Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bookends of a Life: I

Do I love you enough? You, the aftereffect of endless appointments and near-daily blood sticks, the needles’ cross-hatches marking me a junkie of sorts; the disappointment of every failed implant only fueled my appetite for the next humiliating procedure under the tented sheet, legs parted wider than the jaws of life. You, my quarter-million dollar princess; you, whom I desired more than my soul, my marriage; you, who for years existed but in fantasy: your warm baby-powder body snuggling against my breast, lazy afternoons playing peek-a-boo in Indian summer leaves, the scent of your milk-stained breath… Now, your red face agonizes confusion, wanting food, wanting sleep, wanting, always wanting, your selfish wail pervades, your needy blue eyes follow; I can’t shower, can’t piss without you clinging to me. You have transformed me into an aimless, sleepless wraith pacing the endless hall and all I want is to slam you against the wall or hand you to a stranger, perhaps the woman who gazed longingly at you in the park, but I keep pat-patting, trying to get you to burp into the disgusting white flannel draped over my shoulder, my snotty badge of motherhood. Isn’t this proof enough of my love?


Bookends come in pairs, so look for the other one next Friday. Prepping for NaNoWriMo and my writing class, so this week's a rerun, originally published in 6S: Volume 2, 2009.

Peace, Linda

Monday, October 26, 2009

Leaves Whisper...

Writing a chunk of PURE, I realize I am writing in parallel time. In my story, it is October, in a book-filled cabin nestled high on a New Hampshire mountain, and Ben is finding his truths and pondering the decisions he needs to make. I walk and the wind whips up the ochre and crimson and gold leaves, and they eddy around my feet and I feel Ben.

I feel passings as well. Autumn conjures in me a melancholy...

The Reading... Still immersed in GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. Also close to finishing my October debut novel pick (I'm late, I know); it's a story that's taken me some time to get into. Have 3-4 other books in various nooks and crannies of my home/car/office, as well as reading BELLEVUE LITERARY and POETS and WRITERS. Good stuff...

The Writing... Focusing on PURE, preparing for the insanity that is National Novel Writing Month. But I've worked on several short stories, a poem, and even futzing with BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. Speaking of, this week I received a handwritten (!) postcard from one of my favorite Indy presses politely passing on BTB along with a reason why. Somehow this rejection made me feel good; perhaps it was that someone: 1/ read it; 2/ bothered to write me 18 months after I'd submitted (and their website is clear they don't respond unless interested); and 3/ they used their stamp. So.

I'll be scarce for the next month. Life, writing... both so time consuming.

Live well, write well, be true to your heart. Peace, Linda

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Survivor - #fridayflash

Another Thursday night.

She usually looked forward to sharing the next hour with her husband, but tonight she felt weary. Leaning on the table, she pushed away her half-eaten Stouffer’s lasagna and pulled herself up. Wavering over her walker, she adjusted the dial on the portable oxygen tank to highest flow.

The walk across the kitchen seemed interminable. She paused at the counter and gathered the supplies. The cans rattled against the metal basket. At the living room entrance, she rested again. The carpet slowed her down; it always did. She adjusted her nasal cannula. After a few breaths, she shambled the last steps to the Lazy Boy.

Her husband’s white hair always shocked her; once, it had been jet black. But she loved the feel of it now; spun silver soft as the Lamb’s Ear edging the front walk. He slumped in the chair, washrag pressed against the side of his face where the tumor had eaten into his jaw bone. A good man, an obliging patient, his tee shirt was already rolled up to his chest.

“Dinner time.” She tried to sound chipper.

He grunted, nodded his head, but didn’t look at her.

The tubing unwound in her hands, unreeling like a garden hose. She leaned over him, feeling precarious without her walker to steady her. Her hand trembled against the warm skin of his stomach, shrunken so that the skin folded in canyons. This time she managed to slip the tubing end into the port on the first try. It wasn’t always that easy. Tears of relief welled in her eyes.

She wheezed and gripped the side of the recliner to catch her breath. She shook one can, then the next, struggling with the pop-tops. Arthritis crippled the finger that had once quilted and knitted, that had wrung weeds from the earth and turned patients in their hospital beds. She despised her weakness.

He grunted again.

“Oh. What’s for dinner tonight?” A new part of the ritual she kept forgetting. “Tonight we have meatloaf with lots of catsup, mashed potatoes dripping with butter, and, of course, peas. The LeSuer ones you love. For dessert, Boston cream pie. Your favorite.”

He grunted again, but managed a weak smile.

She smiled back. She hung the bag from the IV pole and slowly poured in one can. Liquid the consistency and color of gravy slowly edged down the clear tube. She sighed as she sank to the couch and waited for gravity to pull sustenance into his frail body. He watched, too, his eyes anxious on the bag.

She wondered whether the artificial nutrition had any flavor, whether he could somehow taste it through his blood. Whether it satisfied. To her, the liquid smelled the way chalk tasted. She thought of the meals they had shared the past 49 years: the duck confit and profiteroles in Paris, the smorgasboard of salmon and cheeses enjoyed in Sweden on their second honeymoon, their daughters and grandchildren gathered around the Thanksgiving table. The glasses of wine, the morning coffee. Thursday night pizza and television. All those years.

“Honey, do you remember when we—“

He grunted. “Shush.”

She bit her lip, averting her gaze to the floor. Her mouth flooded with a metallic wetness.

He looked past her, to the wide-screen. Buff young bodies dove into crystalline water in an exotic country she would never visit. Jeff Probst’s voice filled the room. “Last week, on Survivor…”. She looked again at the mud-colored nourishment flowing into the hole in her husband’s stomach and wondered how many more Thursdays they still had left. She patted his knee.

“I love you.”

He grunted, eyes still glued to the tube. But he released the remote, circled her trembling fingers, and squeezed them tight.


Excerpted from... life.

Peace, Linda

Monday, October 19, 2009


It's the National Day on Writing.

So, go... write. Take 10 on your lunch break, take a mental health day, and write yourself silly. And when you're done, contribute your stuff HERE.

Since I write every day, I guess my life is one national holiday.

Peace, Linda

Friday, October 16, 2009

In the Name of Science: #fridayflash

Even before the acrid-sweet smell of urine and cedar assaulted me, I knew. No usual scurry of rodents swarming to greet me, their provider of food, water, and amphetamine. My eyes adjusted to the crimson light intended to keep the animals in a constant state of calm. On the left counter, Dinesh’s white mice, fat from gorging three times their weight every day, bumped up sleepily against Plexiglas. In the adjacent cage my new rodents, the experimental ones shipped this week from Cornell, shuddered with shallow exhalations.

But not my bipolar mice. In that cage I didn’t discern any shadowy humps or sleeping forms, just smaller shapes larger than droppings and food pellets. I tapped the glass, hoping to prod my manic, nicotine-addicted subjects from under shavings and race to me, back-flipping and tumbling over each other in their eagerness for attention and drug.


I rattled the cage. Still nothing. The glass was splattered with black dots. Dread pushed past my chest. I should’ve listened to Dinesh; he’d mentioned that batch was acting bizarre, nipping each other and the fingers that fed them. Of course he blamed J25, but I’d brushed him off, attributing the biting to the genetic modifications in that particular mouse strain.

The silence troubled me. My hand trembled on the wall-switch, hesitant to flick on the lights, to wake the mice and screw up their circadian cycle.

I blinked in the abrupt fluorescence.

Jesus. A severed tail poked through wood chips. Under the water bottle, a gnawed paw and a flurry of black hairs littered the cage floor. One body lay twisted in the corner; the slick white of its spinal cord glistened. An ear mangled in the running wheel. Several bloodied quadriplegic trunks scattered in the cages, surrounded by other, less recognizable lumps of flesh. I counted. Five mice, dead. Where was the sixth?

Acid burned my throat. I swallowed and swallowed as seven years of meticulous scientific inquiry horribly deep-sixed. As hope for my own silver-bullet cure vaporized.

Shavings rustled. An ebony mouse crept from the carnage, chin and whiskers reddened. In that instant, the murderer seemed to grin at me. Something in my heart clanged, another tumbler on a lock, and shut down, click-click-thud. I pulled out the drawer, reached for the camera, the lab book, but there was so much, too much, to document. It was still early; no one else was in the building, not the techs who would incinerate the animals. Later, at feeding time, Dinesh would find the mice, and Dinesh was a good friend, a loyal colleague. He’d clean up. He was good for cleaning up messes. Besides, I didn’t have time, I had a train to catch, funeral arrangements to make.

Those were my excuses. I flipped off the light, picked up my bags, and fled.

(Excerpted from PURE, a novel under destruction)


BEG, BORROW, STEAL Book Give-Away ===> We gotta a winner! Actually, we have three winners! Other Press sent a promo copy along with a personal copy, so I'll give away both AND will donate a copy of HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE, out in paperback, to a lucky third winner. More than two dozen readers expressed interest in Michael Greenberg's latest work. Winners were selected using the most scientific of methods -- I wrote everyone's name on strips of paper, balled them up, and threw them in my Greek fisherman's hat.

Drumroll please... and the first name is... Paige! The second name drawn is... Reesha! Third prize winner of the HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE goes to Marye Ulrich, herself an aspiring memoirist. Please drop me a line with your email (drwasy AT gmail DOT com) with mailing addresses and I'll get these shipped out el pronto.

Reesha gets bonus points for leaving a comment: Begging is definitely my favorite method. Most of the time it has involved begging off work for time to write, begging fiance/family members for time alone to write, or borrowing someone else's time while they read my manuscript and give me feedback. I have a wonderful cousin who always takes my calls at 3 in the morning if I have writer's block and patiently listens to my writerly woes. But the time is borrowed. She calls me in the middle of date night sometimes!

I'm with you on the begging, and may I please have access to that cousin of yours?

Peace, Linda

Monday, October 12, 2009

What folks are saying...

About Beg, Borrow, Steal - a Writer's Life (Michael Greenberg, Other Press)

"Greenberg skillfully explores issues that range from the profoundly tragic to the delightfully funny." Kirkus Reviews

"Beg, Borrow, Steal is a writing memoir that belongs in the company of classics, such as Grace Paley's Just as I Thought, Annie Dillard's Living by Fiction, William Gass's Fiction and Figures of Life, and Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings..." Foreward Magazine

You can catch Michael Greenberg here:

October 16: Northshire Books, Manchester, VT
October 28: One Book, One Community, Danbury, CT
October 31: Texas Book Festival, Austin, TX
November 1: Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, Taube Center for Jewish Life
November 3: Next Chapter Bookshop, Maquon, WI
November 4: Barbara's Bookstore, Chicago, IL
November 5: Magers and Quinn Bookstore, Minneapolis, MN

YOU CAN GET THE BOOK FOR FREE ===> Just leave a comment on this post or HERE. One lucky winner will be drawn from my magic hat at midnight this Thursday (10/15)


In other news... Nathan Bransford is having another FABULOUS FIRST PARAGRAPH CONTEST. The man's insane - already 500+ entries on day 1.

The Reading... Have I told you how much I love, love, love GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon? Amazing book. I don't 'get it' all the time, but it is an amazing work of art. Yes, I said art. Magnifico! I'll be at it for a few more weeks.

The Writing... Just finished METHOD WRITING short course by Jordan Rosenfeld. If you have a chance to take one of her courses, do - it is time and money well spent. NaNoWriMo starts in 19 days (!!!!!). I'm looking forward to 30 days of prose insanity. Buddy me (drwasy). Meanwhile, I'm mucking around with some shorts, some poems, BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, all distractions before I plunge again into PURE in a few days.

Life is full... outta here for a few days for basic training (the day job).

Peace, Linda

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Perfect Day - #fridayflash

Later, much later, when the shock wore off, people always asked, “Where were you?” That Tuesday, the one morning of the week I didn’t have to rush out to lecture the undergrad minions or schlep glassware for lab, found me in the kitchen with coffee and The Globe, relaxed, happy even. “One of the ten best days of the year,” the weatherman promised me earlier when my willing feet swept me along the Charles River, the dawn cracking into a shocking blue canvas. But the adrenalin rush soon eroded, it always does, and aloneness and self-doubt rippled through my cramped apartment, pricking at me to flip on the dusty ten-inch tube, a relic from the latest in a string of relationship disasters dating back to my birth. Chirpy babble filled the empty space, assuaging my weariness, but then a voice, urgent, erupted past my anesthesia and when I swiveled around, flames coiled around the tower; white billowing smoke obscured the building’s twin, a negative background to black specks flailing from gaping floors, even the ninetieth, his office. As the building telescoped into itself, smudging the faultless sky with its smoldering detritus, I vaguely wondered if my father was in Japan.


Thursday's flawless blue sky reminded me of That Day, which turned out to be a pivotal one for my character Ben. An earlier version of this appeared in Six Sentences on February 3, 2008. Excerpted in part from PURE.


PLEASE, leave a comment HERE and win BEG, BORROW, STEAL, a wonderful memoir by Michael Greenberg, author of HURRY DOWN, SUNSHINE.

Peace, Linda

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fiction: Live! In a Neighborhood Near You

My characters have problems, big problems, as they should; we want to give our protags grief. Like Kevin, my pill-popping, patch-chewing anesthesiologist. I base Kevin and a host of other mentally-ill and addicted characters on my research, for behind every data point is a real live story.

But the data came uncomfortably close this past week when a post-doc who studies the effects of drugs on the brain died after injecting buprenorphine ("bupe"), an opioid used as a "heroin substitute" for recovering addicts. The woman's boyfriend, also a post-doc conducting similar research, was arrested on possession. Both worked on my campus.

Last month, prescription drug abuse pricked my life when my pharmacist was arrested for distributing and using pain killers and tranquilizers. As someone expert in the abuse and diversion of medications, you'd think I might have noticed.

Prescription drug abuse is insiduous and hard to detect. There's reasons why users prefer prescription drugs: they aren't as dirty as heroin and other street drugs, they provide a reliable high, and they are available. Especially to the health professionals who prescribe, dispense, and administer controlled medications, and ther esearchers who study their effects. Addiction has many faces, most of them familiar to us all.

The tragedy of these two young people leaves me shaken, and determined to continue PURE.


DON'T FORGET ===> BEG, BORROW, STEAL Book Giveaway! Time is a ticking!

Peace, Linda

Thursday, October 01, 2009

when i refuse the lithium - #fridayflash

the angels whisper a cacophony -- unsullied by any elemental metal
i effervesce up up up to blinding sun -- swathed in immortalizing
armor i surge feet pumping a limitless engine immune to flames
licking from joy’s corona -- mad elixirs in my brain swirly
whirly bombard microcosmic synapses dopaminated nerves electrify
crimson corridors connecting muscle to mind

i hurl heavenwards

wings beat down the stalking shadow -- from here nurse is an ant
her entreaties flutter in my maelstrom -- i pause listen consider
the idiocies and the blazing beckoning white -- but bliss melts
blue hot hot hot -- my seraphim falter whistling screams on the
dive bomb their waxen pinons crackle-pop my legs and arms scrabble
in endless air -- nurse chortles at my spiral her teeth a jag
of evil normalcy -- minute orbs roll in her upturned palm

my shrunken incinerated hand hovers

The sun scuttles behind the moon, turning sky to asphalt, sulfurous and lovely.


Just playing, a very experimental piece for me.

AND CHECK OUT MY CONTEST - a free copy of BEG, BORROW, STEAL - A WRITER'S LIFE by Michael Greenberg can be yours!

Peace, Linda