With All the Madness in my Soul


springsteen1

I’ve mentioned to a few people that it’s worth subscribing to Netflix just to watch “Springsteen on Broadway,” his almost one-man-show that ran at the Walter Kerr Theatre from October 2017 until a couple of weeks ago. On the day it ended, December 15, Netflix picked it up. And either before or after you watch this program, read Michael Hainey’s article about Springsteen in Esquire magazine. Even if you think you know Springsteen.

As a songwriter, he’s on par with Bob Dylan. As a performer, I’m not sure there’s anyone better alive today. Springsteen’s fans will recount their attendance at his legendary concerts.

He’s 69 now (and before you catch your breath on that, remember, as I did, that we’re all older) and he stands before you, the longtime fan, the new fan, the casual observer, and talks about his life. About his hometown, Freehold, New Jersey, the place he couldn’t wait to leave. About his parents, especially his father, who viewed the quiet, sensitive boy as a sissy. About the father-son relationship (“he was my hero, and my greatest foe”). Spoiler alert: it turns out okay in the end, and it might should make you cry a little.

His first breakdown occurred when he was thirty-two, years after he’d already enjoyed tremendous success (six million copies of Born to Run sold in the U.S.). It was hard to explain. He says, “All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier . . . much heavier. With each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher. . . .”

As a society, we’re talking more about mental illness these days (thankfully), and Springsteen’s candor must be helpful. As Hainey writes, “Springsteen’s desire to share his demons, and to argue for the need he believes all of us have to confront our own—this is one of the show’s great powers. We ignore our demons, he says, at our peril. . . . This is the work of a man revealing his flaws so that he can inspire us to redeem ourselves.”

Hainey and Springsteen discuss pieces of lyrics (brilliant lyrics) that are so much a part of Springsteen (about the line ‘the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted,’ Springsteen says, “Everybody carries those things with them. It’s a line that always penetrates. It still penetrates for me when I sing it each night.”)

And finally, those two lines from “Born to Run,” – “Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness/I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul”

He was only 24 when he wrote those words, years before he had his first breakdown. And they’re possibly the most self-describing lyrics he’s ever written.

Go watch “Springsteen on Broadway.” And let me know what you think.

Five Questions for Hannah Colby


Today is the US release date for A Place of Springs, the sweeping epic novel from author Hannah Colby. Published by Unicorn Publishing Group in the UK, the novel is now available for American readers, and is highly recommended as a masterpiece of “love, loss, and the transcendent power of music.” I am so enjoying this novel – the writing is first-rate and you are transported into the lives of Daniel and Irena. I do highly recommend it.

A Place of Springs

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. I was born in Norwich (about 100 miles northeast of London) during World War II. My parents divorced and my brother and I were brought up in London by our mother.  She was an artist, and taught me to paint and draw, a little easel set up beside her own. At 17, I went to Paris, first to a traditional “finishing school,” then to study French Civilization at the Sorbonne.

I’ve written this novel under the pen name Colby – my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She was an American from Newton Center, Boston, who married a highlander from the Isle of Skye.

I married young, had four children, and continued to paint. My first husband and I set up a day center for young disabled adults, which I ran for seven years. My present husband and I lived in London and southwest France until we moved to Norwich. Six years ago I began to write the novel that has become A Place of Springs.

Q. What inspired you to write A Place of SpringsThe inspiration came from a lifetime of interests and experiences which seemed to demand expression. First, the horror and shame of the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995 and all the appalling violence of the Balkan Wars. Then, a legacy of my London school, where I studied the piano and viola, my joy of classical music.

The story began to take shape when I was attending a creative writing course. From a collection of photographs, I picked up one of a young girl playing the violin. Without knowing anything about her, I decided she was Irena from Sarajevo, and wrote a short story for my homework. I continued to write about Irena and Daniel for the next six years.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the book? A Place of Springs follows the fortunes and misfortunes of concert pianist Daniel Danuczek, from the time he goes to teach at the Sarajevo Conservatory the year before the siege of that city in 1992. He lodges with Adam and Finola Vidaković and their young daughter, Irena. The tranquil opening chapters end when Daniel must return to London and the peace that Sarajevo has known is shattered.

Having had no news of his friends, Daniel returns to war-torn Bosnia. He learns that Adam and Finola are dead and Irena has disappeared.  Finding her becomes an obsession as he comes and goes between London and Sarajevo. His quest ends abruptly on his hotel balcony when he is shot by a sniper.

Daniel’s injuries force him to re-evaluate his career and change much about his playing if he is to return to the concert platform. His sister and his agent play important parts in his painful and emotional recovery. The main part of the book is written in three voices: the narrator’s, Irena’s, and that of Sam, one of Daniel’s pupils. During this time, Irena’s aunt writes from New York, where she is caring for Irena, now very changed after two years of brutal and abusive captivity.

This is, of course, a love story, but it is played out against a background of several elements. Music is a constant theme, as are ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and friendship.

To me, this book is about acceptance, forgiveness, courage, and the artist’s dedication to his art. But above all, its subject is healing.

Q. What genres do you like to read? I mainly read art history, ‘pop’ science and psychology, nineteenth and twentieth century novels, modern poetry, cookery, and travel books.

Q. Do you have a “Top Ten” or “Top Five” book list? This is difficult, but here are some that spring to mind:

  • Middlemarch (George Eliot)
  • Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
  • Fortunes of War (Olivia Manning)
  • Alexandria Quartet (Laurence Durrell)
  • Short Stories (Katherine Mansfield)
  • My Mother’s House (Colette)
  • The Pursuit of Love (Nancy Mitford)
  • A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)
  • The Glass Room (Simon Mawer)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)
  • Flaubert’s Parrot (Julian Barnes)
  • The Color Purple (Alice Walker)  [note: my favorite!!]
  • The Jews (Roger Peyrefitte)
  • Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)
  • Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

You can purchase a copy of A Place of Springs here

Woman of Heart and Mind


If the title of this blog post sounds familiar to you, then you, too, are a Joni Mitchell fan. I’ve been reading David Yaffe’s biography  of my favorite female singer/songwriter (Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell) and so often I’ve interrupted my reading to listen to one of her songs.

for the roses

The very first album (yes, I’m old, and albums were wonderful) I ever bought was For the Roses, Joni’s fifth studio album. I was 14 years old. For those of you who know me, and thought my first album purchase would be something by James Taylor, Mud Slide Slim was my second purchase. Those two sufficed for a long time. While I could stare at the cover of Mud Slide for hours, it was Joni’s lyrics that really resonated with me and my teenage angst.

mud slide

joni and james

I started collecting Joni’s earlier records, and reveled in “Cactus Tree” (‘she’s so busy being free’), “Michael from Mountains” (‘there’s oil in the puddles in taffeta patterns’), and “Carey” (‘maybe I’ll go to Amsterdam, maybe I’ll go to Rome’). By the time I was in college, I listened to her constantly, finding meaning in exquisitely-crafted lyrics. As a painter first, Joni crafted lyrics the way a painter creates art. In 1978, I was in Vienna with my friend Peter on Christmas Eve, and I think both of us were missing home separately. I wrote the entire lyrics to “California” on the bathroom wall of our hostel room. I apologize for the vandalism. I’d not yet traveled to California, but the words to this song felt right for that year abroad:

"Sitting in a park in Paris, France, reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance, that was just a dream some of us had...

...Oh, it gets so lonely, when you're walking
and the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues...

Joni’s nearly 75 now, and after a brain aneurysm in 2015, she’s been reclusive. However, she did attend a James Taylor concert last month at the Hollywood Bowl. You Tube has many of her recordings, concerts, and interviews. And it’s comforting to know that her songs are timeless – from the folks songs of the Sixties to her jazz efforts in the late Seventies and forward*, this self-described “painter derailed by circumstance” has created works of art with her lyrics and melodies. I can’t possibly pick a favorite song, but one of the best, in my opinion, in this one (written about the baby girl she gave up for adoption – mother and daughter reunited years ago):

*By the way, I don’t mean to discount any of Joni’s brilliance post-Court and Spark. I marvel at her talent and can lose myself in her later recordings. But the earlier lyrics spoke volumes to me in my youth.

It’s #RIAuthor Month – Meet Rick Marchetti


Marchetti cabin in the woodsMarchetti Dark glassesMarchetti IrisMarchetti murder in the valleyMarchetti the riverMarchetti the station

Memphis Blues pitcher Del Fontenot is nearing the end of a brilliant career and this, his 20th Major League season, is shaping up to be a fitting finale for the tall righty; he’s in the Top 5 among National League pitchers in several categories, including wins, strikeouts, and earned run average.  He’s also enjoying the largesse of Memphis’ opponents; each team is giving him a hero’s sendoff during the Blues’ final visit of the season.  Everything is proceeding according to plan.  And while Fontenot enjoys a much-deserved sendoff, veteran detective Dan McNulty is trying to discover who murdered a young woman named Precious Blake in Ohio.  Because she was a drug user and part-time prostitute, her grieving mother feels as if the Harding, Ohio police have taken a hands-off approach to the case.  But, once McNulty begins to look into the murder, he discovers that the reason for the department’s alleged lack of interest may point to something different altogether.  Is it possible the killer is someone famous and the police are acting under orders to keep everything under wraps?

McNulty, who has proven popular with readers since he first appeared in the novel The River, sets his sights on discovering the truth behind Precious Blake’s murder.  Along the way, he’ll discover that the reason the case hasn’t been solved just might be due to a cover-up rather than a lack of interest regarding the victim.  Once McNulty realizes the case may be linked to a number of unsolved murders all across the country, all bets are off.  Who murdered Precious Blake?

Rick Marchetti

Rick Marchetti is a lifelong Rhode Islander who began writing in high school.  After a few unfinished short stories, he turned to songwriting and to date has penned over 500 songs.  His CD, Matters of the Heart, contains 16 of his tunes.  Several years ago, he came across an unfinished story in a trunk in his attic.  Reading it, he decided to try and complete it.  That story, Dark Glasses, became the cornerstone of his first book release, the short story collection Dark Glasses and Other Tales. His next project was a novel, The River. One of the minor characters, Detective Dan McNulty, caught the attention of readers, many of whom urged Rick to feature him in another story. In Rick’s next novel, Iris, McNulty was one of 4 major characters and, once again, readers clamored for more.  This led to the first “Dan McNulty Mystery,” titled Murder in the Valley.

To date, Rick has released 9 books: 4 novels, 3 short story collections, and 2 “just-for-fun” titles attributed to alter-ego Uncle Ricky and his pet peeves.  Currently, besides Superstar, which is slated to be released in conjunction with Opening Day of the 2018 baseball season, Rick is also working on several new short stories for an as-yet-untitled collection.  Visit him at his website  and find him on Facebook  and on Twitter.

“Finish each day and be done with it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
GIVEAWAY! Rick is offering one lucky winner the choice of any one of his novels or short story collections in print. Just leave a comment on this blog post. The winner will be chosen at random one week after publication and Rick will coordinate delivery with you. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

expo-flyer-2017-791x1024

It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Karen Petit


drkarenpetit.com 4novels
Self-competition and Other Methods of Finding Time to Write

Dr. Karen Petit is the author of four novels: Banking on Dreams, Mayflower Dreams, Roger Williams in an Elevator, and Unhidden Pilgrims. However, just like everyone else in our world, Petit sometimes has to be creative about finding time to write. She has been using scheduling, word-count analysis, deadlines, multi-tasking, and self-competition to help herself to write in a timely fashion.

To write Banking on Dreams, Petit used two techniques to find enough time: scheduling and word-count analysis. Her scheduling was done by planning on–and sticking to–specific time frames for her writing. She also began to write down the dates, times, and word counts of her manuscript. Whenever she did some writing after not writing for a few days, her writing speed was between 100 and 250 words per hour. If Petit wrote on the next day, her writing was just slightly faster. Her writing was always much faster on the third day. Even if day one and day two had only included an hour or two of writing, her third day would always be at least 250 words per hour and usually between 300 and 400 words per hour.

For Mayflower Dreams, Petit checked with the company that had published her first novel to see if there was an interest in publishing her second novel. On the day before Thanksgiving, an email from the company’s president responded with “Absolutely! Where is it?” Since Petit’s manuscript was only half finished, she decided to multi-task: she scheduled her writing on each day to begin while she was eating supper and to continue for as long as possible. On Thanksgiving, she actually started her scheduled multi-tasking by beginning to write the chapter titled “A Time of Thanksgiving.” She then spent every day for the next two months with her scheduled multi-tasking. Petit also began to use self-competition. While writing, she would write down a word count for every hour on each day. She was very happy whenever she won her self-competition with a higher word count than her previous ones. She also was very thankful for already having a publisher and a deadline for submitting her completed manuscript.

For Roger Williams in an Elevator, Petit again had a contract with the same publisher, so her writing included the use of a deadline, multi-tasking, self-competition,and varied scheduling techniques. Whenever she could spend at least three hours writing and was able to average over 400 words per hour, she felt very happy and successful. Not only did she love competing with herself, but she also liked the freedom to compete with herself. She tried such innovative techniques as checking her writing speed while listening to music, while not listening to music, while eating supper, while eating chocolate, and while not eating any food.

Petit’s writing speed for Unhidden Pilgrims actually went up to over 550 words per hour on several of her writing days. Having a publisher’s deadline also helped her to stick to her schedule of activities, including not just writing but also taking photos and editing. Self-competition and multi-tasking were again important parts of Petit’s process for writing this novel. Unhidden Pilgrims was then unhidden and submitted to her publisher in January 2017, just seven months after she had begun writing it.

Dr. Petit’s four novels all include historic elements, dream/reality connections, Christian content, and methods of dealing with such problems as anxiety, nightmares, separation, and violence. More information about this author, her novels, and her blogs is available at www.drkarenpetit.com.

KarenPetitCover1

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering a print copy of Roger Williams in an Elevator to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment below. The winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after blog post publication. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors ExpoThe Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

expo-flyer-2017-791x1024

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Three


I should have titled this series “The Year to Living Minimally.” (Can you tell I’m doing revisions on my seventh novel?!)

Last week I cleaned out some drawers. This week I cleaned out some more. Don’t worry, though, I have plenty more!


Utensil drawer and gadget drawer. What I tossed out from the top left photo is not really visible, but there were packets of salt, pepper, soy sauce, ketchup, etc. all in the back. Old. Ugh.

I used to love collecting kitchen gadgets. Some things I never even used – vegetable curlers and brown sugar softeners. A cheap little microplane and a spreader with a chipped handle. I’m keeping the Pampered Chef turkey lifters, even if I only cook one turkey a year. 😉


I hate these drawers! Truly the junk drawers, filled with screws and tape and batteries and tools. They’re really my husband’s domain, but I fixed them up, and put a pile of operating manuals (for small appliances we no longer possess) into the recycle bin.

This next one was more emotional…



I donated my piano last year, and was happy to see it find a new home. It wasn’t the piano I’d grown up with, so I didn’t have an attachment to the instrument. And I hadn’t played in a very long time. But I still have an antique sheet music cabinet (my mom was so happy when she found it for me!), and it was filled with music. Look at the close-up at the bottom left of this collage – my sister and I took weekly piano lessons from Mrs. Bowser, and in April 1969 (I was 10), she rewarded us with the musical score to Oliver!


My sheet music collection includes pop favorites from my high school years, hardcover, spiral-bound books (Great Songs of the Sixties, Big Bands, Timeless Classics), as well as all the classical music I practiced so hard to get right. “Rhapsody in Blue” – I never mastered it. Now I’ll listen to it on CD or through my iPod or Pandora, and I’ll enjoy it.

My friend Lila is accepting the sheet music. She’s the Music Director at Providence College, so I’m glad it’s going somewhere good. There is one book of music I can’t part with, though.


I mean, I tattooed my name on his chest! 🎶💙🎶

Sunday Bonus!


birthday_boy_dark_blue_square_sticker_3_x_3

As you know, there are no A to Z posts on Sunday. But I’m on a roll – and I do hope you’ve been enjoying the posts so far. Tomorrow, Monday, we’ll be back with ‘H,’ and yes, it’s a good one (although the ‘F’ post, with Jerry Orbach and Elaine Stritch, has to be my favorite). However, like a mother with her children, they’re all my favorites!

Today is a special day – not only is it Palm Sunday for Christians, it’s my husband’s birthday. And it’s one of those milestone birthdays. If you know me, you can probably figure it out. If you don’t know me well enough, the internet can probably tell you. So as a gift to my Jim today, and as a special gift to all of you, I offer a special presentation by BBC Proms – weren’t they so good last week with “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly!? Here they are, celebrating Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday in 2010 with “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George. Such a beautiful song. Enjoy!