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My Turn: A writer finds her voice

She wants to be like Erma Bombeck, but

She wants to be like Erma Bombeck, but she’s just fine as herself, standing to deliver her stories. Credit: Paul Sciacchitano

To borrow from Elvis' mega hit "All Shook Up" . . . Well, bless my soul what's wrong with me? I'm shaking like a leaf on an aging tree.

That is just what my gyrating stomach was doing on the days leading up to my reading with the Long Island Creative Writers' Guild.

It started last year, while I was attending sessions in local libraries. During these two-hour classes, we'd sit around a table and most of us had something we'd written to read in order to be critiqued -- in a gentle and constructive way, of course. When a poem was read with phrasing and emotions that astounded me, I wondered where all that depth came from, and I was super-impressed. Writings by a member who was proficient in recounting stories of her Italian heritage left me breathless.

Imagine my surprise when I was contacted via email and invited to speak at a Long Island Read held last fall. Emotions ran the gamut -- I was confused. Why me -- my stories are so simplistic. What would I have to say that would be so compelling that the audience would be hanging on my every word, instead of eyeballing the nearby table of goodies that our leader, Denis, so generously provides? Secondly, was this upcoming event at the Book Revue, the Huntington venue where famous writers, celebrities and the like hold court in the store's "nook"? Simultaneously flattered and perplexed, I declined. I just wasn't ready for prime time.

Months passed, and lo and behold, a second invite. Once again, I attempted to graciously decline, but our moderator, Bev, wasn't entertaining any of my negative talk. During our email correspondence, I read between her lines -- grow up girl -- just do it! I was informed that the fliers were out -- be at the East Meadow Library -- 15 minutes worth of material. That whole week I rehearsed in front of my mirror, trying to breathe feeling into my words. My husband could have stood in for me because he heard those stories over and over and over. That's where "for better, for worse" has come into play. The guy's a good sport.

Finally, the day is here, and we arrive fashionably early. So far, only a handful of people are milling around. The presentation finally comes to order.

Among those now filling the room are family and friends. I realize I have a death grip on my folder. I am the third speaker, and I try to remain focused on the others' stories. A fellow writer, Valerie, is in the row behind me, giving me a "you'll be fine" pat on my shoulder; I'm now aware it is time for me to walk up to the podium. I recount stories about an ugly basement; a longtime marriage to Smokey the Bear; a rude sector of moviegoers; and my technological ineptness.

Gradually, I realize the audience is laughing at the humor in my stories, not a wimpy giggle, but actual laughter. A fleeting thought crosses my mind of the late Erma Bombeck, a columnist I had admired for many years for her ability to put joy in the most mundane of life's happenings.

My 10 minutes of fame are over, and I'm grateful for all the positive comments from fellow writers who related to my stories. By now, the butterflies are gone, and I am famished. A stop at the diner with friends and more lively chatter about this presentation ensue.

Turning in for the night, I thank my husband, Paul, for all his patience and confidence and say, "When I grow up, if ever, I want to be just like Erma, able to find happiness in the mundane and confidence to write about it."

I think I just did that!

--Diane Sciacchitano, North Massapequa


Honest, your car let me in!


The end-of-visiting hour message was sounded, but I usually sneak in another 10 to 20 minutes before I leave. I put some papers together, retrieved what I needed, said good night to my fiancee, kissed her and told her I would see her the following day.

Walking toward the parking area, I reached for my keys to use my remote car door and light opener. Approaching a blue-gray minivan, I pressed the remote and the lights came on. I reached for the door, opened it and threw the package in, setting my cane inside and stepped into the van. I tried putting in the ignition key, but it didn't fit. Looking about the van, I realized I was in the wrong vehicle. I stepped out and looked around, then spotted my van, three spots away.

Feeling strange, I locked and closed the door of the stranger's van, then saw my papers and cane still inside. I tried the remote again, but it did not operate this time. This was a predicament and there was nothing I could do but wait for the owner.

About 20 minutes later, a lady approached, warily looking at me standing by her van. I began by apologizing and then trying to explain the situation. She could not understand, nor could I, how my remote would open her van that was a different make than mine. I tried to demonstrate what occurred, but couldn't repeat what had happened. I showed her my blue-gray van. She opened her van so could I retrieve my papers and cane. I thanked her and we went our separate ways.

While trying to explain what happened to others, I received many opinions and much advice. No one can imagine the how this would occur -- and, then, to encounter an understanding person. Now, I find my van before I operate the remote.

--Peter F. Juranich,Floral Park

Submissions to My Turn and Let Us Hear From You must be the writer's original work. Email, or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include your name, address and phone numbers. Stories will be edited, become property of Newsday and may be republished in any format.

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