I’ve been attending the Miami Book Fair for over 20 years, and every year I see something new. Saturday I had two novel experiences, both involving the same author (not a novelist).

I arrived to her session early and bought her book. Seeing her standing nearby, I held it up, and her face broke into an expression of delight. Approaching, I told her that we had met in the authors’ lounge a few years earlier. “Tell me your name again?” she said, warmly shaking my hand. Then she asked if she could borrow the book to read from during her panel, as she had forgotten to bring a copy.

After the session she returned the book and invited me to come outside to her table, where she would sign it. I waited till her fans had gone and then stepped up to the table. “Please make it out to Joyce,” I said, giving my sister-in-law’s name.

She opened to the title page and started to write.

“Oh, you’re also a lefty who writes in the over-the-top style,” I said.

But she didn’t hear. She was engaged in conversation with her co-panelist. The subject was New Yorker rejections. It irked me that she was ignoring me to talk to her colleague, and it annoyed me even more that the discussion was one in which I could have more than held my own. I have been receiving rejections from The New Yorker since 1979. I doubted that either of them has, hanging on the wall of her office, a framed letter from William Shawn, dated February 24, 1987, informing her that he is no longer the editor of the magazine, that the new editor is Robert Gottlieb, and that she “may wish to get in touch with Mr. Gottlieb.”

But I couldn’t enter into the discussion because I had become invisible: They were on the celebrated (if rejected) writer side of the table and I wasn’t. She handed the book back – the one I had lent her one hour earlier – without even looking at me.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers

A few days ago I read over for a final time a piece that an editor had requested. I had a nagging feeling that something was missing in the lead. I thought about it for a few minutes and then a light went on. I typed in a parenthetical remark consisting of three words. Two of them – they were connected by an ‘and’ – immediately became my favorite words of the piece, two of the best words I’ve written all year. Not just because of their appropriateness but their symmetry. The delight I got from coming up with them has lasted (clearly) through the week.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writing

It’s a tough time for freelancers who aren’t writing about Trump or sexual harassment (ideally both).

By Thomas Swick • Category: writing

fatalism 101

11/15/17 09:18

Went to see the Polish movie at the film festival on Friday because, judging from the synopsis, it was a contemporary film about family life, not another depressing movie about the war.

Within the first few minutes, the mother suffered a stroke and fell into a coma. As if that weren't enough, the father, toward the end, got diagnosed with a brain tumor. Though, to the director's credit, he handled the news with humor. It reminded me of the Polish philosopher who said that Poles can only be happy in those situations when they have no reason to be.

By Thomas Swick • Category: poland, writers

comedy gold

11/14/17 08:46

In my ideal TV world, Doc Martin would get a new patient: Larry David.

By Thomas Swick • Category: Americans

to market

11/13/17 10:02

We found ourselves in Hollywood Saturday morning and decided to check out the Yellow Green Farmer's Market, which we hadn’t seen since its opening a few years back. Then it was a hot, half-empty hangar off of I-95.

A line-up of cars slowly made its way into the nearly packed parking lot. After finding a space, we walked into the Italian Depot, stocked with freshly baked ciabatta, olive oils, pastas, including our favorite, Le Veneziane corn pasta, at about half the price we’d been paying for it.   

Stands were set up outside the main building, scenting the air with Venezuelan barbecue and Thai satays. Inside we found a bustling hall, part farmers’ market, part ethnic bazaar. It was a microcosm of South Florida: Peruvian ceviche, Honduran street food, Cuban sandwiches, Mexican tacos, Colombian arepas, Brazilian acai, West Indian hot sauces, Ethopian injera, Greek gyros. We found rustic round loaves of delicious gluten-free bread, Louisiana gumbo, smoked fish dip, healthy juices, pastries that looked like fancy soaps. It confirmed my belief, stated three years ago in Fort Lauderdale Magazine, that Broward is more ethnically diverse than Dade. It was exactly the kind of market I try to find when I travel to other cities, and I was amazed to discover that it has existed for years 10 minutes from my home. Why aren’t people talking about this place?

By Thomas Swick • Category: hometown