Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Closing lines from books that changed my life

Posted December 6th, 2014 by Tom
Painted Steps

Andi’s Painted Steps

There are times when I am “stuck” in my own writing for various reasons, but I always read. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading a book. I read for the joy of the story. I read to enter other worlds. I read to inspire my own writing. Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin for a writer. Both are requirements for the job.

Since August I’ve participated in The Painted Steps, a small group of writers who have committed to working together for six months, to inspire each other to keep our writing at the forefront of our daily lives, and to complete the first draft of a manuscript by the end of January. We meet via video conference every week. The Painted Steps is the brainchild of Andi Cumbo-Floyd, author of The Slaves Have Names. Over the past couple weeks Andi asked us to share some favorite “opening lines” in books and then “closing lines.” The “opening lines” was easier. “Call me Ishmael.” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” “I am an invisible man.” Choosing closing lines to share with my fellow writers took more time; more thought.

The successful ending of a story not only offers a conclusion. Successful endings offer beginnings to further contemplation of what has gone before and imaginings of what’s next. What follows are the closing lines from ten books that have had a profound impact on my thinking; on how I view the world. I hope these lines don’t ruin these stories for anyone who has not read them. I don’t believe they do. hopefully they inspire you to read… Read the rest of this entry »

Gather at the Table authors record Gettysburg Address for PBS site

Posted November 19th, 2013 by Tom

This post was originally published at Gather at the Table

 

LincolnSilhouetteNovember 19, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. PBS and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns launched a national effort to encourage people to video record themselves reciting President Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech, one of the most important statements on human equality in American history.

Sharon Morgan and I participated in the project, as have President Obama, Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Rachel Maddow, Stephen Spielberg, and many others. You can watch our video at the Learn the Address website on PBS. Or you can watch it below from the Gather at the Table YouTube page.

We hope our participation will raise more awareness of the Coming to the Table approach to acknowledging and healing wounds from racism and the legacy of slavery that Sharon and I wrote about in Gather at the Table.

And may we all now re-dedicate ourselves “to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…”

12 Years a Slave

Posted November 10th, 2013 by Tom

12-years-a-slave-001.jpg_rgbMy wife Lindi and I went to see 12 Years a Slave yesterday. It wasn’t a film I wanted to see. It was a film I needed to see. It is harsh and searing and honest in its depiction of the institution of slavery in the United States. I hope (and encourage in particular) my white friends will watch this important film. 12 Years a Slave is now a key resource to understanding the traumatic wounds – physical, psychological, and spiritual – inflicted upon black people for the benefit of white people, and inflicted upon white people (whether directly or indirectly connected with the system of enslavement); wounds that have never been healed, have been passed down through generations, and continue to cause harm to all of us today.

My second request is you read the words of my Gather at the Table writing partner and friend Sharon Leslie Morgan. She wrote “400 Years a Slave” on her Our Black Ancestry blogsite after experiencing 12 Years a Slave the day before we did. I read Sharon’s words (click here) before we went to the theater, and again after we returned home. Her story is as powerful and haunting to me as the film because Sharon’s family lived and suffered and died in slavery and its racist aftermath. When white people make the effort to sincerely understand and acknowledge the experience and feelings of people of color as regards these historic wounds, and to understand how white people were and are wounded, and the present-day consequences of this damage, we take our first real step toward healing.

 

My Favorite Media Interview

Posted June 24th, 2013 by Tom

MyWindowInterviewI recently participated in one of my favorite media interviews ever.

I don’t know how many times I’ve spoken with reporters over the years, but it’s been a lot. My close encounters with news microphones began in the late 1970’s when I managed, and then owned, movie theaters, video, comic book, and frozen yogurt shops; human interest stories, Darth Vader appearances, you get the picture. Free publicity by way of news stories is invaluable to a small business owner and I was not shy. When I ran for city council in 1991, and began a 14-year spate of involvement in local politics and statewide arts advocacy, the frequency of interviews increased.

When my first book, Inheriting the Trade, was published, and the documentary Traces of the Trade both came out in January 2008, media requests began to come from around the country. As an author, being on The Early Show on CBS in connection with my first book, and Melissa Harris Perry on MSNBC with my co-author Sharon Leslie Morgan for our recent book, Gather at the Table, were invaluable opportunities for spreading the word about our work.

So what was it about this particular interview? Read the rest of this entry »

On Writing

Posted May 26th, 2013 by Tom

Home. Finally I have time to write.

Uh, not so fast, there Tommy…

From October through April mine was a life spent primarily on the road; promoting Gather at the Table with my writing partner Sharon Morgan and speaking solo at several colleges, universities and libraries. I was determined that once I returned home toward the end of April, I would stay home and focus on writing for the next 4-5 months.

There were a few technical details that needed attending. I had time to take my new laptop in to the Geek Squad to get the on/off button fixed (it broke in January but I couldn’t be without it while on the road so I simply put it into hibernate mode when I wasn’t using it). I had time to replace my aging and ailing Blackberry with a new iPhone. Learning how to use the iPhone, figure out how to add all my  contacts, email accounts, calendar, was challenging. But knowing I would be without my laptop for at least a week, I did my best to make the iPhone work for me. Then I was told that fixing my laptop was more costly to Best Buy than simply giving me a new computer. Oh, no! Read the rest of this entry »

The world did not end. So NOW what?

Posted December 21st, 2012 by Tom

Warren“Heh, heh, them Mayans didn’t know crap,” harrumphs the little voice that prattles about in my head.

“Fine with me,” I reply. “I’m still here and my course is set.”

“Says you.”

“Yeah, says me!”

“Fifty-eight years old and you wanna go back to college?” the voice prods with a tone of derision.

“So what?” I look around to make sure no one is watching. After all, I’m sitting in Starbucks. Just one other customer, a woman, sits a few tables away scrolling on her iPad.

“Are you crazy?” the voice is louder now.

“Of course I am!” I shout. The woman turns toward me; gives me a funny look.

I quickly put my cell phone to my ear so she’ll think I’m on a call. “Craziness is the essential ingredient.”

“HA! Then you’ve got it made! You’re crazier than the Mayans!” Read the rest of this entry »

Reading while driving, and living to tell about it

Posted May 20th, 2012 by Tom

I don’t advocate texting or talking on your cell phone while driving. I had a close call the other day when some yahoo veered into my lane just ahead of me while he was doing something on his phone. But I have become a strong advocate of reading while driving. Let me explain.

I recently listened to the audio version of 11/22/63, the time travel novel by Stephen King that my wife Lindi had just finished. We both loved it. King’s books have been hit or miss with me. I’m not a horror fan, but I love good fiction and he’s a terrific story teller. 11/22/63 combined great story-telling, time travel, and focuses on a lifelong obsession of mine: the assassination of President Kennedy. In an afterword, King says that the all-time great time travel novel remains Time and Again, published in 1970, and written by Jack Finney (who also wrote the sci-fi classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

Published in 1970, Time and Again tells the story of Simon Morley, an illustrator working in Manhattan who is chosen to participate in a secret government project in which he will attempt to travel to the past. The experiment works and Morley finds himself transported to 1882 New York. One reason this book has become a beloved classic is that Finney did such a masterful job of recreating 19th century New York City and describes the differences between 1882 and 1970 in such intricate detail that anyone who knows much about New York can’t help but be impressed.

One of the highlights for me was that a key location in the book is the Dakota Apartments, located next to Central Park; where John Lennon was murdered 10 years after this novel was published. Another highlight was how tense and compelling this story is without any gratuitous violence or sexuality. Time and Again is simply a wonderful story. I highly recommend it.

Here’s how we read Time and Again. Lindi and I did so together – something we haven’t done before. We picked the book up at our library the day before we began 18 days on the road together. We flew to Cleveland, where I spoke at the 15th annual MetroHealth Pastoral Care Conference on May 3. It was after the conference that Time and Again began. Lindi read aloud as we drove from Cleveland to New Jersey for a wedding, then on to Baltimore to meet our newest grandchild. She read as we drove to New York for a few days with my writing partner Sharon, then on to Connecticut, Queens, and back to Baltimore. After a couple more days with our new angel, she read as we drove back to Cleveland for our flight home.

Our experiment was so successful that we finished the book before our travel concluded so we bought another book (The Woman in Black) that she literally finished it ten minutes before we arrived at home after our three hour drive from the airport.

Reading while driving? I highly recommend it as long as your passenger is doing the reading.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry