On Not Writing About Death

Book title in white letters on black background, The Art of Death

For my 69th birthday in June, one of my sisters gave me a book called The Art of Death by Edwidge Danticat. The subtitle is Writing the Final Story. It’s from The Art Of series edited by Charles Baxter and published by Graywolf Press. In it, Danticat examines death scenes from works by Toni Morrison,…

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Flamingo Prayer

Baby wearing onesie with "kindbaby" printed on it

My newborn granddaughter is leggy with long feet and long toes. Her wingspan gives her the appearance of a flamingo, her long fingers the mechanisms for flight. A group of flamingoes is called a “flamboyance.” But Malaya on her own is flamboyant as she crosses one thigh over the other and throws an arm above…

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Turning sixty-nine

Woman with glass and bottle of wine on table in front of her

Partly from nostalgia for a more youthful me and partly from bemusement at having arrived at the age of 69, I tried to remember what marked each of the years of my life ending in the number nine in terms of my writing. Age 9 – It was the year and month of the Cuban…

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My Naked Face, My New Way of Seeing

black and white image of eyes of a woman

When I was in kindergarten, sitting cross-legged with my classmates at the foot of our teacher’s chair, I dreaded being called upon to name the animal in the picture she pulled like a mean magician from the deck of flashcards. The lines were imprecise, the colors bleeding into each other. I squinted to make sense…

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My Mother’s Dress

Torso of woman in black dress

Five years ago this month, my sisters and I gathered in my mother’s bedroom. She had died the previous June and we were ready to sort through her clothes. As I wrote in my January 2017 post, she had lots of them. A bulging closetful. A crammed dresser full. A jam-packed trunkful at the foot…

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There’s Gnome Place Like Home

Potted plants with garden gnomes

Much of my fiction is set in a place that resembles my hometown of National City, California and some of my characters live in a house that resembles the National City house I grew up in. I’ll argue that these similarities are due not to writerly laziness or lack of imagination, but to an emotional…

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Rejection and Acceptance

A series of the word "Declined"

Rejection is part of a writer’s life. We all know this. Rejections will outnumber acceptances. It’s a statistical certainty. So we learn to respond to rejection with acceptance—at least intellectually. But our very human emotions insist otherwise. When I receive a rejection for my work, the first thing I feel is disappointment, and then a…

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Shrinking our spaces, but not our selves

Window with view of neighborhood and cat perched on couch

I’ve written about the house we used to live in both in fiction and for a live performance (2018 Ampersand Live, minute 18:26). It was our first house, which was also our last house, the fixer-upper that never quite got fixed up enough and in the last years that we occupied it, lost many of…

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