A Toast to Billy Collins

About thirty minutes before the reading by Billy Collins on Wednesday evening, the gates closed at Hill-Stead Museum.  No more cars could be accommodated. It was another poetry traffic jam in Farmington, Ct. By then 1,600 people filled Hill-Stead’s sunken garden. As they awaited the former U.S. Poet Laureate, another 96, many in party attire,Continue Reading

Carolyn Forche and Col. Gaddafi

The subject of the nefarious Colonel did not come up right away. First, there was more digestible dinner conversation in the hour before Carolyn Forche’s recent reading at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. Though she is known  especially for exposing human rights violations, Carolyn recounted a very different phenomenon –a new form of, well, ghostContinue Reading

Not Writing Excuses

Usually, the excuses are along the lines of: I don’t have time to write. (Translated: I’d rather watch the George Zimmerman trial.) I’m not sure I can do it. (Translated:I have a thin skin.) I’ll get around to it someday. (Reality: Someday never comes.) But here is something different, a humanitarian excuse. It is fromContinue Reading

Writing Eulogies: ‘Infidelity’ Version

Jerry Price’s daughter, Heather, called recently with news about her dad, my only close friend from the Vietnam War. He had suffered a severe stroke, and then, as the days passed, his condition deteriorated. He died last Monday at a hospice in rural Missouri. Heather asked if I would write a eulogy. I complied, ofContinue Reading

Jodi Arias, a Memoir

Exclusive excerpt from the Introduction of “Just Jodi,” a memoir to be published in June 2015: There is a law about not profiting from the sales of books in which a criminal describes her crimes. But then this book isn’t my fault. Over the years people have said to me various words — using nounsContinue Reading

Sweet Clarity: Zinsser on Mitchell and Ruff

The jazz pianist Dwike Mitchell died this week, and I thought of Willie Ruff, his playing partner for almost 60 years, but mostly of William Zinsser, the teacher of all of us in the matter of writing well. Zinsser, of course, gave us On Writing Well, Writing to Learn, and other classics on craft. ButContinue Reading

From Our Amalfi Coast Writers Retreat

Several nights ago, a pleasant panic seemed to break out among our writing students. On previous afternoons, they had explored the town of Praiano. They’d had lunch overlooking the Ligurian Sea. But on this day most of them scurried back from the morning workshop to the Hotel Margherita to change everything. It would be theContinue Reading

Italy For Writers

  Questions for writers: How can you benefit from Amazon? How do you develop arcs for your characters? How do you create irresistible beginnings for novels or memoirs? And how can you resist Neapolitan paccheri con la zuppa di pesce? Well, then… Be a part of the first Praiano Writers Conference with novelist Wally Lamb, poet Suzanne LevineContinue Reading

A Book Unwritten

There are many books, I’m sure, on your must-read list. Sheldon Ocker’s is not among them, because it doesn’t exist. I’ve said to him, “Sheldon, you’re witty and experienced. And readers would be interested in such a book.” His answer through the years has always been the same: “No.” This is in stark contrast toContinue Reading

Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: Elizabethan Juxto

The never ending speculation about who wrote Shakespeare’s plays includes the distinct possibility that it was a man named William Shakespeare. If you accept this as a premise, see if you can find a 2008 Recorded Books release of Bill Bryson reading his biography (of a sort), entitled, Shakespeare: The World as Stage. Unlike mostContinue Reading