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Jottings page

When Writing About Others

Perhaps the most problematic part about writing a memoir is writing about others, dead and alive. Especially alive.


What to do? You can drop names and change names. You can express yourself extremely carefully. You can be absolutely sure of your facts. You can get liability insurance.


The problem is usually more daunting at the beginning than at the end of writing a memoir.

What I and other memoirists often discover while working on draft after draft is that anger gradually softens through more insight and turns into something else. Like compassion.


With warm regards,


I spotted this cartoon -- a little yellowed and faded from being on my bulletin board -- in The New Yorker a year or so ago.  It expresses the fear that friends and family may feel when someone announces they're writing a memoir. Happily, my husband Robert was never worried.


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The Joy of Gardening

A view of the blossoming "Denuada" and "Leonard Messel" magnolias in my backyard.

      Now that another April has exploded in Connecticut--bursting blossoms and greening the landscape--I'm reminded again of the amazing power of nature.

      Rachel Carlson credited biophilia (loving nature) and hortophilia (tending nature) to health and healing.

      And Oliver Sachs discovered that nature had a restorative effect on the brains of his patients often "more powerful than any medication."

      When I moved to the country after a divorce and began to garden, it was so joyful and transformative that I eventually wrote Four Tenths of an Acre, a book that looks at life through the green glasses of a gardener.

      "Working the soil brings me back to my own nature, and I now understand that tending a garden is the same as taking care of myself," I wrote.

      "The rituals of gardening give a rhythm, even a rapture to living, apart from the routines of writing and the ebbs and flows of relationships."

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