Did you miss me? Thank Covid.

A member of our family was struck by Covid and for a while we were all scrambling to make sure she and her children were taken care of. Fortunately for Ed and me, we had not been in direct contact with that household for a couple of weeks, but we are nonetheless being abundantly cautious. Still, we are all just gobsmacked.

See you next week.

What keeps you from writing?

Must admit, I’ve been working on this more than my writing:


So much in the world today needs changing and is worrisome, heartbreaking, traumatizing, even. It’s hard to know where to look or how to cope or, especially, how to concentrate.

European capitals lit up for the people of Ukraine.

In times like these, it’s very hard to have the concentration, the mental acuity, the hope, even, to write or create. At times like these, I often turn to poetry to keep my writing mind in shape.

This is me reading Fruitcake: Poems by Lisa Badner.

Swimming, petting my dogs, and my flowers provide a little relief. Still, I know things are not right with the world and that it’s my job, as long as I draw breath, to try to leave better things behind me.

Also, I know that other writers have gone through horrible times and made a reason for writing out of those very issues that broke their world apart. One thinks of Walt Whitman, writing, walking, nursing troops during the Civil War. (Talk about partisanship!) Or the incredible June Jordan, who wrote us through the most extreme dangers of the Civil Rights era. And today there are folks trying to do the same, like the thought-provoking, productive, life-affirming Roxane Gay and Meg Pillow. Don’t know them? Please look them up.

My question for you, today, is what keeps you from writing, and what draws you back to it? I’d really love to know. Write me anything in the comments below and I will respond.

And, as always, please hit the like button AND share this blog post with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., via the social media buttons to the right.

Thanks for reading. Oh, and if you haven’t signed the petition above, please do so! Use the link in the caption to get there. And share it also with your friends with the social media buttons you find on the petition page. Thank you!


The Weaver’s Knot is playing by the sea.

Where’s YOUR Sass?

When I was small, the worst thing I could do, I was convinced, was to “sass” my mom. At least, that’s what she led me to believe when she got that crazed look in her eye, usually right after she’d taken off her weaver’s apron and started to serve dinner. If I even looked like I disagreed about something, she’d zing, “Don’t you dare sass me!”

Now, of course, I know she was extremely tired after a long day running back and forth in front of six big looms, trying to keep them going so there were no “slubs” in the cloth they were making. (These days, I read that a blouse, say, is made from “slubbed” cotton and I can’t even imagine wearing it. My mother would never!) And then she had to come home and get dinner on the table.

Usually, my older sister and I would have started dinner, baking or frying chicken, cutting up potatoes, pulling a vegetable or two from the bin. But my mother liked to add her own touch, and, I must say, no food I’ve ever had was better than hers. (Different, but not better!) I don’t know what magic she used, but everything tasted better when she was done. And we were never entrusted with the making of biscuits. We had biscuits at every meal, unless she served beans, in which case there was cornbread, which I could make before I was 10.

Looking back now, I wish I had been taught, made, induced to sass. I wish my mom had been Dorothy Parker in all her vicious eloquence. Knowing how to talk back to a grabby boss, how to curse rude strangers on the street, how to get that sprawling teenager out of the bus seat so I could sit down, would have been handier than knowing how to make guests comfortable in my home. (You can get your own linens, right? There’s nothing wrong with your feet.) As it was, I had to learn it on my own, or, rather, my NOW (National Organization for Women) sisters taught me. But that’s a story for another day.

This weekend, I went for the very first time to a pro-choice demonstration in my hometown, the Southern city I left when I was eighteen years old. Sass was there in abundance, loud and very defiant. That is how we have to be now, not just about abortion rights, but also about white nationalism and the insane number of weapons on our streets. I never wanted to tolerate any of that, and I have a feeling other people are reaching their boiling point, too. I hope you are one of this mighty, furious majority. Kindness will not cut it with people who think their right to own an assault weapon is more important than our right to buy groceries or attend church in peace. Or with the people who think their religious beliefs should dictate how you handle your body, or with the folks who fear being a minority so much because they know how minorities are treated in this country.

Be loud. Be incensed. Be effective.

Study Hall: On Timely Tweets, Our Uteruses, ETC

How many of you use Twitter? Many women my age don’t. Let me tell you why I think that’s a bad idea.

First of all, #writingcommunity will get you everything from journals open for submission now to lit agents looking for specific kinds of writing. Don’t know what a hash tag is? Well, it’s a way to shorthand and categorize your tweet so people can find it. And you can find tweets on almost any subject by searching for the topic in Twitter’s search engine. So if you use the #writingcommunity, your tweet will likely get seen by more people. In my haste, I often forget the hashtag, and thus are speaking only to my followers. But, hey, it takes practice, like anything worthwhile.

Writing these days is all about “platform,” it seems. Agents and publishers want you to have a few thousand Twitter followers, at least, and so forth on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, and other social media apps. So learning the ropes is definitely worth your while if you want to be more widely published.

Speaking of which, I am very happy to have an essay on the speculative work of Caren Gussoff Sumption on the new website https://romacanon.co.uk. Caren is one of my favorite writers with whom I’ve become friends. Her latest, Three Songs for Roxy, is a wonderful example of how Romani characters should appear in spec fiction, instead of the glaring stereotypes we often find (Witches, anyone? Hag? Dazzling Esmeraldas?) Give it a look and let me know what you think. https://romacanon.wordpress.com/2022/04/17/caren-gussoff-sumptions-non-exotic-and-completely-believable-fictional-roma/ Caren has a new book coming out soon, and I can’t wait to read it.

In the meantime, Twitter is all, well, atwitter, about Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform and the leaked Supreme Court decision on abortion. So, of course, two clever writers merged the two issues into a hilarious but ominous piece:



https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/a-reimagining-of-your-uterus-which-i-elon-musk-now-ownhttps://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/a-reimagining-of-your-uterus-which-i-elon-musk-now-own https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/a-reimagining-of-your-uterus-which-i-elon-musk-now-own

So, you see, it’s worth it to plumb social media for all it’s worth.

As always, please like and comment below, use the social media buttons to share and RT (retweet) if you’re so inclined. Thank you for reading! I’ll be here all day to answer questions, reply, have conversations, whatever you like.

Study Hall, May 3, 2022

With the news that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is circulating a draft decision that would overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision and allow states to outlaw abortion without exception, if they choose, people keep asking me how I feel. They’re asking because they know that I gave many year— most of my life, in fact—to the fight for women’s rights. My husband, who knows me best, simply came and gave me a kiss when he heard the news.

How I feel about it is not complicated. It’s encapsulated in the quote from Jill Ruckelshaus, above. Jill was a very brave woman, a Republican who fought within the party for women’s equality. She held many offices, in the White House, at the state level, and in the UN, and they all revolved around women’s rights. (Her husband, Bill Ruckelshaus, was a very brave man, one of the Justice Department officials who refused Nixon’s order during the Saturday Night Massacre. Look it up.)

Many of us did what Jill urged. We fought first for the ERA, which would enshrine women’s equality in the U. S. Constitution, so that any abrogation of our rights would need to be justified at the highest level of scrutiny, and also for women’s reproductive rights. I was an officer, then President of Illinois Now, during the times when we fought tooth and nail to keep the Radical Right from throwing young and poor women under the bus after Roe became law. (Note, we did not then realize that we should also be fighting for the rights of trans men, or nonbinary people, to control their reproductive rights.)

It was vicious—Phyllis Schlafly was often in our state—but worse were the religious zealots who flung blood at us, bashed us with their signs, spat at us, and otherwise showed their fine Christian principles, while we escorted women into clinics or lobbied legislators. Once, at a counter-demonstration, one of them, a kindly looking grandfather type, told my son that his mommy had tried to kill him. They sent a constant stream of postcards of bloody ”fetuses,” to make sure I knew that they knew where I lived. They called to threaten my life and that of my family. I had a job and two children, and then I came home to work nearly all night every night, after brief family time, on our issues, making calls, drawing up agendas and memoranda and emails, writing speeches which I then had to deliver, though it made my knees shake. I learned to not let it show.

We had little help in the media. Once, we organized an evening of personal witnessing in downtown Chicago by women who had had illegal abortions, and both women and men who had lost mothers, sisters, aunts, friends, to backalley abortions. Several media figures accused us of “sensationalizing” the issue with that program. None covered it as the chilling, agonizing look backwards that it was.

So how I feel is that I cannot outlive Brett Kavanaugh’s or Amy Coney Barrett’s, or, in truth, this conservative majority’s time on the court, barring some Cosmic intervention. We will need a Constitutional amendment to make all people truly equal before the law and national legislation like the Women’s Health Improvement Act, to codify Roe vs. Wade. I will fight as hard as I can as long as I can, but younger and healthier women and men, trans and nonbinary people and will have now to lead the charge.

So be brave, in your mind, in your interactions with others, in your speech, in your actions. And in your writing! All our lives depend on you.

And please, please both like and comment below!

Study Hall, April 26, 2021: Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

Hello again. Yesterday was a perfectly terrible, effed up day, so today we are starting out fresh and rambunctious because there’s no way to go but up. So why not tear out all the stops and tackle the knots in my new novel, and while I’m at it try to solve the lack of something in my latest short story. Maybe I’ll even get up enough courage to send my poetry manuscript to an editor friend and poet who offered to look at it for me.

Wait, you say that’s a good agenda for a week or two? You’re right. Sometimes I have to stop myself from being too ambitious and make myself focus. So maybe I’ll take another look at the poetry manuscript and send it to that editor plus another friend who’s really an editor but won’t call herself that (Looking at you, L) whose word I really trust. And while I’m at it, here’s my bit of cheek for today:

If you haven’t yet read my novel, Eve’s Garden, or have a friend who hasn’t, please hop on over to the EVIL EMPIRE, Amazon, and purchase an e-copy or send one to that friend. Unfortunately, it’s only available as an e-book right now, as my very small publisher took it out of print so she could publish new books. (Or, rather, she kept saying she was going to, so I said, go ahead and put me out of my misery.) I hope I can sell enough ebooks to make it worth another publisher’s while to republish it, along with its sequel, coming up next after this latest little offbeat romance novel. Want to help me in my quest? Thank you and may the goddesses bless.

You see, I didn’t know then what I know now, that most authors who are midlist (or not on any list because their publisher is too small) have to hire their own publicist to do what all publishers should be doing, which is treat your book like it’s your life’s blood. This was a change from when I myself was a small publisher about a decade before. I had done all the things most industry whizzes say an author should do, start a blog, mention your book in ever-new ways on social media, put out a newsletter, talk to bookstores to organize readings, and so on. But there are things an author can’t easily do for herself, like write reviews, or have them written, nominate the book for appropriate awards, etc. Those things should be done by your publisher, but if they don’t, do it half-heartedly, or they are too busy to do it promptly, it has become industry standard to hire your own publicist to stir that soup. So now I know and have my eye out for candidates.

In case you’re also interested in what an agent/publicity rep has to say about book marketing and publicity, here’s a new newsletter from agent and book rep Cassie Murray Mannes that you may find enlightening. Let’s all learn together how not to make mistakes, or, at least, how not to make the same mistake twice.


And, please, please leave me a comment so I know someone out there is listening. I love you and may you have a fabulous day.

Scary Good News

Sometimes good news jangles as much enlivens us. That’s the kind of news I got a few days ago. A publisher to whom I had submitted a poetry manuscript gave me feedback suggesting some changes and asking me to resubmit. It took me about a week to calm my nerves. But today I am doing exactly as she suggested, making changes, retitling and I plan to resubmit after running the manuscript by a a few friends. It’s scar, because this has always been one of my goals, to publish in fiction and poetry and nonfiction. (Why narrow my dreams?) Oddly, my first writings and my initial publications were in poetry, so it’s strange to me that I first published a novel rather than poems in book form, but, hey, writing is a wild journey, and often unpredictable. One thing I have learned, though, is that when an editor asks you to resubmit, you do it, whatever else you have going on. So here goes. Wish me luck. And what are you doing to get your voice out there?

Study Hall, April 12: When You’re Stuck

Writer’s block isn’t a major issue for me—maybe because I am always struggling to find enough time, what with health issues, family, and activism, to write all the stories going on in my head—but there are times when I know a particular character or plot point needs underpinning, though I can’t quite suss out what’s missing. I have two main methods to address these quandaries. One is to take a relevant workshop with a writer I admire. If I’m having trouble, say, with a particular character, I know that if I take a character framing workshop with a good writer, I will likely hear something that will help me round out the person in question.

I am having trouble with a beloved story that isnt getting quite the juice it requires. I suspect the issue is that my main character isn’t quite “bad” enough to show a really great learning curve in the story. So this month I’ll be taking a workshop on ”The Mighty and Flawed” from a very successful writer, Tommy Dean, author of the fiction books Covenants and Hollow, and editor at ”Fractured Lit.” Tommy is a pretty modest guy, so his workshops are “pay what you want”—irresistible to a senior writer like me. He has a bunch of short workshops coming up this month; check them out at https://www.tommydeanwriter.com .

My other method? It’s a writing prompt exercise I do now and then to spur my subconscious to write what my conscious mind won’t allow.

I’ll post a video of that prompt in a separate posting. In the meanwhile, happy writing to you!

Study Hall: April 5, 2022–Wordsmiths

Word games are a great way to start a writing session, especially at times when you don’t feel inspired. Pastimes like crosswords, word scrambles, and, yes, Wordle, can get us out of our everyday vocabulary and help jumpstart ideas. A favorite strategy of mine for such times is to make a list of nouns and verbs, then try to combine them into description without adjectives or adverbs. One of my favorites is the term ”jump master.” It’s vivid and provocative. There is a military designation using that term, but how about an eight-year-old jump master?

Wordle 290 5/6


Today I’m not feeling my manuscript, but playing around with words for a while may get me over my doldrums and into full scribe mode.

One of my early academic administrators, Dr. Dan Bern, called each of us on his grantwriting team “wordsmiths.” I love the idea that we’re crafting words through the crucible of inspiration into writing that soars, spins, serves. (There’s a reason they call political operatives “spin doctors.”)

Do you have a favorite word game that gets your writing dreams flowing? Drop me a line—I love to know about ways to cherish words!

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