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CHARITY BEGINS ALONE

Charity

Some women choose other women for support, but many of our mother’s generation behaved like perpetual damsels in distress needing a man around to help them with the simplest things, catering to every male entering a room, putting their needs first and foremost, soliciting their opinions before making a decision, giving them the larger portions, the better chairs, the greater control, and endlessly feeding their egos.

Above all, they needed to be married to a man while encouraging every female within their inner circle to adopt their medieval mindset.

Elizabeth’s mom was like that, marrying three times after Liz’s dad suddenly died (although Liz ignores the nuptial that was annulled).

My mom was just as assiduous in promoting second-class citizenry, except for getting hitched again. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop her from relentlessly urging her daughters to marry, and dragging men into every conversation and situation.

Once, while leaving a Broadway show at the Palace theater in Manhattan, she grabbed the elbow of a man trying to maneuver the crowd outside the entrance and asked him what bus we should take to get uptown.

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“How the hell would I know?” he steamed at her. “Do I look like a bus driver for God’s sake?”

“Well!” she huffed.

“That was Don Knotts, Mom.”

“Where?”

“The man you just asked for directions.”

“Andy Griffith’s Don Knotts?”

“Yes.”

“He certainly wasn’t very polite.”

Okay, nevermind that I’d been living in the city for more than a year and had, single-handedly, succeeded in getting us to the theater from my upper west side apartment two hours earlier after reminding her I knew the way because I’d been to the Palace once before.

It was shortly after I’d won the Midwest Division of the National ABC Television Talent Hunt in 1965 and was chosen to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

I arrived in New York City on January 29, 1966 as a highly impressionable fledgling from a small Michigan town.

At the time, my older brother, Kit, was working as a stagehand with the musical, Hurray It’s A Glorious Day…and all that scheduled to open at the Theater Four on West 55th Street in March. The confidence he exuded pleased Mom, so they conspired to persuade me to don my Sunday best and meet him outside the Palace Theatre at 9:30 that night.

Let me say, I don’t know why I was still trusting Mom’s judgment of Kit. As kids he’d leave me holding the bag under the worst of circumstances, and lure me into the scariest settings. We referred to these dupes as ‘Kit tricks’ — like when he locked me in the basement coal bin minutes before a delivery was to be made. Kit has always been my bad habit dying hard.

Regardless, since my ‘best’ was a blue silk bridesmaid dress worn to a July wedding five years earlier, I felt peculiar standing there, fighting the dry cold wind with him, waiting under the marquee for the curtain to come down and the audience to emerge. Once it did, Kit ordered me to “just act natural” as we slipped under a purple velvet rope guiding a small procession of people invited backstage to greet the cast.

Once inside the stage door, Kit abandoned me to look for Polly, a woman he claimed was a friend he’d made while working summer stock the year before.

The backstage of the Palace Theatre is cavernous, with grips scurrying about in headsets, scenery on brails against brick back-walls, overhead catwalks several stories high and huge fresnel lanterns suspended from the ceiling.

Alone and afraid of being caught, I stood in the center of the chamber looking like a lost soul seeking flight when the alley door burst open and down the long steel staircase came Kit’s so-called friend, Polly, making her entrance while screaming, “Gwen, I’m here, Gwen, I’m here, I’m sorry I’m late, oh Gwen, I’m here, Gwen, I’m here!”

Upon reaching the backstage floor, she began barreling my direction. That’s when the redhead standing two feet away with her back to me pivoted on her black patent leather stilettos and asked, “Would you be a dear and hold my flowers so I can get a shot with Polly?”

As I accepted her large bouquet of scarlet roses, it finally dawned on me.

I was backstage, opening night of Sweet Charity, instantly cast as the unnamed flower girl in a publicity shot of Gwen Verdon and Polly Bergen.

Naturally, Kit was nowhere to be found — but something he’d said to me earlier proved my saving grace.

“No one will ask you who you are because they’ll think you must be related to someone important — and not knowing someone important would be too embarrassing for them.”

He was right. Nobody asked.

I waited until a bevy of friends gathered around the celebrated stars before quietly leaving the roses and fading away.

When I got home I called Mom and listened to her relate Kit’s version of the evening; of how Polly was a no-show so, after “I ditched him” he joined a group of the theatre grips and went downtown to the Red Lion to hang out.

I let it pass.

Now, in reminiscence, I often revisit my introduction to New York and say, “Hooray!”

It was, indeed, a glorious day.

And all that.

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by Marguerite Quantaine, Copyright © 8.31.17
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
Her book of essays, My Little Black Dress Is Pink,
has a planned release date of October 3, 2017.

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SEE YA LATER ALLIGATOR

Author of  Imogene's Eloise

Author of
Imogene’s Eloise


The first time I spotted the alligator in the murky waters of a man-made lake framing luxurious condos on one side and a city park on the other, I worried aloud for the safety of the mallards, Muscovy, and white, waddling ducks, the snapping turtles, giant goldfish, flock of pristine egrets, and wading blue heron, making their homes in the marshes there.

“And, the kids who play in this park,” my sweetheart added.

I didn’t respond. Not that I would ever want a person of any age to be harmed by an alligator, but there was no imminent danger in that. Only the nature-preying-nature lurked.

The lake is more for show and tell by realtors looking to justify pricey units with a view. There’s no swimming allowed, and since it’s illegal to feed wildlife in Florida outside of a reserve, observing nature in this park is mostly done from a deck built 15 feet above, and stretching 20 feet out over the water, where picnic tables are placed for brown baggers wondering what so many thieving sea gulls are doing there, some sixty miles inland. 

At first, all I saw were the mammoth marble shaped alligator eyes, trolling the lake’s surface, leaving innocent ripples of water in his wake.

“Or,” she said when I pointed out the marauding eyeballs, “it’s a submarine.”

“No, hon, I’m pretty certain it’s an alligator.”

“But, I’m thinking —  if it is a submarine…”

“It’s a gator, okay?”

“I’m just saying what it could be,” she persists, as the tire tracks of its back emerges. “Or, maybe one in camouflage to look like an alligator, so no one would suspect.”

Really, who am I to say otherwise? I thought.

We only visit this particular park once a year, in September or October, depending on what date the High Holy Days fall.

I won’t expound on the significance of these 10 days for those of you who aren’t Jewish, but I will share the custom of casting bread upon the water (tashlikh) as a symbol of one’s transgressions being disposed of. Unlike other religions, Jews don’t believe in original sin. Instead, we’re born pure, acquiring our indiscretions with age, intent, or ignorance along the way.

But, if we’re sincere in saying “I’m sorry” to those we’ve wronged, and have done good without expectation in return, and made an earnest effort to mend fences, the sin slate gets wiped clean on Yom Kippur, giving each of us another chance to get life right, and do it better.

The disclaimer appears in the setting of the sun, symbolizing the closing of the Book of Life, when even nonbelievers (secretly) want their names, and those of their loved ones inscribed therein — although no one learns who makes the cut until the High Holy Days roll around again the following year. (Because only those remaining in the here and now know if they were inscribed back in the then and there.)

For the record, I’m very disorganized about organized religion, to the point of anti-it.

But I do like everything about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the culmination of 10 days of introspection, taking stock of one’s life, offering amends, being grateful for whatever cards have been dealt, making promises and looking forward while witnessing the sun sink behind the trees, or beneath the ocean, or into the hills.

Of course, I’m pulling for more than family and friends. I want my pets to be included in that Book of Life, too, and mercy shown for all the animals on earth. I want children to be protected, and hurts healed. I want every woman to fall in love with the person who has fallen in love with her. My list is long. I ask a lot. It takes me the full 10 days to catalog all the hope in my heart.

“Watch out,” we were warned by a couple dawdling nearby. “The flora and fauna police are on duty.”

I glance over at the retiree in khaki shirt and shorts, feeling powerful on his unpaid patrol.

“I’m prepared,” I assured them. “I filled my pocket with stale bread, pre-pulverized in my Cuisinart to melt any evidence upon impact. Would you like a some?”

They showed me their cut up crusts of kosher rye. “No thanks. We’re good.”

As the sun began its steady decline, I confidently hurled a handful of crumbs to flutter like tiny confetti into the water below — forgetting that the brass ring  containing the keys to the car, our home, my sister’s home, the metal license tags of our dogs, and a silver kitty charm carried for good luck was also in that pocket.

It went with.

“I’ll be,” she said, looking down at the unintended snack. “It is an alligator!”

~

To paraphrase a verse in a song from the original, Broadway cast album of The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Your prayer was answered, the answer was ‘no’ — She heard you all right.

Most of you who follow this blog, or my Facebook page know that I lost my kid sister in May, 10 weeks after she was first diagnosed with everywhere-cancer.

What I haven’t shared as much is, in that brief period (and since) I also lost both of my dogs, Buzzbee and Sparky, and a Russian Blue, tamed-to-my-touch, feral cat, Sneaky, twin brother to Pete. And, my car bit the dust.

When the last loss happened, I recalled the words attributed to Virginia Woolf upon being asked by her niece why the bird she’d found had to die. Woolf answered, “To make us appreciate life more.”

I’m not sure I concur. I don’t think I could appreciate life any more than I do.  My gratitude is fierce and deep and never falters — even when the answer is, indeed, ‘no’.

Because I see, and hear, and recognize the loss most others endure, daily, is so much greater than my own; the worldwide despair and hunger of millions in the dark of every night, the destruction of homes by flood and fire, the assault on nature by ignorance and greed, the ongoing slaughter of innocent and innocence, the intentional harm inflicted on the undeserving.

It doesn’t lessen the depth of loss I feel, but it does lessen the length of time I spend, struggling.

The High Holy Days come earlier this year and I’m on tenterhooks about it, to the point of being mindful of the fact that the ritual of tashlikh is to happen on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, not on Yom Kippur as I’ve always chosen to observe it.

We’ll be returning to the man-made lake, regardless — this time with an entire loaf of challah for the alligator.

We hope it was written into the Book of Life.

We hope we all were.

#     #     #

by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2015

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her book, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available on AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
.

“… crisp…clever…unique…saucy humor…delicious writing…fabulous…funny…historically accurate…genius debut… This will be a classic; buy it now. 

SHE Magazine Reviews IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love story.

IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW WE LOVE

Love Post2

How we find and lose love. How we hide and expose love.
How we seek and defeat love. How we suffer and celebrate love.
How we record and remember love. How we inspire and discourage love.

How we resist and grant love. How we legalize and criminalize love.
How we categorize and codify love. How we respect and disdain love.
How we treat and mistreat love. How we fund and squander love.
How we laugh and cry over love. How we accept and reject love.

How we name and number love. How we facilitate and foil love.
How we sense and ignore love. How we affirm and deny love.

How we use and abuse love. How we buy and sell love.
How we settle for love. How we treasure love.
How we let love go.

From Chapter 1 to Chapter 72, 
that’s all this novel is about:
the phenomena of love,
with 67 memorable LGBT characters,
Including you.

Because you are in this book,
as the person you were, are, or wish you’d been,
with people you know, knew, or wish you’d known,
all in the pursuit — and each
touched by the joy of
love.

~

IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love story
by Marguerite Quantaine
383 Pages
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37 Spectacular reviews
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NOW ON AMAZON
at the Kindle nearest you.
Also available in paperback.
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A Great Gift Idea For Birthdays • Anniversaries • Showers • Weddings • Chanukah • Christmas • & Self   

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THIS DIAMOND RING — GIVEAWAY

"It's a dainty little ring."

“It’s a dainty little ring.”

I don’t know if it was so for my three brothers, but whenever we three girls asked my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, her birthday, or Christmas she’d invariably say, “A diamond ring, a fur coat, and a trip around the world.”

Nowadays, such requests may not seem that unreasonable, what with seven year olds pocketing iPhones, college students making pilgrimages, and fur coats being faked well enough to warrant splattering by PETA paint.

But back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, these were all big ticket items for the vast majority of American women.

Since my mom wasn’t elitist, extravagant, or pretentious, I didn’t take her wish list seriously. She had a mink-ish stole she dearly loved and wore from time-to-time. She managed to travel to every country and place she ever dreamt of going before she passed away nine years ago at ninety-three. And, she appeared satisfied with wearing her wedding ring during 31 years of marriage and 37 years of widowhood — a wafer thin band of gold, originally mounted with 7 miniscule diamond chips, two of them missing from forever ago.

“This diamond ring doesn’t shine for me anymore,” she’d chime along with Gary Lewis and the Playboys back in ‘65.

“Are you planning on taking it off and selling it?” I once asked.

“No,” she admitted. “Remember, dear, the first ring represents your beginning and shouldn’t cost more than what you can safely afford. The last ring shows how far you’ve gotten. It may weigh more and the stone will  be bigger — but that ring is less about who you are, and more about who you just think you are.”

Mom's wedding ring.

Mom’s wedding ring.

Costume jewelry was more my mother’s style, mostly sets of necklaces and bracelets with complementing clip-on earrings, cloth flowers with pin backs, hair combs studded with rhinestones, and watches with exchangeable bands. It was while rummaging through these, kept in an old cedar box stamped Souvenir of Gaylord, that I detected the faint fragrance of her Yardley Lavender still lingering there as I matched each pretty piece of paste to memories of the outfit she wore and the special occasion that warranted the wearing. That is, except for one out-of-place, unfamiliar, etched gold band with a solitaire diamond setting that seemed a perfect starter ring for a young (or young-at-heart) someone who hoped to commit, or celebrate a first anniversary, or wear on the pinky until presenting it as a simple act of friendship to another.

It’s a dainty little ring, perfectly capable of stirring up tender emotions — but one I’d never wear since it wasn’t given to me by my lifelong love.

So, I decided to let someone else create a warm memory by giving the ring away. No strings attached. No expectations of return. Quietly and without adieu, certain my mom would approve.

 

Besides, it’s not as if I’m giving her wedding ring away.

Never.

That tarnished band of holes and chips has resided on my pinky since she passed, and it will remain there until I do, as a testament to the woman whose namesake I am, and the cherished memories of her I wouldn’t sacrifice — not even for a diamond ring, a fur coat, and a trip around the world.

#    #    #

Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015

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No purchase necessary. Read the first 7 chapters for FREE on Amazon.com.

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Imogene’s Eloise: Inspired by a true-love story
APRIL 10TH THRU APRIL 16TH
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$1.99.

PLEASE DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK
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I’M EATING CROW HERE

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I remember when the first articles were published by researchists revealing that hot dogs were dangerously bad for us (I stopped eating them), as was peanut butter (I cut back), and eggs (I wasn’t dissuaded), and donuts (get outta town!).

Much like telling those who bet on the horses that races are rigged, or lottery hopefuls that the odds are stacked against them, or fans that an event is sold out, or kids younger that seven that there is no Santa Claus — learning the dire details involving comfort foods did more harm than good, because (regardless of fact accuracy and well-intended truths) it robbed the partakers of the enjoyment of doing what wasn’t necessarily wise, or profitable.

And that’s about all my 15 hour post, And The Winner Is … Not Me, accomplished. It exposed something that everyone probably knew, but no one wanted to admit, because the happy habit was universally shared, and the group addiction did no harm.

I was wrong.

I apologize.

I took the long way down a wary road best navigated by denial, when only the end result was required reading.  That, in essence, is this:

The finest award a writer can be given is the feeling of joy that comes from writing a worthy book. It’s incomparable. It can’t be taken away. It’s what makes you a winner.

And, should your book receive a good review, or is given as a gift, or mentioned to friends, or ordered by a library, or suggested to a book club, or introduced at meetings, or touted at functions, or buzzed about on buses, or pondered by strangers, or discussed by family members, or serves as dining repartee  — well, that’s the mustard on the hot dog, the jelly on the Jif,  the sun in the sunny side up, and the icing on the donut.

Gobble, gobble.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015


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PLEASE DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK
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to determine the caliber and worthiness of content.

After that, you’re on your own.

NOW THRU VALENTINE’S DAY : $1.99
At the KINDLE nearest you.
(Also available in paperback.)

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ENCOURAGED

"Who needs your old opinion anyway!"

“Who needs your old opinion anyway!”

My mother encouraged me to become an actress because it’s what she first wanted to be. She encouraged me to marry and have children because she wanted more of them. She encouraged me to be an artist because I worked as a specialist in black-and-white 19th century illustration adaptation application and she delighted in coloring the pictures.

But she never encouraged me to be a writer.

Perhaps that’s why becoming a novelist came later to me than most.

Even though I was steadily employed as an editor, columnist, and essayist for newspapers and trade journals most of my life, I never ventured beyond being a designer and freelancer until after my mother passed away in 2006.

Only then did I begin writing, Imogene’s Eloise;.

Wanting approval from unwilling parents might be the first obstacle every writer endures.

It quiets confidence.

But if you’re blessed with the talent, or possessed by the desire, or are willing to perfect the skill, you’ll  eventually begin writing to an audience of strangers and delight in their kernels of encouragement.

I publish this piece in the wake of my previous blog, When Bad Reviews Hurt Good Authors, and in light of being told that Amazon, with it’s 11+ million titles, doesn’t begin pushing a book until 50 reviews have been posted by verified buyers.

I don’t know if that’s true, or not. But let’s suppose it is.

Fifty confirmed reviews is a lot to ask of readers and expect for any book, especially when most of us abide by the standard ‘if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all’ rule of etiquette.

The primary flaw in such protocol occurs when an author knows, or even suspects you’re reading her book. By censoring yourself out of kindness, you inadvertently, (1) contribute to author-angst and, (2) prevent a genre you enjoy from being recognized by the mainstream media.

Trust me when I say, if we’re ever to secure safe haven in all societies and attain the respect we deserve without sacrificing the virtues inherent to our culture, we need the attention and support of the mainstream media.

And, we need it — not just for the token gay spotlight of celebrities who can afford armed guard protection in public, walled estates in private, and a select circle of friends mirroring themselves — but for the vast majority of us who join in exalting those privileged few, while being baffled by continued anti-sentiment towards homosexuals.

Could it be that acclaimed lesbians and gays are elevated as the untouchable ideal, while we who are uncelebrated are seen as the ignobly real?

And, if so, isn’t it time we cease living in their illusory shadows by working to better define our own?

Before he died in 1882, the English author, Anthony Trollolope, insisted a novelist must —  through a framework of personal ethics — inspire readers to identify with a book’s characters and, in doing so, act in a manner that benefits humankind.

I might have failed in doing that.

While vigorously welcoming and greatly appreciating enthusiasm shown for my novel, Imogene’s Eloise, I fear the reviewer who settles on simply saying, “It’s entertaining.”

Yes, novels need to please, first and foremost.

I dare not hope for more.

And, yet.

I do.

I hope for a reader who will ponder both the obvious and the subtext in my writings and feel emboldened, or is healed of hurt, or resolves the past, or embraces the present, or is enlightened to the levity that life seeks as nourishment in order to survive, well.

Not that I won’t rejoice in whatever reviews I get!

And, not that I’m ungrateful for my 1.3 million ranking on a list placing 9.7 million books behind mine.

And, not that I don’t know in my heart, if my mom were alive today, she’d forego the content of Imogene’s Eloise in favor of the cover.

Indeed, it’s all encouraging.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015


Were you encouraged to be a reader, or writer, or not?
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I’m all eyes and heart.


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O6BOB2M/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb
IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story traces the unpredictable journey of a young woman living alone amid the political unrest and social taboos of Manhattan during the 1960s and early 70s, oblivious to her own feelings and those of others until being smitten by the sight of a stranger in town for the weekend whose name and number she’s prevented from getting. In trying to appear calm, she downs a glass of gin she’s mistaken for ice water, awakening the next morning in a fog — but determined to find that one person in a city of millions before time runs out. On a fast paced track towards an ending you can’t possibly imagine, Imogene’s Eloise challenges any doubt you might harbor in the existence of love at first sight and will fortify your faith in the promise of happily ever after.

Now in paperback & always at the KINDLE nearest you.
I urge you to take advantage of the 7 chapter free read to determine the caliber of my writing and worthiness of content before buying.

WHEN BAD REVIEWS HURT GOOD AUTHORS and what can be done to change that

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Imagine you are Meryl Streep sitting in the audience, nominated for a Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes and Mia Farrow’s name is called instead of yours.

It doesn’t matter that a vast majority of the general public and international acting community think — make that know — Meryl Streep is the finest actress to grace a screen since the talkies. And, it doesn’t matter that her performance far outshines that of any other actress on the planet.

She must sit and smile and be grateful just to know that she’s the superior actress, even when saddled with being lesser so, by those who are not as talented, or as accomplished as she.

(And by ‘she’ I mean those of ‘you’ still up there in my opening line, imagining yourself as Meryl Streep.)

The point is, being the best at what you do is never enough to win the acclaim of those around you.

Indeed, the chances are good it will elicit exactly the opposite results, regardless of your profession. Because that’s the nature of awards and winning and — especially for the craft of writing — book reviews.

I say ‘especially’ because book reviews and letters to the editor are the two areas of the media where everyone, regardless of their intent, intelligence, or lack thereof, can participate as an authority.

And, because of this, both (along with the installation of the five star system) have become the weapon of choice for malcontents.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is simple: Am I complicit?

The answer is YES if you:
(1) Write a good review for your friend or relative, simply because she is your friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as the review you’ve given.
(2) Award a five star rating to a book because it was authored by a friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as you’ve rated it.
(3) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read.
(4) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(5) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read.
(6) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(7) Sabotage an author whose publisher is in competition with your publisher.
(8) Sabotage an author for revenge.
(9) Sabotage an author out of jealousy.
(10) Sabotage an author because you can, and that ability gives you power.

About now you’re wondering how this essay became about you instead of those so-in-sos who gave you a bad review.

That’s the thing.

When it comes to writing — just as when it comes to all other areas of life — it is never about what is done to you.

Rather, it is always about what you did to help create an atmosphere where such injustices flourish.

And, by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, and ‘us’, and ‘we’.

Like every journey, this one takes one step by one person at a time.

It takes resolve.

It takes a decision by each of us to (1) refrain from giving credit where credit isn’t due, and (2) refrain from sabotaging those we don’t like, and (3) choose to learn from those whom we consider to be more talented, more creative, or more accomplished, and (4) mentor all who are receptive, in an effort to improve our craft and our writing community.

It isn’t necessary to like every writer. But we must try to respect every person who makes the effort, takes the time, and risks the rejection that results from writing a book, regardless of its caliber.

And, if we can do that, we will know
our own worth.

And, if we can do that, we will rejoice
in the success of others.

And, if we can do that, we will accept, as a burden,
that there will always be those whose low self-esteem,
jealousy, envy, ego, or anger won’t allow them
any other recourse
but to lash out.

And if we can do that, we’ll realize, as a blessing,
that the next essay, article, story, or book we write
will be better because of it.

And if we can do that, we will each,
we will all, know what it’s like to be
Meryl Streep.

# # #

by Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

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