December 2018

Another year has come and gone. I celebrated Christmas Day with my family as I always do – a brother and his wife, another sister-in-law, many nieces and nephews and their children, ages one to twenty-seven – here on Long Island. My son, Jeffrey, stayed at home in California. I had been working on a project for several months that I wanted to finish in time for the holiday. About twelve years ago I researched and assembled a family tree, an MFA assignment from a professor/memoirist at Stony Brook Southampton– and had an artist friend bring it to life. It was now time for an update, relatives said. So that’s what I did. I added new members of the family, and my cousins’ children, who were not on the original. Names, not photos, fill the tree, unlike the image shown above. Luckily, the artist/ calligrapher, Elizabeth DiFebo, was available to do the art work once again, and the resulting tree was ready as a family gift at Christmas.

In early December I attended my cousin, Jim Gallagher’s funeral in Florida. He was the oldest of five cousins who grew up with me in the same two-family household in Glendale, Queens. His two younger brothers predeceased him, as did one of my brothers. Jim’s children were there, as were the children of other cousins. My two younger brothers were there, and our two female cousins; we five remaining cousins spent a day and a half together reminiscing, and filling in blanks for each other in our memories of events and of people in our past.

“Family – like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots remain the same.”


“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”

George Bernard Shaw

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions. For me that means more writing and marketing my work, more reading, travel, exercise and healthy food – probably the same resolutions as last year. My memoir, Only You, will be republished as a second edition. The publisher of Oak Tree Press died in September, unfortunately, and the company dissolved. All authors took their rights back and, like me, have turned to other publishing houses, or to self-publishing, to keep their books alive and out there. I’ll share more details about the “new” Only You in the spring newsletter.

I have two memoirs-in-progress to be completed. Resolution #1: finish at least one of these in 2019. Parts of each have been published, but now it’s time to finish the work. Did I mention I’m the oldest surviving cousin in my family?

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

Brad Paisley

Our winter memoir writing workshop will begin on Tuesday, February 4, from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, and will run for six weeks, ending on March 12. The fee is $75, and you can call the library at 631-537-0015 to register.

“It’s my experience that very few writers, young or old, are really seeking advice when they give out their work to be read. They want support; they want someone to say, ‘Good job’.”

John Irving

In October Sarah De Havenon-Fowler, of Amagansett, who took my writing workshop classes some years ago, died. She had suffered from brain cancer. Sarah, a charming, attractive, talented woman, was 58 years old. Her obituary appeared in The East Hampton Star and can be read online.

Scott Thomson, of Bohemia, published an article in Newsday on December 23. It’s published under Love Story and the headline reads, “He was dazzled by love when he first saw her.” This was in 10th grade at Connetquot High School in September 1984.

Two girls in homecoming said that their good friend, also a student, “thought I was cute and wanted to meet me that Friday at the school’s homecoming bonfire.” When they met, “she was so beautiful! I couldn’t stop staring . . . then, as if reading each other’s minds, we both said, ‘Finally,’ at the same time.” Scott and Cheryl’s 1993 wedding photo and a recent one, for their 25th anniversary, is included. See this on Newsday’s website.

Jerry Giammatteo, of Sayville, continues his monthly Good Old Days column in Great South Bay Magazine. “In October, I had published an essay called ‘There Used to Be a Ballpark, Right here (With Apologies to Frank Sinatra),’ which is a retrospective of my love for the dearly departed Shea Stadium, ten years after its closing. In November it was ‘The Echoes of Turkey Days Past’ about past Thanksgivings and the cast of characters in my family. . . In December I wrote ‘Traditions Nurtured’ about my son Chris and his love for trains, and how it relates to Christmas.” Jerry’s been writing short stories as well, and one of his goals for the coming year is to market them and see them get published.

Joanne Pateman, of Southampton, the Reflections columnist for The East Hampton Press wrote, in November, about private museums like the Morgan Library, the Frick and Cooper Hewitt, in Manhattan, and others such as the former Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton that architect Peter Marino bought to house his own art collection. “Like the Frick,” Marino said, (which is the title of the column). Other private museums, including the Neue Galerie, Joanne’s favorite, “provide a public good,” she feels. “(With) private museums, the world gets access to collections of art we wouldn’t have otherwise.” I also enjoyed, among many other columns, “Ghosts of Sissinghurst,” about her trip to Vita Sackville-West’s castle, her study, and her gardens, in England.

Elaine Marinoff, my good friend and fellow writer who died in May of this year, and who I wrote about in my summer newsletter, left behind her book, Treasures: the Memoir of an Artist. Her son is about to sign a contract with a press, and the book may be published by late spring. Her cat, Krissy, who I inherited after Elaine’s death, and who has been with me now for over seven months, is proving to be a good companion. It’s nice to have a being to talk to while writing, reading and talking to yourself. Even better than a human being, since he/she talks back and interrupts your thinking.

“What no wife (husband) of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.”

Burton Rascoe

Books on my table include The White Album by Joan Didion (1979) that I’m rereading, and Valley Forge by Tom Clavin and Bob Drury. Before Christmas I finished Read and Gone by Allison Brook (aka Marilyn Levinson, my friend and cozy mystery writer). It was a perfect, enjoyable book to curl with this month. It’s set in a library, in December, with a resident ghost and a cat. I’m looking forward to Dani Shapiro’s latest memoir, Inheritance, which will be released in January.

“All my life I’ve felt that there was something magical about people (writers) who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves.”

Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

Have a happy and productive new year, and please keep in touch.