Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil

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The Writer’s View & Everyone Else: Two Sides To A Story


When I was at the AWP conference last week, I attended a panel entitled “The Ethics of the Artist: Writing About Family in Essay and Memoir. The panel of authors comprised of top authors of memoir: Alice Eve Cohen, Julie Metz, Aspen Matis, and Honor Moore, moderated by Laura Cronk of The New School.

Alice Eve Cohen, author of “What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir”  answered a question posed to the entire panel by Ms. Cronk.  The question was – who do family members of a memoir deal with being part of an experience reiterated through the filter and subjective view of the author. What about their side of the story? How about what they perceived? Ms. Cohen said this (and I’m paraphrasing):

“You know, my husband and daughter (who are very much part of this memoir) told me before coming here that they were going to set up a panel of family members featured in best selling memoirs over on the other side of the convention center hallway at the same time I’m scheduled on this panel and call it “The Family of the Best Selling Memoirists: Our Side of the Story”.

Perception. If a story you write belongs to you, then what does it mean for the people who are part of your story?  What was their concept of the experiences at hand?  Would the story be a drastically different one if they told it?

There are two sides to the coin of personal auto-biographical storytelling. There’s your side, the one of the writer telling the succession of events either through linear or non-linear telling, and the view of those on the other side.

When I think of this two way concept of literature or memorization, I often think of the 1986 New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox  World Series outcome.

mets 86 win ws

As a Mets fan, the 1986 post season was a miraculous roller coaster ride of deadly lows and euphoric highs. They overcame losses with luck and good timing to win improbably time and again. When you thought they were done. They weren’t. Especially during the World Series when in game six that ball drifted between Bruckner’s legs and Mookie Wilson helped propel the Mets to a win. They went on to game 7 and took the whole thing.

As a Boston Reds Sox fan, 1986 was just another historical disappointment in a long time history of no championship wins. For them, our celebration was their classic and profound loss, another kick in the gut. The video would play out again and again in Red Sox history as a moment of lost opportunity, a low, disgusting point, a potential win that was so heartlessly and devastatingly taken away from them – again. It was cruel.


While we celebrated for thirty years, Red Sox fans mourned until 2004 when they finally won the World Series. While we were on the right side of history, with photos of the celebration hanging on the walls of Shea and Citifield, Sox fans wrestled with the torturous pain and vast disappointment. While replays of that moment were and are played on the Diamondvision in Flushing, Red Sox fans had to re-live the loss in their minds while family members who never lived to see the Sox win a World Series, passed away.

I was on the right side of history. My Red Sox fan friends were on the wrong side. We each came away with two different tellings of that World Series, two different feelings, two different views of what that one story and outcome of events meant to us.

In 2004, I paid it back and rooted for the Red Sox to win the whole thing. And they did with a repeat in 2007, while my Mets sank into mediocrity and a longer off season vacation.

Two sides of a story produced two different stories.

The one thing that was discussed by the authors at AWP was how to deal with the reaction of those who are part of the story and have their side to tell. Some family members in their book were horrified or indifferent to the publishing of these books. One family member wrote a book to David Remnick of ‘The New Yorker’ pleading with him to not publish an excerpt from her book “The Bishop’s Daughter”, to which Remnick went ahead and published it anyway. Honor is estranged from that brother, along with other siblings who took offense to her telling the story of their father.

It was mentioned strongly, that as long as you write your truth and represent those in your history with compassion – not hate, you will honor their side with grace, especially if you’ve brought the other members of the story in on what you’re writing. Let them have their say, but stay strong in your veracity. They are free to write their side any time. In fact, what an interesting thing for readers to read: Two sides of a story!

Always be brave in telling your story. Even though there are two sides to every one of them, it’s our right to show our fairness and our strength in the telling.

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Baseball’s Cosmic Telephone

Screenshot 2015-09-25 22.45.31Dear Dad,

How’s the afterlife? Are you around seeing this? The Mets are about to clinch the NL East for the first time in nine years. We’re not sure exactly when, but their magic number is one. You heard me. It’s not a tragic number this year. It’s magic. Just wanted know if you’re watching.

Yes, they still make some bone headed moves, and sometimes their bats stall like an old van on the parkway – but their pitching is phenomenal. This kid, Noah Syndergaard just pitched a gem into the 8th inning. 100 pitches. He struck out 14 guys and pitched a shut out until he gave up a homerun.  And…you guessed it. The bullpen came in and started giving away  hits to Cincinnati like it was Christmas. Up until then, the Reds were losing 0-12 against our guys. But bring in the relievers and it was like seeing Santa and his reindeer in the sky.

This is when you used to see me leave the room and say, “Screw it…even with a 12 run lead, they’re gonna blow it.”  And you’d laugh and say, “Man, you are a true Mets fan.  Come back here!”

I wouldn’t come back until I heard you clap and say “They won!”

Well, I’m not doing that anymore. This team still makes me wobbly, but they give me reason to stick around. There’s the offense: There’s a healthy David Wright coming in clutch. Daniel Murphy is hitting doubles, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda and Yoenis Cespedes coming through again and again. We have aces like Noah (aka Thor), DeGrom, and Harvey (who has pissed us off lately due to his diva ways.) Despite the bullpen weakness the Mets still won – 12 to 5.

Screenshot 2015-09-25 22.11.19If there could only be a bullpen phone line to you to talk about how this all happened – how at this time of the year we’re talking about next year as the Mets pack it in for the winter.

Can you believe it Dad?  They may not make it all the way, but they actually have a shot. They could reach the World Series. I won’t hold my breath, but ain’t it amazin’? I wish I was home in NY with you in the living room watching it all.

So, wherever you are, I hope you’re seeing this.

Let’s Go Mets!

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“Ya Gotta Believe”

TugThere is a strange psychological phenomenon that takes place when the subconscious is in sync with one’s personal conscious beliefs.  We attract positive outcomes. As mentioned in yesterday’s blog about the Mets, Baseball is rife with life metaphors we can apply to our own aspirations.

Tug McGraw was the guru of belief. His mantra, “Ya Gotta Believe” was more than just a call to action – it was a chant to the inner most crevices of our minds. You can’t just think it – you’ve gotta believe it.  It helped the lowly 1973 Mets come from last place in August straight through to the playoffs and world series. Although they didn’t win the big show, they found themselves where they knew they should be – despite the incredible odds.

We can say we believe in something,  but if there are traces of doubt on a subconscious level, it may bring forth a vague outcome. That’s why in baseball, you’ll see inexplicable outcomes for teams you never expect to become winners. When players truly know they can do the job, they come to the ballpark with confidence and an air that manifests good things. Even in loss, they are resilient enough to come back again with the knowledge that they are unbeatable.

If you believe in your success with ever fiber of your being and in every corner of your mind – you can turn out wins.

This applies to writers and people of all walks of life. If your conscious and sub-conscious minds agree with your desire in life,  then it’s likely you will attract things in your world to make it happen.  If your two minds are not on the same page, you’ll find yourself attracting vague signs and people who are just as vague as you are.

So, as the Mets embark on a subway series with the Yankees, I say in the name of Tug… “BELIEVE”.   Believe in yourself the way these young Mets do. Even if your winning streak ends. You’ll keep going until the big picture is revealed.

Happy Friday!



Inspiration in the Bleak Mid-Winter: A Whiff of Spring in the Air?

mets spring training

Tradition Field, New York Mets training Camp, Port St. Lucie, FL

Okay east coast and mid-western readers. Don’t kill me.  Backs and muscles all around the country are sore and busted from a long winter of shoveling snow and scrapping windshields, and here I am talking about Spring.

Meanwhile, Spring seems like a distant memory, something that happened before the earth fell into another notch in space, making winters endless. It’s almost like this is your new life now – Winter. Forever. What’s this odd thing called “Spring”?  “Summer”? Didn’t I smoke pot with her at that Phish concert? Not sure I’ve heard of her. Winter is where I live now.

Your fingers are numb. The temps are so fiercely, horribly cold – it’s not even cold anymore. It’s not even bitter or frigid cold. It’s gone from frigid to just…..”PAIN”.  You step outside = Instant pain. Even the NYTimes weather symbol shows a red horrible thermometer to illustrate that this is the weather – “Painful”. It almost looks like an exclamation point, shouting at you. It’s not cloudy or sunny. IT’S PAINFUL outside!!!

There is nothing brisk or fun about it. Your feet hurt from the frost bite. You let your dog outside without even letting your toe meet the door’s threshold, letting him poop on the same growing mound of plowed snow along the road until it hits you how embarrassing it is for your neighbors to see a little Mt. Poop developing near your mailbox. (I speak from experience. I mean – who else can relate?  Only me? I guess the 12 blizzards of 1996 was my downfall in dog owner etiquette.)

So, why do I hint at the concept of spring? This west coast dweller. Me, this Los Angeles sun bunny. Don’t be so sure about that. I left the badness of winter for LA precisely due to this weather. In fact, I’ll probably return east in the next few years to live out the last half of my life preserving myself like Rhoda Morgenstern who proclaimed, “I moved from New York to Minneapolis, where it’s cold…because I figured I’d keep better.” I’m planning on doing the same in verse. I miss New York, despite the bleak winter months.

Yet, ol’ winter weary bloggers (those who love baseball anyway) – cheer up!  This week was the week we’ve been waiting for! Pitchers and Catchers reported to spring training!  Yes! The battery mates of MLB’s green, expensive and vast green fields. The crack of ball against bat. The thud of a pitch against a leather mitt.  The smell of hot dogs and beer. The vision of The Wave making  its way across the stadium by a group of fans one side,  only to end when the other side near Shake Shack is totally OVER IT.

Oh yes. And the hope of a world series. I’m a New York Mets fan. I have no hope for any post season baseball. But –  you never know. The only thing I hope for is the promise of Mets Opening Day, and baseball to be had every night on my Apple TV.  Not to mention – a hopeful visit this summer to Citifield in Flushing, where I can smell it all in.

Which reminds me. I better get my MLB subscription going!

Happy Friday!