Anything Else?

The first line of Lorrie Moore’s essay, How to Become a Writer, reads: First, try to be something else, anything, else. The essay goes on smoothly and brilliantly from here, and traces a writer’s progress from an early age to maturity, but the first line hangs with me. I spend all week looking at other […]

The Writer as Thief

Once, I had a painter boyfriend who used me as a model—a second-story paint studio flooded with light, one stool in the middle, and endless hours in a warm sun. He must have painted some four or five canvases, flowing long dresses, my hair twisted up on some. I don’t know where any of those […]

A Small Shift Forward

There’s this diner I’ve been frequenting for years, a brisk, tidy little place on the west side of Manhattan, run by a Polish family. Not long ago, I stopped in for breakfast and found it as always: the same man who greeted, saw us to a table, the same waitresses, the bus boys. The menu […]

The Plentitude of Soul

I have a friend I hear from intermittently: a Spaniard, seventy-something, a former Jesuit priest living now in Chile. His priestly version of the world is far more orderly and peaceful than my own and comes across in broken-English. His emails generally cheer and entertain, but a recent message confused me: If I were to […]

Blind Man, No Bluff

At a recent party hosted by one of my sons, a guest  told me about his college’s writing program. One teacher stood out, he said.  A pony-tailed guy (first description), who accepted everything I wrote (second description), and who gave me all the time I wanted and taught me how to do it. It’s not […]

How Much Does it Weigh?

I know an artist who works in metal, using tools like anvils and a blow torch in an unheated warehouse studio. Hard-tipped shoes are a good idea if you’re going to hang around and watch. Sparks fly, and the racket of her creation can be heard halfway across the field. In that field, by the […]

What’s Important?

At the café the other day, a writer-friend of mine named Bill noted the approach of his 65th birthday and announced that it was time to let go of everything except what was valuable. If it didn’t have value, he didn’t want to do it anymore. This made very good sense to me and I […]

What’s in a Name?

The novelist, film director, and screen writer John Sayles once told me that if he had his way, he’d name all his characters Ed. It’s so short, he said. He had things to say. Why type out a Sebastian or a Giancarlo when you just want to get to it? Compare this to the experience […]

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