Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Maybe it’s the smoke graying the air and the hills lining our windows. Maybe it’s the muffled quietness of the house, the streets outside, the subdued rooms in our apartment, so silent that my husband is asleep with the NY Times in his lap.  Bored, I sip my third cup of coffee trying to focus on the To Do list in front of me.

We are in a period of waiting.

 We are waiting for a doctor’s call to set a surgery date; waiting for a piece of mail with news of a query sent to a magazine; waiting for a friend’s call to ease our anxiety about her health; waiting for a pill to lessen the pain in my knee; waiting for good news from a son who is also waiting; waiting for a cooler moment to walk to the grocery for food for tonight’s dinner; waiting for the TV show that is our habit each evening and makes us believe, at least for a moment, in the media’s ability to tell us today’s truth. 

When we get a surgery date for Don, if I get a response from the magazine, when my friend calls, when I take a chance on walking to the store, after all this waiting, I will begin to understand that waiting is never over. New waitings will arise. I know this because of a call I got just now which ended one of the waitings I’ve been living with: the publication of my next novel. 

I had plans for the book’s arrival, a To Do list of promotions, readings, newsletter notes, a launch with champagne, maybe. Then the call came.  My publisher informed me that instead of a firm launch date, she is going out of business—on the day she had set for my book to be born.

 That waiting is over. At first I felt relieved. My To-Do list dissolved. I could. . . Maybe
 even . . .Then she suggested I try self-publishing. “You’ve done it before,” she reminded me.

 I have given the idea some thought since her call. My story is an okay one, one I’d like to see in print. I’m thinking that maybe I can even change its title, the awful one given to it by the now-gone publisher. Maybe, maybe.

So now I’m beginning the wait for my book to be born.  Again. My To Do list has changed, is growing complicated. I need to clean off my desk, get organized, learn how to deal with the digitalized materials that I’ll be sent, leftovers from my publisher’s emptied files. I will re-title the book, create a new cover, plead for help from Createspace. Probably cry at least once.

But I won’t have time to notice the gray smoke.   

Jo Barney Writes

Sunday, July 1, 2018


I have been thinking a lot about memory.  I’m losing mine, it seems, like a lot of my aged friends, but I’m realizing that it is short-term memories that go, not the ones from seventy years ago.

In fact, Blood Sisters, had its beginning in a memory of a 1940’s house, the first house my parents bought, a Cape Cod. No one in my family had ever been East and we were not sure what that meant. Our Cape Cod was a two-bedroomed, unfinished attic and basement, square house with one large plate window in the living room, surrounded by twenty or more similar houses with plate glass windows. It was heaven, for my mother, and a haven for the rest of us. My bedroom in the attic was blue, my sister’s pink, and I smile now at the innocent growing up I accomplished that house.

This year has become an old-peoples’ story:  a sick spouse, an agitated wife, anxious hours of waiting beside a bed. We needed a break, and we decided that we would go to the coast, visit a town I knew well years ago, and of which we owned a part after we married. A return to the past for both of us.

Everything was different. Our favorite restaurant as closed, the old coffee shop was gone, the huge creamery a town away was handing out free ice cream, causing massive highway congestion from which we turned back.

Exhausted, my husband said he needed a nap. I needed to walk on the sand scattered with agates one more time to confirm a memory or two.

Was the cedar cabin on the hill, in the trees, my retreat for a month, the place in which I found myself, part of me at least, after losing a marriage, still there?  I couldn’t remember the street. I only had a guess at how far up the steep roads above the ocean it would be. I remembered patterned siding, a wooden walk to its front door, a small stained glass window, trees hiding the rolling ocean below. I started walking.

 I should have brought my cane. I rested as few times on concrete curbs as I made my way up. 

Ahead of me a man sauntered along with his dog.  I asked him if he knew of an unusual cedar house in the woods. I explained that I had an old, fine memory of spending a month recovering in it years before. He said he might know of a place like that. And minutes later, the house appeared on the left side of the road. I hesitated. He took my arm, led me to the wooden walk. “No one’s here. Do you want to go closer?” I touched the open gate and turned back.  “No, this is enough. It is just as I remember it.”

I made my way down the hill to my next memory, the tunnel through the promontory at the end of the beach. I knew what’s on the other side--monoliths rising out of the sea. I had used a screwdriver to scrape off mussels at their bases, working fast to beat the tide, carried them to the cedar house wrapped in my sweatshirt. The tunnel was still there. Slippery rocks lined its dark path. I took two steps and knew I’d never make it to the exit. Then a man asked if I wanted help. “I just want to see one of the big rocks again,” I murmured.

He reached out a huge hand, took mine in one of his, his lighted i-phone in the other, and said,
“Let’s go.” As we chose our steps carefully, I told him I’d written a novel about these rocks, this place.

The monoliths were still there.  Like memories. We turned back.
 At the entrance I found a waiting husband, who smiled, asked, “Like it used to be?”

“Yes,” I told him, “somethings will never change.” 


Jo Barney Writes