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All about words



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Lonely Starbucks Lovers

Posted by nancyfreund11 on October 22, 2016 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (1222)

Cute but psycho.”

I’m not a girl -- sad fact, smack in the face. I’m certainly no longer a girl. I’m 50! I’m certainly not a Chelsea girl, where I shot this picture on King’s Road. But the point is I’m not a girl of today, evidently I do not relate to girls of today, I do not get girls of today. I’m a boy mom. God help the boys, if this is what they’re in for with future partners, female colleagues, girlfriends, wives. Is this t-shirt a warning or an ad?

And what boy (in his right mind!) would be enticed by it?

I’m thinking of Taylor Swift’s "Blank Space." Took me a while to be convinced her line wasn’t about “lonely Starbucks lovers,” poetry that spoke to my soul. No. She’s “got a long list of ex-lovers. They’ll tell you I’m insane.” Again – precautionary message or encouragement? Well, she’s got legs a mile long and fabulous red lipstick. Horses. A mansion. It’s obviously an ad. Be with me, it’ll be worth the pain.

Ah, my boys, it’s NOT. It’s so not worth the pain! You deserve better. You will discover better. You ARE better than this. Choose wisely.

And just to prove that silly t-shirt realization wrong, let me tell you I DO get girls. Every SINGLE girl my boys bring home, girls from their schools, and girls that I’ve taught and girls that I meet, daughters of my friends, from a whole lot of countries... they are incredible, smart, beautiful, young women. They are committed and creative and courageous and awesome. They encourage their classmates --  girls and boys equally. They run websites and businesses, they get top grades, and they take themselves seriously. They take care of each other.  They take the train to the UN in Geneva all by themselves, and they speak numerous languages. They recycle. They show respect.  They work with refugees.  They hug each other after they’ve been apart, and they squeal like teenage girls do. They deliver speeches. They surf. They prioritize. They play guitar, plucking out Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” after only five minutes of experimenting with it on YouTube. They ask questions and have conversations. They care. They get to the truth of a matter. They paint. They write film reviews. They give gifts. They give feedback. They meet deadlines. They dance, they sing, they play in bands. They speak up. They speak Turkish, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. Swedish. Tagalog. Italian. Two kinds of German. Swahili and French. They have boyfriends. They don’t have boyfriends. They have girlfriends. They bake. They follow recipes, they don’t follow recipes. They apologize. They take care of babies. They take the bus. They ride bikes. They ride horses.  They swim. They play football.  They audition. They work with AIDS orphans in Africa. They can fly absolutely anywhere and get a job done. They build houses in Cambodia. They earn money. They earn grades. They try.  They wear lipstick. Red lipstick. No lipstick. No make-up. They challenge convention.  They are adorable and sane. These girls make me proud to be female, these girls of today.

 Also! This is kinda catchy.  :P


I Love Lamp

Posted by nancyfreund11 on September 23, 2016 at 9:20 AM

A lamp in London was calling my name, but I'm smart enough (experienced enough!) to know that doesn't necessarily mean I should call its name back.  Instead I call over the sales gal in John Lewis on Saturday and ask her, "Are those bulbs a pain in the neck to change?"  She looks at me like I'm crazy.

This often happens when I first speak to someone in London.  It's the accent.  It's no doubt also the fact that I'm asking an actual question, unprefaced by several minutes of (un)pleasantries regarding the weather.  I wait and then ask again, more slowly, in case it was only the accent.  

"That lamp... it's beautiful... I was just wondering... is it difficult... to change the lightbulbs?"

Still, nothing.

"Weren't you just over here changing these lightbulbs?"

"Oh!" She says.  "No, I was setting up this lamp."  She points to one underneath. 

"Oh.  I see." I nod.  "Well, this one that I like... what do you think?  How would you change the bulbs? Would it be a pain in the neck?"  (I'm back to the colloquialism of "pain in the neck" now that we are speaking the same language.  Also I've noticed she's wearing all black except she has candy button earrings, one green, the other pink.  She's obviously cool).

"No. They're LEDs," she says.

I'm now nodding.  "Right...  I just meant would it maybe be a pain in the neck to change the bulbs, like how do you get in there to do that?" As I look further, I'm thinking maybe those glass globes just screw off and it's not such a big deal.  But obviously, I'd want confirmation and this young woman ought to provide it. If she doesn't know, she can just say so. 

"They're LEDs," she says again.


I'm staring now.  Not at her and her groovy earrings, but at the lamp.  Hoping an answer will arise before I have to ask the same question, phrased differently, again.  It's like five oversized lightbulbs, hanging in a bunch from thick cables, sort-of industrial chic but super clean.  It belongs not in a dusty warehouse but a top floor Boston loft full of good looking, clever people in advertising who don't really make as much money as they think they deserve, but they will!  They all will!  They're all just young whippersnappers drinking mid-range red wine in that apartment and half of them aren't even married yet, the world is their oyster, every one of those people, a whole bunch of oysters, and they can afford to put in this lamp, but not the Italian sofa they'd want, and not also a car.  But no matter -- Boston's got great public transportation, and you know, carbon footprint and all that.  But the lamp!  This thing is just perfect, and even if I can't buy it, I can feel a little more like those beautiful people who will buy it and hang it over their bar.  Boston.  London. Whatever.  Each massive incandescent bulb is a different size and I love the irony of the whole thing.  But the silence between me and this saleswoman has taken on texture.  I don't even want this freaking lamp.  I don't even live in this country and I have no need for this lamp, but I've been seeing it around and I think it's very cool and I've wanted to know for a while how you'd get in there and change the bulbs.  Whatever bulb the stupid thing takes.

And she says, "You don't change them."

"Oh," I say.  "LED lasts longer, so you don't have to change it so often."

She shrugs and says, "Never."

Me: raised eyebrows.

"They last ten years, so yeah, never."

And that's when I realize ten years to this sales-person-child is forever. Ten years in the life of a lamp is forever.  Everything is disposable, and this expensive lamp in John Lewis that won't even give off that much light and can't be directed is something to buy on a whim and keep only as long as it serves its purpose, which is obviously way less than forever.  Less than ten years.  And those imaginary people in the fictional loft? They won't even exist in ten years. They'll be versions of me by that time.  Older, heavier, working a helluva lot harder for less result.  Address book full of various doctors.  More vitamins and supplements and creams and potions just to keep pace.  Their wine will be better than today's wine but their cholesterol will be worse.  They'll be more firmly settled into their roles and resentments at work, but their families and friendships will be more solid.  (On a bad day, they'd call that boring, but most of the time, they'll remember this is satisfaction.  This is actually fulfillment).  And when they buy a lamp, they'll want it to last more than ten years.  They'll know by then, as I do now, that discussing these things in a store is an effort in itself, and God knows we do not need to own appliances that challenge us more than they help smooth out the wrinkles of our days.  No matter how cool and chic and ironic and poetic they seem.

"Great," I say to the woman.  

She beams a big smile at me.  We have conducted such business at last, in our two languages separated by ocean and age.

I suppose we've both gotten (got!) what we wanted.  "And those are great earrings," I tell her.  I mean that.

Planting Trees

Posted by nancyfreund11 on May 8, 2016 at 11:30 AM

When's the best time to plant a tree?  Twenty years ago.  Or if you didn't do it then, TODAY.

I KNOW it would have been smart to organize my email list like I used to keep my old-fashioned address book when I was a kid.  I hate losing track of friends -- always have -- so I was the kid at summer camp who made sure the directory was up-to-date before we all scattered to our homes at the end of our sessions.  I made sure my Christmas cards went out on time, all with personalized notes so my friends would know I was truly thinking of them.  Nothing automated, ever.  (Well, let's face it, we didn't have that kind of automation in the 70s or 80s).  But more than just holiday cards, I wrote LETTERS to the people I loved too.  This always mattered to me, and it still does.  Over and over again, I've learned that distance doesn't have to be an obstacle.  Geographical distance, I mean.  Geography -- I laugh in your face!  

But of course social media has changed everything.  Now I have friends on Facebook I've met once at a party, and I don't even know how to pronounce their last names.  In some cases, I've never met a friend (a TRUE friend, I believe) in person at all... YET.  In some respects, I feel as close to friends who live continents away as I do to my own neighbours here in Switzerland.  Some of my favorite people who I feel a sort of incredible soul connection to are folks I once knew in real life only tangentially -- friends of my brother's or prior students of mine or that older guy in my high school who always intimidated me... or that girl in my sorority I always wished I'd get to know better, but our activities just never overlapped.  And now, though social media and through putting my SELF out there through my fiction, I've found some amazing new connections and reconnetions.  Every time I'm online, seriously, EVERY time, I'm just marveling at it. 

My first novel came out 2 1/2 years ago, and every time a person reviews it, and then my next two books since, I'm slightly shocked by the fact that I didn't already know that person.  A READER chose my work!  He or she invested their valuable time not just in reading my work, but in telling their friends about it and reviewing the book online.  Usually these reviews are positive -- usually they're thoughtful and well written.  One of my worst reviews is actually very well written, and I like that reviewer SO MUCH for her honesty and her investment in sharing her thoughts.  She spent time with my work and that's such an honor.  I'm not going to put her on my Christmas card list -- I'm not a glutton for punishment, and she really did not enjoy my writing -- but I am still so pleased she spent the time to share her thoughts.

So the point here is that list, how important I know it is.  When I taught high school in LA, one of the first things I learned about gangs was how important their database was.  I had students who'd scribbled on their notebooks in angry black ink the gang names of their people.  The list mattered, the hierarchy and its current state, mattered more than anything.  The police taught teachers to read the writing on the walls, literally, to know what criminal activity was being planned, who was in, who was out, and what was in the works... all shared in spray paint along the freeway.  It was terribly dangerous stuff going on, but it all boiled down to their lists of friends.  From my perspective as the new English teacher, it almost seemed quaint.

And then came my first job in newsletter marketing, as a list broker.  It was my job to understand our current subscribers -- who they really were, what they liked to do in their free time, where they lived, what they looked like, what their families were like, what they cared about and spent money on, what else they already read and what they might possibly like to read next.  It's both an art and a science, and it was great fun to delve into both sides of that.  Yet again, I recognized the importance of the list.

So you'd think as an indie author I'd have stepped up to bat with my very first speech, my very first website, my first published poem or essay or novel... all with my mailing list in the back of my mind.  But I never did.  I have enjoyed all those "firsts" without any eye on development at all.  Silly, but there you have it!  I really do write to create connection with readers.  Reader to writer, writer to reader, reader to reader, protagonist to reader... book group people who find things in common as a result of my writing and other people's novels as well.  If there's a single thing I'd say floats my boat more than anything else, it's this idea of literature creating connection.  So with apologies to the universe for not getting organized any sooner -- like 20 years ago -- it's time to plant my tree now.  

I sent my first email out to my "reader team" about an hour ago.  It's Mother's Day after all, and 'Mailbox' came out last year on Mother's Day.   So I finally started trying to figure out Mailchimp -- the software my first (unofficial) publicist and dear friend, Bonnie recommended I try even before my first novel came out in 2013. Do I wish I'd invested the time then in planting those seeds?  Sure -- I'd have a little tree already growing! But the time wasn't right then, and now maybe it is.  No RAGRETS!  But I've now sent that first email, got high-fived by a cartoon monkey when it went out, and I'm getting somewhere.


What I sent was a chance to win 'Mailbox' in ebook.  All you have to do is this jigsaw puzzle of the 'Mailbox' front cover.  If you're tempted, give it a try and tell me how fast you were! You can comment here on this post or come connect on Facebook.    And subscribe if you want to stay in touch!  Soon enough the tree will grow and we'll be building a tree house with a little library and a rope ladder and a window, where we can hang out and read books and share stuff, where ever we live, regardless of the miles in between.  :)

A listicle: 9 things that make me like a book

Posted by nancyfreund11 on January 19, 2016 at 6:25 AM

Books on the Nightstand Podcast – they’ve got 360+ of these things recorded and I feel like a cave-dweller for only just learning about it. Thank you Becky Liddicoat Yamarik! What a gift.

So the first episode I downloaded (do you have to download to listen? Must figure this out...) is the discussion of what makes the two publisher podcasters “like” a book. In turn, it challenged me to answer that... beyond STORY, obviously, and gorgeous, unique, compelling, and clear writing.  Easier said than done, pinning down this answer.  Therefore, a list:

1. Language shenanigans. If the author plays with words, great. If the protagonist does too, all the better. If there are sprinkles of foreignness embellishing the shenanigans, A+. Sometimes a child’s perspective spotlighting language games is really satisfying.

2. Relationship shenanigans. I often like a conflicted but loving mother-teenager relationship. I like coming-of-age as an ASPECT of something that is otherwise literary fiction.

3. Things are not as they seem characterization. I am a sucker for a hard-ass softie... Anyone who seems like a tough guy (or chick) but is chiefly responsible for the most generous behaviour in the story.

4. Funny, with substance. If it’s just light-hearted, I’m out. If it’s too dark, I’m out. If it artfully blends the two, I’m a fan for life.

5. LitFic. I prefer novels. I prefer literary. I don’t mind whipping through a frenetic page-turner, and I am as easily grabbed by a murder, a chase scene, a big arson barn-burning, threats and intrigue, but I REALLY think the art is in the ordinary. If there’s universality delivered in something unusual, I’m in. If there’s something seemingly mundane that reaches deep and touches that nearly untouchable, private part of my heart and soul, I’m in.

6. Introduce me to something new, and really let me in. I might have the quote wrong, but Andre Dubus III said Mike Nichols was known for saying an author should “tell what it’s like, tell what it’s REALLY like.” That’s what I want. I know my own world. Bring me to someplace new, with jobs and tools and attitudes and after-school activities that are unique to that thing. Let me in there and show me around. I like my books to be brave and thorough and generous.

7. Indie. I like anything a little left of center. Smart stuff that might scare traditional publishing – might look like it wouldn’t earn out and therefore gets published through back doors or indie channels. (I’m a big proponent of professional self!) If it’s traditionally published, all caution to the wind, some gutsy publisher out on a limb taking a risk, all the better. And that’s then a publisher I want to remember… and ideally someday impress. But again, I’m a fan of professionally done indie/self publishing. Rock on, indies! And to anyone thinking about delving in, hear this with a French accent: “courage.”

8. Mix stuff up. I like an author who plays fast and loose with age, maturity, gender, race, and geography. No human being I know is any ONE thing. I like it when my novelists honor the fact of this subtle diversity.

9. A happy ending. It needs to be true. You can’t stick a happy ending on a tragedy and expect the reader to lap it up, but if that happy ending can be organic and right, awesome. And if it can’t be happy, it can still be hopeful. I’m good with that.


Fifty for fifty - no ragrets

Posted by nancyfreund11 on January 12, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Here's what I posted to my Facebook Author page the other day... followed by Scotty P in "We are the Millers."  NO RAGRETS. See number 11.

Don't be fooled by my sprightly professional photo by the very talented Dee Libine. Fact is I'm about to turn 50! I want to mark the milestone but can't imagine a party or a "thing" that won't make me feel weirdly spotlit. I celebrated 21 quietly escaping my sorority sisters, driving up to Fresno from LA, and going to dinner with my Grandma, who I loved seeing every time I could. Her 83rd birthday was the day after my 21st. We ordered margaritas, and the waiter ID'ed both of us. We each took home half a plate of enchiladas, woke up without hangovers or regrets, and it was perfect.

So 50. I have a present FROM me, or more specifically, THROUGH me. Fifty favorites from books and film. Some lines are about writing or business or bravery. Some are just about beauty. Watch this space.


Fifty for fifty – favorite lines from my first 50 years of life, from books and movies, mostly, sometimes with a link. Enjoy!

1. “Relax, alright? My old man’s a television repairman. He’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.” – Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, written by Cameron Crowe, directed by Amy Heckerling

2. “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” – Airplane, written and directed by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker

3. “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no more.” – E.M. Forster, Howard’s End

4. “Publication doesn’t make you a writer. Publication makes you a published writer. Writing makes you a writer.” – Robin Black

5. “I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

6. “The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.” – Gustave Flaubert

7. “People who don’t read are brutes.” – Eugene Ionesco

8. “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. Conditions will always be impossible" – Doris Lessing.

9. “I just like to smile! Smiling's my favorite.” – Buddy, Elf, written by David Berenbaum, directed by Jon Favreau

10. “There's nothing better than discovering, to your own astonishment, what you're meant to do. It's like falling in love.” -- Mike Nichols

11. “Oh this? This my credo. No ragrets.” Scotty P., We Are the Millers, written by Bob Fisher and Steve Faber, directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

12. “For a writer, the experience of living in a number of countries is an enormous boon. You can only understand the world if you see it from several sides.” – Milan Kundera

13. “Learn it, know it, live it.” – Brad Hamilton, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, written by Cameron Crowe, directed by Amy Heckerling

14. “…leaving your country is like dying, and when you come back you are like a ghost returning to earth, roaming around with a missing gaze in your eyes.” – NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names

15. “I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” – Ron Burgundy, Anchorman, written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, directed by Adam McKay

16. “Because we were not using our languages we said things we did not mean; what we really wanted to say remained folded inside, trapped.” -- NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names

17. “It was both her and not her, the name. More: something about it made her feel super-eighted, instamaticked. It gave her a feeling something like the word summer used to.” – Ali Smith, There But For The

18. “She had not expected, out in the world, to find herself quite so much the wrong sort of person.” -- Ali Smith, There But For The

19. “You have exactly the right kind of absent presence.” -- Ali Smith, There But For The

20. “…only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then? I mean, oh, it’s flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle… and ancient, on the planet. “ – Miles, Sideways, written by Rex Pickett, screenplay by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, directed by Alexander Payne.

21. “Chabu turned to Maitreyi and said something with great fervour. For the first time I was truly sorry not to understand their language. The rhythms were very gentle, like those of Italian, the vowels very long. One had the impression that the sentence was going to fly off at any moment into a song.” – Mircea Eliade, Bengal Nights

22. “If beginnings are leaps of faith, and middles are vexing, absorbing, full of trap doors and wrong turns and dead ends, sensing an ending is your reward. It’s better than selling your book. It’s better than a good review. When you’re in the home stretch, it seems the universe reaches out to support you. It meets you more than half-way…” – Dani Shapiro, Still Writing

23. “We are all unsure of ourselves. Every one of us walking the planet wonders secretly, if we are getting it wrong.” – Dani Shapiro, Still Writing

24. “Art does not come from ideas. Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from the unconscious; it comes from the white-hot center of you… you have to tell your mind to back the hell off.” – Robert Olen Butler, From Where You Dream

25. “Not that I believed he was a ghost. But I knew he was much bigger than the body he was in as he stared at the curried sausages.” – Robert Olen Butler, Open Arms

26. “… otherwise it doesn’t know you are here/ for love, and like the world tonight, doesn’t really/ care whether we live or die. Tell it you do and why.” Steve Scafidi, “For the Last American Buffalo,” from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer

27. “It is difficult to imagine now, but there will be a day when they have thoughts that they will not automatically convert to sound. They will become more interior, less transparent, their voices diminished by adolescence, by the virulent social forces that strike at the mouths of girls. They will not live so garrulously in the waves of the air. It’s a terrible thing, an inexcusable thing, really, to wish a young girl to be quiet. Even a squealing girl.” – Chris Bachelder, “Father’s Prayer,” from When I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transformative Experience of Fatherhood, edited by Brian Gresko

28. “When you unclog a pipe, something tangible is accomplished, and there’s no pretense.” – Bruce Machart, “A World in Which We Refuse to Play,” from When I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transformative Experience of Fatherhood, edited by Brian Gresko

29. “I don’t know when I got old. I certainly don’t feel old; I feel like the rest of the world has gotten young around me.” – Garth Stein, “Man, Dying,” from When I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transformative Experience of Fatherhood, edited by Brian Gresko

30. “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later. Something better.” – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

31. “She misses Papa, Paris, Dr. Geffard, the gardens, her books, her pinecones – all are holes in her life. But over the past few weeks, her existence has become tolerable. At least, out on the beaches, her privation and fear are rinsed away by wind and color and light.” – Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

32. ”The silence extended itself, there amid the glittering water and the glaring sun. I became aware of the sound of the water sucking at the sides of the boat, of the harsh cries of the seagulls on their rocks, of the faint sound of engines coming from the mainland. My neighbour lifted his head and looked out to sea, his chin raised, his eyes searching the horizon. There was a certain stiffness in his manner, a self-consciousness, like that of an actor about to deliver a too-famous line.” – Rachel Cusk, Outline

33. “And as she lay baking in the sun, she listened to the silence and the sounds of the river, until like onions cooking so long that they caramelize, sharp turned to sweet. The billows of green hillsides here at the river went back behind each other like countless backdrops, always another behind the last one, slightly taller, back as far as you could see.” – Anne Lamott, Crooked Little Heart

34. “Rosie wanted to feel these terrible, empty held-breath feelings, this extremely sad thing that had happened, Charles dying, and she didn’t want her mother to take it away and define it for her, and then hand it back. She didn’t want a guide.” – Anne Lamott, Crooked Little Heart

35. “… as soon as I leaned close and disturbed the air around them, my nostrils filled with the sweet scent of secrets, of wine cellars and old canning jars and the thrilling surprise of turning a stone to find a bustling community of potato bugs and millipedes thriving beneath. The excitement of life where it wasn’t expected.” – Steve Himmer, The Bee-loud Glade

36. “All my fears and memories stayed behind, beneath the dark spruces, to attack me every time I went down there. It was as if the big meadow exuded a mild narcotic called oblivion.” – Marlen Haushofer, The Wall

37. “My favourite ritual is to collect the eggs from the hens; they are brown and warm and I have to reach into the hay under the hens’ bottoms, which makes them chuckle pleasantly. They are used to my disturbing them in the mornings and evenings. When it’s time for making chicks, in the spring, bunica brings all the eggs in the willow basket to the kitchen table and we look inside them with a lamp, letting the light filter through the yolk to see if there are babies in there.” – Carmen Bugan, Burying the Typewriter

38. “This is the first time in my life when collective emotion, a sort of light, pulses through me and I understand that something bigger than me is happening – some kind of unity. Everyone smiles. And then hundreds of candles are lit.” – Carmen Bugan, Burying the Typewriter

39. “Now don’t be stupid over this. I don’t require you to fall in love with my boy, but I do think you might try to understand him. You are nearer his age, and if you let yourself go I am sure you are sensible. You might help me. He has known so few women and you have the time… Let yourself go… Then make my boy think like us. Make him realize that by the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes – a transitory Yes if you like, but a Yes.” – E.M. Forster, Room with a View

40. The simple motion of stretching reminded me of something Cal had done once. Sometimes, the whole world can come down to a single gesture.” – Amber Dermont, The Starboard Sea

41. “I didn’t know the calm and deep wellspring of mother love could sustain itself through years of such storms.” – Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

42. “Although I’d had very little practice, the prayer, as crude as an old stick, was surely the genuine article. I could feel the words, feel them crawling on their hands and knees through my hollow bones, clamouring and shouting. As for religion, I was dimly aware that I had no more tools than a child, and in addition I had the obstruction of scepticism.” – Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

43. “I have known how the paintings in a room, the dishes on the shelf, the peaches on the table, how everything comes into relief and looks clear, sharp, against your own emptiness.” – Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

44. “I’d forgotten how your blood flows toward a person when they move, so that all at once you know what the pull of gravity feels like.” – Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

45. “For need can blossom into all the compensation it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know anything so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing – the world will be made whole.” – Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

46. “There is so little to remember of anyone – an anecdote, a conversation at table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfil itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.” – Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

47. “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

48. “You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” – Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

49. “i thank You God for most this amazing

day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes.” – e.e. cummings, i thank you God for most this amazing

50. Watch this space, it’s a work in progress… I’m not 50 yet!




What do you ALONE love?

Posted by nancyfreund11 on August 25, 2015 at 2:50 AM

Explains why many writers require solitude, are often alone even in crowds, but not lonely. They are examining their alone-ness, discovering what they alone love, and therefore what must be written.

Rotten Blogger: That's Not My Name

Posted by nancyfreund11 on August 24, 2015 at 4:10 AM

This past April I wandered achingly around the London Book Fair, like all 24,000 attendees, perhaps, with an overwhelming awareness that there might be MUCH to gain, personally and professionally, if only! If only I knew where to stop, who to talk to, what to see. A gnawing awareness that I coulda-shoulda-woulda planned it better, done it differently if only… It’s one thing to agonize after the fact, but this awareness in situ really sucks. Even wearing my favorite new multicolored Missoni-esque blazer from Positano didn’t alleviate the gnaw.


I’ve done the American Booksellers Association Convention, now called BookExpoAmerica, many times as an exhibitor, (big huge exhibits I planned and executed in Chicago, New York, Miami, LA… ) and I’ve walked LBF and numerous other trade shows. I’m not intimidated (well, not too, too much), and I don’t tire out. By the end of the day, I’m a happy pack mule with bags of books, catalogs, business cards, and new friends. But every single time, I’m crawling with that weird false FOMO… despite the fact that often my favorite encounters that turn into great contacts – sometimes even contracts –– are with people I meet standing at a tall table eating tacos. Or in the line for the ladies room. Chance. Every time, good stuff comes when you’re not looking.


At LBF 2015 I went totally without agenda because right now I am both writer and publisher, and I wear a few other hats too. I wanted to wander. Two friends I’d met at the International Conference for the Short Story in Vienna last summer would be there, and I hoped to find them. I did. We were near the Middle Eastern Publishers Hall. Two people reached for the same book on a display at Alma Books. One hand was mine, the other was the hand of my Swedish friend Anna Solding, who runs MidnightSun Publishing in Australia. She and Lucy had been there all morning and had walked half the floor. I’d walked the other half, and lo and behold, we met in the middle. They’d stopped because Alma Books had published one of Lucy’s stories a few years ago, and she wanted to meet them. I’d been drawn by a beautiful cover on display. Chance.


Wild, inexplicable, astonishing CHANCE.


I had a review copy of MAILBOX in my bag. This novel sprang directly from a well that ran deep in Vienna. Anna blurbed it, in fact. I was eager to show them. One scene in particular had never raised any question or comment by my editors, beta readers or blurbers, but pre-pub, it was driving me crazy. I worried whether it was off-base… the whole scene, including some vaginal stuff, from a 13-year-old’s perspective. Lucy flipped through the book as we stood there, and she turned to that exact scene, (that exact scene!) read it, laughed out loud, said it resonated, said it was exactly right and true of her own childhood (years later and half a world away from my own). Again – chance. Had I asked someone to read that scene, and they’d answered, yes, yes, it’s true, it’s fine, it reads right, Nancy you’re so brilliant..., it would never have meant as much to me as Lucy Durneen’s serendipitous thumbs-up.


Another thing that came of that day’s tour of LBF was a moment at a tiny booth set up by two charming women from Poland, running the internet readers’ forum BookLikes. Impressive stats there. I was intrigued. I made a note to look into it later to run a promotion for MAILBOX.


Now it’s the end of August, my sons are heading back to school, and they just ran a promotion for MAILBOX. We included BookLikes and Goodreads in the efforts, running giveaways in both venues… still going in fact, if you’d care to click them. These readers’ forums are by no means the same thing. Goodreads is American, longer established and easier to navigate. It currently has 896 readers hoping to win my book. BookLikes has lower numbers but a certain fabulous authenticity about it that drew me in right away. Only 14 people have clicked to win MAILBOX there, but I get access to all of their names, their profiles, their book reviews and passions. It’s like the difference between doing a big speech from a well-lit stage, even for people you know want to hear what you’re saying, versus hanging out at a party as an invited guest, being approached consistently by interested people. I will happily send my books to the winners in both venues. I understand the business theories of critical mass and I know the numbers at Goodreads look great, but both matter. And what floats your boat on a day-to-day basis might just be the one-on-one, the slow-down-and-take-note conversations, the small, intimate, chance encounters. Especially if you’re a writer.


But here’s what made me sit down to write this blog, if we can call it a blog. In navigating BookLikes, I found an intriguing book about Warsaw I wanted to win, called SWANS ARE FAT TOO by Michelle Granas. The site won’t let you enter a giveaway until your profile is somewhat complete. (“Fill up your profile,” it insists). I had 90 books already catalogued there but I hadn’t reviewed them, so I played around the site a bit and did some of that. I still couldn’t click to win the Swans. I had to also write a blog post in BookLikes. I dashed something off about not really being a book blogger, titling the post “Rotten Blogger.” I clicked to win the Fat Swans and happily saw my own smiling mug come up registered. With my new name “Rotten Blogger.” Evidently my blog post title was now the title of my BookLikes blog, and therefore the title of me. I back-peddled fast and got that changed to “Nancy Freund LikesBooks.” I’m not saying I’m a stellar blogger, but using “Rotten Blogger” as my formal name in a readers’ forum seemed ill-advised.


But it got me thinking. I looked at my stats from my actual blog – this one – that I so rarely write. 40% of my website traffic comes to this silly blog. Why would this be the thing people click? My “Press” tab – so earnestly sought and achieved – gets a fraction of the attention. I had a 20-minute interview on RAPESEED with BBC Radio, for goodness sakes! My piece on variant synaesthesia is in The Daily Mail! GLOBAL HOME COOKING won the Eric Hoffer Prize Honorable Mention! Get over it, Nancy, no one cares.


So I realized something that the rest of indie publishing knows, but I’ve been too block-headed to hear. People want to know the real you, Madame Writer. The blog. The web-log of day-to-day stuff going on. Pull back the curtain, take off the make-up, let your hair down, and write what’s real in your real life, not just the slick stuff that’s supposed to sell books. Normally, I am a pretty approachable person, I think, in real life. Freund in name and nature. If people want to come hang out and have a coffee after spinning class, all sweaty, no agenda, just friends for a chat, I’m there.

It’s true, I am a rotten blogger -- or I have been. I tweet and tumble and Instagram and pin. I’m on Facebook a ton, but I didn’t get the whole thing with blogging. Now, suddenly, thanks to those two gals from BookLikes, I’m starting to… Watch this space. It ought to be fun.  

ABOVE: The wonderful little BookLikes Booth at LBF. Of course I stopped!

BELOW: That night's mini Vienna reunion in London.  You can see my favorite jacket in action (cool, huh?) and Anna, Lucy, and Jeremy Osborne, all eager to hear Vanessa Gebbie do a reading in Notting Hill.

Quit with Your Calling

Posted by nancyfreund11 on July 29, 2015 at 10:25 AM

Sixth grade, we were lined up at the school salad bar, wondering how much ranch dressing would render the so-called diet lunch no longer low-cal. My friend “Shannon,” (let’s call her Shannon), had recently broken up with her boyfriend and was officially single. She stopped in front of the iceberg and said, I need your advice. Who should I like?

-- Who? Should you like?

Three packets of club crackers shivered in my hand above my plastic lunch tray. Liking a boy, or boys, in priority order, was a choice? A choice one’s best friend could make for one? My world tilted on its axis. I eyeballed the chunks of cut cauliflower.

-- Well, who DO you like? 

-- I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you. 

Here we are now, 35+ years later. I don’t remember which boy won that day’s battle. In Shannon’s case, the boys lined up for her, and she didn’t often get to write a pure priority list anyway, what with all the jostling and manoeuvring among the candidates. But the question stuck.

Fast forward to when I was tutoring for the athletic department at UCLA. Certain star athletes were granted limitless tutoring. One enormous sweet-souled boy could throw his discus to the moon, blindfolded and with his arms duct taped to his chest. He worked hard in the gym and in the classroom, and he took advantage of every hour his tutors offered. One day he brought me a list of essay topics from English Comp.

-- Which one am I interested in?

There was that same question again, this time wearing a mint green tank top to emphasize the biceps. Who -- or this time what -- should I like? I envisioned that cauliflower of old.

-- Well, what DO you like? 

-- I don’t know. Which one will get me the best grade?

I could imagine which topic this young man might want to write, but he would have to do the research. The hours in the library would be his personal long, lonely, arduous slog, and even if I picked right and handed him his topic on a silver platter, would he still find it interesting, long haul, if he hadn’t picked it himself, or more to the point, if it hadn’t somehow called out to him? Me! Pick me! I am calling you, I am of interest, Gender Issues in American Post-Modern Literature! The Role of the Poor to Catalyze Social Change in Serialized British Literature! Point of View – How Perspective Shifts Impact Reader Understanding and Empathy! Pick me, big dude, they all shout. I am your calling.

Traditionally, only one or two people hear a calling, are called by a divine voice to the altar, to lead people who are not similarly called to scripture, to their best lives in a community, to their most fruitful versions of self, and to God.  You can't very well have a whole congregation of called people, or there'd be chaos.  If someone's going to be a leader, he or she needs a follower or two.  Yet today we are all asked to determine our individual calling and pursue it with passion. Live our bliss. In the workplace, at home, in the grocery store, at the pool with our kids and the stay-at-home moms who sell silk flowered pillows from Nepal for a megolith nonprofit.

What if our bliss is watching Soccer A.M. on Saturday mornings or playing Grand Theft Auto whenever possible? Can that be a calling? Can hours spent on Facebook, wishing distant friends happy birthday and liking people’s Throwback Thursday photos be a calling? Can making home-made mac-and-cheese for friends of your children be a calling? Reading great literature? Reading short stories in edgy online litmags and putting poignant comments there in the comments? How about pulling weeds from between your peonies? Doing yoga with your neighbors? Isn’t a calling supposed to be noble, somehow, or at least spiritually uplifting? And isn’t it supposed to call out to you? Surely, it can’t be bought, it can’t be demanded or requested or sought. If you go around yelling for your calling, you’re just going to get back an echo.

So my advice -- go back to Facebook and your video games and enjoy yourself until a calling comes, if it does. Get yourself to your job and grab your paycheck, pay your bills, and do your best to keep the lights on. Take care of business. And by all means, keep liking those Throwback Thursday pictures. Friendship and support and connection all matter hugely, and that stuff counts. Don’t think for a minute it doesn’t. And then, if some clear voice cuts through the noise, pay attention. Turn down the volume now and then, because games and Facebook can be noisy. Quiet yourself to listen when you feel like being quiet, but don’t worry about callings. Even if you live in a disco or near an airport or on a construction site with 72 pneumatic drills, if something or someone’s going to call, they’ll get through. And when they do, pay attention. That’s all anyone ever can do.


Don't Just Do Something, Stand There

Posted by nancyfreund11 on June 25, 2015 at 7:45 AM

Doe, a deer, a female deer is running circles around my house on the hill in Switzerland. I was in the garage sorting ski gear for summer when this sweet little thing pranced up like it knew where it was going, encountered the closed the security gate, head butted it a couple of times and then started running circles. My big dog and I are now inside, hoping he won’t have to pee, and I won’t get so twitchy I have to go outside for my own stupid reasons. I really want to go outside and investigate.

After a phone call to a friend of a friend, I’ve now taken advice from the Communal Magistrate of Hunting. Stay inside. Open your gates. She probably has a puppy in the field opposite and she will eventually calm herself and go to it. “Puppy” was later confirmed as baby deer... the kind of error that happens once a week when a Swiss person speaks English (or any number of other languages), and once a sentence when I speak French. Bottom line though, Bambi’s mother is in my garden. She is alive! If I play my cards right, she will live!

My Dutch friend Ingrid and I took French lessons together when we both first lived here, and she woke up to find that a deer had perished in her garden. Deer. Chevreuil. She called animal control and said in her own version of perfect French, il y a un veuve morte dans mon jardin. The police arrived at her house in approximately two-and-one-half seconds. Even if you only speak the French of Champagne, you might recognize the veuve from Veuve Cliquot. A widow. The police were evidently relieved to discover that day’s dead deer at Ingrid’s.

But my deer is alive! If she’s still here at 5pm, I start the phone call chain to get the Hunting Magistrate to come. We’ve got four hours. The deer may already be gone now. Maybe not. After watching it fall off a 6-foot wall (directly in front of an open gate) and then jump right back up, I’m thinking it may also have a heart attack and remain here well past 5pm. "Bambi" all over again. The first movie that made me sob. Me and everyone, probably. There’s a lot riding on this goal of mine, to save Bambi’s mother.

But the advice is hard to take. “Don’t just do something, stand there.” The first time I heard this guidance, it stopped me in my tracks -- but only for a nanosecond, because let’s face it, I was in the middle of something, and I’m busy! Not a stand-there type. Not that I’m impatient. I’ve been called even-keeled, careful and methodical, a voice of reason in craziest chaos. But if something needs doing, and it needs doing by me, I need to be making progress toward doing it. Waiting is the most counter-intuitive, uncomfortable thing to do, toward making progress.

I grew up regaled by stories of wise Mr. Penny of the JCPenny Company interviewing candidates for a job, and he would leave a pencil on the floor of his office between the door and his desk. Candidates who saw the pencil upon entry, picked it up, and set it on his desk might be hired. Candidates who did not might not. From the time I was a little girl, I’ve been a pencil seer and pencil picker-upper. I want to usher Bambi’s mother to her safety, to her puppy in the field if indeed one is there.

But deer can have rabies, cute as they are, and my dog is nearly as big as she is, with paws that do asphalt and tile with speed, whereas her little hooves click and sclatter. He knows the terrain, and she does not.  He'd take one look at her and think "I got this." I do not need woman’s best friend chasing down Bambi’s mother only to end up with venison and rabies shots and sobbing. So I am doing my best to stay inside with my doggie. He seems a bit confused as to the enforced bladder control, but otherwise, none the wiser. (He's beautiful but kinda dumb). All good.

And me – I’m writing. This is what I can do. Waiting and writing.   Hopefully in a few hours, I’ll have good news for an update. In French they urge you: “courage,” which looks a lot like the word courage in English, as in, “be brave.” But mostly it seems to mean “be patient.” Maybe it’s a French thing. I’m going to try to be brave and be patient and not do anything to interfere other than hope the chevreuil finds her way home to her pup. Wish me luck.



Do not hurry, do not rest

Posted by nancyfreund11 on August 30, 2014 at 3:50 AM Comments comments (3507)

Andre Dubus III told me to relax... write this novel right... remember, there’s no hurry. Au contraire, mon frère! Dude’s got to be wrong. Even if he IS Andre Dubus III. I’m an unbearably slow writer. Ten years for Rapeseed. Effort of Will is is now going on seven. Hurry is a relative term.

He also said, and I quote: “I offer you this: Harper Lee.” I get it. Write one good book. One change-the-world novel to put your indelible stamp on literature. I taught To Kill a Mockingbird in LA – my first, floundering year at Whittier High, where Richard Nixon went to school long before kids called the book Tequila Mockingbird. An excruciatingly gratifying professional experience. Believe me, I love Harper Lee. And I love Andre’s point and the split-second invitation to compare myself to Harper Lee. (As if). Write one good book. Don’t rush it.

Do not aim to gain a swamp of pseudo-fans with a bunch of also-ran publications. But times have changed since Tequila Mockingbird -- publishing times I mean -- print-on-demand and digital technology and so much fabulous literacy in the world, everyone you know both reads and writes books, and they blog, and they publish. There’s a lot of stuff out there. You might as well get in the game, rush or no rush. Also, perhaps I’m a swamp creature. Fetid, gloopy mess... I don’t know. The point was about hurrying. I am often distracted, side-tracked, waylaid, but in fact, I am in a hurry! Andre Dubus III!

You know that scene in the movie Airplane where a bunch of passengers line up to “encourage” a nervous woman to relax, each with progressively more encouraging methods? Fists, sticks, brass knuckles, numchucks. Yeah – Andre Dubus III tells me to relax and I want to, I really do, there’s no hurry, ok, check-mark, got that. But the more people tell you to relax, the more you can’t. And this novel I’m writing might be good. There are people I want to be able to read it while they still can. That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? One’s people? Mine are scattered and drifting away. That’s not a metaphor. I’m in a hurry.

Here’s the deal. In case it wasn’t clear -- I recently met and workshopped my work-in-progress novel, Effort of Will, with National Book Award finalist Andres Dubus III, author of The House of Sand and Fog. I try to mention it often -- often as possible, in case you didn’t know how awesome a writer’s life can be (my writer’s life, in this case), in its glimmering moments. It was in Positano, Italy, in April... olive trees and lemon groves and sun over the Amalfi coast and limitless prosciutto and Prosecco and the most luxurious terracotta tile private balcony imaginable. I was lying out there in the sun with my headphones listening to a song my son put on a playlist before he moved away for school, the lyrics “...drifting away... slowly drifting...” and tears came and wouldn’t stop. That doesn’t happen to me often. I took note. It was the drifting. I’ve been dealing with more than a normal person’s share of that these days, and it got me.

It was the 5-star Le Sirenuse with its outstanding spa. (You get the idea yet, how entirely wonderful this thing was, how fabulous, in turn, I must be?)  Let’s just be sure that’s established. For a week! I met remarkable writers all over the place – Judith Sarah Gelt over breakfast, Sandra Jensen in the sauna. Ten incredible people in my workshop. It was the Sirenland Writers Conference with the aforementioned Andre Dubus III and his gorgeous wife Fontaine and their sons, and Dani Shapiro (Dani Shapiro!!) and her amazing husband screenwriter Michael Maren (whose film about Altzheimers, A Short History of Decay, also got me), their son Jake, and Meg Wolitzer and her tall and brilliant husband Richard Panek who writes with Temple Grandin, and Andre Aciman, Scott Cheshire, and perhaps my favourite person I’ve met in a long time, Hannah Tinti with blue hair and cool boots. But enough about all these famous, fabulous people I met, let’s get back to me, and you know – the big question.

Is there a hurry? Goethe says “Do not hurry, do not rest.” Perfect. But we still face the tricky balance. No writer should put their work out there until and unless it’s ready. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. We’ve removed the gate-keepers, levelled the playing fields, opened up publishing to all-comers, so as indie writers, as new publishers, it’s incumbent on us to produce highly professional work. We hire proofreaders and editors and graphic artists and publicists, yet we remain our own gatekeepers as we usher ourselves through those golden gates. It’s a bit like the agnostic – self-professed atheist, even – who firmly (perhaps secretly) believes in God, or certainly behaves as though they do. A topic for another novel I’m working on, in fact. But I digress. (I warned you, didn’t I? I do digress). Do not hurry, digress if you must, but do not rest.

I was asked by an eager writer at the Geneva Writers Group, couldn’t he just put his book out with a text-only cover? Good God, no. Now I don’t know the content of this man’s book – I know it’s philosophy and serious non-fiction, and I know his studies and his multi-national background and his crazy Einstein hair might give him access to something brilliant... and the way he talks about it, with a brave and soft-spoken insistence, I suspect his book might give readers access to something brilliant. But he has to get the book to readers – bottom line. HE has to get the book to readers. Indie writers usher themselves through the gates, they also have to usher the work to its audience. And usher and usher and keep ushering.

I want to quote my pal Andre Dubus III and tell the man: relax, dammit. Instead I gently say no. Take the time, hire the artist, get the cover that shows your writing in its best light. Luckily there were a handful of writer people at the table with me who jumped in and told him the same. Also, know that your book is not going to sell. At all. Ever. Start with that, and the rest is gravy. It’s not going to win awards, though you’re going to market the book, you’re going to mail it off with fingers crossed and hope in your heart and a deep-seated awareness that the Society of Authors will not even turn the five copies of your book over to look at the back cover before it gets trashed. The Saroyan Prize -- ha!

But we must enter. We write the best books we can write, we hire the best help we can find, we fix and fine-tune and invite feedback every step of the way. We learn to ask for help, often, which is a very hard thing to do for anyone who calls him or herself independent. Speaking of drifting, you’re now floating so far from your own tried-and-true version of self, you will have to simply let go. We learn to gracefully accept help. We fail and learn that lesson again. We’ve got work to do, and people who might read our stuff if they get the chance. Remember what matters, why we’re doing what we do. Every writer has his or her personal reasons. Those reasons, those readers, will help you find and find your own tricky balance.

And now, I should return you to your day... return myself to my projects and plans... make actual progress on my work-in-progress. As you may have suspected, this post (both writing it and reading it) might be a form of procrastinating, but that’s not bad! It’s how one can slow down, think things through, get things right, and not hurry.