Introducing myself

Thank you so much for visiting this website.

Here's a personal note, a sort of "who I am and how I ended up where, in various senses, I find myself" piece. It may—indeed should, as it's called "blog"—be the first of several conversations I'll have with whoever might happen to drop in. But, knowing myself as I ought to by now, I make no promises.

And so:  I was born in England, and I was lucky to grow up with nursery rhymes, songs, and books. Reading was my great pleasure.  A Wrinkle in Time, The Little Prince, the Narnia books, the stories of E. Nesbit, The Eagle of the Ninth and all Rosemary Sutcliff's books, A Dog so Small and others by Philippa Pearcethe work of Leon Garfield,  Alan Garner….others who once were bookish children will have many of the same favourites.

As a child I wrote poems. In my teens I joined a young people's arts centre, a formative experience where the love of language was encouraged and nurtured, and we could read and discuss poetry. I will always be grateful to the centre's director, the late Elizabeth Webster.

Going to university, living in Italy, teaching English, getting married, starting a family, moving to America, teaching English some more….in the business of life, writing sank away into the background. I rediscovered it in my early thirties. At home full-time, with two, and then three, children, I began snatching moments to write: essays first, and then I returned to poetry.

It wasn't only because of the demands of living that I had let writing slip away. It was also because I knew I could never hope to emulate the writers I admired. But now I came to recognise the truth of what Jean Rhys said to David Plante, as he records in Difficult Women, though I think I first saw it quoted by Madeleine L'Engle in Walking on Water: 

"All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. And there are trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake."

Since then, I have published poetry, essays, creative non-fiction. And I've written journalism about the arts, and about local history. I also enjoy teaching and have led writing workshops in schools, community colleges, and at writing conferences. I like giving talks, too. On one challenging occasion, I was asked to talk about poetry to a group of business people during a networking breakfast at 7:30 in the morning. It seems they liked it. 

I am very excited about the forthcoming appearance of my novel. Inscription will be published this year by Sowilo Press and will be available in the US, UK, and elsewhere. I will be keeping you updated here and on the Home and Books pages.

What a strange journey it was, being immersed in a book-length project for so long (longer than I care to admit to). Especially a project that took me into another time and place, or places—ancient Britain and ancient Italy, two thousand years ago.

The book isn't a "historical novel," though. It's a novel with a historical strand. It is told in  the voices of two women, one living and writing in the first century AD, the other in our own time (or almost; the end of the twentieth century). Their stories interweave across two thousand years.

I've also co-written, with Harriet Dronska-Feitelberg, the memoir of her experience as a hidden child in World War II. My Father's Promise: a hidden child survives the Holocaust is an extraordinary story. Almost all the Jews of her city were killed. Thanks to her father, to a Catholic neighbour, to her own chutzpah, and to luck or providence, she survived this traumatic time disguised as a Catholic child, living under an assumed name. Exposure meant death.

Today she is in her eighties, like the others who are left of her generation. She has found it painful to think about her past, far less to tell her story, until now. But at last she has been able to remember. These stories must be told before it is too late. I've been honoured that she entrusted me with hers.

After twenty-seven years in the States, and three in France, I am now spending more time in my native England.
I keep on trying to feed the lake. There is always so much more to know and to discover about working with and celebrating language, in all its mystery. 

Some tutelary spirits, in no particular order:  
W.G. Sebald, Vladimir Nabokov, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Paul Metcalf, Denise Levertov, Virginia Woolf, e e cummings, George Herbert, Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas, Jean Rhys, R.S. Thomas, Madeleine L'Engle, Penelope Fitzgerald, David Markson, Charlotte Mew…. .

Some living writers whose work I love—an ever-changing and incomplete list:
David Malouf, Julian Barnes, Geoff Dyer, Colm Toibín, Kazuo Ishiguro, Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Richard Wilbur, Derek Walcott, Jeanette Winterson, A.S. Byatt, Linda Pastan, Frederick Buechner, Marilynne Robinson, Annie Dillard…...

That's enough for now. More soon.