It all came together when I learned how to spell. My grandparents were deaf-mute and we couldn’t talk until I cracked the alphabet and fast. I had a lot to say. The first word I formed with my breathless fingers was –

candy

I spelled it over and over and over again, one trembling letter at a time, until my wrist ached and their exhausted eyes crossed.

At 7, I wrote my first and worst poem in my cousin Sara’s kitchen. With a pinch and a knowing wink, she pinned it to her corkboard where it hung; poked and prodded, for more years than I knew how to count. Unlike my siblings, numbers never came as easily to me as letters.

Two years ago, Sara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and decided to give my neurotic poem back to me, before she forgot. Like her memory, it is pricked full of holes.

Mrs. Ruth AshkenazyMy Grade 4 English teacher Mrs. Ashkenazy was my patron of primary school. With her gentle, toothy smile and checkered slacks, she was the first person who totally got I was a writer and told me so. She gave me permission and a mantra I will boil down – to encourage all you bursting writers out there to find your own voice:

IMG_0472_2In my earliest work of short fiction; the protagonist was Windy… the wind. Every Friday night, she would blow through the hollow of an ancient tree to see her grandmother (a Jewish squirrel), for some forever love and ass-whupping chicken soup. Windy’s boyfriend was Stormy. I somehow intuited the hard rock in romance because as I teetered theatrically on the edge of 9, what I didn’t know for sure, I made up.

Because I was born a writer. I don’t know or care why I am so cursed and so blessed. Writing can be lonely, but truth to tell, I wake up every day to the sound of human voices laughing, crying, whispering, shouting; filling my heart and rushing my brain. I am never alone.

Painting by Edith Dora Rey

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Painting courtesy of the artist Edith Dora Rey. Check out more of her visceral, emotional work here.

*Who writes with a pencil these days? Fran Leibowitz once said that writing is the process of slowing down your thoughts, so using the archaic tool might force the issue. Try it if you’re blocked!

For more reading about my writing and its process, Between the Lines, How to Stop Smoking & Keep Writing and On Writing.

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GOOD  NEWS FLASH: SAVING WHALES!! ‘Japan has cancelled its annual Antarctic whaling hunt for the first time in more than a quarter of a century, in line with a UN court ruling that the program was a commercial activity disguised as science.’

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