Is it Time to Purge Your Bookcase?

  • November 26, 2018
  • Blog

“Too many books?” you cry. “How can I have too many books?”

It happens. Maybe others in your household have grumbled complaints or given you the stink eye as they tried to find a place to sit. Maybe your home is neat and clean but feels tiny and cramped.

A Farmers Market, Delicata Squash, and Laurie Colwin

  • October 01, 2018
  • Blog

I went to the Pleasantville train station this weekend to pick up a friend and there was a farmers market set up in the parking lot. I’m a sucker for farmers markets. They always give me the feeling of a tiny village congregating to do their daily shopping, with the scent of fresh dill and apples in the air.

Happy Anniversary, Penheads!

  • September 17, 2018
  • Blog

celebrate photo

Last weekend I celebrated the formation of The Penheads—25 years of writing in our group. Over dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village, we discussed our current writing projects and looked back at our past.

As I’ve said elsewhere, we didn’t immediately form into a perfect group like some mystical key-in-a-lock connection or love at first sight. We met when we all worked in the same office, the publishing division of a financial organization. It made sense: we gravitated toward fiction and it was a natural progression to form a writers’ group.

We’ve had only a few rules, but they’ve stood the test of time:

Keep the group number limited to five people. Sometimes it’s difficult finding time to meet, and a larger number would increase the difficulty.

All of us meet or none of us do. We each have different viewpoints and are necessary to provide well-rounded critiques. (There have been rare times when we didn’t adhere to this rule, but the lack in our dynamic was obvious. We’re all needed.)

As with any group, there have been ebbs and flows in the work we’ve done, but we’ve persevered. Writing is life.

May all writers be as fortunate to find a group that tells the truth when something sucks and gives suggestions on how to fix it.

Here’s to at least 25 more years!

R.G. Emanuelle

J. M. Levinton

Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

Arielle Prose

Anne E. Wagenbrenner



* Photo by Nickgesell (Pixabay)


I Was Illiterate

  • April 22, 2018
  • Blog


“Your child will never learn to read.”

That’s what my first-grade teacher told my mother on open school night. With one sentence, she consigned me to a lifetime of illiteracy.

Eclectic Reading or Who I Really Am

  • April 09, 2018
  • Blog

I’m a reader as well as a writer. How else could I know the magic of books? Here’s my current reading list, which covers urban fantasy, thrillers, and crafting.

What’s on your reading list?



Why There’s No Picture of Me

  • March 11, 2018
  • Blog
  • No Comments


So far, my views have remained the same:

To Be or Not To Be…Seen



*Image courtesy of scottchan at

ASL, My Novel, and Being a Little Evil

  • February 19, 2018
  • Blog

In a prior blog I wrote how hard it is to describe the genre urban fantasy. Now I need to explain it in a different language. (Talk about ambitious. Heh.)

Learning ASL (American Sign Language) is not the same as learning English. The grammar of each is completely different from the other’s.

But signs are only half the language. Imagine talking in a monotone and saying “I’m happy.” No one would know how you meant it.

In ASL, facial expressions are the equivalent to tone of voice in English. It makes a difference if your eyebrows are drawn together or your mouth is puckered. Each nuance changes the meaning.

When my ASL teacher told us to make a video on any topic we wanted for fun, I wasn’t thrilled. I’m not comfortable in front of the camera (although I’m getting better at it). My teacher’s idea of “fun” vastly differs from mine. Then an evil thought crossed my mind.

My teacher doesn’t like reading books in my genre.

So I’m going to make a video in ASL, talking about my book Magical Ties. (Cue cackling laughter in the background.)

Considering my sparse vocabulary, talking about a book that includes demons, murder, and relationships is going to be a challenge.

But it’s good practice, a unique way of thinking about my story and how to make it appeal to someone who might be open to trying something outside their usual preference. (For the record, I don’t expect to change my teacher’s mind. We like what we like and that’s it. But it’s the closest I can have to “fun” in this situation.)

One final note: I’m not going to post the video. It’s going to be an amateur effort in a beginner’s class and there’s a steep learning curve. Maybe another video some day!

5 Steps to Deal with the Winter Blues (Part 2)

  • January 15, 2018
  • Blog

One year ago I wrote “5 Steps to Deal with the Winter Blues.” The ideas work, but over the year it was sometimes difficult to do the things that would make me feel better. I thought about getting a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp but didn’t know where to start.

Sometimes it’s as easy as a search online. I started reading Winter Blues, Fourth Edition: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder, by Norman E. Rosenthal. It gave me information that helped me purchase a SAD lamp.

The current thinking is to use the lamp for periods of 15 minutes or so (up to one hour). I turn mine on in the morning and read while eating breakfast. Fifteen minutes later my timer dings and I turn off the lamp. It’s that easy.

But does it work? For me, I’d say yes. It’s not that I’m suddenly euphoric, it’s that I’m able to continue throughout my day with better feelings. Is it a placebo? Frankly, I don’t care. Whatever works to get me through the dark and cold and keeps the negativity from bleeding into my thoughts and sapping my will (without compromising my health!) is fine with me.

In case anyone is wondering, this is the model I bought:

Verilux HappyLight Liberty 10,000 LUX Light Therapy Energy Lamp


Up in the Adirondacks

  • November 06, 2017
  • Blog

I spent a long weekend in the Central Adirondacks with a group of friends. It was exactly what I needed, the catching up, the laughter, and especially, those mountains surrounding me.

Day two began with a power outage that lasted most of the morning, and we fortified ourselves with cold cereal and muffins. By the afternoon, everyone was out, either hiking on trails, puttering along the lakes in a motor boat, or hanging out in their own cabins. I sat at the table in my cabin and began writing. The mountain facing me radiated absolute quiet but not silence. Peace steeped my bones, and my pen worked diligently across the page.

There wasn’t time to do a lot of writing, but that moment of solitude and clarity was the spark. At least it worked better than me trying to light the fireplace. For the record, what you’re seeing in the photo below is the newspaper burning. Alas, the logs were too damp to catch on. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

There isn’t much more to say except yes, it was hard to leave.

But here’s someone who was glad to see me when I returned home. And thankfully, the writing spark is still going strong.

A Writer’s Roots – Guest Post Arielle Prose

  • September 18, 2017
  • Blog

writing background photo

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.


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