How to Publish Your Memoir



After you have toiled and tinkered and revised for ages, and you feel you finally have a strong manuscript, you begin to wonder how on earth to get your book into print…

Here is the URL for a piece I wrote to help you know what to do when you get to this point.  It was published on the website, WOMEN WRITERS, WOMEN(‘S) BOOKS.   Just paste the URL into Google and you’ll get there.  I hope it’s helpful, and good luck!

Global Nomads and TCKS- 26: Reconciliation


Edward Said’s reconciliation with being “out of place:”

I occasionally experience myself as a cluster of flowing currents. I prefer this to the idea of a solid self, the identity to which so many attach so much significance. These currents, like the themes of one’s life, flow along during the waking hours, and at their best, they require no reconciling, no harmonizing. They are “off” and may be out of place, but at least they are always in motion, in time, in place, in the form of all kinds of strange combinations mov­ing about, not necessarily forward, sometimes against each other, contrapuntally yet without one central theme. A form of freedom, I’d like to think, even if I am far from being totally convinced that it is. That skepticism too is one of the themes I particularly want to hold on to. With so many dissonances in my life I have learned actually to prefer being not quite right and out of place.

Out of Place: A Memoir


Global Nomads and TCKS- 25: Everywhere is a reminder of somewhere else


For the global nomad, every place brings to mind somewhere else, as Andre Aciman so deftly conveys:

 I could never understand or appreciate New York unless I could make it the mirror—call it the mnemonic correlative—of other cities I’ve known or imagined. No Mediterranean can look at a sun­set in Manhattan and not think of another sunset thousands of miles away. No Mediterranean can stand looking at the tiny lights speck­ling the New Jersey cliffs at night and not remember a galaxy of lit­tle fishing boats that go out to sea at night, dotting the water with their tiny lights till dawn, when they come back to shore. But it is not New Jersey I see when I watch the sunset from Riverside Drive.

The real New York I never see either. I see only the New York that either sits in for other places or helps me summon them up. New York is the stand-in, the ersatz of all the things I can remem­ber and cannot have, and may not even want, much less love, but continue to look for, because finding parallels can be more com­pelling than finding a home, because without parallels, there can’t be a home, even if in the end it is the comparing that we like, not the objects we compare. Outside of comparing, we cannot feel…

 False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory


Global Nomads and TCKS- 24: Finding home


After a sojourn in America, Milosz finally gains a sense of home, back in old Europe:

But it was not the same as it had been in America; it was not only nature that cured me. Europe herself gathered me in her warm embrace, and her stones, chiseled by the hands of past generations, the swarm of her faces emerging from carved wood, from paintings, from the gilt of embroidered fabrics, soothed me, and my voice was added to her old challenges and oaths in spite of my refusal to accept her split and her sickliness.  Europe, after all, was home to me.   And in her I happened to find help; the country of the Dordogne is like a Platonic recollection, a prenatal landscape so hospitable that prehistoric man, twenty or thirty thousand years ago, selected the valley of the Vezere for his abode (was he, too, moved by a Platonic recol­lection of Paradise?). And while I climbed the hills of Saint-Emilion near a place where only yesterday the villas of Roman officials had stood, I tried to imagine, gazing out over the brown furrows of earth in the vineyards, all the hands that had once toiled here. Something went on inside me then. Such transformations are, of course, slow, and at first they are hidden even, from ourselves. Gradually, though, I stopped worrying about the whole mythology of exile, this side of the wall or that side of the wall. Poland and the Dordogne, Lithuania and Savoy, the narrow little streets in Wilno and the Quartier Latin, all fused together. I was like an ancient Greek. I had simply moved from one city to another. My native Europe, all of it, dwelled inside me, with its mountains, forests, and capitals; and that map of the heart left no room for my troubles. After a few years of groping in the dark, my foot once again touched solid ground and I regained the ability to live in the present, in a “now” within which past and future, both stronger than all possible apocalypses, mingle and mutually enrich each other.

Native Realm

Global Nomads and TCKS- 23: Looking for lost pasts, lost selves…


Here is global nomad Andre Aciman on his habit of summoning his lost past, and consequently, his lost self at the seaside:

Drop me in Nice or in Anzio or in East Hampton as someone’s guest and early on Sunday morning I will look for any excuse to go out to buy the paper and take the long way, not because I need to read the paper or because I need to be alone, but because I want to take time out and think that I am going on a very familiar errand, that I know exactly what I’m doing, and that any moment now I’ll end up pushing open a very old gate whose squeak I can’t forget. As long as I keep expecting to arrive there and never really hurry back, I will, if I try hard enough, make out the voices of people who have long since died but have suddenly come back and are beginning to complain that I’ve been gone too long and have almost missed breakfast.

If I long for the sea or for Alexandria, it is because, with the sea around me, I can begin to rebuild my life, put things back together again, pick up where I believe I left off. I collate little snippets of the past, the way those who’ve been deported map out every corner of their city, their street, their temple.

I look for the sea everywhere, because the sea was the back­drop for almost all the scenes of my childhood. I look for my childhood, for my own gaze looking out at the sea. What I want is not to swim but to have the pleasure of “finding the sea,” of guess­ing and spying the sea, of suggesting the sea, the way children today play at “finding Waldo”—because in finding the sea I find myself.

 False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory

Global Nomads and TCKS- 22: What we are left with

Here I describe the legacy of the global nomad childhood for me:

What I have taken away from this itinerant childhood: a learning stance; the confusing but deep conviction that there are multiple truths and that mine is not the only one; a wish to honor others and not impose on them. Most of all, a NEED for other cultures: for the smell of fish markets, for the sound of Japanese, for the smell of batik, for the bong of a temple bell, for the suck on my boot of a wet Dutch field, for the smell of airplanes, for the sprawl of a transit lounge, for the taste of sticky Japanese rice, for the texture of a reed mat, for the sight of thatched rooftops against clean blue sky, for the ocean that sails me to a new place.

What have you taken away from your nomadic childhood? What do you want to keep? What do you want to discard? Where do you want to go, to be, from here?  Bring some of it back here.

 Of Many Lands: Journal of a Traveling Childhood 

Global Nomads and TCKS- 21: The compulsion to depart


Edward Said on the many contradictory feelings and penchants of the global nomad: the fear of abandonment and the compulsion to abandon, the pain of departure and the compulsion to leave, the habit of packing as if one will never return to a place

The underlying motifs for me have been the emergence of a second self buried for a very long time beneath a surface of often expertly acquired and wielded social characteristics belonging to the self my paren­ts tried to construct, the “Edward” I speak of intermittently, and how an extraordinarily increasing number of departures have unsettled my life from its earliest beginnings. To me, nothing more painful and para­doxically sought after characterizes my life than the many displacements from countries, cities, abodes, languages, environments that have kept me in motion all these years. Thirteen years ago I wrote in After the Last Sky that when I travel I always take too much with me, and that even a trip downtown requires the packing of a briefcase stocked with items disproportionately larger in size and number than the actual period of the trip. Analyzing this, I concluded that I had a secret but ineradicable fear of not returning. What I’ve since discovered is that despite this fear I fabricate occasions for departure, thus giving rise to the fear voluntar­ily. The two seem absolutely necessary to my rhythm of life and have intensified dramatically during the period I’ve been ill. I say to myself: if you don’t take this trip, don’t prove your mobility and indulge your fear of being lost, don’t override the normal rhythms of domestic now, you certainly will not be able to do it in the near future. I also experience the anxious moodiness of travel (la mélancolie des paquebots, as Flaubert calls it, Bahnhofsstimmung  in German) along with envy for those who stay behind, whom I see on my return, their faces unshad­owed by dislocation or what seems to be enforced mobility, happy with their families, draped in a comfortable suit and raincoat, there  for all to see. Something about the invisibility of the departed, his being missing and perhaps missed, in addition to the intense, repetitious, and predict­able sense of banishment that takes you away from all that you know and can take comfort in, makes you feel the need to leave because of some prior but self-created logic, and a sense of rapture. In all cases, though, the great fear is that departure is the state of being abandoned even though it is you who leave.

 Out of Place: A Memoir

Life Notes: Rupture and Repair


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Maud's Art NYAA FAll 037“Civilization and Nature” by Maud Taber-Thomas

“The intensity of the conflict between parent and child isn’t what matters.  The emotions can be very intense.  What matters is the repair afterward.”  The professor said this one day during an infant development class I took in graduate school.  That notion about rupture and repair has stuck with me, and I have relied on it, and in my experience, it has held up most of the time.  Emotional heat has caring behind it, and so long as that emotional warmth is expressed, too, into the efforts at repairing a fracture afterward, often the temporary break results in a stronger bond.  I can summon more than one occasion with my children, young, larger, and fully grown, when, fed up at their messes—they are both artists who make great, spreading projects—I burst out at them.  “You guys have to clean up or I’ll go crazy!”  I always stifled my mess-frustration past a point when it could be calmly conveyed.  After their furious, fuming tidyings-up, and my lurking about feeling guilty about my vehemence—and conciliatory hugs all round when the room was, to all parties’ relief, clear and spacious and ready for new messes—there would often be smiles as bursting and full of warmth as my explosion had been, and good-natured chats around cookies and milky tea to boot.

Recently I listened to a program on BBC’s The Forum, a show that features a “Sixty Second Idea to Change the World.”  This round, the idea, put forth by Phillip Ball, was: “Make mending an art form: encourage and celebrate the skills of mending in everyday life.”  The English science writer explained, “I’m thinking we can learn from the ancient art of mending broken ceramics in Japan, where the mend is seen as an opportunity to make the broken object even more beautiful, in some cases by picking out the network of glue in gold powder.” Mending, he said, ought to be regarded as an important life skill to be taught to children.  Most important of all is to “remove the stigma of repair.”  Mending ought to be seen as an art form, and mended clothes, rather than regarded as scruffy, should be “as welcome in the boardroom as the workshop.”

Ball’s fellow panelist, physicist Lee Smollen recalled a summer at Oxford when he studied with the mathematical physicist, Roger Penrose.  Often their chats took place in the college commons where the staff kept “a cache of broken teacups” because Roger Penrose liked to mend them.  While the young physicist and the older one chatted, the older man carefully pieced and glued the china cups.

Global Nomads and TCKS- 20: A new language releases us


Alice Kaplan on the pleasure of living in and speaking another language, in this case, French.  A new language can release us—to desire different thing, to claim new body parts, to become adult…

“It was not what France gave you but what it did not take away from you that was important”: Gertrude Stein pub­lished that line in Paris France in 1940, the year her adopted country caved in to the Nazis.

I’ve been willing to overlook in French culture what I wouldn’t accept in my own, for the privilege of living in translation.

Learning French and learning to think, learning to desire, is all mixed up in my head, until I can’t tell the difference. French is what released me from the cool complacency of the R Resisters, made me want, and like wanting, unbut­toned me and sent me packing. French demands my obe­dience, gives me permission to try too hard, to squinch up my face to make the words sound right. French houses words like “existentialism” that connote abstract thinking, difficulties to which I can get the key. And body parts which I can claim. French got me away from my family and taught me how to talk. Made me an adult. And the whole drama of it is in that “r,” how deep in my throat, how different it feels.

French Lessons: A Memoir

Global Nomads and TCKS- 19: The wish to hold places still


Some thoughts from Andre Aciman on the global nomad’s wish for past places not to have changed.  Here he reflects on a return to Paris:

When I returned twenty years later, with my wife, the city had hardly changed. I still remembered the station names; the café on Avenue Victor Hugo was the same; and the shop on the Faubourg Saint Honoré where my grandmother had bought me a tie was still there, except much bigger and filled with Japanese tourists. The Victor Hugo movie theater had disappeared. In the old cafe around the corner, we ordered 2 café creme and a ham sandwich each.

Avenue Georges Mandel was quiet in the early evening. As we neared the corner where Aunt Elsa had lived, her building suddenly came into view.

I pointed upstairs and showed my wife the window from which Aunt Elsa had thrown her husband’s pipe on New Year’s Eve to make a wish. I showed her the building nearby where Maria Callas had lived. They had spoken in Greek to her, corrected her Greek once.

We took pictures. Of the building. Of me standing in front of the building. Of her taking pictures of me standing in front of the building. She asked again which floor they had lived on. The fifth, I said. We looked up. The windows of Aunt Elsa’s studio were unlit and the shutters drawn. Of course they’re unlit, no one’s home, I thought to myself. They’ve been dead for twenty years! But then, the apartment couldn’t have stayed empty for so many years; surely it belonged to someone else. I seemed to recall that Vili himself had sold it. Still, what if it had never changed hands in all these years, if nothing had changed, if no one had even picked up the fork or touched the cardigan Aunt Elsa let fall before being rushed to the hospital on the night she died? What if her furniture and her china and her clothes and everything she hoarded throughout her life kept vigil for her and remained forever and only hers by dint of the life she had spun around them?

And for a moment I thought that this might also be true of the apartment on Rue Thebes, that after sixty years with us it could never belong to anyone else and would be forever ours. I wanted to think that it, too, remained exactly the way we left it, that no one cried or quarreled there, that dust collected in the corners, that children were never allowed to scream as they sprinted past the junk room where Flora loved, Vili wept, and Latifa died.

 Out of Egypt: A Memoir