Poetry reading at Troy Kitchen, 9/8/19

The Spring 2019 Community Writers Workshop participants. Back row from left, Eliana Rowe, Jeffrey Aaron Stubits, Melissa Hurt, instructor and UAlbany alum D. Colin, Amy Nedeau, Stephanie Nolan, Karin Lin-Greenberg and Phyllis Hillinger. Front row, Linda Berkery, Michael Janairo, Patti Croop and Lynn Trudeau. Missing from the photo are Matresa Flowers, Daniel Gorman, Kendall Hoeft and Annika Nerf.

Check it out: I’m one of fifteen people who recently took part in the New York State Writers Institute Community Writers Workshop and will complete the poetry course with a public reading at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 8, at Troy Kitchen, 77 Congress St.

The event is free and open to the public, and marks the first time that NYS Writers Institute workshop participants will give a public reading.

Read the story in the Troy Record …


When do you give up on a book?

I quit a book the other day.

I’ve seen Harlan Coben books everywhere, but I had never looked at one. At the library, I picked up the audiobook version of “Six Years,” read by Scott Brick (who I think has done a great job with Justin Cronin’s “The Passage” and “The Twelve”).

I only made it through the first disc.

The novel’s title “Six Years” refers to the length of time from when the narrator, Jake, attends his ex-lover’s wedding to when he reads of her husband’s death (and attends the funeral). He reads the obituary, and then he attends the funeral and is surprised to find out that the dead husband was a doctor, had a teenage son, and his wife was some other woman instead of Jake’s ex-lover.

Here’s the problem: those facts (that he was a doctor, his wife’s name being different from the name of his ex-lover) are all things that should’ve been part of the obituary. Sure, I’ve worked in journalism for many years, and maybe that gives me a specialist’s knowledge about how a professional would write an obituary. Though I’m pretty sure most people would expect that kind of information. So it made me not trust this book. After all, Jake’s surprise – his need to get to the truth of the matter – seems to be the main engine of the book. But because it required him to go to this funeral, even though the obituary should’ve given him the same surprising information, the contrivance of the plot revealed itself too me far too readily.

Have you quit a book because the author tried, and failed, to use something in your area of expertise?

On writers and (not) reading

I’m sure I read a quote somewhere recently that said something along the lines that eventually a writer must decide to be either a reader or a writer.

Has anyone seen this quote? Do you know what I’m talking about?

The idea behind the quote struck me as intriguing (and maybe a little self-serving). After all, the common wisdom is that all writers must be readers. You have to read the language to know how to use the language, to know the history into which your words are joined. The thing is in my daily life I face a constant dilemma: when I’m not working at my day job, I can read OR write (or watch TV, sleep, do household chores, pay bills, cook, do laundry, buy groceries, socialize, etc.). Most often, though, it is choice between reading and writing. Writing usually wins out, and the guilt-inducing pile of books (in print and ebooks) grows larger and larger.

If I didn’t read, though, and if that quote that I think I saw recently that I can’t place now has any merit, then maybe I don’t have to feel guilty about not reading all the books that I haven’t been reading. (Though it isn’t clear to me if that quote means I can excuse my guilt when I’m not writing because I’m watching TV, sleeping, socializing, etc.)

The thing is, though, I’ve always been a big reader. A slower, reader, sure, but I have a large appetite for books. One of the best things anyone has ever said about me is that for me reading is like plugging me in.

There was a time when I only read big, old books: Les Miserable, Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Crime and Punishment. There was a time when I plowed through novels and short stories, consuming the published works of single authors such as Raymond Carver, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Chabon, Jayne Anne Phillips, Tolkien, and people whose new books I often consume right away, like Margaret Atwood. Lately, it’s taking me longer and longer to read anything.

My most recent purchase, the 1998 comic book series called Stone, which incorporates Philippine folklore in its story, has taken me more than two weeks just to read the first issue, and its not long at all — and its mostly pictures, too.

In some ways, with all the reading I do on the web — news, social media, work-related articles — I might be doing just as much reading, if not more, as I was doing when I was in graduate school, when the web was but a wee thing.

So instead of me thinking that my reading has slowed way down because of my age and my new need for reading glasses, I like to think it is because I’m a writer first and need my free brain time for not only the act of writing but also the thinking and processing and nurturing of the ideas, characters, actions and sensations that go into my writing.