Blurring the line between novelist and blogger since 2016

Author: david (Page 2 of 2)

Slow Train Coming


Carol Wagner Traub 1942-2016

Slow Train Coming

I have, in a sense, been waiting for this since I was a 4-year-old little boy who didn’t really understand why mommy was going to the hospital and I was sleeping at Uncle Ronnie’s. After the mastectomy that granted her another 42 years, her sons and infant daughter were brought to see her at the hospital. Among my earliest memories is hugging her in her wheelchair there and crying as I said: “Mommy, don’t ever run away again.”

She never did.

Continue reading

Lovesong – October 28, 2016



Twenty years ago today I woke up with no idea my life was about to change. I showered and took the train to Boston with my dad, put in day’s work in the Senate and went home. On a whim I went out for a cup of coffee with friends.

My coffee was still warm when the-one-who-got-away walked in and sat with her friends at the other side of the room. At 26, I was old enough to know that life hurts sometimes and young enough to believe in fairy tales.

When I had calmed down enough to stand, I broke a three year silence with a simple “Hi Carrie.” We talked until just after 2 a.m. When I tried to drive away, I made it less than a block before I pulled into a business and started to cry. Not like a baby, but like a man. When I could breathe again, I looked up at the night sky and said “God, I don’t know what you are doing. But whatever it is: I’m in.”

So much has changed since that day. But I still believe in our fairy tale. And whatever the future holds, Carrie: I’m in. Happy anniversary love. And thank you for our date. The best part of all this is that we are just getting started.

(Crosspost delayed a few days by adulthood and life.)

On Keeping a Notebook

It was posed as an innocent question, entirely without baggage: “Daddy, do you ever write in that journal?”

Car seat

We were making the 15 minute drive to her summer camp, where she fills her days in singing, acting, film and music classes led by passionate, talented teachers. This camp session, one of her six classes is a writer’s workshop. I’ve not yet been let into the circle of knowing what they talk about there.

Innocent or not, the question gave me a little jolt. “Sometimes,” was the best answer I could muster. The journal was on the front seat, sidling up against the book I’m reading a very few pages at a time. In truth, it had been weeks since I’d written a line in the journal, and likely weeks before that. It has been years since journaling has been part of my writing or spiritual discipline. It may be ten years or more since I wrote three days in a row. But I carry it most every day.

Continue reading

Shakedown Cruise



Got to live another cliché on Sunday.

My dad had the boatyard near the causeway to West Island bottom paint his little sailboat and put it in the water for him again this year. After several successive years of trying to step the mast ourselves while the boat was on the beach, this is a decision I applaud with great verve.

A metal mast for a 16 foot boat is not terribly heavy, until you try and slowly raise it from parallel to the ground to perpendicular to the ground and thread it through a hole juuuuuuust big enough for it to fit. With exactly no margin for error.

Continue reading

Cue the Rocky Theme

The house is quiet.

And I’ve finished The Splendid Children.

I finished the initial draft and put the manuscript to rest on June 3, 2015. Between the rest periods and the flurries of active editing, it took almost exactly a year to have it ready to ship to an editor or agent. I reached that point just about midnight as June 1 became June 2, 2016.

When I started running again in my mid -20s, I did not go far and I did not go fast. But every time I finished a run, I put my arms in the air as if I was breaking the tape at the Pru on President’s Day.  Even if a two mile run is a joke to someone in actual shape, it was a big deal to me.

In my head, I would cue the Rocky Theme, and sometimes whistle, hum or dah-dah-dah, dah-dah, dah-dah-dah-dah a few bars. Did it again last night.



Continue reading

Reading to the Cat

So El Gato Guapo is the first one to hear any of my book.

We have a system. He hears me when I put my foot on the floor anytime after 4:30 a.m. and sprints from whatever corner of the house he is in. He manages to be between me and the bathroom before I can open the door of the bedroom.

I then have two options:

Option A:  Go downstairs and feed him a can of mush, which someone in a marketing department rebranded “pate’,” then sit somewhere so he can come to rest on me and stay there.

Option B: Listen while he wakes my daughter, then my wife, and then execute Option A within 10 minutes anyway.

This is working out for both of us right now, since my editing procedure on this third pass is to read the book aloud. And I am finding myself unable to concentrate on what I’m reading aloud if there is another soul within earshot.

I don’t know why this is. It is not, I don’t think, an extension of author Amy MacKinnon’s caution not to talk your story away. The story is written. It is not because I am embarrassed of the story. I am unclear if it is a jealousy, that I want it to still be mine for a little while longer. Or a fear that hearing disjointed bits and starts will spoil the whole.

Continue reading

Skiing up hill

I have met and read people who claim to love editing their fiction. I do not hate them, but consider them strange and exquisite mistakes of nature. Like the guy who last year took home what looks like a bowling trophy for eating 62 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs at the annual (yes, really) competition held at Coney Island every Independence Day.

Writing The Splendid Children was very much like skiing down hill for me. It was still work.  I fell from time to time and was plenty sore more than once. I even skied off the trail and into the woods in Chapter 4, necessitating a retreat and retry. But there was also a lot of feeling myself pulled forward to an inevitable goal, with every anticipation that I would know when I was done.

Editing offers essentially none of that.

Continue reading

The best job. The worst career.

It was quite a rush.

When people asked me what I did for a living, I could just say “I’m a writer.”

If they pressed, I’d say I wrote for a newspaper – “right now.” In the right setting – where it wouldn’t come out sounding pompous – I’d allow as how “I am what I wanted to be when I grew up.”  When the census form came and asked me for my profession, I answered truthfully: Writer.

After a few years, I had moved from part-time at a weekly paper to full-time at a regional daily. Although the intervening years have obscured the details, I think it was during a drive home at 4 a.m., possibly in a snowstorm, that I realized that being a newspaper reporter was the best job and the worst career possible for me.

Even in childhood I was someone to whom others would tell their stories. Some blend of empathy, personal experience and the working vocabulary my parents passed along made it easy for me to write the stories I heard.  Just a few months into the job, I did a profile on the nice woman who had just been promoted to run the bird sanctuary on Moose Hill in Massachusetts.  We sat and chatted for an hour or so, I took a grainy photo of her, and a few days later a 24-inch profile showed up on the inside pages of my hometown weekly. I can’t recall if she phoned me or dropped me a note after it was published, but I remember what she said. She had thought her life had meandered without plan or pattern. When she read her profile, she saw the threads I had teased out, how all the pieces fit. The story made so much sense.

The nice lady who got a new liver from an unfortunate motorcyclist would write me a note a month after she was featured in my story during an organ transplantation awareness campaign.  She had put the story up on the bulletin board at work and it had opened conversations and lines with co-workers she had known for years, but who never got it. Until then.


The best job.

But also the worst career. After 5 promotions in four years across three papers, it was time to watch my younger sister graduate college. I put in for the day off so I could be there. My new editor told me he was sorry, but someone else in the bureau had already put in for that day off and part of his management overhaul of our bureau was that we couldn’t possibly have two people out in a single day. Our bureau of 9 reporters couldn’t possibly get by with just 7.

I spoke to the editor-in-chief of the paper, and she said of course I could go. I didn’t have to come to the part, which I had rehearsed in a mirror, where I said that the day before graduation would be my last day with the company. Harvard graduations are quite a thing. Czech President Vaclav Havel had spoken the previous year, and if we were all going to get seats, I had to get there about dawn and stake them out. Then my parents and elderly grandmother could arrive at a decent hour.

It is a little fuzzy now, but I think I still had some seething in my belly as I sat in that light rain. Five promotions, the most senior reporter in my bureau, weeks of built up vacation and sick time, 10 to 20 hours of unpaid overtime donated to the company every week and getting the day off to attend the graduation had required an act of senior management.  And twisting the knife just a little bit, my sister (who is admittedly 30 IQ points ahead of me even when she is anesthetized ) was graduating into a job making exactly twice my salary after those raises.

The best job. The worst career.

As I remember it, my sister and I were both wet from swimming in a pool a few weeks after graduation and I was blabbing about the stress and frustration of that job I loved. I tend to think like light bouncing off a disco ball. She tends to think like a laser beam cutting a diamond. She asked, very factually, what I wanted to really do. I said I wanted to write books.

“Is the job you have getting you closer to doing what you want to do?”


“That is your answer.”

That was my answer.  I failed to heed the warning that I had long attributed to John Steinbeck that if one wishes to write fiction, you should not take a job in PR, advertising or other semi-creative enterprise. Take a job in a sardine cannery. Turns out, if Steinbeck said that, Google doesn’t know anything about it.

When Mark Bryan, author of The Artist’s Way, The Prodigal Father and Codes of Love, was getting his master’s degree at Harvard years ago, we struck up a brief friendship – largely around writing. We were at his flat one day, the draft of, I believe, Codes of Love open on a computer, when he told me “You only get so many words a day. Be careful how you use them.”

It took me too many years to digest and make use of that advice. It is why I now write in the morning. It is why the job I’ve had writing for a government agency did not stop me from finishing the draft of my novel.  My word clock, whether it be real or imaginary, resets when I sleep. Now, I write in the morning, before I can pour words into press releases, legislative testimony or any of the rest of it.

It is getting me closer to what I want to do. Finally.


Newer posts »

© 2023 willwriteforfood

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑