Putting It All Out There

Until I enrolled in the Skidmore Summer Writers Institute for a two-week course on nonfiction writing, I’d never heard of Philip Lopate, the man who would be my instructor. I guess that shows how little serious reading I’d done in “literary nonfiction.” Lopate, it turns out, is the king of nonfiction, having written four collections … Continue reading Putting It All Out There

Exclamation-Point Leadership

One of my former employees recently recalled some advice I gave the editors at our marketing communications agency: “You only get one exclamation point in your writing career. Use it wisely.” At the time, I thought I was quoting Tennessee Williams, but I can’t find any such remark from him. My search for the origin … Continue reading Exclamation-Point Leadership

A Sort of Dark Poem About Summer

Dichotomy It was by our old garage door beneath a spot long favored by birds to build nests of mud and string. The neighbor’s cat had not yet found it, though by dusk its deathbed would be merely flattened grass and a tuft of down. Perhaps I had seen this one the day before, its … Continue reading A Sort of Dark Poem About Summer

A Tiny Poem About a Tiny Purple Plant

With spring here, I figured I'd post another short poem—this one about a tiny purple plant. To Lithops Optica cv Rubra Merely two turgid leaves of purple— more haiku than sonnet. Yet, like Caesar’s Tyrian robe, there is grandeur in you.   Note: The Lithops optica cv rubra is a south African plant no larger … Continue reading A Tiny Poem About a Tiny Purple Plant

A Poem About a Huge Toad

So...I've never posted any poetry on this blog before. But before I turned to nonfiction and, more recently, fiction, I wrote a ton of poetry. Animals are one of my primary subjects since they seem so immune to the stressors that plague humans. I figure every now and then I'll post one of my shorter … Continue reading A Poem About a Huge Toad

What Dogs Know About Wonder

It is said that human beings are distinguished from other animals by our knowledge of our own mortality. As far as distinctions go, that one kind of sucks. It does remind me, though, that we can learn a lot from animals—particularly dogs. They lead their doggie lives blissfully unaware they'll be garden fertilizer before too … Continue reading What Dogs Know About Wonder

The Anxiety of Influence and Getting Over Yourself

Mostly I blame T. S. Eliot, though he’s not the only one. There’s Charles Dickens and James Baldwin, too. I could come up with lots more culprits, but there’s no need. The effect is the same. These are some of the writers whose work most inspires me. Yet the same extraordinary talents that produced The … Continue reading The Anxiety of Influence and Getting Over Yourself

The Delirious Art of Writing About Absolutely Nothing

When it comes to posting on my blog, I take my responsibility very seriously. I aim to post at least three times per week. I have a schedule that maps out five discrete but related content categories—or, as we call them in content marketing, pillars. I try to identify subjects that, while perhaps seen through … Continue reading The Delirious Art of Writing About Absolutely Nothing

A Not-So-Elusive Joy

A lot's being written about how to find happiness these days. Perhaps that's because happiness feels more elusive than ever. There are mornings when I wake up in a bad mood and can only attribute my foul disposition to an expectation the world will greet me with a contemptuous glare. I'm far from alone in … Continue reading A Not-So-Elusive Joy

An Unbearable Brightness of Being

Graduate school gave me mixed signals about intelligence. Every now and then I try to sort them out. Thirty-five years after I earned my master’s degree from the University of Virginia, the nature of my own intellect remains unclear to me. For a long time, I wondered just what kind of "intelligent" I might be—and … Continue reading An Unbearable Brightness of Being