This morning Alfie had a visit from Nellie, a Tibetan Terrier from Beacon Hill. They are the same age, though Nellie, being female, is comsiderably smaller. I had wondered if a dog recognizes his own breed. Alfie's play companions are generally "other." He played with happily with Nellie, and allowed her to share his uneaten breakfast very companionably, and of course there is no way to ask him...but to be honest, I think he viewed Nellie as simply "dog," and not "Tibetan Terrier."

I was in Tampa overnight Friday night in order to speak to the Tampa Writers' Project there at their conference on Saturady...several hundred teachers who teach writing and study it seriously. A good group. It is always pleasant to be with like-minded folk. I was to speak for an hour and then sign books (for maybe half an hour, they said)...but the book-signing went on and on and it was three hours later that I was finally able to rise from that chair and rest my hand. Not that I am complaining! It's wonderful to have such an enthusiastic throng.

And yesterday a photographer came to the house, sent by Houghton Mifflin to do new photos for publicity, book jackets, whatever. Turned out he had two subjects instead of one for most photos, because publicity-hog Alfie kept leaping into my lap and posing. Attached, a throwaway Polaroid that the photographer, Neil Giordano, let me keep.


Next I head, tomorrow, to Brattleboro, Vermont for the literary festival there, and I understand I am speaking to 700+ people on Friday afternoon. I'll put together a powerpoint presentation which attempts to relate my lfe to my writing...people always enjoy loking at pictures, I think, as long as they are not endless shots of one's summer vacation in 10 European capitols. In thinking about what photos to use this time, I have been thinking of my father; and I have been thinking about him as well while watching the Ken Burns "World War II." My father was a career military man, which meant that despite a wife and three young children, he had to go off to the Pacific in the early forties. My book "Autumn Street" (Houghton Mifflin, 1980) is autobiographical, and about that hole in the life of a child when the father goes away for reasons that the child is too young to understand. So it is about loss, and loneliness, and longing. Of course many children today, sadly, are experiencing the same thing.

I think a lot of literature is about coming to terms with loss. Of my own books, "A Summer to Die," "Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye," "Autumn Street," "Rabble Starkey," and "The Silent Boy" are the ones that come most quickly to my mind.


Here is my father in 1943, home on leave for my baby brother's christening just before he left again, headed for the island of Tinian, which I believe will be described in tonight's segment of the Ken Burns series. I was six years old at this time. Dad, a major at the time, looks so young to me. (He would have been 37).