Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mary Doria Russell, Michael Grant Jaffe and I will be on Around Noon (WCPN 90.3 FM) tomorrow, Monday, Sept 14th, to talk about our upcoming event at Case Western Reserve University on October 10th. The luncheon will be a lot of fun. Please think about coming. Reservations are necessary.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Save Our Libraries

Save Our Libraries!

You have less than 72 hours to act!Governor Stickland has proposed to cut library funding by $227 million.
Why should you care?Your library may not be open when you need it.
But you may be able to prevent it if you act now. Call or email your legislators before June 26 and let them know you need your library now more than ever.
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland614-466-3555 Contact Governor Strickland

Use this form to contact your legislators.

Visit to find more information on how you can help.

Friday, May 15, 2009

my kids are adults! Yikes.

Hi K,

My daughter just graduated from college! The sign she's holding says, "More-ah Roth" -- so they can pronounce her name.

And my son has started his own business--selling exercise equipment. So if you need something, go to: and tell him that I sent you.

I'm so proud of both of them.



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dom DeLuise

Hi K,

It's been a while. Sorry. Last month of school and all. Grading 36 student's stories right now. I hate having to put a grade on creative writing. Puts me in a bad mood. Let me just teach. . .

Anyway, quick note. I saw that Dom DeLuise died. Sad. He seemed like a nice guy. My parents knew him, and I was always told that he fed me my first bite of real food--a can of mushed-up baby food peas, I think. He happened to stop by the day my mom was going to try something besides formula, and asked if he could feed me. Guess it worked out well, since I'm perfectly happy eating these days. So here's to family stories, and to Dom DeLuise.

Peace and all good things,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Here's to Librarians (one in particular)

Hey K,

So, I read this novel, maybe thirty years ago, about the Irish potato famine, and the story always stuck with me--the way the government wouldn't let the people grow anything but potatoes even though most the potatoes had the blight and would make people deathly sick if they ate them. Maybe ten years ago I started looking for this book again. It wasn't on my shelves. I went to libraries and found another novel or two (there really aren't as many as you might think) about that time and place, but never found the one I had read before. Recently I started that search again. I found a reference to a book, Famine, by Liam O'Flaherty, written in 1937, and Ron brought it home for me from the library. It sort of had the same story, but it wasn't the right one either. The writing was so old-fashioned and heavy and cluncky, not the great read I remembered. I told Ron it wasn't the right one, and he asked me what I meant. I hadn't even explained to him I was trying to find a book I once loved. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked. "That's what we librarians do. Find books."

But all I knew was that I read it thirty years ago, and --well what I told you already--it was about a family living, or dying to be more precise, during one of the famine's in Ireland.

Well, of course, he found it! He brought it home that night, and I'm so loving it again. It's called The Famished Land, by Elizabeth Byrd. It didn't come up in any of my searches, and it's far from a best seller. (I really thought it must have been a best seller if I loved it so much!) Anyway, here's the really weird part. The main character, a sixteen year old girl, who's story we follow, who struggles with famine and poverty and love and family. . . her name is Moira!

I did not remember that. But did I, somehow, when I insisted my daughter's name be Moira? With that spelling? What our brains, and hearts, do! Life can be so cool sometimes. And a good book can make us smile.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Hey K,
I've been sort of waiting to write until I had something good to tell you. Tired of the same old complaints. Well, there's a lot of good in my life, those things like family, friends, having a place to live, a good book now and then. But nothing to actually blog about. So how about you? Any good news from you or anyone else?

Oh, Thrity Umrigar's novel, The Weight of Heaven, is coming out in April, and is getting wonderful pre-pub reviews! So I guess there still is a publishing world, and good books coming out. I'm wishing Thrity the best of luck with this one.

So really, any good news to share?


Monday, February 2, 2009

book group

Hi K,

I'm going to be running a book discussion group at Loganberry Books. Harriet asked me if I would be interested in doing this, and without much thought, I going to be on the 4th Thursday of each month--Survivor night, and I never miss Survivor, but I guess the idea of talking about books, surrounded by books, in this lovely bookstore, just seemed like a fun thing to do, and I can tape Survivor. Harriet and I talked about what kind of group this would be, and we both agreed we would chose "not new" books--it is a used and rare bookstore! There are so many books I've missed anyway, and so many I love and want to talk about with other book lovers. Just a few weeks ago Harriet turned me on to 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, and we figured that would be a good place to start this group--a fun, sweet, short book about a woman who loves books, and her correspondence with a bookseller in London. Harriet knows all sorts of stuff about this book and the author, so she'll be there to share what she knows. You can read about the book group on the Loganberry blog. Maybe you can come? It would be great if my friends came. We could have fun. And I know you could suggest a few books we should read.

Talk later,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

toe in the water

Hi K,

Did you read that thing in TIME, about the future of publishing? It's pretty interesting. It's called Books Unbound, by Lev Grossman. There's a lot to talk about after you read this, but the reason I'm mentioning it now is that I've certainly been afraid of putting my writing out on the web, for a lot of reasons--one, that it hasn't been professionally edited, two, that no one's actually asked for it, and three, that I'm vain and hoped that what I write will be published on paper, and I'll even get paid for it. It does seem, according to Lev Grossman, that many writers are not going to be making money in the same way they used to. So I guess it's a bit like blogging. I ought to give it a try.

And, along with that, I've always been afraid to send my poetry out because it's really personal, and it's not great poetry, I just write it for me. (Many of my stories come out of my poems.)

Anyway, I now climb ladders at work (yep, really, no kidding, who would of thunk it, me being afraid, big time, of heights--any heights), so I'm going to push myself here, too, and post a poem. Nothing to it but to do it. (That's what I say with each step up those ladders--holding books no less.) So here goes.

August 27th, 1966
Sleeping in the slat-wood barn
I wake to a chipmunk on my chest,
a trembling, fur-covered heart.
I scream and he scurries off.
I’m twelve and there’s nothing I can do
about chipmunks.

Last month my father hitched a rope
to a high branch,
made us a swing.
I push off, pull back, pump.
The woods applaud.
This is easy.
This I can do.

My mother cooks cabbage soup,
my father’s favorite.
Upstairs, he coughs that cough,
as if he were cutting down a tree,
or a forest. Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop.

I sleep in the barn again,
pretend there’s three feet of snow outside,
a wolf pacing the roof,
my parents dead, not dying.
I will kill bears to survive.

I practice being alone.
In time, I’ll be perfect.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a wrench

Students often ask what to do when they get stuck writing a story. They’ve got a few characters, a time period, place, and a situation, but nothing much is happening. There are all sorts of answers I can give, but one of them is the wrench theory. Sometimes you just have to throw a wrench into the machinery that is just plowing along, taking you only where you expect it to take you, like a large clock, ticking away. Throw a wrench into the gears and sparks fly, smoke billows out, maybe even something catches on fire. People come running. Someone has to do something. Nothing is ever the same. I read about this in some how-to book on writing. It said, "Have a tree fall on someone. See who comes running." I used that advice, and you can see the tree falling in THE REHEARSAL. My characters did things that I didn’t expect–and this is the important part, that after you throw a good sized wrench in, watch and see what your characters do. And hope they surprise you.

I remind my students that this is basically how life works. You’re sailing along, dealing with stuff, handling it somehow, although it may not always be easy. Then you get that phone call, or a drunk driver slams into your car, or the guy at work you hardly know tells you some horrible secret, or your daughter ends up in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (you thought she just had the flu) and it turns out she has sudden onset Type 1 Diabetes, and she’ll have to give herself insulin shots every day for the rest of her life, and you are afraid of needles, and can’t imagine how she is going to deal with this, and everyone cries, and then, oh my god, she figures out how to do all this amazing stuff, checking blood sugars, giving herself shots, measuring carbohydrates, giving up most simple sugars, and hardly a week has passed, but life has changed, and you’ve found out that your daughter, who you know so well, can still completely surprise you.

Literary fiction is character driven. It’s about the characters. The plot is how a character deals with a problem, or problems. Plot devices are the war, the tornado, the tree falling, the diabetes, the problems. Sometimes we have to do bad things to our characters to see who they really are, and what the plot is about. And the fun part is when they surprise us.

And yes, it’s been a rough few weeks here, but my daughter is an amazing young woman. I’ll get back to fiction soon. Right now I’m just wondering where the hell that wrench came from–not the most productive question though. Things just happen, right out of the blue. As a writer, you get to be the wrench thrower. As a human being, you can get hit pretty hard. I am so lucky to be able to say she’ll be fine. Sometimes that’s not what people can say. My heart goes out to them.

Peace and all good things, such as health and happiness.