Honey, Sweetie, Dearie

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Beginning my summer “re-runs” of pieces I’ve published elsewhere. Here’s an essay from Changes in Life, 2013: Retail nicknames, those adjectives you hear when you order something, buy something, borrow something. To butter you up, these service workers call you “Hon” as a cozy gesture to win you over, make the sale, grow their tip. This begins as soon as …

The successful British Invasion

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We’re speeding toward Feb. 9, “the” date when the Beatles first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. If you’re 57 or older, you probably know where you were that evening. Sullivan, CBS’s Sunday-night mainstay, was a must for entertainers breaking into the American market. The band’s live performance launched one of popular music’s most remarkable eras: the British …

Reading behind a writing life

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OK, we’ve all heard it. To write well, you have to read well. I’m always up for improvement for both. Since 1995, I have kept a book journal, noting every book (or audiobook) I’ve read, along with the author’s name. The list comes in handy when I want to recommend an author or a title to someone and can’t remember …

A Noonatic’s take on history

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Fifty years ago a producer named Mickie Most signed five teen-aged musicians from Manchester, England to a record deal. It didn’t go unnoticed that Peter Noone, the lead singer, resembled a young John F. Kennedy. The resemblance proved more than skin-deep. Peter was talented, charming and Catholic to boot. And he, like Kennedy, spoke with an intrusive R–“Americar,” “Canadar,” “Cubar.” …

Yearning for a good ending

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Yearning. For me, the word brings to mind sadness, loss, frustration, yet it’s such an essential for fiction writers and storytellers. Without yearning, there isn’t much story. A competent writer must take control and frustrate the character, present what the person wants and can’t have easily, if at all. When I began to write short stories years ago, my mentor …

One Summer in America

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Very few people under 90 years old remember the summer of 1927, but all of us have been affected by it one way or another. Prior to picking up Bill Bryson’s new book, “One Summer, America 1927,” I had heard of the big Mississippi River flood, and Babe Ruth’s home run record. I grew up hearing about Charles Lindbergh’s big …

Another idyllic weekend at Weymouth

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In February, I described a residency with writer friends at Weymouth Center in Southern Pines. Those winter days were punctuated with a perfect gentle snowfall and a morning fox hunt across the grounds. Those precious days, we agreed, were unforgettable, magical. For the uninitiated, Weymouth is a sprawling mansion built by novelist James Boyd back in the 1920s with all …

Feedback that resonates

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The dictionary defines “resonance” as “the effect of an event or work of art beyond its immediate or surface meaning.” It’s an effect all artists strive for–to communicate in a special way, to touch a life. Resonance is the stuff that makes all the hours of preparation, practice and honing one’s craft worthwhile. Three weeks ago, I had privileged to …

Speaking of dead mules

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As a Road Scholar with the N.C. Humanities Council, I offer a talk entitled, “What Makes a Southern Story Southern?” It’s based on reading I did for my MFA degree a few years ago. The Southern question sprung out of research on an unrelated topic. As I read story after story, I noticed patterns among Southern stories. And I took …