The task at hand

I’m devoting more time to my blog for patrons at Patreonhemingway as a matter of survival. If you enjoy this blog or my other writing, please consider supporting my efforts – $1/month or more – and tell a few others who’d be interested. I’m not exaggerating regarding survival. I have been job hunting for a while without results. This is an alternative to support my writing, but it only works with your help.

After much prompting from those who know my story, I am writing a memoir and it’s hell to write. Hardest thing I’ve ever done is revisiting stuff I have minimized for decades.

This is more than writing for me. If we as a society decided that we wanted, really wanted, to stop child abuse, we could. Dr. Gene Abel and Nora Harlow wrote The Stop Child Molestation Handbook. If we at least try his suggestions, the improvement not only in individual lives, but society as a whole, could be dramatic. Lowering incidence of PTSD, depression, and physical problems would help all of us. That is my purpose, too. For whatever reason, I’m the transition person in my family. I stopped the abuse. I did not abuse my children and they will not abuse theirs, nor were they abused. It can be done. It’s become a cliche for a reason: if telling my story helps show one person the way to stopping the cycle, it’s worth it.

As for this blog, I will continue as time permits, but you’ve no doubt noticed a drop off in posting and now you know why. The memoir needs the bulk of my attention and there’s not much left over as I continue working on it. Thank you for your understanding and support.



9/11: 15 years ago. Never Forget: part of Project 2,996

Annual repost and part of Project 2996

Robert Halligan Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 15, 2001.

Robert  John Halligan
Robert Halligan, Age: 59
Residence: Basking Ridge, NJ
Two WTC, 99th Floor
Aon Corporation, Vice President


To a proud Englishman, America is a country of vexing insufficiencies. Its supermarkets know not of H.P. (House of Parliament) sauce and tins of steak and kidney pie. Marmite, sadly, remains a mystery.

Several times a year, London-born Robert Halligan, 59, a vice president at Aon, an insurance brokerage firm, would cross the pond to stock up on such indelicacies. He would cheer on his beloved Tottenham Hotspurs, visit his sprawling family, including five adult children, and drop by a specialty shop to add to the locomotive steam engine models he had been collecting since his trainspotting boyhood. Every weekend he brought the old country to his wife, Jerrie, and their son, Trevor, in Basking Ridge, N.J., by cooking a lard-loving British breakfast (sloppy bacon, fried bread, eggs splashed with grease) and Sunday lunch (roast, two vegetables, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding).

Yet for someone who clung to his British identity, Mr. Halligan flourished in America, where he moved with Jerri, his American wife. He gardened here, played golf and danced beautifully. He was a kind, solicitous grandfather of 10 with a knack for joke- telling. And here he celebrated the holiday he loved even more than Christmas: as a citizen of two countries, Robert Halligan adored Thanksgiving.


Ehtesham Raja, Age: 28
Place of Residence: Clifton , NJ
TCG Software

Ehtesham U. Raja of Clifton, NJ was 28 years old when he died in the World Trade Center. He’d gone there for a conference and was in Windows on the World. He was a 1996 graduate of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia. He had his MBA from Goizueta Business School at Emory. His nickname: Shamu, from his friends in Pakistan.

His parents, Raja Aftab Saeed and Begum Asmat Fatima, donated the land for the Arifwala Hospital, a 40-bed facility, fully equipped with diagnostic and curative services, inaugurated on January 19th, 2009. The hospital is dedicated to their son, Raja Ehtesham Ullah, who lost his life on 9/11. All medical equipment was funded by LRBT America. We have also pledged to fund the hospital’s annual operating budget. (note: the hospital is in Pakistan and fights blindness)

From the Emory Goizueta Memorial site (Ehtesham Raja ’98MBA):

“He was a very kind, caring, compassionate, loving, and intelligent person,” says his mother, Asmat Fatima. “He was respected and admired by those who knew him. His talent and sense of humor made him standout in any crowd. But it was his loving and caring attitude that always made me proud.”

Raja, born in Lahore, Pakistan, worked for TCG Software in Bloomfield, N.J. After graduating with a bachelor of science in industrial engineering from Columbia University in New York City, he worked as a security engineer at Citibank on Wall Street, then, according to his Goizueta Business School application, he returned to Pakistan to work for Citibank Lahore, take the GMAT, and apply to business school.

“He was in the best years of his life,” says Fatima. “Everything seems to be going in his favour. After years of dedication and hard work he finally achieved this status. He had all the plans to pursue his career in finance. He was full of hope for his future.”

Raja also enjoyed sports. He was a swimmer and played cricket, squash, soccer, tennis, and polo while at Columbia.

A memorial service was arranged by TCG Software. “They were proud to have him working for them,” his mother says.

“It is still very hard to believe that he is missing and lost forever,” she continues. “I have to be emotionally strong as Ehtesham has a younger brother, who is at a very impressionable age.

“[Ehtesham] knew life and lived life. His time was limited but in that time he touched so many people. . . . May peace be with him now and forever. He will stay in our hearts and memories forever.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Halligan and Mr. Raja. Never Forget.

world trade center bombing


Liar-3D-Book-ShotIt’s amazing to me that anyone with a difficult past completes a memoir. The process redefines difficult. When Rob Roberge was asked about Liar at a reading in San Francisco, he said it was not fun to write and it wasn’t fun reliving it on the book tour.

The first vomit draft of my memoir was like ripping strips of my own skin off with a rusty razor, having it all restored at night, and doing it again the next day. Once that big-ugly-everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink-draft was done, it took work to separate myself from the person on the page. That separation is necessary to go on to more drafts and to start to build a structure. It’s been about as much as I can handle and so this blog has languished again. Sorry. I think I’m back to weekly blogging now, but we’ll see. If nothing else, memoir writing is unpredictable, full of emotional triggers and black holes. With my editor’s help, I made the turn to approach it more like writing a novel and it became somewhat less harrowing.Phoenix

Resilience is the capacity to bounce back from those triggers and low points, from rejection and the lows of the process. Why do some people become overwhelmed while others develop resilience? I don’t know. We saw it after the 1994 Northridge earthquake here in Los Angeles. Some people broke down unable to function and some of us started picking up the pieces after the sun rose. Perhaps that’s the gift (and I hesitate to call it that) inside trauma — nothing seems as bad by comparison.


Too many

Our knees are calloused from praying – we do not want our hearts to be.
We will not run out of tears. We will also not run out of bullets. We have practiced getting around bans for millennia.
We will not run out of compassion for those grieving. We can also choose not run out of wisdom.
Creating empathy in the human heart begins with the stories we tell. The best stories are not about “others.” They are about us.
#Istanbul #Orlando #Paris #London #Yemen#Kenya #NewYork #Somalia #SanBernadino#Tunisia #Brussels #Egypt #toomanymore
SF Memorial

The Long and Winding Road of Not Having All Your Eggs in One Basket

A piece I wrote for Women Who Submit

Women Who Submit

by Diane Sherlock

While working on my MFA at Antioch University, Los Angeles, I started my fourth novel, Wrestling Alligators. My primary mentors for the book were Rob Roberge (Liar: A Memoir, Crown 2016) and Gayle Brandeis (Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write, HaperOne 2004). I finished a first draft for my thesis project in May, 2009, and continued to polish it to the point where I was confident about sending it out to agents. At the time, my daughter was an assistant to a lit agent in Hollywood, and he read it and recommended an editor he’s worked with for many years. I sent it to her and she peppered me with hard questions about the material, pointing out that some of the imagery was in conflict. She was pessimistic about my solving those problems. That lit a fire under my inner…

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