Newsletter Spring 2013
Spring is here! The crocuses are in bloom, the daffodils just about, and the forsythia
bushes are showing their yellow buds. The ospreys have returned to their nests, and the
raccoons will resume their nightly prowls to my yard. Town Pond, above, one of East
Hampton’s landmark sites, already has two swans in residence, joining a variety of ducks
and other waterfowl. Approaching East Hampton village on Montauk Highway, you turn
right and wind up at Main Beach, on the ocean. Turn left and you see this pastoral
scene, with historic mansions and a cemetery dating back to the 17th century, spread out
behind the freshwater pond. We who live here never tire of this splendid scene, and
newcomers to East Hampton are always in awe.
“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth
their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.”
“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.”
The best news I have to share right now is that my memoir Only You has been accepted
for publication and may be out as soon as late this fall. Some of you know about the
book, set in the late 1950s, my teenage years, in Queens, New York, and that I’ve been
searching for a publisher for a long time. I’d send it out, field the rejections, put it away,
then take it out of the drawer and try again. This happened many times and is entirely a
normal process in a writer’s life. Last summer, Oak Tree Press, a traditional, small press
located in the Midwest, ran a memoir contest. Only You won the contest, and the prize is
publication. Right now, I’m clearing permissions for the lyrics and quotes I’ve used and
doing final edits. I’ll let you know when publication day is near.
Some quotes on why you (we) should never give up when we believe in our work:
“I had a ten-page outline (The Godfather) but nobody would take me. Months went by. I
was working on a string of adventure magazines, editing, writing freelance stories…I was
ready to forget novels except maybe as a puttering hobby for old age.”
“The principle…we must hold if we are to survive as writers, deluded or otherwise: even
when all evidence is to the contrary, we are steadily improving; whatever we are working
on at the present time is the best thing we have ever done, and the next book will be even
Joyce Carol Oates
I traveled to Los Angeles, then to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico over two weeks in February. I
met some great people at the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival – mystery writers,
poets, artists. John Brantingham put together quite a wonderful show, with the help of his
wife, Ann, colleagues, and his creative writing students. There were three days of
readings, art exhibits and musical performances, in three locations at the West Covina
Civic Center: in the library, on the open green, and in the City Hall chamber. My own
reading, three personal essays, took place in the latter on a Sunday afternoon. I spent
time with writers Marta Chausẻe, Carol Avila, Augie Hicks, and Sunny Frazier, among
others. It was a great week except for one problem: I rented a car at the LAX airport and
had to drive on the infamous freeways to and from the Valley and Santa Monica. Driving
in Los Angeles is frightening -- too many lanes and cars and confusing signs for me.
I flew from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta on February 20 where I stayed for a week. On
the second day, I took the one hour, high-speed motorboat (panga) to Yelapa, in the
jungle, to see my son and his band perform. In tourist season, Jeffrey performs three
nights a week at restaurant/nightspots along the beach. I stayed overnight, sleeping with
one eye open as I shared my thatched hut/hotel room with a four-inch long, black jungle
insect. I returned to Puerto Vallarta to wander the city and attend the annual three-day
Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference held at the Biblioteca Los Mangos (the library). As a
member of the PV Writers Group, I’ve come to know many of the writers and artists in the
community, mostly ex-pats and snow birds from the U.S. and Canada. It was great to
catch up with them. I attended the various panel discussions and workshops offered.
Coast Lines 2: Writings from the Puerto Vallarta Writers Group, in which one of my
essays, Finding the Gold” appears, was for sale during the conference. You can find this
Besides the benefits that conferences and literary festivals provide for writers, the travel
itself is a definite recharge of our mental batteries.
“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in
a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel
does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour
and meaning of art.”
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by
the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch
the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
April will be a busy teaching month for me, but since I love meeting new and old students,
how can I complain? There are months when I’m not teaching at all, but writing and
marketing my work. I post updates about my teaching schedule on my website: www.
Classes resumed on Saturday afternoon, March 16, at Suffolk Community College,
Ammerman campus. This is an eight-week series once again, “Creative Writing: Fiction
and Nonfiction, and the class filled up quickly. What a talented group of writers this
seems to be.
Starting Tuesday, April 2, from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., “Share Your Story: Memoir and Personal
Essay” is scheduled for five weeks at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton. The fee is
$65. As of now, there is still room for more writers in the class. Anyone interested should
please call the library at 631-537-0015.
At the Connetquot Library in Bohemia, our spring series begins next Thursday, April 4,
from 1:30 – 3:30, for a memoir writing workshop. The class is limited to 12 people; 20
signed up very quickly, many early in the morning of registration day, which makes me
feel like a rock star. I wish we could accommodate everyone, but we just cannot. Rita,
Dot, John, Tony, and all of you, I’ll see you soon in this, our fourth year. Later this spring,
the library may stage a reading for the writers in the group.
Still another workshop, in fiction and nonfiction, is being offered by the Ross School, on
Monday nights, April 8, from 6 - 8 p.m., (six classes). The cost is $175 and those who
want to sign up should call the school at 631-907-5555.
“Home Again,” a memoir by Matthew Ryan of the Bridgehampton writers’ group, was
published in late December in The East Hampton Star. A lovely holiday story about
visiting his 94-year old grandmother in Sag Harbor, Matthew writes about his Nana, who
lives alone in the family home. A hearty beef stew is on the stove, and in the warmth of
the rooms so many memories come back, which he shares with the reader. “There’s
magic in these memories,” Matthew writes, “and of being a child and dreams of Toyland.
‘Toyland: once you cross its borders, you can never return again.’”
Elizabeth Kujawski of the Suffolk Community College class also wrote a reminiscence
essay about her grandmother. She sent it to a relative in California who saw that it was
published in a local newspaper.
In early January Jerry Giammatteo, also from the college class, wrote a clever retort to the
“fiscal cliff” that was all over the media. “$250,000 income? I’d love to try it,” the essay
begins, and Newsday published it on January 4 as their weekly Expressway column.
Jerry, along with students from Connetquot and Bridgehampton, published 99-word
essays on The Joy of Story, writer/publisher/teacher John Daniel’s blog, in February. The
theme was “Make up a story about a relationship that changed someone’s definition of
the word ‘Love’.” The other contributors were Joe Bonelli, Toni Hallock-Betts, and Donna
Weinheim. In March, Jerry was back on the blog with another 99-worder (theme: “Storm
Warning” accompanied by a scary photo of a person in distress), along with Chester
Punicki, John Nolan, Phyllis Povell, and Christine Viscuso.
The April prompt for The Joy of Story is: “The joke’s on me” and the rules are: stories
must be 99 words long. Exactly (minus the title). Stories must be stories: something has
to happen to somebody. Stories need conflict. Deadline: April Fools Day! See John
Daniel’s blog at http://johnmdaniel.blogspot.com to read his articles on writing and, if you
are quickly inspired (by Monday, April 1st), send him your story! The address:
As I always like to close with quotes, here they are:
“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining…researching…talking to people about what
you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
E. L. Doctorow
“The art of writing, like the art of love, runs all the way from a kind of routine, hard to
distinguish from piling bricks, to a kind of frenzy closely related to delirium tremens.”
H. L. Mencken
“You write by sitting down and writing…How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t
matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help…everyone learns
his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you.”
Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Happy Spring, everyone!