Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Ceaseless, snow drifts down,
shimmers pure on starless pine -
a choir of silence.

Happy holy days.





Peace, Linda

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The REAL reason publishing's going to hell in a handbasket...

Chris Goldberg's got it right at HuffPo... dudes don't read but it ain't their fault.

I mean really... can you take any more books involving vampires, knitters, or spoiled Americans finding themselves in (insert exotic location)?

And hey - I'm a girl. Give me Brett Easton Ellis over Stephanie Meyers, any day.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jelly Knees

Today feels like New Year's Eve two weeks early.

Lectures done. Tests graded. Papers marked. Conferences - been there, done that. Chapter for textbook - submitted. Science manuscripts - completed. Promotion and tenure packet and reference letters - in the hopper. Holiday cards - ordered. Dad's 7-week chemo and radiation regimen - over.

I've been weepy all day, my knees wobbly at the notion of not rushing, not worrying, not doing a damn thing.

Except what I want to do.

I write, but I can't put into words the intensity of the past 4 months: the intensity of deliverables, of time, of emotion. Of not knowing. Of the way my brain never stopped, how it kept whirring away lists and worries like a forest of cicadas in July.

THE WRITING... New ideas already jockeying for the freed-up space in my frontal lobe. PURE percolates through the gray matter, as does a children's Christmas story and several 6S flashes due at the end of the year. A new story, a YA about Jess and Zeke, two orphaned brothers, dominated several pages in my Moleskine this morning. And of course, LOVE SONG ON THE INNER LOOP keeps peeping over my shoulder.

THE READING... I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE by Wally Lamb. A reread. So damn good, and primer for his latest which I HOPE is in my stocking.

Peace, Linda

Friday, December 12, 2008

For Men - Some Gifting Advice



My University gifted staff and faculty with furlough days - what's your boss getting for the holidays?

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Devils in the Medicine Chest

Last week I went to the Centers for Disease Control and banged heads with other public health policy types over this problem: how can we stem the burgeoning epidemic of prescription drug overdoses?

A question near and dear to my academic heart, the one I cut my doctoral teeth on some years ago.

Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem: 1 in 14 US citizens non-medically use medications like OxyContin, Vicodin, Ativan, and Adderall. Where do they get the stuff? Not Mexico, the internet, or even from their docs - Almost 60% report families and friends as their source.

We sat around in a double-tiered u-shaped configuration, a bunch of experts from the FDA, the CDC, NIDA, SAMHSA, DEA, State govs, and the Ivory Towers - even a judge - and listened to each other pontificate on the pros and cons of drug courts, serialized prescription forms, electronic monitoring programs. Yet, despite expansion of these programs, prescription drug abuse continues to rise, even as the use of cocaine, heroin, and rave drugs declines.

Sitting in the windowless room for two days, it occurred to me these programs barely make a dent in the abuse problem because they come at the wrong point in the food chain: after a doc has prescribed, after a pharmacist has dispensed, after a patient has gotten hooked and in trouble.

It seemed to me the solution to prescription drug abuse is pretty damn straightforward: Just lock the stuff up.

And maybe educate everyone that OxyContin isn't quite as innocuous as candy.


Last night my 9 year-old son spent an hour on the internet, researching the question of Santa. His conclusion made me weep - why DO they grow up so fast?

The tree’s up, cookie supplies are in, here come the holy days.

THE READING... Ooooh, having so much fun: Wally Lamb, Dirk Wittenberg, Julia Glass, and so on and so on...

THE WRITING… A children’s story – can you believe? And it even has a happy ending. What’s wrong with me?

LISTENING TO... The KILLERS Day and Age. Good stuff. As a writer, though, I just want to edit HUMAN - shouldn't it be dancerS, not dancer?

For the frugal readers among you... FREEBIE BOOKS FROM BLEAK HOUSE and INTRIGUE PRESS

Peace, Linda

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Well, that was fun.


I squeezed out the last few thousand words of PURE a bit more gracefully than I squeezed into my jeans yesterday and crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line. I actually completed 50,000 words three days ago, but since I 'adopted' ~1,000 previously written words necesssary to complete a scene I was in thrall with, I pushed myself to 52k words - just to be fair.

NaNo was a terrific experience. I got a lot of thinking and plotting done on PURE, a lot of character development. I wrote 4 of my 6 voices, one of which is told through a diary. Of the two remaining characters, one narrates through a letter and the second is, well, told in second. Voice, that is. I've written a few paragraphs but this is a tricky POV, too frustrating to write while under pressure.

How did I prep? I've been doodling on PURE since this time two years ago, so I had plenty of notes and ideas for scenes. I read VORACIOUSLY in October (LOVE STORY, INTUITION, THREE JUNES), stories told in multiple POVs and tenses to get into the style and structure I needed to emulate.

Lots of work still ahead. I aim to get a solid first draft finished by All Hallow's Eve in 2009 - so I can indulge in LOVE SONG ON THE INNER LOOP in November.

Congratulations to everyone who particpated - whether you wrote 50,000 words or 1, you most likely got further on your novel than you would have otherwise.


It's nice to hunker down with a good book or three and just... read.

Off to Atlanta for the day job. Peace, Linda

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Litany of Thanks

For the garden.
For the quiet moment this morning.
For today's cerulean sky.
For Coldplay's latest album which moves me to dance.
For my day job.
For modern medicine -
and ancient prayers and rituals.
For my new Dell netbook (now I can write everywhere).
For perseverence.
For low-fat pumpkin cheesecake recipes.
For my children, the brilliant, fun people they are.
For my husband.
For the rest of my family, far-flung.
For the Macy's Day parade.
For books.
For friends, virtual and cyber.
For passion.

For the creative impulse, which binds us all.
For the journey.

What are you thankful for today?

Peace, Linda

Saturday, November 22, 2008


This past week I spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting for airplanes to arrive and depart, waiting for luggage, waiting to sleep, waiting to wake. But mostly, I spent a lot of time waiting in a reception room with a vaulted glass atrium ceiling and a fountain surrounded by pots of tropical plants. The magazines were all old and scattered about small tables like the ochre and rusty leaves that crunch under our shoes when we cross the yard. The people sitting in this room all looked old, too. And scared.

I've never spent much time sitting in a waiting room with cancer patients. I was an intruder there, the healthy, the well one, sufficiently detached from their individual hells. After several days, I got to 'know' these patients: the biker-looking dude with his tee sleeves rolled up, speaking through a tracheotomy; the wrinkled black woman, silver hair in a tidy, dignified chignon, wobbling on the arm of a nurse; the slight woman, my age with neatly-pressed khakis and a red cardigan who seemed so self-contained most mornings but on the last day wept quietly while speaking with her doctor; the dark-haired man with intense blue eyes who came out from behind the radiation treatment doors on the second day and shook his head at his wife sitting, his back shuddering in little spasms. And of course, my father, acting friendly, informed, strong. Confident, for me maybe, or for himself. And if you looked closely at me, at my eyes, maybe you'd see fear there, too.

I think of these people, I wonder and worry and pray for them.

And so I wait... 20 days done, 12 more to go. Peace, Linda

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Live... from California


Paula Barinstein of The Writing Show interviewed me about all things writing: the genesis of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, what it's like to write as a nineteen-year-old, bipolar boy, 'voice', the 'other' genre - poetry, why I write what I write about, and much, much more. Take a listen.

The interview was a fabulous experience. Paula asked fascinating questions that forced me to probe why I write, what BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT means to me - and what I hope it offers my readers.

The Writing Show is 'on-line talk radio', offering up a near-daily dose of writers, editors, and others who in the writing and publishing biz who offer up meaty and inspirational insights. If you haven't explored this wonderful resource, do - you won't be disappointed.

THE WRITING... made it over the half-way hump of NaNoWriMo this morning. Yes, I am overwriting PURE; most of 27,000+ words I've penned thus far won't survive the light of a final draft. But that's okay; I'm writing around several scenes, using multiple POVs, to get the right 'mouthfeel' for the story, to figure out the 'proper' armature. PURE has so many moving parts - multiple voices and POVs and tenses, storylines that dance and weave through each other over a thirty year span. It's damn hard - which is why I love this story.

Writing at this pace is easy, even though my professional and personal life is perhaps the most intense it's ever been. NaNo is my personal release valve, my single indulgence. Other than going to HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL - 3 with my children this rainy Saturday. What a blast - think GREASE, only hipper (and when did Zac Efron grow up?)

THE READING... Just finished Anita Shreve's TESTIMONY. A must read for the story alone; a must study for her masterful rendering - multiple voices recounting a single, tragic event in a prep school that alters lives irrevocably. One character is completely written in second voice. Next up - TERMINAL NEGLECT by Michael Rushnak and I SEE YOU EVERYWHERE by Julia Glass.


My good friend Jimmy the Prince lost his father. Prayers. Our lives run in parallel...


Peace, Linda

Friday, November 07, 2008

Live, from London... The Golden Notebook

I stumbled upon THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK PROJECT while stumbling through last week's Chronicle of Higher Education. Today, the book went live, with seven women, fine writers and thinkers all, collaborating on a 'close reading' of Lessing's classic. Their aim? To get beyond the two-dimensionality of web discourse. This is a fascinating new take on the Book Club; if succesful, I envision further applications of the Kindle and its ilk (hey, we've got iphones, why not iKindle's with text-messaging for simultaneous readers?). And since google wants to make literature public domain, then perhaps London and Apt, the sponsors of this literary experiment, will find a profitable niche. It's like google groups, but sooooo much better...

Anyway, fascinating to me on many levels (this IS one of my fave books, so I will be following over the next 5-6 weeks, perhaps even chiming in once my current obsession is finito).

THE WRITING... I'm in NaNoland. Doing very well, thank you - clocked in 17,250 words at the close of this morning, and starting a new section tonight. Gave literal and figurative birth to one of my adult characters, told from his mother's POV, which had me sobbing in my coffee yesterday. The flow comes and goes, but mostly goes...

THE READING... Could not finish SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS. I really wanted to get through this novel, I loved the premise, but... it was just too precious. You know? I'll pick it up again, maybe it's me... finally, I'm reading what every other woman read eons ago - EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Excellent story, great structure, great prose, even has me laughing out loud, but... is it me or must we all travel to a country that starts with "I" or "Provence" or swelter "under a Tuscan sun" to find ourselves? If so, I am in deep doo-doo, because I have young children and bills to pay on my mere Baltimore house (nope, I don't own a Manhattan flat AND a NY suburban home, got nothing to cash in) and, by golly, it just seems there's plenty of space here to find myself. I do my yoga and my chanting on my wee mat, get my spiritual fix at my UU church and in my garden. Guess I'm in a snippy mood - getting tired of self-indulgent memoirs, though I guess that is what a memoir is... I'll finish for the writing alone, and the hopes my cynicism, like my inner editor, will take a hike.

LISTENING TO... SPIRALLING by Keane (Perfect Symmetry). You sift through my fingers... did you want to start a war? start a family? be in love? and FLOAT by Flogging Molly. Electro-celtic.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Celebrating All Things Rat













2008. The Year of the Rat.

The Year of the 2ND BLOGIVERSARY of EDITORIAL ASSISTANT, Moonrattie's Blog Extraordinaire.

We of the Mischief sing your praises.

Congratulations Dear Moonie for the tremendous success of your quintessential blog chock-a-block with wisdom and words and whimsy. In this rather cut-throat world of writing and publishing, you have touched and humbled me with your kindness and generosity, your ethics and philosphies, and your honesty and forthrightness. So many times I contemplate throwing in the towel on this thing called writing, but then someone - an agent or editor or author - serendipitously imparts the words and support I need to hear. You are one of these rare people, and I wonder if you know what an inspiration you are to your fellow writers.

I am sure you are a fine editor; I am positive you are a super human.

You grace this business. You grace this world.

Thank you.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trick or Meme...

PAIGE tormented a few of us - now it's my turn, the day of tricks and treats and the hallowed eve of NaNoWriMo. Seven answers to seven questions...

1. It is your lucky day what are you going to do?Spend a day with all my family and friends at an enoteca in Montepulciano, sipping Brunello and munching on pane et prosciutto et parmiagiana, replete with poetry and prose readings, impromptu singing, and other celebratory outbursts.

2. What was the game you played as a child that you almost always or always did win? Scrabble. It's all in the words.

3. You get to meet anyone from the past or present who will it be? Isaac Asimov. He created characters and worlds I could never imagine. I want to know his thought process. And there's always the science, of course.

4. When you relax what is it that you do? Relax? You must be kidding. Write novels. Poetry. Try to get the damn things published.

5. What is your favorite number? 13. Really.

6. What was the name of your favorite childhood toy? Legos. If I wasn't reading, I was making houses and spaceships and other whirligiggy things.

7. If you could name the next fashion fade/craze what would it be? The Frump look. Casual, comfy, black, with that slight nerd edge. Notebook under arm and pen behind ear de rigeur.

And I tag... HOPE, STEPHEN, MJ, CHRYS, DEBORAH, and GILLIAN. I'll tap another later, gotta head to work...

THE READING... Reading will take second fiddle during November, but next up - BEL CANTO (again) and SNOW. Though I noticed Anita Shreve has a new one out...

THE WRITING... NANOWRIMO, but of course. Commences tomorrow @ 5 AM. Thank goddess I'm still jet-lagging...

Two poems - MONDAY MORNING WHEN THE GARBAGE TRUCK COMES and YELLOW - both placed in the top 100 of the Writer's Digest 77th Annual Writing Competition. BOTH emerged as first drafts in NaPoWriMo this past April which speaks to the possible power of writing under pressure.

On Serendipity aka Persistence... 15 years ago when I was desperately looking for data for my dissertation, it was my convo monologue. My family, friends, colleagues, strangers all heard my plaintive plea - do you have data? It worked - I got my data. Now, marketing BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, I ask - do you know an agent? So far, so good - two contacts through my Public Health colleagues. Can't hurt...

Happy writing. Reading. Living. Peace, Lind

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Watermelon Mountains...

I am always awed traveling across the country, be it by car or plane or train or motorcycle - I've done versions of all four modes. Flying over the panhandle of Texas as the foothills grow into the New Mexico border always makes me pause. The Sacramento mountains, called the Watermelon Mountains for the way they glow in sunset, swell gentle at first, then pierce upwards in snow-grizzled peaks. Furrows chunnel the slopes holding up mesas, as if the fingers of God raked through the earth.

It is barren here, and magnificent and wild.


I'm pimping Public Health here in San Diego. It's part of my day jb, yet integral to all else in my life. With the economy tanking, our nation will be hard-pressed to make any advances in health; indeed, my biggest fear is we will see the 'system' we now enjoy crumble. Dreams of insurance coverage for all seem as distant now as they did 40 years ago...


Going to conferences has it's upside - food, food, FOOD! San Diego is fabulous. Tonight I went with a friend to Little Italy for the express purpose of going to Extraordinary Desserts. Alas, we detoured to Indigo Grill for some 'light' Native American/Mexican fushion fare. The cup of torilla soup was in a bowl larger than my serving plate at home, and the stacked beet salad was... indescrible. We rolled out and down India Street all the way back to our hotels at the harbor.


THE WRITING... BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT revisions are finito! Just in time for NaNoWriMo. Tomorrow's direct flight back is dedicated to fleshing out the NaNo plan of attack.

READING... SIDE EFFECTS by Allison Bass. The story of scientific fraud behind Prozac and Paxil drug development and marketing. Research for PURE... Reread ATONEMENT and sobbed for 15 minutes last night after finishing the heart-wrenching section about Robbie slogging through france to get to the beach. That last scene... perfetto.

Dad started radiation and chemo this week. Any spare, warm wishes appreciated... Peace, Linda

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mad Monday Miscellany

Mental Health Parity: Buried in the $700 Billion save-the-banks bailout last week. With the economy tanking, we'll all need the same insurance coverage for psychiatric and substance use dsorders as we currently get for peptic ulcers and diabetes and hypertension. Believe me, THE MENTAL HEALTH PARITY ACT was the ONLY sane news last week.

Madness: It's coming in ten wee days - NANOWRIMO. Seems EVERYONE is gonna catharse 50k words in a mere month. Including me. Including cyber writers Cindy and Hope. Buddy me - drwasy.

Make short work of: BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT revisions. Will. Be. Done. Wednesday. Yes.

Mandible flapping: Interviewed by Paula Berinstein of THE WRITING SHOW on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT'S recent win. What fun! And such a gracious host. The podcast will air November 16 (of course, I'll keep you posted).

Marginal success: An editor of a small press wants to use my query letter in her (agented) book on the publishing business. As a superlative example of the art, ah-hem. (And I'll pre-empt that question brewing in your brain: if the pitch is so damn good, then where's the contract? ANSWER: That's the same question I asked her. Stay tuned...)

MISCELLANEY: Go HERE for Nathan Bransford's take on moving from the small pubs to the big 5. Then, go HERE for a fascinating discussion on self-pubbing your poems. Then, for all you prepubbed writers, go HERE for a parable about the little debut book that could (thanks Moonie). THE TAKE HOME: It's damn hard to get your baby published, and it's gonna be even harder in the new economy. So write hard, write brilliantly, and be persistent like a fly on poop.

Mundane - not: Off to San Diego later this week for the annual AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION meeting. Busy there doing my day job stuf, but my down time will be spent visiting my childhood house in Solona Beach, visiting a few friends, EATING, and prepping for NaNoWriMo in my bayview room. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Day in the Life...or Tenure Gets You This?

5:35 am: Coffee machine gurgles. Open eyes. Still dark. Sleep or get up?

5:47 am: Crawl downstairs in dark. Blow nose, etcetera. Flip open laptop. Write novel in dark.

6:49 am: First child awake. Reads to self in armchair in dark beside me.

6:54 am: Hubs stumbles down, flicks on tube to see how EU and Asian markets fared. Boo-yah!

7:17 am: Gotta shower. No, not enough time. Damn. Maybe tomorrow.

7:58 am: Second child wants to bring lunch after assuring me last night he wanted to buy pizza. Whip together Fluffernutter, throw in Sun Chips and a Capri Sun. And to think I used to be macrobiotic.

8:23 am: Policeman with K-9 patrols every car on train. Drugs? Explosives? Who cares? I'm gonna be late for graduate seminar - and I'm the speaker.

9:06 am: Stare longingly at Starbuck's.

9:12 am: Natives restless. Presentation... goes.

10:00 am: Meeting with Dean. In another building. Clouds open. Umbrella buried under books/sports equipment/sweathshirts/what-have-you in car back in metro parking lot.

10:10 am: Drenched. Meeting cancelled.

10:28 am: Free time. Hide with latte in Dental School. What the heck?

11:00 am: Lecture pharmacy students on Prescription Drug Abuse and Diversion. Realize half-way through that slides are from last year. Realize colleague in back row of lecture hall is frowning. Realize said colleague is one of peer teaching evaluators. Gulp.

12:30 pm: Emails replied to, memos written, fires snuffed. Time to sit down and revise manuscript for Psych Services.

12:42 pm: Grad student enters, crying...

1:44 pm: Back to paper.

2:17 pm: Fire alarm. Walk down 12 flighs of stairs. Starts raining - again.

2:43 pm: Back to paper.

3:00 pm: Someone's cloned me - meeting with Gero Psych research team vs. meeting with Department Chair. Hmmm... flip a coin.

4:03 pm: Promotion and tenure packets due tomorrow. Xerox machine: 1, me: 0. There's always Kinko's...

4:23 pm: Back to paper.

4:34 pm: Colleague barges in without knocking, berates me for making her Chair of a committee. I inform her of my new management credo - the squeaky wheel gets the grease - and because she squeaks louder than anyone else. she can be in charge this year. Humph.

5:08 pm: Adrenalated from shouting match. Wander down hall to see Grants Specialist. Shoot bull while inhaling mini Milky Way darks from her bowl.

5:13 pm: Oh my - how did the time get away? Two paragraphs finished on paper... Maybe tomorrow.

8:16 pm: Damn. Forgot to bring stuff to Kinko's. Gulp.


The Writing... Going good. Very good. Er, going well. Very well. Whatever.

Reading... Whipped through LOVE STORY by Erich Segal (yard sale freebie). Clocks in at 131 pages - I see why he's a screen-writer. Into SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS by Marissa Pessl and SIDE EFFECTS by Alison Bass. Good stuff so far.

No wonder I'm so tired... Peace, Linda

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What's that thudding sound?

The damn economy. Also known as my retirement - and yours.

With so much going on in my personal life, I've been a bit absent-minded about the mortgage/financial crisis. Of course, it'll mean hiring freezes (yep, already have one at UMB), flat COLA and merit raises, perhaps even furloughs (yep, we've had those at UMB before, too). Never before has tenure seemed so important, so cross those fingers and toes for me, as my portfolio nears completion and is thrust into that black hole known as the Faculty Affairs Committee.

This economic downturn will certainly impact publishing opportunities. The big houses were already tightening down; the smaller, indy presses are even more vulnerable. Macadam Cage has delayed publishing, and now this from Atlas and Company.

What's a poor prepublished girl to do?

GOOD NEWS!!!!! Moonrat's MISCHIEF FIGHTS CANCER raffle is a huge success, raising nearly $5K for her friend in need.

And I won - again! A book, with a love letter from the Moonrat herself. Yippee!

THE WRITING... Uh, sort of backtracking, but that's okay. It's all good. My interview with Paula Berinstein on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, writing, and all that jazz will be happening in the next couple of weeks. The questions are... provocative. The coaching has commenced. I feel blessed.

READING... Just finished THREE JUNES by Julia Glass. Rather, I just finished sobbing over my salad while the kids watched Sponge Bob. This is a 'it's s small world' sort of story, where chance encounters and events pull people together - and apart. I met Ms. Glass at THE MUSE AND THE MARKETPLACE last April in Boston, where she gave a bang-up seminar. Once again, here's a writer who mixes tenses and POVs (by scene/chapter), but does it amazingly well. I loved her Fenno - compelling voice, wry with a touch of melancholy. And Scottish, which adds to his allure. This was a debut novel (2002) - wow.

I leave you with a quote from THREE JUNES: "When it comes to life, we spin our own yarn, and where we end up is really, in fact, where we always intended to be."

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Horn tooting

is not something I'm particularly good at. But today deserves a little self-promotion: my first publication in THE SUN, a well-regarded print literary journal out of Chapel Hill, officially hits the newstands today.

And I won a writing contest.

I'd forgotten about the contest, actually. Back in May, I was deep in a flurry of submission activity: conferences, contests, agents, editors. I'm usually pretty organized about keeping track of what went where, so yesterday's email from Paula Berinstein of THE WRITING SHOW was kind of like finding a forgotten twenty tucked in last season's blazer pocket. But oh, so much better.

THE WRITING SHOW is a great resource for writers, lots of podcasts on the entire writing prociess, from idea formulation to editing to publication and marketing. They run several contests; I submitted the first chunk of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT to the Best First Chapter of an Unpublished Novel contest.

Prizes galore: the glory, of course, perhaps the greatest reward of all in this oft discouraging business; mentoring/coaching from Joe Nassise, a well-regarded fantasy novelist; an upcoming interview; and CASH enough to qualify as a PW "nice deal."

Which leads me to another reason to toot horns... our beloved Moonrattie, editor extraordinaire, anonymous author of EDITORIAL ASSISTANT, and friend to writers everywhere, has a friend in need, someone with stage 4 lymphoma who needs financial help paying for PET scans and other diagnostics. With a father newly-diagnosed with stage 4 head/neck cancer, I have total sympathy for this woman; I cannot fathom how my family would deal with our devastation if we had to worry about money and insurance. I'm investing some of my winnings in a raffle for a chance at Moonie's editorial acumen.

Go HERE ==> MISCHIEF FIGHTS CANCER to find out more. Please, pay your blessings forward.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gratitude is relative...

I get this weird wired energy walking down Eutaw Street, past the mob loitering outside Lexington Market, murmuring "wanna buy, wanna buy". What's for sale? Drugs, specifically smack and crank. I feel a voyeur watching the swift, furtive exchanges, money for baggies concealed in downturned palms.

Watching the desperate joy (yes, there is community here on this street) makes me think lots of things. This blog entry, for one. But mostly I ponder why indulging in these substances must be so stigmatized relative to the societally blatant acceptance of tobacco and alcohol.

I also consider my luck in this life, despite my recent pity-partying: my children are vibrant, healthy beings; I have a strong, supportive partner; my job pays well and satisfies me (most of the time) intellectually and emotionally; I have my mind, my body, my breath; today, the sun warms my earth.

With time, gratitude becomes relative. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, the words stage 4 squamous cell sound like a blessing compared to last week's multisyllabic melanoma. Six weeks of radiation and chemo seem infinitely shorter than seven.

This morning, I woke, a kernal of a mantra playing in my head. I wrote it down, and fear disappeared...


in desperate quiet,
cocainated nerves flare
a dull burn;
synapses flood,
into dark

THE WRITING... it goes, it goes, ever so slowly, but I am revising a climactic scene that requires much tender care.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pure Geniosity and Other Factoids

Like Christmas in September, the MacArthur Foundation awarded half-million Genius Awards to 25 scientists, humanitarians, and, yes, artists. Diverse crowd this year. I'm familiar with the work of several, including:

--Sally Temple, neuroscientist
--Chimamandu Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian author (Half of a Yellow Sun)
--Diane E. Meier, geriatrician
--Peter J. Pronovost, critical care doc working in hospital medical error control


The irony does not escape me: a line of my research, looking at treatment patterns and outcomes for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is funded by the same company that pays the medical bills for my parents' cigarette-induced cancer and emphysema


Yesterday was the first day of autumn. The morning opened with a cacophony of rogue crickets outside my writing window, a lone deer munching on the withered remains of azalea leaves and iris. The cold approaches, time to prepare for the hunkering down, the inner withdrawal...


Look for October's issue of THE SUN on your newstands. A piece of mine is in the Readers Write column, an essay on waiting to miscarry my son. My first print publication in a literary journal...


THE WRITING... It goes. Officially past the half-way mark of revising BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. As for PURE, much thought and notes. I have a stucture emerging, several voices... this is the fun part, the imagining, the flexibility before the written words are committed. The most important part of the process, perhaps. Fascinated by my ability to carry 2 projects in my head at the same time.


THE READING... Reading for structure and voice, to fuel PURE... Just finished A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR by John Irving. It has been years since I read him; I forgot what a marvelous story-teller he is. Wonderful book, layers upon layers of stories told as books. A writer's novel. In deep now with THREE JUNES by Julia Glass, who taught a seminar at THE MUSE AND THE MARKETPLACE. Tricky - she interweaves past and present voice seamlessly to change voice and time. Brilliant.

Peace, Linda

Monday, September 15, 2008

Infinite Jest No Longer

David Foster Wallace died this past weekend. He was a brilliant writer, and I suspect much of his fluid, exuberant prose was fueled by his mental illness, described as depression today in an obituary in the The New Tork Times.

Although having read his writing, I cannot help but think he was possibly bipolar.

After 20 years of relatively successful treatment, Mr. Wallace suffered from what we clinicians call 'Prozac poop-out', a term for when antidepressants of any type fail to work. Electroconvulsive therapy also proved futile, as did inpatient hospitalization.

My heart goes out to Mr. Wallace's family... and to all those touched by mental maladies. Which is, in the end, all of us.

The Writing... Thank God for the tedious nature of my current revisions. My father is currently going through serious medical problems of his own, which tends to consume my heart and mind. I'm unable to give much 'good' to my writing, although, of course, I write through my angst.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Research is personal... kind of

I get this question a lot: why does my research so often revolve around substance abuse? Students who are flirting with the idea of making me their primary advisor tend to ask this, as do journalists (yes, I interview a lot), junior faculty, and folks at dinner parties who wonder what it is I do much of the day. Of course, as I put together my tenure and promotion packet, it's a question that stares me in the face.

Lots of reasons. When I first drifted into my doctoral program at Brandeis University (the decision to obtain my doctorate was not quite a conscious one; rather, like most of my life, it was a tributary that opened up and which in my curiousity I decided to paddle down), some of the best and most generous minds in the field made research opportunities available to me. Research areas have glitz appeal, with some more definitely more glamorous than others. Back then, when I was wet behind the ears, substance abuse and its sibling mental health were NOT the sexy darlings they have become today.

But mostly I fell into this field through the subconscious realization that it was personal. I'd seen the use and overuse of certain substances - tobacco, alcohol, drugs - among family members and friends. Their use intrigued me; mostly, I wondered why they used, what pains they were masking or truths they were seeking. Being practical, I decided to exploit my pharmacy training and specialize in prescription drug abuse. And that is what I am 'famous' for: studyng the fine balance between medical and non-medical use of medications that have medical utility and can get us high.

But I don't study tobacco. I don't study alcohol. And if you ask me why, I'll answer: it is too personal. My heart aches too much when I see someone gasping for air due to emphysema, or I see a young, beautiful kid with a cigarettes dripping from her lips, or another rolling in his own bourbon-smelling vomit. But seeing a smack deal go down in the Lexington Market parking lot, a kid bleeding from scabby track marks, or someone's beautific smile after getting their methadone from the Carter Center don't really faze me. I even talk to a lot of the junkies and buy one woman a coffee every now and then.

So when I contemplate conducting my studies, I keep them 'safe' and focus them on the substances - heroin, cocaine, OxyContin, Vicodine - that haven't touched me or those I love. Yet. I avoid tobacco studying and alcohol because all I can keep in my mind are the people close to me who have died or who are dying from the effects of these socially sanctioned addictions.

Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to do the research. But certainly not today.

I'M READING... John Irving's A Widow for One Year. Fabulous. I love his characters, especially the doomed Eddie O'Hare and four year old Ruth Cole. Back later with more after I finish.

Just completed an anthology of sorts - OFF THE PAGE. Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings. Edited by Carole Burns, based on her interviews on with Martin Amis, Michael Cunningham, Charles Baxter (yeah!), Joyce Carol Oates (double yeah!), Marisha Pessl, Walter Mosley, Margot Livesy, Gish Jen, Alice McDermott - and more, more, more! If you're a writer, read this - it will provide you the reassurance and inspiration that you write for all the right reasons.

From Michael Cunningham, one of gazillions of little gems..."I've come to believe that a novelist is more than anything else someone who refused to stop writing and who can stand the disappointment."

I guess I'm a novelist...

Keep writing. Keep living. Peace, Linda

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Less than Zero

People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as her car drives up on the ramp. She says, “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.” Though that sentence shouldn’t bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the fact that I’m eighteen and it’s December and the ride on the plane had been rough and the couple from Santa Barbara, who were sitting across from me in first class, had gotten pretty drunk. Not the mud that spattered the legs of my jeans, which felt kind of cold and loose, earlier that day at an airport in New Hampshire. Not the stain on the arm of the wrinkled, damp shirt I wear, a shirt which had looked fresh and clean this morning. Not the tear on the neck of my grey argyle vest, which seems vaguely more eastern than before, especially next to Blair’s clean tight jeans and her pale-blue T-shirt. All of this seems irrelevant next to that one sentence. It seems easier to hear that people are afraid to merge rather than “I’m pretty sure Muriel is anorexic” or the singer on the radio crying out about magnetic waves. Nothing else sees to matter to me but those ten words. Not the warm winds, which seem to propel the car down the empty asphalt freeway, or the faded smell of marijuana which still faintly permeates Blair’s car. All it comes down to is I’m a boy coming home for a…

Would you read on?

I gulped this book down in one sitting three years ago on my first read. So much information on this first page. “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.” Feels sort of OCD, especially on the refrain and the contrast to other things that seem less important – a tough trip, people getting drunk, an anorexic friend. This dropping of woes so casually sucks me in, I want to understand why none of this bothers someone so young. The narrator is accustomed to privilege – he traveled first class – and the argyle vest smacks of upper-crusty preppiness. Yet there’s this poignancy here that tugs me to flip the page – why is Blair, the girl in clean tight jeans who smokes pot, picking him up and not his family?

Why is our protagonist so alone?

LESS THAN ZERO is a book I reread several times a year. No one does depression and ennui and depravity better than Bret Easton Ellis. Of all his novels, this, his debut, ranks supreme (the others tend to wallow overmuch in sex and drugs and violence). When I emerge at the other end, I feel wiped out and hollow; afterwards, I end up writing reams. I read this when I need to sink to deep lows in my own writing (along with select scenes from THE SOUND AND THE FURY, A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, and THE BELL JAR). My good friend Jimmy the Prince once paid me the highest compliment when he said I write better than BEE. That made me feel almost as good as getting BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT published would make me feel.


THE WRITING… Still plugging away at the past tense rewrite. First 1/5th finished to my satisfaction, with another 1/5th entered into the computer but still needing another pass. It’s a long-winded process, requiring the mechanical and rather tedious tense conversions before moving on to the more creative ‘flow’ revisions. I tend to make hard edits for the first step, then enter into the computer, print out and make the ‘flow’ hard edits, then input, then printout and pass through 1 – umpteen times.

Rewriting from present to past tense makes a difference in my protagonists’ voices. Phoebe seems more rounded, more complex in past, while Ben has lost a bit of his itchy edge. That’s a supreme challenge in the rewrite – letting the reader feel his angst, his emotions verve all over the page. It’s meant changes in his word choice and dialogue patterns. It’s been… tough.

I think about PURE all the time. A new character, Liam Nolan, teases me with his secrets, his passions, his cabin in the dark wood of New Hampshire.

THE WEEKEND… superb. Good family time: lattes and playgrounds, Gravely Point to watch the jets roar from Reagan International over our heads as we loll beside the Potomac, Asian pear and raspberry gallette with vanilla ice cream (fruit from our garden and prepped by YT), a long stroll through Arlington National cemetery…

LISTENING TO… Viva La Vida by Coldplay. It lacks the darksome scratchiness of X & Y and A Rush of Blood to the Head. Brian Eno co-produced; this album’s got lush, upbeat strings, virtually no falsetto by Martin, and interesting lyrics that harken back to Keane’s Under the Iron Sea. Lost is my new anthem… Just because I’m losing/doesn’t mean I’m lost/doesn’t mean I’ll stop/Doesn’t mean I’m across…
Peace, Linda

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer's sweet end...

The chirping of crickets fills the evening summer air with a bittersweet melancholy. Harvest time. Late August heralds a bounty of tomatoes, raspberries, seckel pears, and sweet Hosui and Honsako Asian pears. The squirrels absconded with our hazelnuts, and the rabbits devoured much of our thornless blackberry crop, but for the first time, our white flesh peach tree, a gift fgrom my sister's North Carolina garden five years ago, bore fruit. In less than six hours, this peach, along with it's brethren, became a pie, the epitome of summer lushness.

Tomorrow, my not-so-wee ones strap on their backpacks and step on the bus. Another school year begins for them, and for me as well; this past week I welcomed 7 new doctoral students. Tomorrow morning, I hit the lecture circuit with 3 courses. In addition to research and committees galore, not to mention the tenure and promotion stuff, let's just say this semster will be... challenging...


ON WRITING GROUPS... Robert Brewer, intrepid poet and editor of The Writer's Market for Poetry, is pitching an idea to his bosses at Writer's Digest: a book on writing groups. Good idea? Let him know at POETIC ASIDES and drop him your ideas. Or mention them here.

For myself, I find writing groups indispensible. I rely on one - THE NUDGE-NUDGE COLLECTIVE. I have waxed eloqent about the NNC before. These five fellow journeyers (John from the OBX is the newest fifth) have most definitely stretched me - and BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT - in directions I'd never imagined. I've also been blessed with 'singular' writers who have served as my harshest, and thus kindest, critics: CHRYS from Orcas, Jimmy the Prince, and my local writing group.

Do you belong to a writing group? How does it help you - or not? What guidelines would you suggest in establshing such a group?

THE WRITING... This week I will send along the requested sections of the revised BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. Please, cross fingers for me. I've decided to spend the next 2 months finishing the tense revisions for the entire novel. Then, in November, when the infamous writing blitzkrieg commences, I'll be ready to plunge back into PURE.

Peace, Linda

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Feast of Love

THE MAN – ME, this pale being, no one else, it seems – wakes in fright, tangled up in the sheets.

The darkened room, the half-closed doors of the closet and the slender pine-slatted lamp on the bedside table: I don’t recognize them. On the opposite end of the room, the streetlight’s distant luminance coating the window shade has an eerie unwelcome glow. None of these previously familiar objects has any familiarity now. What’s worse, I cannot remember or recognize myself. I sit up in bed – actually, I lurch in mild sleepy terror toward the vertical. There’s a demon here, one of the unnamed ones, the demon of erasure and forgetting, I can’t manage my way through this feeling because my mind isn’t working, and because it, the flesh in which I’m housed, hasn’t yet become me.

Looking into the darkness, I have optical floaters: there, on the opposite wall, are gears turning separately and then moving closer to one another until their cogs start to mesh and rotate in unison.

Then I feel her hand on my back. She’s accustomed now to my night amnesias, and with what has become an almost automatic response, she reaches up sleepily from her side of the bed and touches me between the shoulder blades, in this manner the world’s objects slip back into their fixed positions.

“Charlie,” she says. Although I have not recognized myself,…


So, would you read further?

The first time I picked up Charles Baxter’s THE FEAST OF LOVE, I put it back down by page two. Yeah, I flipped the page, but only because I always read at least 2-3 pages in. I couldn't believe this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. After all, the story opens with this guy Charlie, the narcissistic author himself I presumed (rightly) waking up in the middle of the night, the details of his insomnia (and later perambulating in his mid-Western neighborhood) told in excruciating detail. I gave the book another couple of whirls, then pitched it on my to-be-donated pile.

Vacation called. I packed my bag for my jaunt to Massachusetts: some clothes, my myriad of notebooks, and a ton of books. Including, quite by accident, this one.

Imagine my disappointment when I yanked this out of my backpack. But for some reason, on the third attempt, magic took hold.

My mind immediately glommed onto the gorgeous prose. Yeah, this guy breaks all the rules, too. This short excerpt is actually a prologue (prelude) told in first person present about waking up. WAKING UP!!!! But told so well: ‘lurching in mild sleepy terror toward the vertical’ and ‘the demon of erasure and forgetting’. And here: ‘In this manner the world’s objects slip back into their fixed positions.’

I devoured this book in two sittings (And only because it was time for a ride to the local ice cream stand). Baxter weaves his story using at least seven different first-person narrators who tell their variably perverse/honest/
horrifying/etcetera stories of love in uniquely distinct voices. THE FEAST OF LOVE had me laughing at loud one moment, then sobbing the next. It’s a powerful story, one of the best I’ve read in my lifetime. So good I’m in the midst of rereading, to catch the nuances I missed the first time around. Definitely now one of my life-time favorites...

THE WRITING... I let my rewrite marinate for a few days; I'll start grilling tomorrow. Meanwhile, started reading Alison Bass's SIDE EFFECTS, a non-fic on lies and cover-ups by Big Pharma and a few crooked academicians on the dangerous propensity of PAXIL, an antidepressant, to induce suicidal ideation and self-violence by young users. Research for PURE, of course, and the day job. Also penned quite a few notes on PURE.

Good to be back. Peace, Linda

Monday, August 11, 2008

Read On?

I've been tasked by a certain editorial someone with an assignment: read the first page of five favorite books, then ask myself - would I flip the page? Why or why not?

I spent about a week angsting about the five favorite books, then realized I was procrastinating. I closed my eyes and picked from the three stacks towering by my nightstand.
First up... The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger). The TTW does happen to one of my top 10's, if not top 5's. Take a gander, then tell me - would you read on? Why or why not?

CLARE: It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays.

I keep myself busy. Time goes faster that way.

I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I'm tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that's been under the snow all winter. Everythng seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?

Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that i wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?

HENRY: How does it feel? How does it feel?

Sometimes it feels as though your attention has wandered for just an instant. Then, with a start, you realize that the book you were holding, the red plaid cotton shirt with white buttons, the favorite...

The analysis: Yes, I read on - how could I not? What wonderful tension - why is Henry always leaving? against his will? where is he going? and why can't Clare follow him? Clare's voice is plaintive here (later, though, her voice is more assured, almost flip, a sassy confidence). The prose is luscious - eg, Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Shivers. Then, when Henry begins his preamble with his repeated question, my gut shrivels in delicious anticipation. I need to flip the page to find out how IT feels.

This book amazes and confounds me for so many reasons. I'd love to pump Audrey's hand, thump her back with a "Bravo! You broke almost every rule in how NOT to write a novel, and ended up with a blockbuster!" She's a genre-bender who writes her tremendously long story in first person present and bookends the whole deal with 'logues'. BRILLIANT!

Audrey's my hero. And I've learned a lot from reading - and rereading - her book.

THE WRITING...Jeesh, it's all I've been doing for a week now. What a treat. I was going to spend the week working on PURE, but that got put on hold when I got an editorial nibble. So instead, I spent much of the week revising BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT into past tense. Among other things. The first 100 pages are completed to my satisfaction; working on the remaining 300 or so. Sigh. Rewriting from present to past tense is time-consuming; first, there's the tedious technical aspect of simply switching verb tenses. Then, there's the 'flow' revisions, rewriting in terms of the time distance that past tense invokes, allowing perhaps more introspection and memory to come into play. I'll let these pages marinate for a week or so, then revisit...

I did some more prewriting around PURE. Over the weekend I realized I needed to write a character's journal, so I found a nice, silk covered one to write her entries in. Should be fun - Radcliffe in the late 70s, an affair between a student and her professor. Otherwise, lots of reading, both on the craft, as well as for 'fun' (ie, my assignment). A yahoo - a small, non-fiction piece was accepted this week; more once I find out whether it survives the production hatchet.

Off to New England - lobster rolls call. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Blogiversary!

Happy Birthday Leftbrainwrite!

Exactly one year ago, I entered the wild, woolly cyberworld of blogging. My friend and fellow writer CHRYS BUCKLEY had returned from a conference two weeks before, pumped up about blogging and somehow convinced me to join the fray.

We've come a long way, my little baby.

--64 posts
--A few HONORS along the way
--Some guest blogging for SARAH MOFFETT and MOONRAT
--Musings on mental health and substance abuse and creativity, on balancing the personal and the professional
--My travails writing, including the ups at GRUB STREET and SIX SENTENCES, as well as the downs of doubting

But most of all, I met YOU. Fellow writers, readers, editors, bloggers, publishers. Friends. And some of our cyber connections have led to face-to-face encounters of the most blessed kind.

Thank you for journeyng with me. Thank you for stopping in and sharing your thoughts and ideas and worries and joys. Enjoy the virtual chocolate and champagne. And here's to another year...

THE WRITING... I'm gonna be scarce for a couple of weeks. In part because of vacation. But mostly because I need to write. If you check out the PURE-O-METER, you'll see that steady and upward arcing word count on PURE has fizzled. I have a good excuse - I'm working on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. Yeah, I know - I Promised it was done.

But I'm rewriting BTB to editorial order. Okay? Thought you'd understand.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


A friend, a good friend and fellow writer (you may know her as Twizzle or Cibo or Kelley or thong woman), has a son with a little-known disease - cavernous angioma. Most people think of angiomas as the purply raspberry marks on skin, but actually these little clusters of vessels can occur anywhere, including in the brainstem and spinal cord.

Twizzle can tell you all about how this disease has affected her life, her family, her child - and she will - HERE.

Then, exercise your political will and write your politicians to increase funding

Read about it HERE at the Angioma Alliance. Follow the links and do your do-good for the week. I faxed in my letter - took all of about 15 minutes (shorter if you're not a compulsive writer and editor like moi!). DO IT!!!! PLEASE!!!!

Kelley thanks you, I thank you.

Another friend... Tonight I said good-bye to my friend Elizabeth. She turned 98 a month ago today, and was admitted into hospice this afternoon. When I held her hands, they were cool, so she will travel soon to the other side. I will miss her kindness, her readiness to share chocolate with my children when we visited, her generosity of spirit. When she moved from her little apartment to a nursing home, she had a yardsale and I bought many of her scarves. Tomorrow, I will wear one and hold her close...

Peace, Linda

NB: Elizabeth died in her sleep Friday night July 25 about 7 pm. She died during a short window of time in which no one was with her. People had been by her side constantly, though I am not sure she always realized it, for three days. Dying is such a private act, I can only wonder - was she waiting to be alone?

She is missed...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flying the Coop...

Our baby robins flew the coop yesterday.

We watched the mother make her nest, pulling twigs and string and dried grasses to the Asian pear tree by our deck. Two cerulean eggs soon appeared. We watched them anxiously, scaring the mother every time we opened the screen door to peer into her household. Peeking tommies, we.

One hatched, a fluff ball; the second hatched two days later. We had worried it was a 'bad egg'. Mom fed them bugs and worms, regurgitating them into their mouths. Mornings, when I crept downstairs I could hear the family chirping "feed me! feed me!"

And today, gone.

Our own two kiddos will be gone this Saturday, a birthday party and sleepover. My husband and I have never been in the house without BOTH our children. Not in 9 years. We have so craved a few hours alone, but I suspect we will wander about aimlessly Saturday night, worrying and feeling bereft without their giggles and whining and arguments and cuddling.

On mental health... read HERE to find out what it is like for Ben, my protagonist in BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, to live with bipolar disorder. A wonderful piece by the NYT. Scroll down and click on the link to hear the actual stories, then return to read the comments. These stories will amaze and move.

On creativity... this dude's got it right...
"You practice an art to make your soul grow, not to make money or to become famous. And this would include singing in the shower or dancing to the radio or also drawing a caricature of your best friend, or whatever—all this makes your soul grow. And you meet a person who's done that, whether successfully or not, and you sense a larger soul." Vonnegut

Peace, Linda

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Creativity... touchstone of the soul

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Joseph Chilton Pearce

Saturday was our annual Open Garden, where my husband struts his passion - his beautiful daylilies, all 200 or so varieties, plus the ones he's hybridized (imagine - flower nookie!). I have my little patch of earth as well, mostly herbs and vegetables - the practical stuff.

A gorgeous summer day, one full of good discussion, fantastic food (pesto and shrimp pizza, strawberry-rhubarb pie, lots of salads, and local cantaloupe), and capped off with a plant swap.

Sunday I strutted my stuff, wandering into my husband's usual territory - I gave a summer service at our Unitarian Universalist church (hubbers is the minister). I love the lay-laid summer services, so casual with chairs arranged in an ellipse, folks in shorts and sandals, and lots of discussion afterwards. My sermon was titled "Creativity, the touchstone of our soul, but why do we fear it so?"

A subject too near to my heart.

I've been pondering this issue of creativity, this wondrous river and its tangled tributaries and diversions. Such waters I've tasted - what a blessing to be human, to be able to parse words and sentences into prose.

Marketing my work has forced me to acknowledge the difference between the process and the product of writing. I've come to realize that no matter what the publishing outcome of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, the most salient part of that book was the journey made to realize the story, both the inner journey made in imagining the lives of my characters and their world, and the outer journey made in the realization of my creative self.

And so it will be for every other poem or story or novel that falls from my fingers to grace once empty pages.

Creativity is a divine gift. My job as a human is to honor that gift. And one way for me to continue creating is to embrace a corollary to Pearce's truth: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being perfect.”

Very wabi sabi. Very well... perfect.

WHAT I'M READING: INTUITION by Allegra Goodman. She uses a roving third-person POV which I find disconcerting at times, sinking the reader into different heads within a single scene. She achieves this almost seamlessly, but not so well as Updike. But Updike is God, or as close as writer mortals come.

For a true poetic treat, read these five by Adam Fieled in the latest issue of OTOLITHS. Rarely do I read, then reread, a poem and sigh each time. These are poems I wish I'd written, especially When you bit... and Sheet Covered.

THE WRITING: Writing and pre-writing on PURE clipping along at a steady pace. Struggling with a kernal of a poem call THE GOD PARTICLE and contemplating a few flashes which are, well, flashes in my pan.

It's been tough writing, tough sorting through all this... stuff. It's like running at breakneck speed for a great distance, then suddenly stumbling. I've been falling into my writing, the process of it, and I guess it's something one must do to get to the other side.

Keep creating. Always. peace, Linda

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Some call it serendipity.

In one week... one query rejection, three poetry submission rejections, one weird crit from a contest, and three politically charged days at my ivory garret where the techtonic plates of change rended so rapidly I was stranded in tears by Wednesday afternoon...

I was paralyzed. The writing suffered, my head and heart constipated from all this anxious stuff. For the first time in over two years, writing wasn't fun.

All this left me questioning... Why do I work? Why do I write? Why do I even bother to TRY to CREATE? It was like the WWF in my head - EVIL EDITOR faces off with CRAZY CREATOR. The whole leftbrain/rightbrain struggle. In other words, an existential crisis of sorts, further fueled by exhaustion, grant proposal deadlines, and hormones.

But then, all this nasty karma suddenly counterweighted by a poet friend who reminded me of the subjectivity of reading. Then, a sudden request to present a sermon next Sunday on Creativity. Ughh... as if I don't have enough to do. Quick research on the topic made me aware of several resources to explore. Then, a friend, unaware of both the upcoming sermon and my predicament of the soul, gifted me with one of those resources - THE ARTIST'S WAY - in which the first chapter miraculously states:


"Block" undone. 6700 words written this weekend. Sermon sketched out. Blog posted. Idea for poem scraped on paper. I will venture again into the wild, woolly world of marketing... soon. First, need to continue stoking that confidence, you know, the manifesting stuff.

Name your fear; it becomes your ally.


Peace, Linda

Monday, June 30, 2008


Yesterday my son turned nine; today, my daughter becomes six.

Double blessings on the cusp of the half-year.

Time seems to fly so fast these days. I remember the ultrasound that showed my son at eleven weeks, a white bipoled bean. A miracle; the reproductive specialist had deemed him a blighted ovum and told me I would miscarry. He was wrong, thank goddess.

My children are becoming the beautiful little people I'd always dreamed, with facile minds and lithe bodies. I so admire them, am so proud of the courageous way they tackle their daily challenges...

Another blessing came in the mail over the weekend. A FRIEND took the time and trouble to send me a special book, one with a unique history and a special autograph. Thank you.

Other blessings... the four nests in our backyard yielded twittering chicks (catbirds, robins, wrens); the currants and blueberries require daily picking; the Asian pears and white peaches are ripening; a bounty of fantabulous writing and non-writing friends; my summer gift to myself. Which is - read. Two weeks of four amazing books:

>>The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Buy it. Read it. Laugh, cry, then read it again. It will be the best book you'll read all summer, perhaps all year.

>>Tweak by Nic Sheffe and Beautiful Boy by his father David Sheffe. Together, these two books tell the heart-rending father and son accounts of addiction. If you've ever abused drugs or known anyone who has, you must read these books. If you are a parent, you must read these books. Powerful stuff, and blog forthcoming. BUT, first I must recover...

>>Bless the Beasts and Children, which I blogged about HERE over at Moonrat's digs.

The writing... I wrote 1200 words on PURE this weekend. It felt good to just... write. This second story has been coming out kicking and screaming, in large part because my evil friend, the self-doubting editor, has lurked over my shoulder. Brighter than Bright was written in innocence, with complete naivete; I did not know what the hell I was doing. Now, though, I know too much: showing versus telling, the perils of first person, passive voice, story arc, tension building, and the near impossibility of getting an agent and (sigh) getting published. So I am trying to place less emphasis on the writer part of the equation, and focus instead on the words and the joy of stringing them together.

The marketing... ugh. Need I say more?

Just remember: "That which you manifest is before you."

Peace, Linda

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Celebrate Reading!

Dear Moonrat, Prolific Goddess of EDITORIAL ASS, is celebrating reading this June with guest bloggers sharing books important to them. Check out your reading stacks from the past, and compare. My To-Be-Read pile has morphed this past month, with some bloggers definitely convincing me to try books I didn’t think I’d ever savor.

Today is my turn to pontificate, so check out my pick HERE. And read the rest of the series – you’ll be glad you did.

(Thank you, Moonrat, for this fabu opportunity. Now, get writing – you’ve less than 5 days to meet your July 1 deadline

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I took a few days off from the day job, the night job, everything, and fled with my family to the Shenandoah Mountains.


Skyline Drive is a mere 2.5 hours away, an easy jaunt even with two young children. All weekend long, as we sat drinking vino al fresco whllst looking down 3000 feet, hubby and I kept asking each other: why haven't we escaped before?

We hiked. We ate. We drank. We played. I didn't write. Not a word. I barely read, just 10 pages or so of INTUITION, and the Garth Stein interview in POETS & WRITERS (I heart Garth and his new book).

But I thunked. A lot. it's easy to mentally doodle when all you physically need to concentrate on is putting one foot ahead of the other.

I made some decisions. To write PURE before LOVE SONG ON THE INNER LOOP. It just excites me more. I've elucidated the structure (non-linear in time), the POV (third), the narrator (one). This morning, I wrote the one-sentence plot, motivated in part by this post and THIS by Nathan Bransford. PURE's premise has been present all along, the motivating force: academic mores run amok.

I also decided to spend much of the summer in 'pre-writing' mode. Doing the research (deriving the scientific experiment), interviewing medical students and residents, bench science pre- and post-docs for the poop on moving up the academic food-chain, and fleshing out my wacky cast of characters. Everything is... gelling. At last.

And I am reading. Oodles.

>INTUITION by Allegra Goodman (again, this time for her structure, which is unusual)

>MOO U by Jane Smiley is on ILL order from the library

>DEPRESSION AND BIPOLAR DISORDER. Stahl's Essential Psychopharmacology by Stephen Stahl. Gotta get the neuroscience down and concoct a believable scientific endeavor.

>Several highly clinical Ivory Tower treatises on transgenic mouse models for bipolar disorder, mitochondrial abnormalities, and glutamate deficiencies.

>I also made a decision to spend ALL my new book dollars on small press offerings, so I'm already into GONE AND BACK AGAIN (by Jonathon Scott Fuqua, fellow Baltimorean and YA author, though this is his first adult novel) and EVERYONE'S PRETTY (Lydia Millet), put out by SOFT SKULL PRESS

Stuff got unstuck in the mountains. Maybe I should go away more often... Keep writing. Peace, Linda

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rules for Writers, The Fine Art of Racing, and What Have You...

Lots of schlepping this blistering week between Baltimore and DC for two professional meetings: AcademyHealth, the national health services research assocaiton, and the Washington Independent Writers, the largest writing organization in the US. We changed our name - American Independent writers - to reflect our size and our geographically diverse membership.

FABULOUS session by thriller author JOHN GILSTRAP (Nathan's Run; Six Minutes to Freedom) and lit/fantasy author KEITH DONOHUE (The Stolen Child) on Working to Write, Working AND Writing? That is, the difficult decision to chuck the day job to write full-time, a temptation most of us harbor. Donohue closed with this:


1/ Be born rich (Ha!)
2/ Marry money (Double ha!)
3/ Be a poet, be a recluse, or be a priest (I'm married to a minister, so my life's busier than ever)
4/ Teach (Yes. I do this. But it has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with drugs)
5/ Develop an elegant variation of OCD (Does hypomania count? With an extra dash of anxiety thrown in for good measure?)
6/ Create up problems for protagonist and story (Actually, it's the other way around - they make problems for me)
7/ Write every day (THIS I do. But it's only because I become an insufferable bitty otherwise)
8/ Get a dog (We had one, but she peed all over the place and had agorophobia, so we decided to get a bonsai plant instead)
9/ Don't have kids (Does Sears take 'em back after 90 days?)
10/ Use time wisely (Goddess knows I try...)

And here, just for fun... what book are you?

You're Siddhartha!

by Hermann Hesse

You simply don't know what to believe, but you're willing to try
anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you've spent
some time in every camp. But you still don't have any idea what camp you belong in.
This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It's
time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in

Take the very cool Book Quiz
at Blue Pyramid.

and find out...

Hmmm... then check out the shenanigans of friends and fellow writers TWIZZLE and MAGS on their quest to meet GARTH STEIN in Cambridge. More than politely listening to Garth merely read about that fabulous dog Enzo, their adventure involves Fire Trucks, Bar Stools in Lynn, and Mucho Vino. Perhaps too mucho vino... with Garth partially in tow.

Happy writing, happy reading... Peace, Linda

Friday, June 06, 2008


The world stops. A whorl of white surrounds us, feathers suspend in air, kicked up to the shocking blue. A whistle shrills--


(2 years, 5 months, 4 days
447 pages
121,713 words
Countless sleepless nights)


Somewhere, distant firecrackers explode, bells peal from a church steeple. A new year. My heart falls into step with hers, slower now. Less tentative. I fall again towards the constant white, and a small, unformed thought – no, a feeling - drifts up from somewhere deep, a place still faraway but no longer secret and hidden, and coalesces.

This feels good. This feels right.


Uh, I'm done. Really. I promise.

Thank you, everyone... you know who you are... I could not have done this without you.

Peace, Linda


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hon, have a dime?

Still writing hard... those last 20 pages of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT are wupping me. Big time. But I found some inconsistencies that required rearranging of scenes and the attendant rewriting. Sigh... missed my self-imposed deadline, but I'm almost there. Really. I can taste being done, that sweet flavor flirting with my tastebuds, my heart and soul. My head. But I'd rather do it right now than right later...

Meanwhile, another poem makes the Poetic Asides hit parade... Hon, have a dime?. The prompt was 'snooping' on a convo. This was lunch at the Lexington Market. Scroll down and enjoy.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, May 29, 2008

writing... rewriting...will it ever end?

Only 120 more pages to edit. Revise. Polish. Finish.

Almost there. I kinda feel like Ben running his beloved Boston marathon, just substitute words for distance...

Every millimeter of me aches, the constant concentrating fries my mind. I remind myself I’ve run this fucking hill a million times, it’s not steep so much as persistent, a half-mile of steady incline. I breathe - in, out, in, out - four paces for each inhale, cresting Heartbreak Hill in a spurt of unadulterated adrenalin...

The noise recedes, faces blur, fears dogging me the past twenty-plus miles meld into cloudy static. My knees kick up, everything turns off in my head, my breath the only sound, my pounding feet all I see and feel. At last, I break through to pure white, switch to autopilot, and burst past pain, frustration, all the anxiety. An almost holy peace transcends; at last, my oblivion of euphoria.

June 2 looms. The End. I suspect my elation will be tinged with sadness as this stint of the journey ends for BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, May 22, 2008


<===Cool ribbon, huh?

Robert Brewer, intrepid leader of POETIC ASIDES and last month's daily poetry challenge in honor of National Poetry Writing Month, handed out awards yesterday for those of us taking up the gauntlet.

Anyhoo, about 100 of us wrote a daily poem, which was no easy feat. I was pleased just to be able to push the submit button every night. This year's NaPoWriMo Laureate award goes to Sarah Doyle, who penned some of my favoritest verse throughout the month.

I LOVED this challenge, appreciated the way it made me think and remember in response to the prompt du jour, the way it pushed me to think about word choice and meter. And although most of my poems were rough hewn, a few were featured in his daily highlights (and he's still rolling them out). Best of all, I have 30-plus poems to work on during the year.

That said, I'm glad it's over. April was a demanding month - prepping for GRUB STREET, the April-a-day-poetry-prompt, winding up the most arduous part of a writing class. Time to focus on final, final edits on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT.

Eight more days... over and out. Peace, Linda

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pomp, Circumstance, and All that Jazz...

Been quiet, mostly due to all the festivities surrounding end-of-the-year exams and papers and dissertation defenses, all culminating in the graduation of 160 or so pharmacy students and a handful of doctoral students from my department. Clearing the decks for a new batch of kids to arrive in August.

I love graduation. There's something about Pomp and Circumstance that makes me tear up, more than any old wedding march does. But, having lived and breathed academe all my adult life (other than a wee stint in the pharmaceutical industry and part-time evening work as a hospital pharmacist), I guess my weepiness is a natural reaction. For the ivory tower is one of my 'homes', a place I feel comfortable being, though not necessarily comfortable with.

As you shall see in the coming couple of years...

There's a lot I want to blog on, lot's happening in the mental health world, like the recent hooplah over the link between depression and pot, and which comes first, the sadness or the smoking. And cool stuff happening in the science of substance abuse. But all that will have to wait for a few weeks.

This post, I'm going to play the self-indulgent momma. Both my children have, in their own ways, been knocking down little and large obstacles. The other evening, my son overcame his nerves and finally entered the skateboard park where the big guys hang. It was thrilling to watch him, almost nine years old, figure out the park on his own, watch him try ramps and bars cautiously, then conquer them.

And my almost six-year-old daughter has had a series of firsts: first book read (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish), first tooth lost, and first song composition:

By the river
of the stream
down went a fish
with love and hope.

--This post interrupted by said daughter, who is SUPPOSED to be asleep, but who ran from her room, jumping with glee because she JUST finished reading Green Eggs and Ham-- by herself --

So things are good. Very good...

THE WRITING... I'll likely be quieter than usual because I'm on a self-imposed deadline to get BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT completely off my desk and hopefully onto someone else's. Several small presses have reading periods, and I aim to get those queries in the mail over the next two weeks. AND... drum roll, please... complete the final pass on this blasted novel by May 31. I'm exactly half-way through and I am, thus far, pleased. It's my favorite kind of editing - the prose elevation stuff, the seeking of a more precise and elegant word.

Which means something new starting June 1.

Hmmm... wonder what????? Stay tuned...

Peace, Linda

PS. Another poem, my fifth, featured at Poetic Asides (MEMORY FORSAKEN; the prompt - a memory you cannot remember)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Eh, I'm back... again...

This time, back from Toronto.

What a FABULOUS city! So clean, so green, so safe, and so many great restaurants!

No writing conference this time. Nope. The day job beckoned, so I convened with about 2,000 other druggie types to share the latest in pharmaceutical economic and outcomes research. 'tis what I do to keep me in boxes of paper and toner. Though, to be frank, I kind of groove on my day job: it's fun. Never a dull moment. No matter how carefully I plan each workday, I am assured upon arriving that it will be a day rife with surprises - some good, some not-so-good - that will prevent me from becoming a dull professor.

Plus, the fodder for my writing... yes, so, so, so much... I have almost an entire 80 page, college-ruled notebook FULL of anecdotes for novel 2 (which, per my Prior Post, will most likely be novel 1).

Anyway, back to Toronto...

I presented my research, sponsored by a drug company (gasp!), on patterns of antipsychotic use according to how likely said antipsychotic contributes to metabolic side effects such as weight gain, lipid problems, and diabetes. These are huge adverse effects of many antipsychotics, and lead to non-compliance by many patients. After all, who wants to gain 20 pounds just by popping a pill every day for a year? But the clinical outcomes of non-compliance - hospitalization, emergency department visits, mortality - are significantly worse. Indeed, severely mentally ill individuals die 30 years younger - on average - than their non-psychiatrically ill counterparts.

Medications are important.

Unfortunately, many health plans make formulary decisions based on economic considerations (i.e., how good a deal they can get by making Risperdal the preferred antipsychotic for the members over the other four contenders) rather than considering the subtle - and not so subtle - differences of each antipsychotic, thereby allowing for latitude in choice.

Anyway, I won a nice big green ribbon for my poster presentation. Which made my sponsor happy. And me, too.

And speaking of poundage... I ate very well in this city. It's hard not to dine superbly in any cosmopolitan city, and hanging around with the industry elite (remember, I am but an academic) generally makes for nice meals out.

One night, a colleague and I made our way afar from the maddening conference crowd to a small joint called CAVA, named for the sparkling wine of Spain. The best meal I've had in years: crostino with rapini and manchego, cider-glazed sable fish with black rice and escarole, fennel salad with orange and pistachio, grilled octopus with a hazelnut romescue, rhubarb clafouti with a strawberry yogurt ice. And wine, of course: a white rioja and an excellent tempranillo.

The following evening, off to VERTICAL. Well. I went to gastronomic heaven. Opened with a ricotta gnudi served with fava beans. So light, so airy, these little dumplings, in their sweet cream butter sauce. Oh my. A salad of dandelion, pistachio, and terrine of golden beet. Oh Goddess... then, sea breem (there is a fancy word for this fish, but I do not remember) served en papillotte with ramps, kale, and other spring vegetables. Amazingly aromatic, and truly delicious. The grand finale was a pine nut torte with honey, served with complimentary moscato asti. Yes. Yes. I will remember these meals for a long, long time...

Writing? Eh? I edited about 80 pages of Brighter than Bright on the turbo-prop flights and early morning, but otherwise, it was pharmaceutical shop, lots of glad-handing, seeing my current and past graduate students, and creating new research ideas. Oh, and eating.

Peace, Linda

Monday, April 28, 2008

Getting Grubbie

I'm back.

Exhausted. Thrilled. Energized.

What a fabulous conference - the Muse and the Marketplace. Sponsored by GRUB STREET. In my old stomping grounds of Boston and Cambridge, no less.

The generous writers sharing their knowledge and experiences: superb. We're talking about Anita Shreve (Body Surfing), Jennifer Haigh (Mrs. Kimble), Chuck Hogan (Prince of Thieves), Julia Glass (Three Junes), and Karl Iagnemma (On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction and The Expeditions; I've blogged about him before, this scientist-writer, and he is soooo cute in person). Bret Anthony Johnston (Corpus Christi: Stories) gave a fabulous session on point of view; he is a natural teacher.

And of course, the keynote speaker was Jonathan Franzen, who's reading from The Discomfort Zone moved me to tears as he related Kafka and Rilke (my personal poetry fave) to seeing his family members as individuals rather than mere relations. Beautiful.

I met several cyber-writing friends, including Steve from the Nudge-Nudge Collective, my on-line writing group, and MAGS, and TIM. And though not a friend of mine, I did chat with the incomparable Janet Reid, agent with a 'tude.

I went to this conference for a number of reasons, but mostly as a litmus test of sorts: to see if I've been deluding myself these past two years about this writing path I've journeyed on. I sought validation for: 1/ my writing; and 2/ my heart.

In reverse order... I realized as soon as I met Steve and his wife Dee in the 1369 coffee house in Inman Square that my heart was indeed in the right place. I love writing. I love talking about it, sharing it, reading the writings of others.

My writing... was validated, in ways I could never imagine. First, during Editor Idol. When the first page of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT was read aloud by a professional actress before a crowd of a 100 and three editors posing as Randy, Paula, and Simon made it without an interruption, followed by three nodding heads and "yes, this is good. I'd read more," you couldn't have pulled me down with an angel. The meeting with a agent who runs what I'd describe as a boutique agency grounded me a bit more, but her words of "you have talent" and "this submission rose to the top" gave me more reason for elation. BUT... (there is always a but, isn't there) my story is a quiet literary one, a story without the "WOW" factor called for debut works. It seems that a fate worse than not publishing may actually be publishing without either strong sales or reviews. I was advised to make another editing pass on BTB, then keep it in reserve after the first book is published.

At first, her advice kind of devastated me. But then, I realized she was looking at me, the career writer. She was looking out for me. And perhaps she saw enough good in those first 20 pages of my freshman effort to think I have more books in me.

Guess this means it's time to move onto PURE.

BUT... I will market BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. One of my teachers, a wonderful mentor named Lauren Mosko, agrees BTB is probably best suited for a small press. And I am okay with that because I am not sure what path I want my writing to take - commercial or literary. And more and more, the agent scene is the commercial one. And perhaps the most stressful one.

So I will continue to plug away on my novels. And my poems. This IS getting ridiculous==> LOVE SONG ON THE INNER LOOP Based on a prose piece from a novel-in-progress.

I feel blessed, blissed, exuberantly happy I am writer.

At least today.

Peace, Linda