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Diary: One Author's Life 

The Delany Sisters and "Graveyard Talk"

The Delany Sisters, my old friends, had a delightful expression when referring to an important secret. They called it “graveyard talk,” or something you might say to a gravestone when no one else is around.

I think the world we live in needs more “graveyard talk,” especially since the advent of social media. I  Read More 

Dad, My Biggest Fan, turns 90

All you really need to know about my Dad is that he will celebrate his 90th birthday this Saturday and he’s making long-range plans. That’s right, folks. He is thinking about the future and aiming for 100. His own mother lived to 101 so he thinks this is reasonable.

Ideally, he says, his goal  Read More 

Edith Wharton and Her Dogs

Did you know that the great American author Edith Wharton adored dogs, and typically had several at a time? She was unapologetically sentimental when it came to the subject. “My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet,” she once wrote. At her estate in Lenox, Mass., one can even visit the pet cemetery, complete  Read More 

'Fessin' Up to Mom

I have one thing in common with Garrison Keillor of “Prairie Home Companion” fame: He once said he could never write anything that would embarrass his mother.

I understand that completely. My parents are in their late eighties and they read every word I write, and always have. In fact, I would not be  Read More 

The Delany Sisters and Their Porch

Many years ago, Sadie and Bessie Delany (who would become famous at age 100 and 102 as “the Delany Sisters”) moved from an apartment in the Harlem section of New York City to a still-rural section of the Bronx. The reason? They wanted a porch.

Actually they needed a porch, as they explained with some desperationto the builder.  Read More 

How the Delany Sisters Welcomed a New Year

The Delany Sisters didn't celebrate New Year's Eve; they simply went to bed at the usual hour and woke up to a new year. They had resolutions, with Sadie always saying she wanted to be a better person (pretty much impossible since she was already so sweet and nice) and little sister Bessie claiming that THIS would be the year she would stop her meanness and get herself "straight with the Lord." I miss those old gals, and one of my resolutions each year since they've been gone is to live up to their expectations and hopes for me.  Read More 
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How to Talk to Your Editor

I heard something terrible recently: A top editor admitted to me that he isn't signing up debut authors because they take up too much of his time. Now, before you hate this guy's guts, consider that his job responsibilities have multiplied in the last few years at the same time that thousands of new people want his attention. He can't go to the men's room without someone handing him a manuscript or pitching an idea. During the last twenty years I have been published by Random House, Doubleday, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster, among others, and all of my editors have been hard-working and thoughtful people who truly love books.  Read More 
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Advice for College Students

The following are excerpts from a speech I made to students at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information on Nov. 14, 2013, New Brunswick, New Jersey:
"I am on my third career – newspapers, nonfiction books, and now novels. I’ve adapted. I’ve always been independent and that has worked in my favor. But  Read More 
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On a Plane, Being Misjudged

"You do WHAT?" asked the businessman sitting next to me on a flight to Florida. This was twenty-plus years ago, a short time before I made the transition from journalism to nonfiction book author, and long before I became a novelist. I had endured this fellow flirting relentlessly with me for two hours. He  Read More 
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Inspiration from Sculpture

Writers find inspiration from other art forms. Visiting art museums, attending live theater and musical performances, watching a classic movie - all provide nourishment (and a healthy diversion) for the creative mind. At this point in my new book project I am especially intrigued by sculpture. So far I've written about 24,000 words - about  Read More