Friday, November 13, 2015

Sometimes you write a poem

I still dream about you.

As if it were yesterday,
as if
time hasn’t

                                    As if
I haven’t swum a thousand miles

the salt water
detoxing your touch 
       my skin.

I still dream about you
            as if I need you,

as if you matter one iota,

as if my words don’t fill pages, 
as if my photo won’t live on between 
closed covers
stacked neatly and

            As if the heart-pounding hadn’t shifted
years ago to
mere flutters,
then a
                                         flick of 

I still dream about you.

In it
            we smile uncomfortably across a table
in a diner I’ve never been.

            Longing pulls at
my layers
            as if it can possibly                unfold
                                          who I was
            As if it would make a difference.

I still dream about you.

                        In the dream, a waitress in a peach dress pours coffee.
            The others at our table chat,
stab at their salads,
sink teeth into 
white-bread sandwiches.
            Our eyes
                fight to
                        dart away.

I still dream about you,
            with all the rage and fury for what you took,
            with all the affection and
                        gratitude for what
                                                you gave.

I still dream about you,
like a puzzle, like a condundrum,
like a zen koan not meant to be solved,
            but that eats at me anyway.

I still dream about you,

awaken confused and drenched,

                   like a corpse descending the depths,

                                       like a fish 
               murky water.

Like a marathoner,
            who never learned how to run,
            but has covered the miles anyway,
gaining distance, 
            yet always looking back,

wondering if you will 
               go away.

- gae 11/15

Friday, June 19, 2015

On Hate and Things I Cannot Bear Nor Fathom. . .

I have no words for what has happened this week in Charleston, South Carolina, nor for what has happened before Charleston in Ferguson, in Florida, in Aurora, in Newtown, in Laramie, Wyoming, in NYC. . . everywhere, and seemingly will continue to happen because those of us with love in our hearts are so helpless and hapless or, worse, lethargic, in the face of those who are filled with hate, come from a place of ignorance or are, quite simply, inhumane.

I have no words today and so simply share the words of others who have found some profound ones, together with a strong wish and heartfelt plea that:

  • *you keep speaking up and out against intolerance, violence and hate, 
  • *you rally when possible, 
  • *if you are young, especially, you use your smarts, abilities and your words wisely and eloquently to sway others around you who may come from a place of fear or ignorance, and
  • *MOST IMPORTANTLY, you VOTE. Vote for candidates who are first and foremost for tolerance, equality, and peace, who are for protecting lives not just IN the womb, but once they are born into the world and living and breathing among us.  

If you watch or listen to one thing this week on the Charleston tragedy watch this:


And if you're still feeling hopeless after that clip watch the rest of his interview with Malala Yousafzai and consider donating to the Malala Fund.

If you read something, this is a good, important thing to read, with the below lead-in by the beautiful author, Kate Messner:

"What happened in a Charleston church on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is "unspeakable." We should speak of it often. We should speak of it loudly." 
This piece is worth reading & thinking about. The man arrested for the horrific church shooting in Charleston may be referred to as a "lone shooter," but a community raised him. We are all responsible for the words we speak, the things we share on our social media pages, and the things we allow others to say, unchecked and unchallenged. I cannot believe we live in a world where this is still happening. We have to do better.  SPEAKING THE UNSPEAKABLE. . . 

If you are a writer and want to do something small to honor librarian Cynthia Hurd:

Donations in her memory can be made to the Charleston Public Library c/o Andria Amaral; Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., Charleston SC 29401. 

Mother Emanuel Church also accepts donations:

We must find a way to do better,


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Morning purge

last night
lying in bed doing one of my
constant self exams
i found a hard, little, pea-sized lump -- i thought
                          i did --
the kind they tell you about, the kind
they warn you
i panicked
i trembled
i shook -- i couldn't stop shaking --
i said, as my husband held me:

i am afraid

i am afraid of everything
i have always been

and he wrapped his arms around me and listened,
then eventually
as i listed the fears
in my head,
as i trembled:

fear of sickness
fear of death
fear of aging
fear of losing my parents
       my sister
       my husband,


(fear of my kids leaving me)

fear of war,
fear of terrorism on home soil,
fear of storms that will lower trees onto our home with a blow
razes things.

fear of fire
fear of police killing innocent men
fear of politicians who seek to spiral our world backwards,
fear of something happening to the goddamned dog.

                              (the dog that i didn't even want in the first place,
                               the dog that looks at me with soulful eyes,
the dog that i love,
         that i coddle like a goddamned child,
the dog that,
last night,
as i trembled and shook,
              that is not one to cuddle,
got up without a sound
and moved his sweet self from
his usual spot near the bottom of the bed
     to the curve of my side
and stayed there

(goddamned dog)

fear of my sons being hurt or unsuccessful or sad
(crushingly sad,
brokenly sad),

fear of global warming of
        seas evaporating, of the dry earth scorched,
of glaciers melting
and tornadoes erasing everything in their path.

fear of a tiny, pea-sized lump
that will terrorize and undo me

fear that i will not find the strength.
the strength so many others have,
wear like a second skin,
like proof,
like a shining badge of courage,

fear that the two little books i will leave are nothing
not much,
not really,
do not make a mark
my mark,
do not amount to a hill of beans,
will say nothing about me, about the struggle,
will not show how deeply i loved,
how hard i tried
how much i wanted to amount to more than
a carbon footprint

last night i could not stop shaking,
i told myself not to check and recheck, but i did,
because i am weak,
because i fear
(i fear
                  i fear. . .)
i fear.

and the pea-sized lump had moved, was less, was maybe
not so hard,
was maybe not there

but still, i kept trembling,
and feeling

i lay awake
dog pressed to my side
if i will have the strength,
a fight,
if i will find the joy
              in the hardest parts,

if i can find the grace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

aging with (fucking) grace, a rambling and curse-filled post.


I'm trying.

Really. (Sort of).

I'm trying to be (fucking) graceful about this aging bullshit.

After all, I admire so many people who are.

In fact, when I think of the people my age and older who I admire, they are the ones who are aging with (fucking) grace.

They don't complain (at least not to me),
they embrace.

Embrace grace. How fucking Seussical.

My whole growing up, I felt judged by my family (sorry family, I love you, but there you have it) for being shallow about superficial things. Like my looks. My body. My hair.

No crease could be left unflattened in my Jordache jeans when I left the house in the mornings;

the alarm got set an hour early so I could work on my perfectly-feathered hair.

And, yes, I kept a calendar of what I wore each school day so as not to commit the offense of repeating a single outfit in a given week (so sue me. . . and did I really think anyone of value was actually paying attention to such a thing?)

So, then, I guess in some ways, I was. Shallow, about that shit, I mean.

It was hard to be a teen girl, then and now. Same as it is hard to be a grown woman, then and now. Maybe moreso, a woman over 40.

50. *coughs*

Right or wrong, so much of our identity as a gender is still tied to how we look. If you think it isn't, you're kidding yourselves. In some ways, I think this is awful. In other ways -- and I guess some would view this as anti-feminist of me -- but I actually think it's normal and okay. Or at least unavoidable as a society as we are. It's simply, how it is.

At times, I truly enjoy our gender differences, and admire good looks, admire someone who takes care of their physical body. I also admire physically many people who aren't typically handsome or beautiful, know seriously overweight people who I think are stunningly beautiful.

Maybe it's wrong of me, but I loved watching the beautiful faces and bodies parade on and off the stage at the Golden Globes . . . and, though a bit of a brouhaha apparently erupted on twitter over Jeremy Renner's rather obvious comment to JLo about her Golden Globes, what else was JLo wanting, actively seeking, but to invite admiration of her female assets by wearing that dress? Am I missing something here?

With perfect hair and my usual HS scowl,
 pre-nose job, 1982.

So, yeah, my looks have always mattered to me, which was hard since I haven't always been a fan of how I looked. After all, by the time I hit puberty, I wore glasses and braces and was diagnosed with scoliosis which was going to require me to wear a large plastic brace on my back -- not the best fashion accessory for a teenage girl.

Moreover, by puberty, my previously-cute button nose had taken on a strong hereditary Semitic bump (and low dip) that both my boys now have, which is wearable and even handsome (IMHO) on a boy, but not so much on a girl.

As I was already being badly bullied in high school, it was unbearable to not at least feel pretty when I left the house on a given day.  Maybe a less superficial person could have hacked it.

At any rate, hate me or love me for it, my looks were always an integral part of who I was, how I viewed myself, and, yes, sometimes, I think, were tied to how I succeeded at certain things. Certainly, post nose-job, I could walk into a room feeling like I'd make a positive first impression. I wanted to look good, I wanted to feel pretty, and I wanted others to think the same of me.

Having said all that, I personally don't think I was shallow or superficial. You may disagree. Really what I wanted most in the world, was what we all want: to feel good about myself, to feel loved and admired, to have friends, and to feel confident in my life. I also cared WAY more deeply about who I was on the inside, and how I treated others, and the good things I did, and so I'm not sure why that so often got lost in the translation.

At any rate, I struggled then, and still do now as so many others do, when I look in a mirror and don't love what I see.

Don't love my body -- the too-full figure, the cellulite on the thighs.

Then, in my early forties (!!!) something sort of miraculous happened: I was in the best shape of my life AND I liked the way I looked!

I think three things coincided to make this happen,

one bad (I went through a period of midlife crisis depression and literally couldn't eat much and lost every ounce of body fat I'd ever had)

and two good: I began swimming religiously -- often several miles a week by my mid-forties--  and my body, for the first time post-baby was lean and mean, and I finally got a book deal and was, for the first time, really doing something in my life I had fought hard for and only dreamed of for a long while.

At any rate. It was fun. It was exhilarating, especially since so many other good and fun things were going on.

Alas, fast forward to 2015.

My forties are somehow, unfathomably, gone.

Late into them, an age spot appeared on my hand. I kid you not, it mocks me daily. Once in a while, I take out a pen and draw a smiley face inside of it. I'd like to tell you that helps.

Late into my forties, the also-hereditary prominent eye bags started really appearing under my eyes. My flat stomach lost shape and the skin got looser around my mid-section.

And my hands. Oh dear lord, my fucking hands.

With my mother on my 50th birthday.
And, yes, I am wearing a tiara.
I have this particular recollection from when I was in my early twenties I think, of my beautiful mother lamenting how old her hands had become.

She must have been in her late forties, then.

We were in her bedroom, I, lazing on her bed, she getting ready for some function.

I told her she was being silly, and she walked over and she pinched the skin on the top of her hand, and showed me how inelastic it had become, and, thus, how long it took it to resettle. I gave her the typical eye roll and she showed me on my hand, the difference, pinched the skin on mine which immediately shot back down.

My hands have become her hands back then. I'm sure she doesn't want to talk about her hands now.

This morning, I sat on the floor playing with the dog, and bottoms of my feet. . . so cracked and dry. . .well, I don't even want to talk about that. . .

And don't get me started on my thighs in downward dog.

No one over fifty should ever go into downward dog. Well, at least without long pants on.

So, I'm trying. I really am. To embrace my own aging with grace. I'm really fucking wanting to be graceful.

My gorgeous, fucking kickass, goddess writer friend Amy Ferris wrote this the other day:

i've decided today that's my new age.
it looks just like 60, but with a little extra OOOOOMPH.

I'm trying to emulate her. Be brave. Be kickass. Embrace this fifty bullshit with grace.

Embrace the changing body, the thinning hair that's lost all its luster . . .

the aching back, sore hips and knees and shoulder (okay, that last one probably more a hazard of all the miles swum than my age, but still. . .).

I'm trying to remind myself I swam a fucking 10K last summer.

I'm trying to hold on to the truth that the numbers are arbitrary and just numbers.

I'm always grateful. I promise. Please don't tell me in the comments to be grateful, because I swear I am. And don't tell me I look good, because what most of you see is photoshopped anyway.

Besides, it's really NOT the point.

And, yes, I see so many others struggling with real health problems and I kiss the ground for this body -- this very one! -- that has done its work so beautifully, so strongly, without too many major disruptions, kept healthy for me, and keeps carrying me along. I swear, I am not without the right priorities and gratitude. In fact, I'm usually overwhelmed by an aching sense of gratitude toward my random dumb luck in this hard, hard world.

But I am also my physical body. At least for now. And I am struggling to view it with grace.

Fucking grace. It keeps on eluding me.

- gae

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 into 2015: Shifting (and Settling) Sands (Renew, Resolve, and Relinquish Redux)

Study in blue. . . 

I shouldn't be blogging as I am steeped in revisions on a deadline, if mostly a self-imposed one.

Still, old habits die hard, and if I don't blog, this New Year is going to roll in in utter silence from me... with the saddest little whimper on record.

Well. it appears it's likely going to do so anyway.

The sands of my life they are a shifting. Starting with New Years Eve.

For the first time in seventeen years, I will be ringing in this new year's eve quietly.

Without either of my children at home.

Without their friends or mine.

Without the food, and festivities, and the noisemakers,

New Years Eve 2010-11 Photo credit: Rick Kopstein

without the party guests,

and the glow sticks and the confetti in the air.

2011-12 photo credit: Rick Kopstein

2012-13. . . and so on... photo credit: Rick Kopstein

The writing has been on the wall.

Each year for the past four, a group of kids has aged out, gone off to college, stopped by on their way to and from other plans.

The girls whose faces I painted,

who made wearable art jewelry with me,

whose New Year's Eve henna tattoos lasted for weeks after they'd all gone home.

And the boys,

who eagerly arrived to dinosaur scavenger hunts before retiring to the basement for video games and pizza.

Who fought over glow sticks, who trashed my floor with spilled sodas and scarred my ceiling with exploding caps from holiday "crackers," which half made me cringe, but more made me smile, at the sheer fact of it.

Of the fact that we all were here.

For seventeen years, on this one night, we were all here.

Somehow, I thought I had more time.

This year, most of the adults bowed out, their children off on their own adventures, they too have decided to make new plans. In the city for fancier dinners. For theater or concerts,

off to celebrate with their grown children.

glow sticks headband in the aftermath. . . 
Other plans.

My youngest son feels the weight of it too -- "I looked forward to it every year, Mom. It was magic," but he too, is ready to move on.

Needs to move on.

Like sand in the hour glass. . .

But, oh, how that sand rushes through.

So, I'm trying to be big about it.


But I'm a creature of habit, especially when the habit is having my children.

Yet, I have to accept. Let the sand settle down all around me.

Accepting, I think, is the buzz word of our fifties.

But how to accept without atrophying?

This post is a mess. I apologize.

I meant to be witty, make lists. I mean to resolve, and I will. Yes, that's what I meant to do.

I like to resolve and many of them I actually keep, even some of the bigger ones. Take these from 2010:

although the burpees may have fallen by the wayside. . .

But it is nice to go back, reflect on some of the things I've accomplished. I know I feel like I have less energy and resolve than I had in 2010, so it gives me incentive to make new goals, to set them in (virtual) stone, and give myself less of a chance to just settle here.

So in echo of 2010 into '11, here are my 2014 into '15 R&R's:

Renew: see, e.g. 2010, yes even the burpees, if more of a yogic burpee... (;


yoga me, circa 2012...

more yoga, less sitting. 50-year old bodies need both the flexibility and balance of a yoga practice. I don't love yoga, but I'm convinced of this in my (very achy joints and) bones;

more writing in new genres. I have always wanted to write a picture book, a play, and am suddenly interested in writing short stories, which never appealed to me before, so that's cool). I have a collaborative project about to go out on submission, and I also have started to explore new publishing options for some of my unpublished work, at least the work that has garnered the approval of at least one reputable NYC literary agent (if not two or three, which some of them have!) and one reputable editor, but never made it through "acquisitions" for whatever various marketplace reasons.

Try something brave and brand new. Stay tuned. I don't know what this is. It could be a longer swim (which means longer than a 10K which could be hard!) or a swim in a brand new environment. It could be the new publishing endeavors (see above) or it could be something brand new and exciting all together.

This I know, I have to do something. It's the new things, the brave things, that keep us from feeling irrelevant.


Social media. Not altogether, no. But it has to give. It has to make room for more permanent successes. This one is hard for me. To find the balance. And, equally, to find the discipline.

My view of myself and my physical body. I need to stay in shape because it's healthy and invigorating. But one glance at my legs in downward dog makes it clear there is no holding on to that body.

My children as they were,

embracing all that I can hold on to:

the wonderful young men that they are now.

This is a process. I'm figuring out how to let go.

It helps when I hear them sing and play guitar.

But, man, what an unfathomably short time we get to borrow them. . .

Relinquish: so many things. Let go.

Move forward, rather than stew. After all, 2014 has been good. It's seen the release of my new book, seen me complete a 10K in the open water. Seen Son One really find his place socially, have success with his music, know he's good. See Son Two make the varsity basketball team, himself become a really good musician.

For all of us, it's been full of successes and struggles, accolades and "rejection."

But more than anything, we're lucky. It's been good.

And so, if I ring it in quietly with my husband and our dog, and a list of things I still need to do -- want to do -- what can be blue?

How can I be anything but grateful?

Charlie at the edge of shifting sands... photo credit: Laurie Capobianco

Wishing you all a peaceful, healthy New Year full of hope and love.

xox gae

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Things I've done. Things I want to do...

me, a few days ago or so...

I turned fifty in July.


I keep saying (and typing) the word, because i don't really believe it. Otherwise, I'd probably be less quick to admit it.


I think 50, and I think: that is simply UNFATHOMABLE.

Then the line from Princess Bride pops in my head:

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

So, here I am. Fifty. Well, actually, more than three months in.

I've done a lot in the past ten years I never thought in a million years I might do. Actually succeed at. I didn't even imagine a few...


  • Swam a 10K plus (7+ miles) in the open water (probably clocking close to 200 miles of open water swimming each season for the past several years);
  • Swam in waters as cold as 37 degrees;
  • Secured three agents, two book deals, and have written eight manuscripts;

Still, there are many days I feel like an utter slacker. Like I'm wasting time and I'm going to have a thousand regrets... Like the clock is ticking and there's so much I want to do. . . 


  • get another (effing) YA ms published (for Pete's sake);
  • Publish my second piece of unpublished women's fiction, THE SWIMMING SEASON, if I can't get a traditional publisher to take it by year's end, with a hybrid or curated press... big brave move I'm not sure I'm ready for...
  • write a picture book;
  • write a play;
  • do more yoga;
  • read more;
  • teach creative writing;  
    Finishing the 10K+ with Annmarie this past summer!
  • swim from Long Island to Connecticut (oh, come on, Annmarie, you know you want to); 

  • and
  • contribute more charitably/be involved/try to make a difference in our world.
Some days, I'm full of productivity. Other's I'm a total slug. I do a lot of starting and stopping, too much starting and stopping these days. The writing, especially, is hard. So much easier to veg out in front of The Voice, or facebook when the going gets tough, and the words aren't flowing, and the water is freaking cold.

But I'm fifty. And I have a whole lot I still want to do.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Falling, Failing and Chutes & Ladders Redux (with essential footnotes that should be read contemporaneously with the piece)

Me, trying to accept the fall...

One of the most interesting things about being a parent is trying to take your own advice. Or at least the advice of others you dispense to your own kids freely. Like this awesome advice from Kelly Corrigan about failing that I've been dispensing to my college son for weeks:

Great advice from Kelly Corrigan, from this terrific speech,
that I've been dispensing to my kids freely.

I mean, I love that.

I love that so, so much.

A few weeks ago, I handed in my next young adult manuscript -- one called THE MEMORY OF THINGS, which I think may be my favorite ever  -- to my amazing, smart, wonderful, cherished editor at Algonquin Young Readers, who unceremoniously fn1 turned it down.

If you don't know the stinging-sharp, kick-in-the-gut pain of rejection, made ten-fold worse by being rejected by someone you know and love, whose approval you deeply seek and desire, then you might as well not bother to keep reading.

But if you do, then follow along with me, here.

This has been my writing life. Most writers' writing life. This constant rejection, coupled with self-doubt, that only gets compounded by more rejection. fn2

I wrote about the path-- my path -- of trying to get my books published maybe best here, in one of my most popular blog posts ever called My Writing Life: Chutes & Ladders. So, when my current editor turned down my current manuscript, I had to remind myself of this: that my prior editor had turned down the manuscript that my current editor loved and nurtured and bought. This is the subjective nature of writing, of making, or trying to make, art.

And, so. Now I set out to find that new editor, the perfect-fit one who will help spin this new, worthy manuscript into gold. . .

The write-up for THE MEMORY OF THINGS in my agent's October newsletter

To do that, I slide down more chutes. I climb more ladders. I find new edges to bounce back from.

I'm ready and excited to bounce back.

Within hours of my agent's newsletter going out, we had five requests to read the manuscript. In fact, THE MEMORY OF THINGS had the honor of garnering, within ten minutes, the first request.

I'll take this as a good sign.

And, while we're waiting, I'll rake leaves. One foot up on the next rung.

And, now, for your reading pleasure: some Beta Reader feedback fn3  on THE MEMORY OF THINGS... (you may click on the photos to enlarge them.)

High School Librarian . . . 

Teen reader I enlisted through an English teacher in Indiana. . . 

President and co-founder of Books are Magic. . .

Elementary Reading Teacher and avid reader. . .
- gae

p.s. I also have a piece of women's fiction called THE SWIMMING SEASON out on submission. Love me from this post and want to get more of me? Ask my agent about that one. And about my other dark & edgy YA called JACK KEROUAC IS DEAD TO ME. Go on. Go on. fn4.

Essential footnotes:

fn 1. I mean, perhaps there was a ceremony and I just wasn't privy to it, what do I know? Perhaps she made a voodoo doll of me at my laptop, placed it in the center of the manuscript, and burnt the whole thing down. Perhaps there was cake involved, which would have been lovely too.

fn 2. Of course, the bruised and battered ego is buoyed, thank goodness, by manuscripts selling and books coming out in between, that garner awards and good reviews, and bring letters from teen -- and other -- readers who love them. We call this keeping us out of the ditch. Okay, fine. I just made that up and called it that. 

fn3. Yes, yes, we writers learn quickly that we are supposed to take our BETA readers feedback with a grain of salt... well, so far, my BETA readers have ultimately been correct. So, salt and all, I'm sticking by them. Especially my teen beta reader's feedback. ;) 

fn 4. In fact, what are you waiting for? Here's his phone number. 212 627 9100   You're welcome.