“I am led to the proposition that there is no fiction or nonfiction as we commonly understand the distinction; there is only narrative.” — E. L. Doctorow

“The Persistence of Memory” Salvador Dali. Photo, Library Camille Cusumano

We are weavers of our destiny, reading our life as its plot, theme, and larger story unfolds before us. We might say, we are taking in the woof and warp of our life’s tapestry as it falls into place. Some of us are just more aware of the loom and the materials at hand.

“Tell the truth even if you have to make it up.” — Bazooka Joe

Whether you write fiction (short stories or novels) or creative non-fiction (essays, memoirs, magazine features), the same set of rules applies to the craft and art of good writing (where good =…

Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to Have Kids

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This 2015 collection, edited and with an introduction by Meghan Daum should be read by anyone on the fence regarding children. I’ve often wondered how much a woman’s decision to bear children is her own desire, how much is societal pressure — a sort of avoidance of the stigma (cultural shaming) for not contributing to the birthrate. The actual title, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed is an ironic shout back at media that has portrayed childless adults as such. After reading these sixteen writers, including three men (one gay), I feel in good company on my writerly path to no kids.

Ancient Indians, who gave us Ayurvedic medicine, recognized states of being, useful to every writer.

High, low, or in-between, the muse has a life of its own. Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Three states of being that every writer should recognize

If you practice yoga, a gift of Hindu culture, you may be aware of three qualities of energy, from which we draw strength. Even if you don’t, paying close attention to these three strands and how they affect your moods, physique, and desire to write or not, can help you enhance your highs, coast through the lows, and otherwise find your most productive center of being. Body chemistry is as vital as a mental outlook for writers.

Running through us and all of the natural worlds are three types of energy: rajas, the energy of passion and aggressiveness; tamas, the…

You are your writing, your writing is you. You only feel separate until you journey through the process.

We are one with the bull. Wikimedia Commons

The Ten Bulls or Ox-herding Pictures date back to about the 11th century in China, representing progress toward enlightenment, at a time when Buddhism was traveling from India, taking root in other parts of Asia. The childlike drawings serve as an allegory for moods, emotions, and shades of resistance that many writers experience.

1. Searching for the Ox — Sitting down on a Chair/Ox to find the Story. You & Story are separate. “Everything is shifting and unsteady.” Frisson of excitement and/or agitation.

2. Seeing the Traces Aha! Moments. You spill some ink, symbols on a blank page. Flashes…

“The Chihuly-like bouquets of coral might have been sculpted by an underwater glass-blower. They are under tons of lava now.”

Lemon tang. Photo by ZQ Lee on Unsplash

The Big Island, the largest and southeasternmost of the Hawaiian isles, is still birthing from its watery womb. It rises and falls in fiery fits and starts as the Pacific Plate tectonically shapes and shifts the entire chain. Kauai, the Garden Isle, farthest west, sits on an old, cold volcano, but the juvenile Big Island is point blank over the Hawaiian Hotspot.

In March 2012, I had the pleasure of visiting the Wai’Peo tide pools in Kepoho outside of the Big Island’s Hilo. The pools, known to a few, were gems filled with jewel-like, eye-popping visions. My friend, Bo, who…

Kristin Newman is a woman after my heart. In her memoir, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, she takes the globe by the balls. Literally.

Be a Nasty Woman. Photo by Mary Oloumi on Unsplash

It warms the cockles & valves of my heart to see a woman who takes the world by the balls. Who doesn’t sit around waiting for Mr. Right, but gets out, trots the globe, and understands that cultural immersion has many meanings and applications. In her 2014 memoir, Kristin Newman sets a new standard for women who don’t want to waste their lives submitting to conventions that, even with updated rules, have mostly been set by a dying patriarchy.

A man in every port is not what she sets out to have, but, speaking from parallel experience it’s what happens…

On an Olympic Peninsula trek, backpackers encounter a few land crossings.

The forest was a source of light glowing gold, green, luminous. Photo by Yux Xiang on Unsplash

As recent as the 1880s no one had traversed the Olympic Peninsula. Its interior was terra incognita and was fraught with mystery, legends of a sacred Indian valley, and perhaps a Sasquatch-like being. Some of those tales endure today and as in many wilderness areas, people still disappear.

The first explorers to penetrate the peninsula were a group of six men, the Press Expedition. They set out in winter 1889 aboard a steamer from Seattle to Port Angeles to their trailhead. They carried 1,500 pounds of supplies, 250 pounds…

There are six of us and we have four brothers, but they don’t share the dirt the way we do each summer at the Jersey Shore.

Our lips are sealed. What happens among sisters stays among sisters.

I don’t feel sorry for people who didn’t grow up as we did, in a big family in a small house, ten kids plus two parents. But I do feel sorry for anyone who didn’t survive the crowd with a bunch of sisters, six all told in our case.

No way in a short post can I describe what it’s been like or what they are like. While we have an inherent sameness—especially in looks, dark Italian features for the most part—we are all different in ways. Sometimes I call us a sister-pede (24 limbs).

Each summer for the past…

The oak, of all trees, is me.

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

Oaks rekindle my childhood fantasies to be deep inside books that came from pulp. A pine would never lurk in a Nancy Drew mystery or Edward Eager’s magical stories with misty forests where only an oak who has known the shadiest secrets would be at home.

When I see a twisted oak, I see the Celtic priest, the Druid, mistaken for an oak. I see the oak that watched the courtly love under its leathery boughs.

Back in New Jersey oaks spilled puddles of shadow on tarry streets in the ’hood. …

A vintage vision filled with art and nature in Tucson, Arizona

Metal flowers front a shiny Thunderbird setting the mood for the vintage feel inside the McCoy Hotel.

Nothing distracts the eye so pleasingly as vibrant colors and imaginative art. The 1960s candy-apple blue Thunderbird greeted my arrival at the artsy Hotel McCoy in Tucson, Arizona. Then came one friendly Amanda, shimmering and masked, to check me in at my car window in the arched entryway. Her magenta hair and golden-shadowed eyelids were offset by velvet-black liner and mascara, a perfect prelude to the lively murals and evocative art throughout this lucky find of a lodging where each room is a gallery.

“Retro meets contemporary,” boasts the McCoy, Tucson’s first art hotel. The plethora of art you see…

Camille Cusumano

Author(ity) in/on San Francisco. Novel, essay, memoir. Teaches tango. Travel, outdoors, culture. Former editor at VIA Mag.

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