February 27, 2014

The lovely novelist Winslow Eliot interviews me!

What a blessing to meet a soul who has actually read one's work and wants to talk with you about it. That is surely the definition of a gift.

Be sure to read Winslow's work (links follow to her books on Amazon) and listen to her voice on her BlogTalk radio show that enriches our lives and gives hope to the creative spirit.

Here is the link to the show: Winslow interviews Mary:

Online Writing Radio at Blog Talk Radio with WriteSpa Oasis for Writers on BlogTalkRadio

View Winslow's books and be sure to purchase them: Winslow Eliot, the novelist, advisor and good soul in the world

I close with my sincere thanks for this generous interview and Winslow's goodness.


February 10, 2014

Write From Art! Give it a try ...

Join Spark 21

Do you need a spark to get your writing going? Here's something you might try.

Actually writing this way has a formal description and here it is: ekphrasis 

The Greeks thought of it first, but we learn, we follow. Keat's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is one of our most lasting and famous examples.

But both poets and prose writers have been trying this. I would argue that in some sense Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, perhaps one of the best post 9-11 works of fiction we have, is an ekphrastic novel because it is inspired by the Man on the Wire—a real life work of art that can be seen in the film by that name—Philippe Petit's feat, his walk across a tightrope wire between the World Trade Center Towers on August 7, 1974.

Great book and fabulous documentary.

Writing from art worked for me as I explain in Sparker in the Spotlight this month.

If you'd like to try it, consider simply choosing a piece of art and begin writing in response to it.

More fun might be Spark 21 that runs from February 19th through the 28th. Registration ends on Friday, February 14th.

So sign up today--here's the link to register! I don't recall paying the 10 bucks to do so, but Amy Souza, who runs Spark and will pair you with an artist, must have expenses. I think it's probably worth it.

Anyway, read how Spark helped me to see if you would like to give it a try.

I say, SPEAK, however you might find the way. Art is a glorious way to so so.

But the importance of your voice in the face of existence, its gifts and its betrayals is the key to why you should express, find a way to connect to maintain our humanity.

I was moved to write about the importance of doing so in piece I wrote on the September 11, 2011 anniversary of 9-11.

Here it is:

On 9/11, don't be silent - Speak!

On 9/11, while in my flimsy
white cotton nightgown
watching NBC news with
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, the plane hit
the tower, live, real, dead-on—and I was
struck dumb. I taught creative writing at
George Washington University in D.C., so
close to the Pentagon, a field in
Pennsylvania, and, yes, New York City.

I wondered: “How do I ask my students to write?”

I answered the question with a question: Isn’t the gift of language the foundation of our humanity?

So here I am, ten years later, again trying to put words around the unexplainable. Acknowledging
my inability to understand.

Paul Celan, the poet, came home one day to find that Nazis had taken his parents during an
overnight raid in Czernowitz in 1942. 

Paul Celan (b. 11/23/1920 d.
At the time he was 22 and was away for the night. The door, when he returned, was sealed and never again did he see his parents, speak to them. 

Celan, I must believe, was left unable to explain the unexplainable.

I went to his words the day after 9/11 looking to find something to read in my classroom about
writing fiction and memoir. Within the midst of the long talk Celan gave in 1961, translated from the German by John Felstiner, I found the words I sought.

Celan spoke on the problem of making art, of writing poetry, of speaking the words he spoke when he received the Georg Büchner Prize, the major German literary award.

Like his poetry, his words are full of loss, but still he offered words. I read them to my writing
students—and goodness only knows what they thought—from the speech Celan gave entitled
“The Meridian”:

Ladies and gentlemen, I find something that comforts me a little at having taken, in your presence, this impossible path, this path of the impossible. I find something that binds and leads to encounter, like a poem. I find something—like language—immaterial yet earthly,
terrestrial, something circular, returning upon itself by way of both poles and thereby—happily—even crossing the tropics (and tropes): I find … a meridian. [ellipsis, his]

A meridian, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “the great
circle that passes through the celestial poles.”

If we had any doubts before 9/11 about the connectedness of humankind
on this globe, for good or for ill, we could have none after that day. So I
say, yes, let’s have moments of silence on this the ten-year anniversary
of such a great world-changing tragedy—but then SPEAK.

Know that I use the term speak metaphorically: Make something on 9/11.

If you’re a bricklayer, place a brick in its right place in a building on 9/11; if you’re an accountant, place the sum as the right answer on 9/11; if you’re a bartender, make the perfect cocktail, set it down with your hand in front of your customer—and connect on 9/11.

I say here today that no matter how or when we are cast into the abyss of existence, speak. 

I say, in whatever ways we live in the world, make something.

Connect the meridian that encircles us all. Affirm our shared humanity.

And I ask you this question: why even talk, let alone write poems or stories, build bridges or
buildings if nothing is nothing is nothing?


December 27, 2013

Who by Fire wins Notable Literary Fiction Award

I want to share this news with my friends and, one can always hope, readers—though that last is a tough one. I certainly have kept in mind and heart and action Grace Paley's advice to the artist: "Keep your day job," and I hold in my heart Tillie Olsen's words of solace from her brilliant book Silences: 

“Literary history and the present are dark with silences; some the silences for years of our acknowledged great; some silences hidden; some the ceasing to publish after one work appears; some the never coming to book form at all.

“These are not natural silences, that necessary for renewal, lying fallow, gestation, in the natural cycle of creation. The silences I speak of here are unnatural; the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot. In the old, the obvious parallels: when the seed strikes stone; the soil will not sustain; the spring is false; the time is drought or blight or infestation; the frost comes premature.”

But every now and then, one can take a measure of courage to continue.

I salute all of you who read, all of you who support the arts and all of you who struggle alone in the silence of your attic, in the breath of your spirit.

My publisher announces the news that Who by Fire has won Shelf Unbound's Notable Literary Fiction Award.

See the margin of this website for the full view of the Notable Fiction Award.

October 30, 2013

Lifting the curtain: What recording my novel for AUDIBLE.COM taught me

I'm gonna lift the curtain on my novel Who by Fire and why you might want to listen to it via Audible.com. Here's the scoop.

I put aside this novel that was finished when my husband said after 22 years of marriage, oh-so-Greta-Garbo, "I need to live alone."

This event stopped me in my tracks—and eventually I blogged my life while I was living it. And that turned into the memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story. Yes, there is sex after sixty.

That book like Who by Fire is a love story but oddly one that fiction would probably not find credible. You know the line: Truth is stranger than fiction?

I have a twist on that one.

I learned through these two books that the fictional account of my story has greater emotional truth and intellectual significance than the factual one that you can find online and in the 2011 Valentine’s Day issue of Real Simple Magazine where my husband and I tell our story.

Here’s how I learned what the so-called real story didn’t reveal. I am the reader for the audible.com version of Who by Fire. While reading it aloud in an NPR recording studio, I discovered my own book as if for the first time.

I realized I’d written this novel to find the man I somehow knew on the unconscious level I was losing. Good fiction, meaning you know while you’re reading that the writer is risking her life, can go to this place of hard truth in a way that memoir because of its hold on the so-called facts can’t do. What you’ll get here is the close-to the bone story that answers the deeply Jewish question, Can memory lead to forgiveness? I hope you’ll decide to read it--or, perhaps better, listen to it.

But don’t trust me. Trust a man.

How about Pulitzer prize winner Robert Olen Butler who said, "Who by Fire is a lovely, innovative, deeply engaging novel about how it is that human beings make their way through the mysteries of existence." Or, trust Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin who said, "Who by Fire, is a lyric meditation on love and desire, one that will catch you up in the blaze of its eroticism, its tender evocation of love and the passions and accommodations of a life lived through the flesh and through the imagination. Who by Fire explores the question, Can memory lead to forgiveness? in a story I won’t soon forget."

With thanks here to Anthony Policastro, CEO of Outer Banks Publishing Group, for choosing this book that I had put aside because I thought it unworthy and who says this about the novel he published:

Who by Fire breaks new literary ground: A complex tale of love, betrayal, and
the search for self. A male narrator tells the story he does not actually know but
discovers through memory, through piecing the puzzles of his marriage, through
his wife’s goodness and her betrayal. He confronts paradox with music, science
and a conflagration he witnessed in his native Iowa. Underlying his search is
the quest for heroism and for his own father. Who by Fire has earned its place
among books that matter.Outer Banks Publishing Group

October 17, 2013

Radio Interviews: Updated list of artists, writers, directors, poets, the literary, the fascinating

Radio interviews with the fascinating. My radio show via Rare Bird Blogtalk Radio now has logged in twenty shows.

One caveat: When you click on a link below, a short pause and an ad (about 10-20 seconds) may first appear, not of my making, so do forgive, but then you'll hear the show as it ran live. Each show is thirty minutes. Listen at your leisure to all or part of any of the shows.

You can also find on my Facebook Page news for upcoming radio shows and the newest column I've written on the arts, culture and love—or for the latter, click the bird and the flower in the right-hand margin of this page.

Here's the list of the twenty radio interviews so far. Click on the name and you'll be taken to the radio show:

Carolyn Mary Kleefeld, painter, poet and Big Sur presence

Anne Marie Ruff, journalist, author of Through These Veins, plant biotechnology, AIDs, art

Richard Kramer, producer, writer of thirtysomething, My So-Called Life and a new HBO series

Marc Schuster: book reviewer, author of The Grievers

Henry Jaglom, distinguished, independent filmmaker, director, screenwriter

Jaki Scarcello, author of Fifty and Fabulous: The best years of a woman's life

Douglas Rogers, author of The Last Resort: a memoir of mischief and mayhem on a family farm in Africa

Peter Cox, British literary agent

Margaret Brown, publisher of the digital magazine Shelf Unbound: What to read next in independent publishing

Maureen Stanton, author of Killer Stuff and Tons of Money

Robert G. Pielke, author of Rock Music in American Culture

Alan Cheuse, author and NPR book reviewer

Jacquie Kubin: managing and senior editor of The Communities at The Washington Times

Sarah C. Harwell, poet, author of Sit Down Traveler

Derek Haines, self-published author of more than 14 books, novels and essays

Ravi Shankar, poet, author of Deepening Groove

The Third Man and Déjà Vu: A Love StoryConversation with journalist Harvey Black about the Graham Greene screenplay and movie starring Orson Welles and the Henry Jaglom film (See the interview link above.)

Dana Gioia, poet, former head of the National Endowment for the Arts and author most recently of Pity the Beautiful, poems

Eduardo Santiago, Cuban author of Tomorrow They Will Kiss

Molly Peacock, poet, memoir writer and author of The Paper Garden: An Artist {Begins Her Life's Work} at 72

Michael Johnson, journalist who lives in Bordeaux France and writes for The International Herald Tribune, Open Letters, Facts and Arts, The Columnists--and more.

Enjoy and do let me know what you think. Comments always welcome.

October 11, 2013

Jewish Literary Festival: Local Author Fair

Live in or near DC? The DC Jewish Community Center has held a competition to choose local authors and you can hear each of them give a three minute pitch about why you should consider reading a book each put heart and soul into. It's free and you'll get wine and cheese for showing up.

Amazon: Fine Paperback and Kindle version, Audible.com coming soon 
Sound like fun or torture for the chosen? I'm not sure which, but I'll be there with my pitch for Who by Fire.

Yeah, I got picked: Thanks to the committee that made the selections.

Perhaps I'll later post here my pitch  (just two and a half minutes: shorter is better, right?). Supporters welcome and needed: You can report here how it all went.

Here are the details: Sunday, October 13, 7 to 8:30 pm, 1529 16th Street, NW. 

Read the short story "The Burglar"  from The Woman Who Never Cooked--kinda like a wine-tasting, dontcha think?

Here's how it went:

JCC Clip from Mary Tabor on Vimeo.

October 04, 2013

History and Wine Interview

Sometimes a girl gets lucky: Jacqueline Coleman interview on writing, life and art.

Find out who Jacqueline is and read our conversation on her History and Wine blog, given the seal of approval by Wordpress, Freshly Pressed. 

Thank you, Jacqueline.