Recently I was given an example of the adage, “Less is more. ”  One of my memoir writing  students, whose parents had been Holocaust survivors, was describing the way they discovered that the family left behind in Germany had been killed. This was something she could have taken countless pages to write, but she chose to do it in just six words:  Letters stopped coming. Then we knew.

How much tragedy is conveyed in those brief commonplace words, rather than diluting the impact with decorative adjectives. It’s similar to a line in the Bible that I’ve always admired, about Jacob’s overwhelming grief when his beloved wife Rachel died. No “tears streamed down his cheeks” or breast-beating language, but the simple: Jacob wept.

How much each of us might communicate in a few words, whether we’re writing or talking, rather than rambling on and on. I’m not dismissing the power of lengthy novels in genius hands (Proust is safe!) Yet, as I often find in my own work, a story may improve surprisingly when it’s stripped to essentials.

No less an authority than Ernest Hemingway agreed. Legend has it that he wagered he could write a complete story in just six words. He won his bet with the terse: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

(I can’t resist adding a more acidic example by Canadian author Margaret Atwood:  Longed for him. Got him. Shit.)

Compared to such compression, being assigned 20 words seems expansive. That was the challenge given the brilliant writer and translator, Lydia Davis. After what she admitted was considerable revising she came up with:
I am happy the leaves are growing large so quickly. Soon they will hide the neighbor and her screaming child.
An intriguing scene in what was literally a very small space – for the assignment was for the label on a mouthwash bottle!

Since brevity is the soul of whatever, I’ll end here. (10 words)

Comments welcome! Send to annehosansky.com
Books: ROLE PLAY and TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – Available at CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.
WIDOW’S WALK – iUniverse.com


I’ve just made a punctuation discovery that I’d never realized before. The apostrophe in Mother’s Day makes it one mother’s day, not a day for all mothers — although, of course, it’s designed to be.

This seemingly slight difference punctuates a truth: not all mothers feel grateful for this enforced holiday. Yes, there’s many a fortunate woman with Hallmark gratification that her son or daughter remembered her, with a bouquet or trinket or candy or whatever. Even a phone call might be special in some families!

On the other hand there some (many?) women who are disdainful of the holiday or feel guilty because they find the day difficult. Perhaps offspring are far away, emotionally as well as geographically. So Mother’s Day becomes something to get through, rather than a celebration. (On the other side, children can have conflicts about compulsory homage – but that’s for another blog.)

We should also remember that there are too many women who have lost their  own mother or a child, and who would rather tear the month of May off the calendar than be reminded by this day – as if grief needs any reminding.

But between the Hallmark smiles and bitter sadness there’s a whole spectrum of mixed feelings. Because the truth is that very few of the famed relationships between Mother and Daughter- or Son – are 100% black or white . There are numerous shades of conflicted feelings on both sides. I vividly recall a woman telling me about a fight with her adolescent daughter, who then sent her a note to say, I hate you. Love, Becky.

So I was gratified when one of my memoir writing students wrote her own candid view of the day. Her name is Toby Kass, and she’s a mother and grandmother. She came into my class a little over a year ago, confessing that she’d “never written anything but grocery lists.” She then stunned the class by writing with exceptional candor and talent. Here’s an excerpt from her frank comments about Mother’s Day.

This Mother’s Day has a new meaning – a different feeling. I remember becoming a mother as being the most significant event of my life. . . .But, as with all things, Mother’s Day has changed. My children are now 50 years old or close to it. Although I still hold the title of “Mother,” it is from a distance. Everyone is involved in their own life and family. It’s as if I’ve been retired from a job I loved. My children and grandchildren always make sure I know I’m thought about and loved – but the involvement is peripheral.   This is the scheme of life – all things come and go.  My plight is not unique and my plate is certainly not empty. In my head, I know this is natural. But sometimes my head and heart are not in sync.

To all of us struggling for that “sync,” and for acceptance of the way things must change, I wish a peaceful Sunday. Go to a movie, treat yourself to a massage, splurge on chocolates,  confide your feelings ¬ whatever they are ¬ to your journal. And remember: Monday’s around the corner.

Comments welcome! Send to annehosansky.com

Books: ROLE PLAY  and TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – Available at CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.

 WIDOW’S WALK – iUniverse.com