“You’re recalling your own past to imagine the future for your characters.”

You’re recalling your own past to imagine the future for your characters.

John Dufresne, IS LIFE LIKE THIS?

* * *

I used to drive a brown mini van and blast Lucinda Williams. Sometimes I played her so loudly pulling up to do the pick-up at Marshall High School in Los Feliz that my son would dive for the volume button. It was embarrassing for him to be picked up in a brown mini van trembling with Lucinda, but I didn’t care. I loved blasting her on some days to imagine a life other than a brown mini van.

The side-door didn’t work after many years of being yanked open and slammed shut.

It fell off onto the ground once, as I recall, in Pasadena.


We eventually wound up duct-taping it shut and kids crawled in through the back end.

A friend remarked, “Like members in a band.”

We hoped there would never be a fire and the kids would be stuck.

There wasn’t.

We kept meaning to go to the salvage yard to get a new door, but the van was a 1997?

I think we got it in 2001.

It lasted until 2012.

Then our pragmatic mechanic refused to let us pour anymore money into it.

Another friend called it my “Kabbalah van” when we first bought it used – now that I remembering – because I ghost-wrote Kabbalah miracle stories for some rabbis and they paid well enough for us to make a down payment on the van.

I wrote all kind of stories to make money.

I ghost wrote a few chapters of a celebrity’s girlfriend’s memoir that you can read about here – small claims court and all the bells and whistles.


I wrote about camera operators, coalminers, stonecutters, lifeguards, agents – some of which I liked writing about – it was a series on health and professions.

But I don’t recommend writing for money too much, although I have friends who done it well in television. But when you write for smaller amounts to cobble together a living it can distract you from the bigger picture.

I quit ghostwriting to write Gentle’s Holler.

I haven’t ghostwritten since.

Writing-for-hire might get you a Kabbalah van or you might dine out a few times on the story of listening to a judge explain what a metaphor means to the person you’re suing for not paying you the pittance owed, but not much else.

So I try to stay focused and write what I have to write – what I must write.

I just listened to When Breath Becomes Air on Audible by Paul Kalanithi on the plane back to Birmingham, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Beautiful urgent prose.


It is a tired hare who now races. But even if I had the energy, I prefer a more tortoise-like approach. I plod, I ponder.

* * *

Sometimes instead of gratitude lists I make wish lists.

Short Wish List

I wish I could be an extra or a PA on Sally Wainwright’s filming of the Bronte story in Yorkshire. I would happily get tea or coffee for the actors and production team creating the story of the Bronte sisters and their brother, Branwell.


I wish I knew the plot to my novel, Vulcan, now that the rubber is hitting in the road, but I always write blindly – still I wish I knew and could write without fear or distraction.

I wish I could have done things differently as a parent and paid more attention and listened more.

I wish I’d had lightning bolts like Zeus to stop what came.

I wish I could find secret doors in Silver Lake to slip back to the past and fix things.

You’re recalling your own past to imagine the future for your characters.

I prefer secret doors and lightning bolt wrists.

* * *

Here is a memory.

Once I saw Lucinda Williams on Valentine’s Day. I think it was 2003. She got out of cab at Michelangelo’s restaurant in Silver Lake. I was with my grade school friend, Katie, and her niece from Pittsburgh, and Flannery and Lucy. We were out to dinner and in the middle of our dinner, I heard Lucinda thank the taxi driver, and I knew her voice.

Hey, thanks a lot. 

She had chosen the same place as us to eat her dinner.

I was awe-struck and stared.

Lucy, in sixth grade then, quite correctly said, “MOM! YOU ARE STARING. STOP IT.”

But it was Lucinda!

I tried to stop but it was so hard.

And so after the meal, I approached Lucinda with Flannery and we introduced ourselves.

(I think the others were too embarrassed for me to be such a fan girl. She was having a meal with a journalist, a British journalist now that I recall.)

So we talked for a very short time, and I thanked her for her music and stories, and she said, “Oh, you’re having Valentine’s with your son. That’s so sweet. And you named him Flannery.”

I remember thinking – Valentine’s Day with my son? That’s not such a big deal – we always have Valentine’s Day as a family. He was fourteen and wore braces.

But I didn’t know.

* * *

So here are pictures today that caught my eye as I get ready to write. Yesterday’s smooth skies didn’t even require the requisite bloody mary or glass of wine, and I’m grateful.

And tomorrow I’m posting Norah’s David Bowie poem that she’s going to read today for her creative writing reading at Alabama School of Fine Arts and maybe part of her story, “Am Track” if she agrees.

IMG_8594Bluebells in Yorkshire – the fragrance is so dizzyingly gorgeous.


IMG_8829Norah on the moors – we didn’t realize the drop until after I took the picture, but she slowly and gingerly stepped back to safety.


joshua treeJoshua Tree at sunset on Norah’s birthday – photo by Lucy.


Olive and Teddy on pillowThis dog.


Olive in a bag.JPGTraveling day.  You can do it, Olive!

LucindaLucinda in Birmingham

Flannery and Lucy in the gardenBabies.

massage day.JPGSpa day with Rebecca and Dale.


ocean from sky.JPGThe ocean from the sky.


cloudsCloud trails back to Birmingham yesterday.

* * *

And just because – my new favorite commercial ever!


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