People think that all you need to do to be a writer is put pen to paper. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t question that idea, though I should have. As a former software developer, I knew you needed more than just a keyboard to write code. Looking back at 15 years of writing, I see how far I’ve come in my understanding of what makes a writer.
In the beginning, I was a bright-eyed apprentice taking any and all advice and learning what worked for me in the process. I started with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and The AP Stylebook, titles recommended by the faculty at The University of Washington Extension’s Certificate in Nonfiction Writing, which I completed in 2006. I thought, if I can get my English to sparkle, then I’m a writer.
I live in Trump’s America, and lies are the air we breathe here. I mean, the literal air in Seattle is literally not good for breathing because of wildfire smoke, but this is not what my post is about. This is about the last six months—no, it’s not about COVID-19 either—but about the novel I researched and outlined, and I was ready to start writing this week (because I still need to do something while the world crumbles around me and the kids are in remote schooling).
A few weeks ago, I got into an email back-and-forth about racism with a male acquaintance who lives in Romania—I’ll call him Alex. We were in the middle of an otherwise pleasant conversation when he quoted the following saying, “You give a Gypsy a finger, and he takes the whole hand.”
It was one of those moments when you see something and you
think, should I say something?
You don’t need to be an immigrant or a minority to know what it feels like to be rejected by a desirable group, or any group for that matter, even a group that didn’t seem to exist until you walked up to it and the circle closed to exclude you. You just need to remember high school, or that sickening feeling you had walking down the street after a breakup and looking at all those couples holding hands as if they were touched by divine grace and you by plague. I do have this feeling of not belonging now and then, but I didn’t think I was going to revisit it when I picked up The Princeby Niccolo Machiavelli. Continue reading →
I moved to the United States from Romania in 2001, and it took a family tragedy for me to understand that I cannot straddle the world and have two homes half a planet apart. Now that I’ve learned the limitations of living in the real world, where the laws of physics apply no matter what we dream of or how hard we pray, there’s this feeling of anticlimax to being uprooted. Maybe my roots are now deeper into this American soil than they were out of the Romanian one sixteen years ago. Or not. Continue reading →
“What’s war like?” I asked my grandfather once, when I was in middle school.
A long time ago, my grandfather, Dumitru Morgovan…
He was sitting on the sofa in his living room, rich Persian rug on the floor, dark wood furniture about him—a safe storytelling setting. He had a mellow Transylvanian accent and not a tooth left in his mouth. I don’t remember how he started to tell me about his four years on the battlefields of World War II, but I remember how animated he became when he described how his friend’s head was cut off by shrapnel and how it rolled on the ground with its tongue flicking in an out, collecting dirt. My grandfather mimicked the scene, his tongue flicking in and out of his toothless mouth, and then he stopped and didn’t speak for a long time. He just stared at the red-hued Persian rug at his feet. Continue reading →
Years ago, while studying for my US citizenship exam, I paused over the words “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Because I grew up in Europe during the time of popular uprisings against communist regimes, I was used to words such as freedom and justice and equality in revolutionary speech, so the pursuit of happiness sounded like it didn’t belong in a declaration of independence from tyranny and oppression.
The Declaration of Independence (1776) – Wikipedia
It wasn’t the first time I wondered how had those Founding Fathers been so enlightened to consider the mental health of their people at a time of war and disease and superstition. Today we have counselors and self-help and wellness support groups, but they didn’t, back in 1776, yet Jefferson thought it was important to put those fine words in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading →
When my friend Cristina speaks, I listen. Cristina is both a scientist and an artist, and throughout the years she guided me in learning about the world of science and the world of art. Years ago, she explained to me how the Inca irrigated their terraces in Machu Picchu and Tipon, and later she exposed me to the forgotten artisanal Romanian culture. A few months ago she told me about her experience in Greece, where she stood inside the ruins of Mycene (second millennium BCE) and felt the air and the ground vibrate with sound. Cristina knew she was experiencing pressure waves vibrating in the air around her and inside her body, but still, the experience was eerie.