Saturday, February 20, 2010

Erin Foxworthy - Guest author

The following is a poem written by my incredibly talented niece, Erin Foxworthy. I loved this. Hope you do, too.


I am from eagerly shredding wrapping paper and exclaiming “wow!”
From smacking Austin with a spoon, “bonk-a-head!”
From drenched Barbies and Kens and “snug as a bug in a rug!”
And from pretending to like soda.

I am from constructing a dog food trail for Penny and attempting to climb into Lala’s bed.
From an overflowing beanie-baby crib and green, striped wallpaper.
From flying the rocket, rowing the canoe and the Chocolate Vanilla and Strawberry Pharmacy.
And from sitting through too many bar mitzvahs.

I am from Sugarloaf Mountain and kissing captured fish.
From too many clementines and homemade matzo ball soup.
From illuminating menorahs and discarding Santa’s surplus milk.
And from being ravenous on the bus with Miranda after morning kindergarten.

I am from pinched cheeks, bitten hands and “shaineh maideleh”.
From singing solos and cradling Aunt Berta’s space shuttle tile.
From a kosher Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas.
And from fancying to walk Caity’s beagle, Daisy, and endeavoring for my own dog.

I am from horror movies with Victoria and the “octapedes”,
From “fishy crackers” and baking the “next batch”.
From feigning a run away from home.
And from the frigid shower in the cabin, snow tubing with some friends.

I am from “Erin turns” and “Emily stops” and plummeting off my horse.
From big, yellow safety glasses, “pull”, and bruises from the recoil.
From long-winded biking face-offs and neighborhood rivalry cook-offs.
And from recalling lines from movies, word for word.

I am from the summer block party and the winter progressive dinner.
From the convoy dog walks and adventures to Hershey Park.
From driving dad’s big, white pick-up and stalling mom’s manual Audi.
And from antiquing in downtown shops.

I am from an unorganized tea cabinet; sipping hot tea on the front porch.
From portraying a big sister for Ali and Andrew, striving to learn some Thai from Ann.
From strolling with Oliver, my white Westie, and cooking more than my parents.
And from a family of friends that I hope to always possess.

I am from these memories, and they are from me.
I am a time capsule, a documentary.
I am from the past, present and future
And from the ever repetitive rhythm of history.

Joan here. Thanks for reading. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more in the future from Erin. By the way, the Austin she refers to is my son.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Even though this is my personal blog (as opposed to the blog I share with five writing partners: What Women Write), I typically stick to literary topics and the occasional personal experience that I relate to my writing journey. In other words, I don’t discuss politics or religion. It’s a good rule to live by in general, especially when in unknown circles (or families with mixed beliefs, like mine!).

In early October when I invited Dani Shapiro to share some thoughts in conjunction with her upcoming memoir, Devotion, I knew nothing about the book’s subject. As the date got closer and I read the blurb, I realized it was a book about her search for an understanding of faith. She was on The Today Show recently and has been named one of "O" The Oprah Magazine's must-read picks for February.
From her publisher:

In her mid-forties and settled into the responsibilities and routines of adulthood, Dani Shapiro found herself with more questions than answers. Was this all life was-a hodgepodge of errands, dinner dates, e-mails, meetings, to-do lists? What did it all mean?

Having grown up in a deeply religious and traditional family, Shapiro had no personal sense of faith, despite repeated attempts to create a connection to something greater. Feeling as if she was plunging headlong into what Carl Jung termed "the afternoon of life," she wrestled with self-doubt and a searing disquietude that would awaken her in the middle of the night. Set adrift by loss-her father's early death; the life-threatening illness of her infant son; her troubled relationship with her mother-she had become edgy and uncertain. At the heart of this anxiety, she realized, was a challenge: What did she believe? Spurred on by the big questions her young son began to raise, Shapiro embarked upon a surprisingly joyful quest to find meaning in a constantly changing world. The result is Devotion: a literary excavation to the core of a life.

In this spiritual detective story, Shapiro explores the varieties of experience she has pursued-from the rituals of her black hat Orthodox Jewish relatives to yoga shalas and meditation retreats. A reckoning of the choices she has made and the knowledge she has gained, Devotion is the story of a woman whose search for meaning ultimately leads her home. Her journey is at once poignant and funny, intensely personal-and completely universal.

I have always struggled with my (lack of) faith, so I was really looking forward to reading this one. I savored Devotion over the course of a few days. As I normally do when reading Dani’s essays, I felt an immediate connection to her words. She and her husband have one boy, she wakes up nights worrying about potential catastrophes, she felt like an outsider in her own religion, she remembered tossing dirt on her father’s casket. And she hates scrapbooking!

Dani’s writing is, as usual, elegant. She concisely captures the essence of a particular issue and every word has a purpose. But what I loved most about this book was that, in the end, she didn’t stand on a mountain and shout down her beliefs, didn’t pronounce those beliefs as truth. She quotes Yogi Stephen Pope, Buddhist Sylvia Boorstein and Catholic monk Thomas Merton, among others, stresses that action replace worry and inaction, suggests we become mindful of the present moment, of rituals, of the truth that we are what we surround ourselves with, things and ideas. But mostly that the not knowing is enough. “Each of us human, full of longing, reaching out with our whole selves for something impossible to touch. Still we are reaching, reaching.”

Writers' Guild of Texas


with Charlotte Lanham, multi published Chicken Soup author

If you're in the Dallas area, check out this workshop put on by the Writers' Guild of Texas:

• Saturday, March 27
• North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, 10707 Preston Road, Dallas
• 10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
• $25.00 for non-members; $20.00 for members

Workshop attendees may send Charlotte a Current Needs Chicken Soup story within two weeks following the workshop. Charlotte will judge the stories, select a winner, critique the winning story for free and help the author get the story ready for submission. (She has helped more than one winner publish in CSS)

Topics covered during the workshop will include:
• Top 10 Reasons to Write for Chicken Soup
• The Recipe for a Good Story
• Current Needs
• Hot Tips from the Editor
• Hands on writing exercises throughout the day.

There will be a short lunch break, so you are advised to bring a brown bag lunch.

*Whether you write first person true stories and want to learn more about being published with Chicken Soup or wish to record true family stories for the next generation, you won’t want to miss this invaluable workshop.
Seating is limited. To reserve a place, please send your name, address, and contact number or email address, along with a check to: Writers' Guild of Texas, 6009 W. Parker Road, Suite 149-175, Plano, TX 75093.