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Is It Perfect?

I once read that the occupational disease of writers is depression. It’s not difficult to know why. Shall I suggest some reasons? The sheer all-but-impossibility of writing a perfect piece of work. The isolation. Low (if any) income. (The trend these days is ever lower,) Negative response to one’s work, which these days includes dismissive criticism on the anonymous internet.

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Thank you


The Thanksgiving tradition in my household is to go around the table and allow everyone to say what they are thankful for. There will be no such table at my home this year (thanks, Covid) though if the weather is decent, we shall share some outdoor dinner with my jobless (thanks, Covid) son and his delightful girlfriend. There are all

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No More Magic

Ideas from Real Life?

One of the questions I am often asked is, “Do you get your characters and stories from real life?” The answer is partly. An early book, No More Magic, had its inception at my oldest son’s fifth grade birthday party. It was a super hero costume party, and we held it in a park. One boy came dressed as the

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First sentence, last sentence

Dear Loyal Reader: I have written about the opening sentence of a story. It can be (should be) like a key that opens a box of treasures. But the last sentence of a book is equally important. If the first sentence opens things, the last sentence should close things—like a lock—with a satisfying click. So, here is a true story.

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Inventing Words

POLONIUS: What do you read, My Lord? HAMLET: Words, words, words. It is often claimed that the English language has the largest vocabulary, in part because it has taken in words from other languages. (Thus SKIPPER, the person in charge of a boat, comes from the Dutch language. CAPTAIN, from old French.)  It has also been suggested that Arabic may

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To Be Read Pile

Your Reading Recommendations

Dear Reader, If you subscribe to my newsletter, you received a request today to help me add to my to-be-read pile as we approach this long winter. Please enter your recommendation in the comments below. If you don’t yet receive my occasional newsletter, you can sign up for it here. There’s always news of what I’m up to as far

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Franz Kafka

A Kafka Story

Someone sent this story to me. I don’t know if it’s true (I hope it is) but in any case it’s a wonderful story about stories. At 40, Franz Kafka (1883-1924), who never married and had no children, was walking through a park in Berlin when he met a girl who was crying because she had lost her favorite doll.

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Word for the Day: Mononymous

Word for the day: Mononymous, writers using one name. Goodreads ran a list of the most popular mononymous writers. Not sure why, but they did. But it was, as this mononymous writer can attest, impressive. Here’s the list in order of popularity. The Republic. Ethics. Candide. Confucius. Poppy. Now, that’s rather rare company for my mouse friend, Poppy. I’m not

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Titles That Work

The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary says the word “title” is “Of multiple origins. Partly a borrowing from French. French title. Originally classical Latin titulus.”  A title is a key part of any piece of writing, the handshake, if you will, by which you are introduced to a book. Whether you go beyond the handshake is another matter, but the title can, I

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The Strand Bookstore

Book Row

When I was growing up in New York City, there was an area along Fourth Avenue which was called “Book Row.” It existed from the 1890s until the 1960’s. Over its six blocks stretch there were some thirty-six bookstores, mostly selling used books. As a teenager I used to wander about there, beguiled, looking at, and now and again buying

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