Review of Approaching Wilderness

5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful glimpse into in an enemy we all fear January 8, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
These short stories give the reader an intimate perspective into the possible reality that each/or many of us question in our own lapses of memory that is commonly experienced as we approach our seventh and /or eighth decade…
Thanks, Pat.

Your Editor: Saving You from Yourself

How many of us would have read a novel or gone to see a movie if its title were Trimalchio in West Egg or The High-Bouncing Lover? Yet those were titles under serious consideration by F. Scott Fitzgerald before his editor convinced him to change it to The Great Gatsby. The rest is history. You can read more about the relationship between the editor Maxwell Perkins and writers such as Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway in this excellent article recently published in Publishers Weekly

The point should be obvious: if even great writers such as these needed editors, then you do, too.The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector,” Hemingway famously wrote. “This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.” But let’s face it, most of us lack the ability to see our writing in clear, objective fashion. We are too close to our writing. Our precious words are too much a part of ourselves. And they will not go gently into the trash bin. Yet time and again I hear fellow writers tell me that they do all their own editing, or that their English teacher sisters, aunts, or spouses do it for them. Yes, we all need to edit ourselves as we write and revise. And we can all use a little help from critical readers. But there comes a time when we must divorce ourselves from our work to see it as others—namely readers—might see it. And that is where your editor comes in.

Some writers are fortunate to have editors assigned to them by their publishing houses. Other  writers, like myself, have had the good fortune to work with magazine or newspaper editors whose job it is to shape a rough manuscript into a thing of beauty. And I think of all the good editors at literary journals around the globe who tirelessly read our submissions, rejecting most of them, but finally choosing ours to represent their publications or, more rarely, sharing their helpful comments on what would make a story or poem work for them. I am grateful to these editors, too, who have helped me become a better writer not only by accepting my work, but by rejecting it. Some of these editors have even become friends. Yet, with the increased availability of self-publishing options, so often today writers rush into self-publishing without first vetting their work in this time-honored fashion.

Despite my early positive experiences with editors, when it came time to publish my first novel I too was pig-headed. After all, I was a pretty mean editor myself (or so I thought). I also had the help of my lovely spouse and first reader. Best of all, I had my sister “editor,”  who—you guessed it—just happens to be an English teacher. What else did I need? A lot, it turned out. The self-publishing process was a painful, brutal, but ultimately useful lesson in just why I needed an editor. As Exhibit A, one example comes to mind. The original working title of my middle grade novel was actually “How to Get Rid of Your Family.” It sounds like the main character killed and chopped up his family, then stuffed them into the trunk of a Chevrolet wagon. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed, and I changed the title to The Family That Wasn’t. Though the book was eventually self-published and went on to favorable reviews, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by having a professional editor in the first place. Oh well, some of us have to learn the hard way.

Which brings me to the real reason why I wrote this post. I’d like to introduce you to my friend and editor—not my wife or sister, but one who does this for a living—Kate Robinson. I’ll let her tell you why need an editor:

Each writer has a different approach to the writing craft. For me, the creative process is as essential as taking my next breath. I write to understand, exploring life’s mandala through the perspectives of “reality” and “imagination.”

Why hire an editor?  Sometimes writers need a fresh pair of eyes, some pre-publication polish, or coaching to hone their writing chops.

Kate Robinson at Starstone Lit Services specializes in proofreading, editing, evaluation, and creative consultation for fiction, memoir, and narrative nonfiction writers. Experienced, thoughtful evaluation and editing of soft sci-fi, fantasy / slipstream, historical, chick lit, thriller, mystery, and literary works; poetry, memoir, and young adult / juvenile fiction and nonfiction. Also available for consultation, editing, and proofreading for textbook and academic writers and publishers, as well as for business professionals: theses, dissertations, journal articles, resumes, brochures, business letters, print or internet advertising, blog and website copy, and mass mailings. Indexing services for selected nonfiction topics and e-book conversions and print formatting for all standard manuscripts.

Reasonable hourly rate, reasonable turnaround. Free 5-page sample edit/evaluation/estimate for book-length manuscripts, 1-3 pages for academic papers / short manuscripts.

Whether an emerging or an expert writer, Kate Robinson will help you birth your fascinating, award-winning book!

You can find Kate and Starstone Lit Services at these links:



Jellyfish Day                                                      


Starstone Lit at Katewriter                                 


LinkedIn UK                     



The Well-dressed Naturalist

Charles Darwin in 1881

Charles Darwin

In order to succeed as a naturalist you must learn to dress like one. This requires paying attention to the latest styles in fabrics, designs and ensembles. It is vitally important to look your very best whenever setting out into the field, be it the Amazon Rainforest, Antarctica, or even your own backyard. All too often a lack of success in nature study can be traced to a poor choice of clothing. There is nothing worse than a shabby naturalist.

A good way to keep up on the latest fashions is to scan current nature and conservation magazines such as Audubon or Natural History to see what smart naturalists are wearing in the field. There you will see glossy photos of stylish people wearing colorful shirts and blouses, pocket-filled vests, parkas, cardigans, and nicely tailored khaki pants and shorts, as they pose with the latest nature watching gadget. I should point out that magazines such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire are far less reliable indicators in this regard. Or you can watch shows like Nova, Animal Planet, and reruns of Wild Kingdom to see professionals emerge from swamps and jungles with their outfits spotless and perfectly pressed.

Turtlenecks are a great choice. As one company promises, “you won’t be sticking your neck out with an old reliable turtleneck.”  I prefer the roomy loggerhead sea turtleneck. The new side-necked turtle design, though, is a little bizarre for my tastes. Good old moleskin smocks are always in style. Seersucker suits, however, are out for now, though sapsucker suits are perfectly acceptable.

In addition to their utility, bush or birding vests add a certain layer of authenticity to your outfit. They feature all kinds of handy pockets for holding essential field equipment—sunglasses, binoculars, field guides, gin flasks, etc. One company advertises an all-cotton vest “already broken in for comfort and the look of an old hand well-versed in the lore of the road.” You can’t pay too much for that look. 

Of course, for those whose budgets are limited, T-shirts are always in style. The Long John shirt, preferably long-sleeved, is quite smart and is available in various designer colors like fuchsia and autumn sunset.  Theme shirts are quite the rage this year; you certainly won’t go wrong sporting a chic tree frog, orchid, or Tyrannosaurus, or perhaps one from your favorite zoological garden or aquarium. One should be cautioned, though, against wearing that old Hooters or Alice Cooper shirt.

The amount of clothing you wear is largely dictated by environment.

For most occasions cotton is a sensible fabric, whether it be in the form of a frock made from “luxurious, heavyweight cotton from Lancashire,” or in an elegant “padre shirt” or “lotus pants.”  Cotton shorts or trousers are always nice, preferably with drawstring waists and hip pockets.  This year’s favorite colors include apricot, powder-blue and of course russet.

You can usually get a pretty good idea of the latest naturalist swimsuit fashions from the travel ads appearing in nature magazines. There you will find photos of places like the Bahamas, Aruba, Tobago, and Tahiti, where smart naturalists can be found during winter months.

One vital piece of clothing often overlooked is a hat. Not only will a hat help to complete your outfit and identify you as a serious naturalist, it will protect you from the sun. It can also serve as an invaluable piece of equipment. The kind you choose is largely a matter of taste. Some prefer the ten gallon, John Wayne style, or the ever popular fedora popularized by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A pith helmet can be quite fetching. And nothing quite equals a top hat for both elegance and room to spare for carrying your equipment and specimens. The young Charles Darwin is said to have once run out of containers while out collecting insects. Having discovered a particularly rare specimen of beetle, the hapless scientist was forced to carry it home…in his mouth.  From that day forward, he acquired an immediate taste for hats and was never caught dead without one.

Originally published in 5enses January 2014

New Book Published: Approaching Wilderness. Six Stories of Dementia

I have just published my new Kindle book.                                                              AppWilderness-kindle-finalApproaching Wilderness is a collection of six stories dealing with dementia, originally published in various literary journals. Inspired by my late mother’s struggles with the disease during her last years, I sought to explore the questions that all family members must eventually face: where does that beloved person go? What goes on in the secret life of her mind? The stories, filled with humor and compassion, are one man’s attempt to understand the tragic heartache of dementia.

Approaching Wilderness is on sale for $.99 and is only available as a Kindle book (which, in addition to Kindle readers, can be downloaded to iPhones and iPads as well as personal computers).

Short reviews, ratings, and likes are much appreciated.





Approaching Lye Brook

Three of my poems – “Approaching Lye Brook,” “Holy Ghost on a Window,” and “The Unmerciful Leg” – have just been published in the latest issue of Wilderness House Literary Review. You can read them here: