame her?”

Gary had never openly opposed his father before. “I dunno. I can’t understand how I turned out so awful… after the terrific example you set.”

“Why, you lousy little–” Dad slammed his scotch glass down on the coffee table. With a soft hiss of leather through fabric, off came his belt. Doubling it, he lunged at Gary, sputtering.

Gary winced as several blows landed across his back. Then something snapped. Ellen’s rejection and news of her abortion were already too much. He caught the belt as it lashed toward him. Wrapping it around his hand, he reeled Dad in. “Stop it!” he roared, eye to eye with his father. He hurled the strap across the room. And for the first time, Gary hit back. “I’ve taken enough of your shit! It stops now!”

Dad stumbled backward against the table, fell onto the couch. The amber liquid sloshed. Scrambling to his feet, he charged, giving Gary a mighty shove. “You ungrateful little fuck!”

Before he could say more, Gary struck again. Dad staggered and fell; by the time he got up again, his son had the upper hand. He fought fiercely, retaliating for years of humiliation and beatings. Rage fueled his determination. “You bastard! How’s it feel to be on the receiving end?” A left to the jaw; a right to the midsection; a left jab to the face. Gary felt more than heard the crunch as bone gave way. Shaking off the pain, he watched in smug satisfaction as Dad wiped at the blood streaming from his broken nose.

“You lousy little shit!” he snarled. “I want your worthless ass out of here! Now!” Grabbing for the sticky glass, he gulped his scotch, then poured another.

 

When Gary arrived, heartsick and empty, dim light still glowed from the study at 52 Field Court. He gave a hesitant rap at the door.

“Gary!” He’d grown since Edward had last seen him – he was nearly six feet tall – but the old man still towered over him.

Grandpa had been an imposing figure when his grandkids were young. His great “tallth,” as they called it, frightened them. They said he was like an oak tree. They’d been right. He was sturdy and dependable. “Dad threw me out,” Gary blurted out. “I didn’t know where else to go.”

Edward hugged him. “You came to the right place. Welcome home, Gary.”

Gary needed that hug. Home. What a nice feeling! It’s good to be welcome somewhere.


A Remembrance… and a Revelation of Sorts

September 11, 2011

I still remember precisely where I was when it happened – the morning our world changed forever. I was standing at a table, over by a window in Father Maco Hall (the old cafeteria of the former St. Ann Middle School in New Britain, Connecticut), with several other members of the parish’s Stewardship Committee. We were cutting out brightly colored felt hands and bold lettering for our new banner, destined to hang in the back of the church. It would read, “We are the body of Christ… many hands, one heart.”

As on so many mornings before, we had gathered to work on one project or another after daily Mass; we were all also members of the parish’s Good Shepherd Funeral Choir. All the others were retirees; I was the only 30-something in the bunch, but despite the age difference, these women had become my spiritual sisters and we truly enjoyed one another’s company. That day, we had assembled to work on the banner before the first of two funerals at which we would sing that morning.

Spirits ran high that bright September Tuesday. It was a perfect, glorious day and we were filled with enthusiasm for the project on which we were companionably working. We teased and joked as we worked, enjoying both the creative endeavor and the camaraderie we shared.

“Who’s got the scissors?” one would ask. “Oh, that would be me; I’m hogging them,” another would reply. “Who drew these letters, anyway?” someone else piped up. “That would be Sister Ellen,” a fourth replied, adding, “She did them freehand.” “Wow, she’s really talented…” the chatter continued.

And then it happened.

Mary, one of the women from the parish office, hurried up the five slate-grey stairs to report that a small plane – most likely a single-engine Cessna – had struck one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

I can still see the faces of my friends – Lois, Ann and “Buddy Grace” – as we stared at Mary and then each other. We murmured nearly silent prayers for the safety of those on board the aircraft and those in the building where the little plane had struck… and then we resumed our work – a bit less gaily now, our spirits tempered by the sobering news of what must surely have been a terrible accident.

But then it happened again.

Mary rushed back to the steps – and this time she didn’t even climb the steps to deliver the news. “Another plane just hit the other tower!”

No accident. We dropped our scissors and ran. Down the stairs and across the hard slate floor to the office. Someone rolled in a television set perched atop one of those high, wheeled A/V carts left over from the St. Ann Middle School days (back when I was a 7th grader there) and tuned it to one of the local news channels. It didn’t matter which one; they were all covering the story.

We stood, rooted to the worn carpeting, eyes locked on the awfulness unfolding in ghastly color, as the solemn voice of the anchor – doing his best not to sound frantic – related what he knew.

Just before 9:30, we trooped numbly out of the office and made our way across the street, taking our place in the choir area and prepared to sing hopeful hymns of resurrection, while our hearts were struck with horror at what we’d seen unfolding on the 22-inch screen moments before.

After the funeral, we returned – like lemmings headed seaward – to the office. Sandy and Mary’s stricken faces told us something unspeakably wrong had occurred in our absence. A third plane had struck – its target was the Pentagon. And yet another had gone down, this one somewhere in Pennsylvania. But the news got worse still: Both towers had fallen. We watched in silent shock as footage of the alternately burning and then crumbling towers filled the television screen, again and again. And now the bottom of the television screen was alive with a news crawl, providing snippets of updated news, augmenting the terrible reports the anchor was delivering. Vast, almost incomprehensible, numbers of possible victims: fifty thousand people routinely populated those two buildings on a daily basis. How many had gotten out alive? How many thousands more were perishing within?

Too soon (and yet, in a way, not soon enough) it was time to go back to the church for the 11:00 funeral. I don’t remember whose funeral it was; nor do I recall a thing the priest said… all I can remember was a terrible feeling of cold emptiness. But then, partway through the Mass, as we sang, I felt a warm rush flow through me and a pure, perfect sense of calm settled over me. I don’t know how I knew, but I realized at that second, it was the Holy Spirit offering consolation and peace. It was the greatest source of comfort I felt that day or in the days that followed.

Driving home that afternoon – it was about 1 when I finally left the parish center – it felt strange to be on the road on such a perfectly beautiful day and suddenly feel unsafe. I can’t have been the only one worrying whether a car or truck near me on the highway, in another act of terrorism, might abruptly explode. Here I was, surrounded by cars, and yet I felt so vastly and inexplicably alone.

When I got home, I remember gazing up into the clear blueness of an otherwise perfect Tuesday afternoon and neither seeing nor hearing a single jet. We live almost directly along an air route from New York to Bradley International; it seemed there was always a plane overhead. Until that day. Nothing. Nothing but eerily freakish silence.

That night, needing to reconnect spiritually and mourn the loss of thousands of my countrymen, I rejoined my parish family for a citywide prayer service. Christians and Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus gathered for the 7 p.m. prayer and remembrance event. St. Ann Church was packed so closely, people stood along both side aisles or crammed in the back of the church and surged out into the vestibule. The pastor even opened up the old organ loft to accommodate the overflow. And again, in the midst of that sense of emptiness and loss that enveloped me during the service, I felt that whoosh of peace – that reassurance from the Almighty – that He had everything under control. Right there was where I was meant to be just then – amid fellow Americans of faith, turning to God in a time of unspeakable horror, seeking oneness and peace.

My wish for you this September 11th is that you find that oneness – and that all the world may come to understand that same comfort, consolation and peace – the peace that found me all those years ago.


CAPA-U 2011

May 5, 2011

This Saturday, May 7, I’ll be speaking at the eighth annual Connecticut Authors & Publishers Association professional-development day for writers. CAPA-U (short for CAPA University) will be at the Hartford Steam Boiler Conference Center, One State Street, Hartford, CT.

I’ll be part of a panel discussing what to expect when working with an editor, and how to get the most from the author-editor relationship. We’ll likely touch on word choice, style, punctuation, spelling, grammar… perhaps even the funny side of the editing process – and, of course, we’ll set aside time to answer your questions.

Your admission gets you the day-long conference, complete with a choice of fifteen different workshops, keynote address, agents’ panel and a one-on-one meeting with a literary agent to discuss your work. A delicious buffet lunch is included… as is secured, indoor parking on site. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet and talk with other authors, hear some informational and inspiring speakers – and possibly win a refund of your registration fee. Not a writer but know someone who is? A ticket to CAPA-U makes a great Mother’s Day present!

There’s still time to sign up for CAPA-U… but don’t delay; registrations are filling up fast! Hope to see you there!


Not the Write Time?

February 19, 2010

Okay, it’s been two-plus weeks since my surgery; my oncologist would get tremendously upset with me if I were to say, “since he gutted me like a fish,” – because, apparently, it’s self deprecating… so I won’t say that. It’s been fifteen days since my surgery (albeit only four since that teensy weensy oozy setback) and I keep feeling like I ought to be back to writing by now. Except that (yes I know this is a sentence fragment; hey, I’m under the influence of Percocet, leave me alone, okay?) every time I begin to think about writing, I decide it’s time to take another nap.

Well, I guess I should enjoy them while I can – the naps, that is. I mean, I seriously doubt my employers [no matter how fond they are of me] would not take kindly to me snoozing beneath my desk. Kind of evokes odd memories of George Costanza from Seinfeld, doesn’t it?

I had been hoping to rejoin the working world this coming Monday… but that depends on a number of factors:

1) whether I’m feeling sufficiently energetic after my followup appointment with the doctor that day;

2) whether my darn company-issued laptop plans to cooperate and recognize the VPN this time (hey, the ubiquitous “they” always tell us the third time’s the charm); and

3) whether the words will actually cooperate and come out to play when I call upon them – and not just spend the afternoon lollygagging about in my cranium until I threaten to coax them out with a crowbar. Okay, so I wouldn’t really do that; who in her right mind (write mind?) would use a crowbar to dislodge adjectives and prepositions? Everyone knows you’re supposed to use a small claw hammer.

What? You were expecting additional factors? Wasn’t three enough for you? I distinctly said it depended upon “a number of factors”; is three not a number?

Okay, okay… in case you find yourself in desperate need of a fourth factor, how’s this grab ya?

4) whether “Take a nap” supersedes everything else on my to-do list.

It occurs to me that each of those four factors may be boiled down, in essence, to one overarching reason: Good writing cannot be forced, cajoled or bribed. When it’s not the right time, it’s not the right time. Period.

That said, it’s probably time for another nap.


Writing through the pain… er, I mean, the drugs

February 12, 2010

It’s such a shame to let good drugs go to waste.

There. I thought I’d get that out right up front.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way… “Let me explain. No, there is too much; let me sum up” (quoting Mandy Patinkin in his role as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride).

February 4th, I underwent abdominal surgery; I’d learned three weeks earlier that I had stage-one uterine cancer. The surgery was more extensive than they’d anticipated, but it went well and they released me early Sunday evening with some phenomenal pharmaceuticals and a caution not to do too much too soon.

The other day, in a Percocet-hazed spate of helpfulness, I volunteered to help my darling hubby with a writing project for his job. It seemed like the ideal offer: I write prose for a living, he’s one of those techie types who spends his days writing code. This should be a breeze. Well, sort of.

So I came up with a splendid idea and ran with it… the piece I wrote was filled with vivid imagery,  excellent comparisons – and some really stunning adjectives, if I do say so myself. It likened the various components of the topic to the individual ingredients in a lovely pot of soup. I told him all he had to do was plug in items about the subject matter to fit the analogies I’d used; then we could work on it a bit further, let it simmer overnight and serve it up with some crusty bread.

Alas, it was not to be.

He took one look at it and said it wasn’t going to fly. Well, of course it wasn’t! Have you ever seen a flying soup (which, you understand, is nothing like having a fly in your soup – but that’s another thing altogether)? At any rate, the bottom line was all those lovely ideas and images had gone completely to waste!

Well, the exercise did serve one purpose: Last night, hubby was IMing with a co-worker who had asked how I was feeling; he told her I certainly seemed to be enjoying the drugs. She mentioned that Percocet can do odd things. His reply: “I know. She’s helping me work on this project and came up with something about soup and executive chefs. Trouble is, I’m supposed to be doing a white paper about database architecture.” Apparently, Amy got quite a chuckle out of that.

Well, I guess I’ll wait for the drugs to kick in again and then check in with a few of the characters in my novel to see if they’re up to anything interesting. On second thought, maybe it’s time for a nap.