I recently read about a Latin American New Year tradition of setting fire to dolls stuffed with objects that have bad associations. I want to adopt my own version, one that involves clearing my home of items that pull me down.

I once gave the students in my memoir writing class an assignment to bring in something that brings up happy memories. But how many of us also store things that bring up memories we’d rather be rid of? (This doesn’t mean parting with reminders of people we’ve loved and lost, for these bring up poignant connections we rightly hold on to.)

But why keep items that reek of failure – or that we’d feel guilty getting rid of? Like my oversized platter with the design of a dead fish, a Christmas gift in lieu of a bonus from an obnoxious executive I worked for. It reminds me of unhappy days at that job, but thriftiness says you don’t throw out a perfectly good platter. Well, why not?

How about the stacks of plastic boxes where I compulsively keep every birthday card I’ve received? It’s one thing to cherish the cards the children created in their kindergarten days (although they’re now way past even college). But faded cards for my 21st birthday, when I barely remember being that young, from equally faded friendships?

Then there’s the misplaced writer’s pride of keeping every version of every story and book I’ve written! My newest book, Role Play, has finally seen the light of day. So why clutter overloaded files with all the unsatisfactory versions that preceded the final one? Or all the maddening corrections that went on between the publishing company and myself? (Correcting REDHEAD from their unfathomable capitalization resulted in Readhead! At which point I recall bursting into tears of frustration.) So why keep this and the collection of similar grim reminders?

Still, nothing compares to the rejection letters we masochistic writers hoard. It’s true that some offer a faint hint of future publication, such as: We’d like to see more of your writing.No matter that it’s obviously a form letter, since I received exactly the same dead-end wording from eleven other magazines. There are also the outright rejections with their standard – read: unimaginative – phrases (already have similar, doesn’t meet our current needs,etc.) Do I need to be reminded of the times my story was turned away, like a poor little Oliver Twist? I even heard of a woman who papers her room with these rejection letters. Nothing like creating a positive environment for yourself!

I propose raising a glass (one you enjoy holding, not the ugly one bought in a misguided moment at the local flea market) and making a toast to a home cleared of downers. Let’s sing the refrain of an old song: Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . In this new year let’s try to live surrounded by – buoyed up by – belongings that remind us of joy and hope.

A safe and spacious 2016 to all

Comments welcome: ahosansky@gmail.com.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: ROLE PLAY – CreateSpace.com & Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle. WIDOW’S WALK available through iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW – Xlibris.com; TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – -CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com; Amazon Kindle.





It may be heralded as the “season to be jolly,” but December can be a dark time for many. Therapists’ offices are filled with those who are suffering from depression. Judith Bristol, a New York therapist, says that the problem is often “S.A.D.” She’s not voicing an emotional comment, but shorthand for Seasonal Affective Disorder, triggered by the short winter days, darkness setting in too early.

We’re surrounded by festive scenes –- glittering department store windows, the dazzling tree in Rockefeller Plaza, holiday songs airing endlessly, Santa coming to town – yet many of us feel blue amidst all this. It’s not helped by a frantic schedule of shopping and hosting. While for those of us whose families are far away, there can be a pervasive sense of loneliness.

I usually fight the doldrums with a pen or computer, for writing lifts my spirits more than almost anything else. (Haagen- Dazs chocolate is a close second.) A depressed mood eats away at my energy, and I find it harder to write when I’m in that state.

It can also affect what I write about. I came across a short story I wrote one winter, that was never published. Rightly so, for it was a dismal view. The story is of a grandmother longing for her young grandchildren, but limited most of the time to “visiting” via Skype. I killed her off at the end, a lonely victim. Recently I wrote a fiercer ending to give her more strength. Sort of my anti-December version. The story may or may not be more successful, but writing it brightened my spirits.

What we write about comes from within us, even if it’s masked as fiction. But what, really, are we trying to say? I find that the most inspiring stories are about people who refuse to be clobbered by foes, without or within. People who determinedly reach for – and risk for – the light.

Which brings me to this week when I’m writing these words. It’s Chanukah, the Jewish “Festival of Lights.” A holiday that commemorates the time 2000 years ago when five courageous Maccabee brothers led a rebellion against a mightier oppressor and won freedom for the Israelites. Reclaiming their Temple, they wanted to light the sacred lamp again, but the enemy had left them only enough untainted oil for one night. As every Jewish child is heartened to learn, the oil miraculously burned for eight nights.

This is the kind of story we need, one that kindles hope. The type of scenario that pulls us up. The “High Noon” sheriff refusing to be cowed when out-numbered by the villains, and almost single-handedly (unbelievably?) beating them.

I’m not propagandizing for happy-ever-after fiction. These stark days, that wouldn’t even be imaginable. But we can create characters who remind everyone that darkness isn’t forever, and strengthen ourselves in the process. Let’s try to live and write as if we believe we have the power to turn on that light.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: “Widow’s Walk” – iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” -Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play” — CreateSpace.com, Amazon & Amazon Kindle


I’ve just finished reading “SPEAK, MEMORY,” Nabokov’s enthralling memoir. I had planned to say that anyone who wants to write a memoir should read it, for this incomparable stylist brings childhood to life with such vivid details.

That’s what I had intended to blog about . But in these tragic days there’s something even more timely to say about Nabokov. He was that currently vilified word, immigrant.

Russian by birth, he came here with his wife and son to find a new home in America. Russian was not an identity guaranteed to get the welcome mat in those days. But imagine how absurd it would have been if we had turned him away, for he’s indisputably one of the great writers of the 20th century.

It’s true that he was already famous, but the list of “ordinary” people who came to America from other lands and made invaluable contributions to our country is longer than space allows. (Weren’t the Pilgrims ‘immigrants”?) Think of the many writers and other artists who fled from Nazi Germany, found sanctuary on our shores, and added immeasurably to our culture.  But think also of what we lost when we denied refuge to so many,  like the desperate Jewish refugees whose ship was infamously turned back.

The media is overflowing with politicians warning about the “danger” of letting today’s refugees into our country, as if every migrant is a potential terrorist. Recently the papers related the story of a family who fled from Syria and finally – after two years of being exhaustively vetted – arrived here, planning to settle in Michigan where they had friends. What were the words of welcome? None. Michigan had closed its doors.

Dangerous people? Look at the photo in the papers. A man, his wife and their four- year- old child. ”We fled from violence,” the woman said. ”We are not looking for more.” To me, they and the multitude of other migrants, are far less threatening than politicians who volley racist words of hate and fear.

Fortunately, that particular family found welcome in Connecticut. . But for every family allowed to come here, how many thousands more find they have left their native land for a no-man’s land where they are shunned and rejected?

What has this got to do with writing (for this is supposedly a writers’ blog)? Everything. For who we are and what we believe are inevitably reflected in our work. Yes I’m afraid of terrorism, yes I travel more anxiously. But I never want fear to corrode the better person I strive to be.

If we kill our own “quality of mercy” something will die within us, and it will barely matter what we hope to write, for the victory will go to the terrorists.

[comments welcome]

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

 BOOKS: WIDOW’S WALK, available at iUniverse.com; ROLE PLAY and TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW, both available at CreateSpace.com, Amazon & Amazon Kindle.