Finger Puppet 1: This is her first newsletter.
Finger Puppet 2: You’re kidding.
Finger Puppet 3: I can’t believe it. No newsletters? She’s been writing since Christ was a corporal.
Finger Puppet 1: And doing newsletters for Art Sanctuary back when Roving Software became Constant Contact.
I rearrange the rocks as they make fun of me, which they do to compensate for their lack of autonomy. ‘S OK. Gracie, my writer’s aid and dog, startles, annoyed, as she does every single time I clear my throat. The Finger puppets are snarky about her, too. Her winter fur needs stripping.
This is the way writing gets done: chatty-chat-chat in the head, the red bud outside threatening to open those tiny magenta buds, Rachmaninoff’s Concerto №2 talking to me about his breaking through his fearful writing dry spell after three months of hypnotism by Dr. Nikolai Dahl, who helped him to relax and told him that he could do this.
Seems kind of ridiculous just to write a newsletter. I mean, why should people want to read…
The tiny silver Buddha whispers, as it whispers many times a day, over and over, “Start where you are.”
And where is that?
Well, several people chided me for not sharing news of last season’s work. I felt badly, but Mom was going down fast, and I couldn’t bear to put much on social media, which I write and then fine-tune like the old Biscayne carburetor. And truth to tell, I’d gotten out of practice, almost as if I’d forgotten that part of the writing life. The public part. But you can’t forget to tell people what you’re doing. Might as well take the new book or play or article or whatever you tried so hard to craft into art — and dig a hole and pour it in with the communion wine.
And here come the M&M metaphors: Mortality and Morbidity. What can I say? After COVID’s ravages, after lock-down and open-up, after my husband’s death in 2021, my subsequent cancer-and-healing “journey,” as the warm and shiny brochures call it, and then my mother’s time on hospice and her death just this past January, this is a time of write what you know…So there’s that.
And then there’s Spring.
And me, here, growing hair again after chemo, full of gratitude as the Balsamic Moon turns toward Easter; pink camellias in the gayborhood churchyard and orchids on my bathroom sill bloom again.
Which makes this the L’Chaim! newsletter. To Life at its most urgent, complex, fragile, life at once compromised and free. Not only one’s own — look at that row of Os, like mouth rounded to shape the sound: Oooooh! — but Life Itself, or as Harriet Tubman exalted when she crossed into Pennsylvania: “glory all around.”
My husband Bob had a idea we used to joke about, a magazine called simply: Dead or Alive?
Each month it would feature a cover shot of someone you hadn’t heard about for a while. Not someone super famous whose life and death would be big news, just someone you hadn’t heard about for a while and almost forgot. Then, you break the seal where the contents page would reveal: Obit or interview! Dead or alive. Plus lots of related stories.
A newsletter, one could argue, is sort of like that, so long as it’s not AI. It’s not. I’m alive, and not a bot, thanks be to God. My friend Tina says the newsletter should squeeze in a photo of Gracie, also not a bot. So, here:
Events, coming up:
· 11am, Saturday, 25 March. In Person at Arden Theatre Company, 2nd and Market. It’s the reveal of the brand new seats in the F. Otto Haas stage — and artistic director Terry Nolen’s sneak preview of the 2023–24 season.
· 6:30pm, Wednesday, 12 April. Online from Laurel Hill Cemetery, an “Author Talk” about Ladysitting, My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century with Dr. Neville Strumpf, my dear friend and Professor Emerita of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
This fall, new audio versions for two of my books that had none. Yayah! Click on the links below to order. Don’t have audible cash on hand right now? Ask your library to order!
And, if you’re quick — think radio stations that tell us to dial while they are talking — send me an email via the Contact form on my website. I’ve been given a few complementary audio “copies” I can share. First come…
“Can you talk about your writing?” people ask.
Well, I can certainly talk about contracts for writing!
· Ladysitting, the play. Commissioned by Arden Theatre. I’ve written two full drafts so far. Not nearly enough, but the foundation has been laid. Each form, the memoir, about caring from my grandmother at the end of her life; then the 30-minute opera with composer Liliya Ugay; now the play — each form requires different emphasis. Once I manage to figure this one out, it’ll have been fascinating. (More on timing after Arden’s 3/25 announcement.) So grateful to have been named Arden’s second-ever recipients of the Granfalloon Storyteller Award last summer.
· Jubilee, an opera libretto to be set by composer Damien Geter for Portland Opera Company, 2026. A contemporary story that brings alive the young people who adapted spirituals to the concert stage. While bringing this first artform of the U.S. to the world, these courageous young folk, ages 14 to 23 or so, most of whom had been enslaved, earned enough money to buy the land under Fisk University and to build Jubilee Hall, where they still practice — and where my cousin Dana lived when she attended as an undergrad. Afro-futurism from the roots!
Writing, short form/blogs
· “One Book One Norristown,” about the thrill of watching The Price of a Child get the chance to launch yet another One Book One City program (after One Book One Philadelphia in 2003). Thrilling, too, was a chance to see the NAACP leaders Monica D’Antonio and Angie Hinton take on this heavy lift as a cultural addition to their stalwart civic engagement.