New Look, Fresh Content Coming!

A Biblio Paradise has a new look! What do you think? Easier to read, too, isn’t it?

We have some great authors coming in the next few weeks, interviews, information, and more fun, especially with the holidays coming up!

New content will be posted on Tuesdays.

Please stop by and enjoy. Leave a comment — we’d love to hear from you.

In the next few months, we’ll also open to pitches from potential guests for other posts on their writing process or Q & A.

I’m having trouble editing the sidebar — please bear with me while I fix it.

In the meantime, check out my “Tracking Your Banged Buck” article over on WOW-Women on Writing. You want to make your marketing dollars pay off!

Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see you again!


PLAYING THE ANGLES: The Joys and Challenges of Re-Release

Playing the Angles Cover Choice 3

PLAYING THE ANGLES released yesterday, which is exciting and frightening all at once.

Several years ago, it was originally released as ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT under the Annabel Aidan name, through a small traditional publisher, both electronically and via POD. It got positive reviews, and the people who found it loved it. When I had print copies for sale at conferences I attended, it was the highest seller of all my books.

It draws on my experiences working backstage on Broadway, and also dealing with Secret Service personnel who are backstage when political VIPS attend the shows. The romance between Morag and the Secret Service agent is pure fiction, on my part; as is a political figure coming to a show to actually perform in it. That’s where the “what if?” and imagination took over from being rooted in actual backstage experience and policy. And it was a lot of fun to write!

It was initially envisioned as a one-off, a complete stand-alone. I wrote it because I wanted to see if I could write paranormal romantic suspense. However, as I worked on the drafts, I felt there were other stories to be told within this fictional world (which is set in contemporary New York City). The readers felt the same way; they wanted to know about Morag’s friends and colleagues.

Several of the authors whose work I admire in the romance genre (such as Mary Balogh, Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz, and Julia Quinn) write clusters of books set around the same characters. Each book stands alone; each has a separate pair of protagonists who fall in love and find their HEA. But central characters from one book show up as supporting characters in other books; supporting characters move forward to become protagonists. I felt that was appropriate for this world and for these characters.

Because the publisher would not commit to more than one book, the next book in the series kept getting kicked down the road in favor of solid, signed contracts from other publishers. In the life of a writer who pays the bills by the work, he who pays most and has the nearest deadline gets first priority. I was still working on Broadway at the time, writing other paid and contracted work, and also writing plays. When my term of contract was up, the publisher and I parted ways.

I figured that was that, moving on, and the series was dead. I’d learned a lot from this book, and I could and did apply what I learned moving forward.

In the meantime, I still took print copies to conferences and appearances to sell them through. And readers LOVED the book. They wanted to recommend it to their friends. They wanted more stories with these characters.

I’d had the rights back for several years when I did a reassessment of how I wanted to shape my writing career, and what was and was not working for me. How I wanted to structure it according to MY vision, not someone else’s.

That doesn’t mean ignoring craft; my goal with every book is that it’s better than the previous book, and that the craft builds from book to book as well as the story telling.

But it meant a business strategy that worked for ME, rather than being part of a bigger machine that didn’t give a damn, one way or the other. It was not about one book; it was about how this book fits into the overall vision for my career.

That’s still a work in progress, but when my team and I sat down to figure things out, we came up with a plan that we’re implementing over the next three years, and then we’ll reassess.

First off, I re-read the book. I knew the title was a problem; I’d thought the publisher would change the title, and I often joked about the book as “when bad titles attack.” The poor choice of title (my fault entirely) definitely hurt sales. The cover art was gorgeous; I enjoyed working with my editor, although I disagreed with a chapter cut out that set up the relationship with Bonnie, who is the protagonist of the second book.

I was pleasantly surprised, when I re-read it, that the book stood up to the test of story. Some craft things could be improved; some references needed to be updated to reflect upgrades in technology and an even harder shift in the political landscape.

But Morag and Simon were still engaging characters, and the development of their relationship, set against the backdrop of a Broadway show that is depicted fairly realistically instead of the whiny, bitchy way non-theatre people tend to write about it, also stood up. I came up with the title PLAYING THE ANGLES, which had the double entendres I wanted in the title, was relevant to the book, and a catchier and more engaging title.

I started reworking the manuscript, and visualizing the series as a whole. I added back in some of the material introducing Bonnie (and cut what wasn’t needed). I started outlining the different books in the series (in Writer’s Rough Outlines), because I realized the subsequent stories would influence the initial set-up in PLAYING THE ANGLES, even if it wasn’t explained or referenced directly.

The larger traditional publishers aren’t interested in picking up a series that’s already in process unless it’s selling a gazillion copies with a headline name. It was possible to sell the second book in the series, but unlikely the first book would ever see the light of day again. While the lure of a larger traditional publisher was enticing, especially in terms of an advance and marketing support, I still wanted PLAYING THE ANGLES out there again, and I knew my readers did, too.

Smaller publishers sometimes take on series in progress, but, again, it would be one book at a time, and on the digital release followed by the POD model. There’s very little marketing support, and the POD model is not working for me right now.

The decision was made to split the re-release. Pronoun (owned by Macmillan) would handle the digital release. A small, new, very traditional publisher who does only print releases will do a small print run with a small advance next year (details will be revealed when contracts are signed by both parties). We’ll see how that works.

So, the business angle of ANGLES (pun intended) was done. Now it was time for the quality of the work.

I worked with the editor with whom I’ve worked on several of the Delectable Digital Delights. She’s good at training me out of my bad habits, even though I keep coming up with new ones. She’s also good at the discussion of “this is a trope of the genre, do you want to play within it or break it on purpose?” so nothing is done carelessly. As I worked on the manuscript, the tone changed somewhat. It was more “Devon” and less “Annabel.” We made the collective decision to release it under the Devon Ellington byline, even though, under that name, I am not known for romance or romantic suspense, merely “romantic elements.” But the tone dictated the byline.

I have a cover designer who ACTUALLY READS THE MANUSCRIPT before designing the cover, instead of simply reading an information sheet. When I worked for a NYC publisher many years ago, that’s what cover designers did; they were required to read the galleys and discuss things with the author and the editor, although the publishing company had the final say. Therefore, the cover was even more relevant and representative of the manuscript. It also meant the three of us could discuss the look of the overall series, and how to tie the covers together while making each distinct and eye-catching. It also meant presenting something to both the publishers that didn’t need a lot of tweaking (although the specs on the print cover will need some re-working).

Add in the copy editor — someone who is committed to the Oxford Comma, someone who is also a Strunk & White devotee (while well-versed in Chicago and AP styles), and someone who respects that, to a theatre professional such as myself, theatre is ALWAYS spelled t-h-e-a-t-r-e. (That is a clause in my contracts, and is one of the few non-negotiables for me. I am willing and have walked away from potential contracts on this matter, because it is that important to me). A copy editor who doesn’t make edits that change my meaning, but when she sees something that strikes a wrong note, ASKS ME ABOUT IT FIRST. Sometimes, it’s exactly what I mean; other times, she’s caught me when I made a careless mistake. Because that is what a good copy editor does.

Add to this, once the book was in final galleys, doing the Series Bible, so that I’m consistent in certain details from book to book. One of the positives was that I had a good chunk of the second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, drafted, and that definitely contributed to re-committing to the series. If the second book hadn’t also held up to scrutiny (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t need editing, because it does), I might have retired ASSUMPTION/ANGLES permanently and keep it out-of-print.

There were decisions to be made on back matter. I added an article on theatre ghosts that is only available in the book I added the first chapter of the second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go with these publishers – they were willing to include it. I also included the first chapter of SAVANASANA AT SEA, a not-quite-cozy mystery that releases in November of this year, and the first chapter of TRACKING MEDUSA, which re-releases in January. The inclusion of that additional material mattered to me.

Pile on top of that the need for a website just for the series — more work in both design and content. But it’s worth it. I feel good about both the look and the material on the Coventina Circle website. There’s information relevant to each book, and suggestions if the specific premise of each book appeals for further exploration. On the website, I have information about working on Broadway, background information on some of the characters, and a recommended reading list. I will post a facsimile program of the Broadway show within the book in the coming weeks, and also an article on aromatherapy. The website will grow as the series grows.

This more holistic approach to the book as part of bigger whole that then feeds into my career as a whole feels better than the constant knife-edge where so much was dependent on what worked better for others. This is more balanced. These particular publishers are supportive of my vision for the long-term, not just the one-book short-term. Hopefully, it will work out both business-wise and artistically for both of us.

It is exciting and invigorating and a little terrifying. But the creative team and I believe in this book, and we hope you love it.

Below is an excerpt, and below that, buy links. There’s even more information and a media kit in the Coventina Circle Media Room here. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me.


The man’s knife flashed in the glow of the streetlight. Morag kicked at him and scrambled away as he lunged for her. She stumbled, but managed to put more distance between her and the attacker. She grabbed the lid of a trashcan to use as a shield.

A couple out for an evening stroll stopped and watched the fight, mouths open. They stood directly in Simon’s line of fire. “Move!” he ordered. They turned and stared at him, at the gun, like deer in headlights. He saw Morag twist, avoiding the attacker’s next thrust. Simon stepped forward and shoved the couple out of the way. “Get out of here before you get hurt!”

The woman screamed, grabbed the man’s hand, and they ran. “Drop the knife! Drop it or I’ll shoot!”

The attacker and Morag continued their jerky dance. If Simon fired, he risked hitting her. He needed to position himself to get a clear shot. She was trapped between the garbage cans and the iron railing.

The attacker charged again and Morag squirmed to one side. His knife scraped the plastic lid. Morag grabbed the lid off another can and threw it at him, left- handed. It hit him and bounced. He took a step back.

Simon fired.

Buy Links here.


Colin Galbraith & GATECRASH


The Inspiration and Process

Gatecrash has been a while in the making; 10 years in fact. Readers of the old version of my blog back in the day will remember me talking about it a lot while it was being written, and then on and off over the next few years as it ebbed in and out of my writing priorities. It’s safe to say that it is definitely the hardest novel I’ve ever written, certainly the most complicated, but also the most rewarding.

I feel more fulfilled by Gatecrash than any of my other novels, purely because I didn’t give up on it when it would have been far easier to forget about it altogether. Too long did I procrastinate over it, although much of that meant the birth of other works, it always remained as the most irritating unfinished project I had. And I hate unfinished projects. For me to move on after a string of major changes in my personal life, I knew I had to return to it and give it the devotion and intensity it fully deserved.

But back to the beginning. The first draft was written as my NaNoWriMo project of 2007. I’d been struggling with an idea for it until I had a very vivid dream one night, which involved me waking up in a cold bath and discovering that I’d been attacked and was sporting a rough scar on my back. Don’t ask me the psychological analysis of that dream – I’ve been too scared to look at it that closely – but I knew immediately that I had to use it as the prompt for my NaNoWriMo novel.

Over the next thirty days Gatecrash was born in a very linear fashion. The dream was the starting point and I took it from there, just managing to get it over the 50k word count by the end of the month. But although it succeeded on number of words, it was failing in my mind; it started well enough but always moved away from the original concept, and I’d never been able to control that. I always felt that I’d sacrificed the idea purely to hit the word count goal.

Over the next four years I tried going back to it several times but failed drastically. I would read through it and attempt to fulfill the story but then either struggle too much or just lost interest.

Then in 2012, my personal life hit a bad patch where writing just wasn’t something I was able to do: I got divorced, moved house, changed all my goals, and started running my own business. Everything was changing and it was hard enough keeping control of my personal life without worrying about manuscripts. What’s more, I lost touch with a lot of writing friends during this time and regret this hugely.

Then last year, my circumstances finally changed for the good: the storm waves settled, the clouds parted, and it dawned on me that I’d guided my life into a place where I had choices again. The first thing I decided was that I wanted to get back to writing, so when I finished up on my last job at the start of the year, I decided to reopen Gatecrash. I would dedicate myself to it and give it the due attention it needed; I would make it the novel I always felt it could be.

First up was to deconstruct my understanding of the novel. I sat down and got to know each of the characters one by one, and I took each chapter and worked through it in detail, asking myself if what had been written was good enough to stay in (this resulted in a lot of deletions). And finally, I wrote out a plan, chapter by chapter, one page at a time. In doing so, I soon realised that the dream I’d had wasn’t how the story should start – it was the midway point! So I began writing the novel from scratch and to my delight (and relief) the novel unfolded naturally. While I still hit problems, they were enjoyable challenges that meant renewed vigour and research, and a refreshed outlook on the whole book.

Over the past few months Gatecrash has gone from being the absolute thorn in my side and reflective of a crappy period in my life, to being the biggest writing success I’ve had, and in doing so, being dually reflective of the changes in my life and where it is now.

I’m in a happy place these days and I truly believe that my inner happiness and calmness is what helped Gatecrash to be not only the most complex book I’ve ever written, but also the most enjoyable to read – I hope!

Colin Galbraith was born in Paisley and brought up in Bridge of Weir in the west of Scotland. He has been writing fiction since 1999. After living in Leith for 15 years, he has now happily settled in South Queensferry with his soulmate and their two rabbits. He is a joint owner of St Mirren Football Club, a keen fly fisherman, a proven rabbit tamer and an outstanding fake faller.

Gatecrash is his fifth thriller.

His website is at:

Excerpt (with buy links)

“What day is it?” said Kyle.
“Saturday,” said Matt. “It’s Saturday because I was at a party just last night.”
“But it’s Monday afternoon. You’ve been AWOL since Friday night and so has Damian. You wake up in a bath today all freaked out and wet, but where the hell is he? What have you two gone and done now?”
The reality began to seep into Matt’s dazed mind. “I don’t understand any of this,” he said, and turned to sit down on one of the chairs. He was beginning to feel sick again and needed to get to ground and close his eyes for a moment. “I just don’t understand.”
“What’s that on your shirt?” said Kyle.
“On the back of your shirt. It looks like blood. Are you bleeding? You’re bleeding all down your back, mate.”
“I don’t think so,” said Matt. “There was some blood in the bath but it was from my sick.” He tried to twist round but the burning in his back was too much.
He reversed up to the mirror and sure enough, the back of his t-shirt had a large patch of blood oozing through the material.
“Take your top off,” said Kyle, holding his arms out to help him.
“Just take it off,” said Kyle, and helped Matt remove his shirt.
Matt looked at Kyle’s face in the mirror. He looked as though he was hoping to find an easy answer but only managing to display the paleness that deep worry can bring. Suddenly, his blank gaze was replaced by a horrified stare.
“What is it?” demanded Matt. “What d’you see? Am I cut? Have I been stabbed?”
“You better look for yourself,” said Kyle, and picked up a small face mirror from the table and held it in front of him so he could see the reflection.
Matt angled his head and stared at what he saw: a swollen ten-inch scar on his lower back held together by a series of crude black stitching. Blood seeped from the wound, the area immediately surrounding it heavily bruised. He began to shake.
“Matt,” said Kyle, and held out his hands. “Matt!”
Matt’s legs gave way and he landed hard on the wood panelled floor. In the distance he could hear Kyle shouting for him, but the blackness enveloped him quickly, and soon he was gone.


Gatecrash is available now from:

Kindle (UK) –
Kindle (US) –
Smashwords –
Apple iBooks –
B&N (Nook) –


Recalibrating with Claire Cook’s NEVER TOO LATE and Jeff Vandermeer’s BOOKLIFE

One of my recent goals is to take a step back and do some recalibrating on my writing career, my goals, where I am, and where I want to be.

Professional life is a living entity, and one has to constantly change the expectations and reassess the realities. I’d hoped working part-time at what I thought was a dream job would support my writing; I was wrong. It drained me. My writing suffered, and my output suffered. The shock of the position’s elimination, the few weeks at another “part-time” job and then trying to meet all the demands on me for the following months took their toll, both personally and professionally.

I’d been miserable on the treadmill of pressure from demands for quantity and speed over quality — not that much was offered in return. I was (am) miserable about the lack of reciprocity in this region, as opposed to other places in which I’ve lived. There’s a lot of yapping; little doing.

I was miserable in the demands that I dumb down some of my work, to appeal to a so-called “reader” I have no interest in courting. I write intelligent people who get things done. Stupid people wind up dead or worse, in my books. I have a low tolerance for stupid people in real life; just because they’re in power right now doesn’t mean I have to pander to them.

I’m also sick and tired of all the information out there stating that THIS is what you HAVE to do. I don’t like being forced into doing things I don’t agree with and am uncomfortable with. No, I don’t HAVE to do it. No, I am NOT going to dumb down my work. I am NOT going to do or write things I’m not passionate about.

Nor am I willing to stop writing.

Instead, I took some time to recalibrate. Meet with trusted advisors, and decide how I want to reshape my writing career on MY terms. The first session was a day-long meeting in mid-May. We didn’t get through everything, but we got a lot of discussion done, and I’m taking actionable steps on my lists to make changes. Some of them are even already paying off, although many of the goals on my list are longer to implement and longer on return. But once the returns start coming in, they should be pretty steady.

Two books that are helpful in this recalibration are NEVER TOO LATE by Claire Book and BOOKLIFE by Jeff Vandermeer.

I met Claire when she was the keynote speaker at the Cape Cod Writers Center. I was either still on the board and just about to rotate off at the end of my term, or I was recently off the board. I’d read her WILDWATER WALKING CLUB book and loved it, then rushed to read the rest of her books –which include MUST LOVE DOGS, the book for which she’s best known. I was one of the people in charge of making sure everything was taken care of for her at the conference, and running interference if necessary. Along the way, we had a chance to have a couple of fun, high-energy conversations (usually in transit from one location to another).

She had her newest (at the time) release with her, and that was her primary topic: NEVER TOO LATE: YOUR ROADMAP TO REINVENTION. I was in a negative job situation that was draining the life out of me, and knew I had to change, but didn’t know how; I also knew my writing was suffering, and that was one reason I was at the conference — because the CCWC is for DOING not just attending panels and being talked at, I knew I’d get some work done (I started a fantasy novel that was then further developed in Vermont). Conversations with her also inspired a novel I started (and am still working on) called TIE-CUTTER, which, once it’s ready to go out, will be dedicated to Claire, since without her, I would never have had the inspiration to write it.

Anyway, Claire signed my copy, I read it, I liked it, I got caught up in things again.

Until I re-read it these past few weeks. When I sat down and re-read it.

The voice was fresher and livelier than ever, and she felt like my own personal cheerleader. It’s the same quality that makes her fiction so appealing — reading Claire’s work feels like spending time with a friend. Someone who will tell you the truth, but support you no matter what. I worked my way through the book, pulling out ideas I was confident would work, and also a few things that I wasn’t sure about, but thought I would try anyway. I’ll let you know how they work out! We’re similar in that we write consistently, we carry notebooks everywhere, we GET IT DONE. She’s now moved from the traditional publishing world to a more hybrid version, which gives her the freedom; she’s built her readership, and they’ll follow her from place to place.

I’m still in the process of building mine.

But the freedom factor appeals to me.

I’ve never met Jeff Vandermeer, but I’m familiar with both his fiction and his nonfiction. I’d read this book several years ago, when I was feeling exhausted and needed emotional fuel.

BOOKLIFE is split into the public booklife and the private booklife. I re=read the public section before my recalibration meeting, and found it helpful. His ideas gave me a foundation for honestly assessing what I do and don’t want to do as far as putting myself out there for my work. Just because “that’s what everyone does” doesn’t mean I want to — or will — do it.

In fact, when people put elements I don’t want to do in contracts, I either negotiate them out, or I walk away from the contract. Just because someone offers you a contract, you don’t HAVE to sign in. I also don’t sign boilerplates. The contract offered is where negotiations START. If the other side says, “we don’t change anything in our contracts”, my response is, “I’m not signing that. Too bad we can’t work together.”


Vandermeer’s book helps sort out what one is comfortable with and what one isn’t, and also the consequences of saying no. Frankly, saying no and continuing the search for the right partner, in either life or work, is a much better choice than saying “yes” to something that will make you miserable. He also helps formulate the right questions, so you can find the resources you need to build what you want.

What he calls the “private booklife” is something I’m pretty happy with, for the most part; it’s the public elements I need to work on. But he points out something important to remember and easy to forget: that there’s a difference between “process” and “habit.”

Both books help you trust your gut in decision-making. It’s easy to over-think and over-complicate. But when you trust you gut, it works out for the best. That doesn’t mean the road will be easy, or that there won’t be consequences. But when you’re true to yourself, that makes it worth it in the long run.

That’s really the message from both books: Build the career you want by being true to yourself. Then, you’ll get both satisfaction and joy from it. Neither book promises “get rich quick” stuff; both are realistic, enthusiastic, supportive, and, above all, practical.

Jamieson Wolf Talks LUST & LEMONADE

lust and lemonade cover

Our guest today is Jamieson Wolf, talking about his new release, LUST & LEMONADE.  I met Jamieson electronically several years ago, when I took a short story workshop he taught (a wonderful one, I might add).  We’ve kept in touch ever since.

I asked him about the genesis of this particular book:


A Seed That Grew


Lust and Lemonade was the first time that I followed that old piece of writer’s advice: write what you know.

Up until I started Lust and Lemonade, I had written a lot of fantasy and horror. I also wrote a lot of romances, but those had fantasy elements, too. I wanted to try something different, something that I hadn’t done before. I wanted to try writing a novel grounded completely in reality, that it would be simple fiction.

The only thing was, what did I write about? I had no idea who the characters or plot would be, but the idea sat beneath the tips of my fingers like an itch. The story wanted to be written, but it had no idea what it wanted to be yet.

I was out at a gay bar with a couple of my friends one night when inspiration struck. I sat there watching as gay men tried (some of them in vain) to find love or at least a warm body to lay with.

It was like watching a mating dance of sorts. All these different kinds of men all out looking for the same thing: a little bit of human affection, a little bit of warmth and companionship, however brief it may be.

I began to make up stories in my head about the different men I was watching: there was the lonely guy who just wanted to find love. He sat in the corner of the bar, nursing a beer, looking up at everyone with such an open expression, but no one sat at his table.

There were two guys that were obviously a couple, and they were checking out other men, wondering which one of them would be lucky enough to take a guy home. There was the man whore who was clearly just looking for the next hole to fill. What he really wanted was love, though he was too chicken to admit it.

At the other corner of the bar, there was this effeminate man. He was wearing a sparkly vest and I could see swooshes of eye shadow over his eyes. He looked fierce and fabulous, and I watched as he snapped his fingers at the bartender for another drink. I instantly fell a little bit in love with him.

Later that night, it occurred to me that I had watched the idea for my novel play out in front of my eyes in real life. I wondered how I would translate that to the page though. Armistead Maupin has always been a favourite author of mine and I’ve read the Tales of the City books multiple times.

So, I thought about writing an updated version of Tales of the City. The book would feature a roving narrative and a focus on a whole cast of characters. However, when I tried to plot it, I got writers’ block. I just couldn’t get the words out the way I wanted to.

I kept my plotting notes, but decided to write this book without any plot whatsoever. The characters obviously wanted to tell me a story and I had to let them tell it. I took some time to think of who I wanted to live within my pages. Like in the bar, the book would have the regular gay, the femme, the man whore, the couple that lived together but played together. I knew that I also had to have representation of other kinds of people within the LGBTQ community.

However, I started with the first chapter. As I wrote it, I got to meet Blaine, Nancy, Chuck and Mike for the first time. It was like coming home in a way, as if the life I had been living had found its way home on the page.

As I continued writing, more characters graced the pages: Poppy and her lover River Moon Falls, Blaine’s grandmother Nan; Romilda, the woman who ran the LGBTQ library. The characters kept me on my toes and told me where they wanted the story to go. It was the first time I had written a novel in this way, letting the characters have almost complete control and it was so freeing.

When I began to feel that the novel was nearing its end, I realized that it was the beginning of a trilogy or series. The first book was about falling in lust with someone. The second book would be about how life gets in the way. The third book would be about love.

The whole experience has been about finding love in a community where it’s difficult to find love. I have always believed in the impossible, after all. When you read Lust and Lemonade, I hope you fall in love with the characters as much as I did.


You can get your copy from Renaissance Press here:

You can also find it at Amazon:


Jamieson has been writing since a young age when he realized he could be writing instead of paying attention in school. Since then, he has created many worlds in which to live his fantasies and live out his dreams.

He is a Number One Best Selling Author (he likes to tell people that a lot) and writes in many different genres. Jamieson is also an accomplished artist. He works in mixed media, charcoal and pastels. He is also something of an amateur photographer, a poet and graphic designer.

He currently lives in Ottawa Ontario Canada with his cat, Tula, who is fearless and his husband Michael who is magic made real.

Find him on Facebook and Twitter. Visit his website and his blog.


You can find me at:

You can read my blog at

And you can follow me on Facebook:

Or Twitter:





Adrienne Rich: Anger & Appetite

When I was in college and beyond, Adrienne Rich’s poetry was important to me. I responded to her anger. “The Will to Change” and “Diving into the Wreck” both had strong impacts on me, and made me think about gender, hypocrisy, and social injustice in new ways.

Of course, in those years, I was often berated as not being a “real feminist” because I have sex with men. For too many years, heterosexual women were told we “can’t” be feminists. Which is, of course, crap, and so much progress in gender equality was derailed because of the insistence that only lesbians could be feminists. We’re all paying for that now, which the right wing nutbags currently in power trying to bring us back to before the American Revolution, as far as human rights go.

But no matter what anyone else tried to tell me what I could or could not be (basically, I ignored them, did my own thing, and didn’t waste time at their meetings), I responded to her anger, to her words, to the images, and they made me think about daily experience in a new way, and helped me make decisions. The poetry helped me stand up for myself, instead of just taking it “not to make waves.”

Even before I read Adrienne Rich’s poetry, I had experience standing up for myself. In late teen/early college years, I was an office temp in and around classes. One Major Corporation (which now no longer exists, thank goodness), was filled with men who’d drink during lunch and then come back, drunk, and harass the secretaries (we were secretaries then, not “administrative assistants). They would breathe their alcohol breaths on us (I often wished I smoked, so I could flick a lighter and they’d go up), and handle the women at their desks.

I wasn’t having any. I finally, one day, decked the guy who was bothering me and walked out.

The temp agency took the side of the corporation. “That’s just how these executives behave” was their response, and that they didn’t want to lose the client.

I quit the agency, and worked for other temp agencies who actually looked after their workers. Had I been more savvy about labor laws, I would have filed with the Department of Labor, although at the time (late 1970s/early 1980s), it wouldn’t have done much good.

But when I read Adrienne Rich’s poetry, I knew I’d done the right thing.

I hadn’t read her in years. Somewhere, packed in the boxes of books still in my basement, I have those early volumes of poetry that helped me so much. But I’d taken some books out of the library, some of her later work. One, poetry, TONIGHT, NO POETRY WILL SERVE. The other, prose, A HUMAN EYE, a collection of her essays.

There’s still a great deal about social justice, thank goodness: “Ballade of Poverties”, “Emergency Clinic”, “Scenes of Negotiation.”

But my favorite is “Re-Reading the Iliad (As If) for the First Time”. When I was in middle school, we spent six to eight weeks on The Iliad. I loathed it. I remember throwing my copy out of the third floor window of the apartment. I don’t even remember why I hated it so much — I think I thought it was sexist. I didn’t like the characters. Whatever. I hated it. I re-read both the Odyssey and the Iliad a few years ago, when I took a class in Greek and Roman Mythology out of U Penn. I understood why I didn’t like it (still didn’t), but it didn’t evoke such a violent reaction!

The poem, though, made me remember how I felt in middle school, that first reading, and made me laugh as I remembered how strong my reaction was.

My favorite essay in A HUMAN EYE was “Dialogue and Dissonance: The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov.” I’d reviewed one of her books of poetry for NEW PAGES years ago, and admired it. The essay, which discusses how their letters showed the way their relationship built and then declined, makes me want to read the book.

Literary discussion is a lost art. We post questions or snippets of ideas on social media; too often, when we get together, we talk about agents and contracts and marketing instead of the work. Far too many writers try to get connections on social media to do their work FOR them, everything from research to naming characters. (Aside: quickest way to turn me off your work is to ask people to name your characters on social media. That’s an intimate act between writer and character, and random people shouldn’t be involved. Another pet peeve is when I say I’m looking for a particular kind of book, trying to feed a hunger, and self-published authors start hawking their own–which are usually poorly written and not edited or copyedited). I’ve always longed for someone with whom to have actual literary correspondence, so I live vicariously through volumes of letters of those who have. The essay, once again, whetted my appetite.

Isn’t that what good writing is all about? Making the reader see differently? Whetting the appetite. That’s why I love good writing.

POEMCRAZY by Susan G. Wooldridge

POEMCRAZY by Susan G. Wooldridge

In honor of National Poetry Month, the first book I re-read was Susan G. Wooldridge’s POEMCRAZY.

Just picking up the book brought back positive memories. The first time I read it, I’d found it at the New York Public Library’s branch at 41st and 5th. Not the building with the lions, Patience and Fortitude; the building across the street, with the books you can check out.

I worked on Broadway at the time, and loved it; however, I felt that so many hours in the theatre meant the rest of my world narrowed, and I craved poetry.

I read most of the book in Central Park over the coming weeks, loving it. Living a block off Times Square, Central Park was only about 15 blocks away, not a far walk at all on a good day.

I liked the book so much I hunted for a copy of my own, which I found at Strand Bookstore. (If you’ve never been to Strand, visit. I still get many of my research books for projects from them online. I’ve been a customer since 1982).

Re-reading the book, I remembered my initial enjoyment, and layered on renewed appreciation.

She combines anecdotes and exercises. Much of the book seems naive at this point, with our cynicism and market-driven orientation. But Susan makes sense of the world through poems — not just words, but words that create vivid images.

Two of my favorite of her devices are the “wordpool” and the “word bowl”. Tossing words whose sounds and meanings are evocative into a container where you can pull them as you need them — even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking for in the moment — is a wonderful device.

In fact, I’m going to use a physical “word bowl” in one of the novels I’m currently writing. A bowl holding actual words (I’m going to do it a bit more elaborately than Susan does. for the purposes of the novel), grounds my character and makes her feel safe. Knowing she can reach into a bowl and pull out something that will spark ideas –what could be more grounding for a writer?

I’m no good at writing poetry (I can use the precision of language in scripts and in some prose, but paring it down to poem is not a skill I’ve achieved), but I love to read it and I love to read about it.

If you enjoy poetry, as a reader or a writer, I highly recommend this book.

POEMCRAZY by Susan G. Wooldridge. New York: Clarkson Potter Press. 1996.