Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.
—Sue Monk Kidd, 'The Secret Life of Bees'
Confession: I used to be a bit of an Eeyore. Just like the famous stuffed grey donkey, I was prone to gloominess and pessimism. I may not have said aloud, like he often did, “thanks for noticin’ me,” but that could sometimes describe my vibe.
So one year on my birthday my husband surprised me with a spontaneous trip to Austin, Texas for the annual Eeyore Birthday Bash.
The title of my first book, Hello Loved Ones, comes from an “endearment “ used casually by the father of the narrator when he comes home drunk after long unexplained absences. He tosses these words at his children, who are starved for his attention, before leaving them again. The novel looks at the importance of love in action and questions whether love is determined by blood or by choice.
A Course in Miracles teaches that love is always a choice and that, in fact, nothing exists except the choice between love and fear.
I heard comedian Yakov Smirnoff on the radio talking about his career and how he was invited to write jokes for Ronald Reagan during the Cold War. Before immigrating to the U.S. from the Soviet Union, Smirnov had been required to submit all his jokes to the Department of Humor in his communist country. Sex, politics, and religion were off-limits. Now he was being given the creative freedom to write a joke for the president of the United States to deliver at the 1988 Moscow Summit.
Sometimes, like it or not, you have to practice what you preach.
In a writing class I’m teaching, we talk about finding inspiration. My advice to anyone struggling to find a story is always to tune into what’s happening right here, right now, in front of you. I like to say that we don’t find the story, the story finds us.
So when the time came to face the blank page today and decide on a topic, I had to take a mental inventory of my week. How have I spent my time? What have I been thinking or talking about?
Then came the groan. Oh no….not that.
Three rabbis walk into a coffee shop. No, it’s not a joke. Three rabbis are sitting at the table next to me discussing a problem at the synagogue. Judy Feinstein has done something wrong. It seems to be a problem of paperwork. Where did she get the information to fill out that form? one asks. And the young one says let’s just cut through the mustard.
Hey. I’m trying to write here. I’ve got my laptop charged up and I was about to unleash some edgy dialogue. I resent the distraction, but only mildly. Mostly I’m interested.
How do you know when to start a new paragraph? Follow these rules: