What do you do when you’re a writer, and you’re rejected?

To be a writer is to be rejected. Many article and book ideas of mine have been rejected. If you’re not being rejected, you’re not trying hard enough.

Irma S. Rombauer, author of Joy of Cooking, rejected by publishers.

The question is, How should writers react when they receive those inevitable rejections? Well, don’t give up. That’s the first and most important thing. Know that you are not alone, and that the very best who have ever practiced this craft have all been rejected, often when they were unknown and just starting out.

Back in the days when publishers and editors issued rejection notices on paper, William Saroyan would write “I reject your rejection!” across the face of the rejection letter and send it back to the person who rejected him. Continue reading “What do you do when you’re a writer, and you’re rejected?”

I Have Four Children. Their Names are Annie, Hank, Gabe and Leah

Many people do not know that Jennifer and I had a baby, Leah, who died. She was born Monday, November 25, 1996, and died Friday November 29, 1996, after five days of living only in a hospital. She had breathing problems she could not overcome.

Leah with her parents, in the last hour of her life.

One of the reasons that many people do not know about Leah is that I do not tell them about her. Privately, among our family and close friends, we of course speak of her and remember her. Every November around her birthday, a time of year that is particularly hard for her mother, we recognize her life by lighting a candle or hiking, as a family, up to the hill where we scattered her ashes. We talk about her freely with our sons, who never met her and will never understand the impact she has had on their lives.

Among people I do not know, however, talking about Leah represents an awkward challenge. Whenever a new book of mine comes out, the publisher releases biographical material about me that typically mentions the fact that I have children. I often speak publicly in front of groups, and occasionally do radio and TV interviews. These, too, generally mention my children, at least in passing, and this is where the awkwardness comes in. Do I tell people I have four children, or three? Continue reading “I Have Four Children. Their Names are Annie, Hank, Gabe and Leah”

Writing With Children: Coping Strategies for Parents

It was a quiet Sunday morning, and in a relaxed and optimistic mood I sat down on the couch with a mug of hot black tea and some papers and a pencil, thinking I could grab a few minutes for some hard copy editing of a piece I had written.

Then my son Gabe started shooting nerf darts at my head.

This ever happen to you? My sons seem to have built-in radar that tells them when I’m trying to steal some time for myself and do something other than cater to their every whim and desire. This is their cue to pop out of nowhere and shoot nerf darts at me. If you are a writer and a parent as I am—actually, if you run any home-based business or telecommute—it is unavoidable that there will be times when you must work when the children are home with you.

How do you get your work done when the li’l darlings are running around fighting and screaming and raising a wild rumpus? Here are some strategies and approaches that worked for me when our children were young: Continue reading “Writing With Children: Coping Strategies for Parents”

Birds, Frog Legs, and the Three Musketeers

An ortolan.

One of the pleasures of reading old books is that you frequently encounter unusual words or words that are no longer in common use. So I found while reading an early passage in The Three Musketeers, in which d’Artagnan threatens an innkeeper and his employees if they cannot find an important letter that has been lost:

“My letter of recommendation,” cried d’Artagnan, “on the holy blood, I will split you all like ortolans.”

What, pray tell, is an ortolan? Continue reading “Birds, Frog Legs, and the Three Musketeers”

Horse book for the ages

Above is the 1941 cover for The Black Stallion, which I am reading (and quite enjoying!) now. Written by Walter Farley, it is the beautiful story of a great horse, a boy who loved him, and their adventures.

In 1941 The Black Stallion—a clothbound book, printed in the USA—sold for $2. My wife when she was a girl rode horses, loved horse books, and collected a shelf full of Farley’s work.

For middle school girls and boys today, as well as those interested in reading a Young Adult classic of a bygone era, The Black Stallion is top shelf. The handsome cover and inside drawings were done by Keith Ward. The 1979 film directed by Carroll Ballard based on the book is also a treat.

6 Truths We Can Learn From Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is the owner-chef of Red Rooster Harlem, Marcus National Harbor, and an upcoming new eatery planned for the Overtown district of Miami. A TV star and best-selling author, his life story has truths and insights for anyone who eats and cooks in today’s world—which is, after all, all of us. Here are six of those truths: Continue reading “6 Truths We Can Learn From Marcus Samuelsson”

Finally, I Make My Son Proud

The other day my friend Max sent me a picture he had uncovered of us. I am the middle person here, the one with the beard. Max is on the left; another friend, Dan, is on the right. I was twenty at the time the picture was taken, on the day of my brother’s wedding. This is why I am in the tux. (I did not wear the wool cap during the ceremony!)

My older son is turning twenty this year, and he just shaved off a beard he had been growing for a while. I emailed him this picture to show him how his old man once had a pretty good beard, too. He liked it and texted it to some of his friends, many of whom commented favorably. Then, on Father’s Day, he shared the photo on SnapChat, saying, “Hey, this was what my dad looked like back in the day,” and he received a bunch more favorable responses. Finally, I made my son proud!

Encountering a Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-winged blackbirds are not really red-winged. It’s a misnomer.

This April Ruby and I were walking in the open spaces on a cool, wet, drippy day. We were the only ones out. For this reason perhaps, a red-winged blackbird perched on a bush seemed less skittish than they usually are. She sat on a branch near the trail and did not budge as I stepped to within a couple of arm lengths of it.

Being blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds have mostly black wings. The red comes from the markings on their wings, which remind me of the showy shoulder epaulets worn on the dress uniform of a military officer. Certain red wings have white or yellow stripes at the base of their plumage. But the ones I see around my house are low elevation birds and their patches are all red.

Whatever the variation, red-winged blackbirds are colorful and delightful to see. Their bright and vivid red colors always stand out against the dull gray of an old fencepost, where they often sit. They also like to hang out on the tops of tule weeds and bushes, such as the one Ruby and I encountered.

Ah, but that’s as far as you go, you two! The bird flew off when I overstepped my welcome and drew too close to it.

 

My Personal Story

I am the award-winning author of 22 nonfiction books, countless articles in newspapers, magazines and online, and a new novel, Grace Brothers Mysteries: Searching for Sweetness. To find out a little bit more about me, please read on.

My Personal Story

A newspaper illustration of me in high school.

When I was in high school a great man named Bob Berndt, my history teacher and counselor, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

“A writer,” I told him.

That is pretty much all I’ve ever done, all my life. Be a writer.

Continue reading “My Personal Story”