Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Monday, September 20, 2010

“For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn’t writing prayers, as I am often enough. You feel that you are with someone. I feel I am with you now, whatever than can mean . . . To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this place is, as little regarded.”

From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Sunday, September 12, 2010

“The only obligation any artist can have is to himself. His work means nothing, otherwise. It has no meaning,” Truman Capote's good advice for any writer.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

“Writing is one way of discovering sequence in experience . . . connections slowly emerge. Like distant landmarks you are approaching, cause and effect begin to align themselves . . . experiences . . . connect and are identified as a larger shape.”  - Eudora Welty

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing Well and the Writing Life

I'm really looking forward to this Fall's Word Lover's Retreat after spending a long weekend at the Idlewyld in Lakeside. The weather will be tremendous the third weekend in September, and the porch is a perfect place to write. The bench on the Pier Pavilion or a wicker chair with cozy cushions and soft knitted throws in the living room or the top porch of the B&B are all great places to write. Writing in Lakeside will be good this fall. It will only look a little different than this parklike setting I captured ten days ago.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cuyahoga Valley

The best place to spend late summer lazy days is in the Cuyahoga Valley ( The goldenrod is shoulder high and the turtles sunbathe in the old canal, once part of the Ohio-Erie Canalway and today an ancient-spirit place of solace. I've often written about the Valley, as a place to reconnect with nature and history.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Millionnaire's Row

Cleveland's Millionaire's Row, along Euclid Avenue, was once a place to stroll on Sundays past iron gates protecting expansive green lawns. The Western Reserve Historical Society has exhibited what Cleveland was like then at periodic exhibits complete with maps showing where Cleveland's monied entrepreneurs lived. Few of the old mansions are left, but Euclid Avenue's residential occupancy rate is up.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Markko Vineyards - Lake Erie's First Vinifera Winery

I first met Arnie Esterer, winemaker and owner of Markko Vineyards in Conneaut, on our first Ohio wine country adventure. Arnie, with partner Tim Hubbard, started experimenting with European varietals and French-American hybrids in the late 1960s after purchasing one hundred acres of land, as instructed by Dr. Konstantin Franc of New York’s Finger Lakes. It’s easy to miss the stone gates on the edge of the woods on a dirt road. At the end of the drive is a surprising low, dark ranch house with a non-descript entrance into a tasting room that opens onto a wooden deck. There are no pretences at Markko—it’s all about the wine. The chardonnays and cabernets at the boutique winery are the best in Ohio because they’re handcrafted and estate bottled, and Arnie admits that they are expensive. We always have some Markko wine in our wine cabinet, for special occasions. When I gave Arnie an article I wrote about the winery, he gifted me a bottle of his Riesling, and when I told him I was writing a book about Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries, he sat me down on his deck with a bottle of his Cabernet and shared his stories. Arnie’s the guru of winemakers in the Lake Erie Appellation, and other vintners like Ken Tarsitano will admit they learned how to trellis vines and craft a decent wine from Esterer. Arnie readily explains how the vines in our region must be kept three feet off the ground to prevent moisture that leads to rot. The dark cellar of stainless steel for his Rieslings and oak barrels for the Chardonnays and Cabernets remind me that the grapes become wine all on their own, and it’s the winemaker’s job to create an excellent, drinkable wine from the results. When we first stood at the counter in the tasting room and tasted dry wines with complimentary cheese, Markko became our favorite Ohio winery because Esterer wants to create the best wine possible from what the land offers, and he does. Read more in my Associated Content article published a few weeks ago:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lake Erie

When I was a child, Y swimming lessons were often cancelled because of dead fish in the water. Today, the Lake is so clean I can see my feet two feet down. I've learned to be grateful for northern Ohio's greatest asset, and I wrote about it for Earth Day:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wining Again, in Ohio Wine Country

Husband Paul bought me Patricia Latimer’s Ohio Wine Country Excursions for Christmas. We enjoyed many romantic trips to New York’s Finger Lakes region, where the vineyards roll down the hills to the deep glacier-grooved lakes, but Ohio’s wineries were closer to home. In the 19th century, Ohio was the major wine producing state along the Ohio River and, beginning in the 1830s, along Lake Erie and its islands. My sense of adventure was kindled when I began to learn about native Ohio grapes and how wine producers graft the vines to make French-American hybrids like Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc and the European vinifera varieties l love. The stories of Ohio’s wineries all begin with the land—the temperatures must be moderate and the growing season long. One must begin with an acre and plant the vines and see how they do. It’s a leap of faith, the buying and clearing of land and growing grapes, hoping they will produce quantities of juice that can be fermented into wine. The making of wine is as romantic as the hope that a lover will while away the hours on your back porch or a picnic near a pond in the woods, with a bottle of wine. My Ohio wine country adventures began at Markko vineyards.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Trembling . . . Vietnam is still too close

When I finally read The Year That Trembled by Scott Lax, I found out what I needed to know about how young men felt on the eve of the 1971 draft for Vietnam. No one wanted to go to Vietnam, and by that time, Vietnam seemed pretty stupid. The Year That Trembled was about five guys, one of whom was drafted and killed during the war. The main character had fallen in love with the wife of the guy who died, even slept with her during the before-the-draft party, but they didn’t end up together. That mistake would haunt him. There were some really good people in the book and Lax did a great job at conveying their goodness in the midst of a messed up world.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Are Poets Selfish or Do They Have the Right Idea?

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard. Renounce that and you get your own voice automatically. Try to become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness, and you don’t worry about being heard in The New York Times.” Allen Ginsburg

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lakeside in the Spring

Haiku from my Brown Bear Diary after hosting the Word Lovers Retreat at the Idlewyld:

Lavender, tall blue,
Black cats lounge, see gold-eyed.
Stay right spirited.

Seagulls plunge, drop, spray,
Tumble into waves, glide forth.
Damp mood ascends high.

Big-branched tree hides
upstairs porch above rockers.
Create words freely.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Julia Child . . . In France

The book My Life in France by Julia Child was an inspiration to all of us to follow our passions and a tribute to her because she did just that. Her efforts were monumental and she was a perfectionist when she was writing her two-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I enjoyed the retelling of the process she went through to cook and perfect recipes and write about them, her tales of living the good life in Paris, Marseilles, and Provence, and her autobiographical notes on her life with Paul and friends and family.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

'Nuff Said

“I write in a very conversational way, because to me it’s so exciting and fun. There’s nothing funnier on earth than our humanness and our monkeyness. There’s nothing more touching, and it’s what I love to come upon when I’m reading; someone who’s gotten really down and dirty, and they’re taking the dross of life and doing alchemy, turning it into magic, tenderness and compassion and hilarity. So I tell my students that if they really love something, pay attention to it. Try to write something that they would love to come upon.” Anne Lamott

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Les Roberts, who has written 24 novels, close to a dozen short stories, eight screenplays and countless newspaper articles and reviews, will be the writer-in-residence at the Word Lover's Retreat this spring. Join Les and other writers in Lakeside, Ohio, during the weekend of April 30, May 1 and 2, for another weekend of listening to and playing with words, creating poetry, exploring the elements of story, and participating in satisfying conversation with other writers during endless walks on the meandering paths of Lakeside. Pack up your writing materials and immerse yourself in writing, for a weekend you deserve. The porches of the Idlewyld B&B in the heart of Ohio’s Chautauqua on Lake Erie’s Shore, await you. Stay the entire weekend or just spend the day with us on Saturday, May 1. Friday supper, Saturday breakfast and lunch, and Sunday breakfast will be served. Cookies and chocolates available all weekend long! Contact Claudia Taller at for more information.

I Remember Paris

Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah’s Key was tragic and redemptive. Set in WWII Paris and in modern-day Paris, de Rosnay wove the tales of two women, a young Jewish girl who innocently locked her brother in the closet on the day of the 1942 roundup and a middle-aged woman married to an insensitive Frenchman. The stories are told in alternating short chapters--hats off to de Rosnay for seamless stories told in alternating chapters. I liked the intrigue of a modern-day ex-patriot in Paris trying to find the woman whose brother was locked in a closet and who escaped the death camp amidst Parisians' denial that the arrests of 1942 took place. Both women were triumphant and found redemption.

I read the novel on the heels of reading Julia Child's memoir My Life in Paris. I enjoyed experiencing Child's experiments with recipes in her apartment on the Left Bank and the trials and tribulations of collaboration, publishing, and television production. Unfortunately, I read the book after seeing the movie Julie and Julia, which portrayed Child as insensitive. Apparently the way Julia treated Julie in the movie was a fabrication. The movie was unkind to Julia Child.

I haven't been to Paris in seven years. Its energy and verve came back to me because I recognized many of the sites in these books. I was strolling the shady Tuileries, the streets bustling with restaurants, and the Left Bank where artists line up to sell their paintings with the Seine below them. I remember eating escargot while watching Notre Dame become a beacon in the darkening sky. These books highlight the tendency of Parisians to ignore the unpleasant and their fervent love for their city and their food.