The Beginning

From the Keyboard

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 4.06.24 PM Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

What is the story I want to tell?

How do I start?

There’s the town, the shop, the house, the pianos, and letters…

…and the man, my God, the man….


I didn’t come from here. My mother and I left the Hungarian city where I was born in July of 1938.

My mother died in 1965, yet I still see her in my kitchen salting stocks, and kneading dough.

No one bakes in the suburban cul-de-sac where I live. I suspect few know how.

They buy their breads and cakes in quaint Midwestern bakeries and markets, and bring hot meals home in plastic containers, or bags, or cardboard boxes.

But I am a creature of old habits, and fill my home with the scents of my mother’s soups and rolls.

She was a conjuror, my mother, giving life to everything she touched. reading past…

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Back in the Writing Groove

Michael Seidel, writer

Ah, sweet comfort. I’m back in the writing groove again.

Thinking about it as I made coffee this morning, I recognized how fiction writing every day helps me be more mindful. To understand characters’ motivation and behavior, I look to myself and other people that I know. I think about what I’ve done and what drives me, along with my inherent contradictions, and search for understanding of what I do, and why. And I do the same with other people, and the characters that I encounter in novels, short stories, movies, and television shows. All that is so that I can create richer characters and tell better stories.

Going through that thinking exercise as the darkness swept through me this week, I saw how my daily writing provides me structure and goals. Those structures and goals give my life meaning. So when I flail through the darkness and don’t want…

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I Can’t Write My Story Because I’m Not A Writer

Eva Lesko Natiello

typewriter medium photo by Anton Vakulenko

Someone said this to me the other night at an event I attended for people who have consulting businesses. This guy is a consultant with a compelling personal story, and he’s been told numerous times that he should write a memoir.

Earlier in the evening, I told a group of people my own professional journey from one career as an executive in the cosmetics industry to a novelist and consultant and I noticed his rapt attention. I told them that when I wrote my first novel, I wasn’t a writer. And that I wasn’t even sure what I wrote was a novel. It was that statement that resonated with this guy.

“I can’t write my story because I’m not a writer,” he later said to me.

What is it about us writers? We need permission. We need somebody with writerly authority to tap the sword on…

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In Honor of…

nbsmithblog...random digressions and musings

Memorial Day, several haiku and a poem commemorating young men and women serving in the military through the years.

ruptured duck…
listening to dad’s stories
of Indo-China


Memorial Day…
the silence
of white stones


last deployment
yellow ribbon replaced
with black wreath


the few, the proud, the Marine
fledglings off to war


One Hand

What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Or can it wash itself,
or tie a shoe?

For me, it is but temporary, a mere blip.

But what about those whose loss is more permanent?
Those who have lost an arm? A leg? More?
And the unseen wounds of war? The PTSD?
for twenty and thirty year old kids,
The time away from family
in deployment after deployment
The experiences of the battlefield,
friends and foes alike lying in their own blood,
with their own losses.

“They volunteered,” the old white…

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Superhero Mom

nbsmithblog...random digressions and musings

I suspect every mother has at least one superpower. What that superpower for any particular mother is anyone’s guess. Further, there may even be a superhero suit lurking underneath the regular workaday clothes.

It is only in retrospect that I believe I have identified one of the superpowers my mom possessed. It wasn’t invisibility; it wasn’t being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound; and she could only fly with the help of an airplane.

It was (drum roll, please) Kleenex. Mom always had, at the ready, Kleenex, Puffs, or other tissues. Whether it was a box of tissues in my parents’ bedroom, the bathrooms, or other rooms in the house or a slightly wrinkled, but clean one she produced at a moment’s notice from her purse*, there was always Kleenex readily available. She always had pocket packs of tissues for my sisters and me if we needed…

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Nobody is coming to fix your town…


waiting-for-godot-bw-920Waiting for Godot…or some unicorn developer…

How many times have you seen local elected officials recruiting a large scale developer from out of town to come and build some sort of catalytic project to help spur redevelopment?  These kinds of recruiting efforts typically involve some free or deeply discounted land, a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) deal, construction of off-site infrastructure, structured parking, and maybe some direct investment in the developer’s project.  Does this ever work?  By necessity, the scale of these projects and the  expectations that come with them are really large.  Think about it.  The Unicorn Developer From Out of Town will probably have to travel past 4 or 5 perfectly good opportunities in markets they already understand to get to your town (where they don’t know a single plumber, banker, or building inspector).

Are you pinning the hopes of your community’s future upon somebody that is not coming? …

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From Darkness to Light

In Transition

Only when your step becomes lighter,

and the sun shines brighter,

do you realize ~

how heavy a load

you’ve been carrying

over the rough, uneven stones,

stumbling through the darkness,

wishing for a light.


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Friends come in many shapes and sizes. I’ve found that it’s not their shapes and sizes that makes a friends, but the size of their hearts.

As with anything in Life, there is a certain chemistry that steers a person to another. There is that same interest in a hobby or an activity that captures the attention—similar tastes in foods, a certain adventurous spirit, an attraction to the same kinds of music or art and so much more. But, there are also differences that attracts as well and this becomes a learning experience for both.

There are different kinds of friends.

There are Casual Friends—these are people who pop into our lives briefly, but are likeable and personable. I include among them  the produce person, the baker and my favourite cashier at the supermarket; the friendly barista at the frequented coffee-bar or the wait-person at the bistro who knows your…

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Little House in the Desert

El Malpais

Dawn in the desert is a colorful thing.
It’s something to see and remember.
You feel the night chill as the muted twilight
changes to color — the sky first then the far mountains
and then the desert floor.


On this day, just a day in July, the twilight flashed
with the light of many suns. Witnesses: Ben was filming
in a bunker just six miles out. Nestor was starting his car
eighty miles away. Oppenheimer was at his
post twenty miles out…maybe a safe enough distance.


Fermi watched and took bets that maybe the very
sky would ignite.  Anyway, who would collect if it did?
Birds were stirring. Maybe a coyote or a roadrunner
saw it first. Men in bunkers looked away.  The angry sun
rose from the sand and sage – a death star.


Old McDonald had a ranch. A small place,
fifty years old. Pioneers once lived here.

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