Tuesday, December 31, 2013


     The year ends on a cold and snowy note.  More is promised.  I confess: I am not happy with the accumulations of snow, the lowest temperatures, the frigid wind.  I've been advised to take up a winter sport to find the beauty of it like skiing or snow shoeing but - what can I say? - I can't wrap my head around the "fun" of those things.  Perhaps it has to do with my right leg's limited capabilities, my right foot actually.  Which makes driving a car practically impossible as well.  (More on that in the future.) Or perhaps the fact that I come from warm weather people and places.

     This studio attic I sit in is the only place where the snow on rooftops appears attractive.  As they say - nice to look at but...The Chicago skyline however always astonishes me and more so, at night, when the lights are on: white, red, green, blue, depending on the time of year.

     I know I'll be here for a while yet, walking gingerly on snow and ice, feeling the sharp wind on my cheeks, wearing layers and layers and heavy, puffy coats that prevent movement for the most part.  I know I'll live in Chicago for some time.  Writing about it and taking photos makes the unpleasant bearable.  

     And staying indoors as much as possible.


Monday, December 30, 2013


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Front Cover REVERIE CoCo Harris trying

REVERIE: Ultra Short Memoirs

Collected by CoCo Harris

The multiple Pushcart Prize nominated collection of ultra short memoirs, of various shapes and forms, including prose, poetry and narrative photography by both new and award winning authors each telling the stories of our lives in less than 300 words.
Featuring the works of:
Nancy Prothro Arbuthnot, Beatriz Badikian-Gartler, Valerie D. Benko, Jean Bonin, Bobbie S. Bryant, Jean Butterfield, Diane Caldwell, Helen Carson, Adam Cheshire, Casey Clabough, Beth Lynn Clegg, Ellen Dworsky, Michael Estabrook, Kathy Gilbert, Carmen Gillespie, Richard Goodman, Bobbie Hayse, Ashley Henley, Jessica Heriot, Meredith Hoffman, Jean Horak, Stephanie C. Horton, William L. Janes, Marilyn June Janson, Jamie Johnson, Carol Kanter, Evelyn Lampart, Gina Marie Lazar, Catherine Lee, Janine Lehane, Gerald A. McBreen, Aileen R. McCready, Leota McCown-Hoover, Callie Melton, Jasminne Mendez, E. Ethelbert Miller, SueAnn Porter, Diana Raab, Lori Rottenberg, W. Clayton Scott, Don Segal, Judith Serin,Elaine Dugas Shea, Missi Smith, Diane Spodarek, Emily Fraser Voigt, Pavelle Wesser, Changming Yuan, and Sally Zakariya

DECEMBER 30, 2013 Release!

We are preparing for a DECEMBER 30th Release of our next
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REVERIE: Ultra Short Memoirs!

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Sunday, December 29, 2013


My almost-7 year old grandson discovers texting.

First time:

Cell phone rings.

Hello, I say.

Hi nana!  It's Oliver.

Hi sweetheart!  How are you?

Can we text?  I want to have a conversation.

Sure, I answer and chuckle.

OK, bye. He hangs up. 

After a few minutes, the first text message comes: How are you?

I'm fine, listening to music and cooking. What's new with you?

I busted open my geodes today.

Is that good or bad?

What do you mean?

I mean - is it ok to bust open a geode?

...Time passes with no text...

Dinner is here. I have to go. See you later.

Second time:

I'm reading in the afternoon when the cell phone squeaks.  Text message.

Hi nana!


Do you want to text?


Ok, I lost my tooth today.

How did it happen?

I have to go shower now.  See you in a sec.

After a few minutes:

I'm back.

That was a short shower.  Are you clean?

Yes.  So OK, I was in a bouncy house and...I have to go. See you in a sec.

Haven't heard how the whole tooth loss affair ended yet.  That was yesterday.  I'm sure he'll text me again today or tomorrow to finish the story.  

As the cliche goes: they grow up so fast!

Friday, December 27, 2013


     Names of winds have fascinated me for a long time.  They are so evocative, so beautiful: Mistral, Scirocco, Zonda, Pampero, Santa Ana, Harmattan, Papagayo, Zephyr, and so many more. Sometimes the same wind has different names in different places. 

   A while ago I started researching their names, origins, etymologies, and stories that are inspired by the winds.  Murder mysteries, romantic tragedies, comedies, with a wind as a central character. That's why this article by Mark Vanhoenacker in The New York Times drew my attention earlier this week.  Read it, enjoy it, and send me your thoughts on the winds.

The Wind Cries ... Oe?

Over time, the world's stiffest breezes have earned their own names.

When I studied to become a pilot, I learned the names of the winds. It’s hard to not be charmed by their poetry — the Sahara’s Harmattan, France’s Mistral, and the Oe, that consonant-denuded Faroe Islands whirlwind.
But this Aeolian aristocracy raises as many questions as it does Scrabble scores. Why are some winds named? And are Americans ready to rediscover their own terroir of tempests?
Named breezes, says Vladimir Jankovic, a scientist at the University of Manchester in England, usually have distinct personalities — a recognizable cocktail of strength, season, direction, temperature, duration or precipitation. A name, then, is a forecast. But winds carry the force of history and myth as much as weather.
It was Hippocrates, after all, who said a physician should know which breezes cause flabbiness and which induce humid heads. A 19th-century description of London’s northeasterly winter blasts, Dr. Jankovic notes, warned of a catalog of side effects befitting a 21st-century pharmaceutical ad — among them “a sense of impending suffocation” and “restless sleep wetted by uncontrollable salivating.” No wonder many Britons vacation in South Africa, where the Cape Doctor is famed (and named) for its healthful influences.
Mental health, too, was often held to be wind-borne. Legend has it that the Khamsin, known for elevating both “temperatures and tempers,” was a mitigating factor when Arabian judges sentenced criminals. When California’s Santa Anas blow, wrote Raymond Chandler, “meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks.”
The Greeks had a kaleidoscopic compass of wind gods, and numerous named winds still fly the Mediterranean’s skies. Two Volkswagen models, the Scirocco and the Bora, are named for Mediterranean and Adriatic winds. (A third, Passat, means “trade wind.”)
Destructive winds often have particularly strong brand identities. In her 2007 book “An Ocean of Air,” Gabrielle Walker chronicles the Piteraq, a Greenland wind gusty enough to toss sled dogs skyward; its force is occasionally measured by how much it damages a wind gauge. In the Adriatic, scientists can map the Bora’s path by the density of stones used in roof construction. The Santa Anas all but breathe wildfire.
In contrast to California, which also has Sundowners and Diablos, New England’s skies seem culturally impoverished. Herman Melville found no local name for what howled around New Bedford’s Spouter-Inn in “Moby-Dick” (he resorted to Euroclydon, the wind that wrecked St. Paul’s ship as he sailed from Greece to Italy). Perhaps New England’s breezes are just hard to pigeonhole. Mark Twain’s New England forecast: “Probably nor’east to sou’west winds, varying to the southard and westard and eastard, and points between.”
California, though, has nothing on Hawaii. The wind beneath the wings of the Hawaiian-born Bette Midler could be a Ho’oluawahakole, a Malamalamamaikai or any of hundreds of other orthographic jawbreakers (best check a wind map). Many names have fallen from use, but they once carried enormous cultural weight, says Steven Businger, a meteorologist at the University of Hawaii.
Hawaii’s lexicon of winds is surely America’s richest, but it isn’t entirely alone. Chicago has the evocatively named Hawk wind, and the Great Lakes have the Witch of November, notorious for sinking the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, with the loss of all 29 men aboard, in November 1975. Gore Vidal named “Williwaw,” his first novel, for the Aleutian Islands’ bitter blasts. But the most famous North American wind is undoubtedly the Chinook (co-marketed with a salmon, a helicopter and New Hampshire’s state dog).
What is the future of named winds? Dr. Jankovic says climate change may strengthen some, weaken others, and make others “more nomadic.” In Nigeria, climatologists have linked recent disruptions of the Harmattan to climate change. Will the cultural character of a named wind adapt with the weather? Or will the names of some changed winds be forgotten, artifacts of a former climate?
Other wind names, conversely, may become more important, especially if wind-driven disasters like dust storms, wildfires and even nuclear accidents grow more common. And climate change may conjure entirely new winds. Proposals to geo-engineer cooler sea breezes for Tokyo, for example, practically demand a great name.
If few Americans outside California know their local winds by name, perhaps our mobility is partly to blame. To name a wind is to live somewhere long enough to know a place intimately.
Still, ours is an age that venerates all things local. Could named local winds be ready for an American renaissance?
There are tantalizing precedents. A 1997 contest in Portland, Ore., that might today be mistaken for an episode of “Portlandia” invited suggestions for the “cold and crazy” east wind from the Columbia River Gorge. The winner was Coho; memorable losers included Columbia Screamer, Brutal Bellows and Big Bad Momma.
What about jet streams? As a pilot, may I suggest we ennoble something other than jets? The aviator Wiley Post chronicled these high, fast winds that speed or impede us. The first pilot to fly solo around the world, he died in the Alaskan crash that killed Will Rogers. “Folks, flight time to Raleigh is just four hours today, thanks to the Post Winds.” I like it.
As for the trans-Atlantic jet stream, its importance became clear during World War II resupply efforts. Let’s christen it the Allied Wind, and let generations of schoolchildren learn why.
And a humble suggestion for the icy, northwesterly breeze that so often benumbs New York City. Capt. Albert Theberge, a historian at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told me about a boatswain he once knew on a NOAA vessel who described one East Coast howler this way: “It blowed so hard, it blowed a rooster up a bottle.”
So: the Rooster Bottler. A wind or a cocktail? In this city, this winter, it could be both.
Mark Vanhoenacker is a writer and an airline pilot who lives in New York City.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


     On most Sunday mornings I luxuriate with fresh, hot coffee and the Sunday New York Times.  Today I was even more delighted to read the article below on one of my very favorite poets of all time - C.P.Cavafy - written by Orhan Pamuk, whose book I began reading last night.  

     My aunt Katina introduced me to Cavafy many years ago with three collections of his poetry in Greek.  For a long time I would read them aloud to myself every so often, such pleasure!  Later, I met others who were fans of his poems and realized he was fairly well-known in the English-speaking world.  Recently, I participated in a poetry reading and read his famous poem "Ithaca" in Spanish and in Greek.  That's when I found several websites dedicated to his life and work.  

     Alexandria (Egypt), where he was born and lived most of his life, is one of the cities I have to visit some day.  I have to walk the streets he walked, see his house, sit at the cafe where he used to sit and write.  One of these days...In the meantime, I read his poems, I read what others have to say about him, I am fulfilled.

Other Countries, Other Shores

We love poets for the things their poems lead us to imagine; but equally, we love them for how we imagine their lives to be. Confusing poets’ lives with their work is an illusion as old as the tradition of confusing words with objects. But in fact it is for the sake of this illusion that we feel such a strong need for poetry, for novels, for literature. There are some poets whose work we read with their lives in mind, and what we know of those lives ensures that their poetry leaves a more enduring impression. C. P. Cavafy is, for me, just such a poet. Like Edgar Allan Poe, like Franz Kafka, Cavafy makes no explicit reference to himself in his best and most stirring work; and yet, with every poem we read, we cannot help thinking of him.
I think of him as an old man wandering the familiar streets of an aging city. I think of him as a lover of books living as a member of a minority within a minority. I think of him as a lonely, provincial man who is fully aware of his provinciality, and who turns that knowledge into a kind of wisdom.
Cavafy was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863, to a Greek family of wealthy drapers and cloth merchants. (The word kavaf, now forgotten even by Turks themselves, is Ottoman Turkish for a maker of cheap shoes.) The Cavafys were originally from Istanbul’s Fener neighborhood, where the city’s rich and politically influential Greek families lived. Later, they moved to Samatya, a fishermen’s neighborhood, and then immigrated to Alexandria, where they lived as members of the Orthodox Christian minority among the Muslim majority. At first, their business activities in Alexandria proved successful, and they lived in a large mansion staffed with English nannies, cooks and servants. In the 1870s, after the death of Cavafy’s father, they moved to England, but then returned to Alexandria following the collapse of the family business. After the Arab nationalist uprisings of 1882, they left Alexandria again, this time for Istanbul, and it was in this city, where he was to spend the next three years, that Cavafy wrote his first significant poems and felt the first stirrings of homoerotic desire. In 1885 the family, now impoverished, returned to Alexandria once more, to the very city he wanted to leave behind.
The return: It is the saddest part. It is the source of the sorrow that permeates his unforgettable poem “The City,” which I have read again and again in Turkish and in English translation. There is no other city to go to: The city that makes us is the one within us. Reading Cavafy’s “The City” has changed the way I look at my own Istanbul.
For those who lead a provincial life, life and happiness are always to be found elsewhere, in another city, in another country. But for us provincials, this other place is perpetually out of reach. Cavafy’s wisdom is in the dignity and introspective sensibility with which he approaches this sad truth. And finally, with the same linguistic restraint and philosophical simplicity, he concludes by revealing that we have wasted our lives in that city. We come to realize that we have all been wasting our lives, and that the problem lies not in being provincial, but in the very nature of life itself. Great poets can tell their own stories without once saying “I,” and in doing so, lend their voice to all of humanity.
Kierkegaard once said that the unhappy person lives either in the past or in the future. There are many old men in Cavafy’s poems; not trusting in the future is, for him, another kind of wisdom. So he fashions for himself a new past, one based on books, history and Greek mythology. Some of the narrative poems he based on the myths of ancient Greece are so intense and powerful that reading them feels like reading a particularly eventful novel.
I was in Alexandria a year before the events now known as the Arab Spring began. I went to visit Cavafy’s house, which has been turned into a museum. His actual family home was destroyed by British cannons. They had used a different house for the museum. It was a Friday. Everyone was at the mosque for prayers. The pavements were empty. The only people in the museum were tourists. The shuttered shops, the handful of old pine trees, the run-down buildings, the narrow streets, the squares, all helped me realize that versions of the Istanbul of my childhood still survive in cities all over the Mediterranean. I love Cavafy’s poetry not just as a reflection of his exemplary life, but also for the landscape it depicts, for its crumbling buildings, and because I immediately identify with the texture of Mediterranean life.
Every now and then I reread some of Cavafy’s poems, all of which fit comfortably in a slim volume. A longtime friend once published a selection in Turkish, working from Edmund Keeley’s translations, and took his title from the poem “Waiting for the Barbarians.” For many years thereafter, whenever we met, we greeted each other with the same joke: “How are you?” “Oh, you know — waiting for the barbarians.” What we meant was that — from a political perspective — we were, as usual, expecting even darker days ahead. Those darker days did actually come, and after the nationalist uprisings in Egypt, Alexandria’s Greek minority abandoned the city altogether. But the final twist in this brilliant, storylike poem suggests an entirely different ending. Cavafy will never cease to surprise and move his readers.
“The City” by C. P. Cavafy
You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
From C. P. Cavafy’s “Collected Poems” (Princeton University, 1992).
Orhan Pamuk won the 2006 Nobel in literature. His books include the novel “The Museum of Innocence” and the memoir “Istanbul.” This essay was translated by Ekin Oklap.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


    After a long time with grey skies, the sun wants to come out.  It tries.  It succeeds sometimes.  The cold is paralyzing me.  I am not a snow/cold-weather girl; I'm from the temperate flat lands of the Southern Cone.  And I love the sea.  I need warm weather, a view of the water, a blue sky. Chicago's winter weather forces me to stay indoors for long periods of time.  My husband recommends a winter sport to learn to love the snow and cold but I just can't.  Better to be gone from here these long months.

    Better to walk in a forest looking up to catch a glimpse of a warbler or cardinal.  Better to stroll on the fine sand of a beach feeling the heat of the sun on my shoulders.  Much better to sit at a cafe on a plaza sipping coffee and munching croissants.  

    Dream on.  Dream on.  Not too distant in the future I'll be in the heart of Mexico.  I just need to be patient. But - I am not known for my patience.  I better breathe deeply, read, write, and learn to wait.  After all they say: "good things come to those who wait." 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


When it's cold, very, very cold, what can you do to pass the time?  Why not write? 

These are some of the workshops I offer.  You can do them one-on-one or in a group. Why not give yourself or a loved one a gift workshop for the holidays?  

Send me a note and let me know what you want to do.  Fees are very reasonable.

Workshop #01
Title:  SEE THE WORLD; WRITE THE STORY: Crafting the travel essay
Summary:  Participants will work through the process of writing a travel essay step-by-step, from the lead paragraph to attract readers to the relevant conclusions.  A list of writing exercises to assist you in working at home will be provided as well as a bibliography of relevant works.

Workshop #02
Title:  I WRITE; THEREFORE, I AM: The personal/memoir essay
Summary:  This workshop is designed for the beginning memoir or personal essay writer who may not be aware of the possibilities and who will draw from his/her personal experience. 

Workshop #03
Title: CRAFTING STORIES FROM REAL LIFE: The nonfiction essay
Summary: Create stories that read like fiction but are based on real life.  Learn how to write a gripping opening sentence, how to use dialogue and bring characters alive, how to incorporate research to add depth to your writing, and many other techniques of successful and interesting creative nonfiction writing.    

Workshop #04
Title: SHORT-SHORTS: The art of minimalist writing

Summary: Short-shorts or flash fiction is a short form of storytelling.  Defining it by the number of words or sentences or even pages required to tell a story, however, is impossible, for it differs from writer to writer, editor to editor.  It can be fiction or nonfiction, personal or created.   

Wednesday, December 4, 2013



            It is dark outside. Night has come early today. Clouds all day and the daylight seems to gone too soon. You are walking down to the corner store to buy a gallon of milk. You wish you could run away, right now, run far away. Who needs all those kids and that nagging wife! But you are a good man, a responsible man. You’d never do that. And so here you are: walking in the middle of the street because there is more light here, the tall trees obscuring the sidewalks. A car might run you over but who cares…here you are: walking to the corner store to buy a gallon of milk because your wife had no time to do that all day. You work and work and then you come home and you have to work some more.
            Suddenly you look up and the shooting star catches you unaware. Make a wish you say to yourself out loud. Make a wish and it will come true. And then you say: who told you that? Such bullshit! But you make a wish anyway. Very quietly. Very much to yourself lest a neighbor hear you and report you to your wife.
            The shooting star has shot by already. The dark envelops you once more. The light of the store on the corner is your beacon. You walk like a zombie. Milk, a gallon of milk, you repeat to yourself like a mantra when you see the car. The lights blind you. Where is this guy going the wrong way you ask yourself and the next instant your wish comes true.