Friday, November 26, 2021

Did I Cheat?

November is NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to jump start a novel by writing 50,000 words in a single month. That’s a load of words!

I cheated. Well, I didn’t actually sign up, so maybe I can’t really be accused of cheating. But still… 

I reached the 50,000-word goal earlier this week. But they weren’t all “new” words. And I’m not working on a novel. 

I began a pandemic diary early last year – a desktop file where I wrote to untangle the insanity of 2020: from Trump to COVID, social justice to global warming, unemployment to homelessness. And on a personal level, my unplanned retirement and the birth of my grandson.

In late October 2020 when my daughter’s family leave ended, I began caring for my grandson a few days each week, and an odd thing happened. I began addressing my daily journal entries to my grandson. I began calling the file Pandemic Baby. I began thinking of it as a new memoir project.

A year of letters to Jack accumulated by the time NaNoWriMo 2021 rolled around. It seemed the perfect challenge: Could I shape these ramblings into a draft memoir? To answer that question, I cheated. I began cutting and pasting, rewriting and, yes, writing some “new” words as well. The manuscript is far from a finished first draft, but it’s a start. The challenge got me this far.

What about you? Do you have a memoir you’ve been wanting to get on the page? Perhaps for publication or perhaps for family? Do you need a challenge to get you started or instruction to keep you going?

I’m excited to be teaching a one-day memoir class on March 14, 2022 at Hugo House in Seattle. Perhaps that’s the challenge you need to breathe life into your project. If so, I look forward to seeing you in class. 

Registration opens soon. CLICK HERE for course description and registration information.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Personal Freedom or Selfish Ignorance?

"Coronavirus children" by is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My family and I have been among the fortunate during these nineteen months of the coronavirus and emerging variants, a pandemic with a death toll now exceeding that of the Spanish Flu despite the easy availability of multiple, free, effective vaccines. I look out my front window to the fenced yard, imagining a small fortress, protection against the disease and mayhem of our world. Am I choosing ignorance, denying the realities of this horrible pandemic, of devastating global warming, of homelessness, of warfare driven by greed and manipulated by religion? Or, am I simply struggling for sanity?

We live behind a vine-laden fence in relative ease, privileged not only by good health, food on our table, and a solid roof overhead, but also by family. Becoming a grandmother and caring for my pandemic-born grandson has been a source of pure pleasure during these dreadful times. Yet, my words flounder as my anger festers.

I began a post a while back announcing two upcoming in-person readings. Both events were originally scheduled for early 2020. Both were events where I looked forward to sharing from my latest memoir, The Ex-Mexican Wives Club, published in late 2019. Both events were cancelled with the outbreak of COVID. So I was pleased, joyous actually, to be invited to participate in these events when they were re-scheduled for the second week of September 2021. Then the Delta variant hit and both events were once again cancelled. Cancelling made sense, it was the right thing to do. Still, I felt the dark tentacles of anger, fear, and hopelessness tighten around me. I do not believe I am alone with these feelings.

My anger builds as far too many put self before community in empty arguments favoring personal freedom. With children dying, vaccinated adults getting sick, hospitals overflowing, schools and businesses shutting down once again, we must put the well-being of local communities, our country and the world above all else. As I hold my young grandson in my arms, I cannot comprehend putting selfish interpretations of personal freedom above the life of any child.

We have a medical solution. Deaths and variants rest in the hands of anti-vaccers.  

Monday, July 5, 2021

Antiracist Grandma = Antiracist Grandson

Breathe, July 2021, Artwork by Tania L. Abramson

I'm happy to share a recent essay titled Antiracist Grandma = Antiracist Grandson published in the online journal, Breathe.

"Breathe makes a difference by rallying dissent against racially discriminatory policies through the publication of artworks, poetry, and essays to counter the protracted disavowals and lethargy that allow racial coercion to persist." 

This mission appeals to my sense of justice while offering an opportunity to use creative expression to combat feelings of helplessness, and yes, perhaps lethargy, in the face of social injustice. I invite you to explore the journal and consider submitting your own written or visual work.

Last month the submission invitation included the follow theme: “What has changed? What remains the same? How have you changed? What have you done differently?" I was intrigued. I wrote. I submitted. I am grateful to the editorial staff - Tania Abramson, Paul Abramson, and Leopoldo Segue - for publishing my work:  

Antiracist Grandma = Antiracist Grandson

My grandson is a year old this month. A privileged white male born to the cacophony of social justice marchers below his parents’ hospital window in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood during the worst pandemic since 1918 and the most divisive federal government in U.S. history.

I am a white woman in her mid-sixties. Spurred by the murder of George Floyd, I embarked on a journey of personal education and became deeply engrossed in social justice reading, devouring the works of Michelle Alexander, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, Kiese Laymon, Wesley Lowery, Ijeoma Oluo, Mychal Denzel Smith, William Still, Isabel Wilkerson, and others. I read to make sense of the growing violence in our streets and growing discord on the college campus where I had taught for decades. I thought I had a decent understanding of the history of racial injustice and the roots of police violence against people of color in my country. I was wrong.

Read more ...

Friday, June 25, 2021

Paintings and Poems: Shadows of Caravans Pass

On May 11, 2021 I lost another sister. Unlike Maureen, she was not a victim of a horrendous crime, not the thirty-ninth victim of a mass murderer. That is, unless you consider the snail-slow progress in cancer and dementia research a crime. Colleen was a victim of Lewy Body dementia, as well as mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. One month after her sixty-ninth birthday her suffering ended.

As I returned to writing poems to pair with Veronique Burke's paintings, I was drawn to the image above and found myself awash in memories. Those memories took shape in the following poem:

Shadows of Caravans Pass

Childhood under starlit skies,

her endless stories filling my young ears.

Treading water – who could last longer?

Riding, grooming, feeding, mucking.


Who left the pasture gate open

that day the nag nearly died?

She shouldered the shame,

but it could have been me.


Somewhere over the rainbow …

A forgotten teen production leaving  

no trace of her young voice.

Only echoes of barnyard rehearsals remain.


She left for college, and

our wilderness adventures ended.

A solitary bus ride to her dorm across state:

first jolt of my early independence.


Flower child wedding of flowing white.

Floppy straw hat over fringe of curls.

Bridesmaid skirts of yellow daisies.

What dreams held this young bride’s heart?


Did she imagine caravans in exotic lands?

Long dark shadows on desert sands?

Woman warrior of mystery and magic?

Or perhaps her dreams hung closer to home.


No longer woman warrior,

nor stoic farmer, nor solid teacher.

Where did she travel when life left her?

A long dreamless sleep – nothing more?


Caravans of memories pass,

tethered by cherished moments in parallel lives.

Woman warrior was here.

Now is gone.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Paintings and Poetry: Coastal Dawn

In February I wrote COVID & Creativity, a piece highlighting artist and friend, Veronique Burke, whose creativity finds voice on canvas as well as in paper mache, pottery and mosaic. The joy she experiences through creative expression is clear in her work. 

Recently Veronique decided to assemble a collection of her favorite paintings and asked some of her writer friends to create poems to pair with her work. I loved the idea and the opportunity to join her in this fun project. To date I've completed four pairings. Here's the first I'd like to share ...

Coastal Dawn

On a cold gray Pacific dawn

In a damp bag inside a damp tent

Salt air, seaweed tang, and strong coffee

Permeate the tight air


The coffee drags me from our tent

Ocean vista my reward

He knows this, he does this for me

To get my aching body moving,

to begin a new day


Huddled tight on a driftwood log

Coffee hot in gloved hands, we listen

To gulls and heron call overhead, and

Gentle waves lap the sandy shore


Awash with sunset memories under bluing sky

We plan our day in early morning calm

As the chatter of day hikers invades,

We hoist our backpacks and head out,

in search of solitude

Friday, April 9, 2021

A New First!

Many thanks to those of you who were able to attend my poetry reading last week. It was wonderful to share this first with my talented friend, Pamela Hobart Carter. 

I'm also grateful to Leopoldo Seguel, the dedicated energy behind the PoetryBridge reading series, for transitioning from a monthly in-person event at C&P Coffee Company in West Seattle to a weekly online event throughout this year of COVID isolation. If you'd like to receive the weekly zoom link to participate as a viewer, open micer or featured reader, please email Leopoldo at

To those of you who were unable to attend, Leopoldo has graciously shared the video of this event at: PB LIVE! #35 - YouTube 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Watch Us Wednesday!

Last July I posted a short history of the PoetryBridge reading series titled A Reading Event in the Time of COVID so I won’t repeat myself here. Suffice to say, you’re invited!

On Wednesday, March 31, I am honored to be sharing the virtual stage with Pamela Hobart Carter. Honored and frankly, intimidated. Unlike me, a neophyte in the world of poetry, Pam is a Pushcart nominee whose work is widely published. She is currently celebrating the release of her first poetry book, Her Imaginary Museum, and awaiting the release of her second, Held Together by Tape and Glue. She is a gifted and dedicated poet, playwright and novelist who I am fortunate to call my writing partner and friend.

Together we have created an intertwined presentation of our poetry that I think you will enjoy. I hope you can join us next Wednesday, March 31 at 7:00pm PDT. The zoom link is usually shared the morning of the event. To get your name on the list, please email Leopoldo Seguel at Or, drop me a line at

Friday, February 19, 2021

COVID & Creativity

This was my day: I woke at 6 am and dozed for another hour. The first upright hour, I wasted on my cell – email, news, social media. I watched a Roy Orbison and KD Lang duet, started a load of laundry, then decided I needed to hear more KD Lang. I spent another hour or two listening to music, researching Canadian songwriters - Leonardo Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jane Siberry, Sarah McLachlan, Leon Redbone (a rabbit hole of talent) – while reading about inspiration and creativity.

The reading was inspired by this wonderful video clip my friend, Veronique Burke, shared of the work she’s created during this pandemic year. It got me wondering about how little I’ve been writing and the reasons for that change. Then I made chocolate chip banana bread, cleaned out the refrigerator and made a shopping list. If not for the falling rain, melting snow and slushy sidewalks, I might have walked to the store, or driven. Instead, I folded laundry before sitting down to finish Isabel Wilkerson’s masterpiece, The Warmth of Other Suns – The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

Finally, after numerous additional texts with sisters and friends, I sat and scribbled a draft of this post with Veronique’s video looping through my brain. Veronique’s creativity explodes in image, paper mache and mosaic. It’s clear that she had a blast expressing herself and decorating her world. I admire that, and I’m grateful to her for the reminder that self-expression can do wonders for the soul and that creativity doesn’t bloom on its own but grows through regular attention, a practice that’s easy to lose during these endless months of isolation.

How are you expressing your creativity these days?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Hope in Portland?

Portland, Oregon is a city of memories. A quirky, friendly, fun city. A place for back-to-school shopping trips with my daughter and romantic getaways with my husband. Built on the Willamette River, it reminds me a bit of Paris or London, with parks and paths along both banks and crossed by numerous bridges. 

Ten days after the insurrection in D.C., my husband needed to make the three-hour drive from Seattle to Portland for business. I decided to tag along, and we booked a room in one of Portland’s historic downtown hotels. We assumed the low rates were pandemic related. After checking in and parking the car in the garage – for us walking or cycling is the best way to enjoy Portland – we headed toward the river and soon discovered that Portland is no longer the City of Roses I have long loved.

Last summer’s peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations in response to the May 25th murder of George Floyd turned violent when white supremacists, anarchists, and Trump supporters converged on the city. When federal agents were called in, violence escalated. It is still smoldering.

That violence combined with the financial crisis caused by the pandemic has left a wasteland of boarded up buildings. Some stores are open for limited business with entrances through reinforced doors. A few restaurants offer outdoor dining, but most we saw offer take-out only or remain closed. Chain link fences surround official buildings, monuments, and parks. Homeless people, tents and garbage are visible at every turn.

We headed toward Portland’s famous food trucks for a late lunch. There are several areas we have enjoyed on prior visits. This time we found them amid seas of homeless encampments. After being approached a few times for handouts, we opted to move on.

Walking away, we saw police activity: police vehicles with flashing lights barricading the street, officers holding pointed guns over cruiser roofs, a pedestrian filming with her cell. But the pain is in pockets. We found another cluster of food trucks only a few blocks away and we ate.

Everywhere the buildings are boarded up. Many are framed with two-by-fours, as though for a new wall. This allows easy removal and replacement of plywood boards. A necessity in an unstable environment. I was reminded of the roll-down metal security doors I became familiar with during my years in Mexico City. According to the desk clerk at our hotel, these barriers have come down and been replaced several times in the past eight months. She said some were removed last autumn only to be replaced before the presidential election. Some were removed after the election only to be replaced in response to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now the city seems to be waiting, holding its breath, for the inauguration.

Some of the plywood boards are painted, others are raw wood. Many have splotches of different colored paint as though nobody could settle on a color choice. Those splotches testify to a constant battle by some to stop the graffiti. The boards on other buildings display creative and artistic expression. The Apple store boasts large black panels and invitation to folks to decorate them. They remain untouched.

That evening in our comfortable hotel room with take-out  from a nearby grocery store, we watched Anand Giridharas on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. He described what we are experiencing in America today as the beginning of something new and better for our unique nation.

Anand Giridharadas, publisher of The.Ink, says that what the country experienced last week is the chaos at the end of white supremacy. “This is not a launch party, this is a funeral for something. It is a funeral for white supremacy. It is a funeral for a kind of outdated, outmoded male power. It is a mourning for a time in which certain Americans could claim to be the default of America and not have to share.” (Source)

Here's an excerpt from an essay Giridharadas published in The.Ink:

We are falling on our face because we are jumping very high right now. We are trying to do something that does not work in theory. To be a country of all the world, a country made up of all the countries, a country without a center of identity, without a default idea of what a human being is or looks like, without a shared religious belief, without a shared language that is people's first language at home. And what we're trying to do is awesome. It is literally awesome in the correct sense of that word. (Source)

While it is hard to imagine Portland’s downtown returning to peace and prosperity from such extremes of unrest and poverty, I find hope in Giridharadas’ words.