Category Archives: blog

#Writer Wednesday: Yet More Books That Have Stayed With Me

Hi, all! The General of WW2 novels, Pam Jenoff, challenged me to name 10 books that have stayed with me. It’s always good to update this list–and always impossible for me to choose only 10.

Bookmark by (obviously) avid reader Michele Austin.
Bookmark by (obviously) avid reader Michele Austin.

Since I apparently can’t play by the rules, here are 10 books that I’ve read/ re-read–this past year.

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
The Shining by Stephen King
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Darkness Visible by William Styron
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Goodbye, Columbus & Collected Stories by Phillip Roth

#WriterWednesday: To MFA Or Not To MFA, That Is The Question

“Can a serious, ambitious writer get by without an MFA?,” a fellow writer asked me this morning. My answer, as the proud recipient of an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University, may surprise you.

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HI! Your To MFA Or Not To MFA is a great question and I can’t answer it for you; it’s a decision you have to make for yourself. What I can do is give you my experience, tell you why I did it and what the pros were for me.

#Writer Wednesday: a good short story.

Although I have been a novel reader since I was about 5, I love short stories just as much–the glimpses through a window into somebody’s life at a time when some decision is in the balance, though that person may not know it. Reading short stories feeds my brain and makes me want to write, so I offer this good one to you: my friend Erin Almond’s latest work in ROAR Magazine. *please click here*

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If you’re a mom, a dad, a man or a woman, you’ll love this one.

Happy reading!



#WriterWednesday: The Tension of Tenses

How does a writer choose whether to tell a story in past or present tense? Is it advisable ever to switch between the two? My answer below. xo!

Hi, Jenna: so, upon revisiting my project, I’ve found myself playing with verb tense. I want to jump into the quasi-near present day, and the present tense feels about right for that. Yet, I’m reading All the Light We Cannot See, and it is all in present tense about the past, which I love. In your experience, is jumping around verb tense a good idea? I suppose it varies story to story, but the section I am working on right now is only about 16 pages near the end if not the actual ending itself. What do you think?  ~ Dr. S.

#WriterWednesday: How To Start A Novel

“Dear J: I’m trying to start a novel because I feel the time is right, but I have no idea how to do it. Can you please give me some advice? Thank you! ~Madame S.”

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Dearest Madame S:

Oh my goodness, I wish I knew. I am still trying to jumpstart two novels I have jostling in my head and they are elbowing each other trying to fit through the same small doorway (my brain), with a logjam result. If I had a magic novel-starting button I would certainly share it with you!

#FridayReads: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

True confession: until this past week, I’d never read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Somehow I was never assigned it in school, and although I have vague memories of the movie (Gregory Peck and something about a ham), my main association with the novel, aside from the admiration automatically accorded a classic, was gratitude to Harper Lee: she wrote one book, apparently decided a Pulitzer Prize-winner was enough, and capped her pen. Thereby giving solace to writers like me who don’t put out a new book every year. (“But look, Harper Lee wrote only one novel and she did all right!”)

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#FridayReads: 2 Tales of 2 Marriages

Dear Readers & Book Club members: Today’s #FridayReads comes courtesy of The Book Club Cookbook, book club website extraorindaire!, who invited me to do a novel pairing–like pairing wine & food, but with novels.

Reader-chefs, today for your palette I have prepared for you 2 Tales of 2 Marriages: Courtney Maum’s I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU, newly out in paperback, and Richard Yates’ REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.

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You may remember me mentioning both novels as favorites–delectable in their own right. Put them together for your book club & you’ve got a whole new compare-and-contrast taste treat!

* Please come back next week for another #FridayReads. *

#FridayReads: DINNER WITH JACKSON POLLOCK: Recipes, Art & Nature, by Robin Lea

This week’s #FridayReads hasn’t been read yet, but it has been pre-ordered! DINNER WITH JACKSON POLLOCK: Recipes, Art & Nature.

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I bet he threw a lot of spaghetti sauce at the wall to see if it’d stick!



Sauce jokes aside, I am a big Pollock fan and fascinated with the idea that the famously misanthropic and alcoholic Pollock could also be a superb host and, apparently, had a penchant for baking.Talk about character nuance!

And the photography in this book looks luscious as well.

#WriterWednesday: Inside The Writer’s Studio

Last night I had the great pleasure of my first book club via Facebook chat! and at the end, the host played Inside The Actor’s Studio with me–except it was Inside The Writer’s Studio. The questions were so much fun, I thought I’d share them with you!

What is your favorite word?
That’s a good question. My most recent favorite word is “crenelation,” about the snow castles here in Boston. My first favorite word: “inchitate,” as in “Don’t inchoate me” (I meant irritate. I was 2 years old).

What is your least favorite word?
Congrats. If you want to wholeheartedly congratulate somebody, for goodness’ sake, take the time to spell the damned thing out!

#FridayReads: THE 500 HATS OF BARTHOLOMEW CUBBINS, by Dr. Seuss

In honor of Dr. Seuss’s turning, this past week, 111 (a number I somehow think he would have liked), today’s #FridayReads features my favorite Seuss book. You might think it’d be DR. SEUSS’S SLEEP BOOK:

Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book

….which contains the first passage I ever read by myself, at age 4–about a creature named the Chippendale Mupp, whose tail is so long he bites it before going to bed and 8 hours later, the pain wakes him–a kind of posterior alarm clock.

His tail is so long, he won’t feel any pain,
‘Til the nip makes the trip and gets up to his brain.
In exactly eight hours, The Chippendale Ump
Will, at last, feel the bite and yell, “Ouch!” and wake up.