Winter 2023

Photo by Sandy Brabeck

After a warm autumn, winter is here. Trees have shed their leaves and this scene, captured by my friend, Sandy, from her backyard in the Clearwater Beach section of East Hampton, shows the beauty of our lovely east end in late December.

My many trees, mostly oaks, overfilled my lawns and driveway again this year. They were raked and blown, twice, by the landscapers into the surrounding woods, where the birds and deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife benefit from them. I like that the fallen leaves remain nearby and serve a good purpose in nature.

I enjoyed a pleasant Christmas Day with relatives here on Long Island, in Center Moriches. Other relatives visited me a few days later, at my home in East Hampton. We ate lunch – an assembly of hero sandwiches from a local market named after our local beaches: Main Beach, Georgica, Indian Wells, Atlantic, and Maidstone. Plus salads and desserts and tea and coffee, of course. Then we exchanged gifts, the holiday ritual.

The Southampton Arts Center’s fall exhibit, “A Celebration of Trees” featured over 80 artists from 20 countries around the world and was, to quote from the Center, “an ecological multi-media art exhibition created to educate and expand thought and consciousness about the world’s vast network of trees – a critical resource to humanity’s survival.” On the night I attended the show, there was a poetry reading in memory of Anne Porter (1911-2011), widow of artist, Fairfield Porter. Mrs. Porter began publishing her poetry late in her life, into her 80s and 90s, and her work is impressive. I have her poetry collection, Living Things, and highly recommend it. See pages 130 – 140 for “The Shortest Days” through “Winter Twilight” for poems inspired by this season. Now, of course, I must quote the following:

“I think that I shall never see … A poem lovely as a tree…”

Joyce Kilmer

In mid-November I traveled to California for the second time this year to visit my son, Jeffrey, in Chico, north of Sacramento. It was a pleasant visit, with a drive to Paradise, known for its Camp Fire in 2018, and located near Chico. The town is making progress in its restoration, and it’s a pleasure to see this. On a lovely, clear day we took a drive to see the Sutter Buttes, located just outside Chico’s neighboring Yuba City: “Being a small volcanic outcropping in the middle of the otherwise flat valley, (the buttes) are certainly an anomaly along the landscape.” I took many photos and picked up small rocks as souvenirs.

As in my previous visit this year, in April, I saw my son perform, playing guitar and singing, at a local venue, then at a private party with his band. We also attended a street fair in Chico one night, and visited the art and framing gallery where Jeffrey’s large maps of Paradise and Chico are on display and for sale. Once back in Sacramento, I spent the afternoon with my author friends, Maria and Ted, and then had dinner with another writer friend, Mitch, before taking the Jet Blue non-stop, all-nighter back to New York.

“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”

Hilaire Belloc

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”

St. Augustine

On Saturday, October 15, I did an afternoon reading and signing of Three Rooms, Shared Bath: a Landlady in the Hamptons at the Amagansett Free Library. There was a good-sized audience, including a woman who ran her home as a B&B, as I did many years ago, and who had stories to tell. Another attendee, Karen, reminded me that she was my first tenant, once I converted to longer-term rentals in the three rooms. After more than 30 years, she and I remain close friends. She was one of the “good” tenants, obviously, unlike some of the “bad” ones who inspired my novel. I have future readings planned for my book this spring, plus interviews and a podcast.  My memoir, Only You, reissued by my publisher, Sunbury Press, in 2019, has been gaining attention too, which is very gratifying. I get many emails, plus messages on my website, praising this true story.

Our winter writing workshop will be held at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton on Wednesday afternoons, beginning January 11, from 3–5 p.m. and will run for six weeks. After a three-year hiatus, due to the Covid, we’ll be back “home” where I held classes for over ten years, and the workshop will again concentrate on memoir and personal essay writing. Call the library at 631-537-0015 for more information and to register.

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one thing you have to offer.”

Barbara Kingsolver

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)

On Sunday, January 8, Sheila Flynn DeCosse, of Sag Harbor and Manhattan, will be the guest of Author Talk at the East Hampton Library, as she reads from her novel for young readers, Rose Alone, published earlier this year. From the book jacket: “After the Great Exile of her entire Acadian community from Canada in 1755, half of Rose’s family and her boyfriend disappear. As part of their forced resettlement in colonial East Hampton, New York, the English government begins its work to turn Rose and her Acadian family into ‘proper English citizens’.”  This is a delightful book, for all ages, in my opinion. To register, call the library at 631-324-0222, ext. 3 or stop by the reference desk.

Tom Clavin’s latest book, The Last Hill: the Epic Story of a Ranger Battalion and the Battle That Defined WWII, co-authored with Bob Drury, was released on November 1. Tom recently promoted The Last Hill on a book tour around the country. See his website at for information on his many bestselling nonfiction books, written alone or with co-authors, on American and military history, sports, and entertainment.

My good friend and former MFA colleague, Janet Lee Berg, of Charleston, South Carolina, and formerly of Long Island, has just published her latest book, Boomer and Joey’s Charleston Adventure, co-authored by Karen Lee Collins. The plot: “At sunrise two dogs (named after Janet’s own pets) discover there will be a big surprise! But what can it be? And what will they learn at the end of the day? Come along on their journey over the Ravenel Bridge and help them find clues around Charleston town, on a wild chase at every corner, past rainbows, alligators, ghosts, and more – until they reach the big fountain and learn something about each other.”

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on.”

Hal Borland

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Have a happy and productive New Year, and please keep in touch.