Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Excerpt from Where I Am Born

Regarding the Old Man, b. Vilnius, Lithuania, 1921

The Old Man counted the days like beats.  He tried to put the image of his father and the other men out of his mind, but no amount of steps or days would accomplish that feat.  Nothing would ever be one note, one chord, or one pitch again.  Not forgetting, not believing, and definitely not living.  With the greatest clarity, he pictured his mother rubbing her throat, opening her mouth to sing, the songbirds perched around their summer home on the coast of Palanga.  The Old Man kept this sweet blue memory lodged in his parched throat, like a robin’s egg, making it difficult to swallow. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wednesday Writers Wanted: Blog here!

Hi Writers, Readers, Critics and Teachers,

I would love to host a guest blog on Wednesdays.  If you are interested in guest blogging, simply email me at

The general topic is writing but you can promote your latest project and most definitely deviate from topic.

I hope to hear from you!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I have just finished writing the richest, most delicious, calorie-laden new chapter.  It is guilt-free, and I am happy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When I remember my dreams...

When I remember my dreams, let me remember them in color, haloed and winged with fine small stitches holding scenes together.  

When I remember my dreams, let me remember peace and comfort.  I will carry these with me. 

Art by Heather Galler.
Mexican Folk Art Angel.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

weird day

WHEN you are working on a novel that is under contract, you don't anticipate gobs of misery, but I think that's only the case if the novel is complete when the contract is signed.  My book was not finished.  I had an idea and fifty pages.  That's it.

So, I am working very hard.  I am seriously on my fiftieth rewrite.  The funny thing is that when I go back and look at versions from 2010, the book doesn't seem to have changed.  It's completely different, the words and the order in which things happen, but everything else is the same: the characters and the plot.  Writers always say the soul of a book is in the first draft, and that's definitely the case with my novel.

I am currently trying not to write, trying to only think about one character and take some time away from the book at large, but it's difficult.  Starting August 26th, I will begin reading from page 1 and I hope that I LOVE it.  I hope that things fall into place effortlessly.

I had to take this break from the book to see the forest for the trees, but also: when I am away from my characters, I really miss them, and it makes spending time together even more rewarding.

That's a lot of kisses!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Old School VCU Gossip or When I Met My First Novelist

My first year of MFA school at VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University, there were only four poets admitted and four fiction writers.  I was the only female fiction writer.  I tip my hat and curtsy my skirt to Bill Tester and Gregory Donovan because they helped me get in.  I'd been rejected before.  I had actually taken classes through the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in order to refresh and find a reference to apply, but my instructor informed me that she didn't write letters of recommendation because it was "an academic conflict..."  Whatever the fuck that meant!  She also wouldn't accept or read more than three pages of text per class.  Go figure.  Lazy much?

So, I enrolled in night classes while teaching 8th grade English at L. Douglas Wilder Middle School.  My instructor, Bill Tester, did write a reference letter for me after our class together. I am still to this day over-the-moon grateful, and Gregory Donovan, who is now the chair of the department, was my first creative writing teacher at VCU, circa 1990.  I have just aged the poor man.  He's a gem.  (I had such a crush on him.)    

Digressing more, but you will like this:  On the first day of class, Bill Tester said, "Write about something you'd never write about."  I went home at 11 pm, having to teach the next day, and did just that.  I wrote about something pretty vile.  So much so that the following week when I shared what I had written, a girl in the class said, "I felt like I needed to take a shower."  Bill was so cool.  He said, "Michele did the assignment.  She put it out there."  When we had to share our work aloud, I would break into a mad sweat and have trouble reading.  No more.    

So, Fast Forward A LOT!  I'm all grown up and married and getting my MFA after many years teaching ghetto kids English.  Ghetto was their term, not mine.  Great kids.  Anyway, I digress again.  

So, here we are at a party the summer before MFA classes started, the same year I got married:  1999.  One of the poets from Canada, Dani, hosts a meet-and-greet.  At the party, I met a wonderful girl named Becky who had written a novel.  Mind you, it wasn't a published novel, but she had written a novel!  She was in her second year of the program.  I can't even put into words the admiration I felt toward her.  I could not get over it.  I had started fifty novels, but I hadn't "finished" one of them.  It's sort of funny to me now because I've written a lot of novels, novels that will never see the light of day--because they are more foreplay.  Not the real thing.  It's a building-up process, a getting-to-know your characters kind of thing, but at the time it was surreal, the most incredible thing to me, to complete a story, a vision.  

I would later take classes with Becky and a score of good writers, and they were wonderful.  In so many ways.  My professor Tom De Haven used make fun of me because I talked about writing so much.  He spoke at my final thesis reading and said (and I paraphrase) that writers who talk about writing all the time usually can't write for shit.  Except in my case.  

I owe so much to Becky and Greg and Bill and Tom.  They have influenced me more than they'll ever know.   Thanks for letting me share a hodgepodge of VCU memories.  Next year, we're having a big reunion.  I hope to see all of them.  And Margaret and Marcel and Ginny and Jamie and Boz and Brigitte and Jim and Dave and Thomas and Allison and Jenny and Larry and Mindy and everybody else--cuz I just be throwing it out.   

I think I'm on my fiftieth draft of Where I Am Born.  I "finished" the book a long time ago, but needless to say, "It was not finished."  Getting closer and closer.  Inching and creeping.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

You Can't Take My Joy from Me

Lately, this song lyric has been playing through my head.  I go to sleep and wake up with these words on my lips:  You can't take my joy from me, Jesus set my spirit free...

Here is a great version by Johnny Bertram on YouTube:

"All right, real church now..."

...Ride this boat until it runs aground.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cards on the table

Here is my truth today.

I am exhausted.  Writing is physically and mentally taxing.  My ass is probably growing fatter by 30-minute increments from keeping it in the chair to do the work that's needed to make my latest creation the book I envision.

I am writing and rewriting, and unless you live in an imaginary Jack Kerouac fantasy Beatnik, personal journal la la land, you know what I'm talking about.

Writing is WORK.  Once you get past the initial beauty of creation, you are in that big scary forest, what Bukowski called the hairy scary vagina region (I'd just as easily call it anyone's pubic area), and I'm also paraphrasing.

But I'm spent.

I'm at that juncture where I am rearranging paragraphs and words, cutting whole chapters because they just aren't singing.  I'm being excruciatingly picky about word choice and not using adverbs like excruciatingly.

I carry my laptop and physical pages everywhere I go, even to the grocery store.  Just in case.  I take them to lunch, to the beach and to my various other jobs.  I eat and sleep this book.

I love the word FUCK and I hate the word fart.  I think that bottom line, that's my problem.  I've written a fucking awesome book.  Now, I gotta stop from pouring gas all over the whole thing and blowing it up.

Does anyone else feel mentally and physically exhausted after editing?    

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A picture IS worth a thousand words.

Someone who's been privy to some of my latest as-yet unpublished novel, Where I Am Born, just shared this image with me.  Where I Am Born is the story of two women separated by oceans, generations and war, but connected by something much greater--the gift of wings.”

Here is an excerpt:

The girl from the holding cell came to Lukas in sharp and rounded lines and in bursts of color.  In the early morning, while the town slept, Lukas collected scrap metal in the form of tin cans and wire.  He melted the metal down, cutting out and soldering wings.  With a circa 1955 camera, he took moving pictures of the wings fluttering in the light of Vilnius square, outside the Museum of Atheism.  He hung them, each pair unique, from the ceiling of his shop.  Some of them were left metallic, while others he painted every color of the morning and night sky.  Inside, he’d built a bubble machine that vented onto the street and passageway running perpendicular to his storefront with iridescent bubbles of all shapes and sizes.  Children and adults passing by pointed at his three-story home.  “An inventor lives there.”
“No, he’s a magician.”
“He makes movies.”
“He paints.”
“He takes photographs.”
“I think he is mad.”
Lukas Blasczkiewicz spent his life making and creating.  Ceaseless and devoted, he thought singularly of the girl with the wings who’d saved him from selfishness, depression and self-loathing.  Because of Her, he saw the miracle of life everywhere.  In butterflies, beetles and cockroaches.  In the sky and underfoot.  The antithesis of his Bolshevist enthusiast father, Lukas believed in more than men and their egoistic ventures.  Solitary, he never felt alone.