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Gearing Up for the Solo Road Trip

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What’s more compelling and creatively inspiring than a road trip? How many novels and films have the road trip spawned? From Jack Kerouac’s counterculture buddy trip “On The Road” to Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic, Pulitzer Prize-winner, “The Road,” to . . . National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movies, and a movie I highly recommend, “Almost Famous.” I’m heading out this week on a solo road trip...

The Bills Have Me Riding the Roller Coaster Again

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Owen’s lot in life is to have a father born and raised in Buffalo, NY, and therefore Owen was also fated to be a Bills and Sabres fan, which I admit I carry some guilt over. The Sabres have never won a Stanley Cup in more than 50 years of playing. I was in the stands with my father and brother when they lost in the finals to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975. The Bills are best known for losing...

To Calm Myself, I Spent Some Time With Charles Today

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The last few days have spawned an onslaught of insanity, shame, and sadness in our country, along with a corresponding uptick in anxiety and tension within myself.

So I turned to Charles Bukowski this morning:

And then there’s one of my favorite Bukowski poems, “The Laughing Heart.” This reading by Tom Waits is perfect in tone and voice:

“Getting the Words Right”

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I get asked about my writing process. My answer is: Yes. In other words, writing is definitely a process, often a long one, with starts and stops and dead ends and open roads. But people cringe when they hear that. They just want to write something once and be done with it. That’s rarely a good idea. Fear of Writing When I was teaching writing classes at SUNY Schenectady, I discovered that...

Are New Year’s Resolutions Helpful?

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I like to ask people what their New Year’s resolutions are. It seems like an effective way to start an interesting and meaningful conversation. Or start a fight. Because, come on: New Year’s resolutions? Didn’t we suffer enough in 2020 to now put ourselves through the self-defeating promises made/promises broken routine for 2021? But we all want to be better, do better, and feel better, so we...

So You Want to Be a Ghost Writer

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I was talking with a friend the other day about being a ghost writer. It’s such a great term: ghost writer. Haunting and secretive, because a ghost writer is the invisible spirit and voice behind a piece of writing that carries another person’s name as the author. But the task of ghostwriting is anything but secretive. It’s deeply intimate. I’ve served as a ghost writer for university...

“I Did the Best I Could With What I Had.”

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Toward the end of his writing career, Philip Roth said in an interview, “I did the best I could with what I had.” I’ve glommed onto that saying, hoping to make it my own. Roth has won almost every major literary award. He’s written thirty books including some of my favorite novels, each one rich with the conundrum of human experience and packed with personal revelations for me: American Pastoral...

HAMNET — Maggie O’Farrell

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This novel came highly recommended to me and I can see why. A reimagining of the life of William Shakespeare’s family—focused primarily on his wife, Agnes, and his son, Hamnet—the writing in this novel is almost as lyrical and eloquent as the Bard of Avon himself delivered. Although I found the beginning was overwritten and a bit hard to get into, soon enough I became deeply absorbed. The beauty...

Christmas Babies

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That’s me on the left, Julia on the right, both of us born on Christmas, 40 years apart. What better birthday gift can a father receive–a daughter born on his birthday. Extreme gratitude to Harriet, for enduring a torturously long labor to give us a Christmas baby, and to my own mother, Irene. I was her second Christmas baby, three years after my brother Peter was born. Happy birthday...

It’s Not About the Squid

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We spent Christmas Even at my grandmother’s. Suzie and Anthony lived in a modest house in a working class neighborhood, 19th Street in Niagara Falls. On our drive there we would pass the Hooker Chemical and Carborundum plants, five of us kids in the car breathing the industrial fumes and agreeing the scent was sweet and perfumey, and then arriving at Grandma’s and entering a house smelling of...

Attic Drinking: Go Ahead, Judge Me!

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One of the best, or perhaps only, things I like about Facebook is having been in touch with a few friends from my long-ago past, people I will likely never again see in my lifetime. Recently my old friend Russ sent me a video from many years ago. I think I was fourteen or fifteen at the time this home movie—“Attic Drinking”—was shot. When I first watched the video I laughed heartily and I loved...

Pandemic Puzzling

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With the pandemic raging and many people staying home when possible, jigsaw puzzles have become a popular pastime. There’s even been a shortage of them. I’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles for years, with both trepidation and determination. Do jigsaw newbies really know what they’re in for? The Hero’s Journey Whenever I work on a puzzle, especially those 1,000-piecers, it’s like I’m undergoing the...

THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett

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THE VANISHING HALF appeared on a number of top 10 books of the year lists and it’s easy to see why. The novel has all the ingredients for a successful novel in 2020: Racial themes explored in the story of light-skinned Black twin sisters—Stella and Desiree—whose lives diverge when one decides to live as white and the other “stays” Black; a secondary, transgender theme and subplot; an up-and...

From an Old Story That Still Resonates with Me

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Anyone reading this blog will notice I’ve taken an interest in flash fiction, which goes by a variety of names and definitions, but I consider it fiction under 1000 words. I’ve been reading flash, and trying my hand. Push Yourself Up! was a first attempt. I’ve also gone looking through some of my old writing to fish for ideas, snippets, anything that sparks my attention and...

Lottery Night in America

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On Lottery nights Maren Hart ran the tower stairs. Her comscreen sleeve remained strapped to her forearm, with notifications muted. While the Lottery opening credits were broadcasting onto hundreds of millions of screens, Maren pushed through the fire door at the end of the corridor on the fifty-eighth floor of the Atria Tower where she lived. The stairwell air tasted stale, recirculated, due to...

The Blue Period

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Pablo Picasso had a blue period, from 1901-1904, which started with the death of a close friend. During this period he produced almost exclusively monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. At the time, he achieved little success at the time with these paintings, which might be hard to believe now. As he gradually emerged from his...

Time Ceases to Exist

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The plane nosed down once more and Robert caught a glimpse of the markers leading up to the runway. They were going to be short. They were a second or two from impact. And here came the amazing thing about the moment of death: time doesn’t slow down—it ceases to exist. You can experience the regret of not kissing your wife goodbye that morning. You can remember a family trip to St. John you...

Dreaming of COVID

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Just a few short weeks ago I wrote about how COVID was getting inside of me and impacting my fiction writing. Admittedly, having COVID infiltrating my thoughts when writing isn’t nearly as bad as getting the virus itself, which I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid. So far. But now COVID has found another way in. Last night I dreamed about COVID for the first time. I was hungry and in...

Push Yourself Up!

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To be on the team, you have to perform twenty pushups. There’s no getting around that requirement because if you can’t do twenty pushups you won’t have the strength to help the team. You’d be a burden on your teammates. You’d be unwanted. So twenty pushups it is, no exceptions. Plus eight pullups, running a mile in seven minutes or less, and scoring at least eighteen out of twenty on the team...

Savoring the Winter Hike

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I have a new quest: hike all 35 Catskill Mountain peaks over 3500 feet in elevation. I’ve got one down, 34 to go. Today I hiked Westkill Mountain, joining an organized small group because this was my first mountain hiking in winter conditions. It was wet on the lower elevations, snowy with some ice up higher. The sun wasn’t out . . .but the view still inspired. Hiking is one of those...

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

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