Saturday, April 20, 2013

We are Boston

Last night, my ten-year-old daughter slept in the bedroom with my husband and me.

She was freaked out.

I didn’t know I was until I woke up in the middle of the night, and the previous five days’ events whipped around my brain.

When 09/11 occurred, I lived in New York. The magnitude of what had happened shocked our nation and the world. I lived an hour away and knew people whose lives had been irrevocably changed as a result.

A month later, I moved to Cambridge, MA.

Eleven years later, I moved to Arlington.

A couple of months ago, I posted an article about how I felt at the time of the move from Cambridge to Arlington I learned that, for some, there was a divide between the two places wider than the Charles River.

Monday, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.

I’ve never gone to the marathon. Each year I mean to, but somehow don’t. I wasn’t directly in any danger. I knew someone who raced, who was fine. Later, I found out a woman who died worked not far from my house.

But I felt it profoundly. Boston is my home. Not Cambridge. Not Arlington. I don’t identify just with a street or a neighborhood or even a town. The reason my husband and I moved here is because we’d vacationed around Massachusetts when we were still in college and fell in love with the state. The whole Boston-area is home to me.

I wasn’t alone feeling Bostonian. Yankee Stadium played “Sweet Caroline.” Each time, I think about it, I get chills. Other cities, other people made similar gestures at other stadiums, plastered posters of solidarity on Facebook, set up races to honor Boston’s fallen.

The whole week felt surreal. It was spring break, but there was this unease. The persons who committed the atrocious acts were out there… somewhere. Would they be caught? Would they strike again?

Then Friday morning at 6:15, the events familiar to all of us began to unfold. For the next 16 hours, I was glued to the radio and TV and social media. Even though Arlington wasn’t on lockdown, the towns around us were. I had faith in the Boston Police and every unit of law enforcement on the case.

But other parts of the day were even harder. The picture of the suspect who’d escaped. He looked so earnest. I’ve taught children about the age he was in the photo in Cambridge for years. I’d even subbed at Cambridge Rindge and Latin two of the years he was there. I lived just blocks away from the suspects’ home. I had just PARKED MY CAR right by his house and walked past it on WEDNESDAY. Were either of the suspects in there at the time? What were they doing?

Had I walked the same streets with him at the same time? Had our paths crossed?

Even though the terrorists didn’t affect me directly, I was affected.

He looked no different than the kids I’d taught, the children my kids went to school with, the people I saw in the street. I’ve met the teachers in his elementary school. I can picture the kindergarten classes there.

I’ve seen terrorists on the TV before. It was easy to demonize them. While I know this suspect should and will be punished, I know he was here living with us.

How did he live with us, yet still de-humanize us? How could he plan something so big and horrible?

He was a part of Boston, yet he hurt it.

He hurt us.

More than ever, I am not just a part of my street or neighborhood or town. The Boston Marathon is an international event. Our world is as big or as small as we make it.

If we make our world big, then there is no us vs. them. There’s just us.

No matter where we are, we are Boston.

This appeared on the Arlington Patch:

Friday, April 12, 2013


Swathe in snug, towel folds
Shielding my gaze from reflection
Slathering silk lotion
Over cream hills and dales and olds

Close my eyes, call to mind
Smoothness, tautness, band-snapping skin
Jutting bones, xylophones
Sans purple crosses marring shin

Memories, baths before
Lost youthful body bathes no more
Gravity, beseech me
Birthing badges bring no honor

Stand up tall, suck in core
Scrutinize dimpled, bobbling thighs
Yielding, embrace contours
Impressionist ageless allure

Releasing the wrapping
Flashing into his yearning arms

- Theresa Milstein

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Carol Kilgore visits to tackle what we writers wrestle with, rewrite…

Once upon a time . . .
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive . . .

We remember the perfect ones.
They seem so easy, so effortless.

For me, beginnings are the most difficult part of the story to write.
They’re not so hard to draft – we’re all excited to get those words down while we’re chasing after the latest Bright Shiny. But those first draft words are sly and deceitful. What was full of promise on Day 1 becomes dull and plodding when we’re back for a second look on Day 101.

Our mission is simple – entice the reader to turn the page.
Start with the first line. The first paragraph. The first page. The first chapter.
Think about words, tone, personality, content.

Think about pacing, building suspense. Surprise. Laughter. Whatever direction leads into your story.
Make the reader care enough to turn the page.
Cast your bright, shiny hook her way, and reel her into your story.

For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve tried to write a fast first draft. I go at a fair clip once I get my sea legs, but that doesn’t happen until I introduce the main characters and some (meaning more than two) of them interact. That usually takes between 20-30 pages before I’m comfortable.

During this time, it’s slow going. I write. Rewrite. Write. Rearrange. Write. Change some preconceived ideas. Write. And so on. I change the beginning again and again. Sometime during the process, the first lines start to gel. I only pick at a word here and there.

Each time I put on my writing hat, I move deeper into the characters and story. But I also go over and over these first pages each time.

In revisiting them each day, the prose becomes smoother, the ideas become more solid, the backstory and banter I didn’t think I included gets written out. But the most important thing for me is that I get to know my main characters better.

By the time I do move on, the beginning is as good as I can make it . . . for first draft.
Then comes the next draft. And the one after. They all go the same way. When I no longer spend more time on the opening than on any of the other pages, I finally feel like I’m good to go.
I continue to hope for a speedy first draft beginning with the first word. Maybe one day I’ll succeed. I wonder if I’ll miss the extra time with my characters?

How about you?
How do you handle the beginning?
Is it as difficult for you as it is for me?

I hope not.

You can find Carol here:

And check out Solomon’s Compass. Here’s the blurb:

A missing belt—her uncle’s prized possession. The lure of buried treasure. And a sexy former SEAL who makes U.S. Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell crazy. What more could any woman want. Right?

Taylor is in Rock Harbor, Texas, on a quest to unearth her uncle’s treasure—a journey far outside the realm of her real life. There’s one glitch. Taylor's certain the buried treasure was all in Uncle Randy's dementia-riddled mind. Now he’s dead.

Former SEAL Jake Solomon is in Rock Harbor under false pretenses to protect Taylor from the fate that befell her uncle and the other members of a tight circle of Coast Guardsmen called the Compass Points who served together on Point boats in Vietnam.

Jake is definitely not supposed to become involved with Taylor. That was his first mistake. Taylor is attracted to Jake as well, but she refuses to wait for him to locate the killer when she knows her plan will force her uncle’s murderer into action.

But the killer's actions are just what Jake is afraid of.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I long for to explore more promising shores.

Woe is me.

Yeah, my writing state of mind is that bad.

This month is the 7-year anniversary of when I began writing seriously.

I have the 7-year-itch… to be more successful than I am now.

Now I have a small stack of small-piece publications .

I need more validation.

Writers and established authors have provided wonderful words of encouragement.

It’s not them, it’s me.

I’ve followed all the rules. I read the books in my genre. I’ve read and applied how-to-write advice. I attend conferences. I took poetry and grammar classes. I ask other writers to critique my manuscripts. I revise my queries and manuscripts a zillion times before I submit. I research agents thoroughly.

There are glimmers. A full request here. ABNA rounds or contests won there.

But it goes nowhere.

My biggest hurdle is networking. I’m intimidated when I talk to agents and editors. My friend said they wear pants like the rest of us. I say, “But they’re fancy pants.”

I’ve been querying a middle grade since December. There were a few promising developments. Now I find out that, after a zillion rewrites, my query is “too vague.” So I’ve rewritten. AGAIN. Since many agents will ONLY view the query before they request pages, I feel I’ve blown a few promising chances to have pages read.

There are more agents out there. Small presses. I’ve received some promising feedback from agents on this manuscript. There are certainly more chances for it. It’s not finished.

But sometimes I feel like I am.

4 writers have read my current YA. It’s now out with the 5th. I envision a trilogy. But I won’t let myself write the other 2 books. If the 1 doesn’t sell (and I must face that my track record of 0 books published is not great), then how will I feel if all 3 are written?

3x as worse.

But here’s the thing, I tell myself to move on to the next story, which is why I have an upper-middle grade rough draft ½ finished. But the YA story writes itself in my head. All. The. Time.

In my mind, I have these wonderful stories. I itch to share them.

Please share your writer highs and woes.