Monday, October 16, 2017

A Nursing Home Visit, A Woman Alone: A Memoir Moment





A coloring book and colored pencils. Fogged window panes obscuring views of orange streaking the maple trees. No outside world, just the one here ... inside.

A hot dog cut into bite-sized pieces.

When I first enter the nursing home, she cries out “Susie!” I rush to her and hold her close. She buries her head against my chest and weeps … what is it, I whisper?  She feels such relief to see me; she lives in the throes of anxiety, each day on the precipice of a fast-moving disease, like the wild fires out West―some say it is Alzheimer’s, others, dementia. No matter. Flames incinerating her.

“Are you a relative?” It's lunchtime. A woman slides the tray of food in front of Paula. “She’s been my best friend for fifty-five years,” I say. “You’re not a relative then,” she says flatly. “She’s my sister,” I say with defiance.

A friend has accompanied me for truthfully it took all my strength and courage to get here, to face this. Be prepared, the nurse says before we even enter the room, confirming my worst fears, the dread dragging down my arms, my legs. When was it you last saw her? Five months, I think. The nurse repeats, be prepared.

The words echo another time, another place where he lay dying. Be prepared. A sunken hollowed-out shell of a once vibrant man. I loved him. Now this. I love her. The beautiful girl who validated me, who saw me through lonely nights after his death, our phone conversations rippling with laughter and her astute observations about the world and the people in our little orbits …. The crazy news editor, the narcissistic lover, the abusive parent.

A friend has agreed to accompany me on this visit. She’s an RN, a long career behind her, her instincts and understanding of patients, illness and the medical system impressed me. I wanted her opinion because I still couldn’t grasp that Paula was what they said … Alzheimer’s?

We’ve tried everything her nurse goes on as if seeking salvation. It's very unusual for someone her age to have the disease accelerate this quickly. All kinds of medications have been tried to control the anxiety, but nothing seems to work. I want to scream … Wouldn’t you be anxious if your life had been stripped from you?

***
My friend pulls out the coloring book she suggested I bring for Paula and which she picked up at Michaels, the craft store up the street from me. Barn quilts.

“Here, girlfriend,” she says in a soft tone. “Let’s color. Isn’t this pretty?” she points to a picture of a barn, a horse, flowers and grass. “I have one of those,” Paula says of the coloring book, looking away with disinterest, but not rude. She has never been rude to anyone as long as I've known her. The ugly plump hot dog sits on her plate beside limp French fries.

Paula picks a fry off the plate, studies it, a slight frown creasing her brow. The streak of ketchup perhaps? Thoughtfully, she places the thing in her mouth and chews … slowly.

“It’s good she still has an appetite,” my friend says as if Paula isn’t in the room. She spears a piece of hot dog with the fork and says, “Here, girlfriend. Eat.” My friend uses “girlfriend,” a lot with me and other women. That’s okay. I know she means well or I wouldn’t have asked her to come with me. Blanche DuBois depended on the kindness of strangers. I have always depended on the kindness of women.

After, a few more bites, Paula weeps … whispers … “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”

“I know what you mean,” I tell her, reaching for her arm. I stroke it. I am desperate to recapture some of the old rapport. And it's true. I often am at a loss. “I don’t know what to do either,” I say. A flash of her old self … that sweet smile, a chuckle. “Yes,“ she says.

Her downhill slide is stunning since last I saw her in this nursing home where cobwebs lace activities calendars in orange and black decorated with cut-outs of jack o lanterns ... each day marked ... Mass, sing-along, movie time.

She hasn’t colored anything yet, while my friend and I try to stay cheerful staying within the lines … the vertical beam of the barn in brown, the flowers. I select a rose-colored pencil. Isn’t this a pretty color? You know me. I always loved the color rose, I say. Paula nods. She looks down at the fork in her hand.

She is in the belly of the beast now. “Stand up? Can you stand up?” I ask. Paula nods. Yes. The wheelchair is something new. Last time she moved and walked quickly and with ease. I try to help her stand and some ungodly high-pitched beeping sound splits the air. A young Asian woman with an apologetic smile rushes over. I'm sorry, I mumble. The chord attached to Paula has come loose from the wheelchair. It’s enough to stoke the anxiety again and the effort to stand evaporates.

Would you like me to visit more often? Her large beautiful blue eyes take me in. “I think that is a good idea,” she says solemnly. I love you, I say. I love you too, she says. Then the weeping starts and her mantra, I don’t know what to do.

Before I leave, I wheel her down the hallway toward her room. “She can’t be in her room alone,” a nurse sitting behind a station on the floor declares in a firm voice. “Besides, she needs to be showered now.”

Paula begins shouting. “No! Dammit, no! I don’t want a shower.” She keeps repeating and shouting Dammit. Good for her. Good for you, girlfriend. Helplessly I watch the nurse wheel her away.

Author's Note: This is a continuation of A Woman Alone: A Memoir of Reflections and Writing.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Is My Life Too Boring To Write? ... and Other Questions

She felt memoir was a bit “restrictive.” She didn’t want to be confined to reality, she said, at least not in her writing, because throughout much of her childhood, she struggled with boredom. So, she wanted to write fiction now because it lent drama and imagination to her work; a platform to write “dynamic” stories.

I understand her feelings. I have written both memoir and fiction. I enjoy the freedom of fiction, of not being tied to things, specifically, not making things up.

Does that mean memoir lacks imagination and drama? Or, maybe, more to the point, is my life too boring to write?

Believe me, I have asked this of myself many times. I think of all the women who have written the stories of their lives … their “boring” and “ordinary” lives, including Abigail Thomas and May Sarton

I have heard writers attempting memoir in our Women's Writing Circle read arounds and critiques. The craftsmanship might not have been there, the telling of it perhaps drawn out, but how fortunate I am that I have been privy to their readings, their “moments of being.”

Still the question haunts many a memoir writer, whether first previewing a work in a writing group or considering publication. Is my own life too boring to write? There’s this pessimism that our lives aren’t interesting, or, at least, unique. (No, I am not Kim Kardashian.)

Have my “dramas” and crises been experienced by many and, therefore, do they enter the realm of the mundane? And, as much to the point, assuming that the fear of the mundane, the trite, is overcome, do I have the talent as a writer to bring my life to the page and offer up a good―even a great read for publication?

I think of what Salman Rushdie said recently on an NPR interview when asked if “anyone can be a writer?” Rushdie, a novelist and essayist, responded that while anyone can learn “the craft” of writing, not everyone is a writer. This is a hard truth for many to swallow. The writer, he said, instinctively pays attention to detail, knows how to really listen to others, and drinks up all the sensory and real and intuitive … this cannot be taught. I agree with him.

Back to memoir. Are we constrained by a lack of imagination and chained to “reality?” … to “accuracy”? While it’s true there must be a dedication to the truth in the genre, we are given free rein to recreate from memory a time, a place, an event and a moment. In this way it becomes a creative expression, one brimming with imagination by the very nature that it lies in the past.
As this article in Frontiers in Psychology notes: “Reflecting on past events and reflecting on future events are two fundamentally different processes, each traveling in the opposite direction of the other through conceptual time. But what we can imagine seems to be constrained by what we have previously experienced, suggesting a close link between memory and prospection. Recent theories suggest that recalling the past lies at the core of imagining and planning for the future.” 
Therein, perhaps, lies the healing power of memoir; as we remember the past, we are led on to imagining and planning for the future. This is an act of self-discovery, of unearthing hidden treasure.

***
A point to consider: While men have always explored action in their narratives … the country music star singing “on the road again,” or whatever other manly pursuits he’s been up to … women often have been relegated to the inner monologue, the inner life, so to speak. And how beautiful the writing is both in memoir and fiction! If this lacks drama, lead me on.

In the final analysis, just write it ...
however you want to write it. Journal it, write it for your eyes only, publish as fiction or memoir, if you must. But write it. 

How about you? Have you felt your life is too boring to write?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Trepidation, Dread and the Discovery Of Writing


As I listen to writers in a memoir workshop I’m leading about writing difficult subjects, I think how we share this in common. We’re on a journey of self-exploration … survivors who seek transformation and willingness to embark on the quest. Who am I? Deep diving allows us to become another creature of sorts.

We talk about secrets; how we avoid revealing our deepest secrets out of dread that, "If people knew that about me, they wouldn't like me."

We talk about feminist author Carolyn G. Heilbrun who wrote "what has been forbidden to women is anger" ... our trepidation that writing stories of action and accomplishment will be branded "unwomanly."

We talk about myths. The little girl believed the myths―you fall in love with Prince Charming and live happily-ever-after; you suffer in silence, your reality and pain stored in the hold of the conscious and unconscious mind.

We talk about poetry. And then we write.

I become the one with the crenellated fans that Adrienne Rich writes about in her poem “Diving Into the Wreck.”

“I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail ….”  Rich writes. And now: it is easy to forget what I came for among so many who have always lived here swaying their crenellated fans between the reefs and besides you breathe differently down here.

I look up crenellated. Hard, embattled ... like me and many I have known. Building a wall, stone gray battlements as unyielding as the buildings at West Point John wrote about in his memoir.

I am a woman alone, surviving the memory of the night his mother threatened to kill whoever entered his ghostly hospital room and cross her unholy path ... the night he died and I wasn't by his side. A secret I haven't shared until now.


I write about the wreck … the cancer … “I wish I’d never met you …” my life not how I imagined. “The thing I came for: the wreck and not the story of the wreck… the thing itself and not the myth,” Rich writes.

I come for the woman alone, to support and succor her … hoping to demolish the wreck. Old age beckons its bony finger. As one of our writers puts it, aging alone after the death of a husband comes with a tinge, sharper at times than others … a blade slicing through flesh, leaving the wound of depression.

Some might say I have it easy, indeed, they have even told me this as though owning a lovely home, Lily by my side is more than any woman should want or expect. After all, I’m not swabbing campsite bathrooms as some in their mid-seventies must do ... they have no savings to speak of, and so they appear on the front page of the Washington Post in a story about the "new reality of old age in America."

I do not ascribe a value to the idea that one person’s pain is deeper or worse than another’s
. Pain is pain and it immerses us―sooner or later. And that’s where writing comes in. It eases the burden of the wreck … the myths that wreaked havoc … the secrets that led to the many defenses and contradictions. The trepidation we will be branded unwomanly. 

Write it as memoir. Write it as fiction. Just write it. I think of my father who wore a mask of composure until the day he died. "We don’t air our dirty laundry." His face stares back at me, a mirror image of my own repression. Then I gather with a group of writers and with their words, reflections and insights, I discover the courage and the freedom to write and take my place among them.

*****

I’d like to share a sampling of comments from our writers following our Writing About Pain, Loss and Other Difficult Subjects memoir workshop:
I came looking for ways to establish a “writers’ life” and left understanding more fully that the key is in sharing our humanity in authentic ways.

I came into the Writing Circle today filled with trepidation.
The thought of exposing my vulnerabilities to strangers filled me with dread. I left with a sense of expectation and confidence because I found exposing my vulnerabilities to daring fellow strugglers was so encouraging.
I really enjoyed the workshop. Hearing other women’s stories and the courage of them sharing, encourage me to write and share my stories too. I never imagined that I would write stories or share them. The Women’s Writing Circle has made it possible for me to open up.

I brought pain and hope for different perspectives and resolution on my grief. What I took away? Pain is a universal truth that we all share and we are all hiding with our secrets and wear masks to cover our true authentic selves … and when we delve into our deepest, darkest parts and unravel and reveal the pain that has held us back forever and ever, it is then that we become free because we realize we are no different from anyone else … we all have secrets that make us human.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Diving Deep Into Memoir―Writing the Difficult Subjects

How different my life would be if I’d been into that guy from Lancaster County. He really liked me, he wanted a wife, he gave me a tour of his house, including his collection of electric guitars …. And then he told me he liked Sarah Palin. He wore Old Spice.

In a series of reflective memoir essays about the woman alone I’ve been writing (and sharing on this blog), people tell me they want a chapter about being single and dating again. 

I consider myself somewhat an expert having listened to women and their stories now for over two decades. And I’ve had a lot of experience myself. In my memoirs, Again in a Heartbeat, and Morning at Wellington Square, I wrote about dating again after being widowed ... but I was a lot younger then. I will say this … dating at fifty-three, or sixty-three … it's not like dating in your twenties or thirties or even your forties. You’re not young anymore.

As writers, we recognize a journey that might be the stuff of a stand-up routine. It’s so painful, we have to laugh, if we can … the subject of Saturday’s memoir workshop I’m teaching here at my home. How do we write about difficult subjects?

Diving deep is not for the faint of heart. Nor is analyzing the events that led to an outcome in our lives we never anticipated. The divorce, the death, the broken childhood, sometimes leads to a mad scramble to immediately “right the ship.” If you find yourself unexpectedly single again, it can feel like wearing mismatched shoes and hoping no one notices that you're hobbling around the room.

I consider Internet dating the embodiment of  “if you keep doing it and expect a different result, that’s the definition of insanity.” Sadly, I admit I recently tried it again, signed up for a dating website and within a few hours about a dozen guys contacted me … a guy from California, no less. Makes it tough to meet for coffee. 

I will say this. I’ve known older women who swear by the Internet. A woman in her early seventies insists that when she met this man on Match a couple years back, it “was just like Kismet.” She married him. I’ve heard her use the "Kismet" analogy several times. “What a great story!” people enthuse. Now before she goes to bed at night, she eats half a dozen chocolate chip cookies and drinks two ice cold glasses of milk she takes out of the freezer. A new twist on happily-ever-after.

I recently heard a Jerry Seinfeld comedy routine.
I don't know about you, but I love Seinfeld. He takes the ordinary life and makes it personal, real, hilarious, brings us back to the child within each of us. He says women want flowers. Flowers go a long way. I agree with him. I was in a relationship with this guy for a while and he brought me a small wood carved ghost because he knew I liked Halloween. Who does that when they want to romance a woman? Brings a ghost, but thinks the roses aren’t important?

I do understand that mismatched-shoes-feeling … sometimes, there was a sense that others viewed the single woman with suspicion, even a threat. Early on, the invitations to the couples’ parties stopped. Many women have told me this. Surviving this turn of events after being part of a couple for seventeen years came―at least for me―from hours, days, months, years alone growing up with two parents who had little interest in bringing the outside world into our home. Without a contemplative mind, we fail to see the larger picture.

For Dad, an exciting night was reading Thackeray, drinking a dry gin martini and falling asleep in front of the television. I will always be grateful to my parents for their off-handed parenting and appreciation of the finer things in life. Self-sufficiency and learning to enjoy your own company is a great gift.

Writing is an elixir … a purifying of the spirit, the body and the mind. Putting the events, the moments down on paper―what led to the wreck―the lost expectations, the disastrous relationship, the desperation? Writing is the surest way of diving deep and unlocking the treasure.

One of my favorite writing prompts has to do with objectivity and distance. The prompt goes like this: Who was I to my mother? … Who was my mother to me? Writing from two diametrically opposed perspectives like that forces the writer to confront the “other” head on. Another way is to write in second or third person, unless the ‘I’ narrative is a fictionalized account, a “super eye in the sky,” so to speak.

Getting back to the guy from Lancaster County; What could she do when she WISHED she could settle for Sarah Palin and Old Spice? Take a road trip. Get a dog. Take a selfie of the person she loved the most.

How about you? What techniques do you use when writing the difficult subjects?


Monday, September 18, 2017

The Role of Forgiveness in Writing Our Stories



Writers know that forgiveness is a theme that comes part and  parcel with the blank page. I will tell you my story if I can just accept that this whole messy topic of forgiveness can be a particularly hazardous undertaking. It’s not easy.

Who doesn’t understand the difficulty of forgiving someone; or, hopefully ... eventually ... how freeing it is? As Louise L. Hays, motivational author and founder of Hay House, said: “Forgiveness is for yourself because it frees you. It lets you out of that prison you put yourself in.”

Writers toil hard to craft a creative work, often due to the quest for forgiveness; the father who abused his daughter, the husband who cheated on his wife, the mother who ignored her children. As Indira Gandhi put it, “Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.”

Yesterday in church we talked about forgiveness; how a lack of forgiveness keeps you mired in “barnyard stuff”… or to use a less primitive image, acts like a nasty storm cloud over your head. Forgiving someone takes time. And, the converse, it’s important to give the person who has not done the forgiving space for God to work on his or her heart.

And then there is the whole business of forgiving ourselves. For the writer, especially the memoir writer who finds writing as a way of healing, we’re often seeking to forgive ourselves for not being the best wife, the best mother, the best daughter. It’s a painstaking process.

This is why I love writing. It is a constructive pastime … whether you are journaling or drafting a book for publication, this journey moves through the trash-canned-strewn moments of childhood all the way to old age and the sheer exhaustion that leads to the inevitable question, who am I?

A woman celebrating a 70-something birthday said, “My new philosophy; I’m tired of always working to make this or that happen, now I’ve decided let it come to me.”

It took most of her life to stop making a full accounting to a father who told her she “would never amount to anything.”

Somewhere I saw a writer posting that you should forgive yourself for not writing every day. It might have been tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. Perfectionism leads to ruination of the heart and soul.

More than penning life’s beautiful moments; dusting off nostalgic memories and turning them into a positive homily of lessons learned, writing is what Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, said: "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

Our bodies react to writing about difficult subjects. It’s why a lot of writers did drugs or drank or smoked themselves to death. Because your mother’s business was your business; your husband’s situation was your situation; your child’s life was your life; the horrors of war were the horrors forever embedded in your soul.

Excavation and entering "the cave you fear to enter" are testimony to the writer’s ability to step back and offer forgiveness  ... her voice and her verse to the world. As Mark Twain put it, “A big heaping of forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

How about you? Has forgiveness played a role in your writing?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Write What You Know―A Memoir Moment of Being



Write what you know. That’s what I always tell new writers. How you weave that knowledge into a story is, of course, up to you. Whether written in first, second or third person … fiction, fantasy, memoir or other creative nonfiction, staying true to write what you know rarely disappoints.

Today my husband, John M. Cavalieri would have been seventy years old and our son Daniel turns thirty. John and I met when he was twenty-nine and I twenty-six. A lifetime ago yet the memory remains, cherished, a central moment of being.

For my sons, I can only imagine the latent sorrow of losing their father at the ages of seven and eleven. All of us were extraordinarily unprepared for his death, although I know how sick he was and I wouldn’t have wanted him to go on living like that. So beneath this story is the unconscious, absorbing of what Virginia Woolf calls “silent grief.”

This weekend we went to Washington DC to celebrate Daniel's birthday and see an Eagles game. I spent four years of my life there―two going to college at American University and another two working jobs on Capitol Hill and at DuPont Circle.

As Daniel, Alex and I wandered the streets around DuPont Circle Saturday night with its vintage brick and stone homes and shops, massage parlors and eateries backlit by the glow of street lights, I decided to stop into a bookstore. Thousands of books on shelves rose as high as the ceilings.

It struck me, at first, that I had missed the boat. If only I had stayed in the city and not moved back to the suburbs outside Philadelphia where I grew up how different my life would be!

As a writer, I still felt the pull of a city consumed by politics, art, excitement and diversity. They say it is dangerous to subscribe to the "grass is always greener" philosophy and so it is because it only leads to bitterness and regret.

We can’t make over who we are. Even our destiny, some say, is written in the stars and mine was meeting a handsome stranger under white dogwood trees and bearing him two sons.

If a writer needs one thing, anything, it is to trust in her instinct that she has something of worth to write. When that happens, the story becomes the universal story, one that is so honest others will identify with your voice, your journey. 

Write your story with heart and soul, believe in yourself, put aside your fears and write about the whole experience. Let your broken wings fly with the knowledge that some things can never be how you imagined they would be or ever be the same again.

And so, I include this excerpt from Again in a Heartbeat about the birth of our son, Daniel, a scene that serves as a summing up―a moment of joy, of sadness, simplicity and innocence … writing what I know.

***



The birth of our son on John’s fortieth birthday was a remarkable gift. As we gazed at Daniel’s sleeping face, I knew that ours was not to question why.

Unlike Alex’s birth four years earlier, this time John and I were both more relaxed. My doctor called Daniel our “miracle baby” because we had conceived him right under the wire. The cancer, the surgery, the radiation and now the chemotherapy had made John sterile.


Daniel arrived quiet and reserved, due probably to the epidural, unlike Alex who came out kicking and screaming after natural childbirth. John held Daniel in the delivery room and looked into his son’s eyes.


“It’s like he knows me,” John said.

For the first time in months, I think both of us felt full of life’s energy.

John and I are good people I thought as I cradled our baby. Our boys need a father to put together a new toy and carry them on his shoulders.

Waiting at home was the thief that was cancer, trying to rob my family of its heart and soul. It wanted the man who one morning before we headed out to work placed a blue velvet box on my dresser. That night when I opened it, there was an opal ring with pale pink and peach glints of light I had admired in a shop window the weekend before.

“You shouldn’t have!”

“Of course, I should have.” He slipped the ring on my finger. “Not every man is as lucky as I am to have a beautiful wife. I love you, Toots.”

Now we had another son born on his father’s birthday. Would Daniel and John celebrate together for years to come? Or would the thief deny them a future?

John headed home from the hospital for his birthday party. He was greeted with drinks and raucous choruses of “Get that man a drink!” John shook hands and passed around cigars. Denise told me he was so exhausted, he quietly excused himself and went up to bed before the guests left.

The next morning John arrived at the hospital with yellow roses. He looked better―in a tan sports coat and turquoise tinted sunglasses. He had a face like a true Roman. He was my husband.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Literary Fiction, Elizabeth Strout and the Ordinary Life


If you’re like I am, you enjoy a literary talent plumbing the depths of the psychological terrain. Elizabeth Strout has entered that pantheon and been a commercial success. Her novel Olive Kitteridge, which won the Pulitzer and was turned into a four-part series on HBO starring Frances McDormand, grossed nearly $25 million with over one million copies sold.

Her book sales are testament to a public clamoring for real stories of the ordinary life. Which is all good, at least to this reader, in an age of pulp fiction, vampires and romance novels.

Literary fiction is a term that applies to a story where the inner lives of the characters are explored ... literary fiction has commonalities with memoir in that the psychological aspects of the characters are examined and the story is not so much plot driven as character driven ....


Richly textured stories abound in Strout's newest novel, Anything Is Possible. The jaded wife married to an unfeeling doctor; the successful businessman who never forgets his poverty and eating out of dumpsters; the Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, married to a woman he doesn’t love; the dying man who suddenly realizes his daughter is unhappy in her marriage.

Anything Is Possible is hard; an often cynical look at people. The reader at times thinks, good God what would Strout make of me? That's the power of the novelist ... to stand back, observe, direct her characters, turn their petty but all-too-human dramas into the sadly comical ... and the deeply personal.

Anything Is Possible is composed of vignettes, shifting points of view and interwoven relationships in a small Illinois town. Dottie is a divorcee whose ex-husband cheated on her. She runs a bed and breakfast and is kind enough to listen for hours to a woman staying there, Shelley, who angrily drones on about her marriage to a man who ignores her. (Self-absorption is a theme in Strout's stories.)

“To listen to a person is not passive,” Strout writes. “To really listen is active, and Dottie had really listened.”

Later, Dottie hears Shelley mocking her to her husband. “Shelley Small was making fun of Dottie in terms Dottie found outrageous. Dottie’s body parts ostensibly not having been made use of in quite some time … as though Dottie was a clown on stage tripping over shoes too large.”

Dottie hears the couple making love. She realizes Shelley’s unhappiness was “something she could ease by being a sexual woman, unlike Dottie. But she was not a sexual woman, Dottie could tell. Shelley got into the shower promptly after, and to Dottie this was always the sign of a woman who had not enjoyed her man.”

***
Strout builds on her earlier work with this novel which explores the back stories of characters in her bestselling My Name is Lucy Barton, which I am now reading. Lucy, a memoir writer, makes a cameo appearance in Anything Is Possible. (Is she Strout’s alter ego?)

Strout attended Bates College, did a stint as a cocktail waitress. She grew up in a Protestant household, her parents teachers. One summer I worked a waitressing job at the New Jersey Shore; my father taught English and languages, including Latin and German. We were good Episcopalians.

I identify with the writer who takes a good hard look, not just at others and (even) herself, but the strange journey where “anything is possible.” It’s through the writer’s lens, the unique perspectives offered for consideration that make a story memorable.

As a writer you keep reading, not only to perfect your craft but stay tuned to why you write. Like any passion―dare I say, spiritual pursuit―you empathize and respond to the human condition, record it and share it. Although Lucy Barton moans just how hard writing is Strout almost makes it look effortless.

Elizabeth Strout

How about you? Do you have a novel or nonfiction book you can recommend that transported and inspired you to write?