Meet Ernestine

Meet Ernestine2018-06-08T21:56:28+00:00

The author

At about age six or seven I began to put my simple feelings into rhyming poems that I saved in a little green plastic note pad (which I still have). I grew up in a mostly Jewish neighborhood in the suburbs of New York City in the 1950s where the food, and the music and dancing of my mixed Greek and Italian family gave personality to the post World War II American lifestyle. By the 1960s I was a teenager loving the new music and creativity of that decade, and I guess I’m still a hippy at heart. I didn’t want to go to college but my parents knew it was important, so I ended up attending The City College of New York, where I earned a B.A. in Journalism in 1971. I was never a journalist but I was always a poet. I submitted some poems to a few journals, got rejected, and decided I must not have much talent. But I kept on writing free verse into my 20s, 30s and 40s. Poetry came naturally to me.

Then something happened to me and my writing. Or more correctly, something stopped happening.

Maybe the rigors of my career at a huge banking corporation bled away my creative spirit. I thought about writing constantly but my mind was a blank where the words used to be. I took some writing classes, mainly for short stories which I love to read and wanted to learn how to write. I started quite a few and never finished any. They never seemed good enough. My confidence ebbed away.

One day I simply lost all my own words, and the paper stayed blank.

I retired in 2011 with the idea that I would start to write again. I’d sit down with paper and pen and just couldn’t get into a flow. I immersed myself in my garden where the colors and patterns of each season slowly erased my former life of cubicles and someone else’s deadlines. The seasons passed with their own deadlines, the garden expanded, but when I sat down at a blank paper the words just didn’t come.

Then one day I started writing again. Simple as that. Well, not so simple. I logged over fifty revisions as I crafted and wordsmithed and proofread. But the characters flowed and the story was there. I published my first novel, Returning Souls, in February 2018. It’s the story of a woman who embarks on the journey of a lifetime after a near-death experience, and discovers her second chance at her own life. I’m working on a sequel, hopefully to be published in late 2018 – early 2019.

Even though I’ve traveled all over the world and dreamed about moving to many of the places I visited, I still make my home in a suburb of New York City that’s less than 20 miles from the street where I was born.

These days when I’m not revising short stories or writing something new, I work in my garden, commune with my cats, play with my partner’s grandkids, or sit outside at twilight waiting for the last ruby-throated hummingbirds of the day. They come for a final sip of nectar at the moment when night has fallen, then melt into the trees.

The person

I hope some of these questions and answers give you a better picture of who I am day in and day out. If you have questions about me that aren’t answered here, please send me an email from my contact page.

Do you have any children?

No. When I was younger I thought if I didn’t have any children by the time I was 35 years old I would simply have a child and raise him or her myself. I never considered that at age 35 I might be living alone with no partner or even a support system to count on. Real life happens in its own way without regard to our dreams. I never found the right person at the right time. Regardless of how much I wanted to share my love and my passion for books, poetry, music, and nature with a child, I never had a family of my own.

Do you have any pets?

Yes! My partner and I are currently the guardians of three cats – Gus (to the left), LuLu (up above), and Nikko (down below). They are all rescues. I never set out to have three cats at this stage of my life – I thought one would be enough – but my veterinarian had other ideas. She cleaned the neighborhood where her office is located of its feral cat population by finding homes for all the cats (or adopting them herself!), and in the process she ended up with hundreds of kittens who needed homes. Soon we were bringing home little LuLu to keep our recently adopted cat Gus company and maybe get him to move around a bit, and then a few months later we fell in love with a tiny gray face and pink mouth meowing up at us from a cage of kittens in the waiting room at the vet’s. He became our little Nikko. I went for many years without any animals after my beloved cat Squeaky went over the Rainbow Bridge, but after eleven years with no animals I find myself once again being at the beck and call of our kitties. I’m so glad we have them! They are one of my constant joys!

What are your hobbies?

I read just about every book that comes my way and seek out unknown authors. I have hundreds of books in my little apartment. And I love growing plants. I’m blessed to have a garden in my backyard where I experiment and learn while (hopefully) creating an artist’s palette with plants. I love composing little garden ‘rooms’ with leaves in their many shades of green, yellow and red, with their variety of shapes and textures. I’m like a kid in a candy store when the first crocus and snowdrops of spring pop up, and am amazed at the quick succession of ripening blooms and plants peaking from week to week. All too soon the seasons change and we’re back to dry leaves and cold days good for planting bulbs that will bring me joy the following spring. I try to make time stand still by spending a lot of time in the garden, nurturing and planning, hoping to achieve the ultimate design and beauty. Sometimes I think I actually did it! Then the next day, I realize how much more work I need to do. It never gets old!

My favorite form of exercise is yoga. I have been practicing on and off since I first saw Richard Hittleman’s ‘Yoga for Life’ television program back in the 1950s. These days I am enjoying my yoga practice again. It’s my favorite way to stay in shape and feel my body and mind as one. I think it keeps me young!

If you weren’t a writer, what would you love to do?

Originally I wanted to be a paleontologist or archeologist. As a kid I was kind of obsessed with dinosaurs. As I got older I became interested in ancient cultures and human prehistory. When I first enrolled at college I wanted to major in Anthropology, but there were so many math prerequisites in those days that I had to pick something else (basic math is about as sophisticated as I get). I chose Journalism since my college didn’t offer any other writing-related majors. But I have never given up my curiosity about the mysterious and formative times in our collective human past (no doubt this was the inspiration for the Astara character in my novel, Returning Souls).

What’s your favorite food?

Lobster! Hands down! I was introduced to my first whole steamed lobster at age six when my family went on summer vacation in Maine and Nova Scotia. We went to a lobster pound where they pulled the lobsters right out of the sea and steamed them on the spot. I ate my first lobster sitting in our car. But I can never make lobster at home. There’s no way I can boil a living creature alive and then eat it. I’m more apt to make a pet out of it.

A close second – dark chocolate (it has to be dark), especially if it has whole hazelnuts. Another major food group for me is coffee. I love a steaming hot latte first thing in the morning. And it’s such a nice reward when I want something during the day but I’m not sure exactly what!

What are you reading?

A few current favorites are The Mare, by Mary Gaitskill, and Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. I love the short stories of Alice Munro, Eudora Welty, and Ursula Le Guin. I’m a huge fan of The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, and The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien, the entire Harry Potter, Outlander, and Game of Thrones series, and S.M. Stirling’s Novels of the Change. On my ‘to read’ list: Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, and all of Winston Graham’s novels depicting life in Cornwall, England in the late 18th century, starting with Poldark and Demelza. I admit I never read the children’s classic Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, but I’m reading it now.

What is your favorite poem?

In high school I was an e.e.cummings fan. In college I fell in love with Byron, Keats and Shelly. As an adult I favor the confessional poets like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, and love the musicality of Rilke, Yeats, and Dylan Thomas. I love reading any poetry, really. It’s the most unique way for each of us to express our deepest places.

If I had to pick just one verse, it would have to be Percy Bysshe Shelly’s “Ozymandius”:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said – “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert….Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, Kind of Kings;
Look upon my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Maybe that’s why I write – I want something of myself to remain. Not just a memory or a photograph that fades and is eventually forgotten. Words, put together in a way that is unique to me, can remain behind to inspire people long after I am gone.