Author: C. Michele Dorsey

Going Deep: Places that touch the soul.

  This was my message to my fellow Miss Demeanors this week: The fire at Notre Dame and global reaction to it reminded me how important places are to people, not just for worship, but also for commemoration, celebration, and consolation. I heard a commentator, who happened to be a former parishioner of Notre Dame, choke up when he talked about the beauty of the organ at the cathedral and the many concerts he attended. I attended Catholic schools and for years resented the time I had been forced to attend church. It wasn’t until I began traveling to Europe that I discovered they could be sanctuaries where I could think or just absorb the quiet when I needed consolation. Libraries, beaches, and forests are other places where I am able to reach deep within. In Ireland, I was surprised how moved I was when visiting primitive stone formations. I couldn’t believe or even begin to understand how monk huts brought tears to my eyes. So after the near destruction of Notre Dame and with Easter and Passover near, I thought the Miss Demeanors might go a little deep this week. My question is, what places touch your soul and […]

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Reading as Punishment

It’s been a difficult week. The fire at Notre Dame. The scare at Columbine. The Mueller Report. North Korea, again. How about a little good news? “Graffiti punished by reading – ‘It worked!’ says prosecutor.” https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-47936071 The gist of the story is that a group of adolescent students spray-painted hate language and racial slurs on a small schoolhouse in Virginia where black children were once taught during segregation. An insightful lawyer, Prosecutor and Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Alejandra Rueda, didn’t rush to judgment. Instead, she considered the immaturity of the graffiti and concluded it was the work of “dumb teenagers.” She recommended to a judge that their ignorance be punished by a sentence that required them to read a book each month from a list of thirty-five books she drafted and report on it. Here are twelve of the books on the list: Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou The Tortilla Curtain – T C Boyle The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee 12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northup The Crucible – Arthur Miller Cry the Beloved Country – Alan Paton My Name is […]

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Fire the Grammar Police and Read this Book

Read this book. Just do it. It doesn’t matter if you are a writer or not. Words are the building blocks of communication and how we use them matters. There are rules, some of which are okay to break, but there are others that signal a lack of talent using your native language. This is not going to win you points in your professional or personal life. A judge once told me that if he sees an attorney spell “judgment” with an “e,” the lawyer immediately loses credibility with him. (Unless the lawyer was from England where the word is spelled “judgement.”) Dreyer’s English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, was written by Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief of Random House was released on January 29, 2019, and is currently #359 in all books on Amazon. It is #1 in several word and grammar categories. Dreyer’s English is that good. The fiction writer in me marvels that a book about grammar soars above great works of fiction. What is going on here? This is the second time this week I have confessed that I attended Catholic school. In addition, I was raised by a father who received a master’s […]

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Finding Hope and Elinor in the Garden

I was exhausted from the national and global turmoil that fills every screen or newspaper I see. I was exhausted from the raw dampness crawling into my joints signaling winter would not leave without a fight. I was exhausted from not being able to find my words or my story. Nothing seemed to be working. And then on a gloomy Sunday with a rainy forecast three weeks after spring officially arrived but had yet to show up off the calendar, the sun began to shine, the chilling wind fled for other places, and I became energized. Within hours, the malaise that lingered from winter vanished. I had things to do. Work for my professional practice. Writing on my work in progress and on this blog. But I dug out my gardening gloves and shears and headed for the dirt. When I downsized from a ten-room house to a three-room tindominium, my garden shrank commensurately. I have five raised beds and countless pots of various sizes. There’s a patch in front of the tindominium reserved for roses and hydrangeas, must-haves on Cape Cod. The half-acre I worked for thirty-one years was ten times as large as my new mini-garden. I’ve learned […]

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The Miss Demeanors at the Oscars

I posed this challenge to my fellow Miss Demeanors and was I surprised at what fashonistas they are. We had a lot of fun playing “dress-up” the week after the Oscars. Your book had been made into a movie that’s nominated for Best Picture.  What will you wear to the Oscars? Paula’s ahead of us in the game, having shopped for the Edgars.   Michele: I’m politically liberal, but fashion conservative this is the dress I’ve chosen with a pattern like one of my favorite chairs. I know there’s a little cleavage but now that I’m a woman “of a certain age,” I can do what I want.   Tracee:            Ooooh I love this, and love your dress, particularly the pattern! For my big night, I would borrow the gown the Michelle Youh wore to this year’s Oscars and hope that I would look a tenth as great in it as she did.    Michele:                         Tracee, “your” (Michelle Youh’s) dress is a gorgeous version of what I think of as a Cinderella dress. You’ll look grand accepting your Oscar.   Tracee: I will settle for being a presenter! And it’s funny, I’ve never been a ‘Cinderella dress’ devotee but […]

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Reaching a Reader: You’ve Got a Friend

“Readers are wonderful people, readers are the best of people.” Lee Child Sometimes I get discouraged about writing. You know the litany of self-doubt if you’re a writer. Am I a shitty writer? Why didn’t I start writing sooner? Do I really have anything to say that anyone wants to hear? What is the point of putting myself through this anyway?             I won’t continue the maudlin monologue. I’m sure it’s familiar to anyone reading this who is also a writer. Even lifelong hard-fought-for success is moderate for most writers. The average writer earns less than $10,000 per year from writing, which may explain why so many writers have day jobs and why they often define success in non-monetary forms.             For me, the greatest satisfaction comes from connecting with readers because I am also a reader and am grateful to so many writers who have enriched my life. Oh, I’d love to make the New York Times Bestseller list, get a movie deal, and make enough money to more than survive. But for now, I’ll revel in some wonderful connections I’ve made with readers.             Last winter after the cottage we had fortunately been renting and had not purchased […]

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Returning to My Senses

“The senses are the ministers of the soul.” Leonardo da Vinci. What you see, smell, touch, taste, and hear, reveals the world around you. For a writer, those same senses convey the world she is inviting the reader to enter. It’s easy for a writer to forget to use the senses. There are so many lessons to be remembered when writing, so many conventions to adhere to, that a writer can lose what should really be common sense. What a character is hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching affects how effectively the reader joins her on her journey. One of the many ways traveling benefits a writer is by increasing her awareness of the senses. My recent eight-week stay in the sleepy, funky Mexican seaside village of San Pancho (officially known as San Francisco) jolted my senses. I left damp and cold isolated Cape Cod with a turbulent grey ocean one morning to arrive that evening to warm tropical breezes and the sounds of music everywhere.             Sweet San Pancho, as I came to call it, had an abundance to fill my senses. The cobblestone street our second-floor apartment overlooked provided a parade of sensory stimulation. From 9:00 a.m. until […]

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The Long and the Short of It (Books I Saved to Read in Mexico)

For me, the anticipation of a trip is often as pleasurable as the actual journey. Wherever I go, I always bring books. Choosing them is more important than picking what clothes I will pack. The criteria for which books get saved for a trip is: 1.) Do I need time to relish a particular book written by an author whose releases I eager await? 2.) How many of these tomes can I fit in a suitcase without breaking the travel budget with excess baggage fees? 3) How much can I test the patience of my saintly husband who is still gallant enough to insist on carrying the heavier bags? This time there were ten of them. Books, not bags, fortunately. They were books I just couldn’t read on Kindle. I needed to hold and smell them. You’ll either get that or not. It’s not something that can be explained. The selection process was excruciating. As soon as I knew I’d be spending eight weeks in San Pancho, Mexico away from the cold and damp of Outer Cape Cod, I started the pile. Some I borrowed from my exiting To Be Read pile. Others I purchased especially for the trip. The […]

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Libraries We Have Loved

Michele:   Since I’ve featured Libraries of a Lifetime, a library love fest all week, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors to share a memory of a library that meant something special to each of them. Here’s what that said. Please join us on Facebook or Twitter to share yours. Thanks to those of you who have shared during the week. Alison:  When I started thinking about this question, it surprised me how clearly I can go back in time to the libraries I love. I’ll defer to Tracee on this, but I think libraries are some pretty amazing architectural spaces: the library at Trinity College in Dublin, the Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania, and, of course, the New York Public Library Main Branch. One of my fondest memories of a library was from the summer I lived in Paris. I was working on my senior thesis and spent every afternoon, just about, at the Centre George Pompidou. I loved everything about going to that library: taking the metro, seeing the performers and mimes outside, finding my books, reading, taking notes, and looking through those crazy windows. Years later I took my kids back (see the below photo […]

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