A Writer’s Roots – Guest Post Arielle Prose

  • September 18, 2017
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Author Arielle Prose, a member of The Penheads and published in two anthologies, checks in:

A Writer’s Roots


I had the good fortune to be paid a ten-day visit from French relatives, my first cousin and her husband. My cousin and I knew each other in France when we were little, before my family emigrated to the United States. We both share a few memories from that time, and from when I visited her when we were adults with our own families. That was twenty-three years ago, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

I say good fortune not only because we got to renew our ties to each other, but also because, as a writer always on the lookout for new material, it afforded me the opportunity to use the experience for a new story or two.

Communicating with each other in broken French on my part and broken English on theirs was a challenge at first (good thing for translator apps), but with each passing day we became more and more fluent in each other’s language. It was amazing to me to recall French words and phrases I once owned but had forgotten. It was as if a part of my personality had long been dormant and was now waking up again.

Throughout their stay, I was doing everything to make their visit memorable: preparing meals, planning sightseeing trips, or just relaxing at home, conversing and reminiscing. But at the back of my mind, the part that lies in wait for a story inspiration, writing possibilities were humming. What would their visit mean in the overall scheme of things? Would I write about our interactions? How we sized each other up, or quirks of our personalities? What we mean to each other, or the kind of bond we formed?

In the meantime, I should write a detailed journal of the visit, so I can draw on it when the time comes that I have a story, a message I want to relate.

My takeaway from my guests’ visit, a day after their departure, is that it feels good to dig into one’s roots, one’s past, and bring it present again, especially from old friends and relatives. But a visit to your old school, old neighborhood, or simply looking at old photographs, can also do the trick.


You can read Arielle’s stories in Hunger: Stories of Desire, Discovery, and Dissatisfaction, and Smoke: Tales Between Dark and Light.



  • September 11, 2017
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peace photo

That is all.


J. M. Levinton

World Trade Center survivor

Ground Zero volunteer

Happy Labor Day!

  • September 04, 2017
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Today is Labor Day in the U.S., a holiday that celebrates workers.

Happy Holiday!

A Day Trip to Toy Trains

  • August 28, 2017
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This weekend I drove to Flemington, NJ to visit Northlandz, listed as the world’s largest model railroad.

One tip: take walking shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of it following the path round and round inside the building. It’s deceptively large and the level of detail is breathtaking.

Flowers and World Building

  • August 21, 2017
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Years ago, my parents drove through a neighborhood on Long Island where lush, green lawns adorned the front of every house. Each lawn had one or two azalea bushes in bright fuchsia.

As we drove past manicured lawn after manicured lawn with that splash of fuchsia dotting a spot, I began to think of the Stepford Wives. My parents shook their heads at me and said they probably all used the same lawn service. A friend went one further and said the plants were probably best for the area given the weather conditions.

But my mind’s eye never forgot those almost-identical patches of land, one after the other. And my novel used that as a perfect spot for vampires to live, hidden inside that sameness.

I drove to Long Island a few days ago to see if that still existed.

“No,” said my friend. “Azaleas bloom in the spring.”


So I drove around neighborhoods and discovered that the flower of choice right now seemed to be black-eyed Susans. I called my friend from the car. “Why?”

“It’s drought tolerant.”

“I don’t think we’re in a drought.”

“We’re not, but drought-tolerant plants need less water so it’s better for the water bill. They last from summer to early fall,” she added.


I’ll be making more trips as the season turns to fall. World building can be a tricky business.



Can You Separate the Book from the Author?

  • August 14, 2017
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I thought I found a new book to read today. It sounded great, was written by an author with a solid track record (even though I hadn’t heard of him before—there are so many hours in the day, forgive me), and the book got good reviews overall.

My File Cabinet

  • August 07, 2017
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Let’s start at the end. The picture above is nice, isn’t it? Bright, cheery folders waiting to be stuffed with story ideas, research articles, snippets of works to be written someday, and more.

I bought my four-drawer file cabinet from a used-office-furniture store and the rods inside the drawers didn’t last long. Fortunately, buying replacements was easy. I headed to Staples and brought home a box of two, to start.

The instructions….Does anyone know if the people who write those things ever try them out? Ever? Apparently I was supposed to measure the drawer and choose one of the notches in the rod to snap off at that point so it would fit. They suggested using pliers to bend it at the notch until it broke off.

Maybe if you bench press 400 pounds.

A friend offered a solution. I drove to her house and she sawed off the pieces. But—oops—not at the notches because my drawers weren’t as deep as the shortest notch. Really, manufacturers, you couldn’t have created more notches to work with? It’s like wearing a sandal where that final notch still leaves it loose and I’d need to poke a hole to make it fit. And metal is much more difficult.

After sawing four rods, I headed home and opened a drawer. Stacked piles of papers greeted me. I dumped them onto a table and added the beautiful folders. Labels will be added as I create categories. Which is a topic for another day.


When Your Writing Goes Wrong

  • July 31, 2017
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You’re writing a story. You write a few pages, maybe a chapter or two (if it’s a novel), and then you reread it. Something is wrong. Maybe it’s the tone (too dark, too frivolous, too dry) or maybe the characters aren’t behaving the way you want them to. What do you do?

Step Away From the Computer and No One Will Get Hurt

  • July 24, 2017
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There’s an old I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel bet Ricky and Fred that they couldn’t manage without modern conveniences. Although the episode is really funny, I loved it for the actual doing of things, like baking bread and churning butter. I doubt I’d want to do that on a regular basis, but once in a while chores like that have a certain charm. Things take the time they take.

Book Review: The Girl with Ghost Eyes

  • July 17, 2017
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I love books that don’t feed me every tidbit of information but allow me to discover the meaning as I read. Or not. Some things I need to look up after. And that’s okay.

M. H. Boroson’s The Girl with Ghost Eyes is an urban fantasy that’s intriguing and serious, with magic and humor added to the mix. The many layers in this tale weave itself into a complicated tapestry that’s both old and new. Set in nineteenth-century San Francisco, it covers its history well regarding Chinese immigration and how women were treated. Add in magic (magic that doesn’t make those problems disappear) and it’s a fascinating story that doesn’t take the easy way out.

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