Tag: stories



If you are a person who loves stories, which I am, going to an orphanage is like going to the mother-lode.  Every child there has a story. They are sharing those stories all the time, whether you are wandering around a mustard field, or going shopping (where there was a cow in a store) or looking at mango trees and gravestones, or sitting around a fire. One of my favorite things to do was to sit at a bench and watch the kids play badminton, and invariably some cherub would wander over, sit next to me, and begin to tell me a story.  One afternoon I went into the dormitory where Rosey and her friends live and they showed me their books of pictures. These kids don’t have many possessions in their lives, but they have pictures of people who mean something to them and every single child there has one of those albums. (When I went home, I sent them a box full of pictures, which said Fedex box is still stuck somewhere outside Delhi. That is another story.) Most of the stories are somewhat harrowing, as you might imagine, and sometimes the children are sad, but for the most part they are […]

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Long Island, 1963

Lately I’ve been thinking about the place and time where I grew up (inspired, in part, by Paula Munier’s fabulous book, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings.)  My home town was a large suburban community right next to Levittown, which came to be seen as the epicenter of the Baby Boom. I grew up among road after road of ranch houses. All the streets were named after builders’ daughters. (My street was Cynthia Drive.) The few trees were mimosas and they were stunted. There were no historical markers. Years later I found out that Eleanor Roosevelt’s childhood home had been within walking distance of my own and there was no sign. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and when I was 16 I went to college and never moved back. However, as I think about it now, I’m struck by how many fascinating things were going on in those quiet little houses. The place I thought of as bland and boring was actually a hotbed of drama. For one thing, almost all the men, and some of the women, had served in World War II. By the time my childhood rolled around, twenty years after the war, the repercussions of combat were starting to […]

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Pitch Not-So-Perfect

             I tell long stories. Shortening them has always been a struggle.            From the time I was a child, I’d go on and on with details, trying to give a sense of place and character, while my overworked parents begged for the bare facts. Later, I became a newspaper reporter and the scourge of copy editors. Daily, I’d beg for another inch of newsprint to include a detail that I felt crucial to my story as the higher ups dismissed my pleas as trying to include needless, scene-setting “color.” Things weren’t much better when I moved to writing for business magazines. Serious people, I was told, didn’t want to know that some tech giant had twenty kinds of cereal in their cupboards. Such “fascinating” details were superfluous.            Eventually, I left daily journalism for fiction writing. Doing so felt like moving from a cramped New York city studio to a New Jersey McMansion. I was loaded with space. Finally, I would have eighty to a hundred thousand words to tell a story.           Imagine my disappointment when I learned that nearly every long-form writer needs to pen a pitch.            Pitches are the universe’s way of checking my ego. All the pride I feel […]

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