Study Hall, January 25, 2022

For those of you who are new, welcome! If you’ve been with me a while, you know that I have health problems. Wow, did they tank my ability to keep up this blog since late fall. But I’m back, thanks to physical therapy. Join me in a writing assignment for this week. Let’s see if I can make a few connections that might help you as they have me.

Sandwiches. Today I’ve been thinking about sandwiches and that always leads me to think about my dad, who worked as loom fixer in a textile mill. Dad always wanted sandwiches for his lunch, and I often made them for him. All of us kids knew we were not allowed to touch certain items that were reserved for Dad’s lunch: we were not to take the last four slices of bread, ever, or his jar of dried beef, or the lunch meat—usually baloney or olive loaf—that Mom bought for him. If we had recently cooked a ham, for Easter, maybe, then a certain portion of the ham was set aside for him. Untouchable, all of it.

Sandwiches, anyone?

This has me thinking of the items or actions that we reserve in fiction for certain characters, and also of the “ecology” of our stories that revolve around those actions or items. For video game players, this might be a bit like available tools in a game. For fantasy writers, action might revolve around a sacred or desired item, whether a magic cup or a throne. For crime or mystery, many scenes revolved around a dead body or a place of last sightings. Do you see where I’m going?

What if we tried to write a story around, for example, a sandwich. The story’s ecology, depending on the end goal in sight, might revolve around a family making lunches as they get ready and discuss their day’s problems or events. Or it might revolve around the lonely lunch room in a hospital where a nurse munches and considers her patients’ needs.

The object works a bit like a talisman around which we cast spells.

Pick an object that speaks somehow to one or more of your characters, maybe one that will display your character’s longing or desire. Write a scene around that object without making IT the point. What is your story’s ecology in reference to that object? As always, think setting, character, and begin at a point of action.

Feel free to post a snippet of your work below, or just describe how this exercise worked for you.

Happy writing!

Study Hall, October 26, 2021

Today I’m going to try drafting a piece of flash fiction with a historical content, similar to this piece by Laura Besley:

I love the way she begins at a point of tension and turns the story at the end with the briefest of very emotional vignettes. Smashing, and so economical! But what I love most is that she uses history and family history, at that, to illustrate very human conditions. I love history and I have learned a lot about it by exploring my own family’s stories. So this is a great example for me.

Do you have informing texts you want to emulate? Please share, if you do!

Have fun, and let’s check in with each other! Catch me by twitter @gbaileymershon or on Facebook/glendabaileymershon! See you in print!


Study Hall: Write with Us

Hi! For those of you who haven’t joined us before, the concept is simple:

I issue this reminder.

You choose your time if necessary, but, if possible, do it now.

Write whatever you like. (If you’re stuck, go to the Jane’s Stories Book Buzz page on Facebook and scroll down till you find a prompt that suits you––they’re posted frequently by our prompt guru, Judy Goodman.)

Leave us a note here about your intention, whatever you want to say about your writing plans and your goal for the day, whether it’s a certain number of words, a good beginning, to finish a piece, whatever.

On Friday, come to the Book Buzz and let us know how you did under the prompt that says “Check In.”

That’s it! Bon voyage on your writing journey, and, remember, you’re never alone. Reach out to me or other writers if you need a hand.

Today is Not in the Mood Day!

Imagine a photo of Grumpy Cat here. Nonetheless, I will be putting hands on the novel and maybe taking a leap to submit a poetry book manuscript, because I believe in the BUTT IN THE SEAT school of writing. #NoIDontWanna

What are you working on today? Leave me a note and cheer me up. If you do, here’s how I’ll look then:

Photo by Onur Binay


Today, on 9/11, I always take a tour around the Internet, searching for a poem of mine. It was published first on the poet Sam Hamill’s “Poets Against the War” website, but then was copied by various strangers to their own sites. I should have been upset about the unauthorized postings, perhaps, but then I gradually realized that the poem had a life of its own among others who had chosen it, and I let it be. A couple of times, I asked the posters to add my name, so it did not go unattributed. I did not ask them to take it down, because it seemed to me the poem was doing its work. Isn’t it true that all our words, once released, have a life of their own, one we’re not necessarily part of, one we cannot control, existing somewhere between our mind and the minds of those who receive them?

Well, today, I found the poem again, out there on the ’Net, living its life. I thought perhaps I would also give it a home on my blog, too.

Thanks to the Universe for bringing us through thus far. Prayers and tears for those who could not come with us to this new day. Many thanks for the heroes among us.


Watching the video for the thousandth time,
to see if you hesitated, even for a second,
I  ask, Tell me, how does one become a weapon?

How arcs a human like a speeding plane,
beyond flesh, not beyond sound, outpacing 
fear, desire, the upraised palm of compassion?

Were your hands steady on the controls?
Did you cry out in ecstasy, or in pain?
Feeling the impact like bones sucked clean

was there an instant of wonder?
Was your mother in your thoughts?
(They say the dying always cry out for their mothers)

Or were you thinking of the mother behind you,
how she clutched her child to her chest
as you would clasp a bomb?

And your own mother, did she spend the day watching the sky,
waiting for word of your certain death?
Or did she cook all day, lips tightened against the memory

of your head cradled against her chest?
Perhaps her thoughts were bent on those still around her table?
That night, did she suckle you in her dreams,

and did you turn into a tiger at her breast?
Where were you then––not before,
tasting a last sweet syrup of coffee, nor later

in your version of heaven, but then,
at that first second of hereafter?
Did you see what you expected to see?

Be well. When you can, please choose peace.


STUDY HALL! Write with us

August 17, 2021

I can’t be physically with you until late today, as I have some urgent medical problems to address. But I will be back and I will read all your comments, below.

A wise writer said to my class, in answer to how often she writes, “I try to lay hands on my manuscript once a day.”

I try to follow her advice. I don’t make it many days, but the goal helps me achieve more, because I can say that I’m just going to lay hands (or computer keys) on that manuscript today.

I offer this to you as a mantra, if it helps.

One of my post-pandemic, calming rituals

Breakfast every morning in front of this window that looks out on birds and forest. The day doesn’t feel complete without it.

My friend, Mei, Mei, my grandchild’s dog, has her rituals, too, but hers has been the same since she was a puppy. She’ll sit for hours like this.

What rituals have you gained during the pandemic? Please let me know.

Study Hall, August 3, 2021

So sometimes I’m going to be late. Sometimes I will not be able to be here at all. I will always leave you a note as soon as I’m able.

I have severe spinal arthritis and stenosis as well as frequent tremors. Fibromyalgia is the kind of arthritis that is extremely weather sensitive, and I have that, too, the result of damage to nerves and muscles from two auto accidents. Some days are, well, hairy to get through.

Today is one of those days. I’m having trouble wearing a shoe on my left foot, the terminus of damaged nerves. And I feel as if insects are crawling all over me, something that happens when the fibro kicks up. I hardly slept at all last night, also the result of fibro. Today is cooler and rainy and stormy, and I felt every drop, every jolt, of that coming.

So this is to say, I will be moving slowly today. But I will be moving, I have a morning appointment, but by afternoon I will be trying to extend a few scenes toward the end of my new novel, Men Who Love Chocolate.

What are you working on today? Please leave me a note in the comments section below.

August 2 is a Day of Remembrance

August 2 is not a day I like to remember, but I am duty-bound to do so, and thus am glad to do it. It is also a day we celebrate the survival of the Romani people.

Roma and Sinti Holocaust Remembrance Day

It is Roma and Sinti Holocaust Remembrance Day, a commemoration of the day that the Nazis imposed their final solution on the Romani camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Almost 3000 women, children, and men were slaughtered that night at Auschwitz. The Nazis had declared that all Roma, like the Jews, should be annihilated, the only two groups marked for genocide. They were only a few thousand of the nearly half million Roma and Sinti killed by the Nazis.

I dread this day because I understand from my own family story that knowledge of this genocide, leaking out from barely-acknowledged news reports, must have been the reason that my grandparents told their children very little about their Romani heritage. Up until that point, the family lived mostly in a mixed race enclave of people like themselves, a hodgepodge of Romanichals, Welsh Kale, and Manouche families, many with Cherokee and Catawba heritage as well, on the border of North and South Carolina. They kept to themselves, mostly married within that enclave, and told few outsiders about their history and how they came to be there. But my father’s generation knew very little about their history and did not speak the language. When I asked questions, they sent me to my Uncle George, who had been through one year of seminary and thus understood a little about the Romani Dispora and was able to say only that our family came originally from the East.

And that is exactly why the Nazis chose to annihilate our people. Our roots were in India, and thus we were Indo-Aryan, anciently. Our people were driven by wars, famine, and plagues, in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, into Europe, where prejudice against us built and became the false scholarship that led to the final solution.

Prejudice against Roma and Sinti exists to this day––in Europe, where our people are driven into ghettoes, forbidden school and employment opportunities, and often murdered outright by neighbors and police, and elsewhere. Look up Stanislaw Tomas. In Brazil, police hunt Roma and kill them with impunity. Yes, look it up.

In the United States, we are mostly invisible, but the fear that leads many of us to identify ourselves publicly as Native, as LatinX, or even to pass as white, if we can, is ending. Younger generations are proud that we have survived, are learning our language, are keeping our Romanipen, our music and arts, alive.

And to that we say, well done!

But there’s still work to be done, to make sure that no one forgets the 2,897 Roma killed that night in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the 500,000 more murdered throughout the Nazi regime.

If this story moves you, if the photo below of my grandmother haunts you as it does me, please join me in an action.

Ophelia Landreth Bailey

Dr. Ethel Brooks is a Romani scholar who served on the U.S. Holocaust Museum Board during the Obama administration. Please use the notes below to write a letter to your political representatives, asking that they see that she is reappointed. Only one other Romani person has served on the Museum Board, in the 1990s. We need a continuous presence to be sure that not one of the Roma and Sinti murdered by the Nazis is forgotten.

The Roma Advisory Council asks that we do three things:

Please share a statement about Roma and Sinti Holocaust Day on your social media. Feel free to use anything in this post as a template. Listen to testimonies of the Roma and Sinti survivors at And, please, write the letter from the template below to have Dr. Brooks reappointed to the U.S. Holocaust Museum board. Thank you.

Date: xx/xx/2021 [Your Name] [Home information]page1image241876992page1image241877264

Dear Representative/Senator/Congresswoman/Congressman [INSERT Name],
I am writing to support the efforts of Dr. Ethel Brooks to secure re-appointment to the United

States Holocaust Memorial Council.

As you are aware, Roma were a target of the Nazi-led genocide efforts in Europe during the period 1933-1945. There are an estimated 1,000,000 Roma in the United States today, people with personal family histories linked to these events, as well as cultural ties linking them to the wider fate and treatment of Roma worldwide.

Dr. Ethel Brooks was appointed to the Council by President Obama in 2015, serving a five-year term on the Council which ended in 2020. While on the Council, Dr. Brooks provided important perspective and representation for Roma and Sinti in the US and worldwide, for survivors, their families, and communities. Dr. Brooks has promoted recognition and remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti murdered at the hands of the Nazis, their allies, and other racist states during the Holocaust through her work on the Council and its Academic Committee, as well as through her presence on the US Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and its Committee on the Roma Genocide. During her term on the Council, Dr. Brooks was the only Romani American represented on the Council. Today, as a result of the Trump administration’s decision not to renew her term, there are no Roma on the Council.

Dr. Brooks is recognized as a highly respected member of the Romani American community. She is a professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Sociology at Rutgers University, where she is currently Chair and Graduate Director. She has served as a member of the United States Delegation to the Human Dimension Implementation meetings of the OSCE and was a speaker at the General Assembly for the United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony. Dr. Brooks has also represented the United States as the US-UK Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of the Arts London. Since 2015, Dr. Brooks has been the Chair of the Board of the European Roma Rights Centre, the world’s foremost human rights organization representing Roma. As part of the Council and beyond, Dr. Brooks has contributed to the work of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to keep Holocaust memory alive, to honor the victims and survivors, and to confront genocide, antisemitism, and antigypsyism. She also co-organized a Romani-American donation drive for the museum. Annexed here please find a short biography of Dr. Brooks.


Re-appointing Dr. Brooks to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council can help inspire Roma in the United States and around the world. It also will also send an important human rights signal to countries still working to dedicate proper remembrance to the Nazi-led genocide of Roma in Europe, as well as a signal of the United States’s renewed and continuingcommitment to diversity, and to ending discrimination in all its forms.

I hope you will encourage the Biden administration to make this important appointment in the public interest.

Sincerely, Your Name

UPDATE: My friend Jane made a wonderful suggestion to help you write those letters. Here’s some biographical information on Dr. Brooks:

Ethel Brooks is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology at Rutgers University. She has conducted research on a host of sites around the world including in London, Istanbul, Fall River, San Salvador, Dhaka and York City. Brooks is the author of Unraveling the Garment Industry: Transnational Organizing and Women’s Work (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) which received the award for Outstanding Book for 2010 from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the co-editor of the special issue of WSQ on “Activisms.” She has contributed articles to a number of academic journals, including Nevi Sara Kali and International Working Class History, as well as book chapters in Sweatshop USA: The American Sweatshop in Historical and Global Perspective, Eds. Daniel A Bender and Richard Greenwald, (Routledge, 2003) and Sociology Confronts the Holocaust: Memories and Identities in Jewish Diasporas, Eds. Judith Gerson and Diane L. Wolf (Duke University Press, 2007).

Professor Brooks is currently working on two book projects: Disrupting the Nation: Land Tenure, Productivity and the Possibilities of a Romani Post-Coloniality, and (Mis)Recognitions and (Un)Acknowledgements: Visualities, Productivities and the Contours of Romani Feminism, both of which focus on political economy and cultural production and the increasing violence against Romani (Gypsy) citizens worldwide. Her op-eds on the expulsion of Romani people in various European countries have recently appeared on “The Guardian”. She is also writing an article on “Missing Pakistanis: Gender, Citizenship and the Muslim Everyday,” on the limits and possibilities of writing about Pakistanis in the wake of the war on terror.

In 2011 Prof. Brooks was awarded a prestigious Fulbright-University of the Arts London Distinguished Chair Award and she spent the academic year 2011/2012 at TrAIN, the Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation. Part of the award supported Prof. Brooks’ delivery of a lecture series in conjunction with the Tate Gallery, London.

Thank you, again. #WeRemember #2August #Stand4HumanRights

China Apocalypse

The world probably knows by now that I am disabled and a bit elderly. That is, I’m a walking disaster about to happen. My family treats me as fragile and that’s fine with me, as long as they also love me and fear my wrath at the same time. I have spent a lot of years becoming formidable, and I don’t intend to lose that attribute now.

Which makes it particularly annoying to have to spend a good part of every morning figuring out what I can and cannot do that day.

Is this a minor China breakage or a Lenox Apocalypse kind of day? How many things will I drop and can I bend to pick them up? And if someone else has to pick them up for me, will I accept graciously? Gracious is also what I aspire to be, but it can be a struggle when I feel like a doddering old lady—my, my, what an awful thing to be in our society.

To be old is to be irrelevant. Most cashiers in most big box stores know this. Their eyes are busy roaming the oncoming lines for someone they might like to talk to instead of the Grey Panther in front of them. I make an effort to be gracious, nonetheless.

One of my younger female doctors recently completed a checklist audibly. “Sexually active, no.“ You can imagine how much I enjoyed startling her with a robust affirmative. With a large smile, of course, because one must be gracious.

Today is a possible China apocalypse day, so I am lying in my armchair with the heat and massage built in and working up to slowly, oh, so slowly, unpacking my husband’s grandmother’s China. It will happen one plate at a time, with both hands.

Sometimes I dream of twirling, and running, bouncing on trampolines, riding horses—anything that would send my family into hysterics if I actually attempted to do them.

Then I handle the China carefully and am, oh, so gracious while I serve whatever I have managed to concoct for dinner. A simple affair these days. But what leads up to it is always full of drama.

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