birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Oh my gosh, I loved my grandmother Hazel so much. She was a tiny woman, barely 5 feet, and lived in a tiny, perfect house one block into Bethesda from D.C. She wrote children's books, 18 or 19 of them, and earned royalties her entire adult life, or at least as long as I knew her. Considering she started out as a Maine farm and island girl, pretty good. She had sparkling eyes and mischievous wit. For awhile I thought everyone's grandmother wrote books. She used to review children's books too, so my three sisters and I would regularly get boxes of them delivered to our apartment in NYC. Her finished basement, where we all slept on a pull-out sofa, had bookshelves filled with more. I loved reading and still look for book shelves whenever I go in someone's house, though many of mine have been packed in the garage for 20 years now. She inspired me to write, too, of course. But I became a journalist, and I remember being almost ashamed that I was covering juvenile violence and political corruption and other bad news, rather than writing mostly cheerful, happy kids' books. She wrote books about Maine, and young adult historical biographies, and a series based on my father, her only son, but the boy was named Herbert and they lived in a perfect little town, where all the streets were named after trees, but spelled backwards, like "Tunlaw" instead of "Walnut." I can still see the illustrated covers: "Herbert", "More Fun With Herbert", "Herbert Rides Again", "Herbert's Spaceship" and others. One of the last times I saw her, we went to a movie theater. She was in her 90's, and we saw "Home Alone". It was a Saturday and many divorced dads were there with their little boys. Every time Macauley whatsis-name did something funny,. all the little boys in the theater roared with laughter, and she just loved it. I thought the movie might be too violent for her, all the slapstick with the burglars. I wanted to protect her from modern-day mores. She just laughed and said "Isn't it wonderful?" every time those boys cracked up with glee. There were sad times with her and my dad at the end of her life, but my memories of her are wonderful. Just wonderful.

My father's mother was a Christian Scientist

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