A SPECIAL CHANUKAH

For the many of us who are contending with loss,  the “season to be jolly” feels more like an  obstacle course. This year December is beginning with Chanukah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights. The first Chanukah after my husband died I wanted to erase all of December from the calendar.
“I’m going to ignore Chanukah,” I told my bereavement counselor.
“How are you going to ignore your feelings?” he asked.
He was good at questions, the answers were up to me to find. I share with you the memorable night that helped me to survive.

It was just nine months after my husband died. In the past Chanukah had been a joyous family time, lighting the candles, opening gifts. This year the children weren’t even coming, perhaps it was too much for them, too. I couldn’t cope with the thought of lighting the candles alone..

Then I had a surprising phone call, from the social worker at the Catholic hospice where Mel had died. A place where I would have been uncomfortable among all the nuns, if my mind hadn’t been solely on the man I loved and was losing.
The nun was calling to invite me to a memorial service for everyone who had died that year. “It would be too hard for me to attend a service for my husband,” I told her.
“It’s for you, too,” she said. ”His pain is over, but yours is continuing.”
It was so rare for anyone to understand that I agreed to come. I told her I’d like to donate some items that might be helpful to other patients. Could they use three Marilyn Monroe movies my daughter had taped for her father?
“Our patients would love them,” she said.
So I went – but at the sight of that too familiar gray stone building I wanted to turn the other way, run back home. Home? That was where  he wasn’t.
I walked into a large room, carrying a shopping bag loaded with books and tapes.
“Are you the Marilyn Monroe lady?” a nun asked me.”God bless!’

It was a small gathering .I figured the majority of people couldn’t face coming. Men and women of various ages, even some children. I smiled at a little girl who looked four years old. She looked back at me somberly, the expression om her face too old for so young a child.
I stood there wondering how soon I could leave.
Then the service began with a prayer of Saint Francis’.
“Grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console…”
(A good philosophy for dealing with one’s children!)

Then the Sister leading the service asked us to look at the cover of the program we’d been handed.
“I drew the picture,” she said, ”and tried to make it fit what each of you must be feeling.”
The childish drawing showed both a Christmas tree and a Chanukah menorah – but only half of each.
“Half,” she said,” because of what’s missing for you.”
There was pale yellow crayon around each of the lights. “That’s from the glow that comes from remembering,” she said.

Then- in this Catholic hospital – a young man with a guitar began singing a Chanukah song! It was written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. Trying to follow the printed words we’d been given I found myself singing with him:
“Light one candle for the strength that we need, to never become our own foe…”
I heard the grieving people around me joining in. “What is the memory that’s valued so highly,” we all sang together, “we keep it alive in that flame?”

A few nights later I lit the first Chanukah candle.

[Excerpted from Widow’s Walk]

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

PITTSBURGH

I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh has come to me now. Haunting me – eleven people. I could have been one of them, for I attend a synagogue. True, it’s in a different city, but one day it may be the next scene of a massacre. For the past few years, every time I’ve walked through my synagogue doors I’ve thought I might not come out alive. Melodramatic? Unrealistic? Not for an America where mass murders have become routine.

I knew almost nothing about Pittsburgh before this. Now I know there’s a synagogue ironically named Tree of Life in a peaceful neighborhood called Squirrel Hill.  A rare neighborhood where it doesn’t matter if you’re “different” (read Jewish , Muslim, gay, et al).}

What do we tell our children about the atrocity in the Tree of Life Synagogue that fateful day? Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath. The children ask, why did someone kill like that and where did he get all those guns? No problem, we can tell them, because this is a land where it’s as easy to buy a gun as it is to purchase a new pair of sneakers. Shooting is the sport of the day. It doesn’t matter what age the targets are – from five –year- olds in a schoolroom in Connecticut to a devout 97-year-old great-grandmother who still went to Tree of Life every week to pray.

How do we tell our children? We don’t have to say much, because they already know. Hatred has a megaphone these days, and the children have grown up hearing hate shouted on TV by politicians who are supposed to protect us. Our children see other children – the terrified ones torn from their parents and locked up without them. They saw photos of a traumatized two-year-old questioned by a judge in an American courtroom in a language she doesn’t even understand.

I don’t understand this language either. I speak English, know a little Spanish and am familiar with sign language – but none of it enables me to answer the virulent language of hate.

Our children ask, Who are these “others” we are told to hate? Are they us? The Jewish children are frightened when they hear “Kill them!” So is the next door teen who’s come out as gay. So are immigrant men and women who came to America seeking safe haven for their families.

There is no safe place – not in Pittsburgh, not in the Charleston church where six people were coldly shot by a man they had invited to join their prayers, not in Las Vegas where vacationers were the targets of an invisible stranger in a hotel window far above them, not in the Pulse club in Tallahassee where young people who happened to be gay or trans were joying an evening with friends, not in…. Fill in the dots and leave room for the next times (s). For in 2017 these bloody events totaled 346, and in this year there’s been almost one mass shooting a day.

As parents,we try to protect our children. Don’t run into the street. Be home before dark, Careful on that skateboard. We also need to protect them – not from “invaders” – but from the more dangerous violence within our own land.

Wringing our hands isn’t enough. We each have the responsibility to do something. As writers we have the ability to voice our concerns and inspire action through books, articles, songs, poems, any form that reaches others.

As Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” We can tell our children that, too.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

A LESSON IN LOSS

A few weeks after my husband died of what’s commonly termed “a lingering illness,” I went for a walk with a friend. Since she worked in publishing I tried out my idea on her: I wanted to write a book about what other people go through navigating the “crazy world” of doctors and hospitals. What did she think? I asked. Without hesitating, she said: “Write your own story first!”

Five brief words that changed my life. For I followed her advice and wrote a memoir which became published as “Widow’s Walk,” launching me on a career as an author. This wise inspiring friend, who pointed in the direction that rescued me from despair, was Eleanor( Lee) Hochman, an esteemed author and translator. Our friendship spanned more than 50 years. Recently she became increasingly frail with numerous medical problems. Last week I was scheduled to give a poetry reading. I went into the city earlier hoping to see Lee first. I phoned ahead of time and heard her son’s voice: “My mother just died.”

I stood there on the street crying uncontrollably. Dozens of people walked past, but they were all strangers. Lee was nowhere in the world. I was engulfed in the loneliness that death leaves in its wake.Yet in an hour I was scheduled to give my poetry reading. How could I possibly read? But it was too late for the Poetry Forum to find a substitute for the program. I could hear Lee ‘s no-nonense voice saying, “Just do it. “

She was not only the brightest woman I knew, but mixed intelligence with common sense. I’m tempted to list her impressive professional accomplishments, but that would take up several blogs. it’s the intersection of loss and writing that I want to speak of. This blog was originally designed to be about both those themes,,but I have straddled them clumsily. Yet they are so often intertwined in life. I used to think coping with the illness and death of someone I love would make writing impossible. But they can feed upon one another. I think of another friend, who died years ago, but came to belated life in a story I wrote, as did my father in a loving portrait despite our difficult relationship. The stories are my gifts to them.

I have lost so many that I joke I know more people in the next world than in this one. As we become aware, a door closes behind us with each loss,to rooms we can never enter again. How find the strength to enjoy life, much less be creative?

An answer came when I arrived tearfully at the Poetry Forum that day. I told the director what had happened.  He said: ”I’m not going to tell you where’s there’s life there’s hope, because I don’t believe it.””
“That doesn’t help…,” I started to say.
He held up his hand.”What I do believe is the opposite, where there’s hope there’s life.”

May we esch find our own ways to feed the flickering flames of hope.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS:”Widow’s Walk” -available at iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” -Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play”- CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; “Maya’s Magical Adventures” – Amazon.com 

 

WARNING: COMMA AHEAD!

I was amused this week to see that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a stern rebuke to the State Department staff about – not protocol or international customs – but the lowly comma.

I applaud his concern about proper punctuation. (It’s unusual for me to feel good about something in the government these days!) As Pompeo complains, the comma is vastly overused. That poor little curve of a symbol must get exhausted. Yet how powerful the comma is, able to change the entire meaning of a sentence. An MSNBC anchor flavored the nightly news with a joke about this that runs: A panda goes into a restaurant, orders a dish of his favorite food, and then shoots the waiter. The sentence reads: The panda eats, shoots and leaves. Take away that intrusive comma and you have the innocent creature merely eating and leaving

I bring this up because overpunctuation is anathema to me, too. The comma, according to Webster, should indicate a “very brief pause.” One way to test this is by reading aloud what you’ve written. That always gives me a sure feeling about whether I need that particular punctuation or can happily delete it. Often commas just get in the way, like annoying flies you have to brush aside. The estimable Chicago Manual of Style cautions that overuse leads to “choppiness.” This is especially true when it comes to poetry. I know a woman who insists her poems include numerous punctuation marks – not only commas, but dashes and even semicolons . (Stephen King thinks the semicolon should be abolished!)

Note that exclamation point – another item too freely used. It’s supposed be for emphasis, but not every sentence needs to be that emphatic. Recently I received a letter from an eight-year-old who is proud of being able to form letters and adept at spelling, but ends every sentence with an exclamation point. I guess she likes it so much they overflow from her pen. At least she’s young enough to learn better.

The Golden Rule is discretion. On the other hand, many times it’s a matter of preference. We all stumble over whether or not to include a comma after “and” and “but,” when there are several items (an apple, banana and orange.) You can see that I didn’t include that busy comma before orange. But those who follow what’s intimidatingly called the Oxford Comma would write this as apple, banana, and, orange.

So is it important to- know these mundane facts when we’re trying to be creative? Yes, because these are the tools of our trade. Surely we can be as faithful to them as any carpenter to his tool kit. We can even go to the Internet, type in “commas” and a wealth of clarifying information will pop up.

The famed “Less Is More” maxim doesn’t apply solely to the story, but the punctuation within it that makes us look professional.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

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TIME OUT

I’m writing this in the midst of a heat wave, compounded by humidity that drains every ounce of energy. I’m not alone in suffering from this. Nearly everyone I know is also energy-less and devoid of inspiration.

This feeling of being in a doldrum isn’t limited to the summer nor to the temperature. There are times in our life when it’s difficult to even get out of bed in the morning, much less work. Sorrow can affect us this way, too, a feeling that nothing hopeful is on the horizon.

The question is: To be or not to be working. I’m what’s known as an obsessive workaholic, and any day when I don’t write is time lost for me. But these past weeks, even if I sit in front of my trusty laptop my muse doesn’t join me. She’s probably suffering a doldrum, too.

So in the pursuit of something that may help readers similarly affected, I’ll share what has helped me.

First, what doesn’t help: the refrigerator. Sure, the cool air when the door is opened is refreshing, but reaching for the ice cream just gives me “did it again” guilt. And that can be more draining than the heat.

What also doesn’t help is surfing the TV  just to while away the heavy hours. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve had an empty feeling afterward. (Better to stock up on rented films.)

This is what does help me- and hopefully, you:

To allow myself T.O.W.G. – Time Off Without Guilt. If I had the strength I’d beat the drums for Doing Nothing. Unfortunately, we’re a nation that believes you have to be occupied every minute. Even our children are condemned to schedules – 3:00 piano, 4::00 play date. (How about just letting the child dream?)

This doesn’t mean staring into space obsessing about what we should be writing or painting or working on in whatever way. It can mean taking time off to go to a beach or park or, if that’s a hassle, to take a chair outside and sit in the shade for a while. That’s what I allowed myself to do, enjoying the beauty of my neighbors’ gardens. “Take time to smell the roses” isn’t a bad injunction.

We can also give ourselves permission, for instance, to just curl up with a book. Hopefully, a good one that we’ll later feel was worth the time. In roaming through my bookshelves this week, I discovered a book I didn’t remember purchasing or receiving: “Quartet in Autumn” by Barbara Pym. She’s an author I’d long wanted to read but hadn’t gotten around to. So I treated myself to hours of reading her book. At first glance it didn’t seem like the best choice, since it’s about lonely old people (and I was feeling both lonely and old). But the writing is so witty and cool – a la Jane Austen – that it was a treat. As a bonus, her restrained style inspired me, since I tend to clutter my prose.

I don’t claim that these activities (or inactivities) will work for everyone. “Wasting time” can make us feel we really should be busy with something. But who’s to say those hours were really wasted? After all, even in Biblical times it was considered wise to allow a field to lie fallow every seven years. or so.  That way it could gain the ability to be fertile ground for the future!

Website: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS::  Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play – Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle

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BOOKS

IMPOSSIBLE?

In a recent op-ed piece in “The New York Tines,” famed cartoonist Liza Donnelly wrote about having broken her right arm.

Hospitals are filled with people with broken bones, but in Donnelly’s case it threatened her entire career. She realized it might be a long while before she could use her right hand to draw her humorous pieces.

Most people would have caved in to self-pity – or fallen into a cookie or alcohol binge. But Donnelly chose a better alternative: her other hand. Born right-handed, she had never used her left hand creatively, but it was her only option. Trying to draw with her left hand she found the cartoons were “looser,” she said – more like the first ones she’d done as a child. Was that amateur hand tapping into her “orginal creativity”?  Obviousdly it tapped into something – because one of those left-handed cartoons was published by “The New Yorker.”

The point isn’t that we should all break an arm to become creative,. It’s that Donnelly refused to be disarmed (pun intended) by an accident but,instead,  to find some way to continue with her art.

Her comparatively brief experience with disability pales beside Christy Brown, the writer-artist whose life was dramatized in the 1989 film “My Left Foot.” Born with cerebral palsy that made it impossible for him to control his body – except for his left foot – Christy won out over what would have been understandable despair. He used the big toe on that foot to write and draw, incredibly becoming a notable author and artist.

This blog is not a rallying cry for using our left side, although that’s reputedly the creative part of us. It’s a way of pointing out that with enough determination impossible can become possible . Nor is this limited to writers and painters. Could a composer who has become totally deaf possibly create music?  Fortunately Beethoven didn’t listen to naysayers. Couldn’t listen – not because of his hearing loss – but because within him was a fierce and unbeatable  need to create. Of course, this deaf musician went on to compose some of the world’s greatest music.

There’s another “handicap,” if I may use that word. It doesn’t involve broken or paralyzed bones, and it can’t be wrapped in a splint. It’s the voice within us that whispers, Give up …no agent will reply…this will never be published…you can’t even write well anymore . .. on and on endlessly. That’s the disabling self we have to overcome. I’ve asked numerous writer friends what they do in those dark moments. The response is usually a shrug and the terse,“I keep writing.”

The choice for each of us is whether to give up or to go on. Fate may throw us a curve, but we’re the only ones who can defeat ourselves!

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play – Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.
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REJECTING REJECTION

Your submission does not meet our current needs. Why do so many editors use that same message? Can’t they come up with something more original? I’m often tempted to reply, “Your rejection doesn’t meet my needs!”

Actually that form rejection says iit more clearly than the unfathomable turndowns, like one I got recently from a well-known magazine. The message informed me that the staff “enjoyed” the story and the “wonderful” writing, but “we aren’t going to publish it.”  No explanation. It sounds like the familiar dating line, “you’re great but…”

At least these forms acknowledge our existence, unlike the snail mail submissions where the self-addressed envelope comes back without even the courtesy of a rejection slip. I once tried the ploy of phoning the editor of a top magazine to ask – all innocence! – if the absence of a form meant the story was accepted. “Someone forgot to include the rejection slip,” he said, “but I’ll be glad to read you what it says.”

It isn’t only editors who use format replies, agents are just as unimaginative. Usually we’re informed that he or she has to “fall in love” with a manuscript and,obviously didn’t. The standard postscript is to assure us another agent might “love” our work. So where is that mythical agent, in outer space?

Do the interns routinely assigned to read submissions really go beyond the first paragraph? I tested this several times by inserting a slip of blank paper between the pages. Each time the manuscript returned with that telltale piece of paper intact.

Since rejections seem built into our profession, what are we to do? Give up? Throw our manuscript into the wastebasket? (Tennessee Williams tried that, but his far-sighted agent rescued ”The Glass Menagerie” from the trash!)  We can remind ourselves that Harry Potter was repeatedly turned down  by numerous  publishers. We can even paper our room with rejection slips, as a woman I know did. (The ultimate in masochism?)

The best strategy for me came wrapped in the advice a fellow writer offered years ago. He suggested that each time I send out a story I should simultaneously address the next envelope. Then as soon as the poor waif of a story comes back, an envelope is waiting to carry it into the world again.

Now that we more often submit via the internet, I use a parallel method. I keep an index card file of submissions  and also down three alternate possibilities. So when I get that inevitable rejection, I can submit again without any delaying tactics.

The reality is that rejection lurks in every aspect of  life. How often have you been hit by an audible – or inaudible  –  “no way,” by a supposed friend, a CEO, your teenager (!), even the one who swore to love you forever but inexplicably has a heartless change of heart?

The only way to save our sanity is to refuse to see rejection as a Dead End. As the song goes, “keep hope alive.” And  believe that eventually a perceptive editor will say, “Yes!”

WEBSITE:: .annehosansky..com

BOOKS: “Wdow’s Walk” – available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow”- Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” snd “Role  lPay”- Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.

OBSTACLE OR PATH?

ThIs year’s Tony Awards ceremony was a collection of emotional acceptance speeches. (For the information of anyone who lives in a cocoon, the awards are for excellence in the theatre.)The one that struck me most was by the winner as featured actor, Ari’el Stachel. Stating that his parents were in the audience, Stachel interrupted the dutiful applause to confess that in the past he had kept them away from events like this out of fear that their presence would reveal a Middle Eastern identity he was trying to hide. (His father’s an Israeli Yemenite,his mother’s a Jewish New Yorker.) 

A young child when 9/11 happened, Stachel was so afraid of being seen as an Arab he didn’t even allow his father to come to his graduation.  Ironically, the identity he had tried to hide helped him land a role in “The Band’s Visit,” a musical about Palestinians and Israelis finding a way to get along. (If only this weren’t fiction!). Playing a Middle Easterner, he says, “strengthened” his sense of his own heritage and allowed him to accept it. His message at the Tony’s to “kids out there” was direct:  ”What you think is your biggest obstacle may turn into your greatest purpose.” 

Those were the words I rushed to inscribe in my ever-ready notebook . For how many of us are faced with an obstacle that we believe keeps us from the work and life we want?

It reminds me if a conversation I had several years ago with Jeanette Walls, the feisty author of “The Glass Castle.” Walls told me that for years she hid her past from everyone, because she feared rejection if people knew about a childhood so poverty-stricken she ate from garbage pails, and had parents who qualified for Most Dysfunctional. It was only when she – like Stachel – owned up to who she was that she was able to use her pain productively. Stachel’s courage led him to Broadway fame; hers to a memoir that has sold millions of copies.

Walls is hardly alone in the long list of famous artists who converted what they believed to be an insurmountable obstacle into what they were meant to do. Laura Hillenbrand had such severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome she was unable to leave her house for years. Needing a way to “escape from my body,” she turned to writing. The result was her hugely popular best-sellers Seabiscuit and Unbroken. “Writing,” she said, “enables me to create things that have importance.”

The obstacle doesn’t have to be a serious affliction, of course. For many it may be having to work at a job that leaves you so exhausted awriting seems impossible. Yet that may actually fuel your determination. To support his family, Faulkner worked night shifts in a power plant. Despite a grueling schedule, he used the hours from midnight to 4:00AM to write his famous novel As I Lay Dying.

The hurdle may also be the day-to-day care of an ailing loved one, leaving scant room for creativity. As readers of these blogs know, that’s been my personal challenge. Actually it’s my second time around, for decades ago I had the care of my terminally ill husband. After his death, driven by a desire to let other people know what to expect from the “craziness” of the medical world and the challenges of forging a new life, I was impelled to write my memoir Widow’s Walk.  In a bizarre exchange, tragedy led to a new career. It wasn’t a bargain I’d have wanted, but none of us have the choice.

This week I discovered a Zen saying that says it best:: The obstacle is the path. Whether we see it as a dead-end or a way forward is up to us.

Website: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow -Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play – both through Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.

PHOTO OP?

This week I was invited to my nephew’s graduation from medical school. I went armed with my new smartphone so I could take photos of this meaningful event.

So there I was, along with half a dozen relatives holding similar phones and cameras, all of us poised to memorialize the big moment, The ceremony had gone on for a numbing three hours of speeches, but now it was time for the moment we were waiting for. As each name was called the graduate ascended the few steps to the stage, was “hooded” – officially becoming a doctor – and walked off to ecstatic applause from family and friends.

It seemed forever before our particular actor in this drama was called. Finally his name ! I began clicking away, desperately trying to get him in focus. But I was far from the stage and the newly baptized doctor kept walking, so all I got was a series of blurs. Frustrated by my failure, I kept looking at the useless photos, trying to recapture a ceremony I could barely remember.

Then I realized that while busy trying to get pictures, I hadn’t really seen my nephew’s victory walk. Did he smile, despite his disdain of ceremonies? Did he amble as usual or walk swiftly to get out of an unwelcome spotlight? I will never know, because I was so busy trying to photograph a moment I wasn’t really in.

It’s haunted me the past few days. I realize I have a lot of company in this, for don’t most of us try to get images of an experience we aren’t truly there for?

Several years ago BBC did a documentary about this very topic. Linda Henkel, a psychology professor at Fairfield University in Fairfield Connecticut, took a group of students to a museum. They were instructed to take photos of some of the art, but only look at others. Tested the following day, they were les able to recall details of the objects they had photographed than those they had “just” looked at. According to Dr. Henkel, this is because we unconsciously expect the camera to do the remembering for us.

My son discovered this years ago, when he went on a hiking trip and found that he’d forgotten to pack his camera. Since there was no way to conjure up one, he concentrated on looking at the stunning mountain scenery. He doesn’t have an album to flaunt, but –as he says – “I still see it in my mind.” Probably more indelibly than if he’d been distracted shooting pictures.

Of course, I’m not recommending never photographing. It feels a little too Spartan to think of coming home from a vacation with no pictures to show for it. But maybe it’s a good idea to limit the amount of hours behind the camera and take time to absorb the moments.

This is dramatized in the 2013 remake of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” A professional photographer (played by Sean Penn) is tracking snow leopards. He sets up the camera, waits patiently, and a majestic animal stalks into view. But Penn doesn’t take the photo! When a perplexed Mitty (Ben Stiller) asks why, Penn replies, “If I like a moment I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
“It?” asks Stiller.
“Yeah,” Penn says, “Right there. Right here. I just want to be in the moment.”

Since this is a blog for writers, I’ll add a dose of authorial advice: If you were to emulate the Penn character, you’d find you forever own your view of the leopard (or graduate or ocean or whatever) – and be able to write about that momentary connection from a uniquely personal view.

Memorial Day weekend is around the corner, launching vacation season. Go, enjoy, bring your camera or phone and take a few pictures. Then put that instrument away and be in your experience.

Website: www.annehosansky.com
Books: “Widow’s Walk”- available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” – Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play” – both through Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.

TRANSFORMATIONS

KILL YOUR DARLINGS – advice given by authors from Chekhov to Stephen King –isn’t an order to murder, but to delete self-indulgent words clogging your prose. It’s advice’ve given to my writing students – and to myself.

In fact,  I’ve often said that revision is the most enjoyable part of writing. You can take those words you’ve written and add, delete, turn around and presto – your manuscript is less cluttered and reads better. Sort of literary feng shui.

But in the past few months I’ve turned to something that makes ordinary revising look like kindergarten play. It first happened with an autobiographical poem I wrote about caregiving. Although I believe my prose is generally better than my poetry,  I did take pride in the emotion that the poem allowed. Editors, however, did not share my view. Rejection after rejection.

I put the poem in the discard file (in my head, not in my desk). But I hated to give up. One day had an arresting thought: Since I’ve published so many short stories, why not see if I could convert the poem into a story? As I did, it took the form of a mood piece. With a “why not?”attitude, I sent it to a magazine, where it was instantly accepted..

This was a startling discovery, that revision could involve total transformation. So now I’m working on a second attempt. Months ago I wrote an essay-style piece about the tragic young hero of a popular British poem titled “Casabianca” by Felicia Hemans. It begins with “The boy stood on the burning deck”. (When I quoted that line to my younger students they looked at me blankly. .But school- children tin the mid-20th century were routinely told to memorize the poem.) My prose revision aligned the boy’s lonely stand on a sinking ship with my personal feelings about being alone with my “ailing mate.” Predictably, since the piece didn’t fit any category,  it was widely rejected.

So – as you can guess – I thought: why not go the opposite way- convert my prose into a lengthy poem? I began, but it seemed impossible, especially since I needed to avoid copying the original poem. However, determination being 98% of success, I kept going. I now have a two-page. poem. To my surprise, the poetic version reads better than the prose, getting rid of extraneous words.

Will it be published? Stay tuned! But it does convince me that it’s possible to convert a “failed” piece of writing into to more successful  – and more marketable – form. of course not every story lends itself to poetry, and vice versa. And there may be twists and turns that make your piece feel unrecognizable. But it can be a rewarding escape route out of a dead-end.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS:: “Widow’s Walk” – available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow”- Xlibris..com; “Ten Women of Valorr” and “Role Play”- both  through Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.