Alyson Richman, Huntington, L. I. local and favorite author

My love affair with Alyson Richman’s books began with A Mask Carver’s Son, a story written in simple and beautiful language and steeped in 20th century Japanese culture. The reader comes to understand the absolute respect demanded of the son and the craft he chose to continue, using his own interpretation. The mask carver’s son stayed with me long after the book’s last page.

Ms. Richman’s calming voice and graceful words again beckoned me in The Swedish Tango, a story of political ambition and upheaval, its outcasts and their perseverance, characters intertwined yet separate, as they claw their way toward restoration.

And then The Last Van Gogh, which is told through the eyes of the delicate Marguerite, in love with a master we know will break her heart. It is the immersion in 19th century France that brings the story alive and allows the reader an insightful look at the artist and the demons that torture him.

In The Lost Wife, Alyson Richman brings together two worlds, Auschwitz, its history and horror, the lives of the talented artists who survive by their wits, and the story of love, between two innocent children in wartime, between families, prisoners, lost love, and finally reunion in spectacular form. Daisy Ridley will star in the soon-to-be movie of The Lost Wife.

Ms. Richman has invited us into the living room of countries such as Japan, Chile, Sweden, France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, and most recently Italy, in her book, The Garden of Letters. It is the richness of these geographic forays that most entice this reader, as I know I will discover yet another world laid out before me in Technicolor.

#alysonrichman

 

 

 

Time and Again

Image 5-24-16 at 3.52 PM

New York City, 1880. We are along side Simon Morely, as he navigates a city he’s known all his life, only it’s one hundred years ago and anything north of 59th Street is a remote part of the city where sleighs glide through snow-covered streets and horse-drawn trollies traverse Broadway. We are amazed when he finds the arm of Statue of Liberty plunked down in the middle of lower Manhattan, and walk along the streets known as Ladies Row where the stores boast sample garments, to lanes reserved for Gentleman’s habadashiers. We follow Simon as he solves a murder mystery, and reveals the unexpected villain. I want to read it again, and again, to immerse myself in the city I grew up in before it was glass and concrete.

 

RO Literary announces the latest addition to our agency~

Welcome Kathleen Murray Moran to our family of authors!

Tell me a story, my daughter would say when I tucked her in at night. I began telling stories I had forgotten until that moment. In the telling, they became real again. I reimagined my mother’s kindness when I lost my husband, the sister who transformed words on the page, the meals of left-overs my mother brought home from Horn & Hardart we feasted on when I was a child. As I told stories, I saw them happening again and I wrote them down, scene by scene, and the stories became a memoir.

It is a story about endings, my husband’s death at the hands of terrorists who hijacked an aircraft and left behind a bomb in Grand Central Station, and the explosion that snuffed out his life at age 27, leaving me a widow with two young sons, and the story of a beautiful hijacker who gained my friendship through her letters and asked me to foster her release from prison. And, it is the story of beginnings. Of how I picked up the pieces of my life scattered by that bomb, cobbling together a future for myself and my children, and met the man who eventually renewed my faith in love. It is also the story of how I helped to turn tragedy into action as one of the founders of Survivors of the Shield, a New York City police widows organization providing social, economic, and emotional support to surviving spouses of police killed in the line of duty, and how in small ways the challenges of life bring about the greatest gifts.

 

The Atlantic named my NPR podcast top 50 of 2015

In 2014 an excerpt of my memoir, The Widow and the Hijacker, went viral on Salon.com, coming in as the #3 story of the year. 2015 brings another top rating, this time for the NPR Snap Judgement Podcast, which The Atlantic rated one of the top 50 podcasts.

Here’s what they said:
“Unforgiven” by Snap Judgment
There’s a moment in the first 20 minutes of “Unforgiven” that will make your blood run cold. The theme of the episode is forgiveness, and the first act chronicles the correspondence between two women, a widow and the wife of her husband’s killer. Great documentary storytelling has long had a home in the world of podcasting, and Snap Judgment regularly surpasses typical cocktail-party anecdotes with its sweeping narratives. But “Unforgiven” pushes the show to new heights, layering in surprises and drilling down to the hard questions about how far the reaches of grace should extend.

Croatian Sympathy

In the last few months I have received a half dozen notes from Croatians who have offered their sympathy and best wishes. It has been almost forty years, and yet people from that gentle country have found their way to this page to let me know that my loss has not been forgotten. My heartfelt thanks to those who have taken the time to let me know I am in their thoughts.

Kathleen

HuffPost Finalist

I am pleased to let you know that our judges have chosen your submission as one of the finalists for the HuffPost 50/AARP memoir contest. Ten finalists were chosen from a pool of more than 2,400 contestants. Congratulations on sending one of the very best pieces our judges encountered.

Rita Wilson, HuffPost Editor at Large

Words with Writers

Q&A With Writer Kathleen Murray Moran

“I write to know what I think, to remember how I feel, to form the words that would otherwise go unremembered.”

1. Why do words matter?

Words move and sway the mind with their rhythm and meaning. They know and say and deliver what’s inside. Words convey who we are and what we think. They are our expression of life. When we read, the words on the page transport us into the world of the protagonist. When we are invited into the mind of a heroin addict in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” we experience what it is like to stand outside society. These experiences teach us about people, and to experience people is to experience life.

2. What are your top five reads?

Sula by Toni Morrison, is the story of friendship and betrayal and a look into the life of a young black girl who claws her way up from The Bottom.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare, is a play about tragedy, witchcraft, murder, ambition, desertion, and finally destruction. It is a prophecy that Macbeth’s  greed and the fallout of his self-indulgence will secure his destiny.

Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. The language in the Goldfinch is irresistible, compelling the reader to read just one more chapter, as we are immersed into the life of Theo and then Boris, two characters whose growth takes us along and shows us loss and grief and desperation. It is a story of how one moment life is simple, and the next, shattered into a million pieces, and how those pieces never really fit back together again.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. The story of New York City, from a high-wire walk between the twin towers to the desolate streets of the Bronx, the characters are pawns of the city in the 1970s where hookers in orange day-glo wait on the side of the expressway for a trick, to a priest who must choose between his Guatemalan lover and his faith. The story is the fiction of life.

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner. Along the way to bury their mother, Faulkner reveals the inner psychological workings of the Bundren children and their bizarre stories. Each character tells the same story through is or her own perspective, and it isn’t until two or three Bundren children later that we begin to understand what they’ve been trying to tell us and appreciate the rewards of reading Faulkner.

3. What are you working on right now?

NYPD Widow Stories. What goes through your mind when that knock comes to the door, the thoughts you’ve mentally rehearsed even though you tried to push them away? You’ve seen them on television, the young widows following her husband’s coffin, thousands of blue uniforms at attention. Only this time it’s real. Squad cars line the street, red lights bounce off the house in slow circles. They have come to tell you that your husband, a New York City police officer, is dead.

4. What is your revision process?

I write a piece first to form the idea. Then I envision what that piece should look like. Think about a scene where two people meet for the first time. When do they first pay attention to each other? What are the senses at play – sight, sound, smell – what does each one feel like? I write this all out and create a scenario that takes the couple even further, and imagine their fist conversation, first kiss, perhaps. Then I read over what I’ve written and cross out everything that doesn’t look like that couple.

5. Why do you write?

I write to know what I think, to remember how I feel, to form the words that would otherwise go unremembered. Tell me a story, my daughter asked after I tucked her in. Thus began the foundation of my memoirs, stories that I hadn’t thought about in years, my mother’s kind hand when I lost my husband, the sister who grounded me in childhood, the day I met her father. Stories written to become immortal.

About Kathleen Murray Moran

Kathleen Murray Moran is the author of the memoir The Widow and the Hijacker.

– See more at: http://w3sidecar.tumblr.com/post/114140467695/kathleen-murray-moran#sthash.aH7khe8p.dpuf

My Memory of Mario Cuomo

Survivors of the Shield Bill Signing 1989 Bottom row: Kathleen Murray, Sue McCormack, Mario Cuomo, and Mary Beth O'Neill

Mario Cuomo stood at the window of his offices on the 58th floor of One World Financial Center watching a tugboat stream along the Hudson toward the Statue of Liberty. Below, the financial district with its jackhammers and car horn blasts was silent, the sky was a brilliant blue and the waves held white caps.

“That one’s mine,” the governor said, pointing to the small island across from Ellis. “Governor’s Island.” I looked toward the Coast Guard base where my husband had once removed a suspicious package when he was with the bomb squad, before a device left by terrorists in Grand Central Station exploded and killed him. “I thought that was a Coast Guard Station,” I said. He smiled at me. “Guess I can’t fool a New Yorker.” He reached for my hand. “Kathleen Murray,” I said. His hand was warm and he held mine for a moment.

We were three New York City police widows in his office today to meet with the governor of the State of New York to sign the COPS Agenda into law.  We had been there on a freezing cold day in February a year before, when sitting across from him, we had given him our wish list, the things that would improve our lives and those of our children: the right to remarry without losing our pensions, scholarships for ourselves and our offspring, grief counseling training so we could console a new widow. We were founders of Survivors of the Shield, Kathleen Murray, Mary Beth O’Neill, and Susan McCormack, three women who had succeeded in changing the path of those unfortunate enough to lose their spouses in the line of duty. We shared the willingness to do something revolutionary, turn pain into action, make the world better in the wake of violence.

The view was greener this spring day, and the conference room smelled of rich coffee and baked goods. I watched the wind catch the sail of a cutter as it bounced on the choppy waters. “Hey Murray.” The governor came up beside me. “What do you do when you’re not pushing for legislation?”

“Professor of English.”

His heavy dark eyebrows ticked up a notch. “Shakespeare?”

“I’m teaching Macbeth this semester,” I said.

“I count myself a Shakespeare aficionado.” He squinted and thought for a moment. “How about a Shakespeare challenge?” The cutter blew along the whitecaps, its sails majestic against the skyline of New Jersey. I backed away from the window to face him. “I accept your challenge, Governor.”

“Excellent,” he said. “The subject is Macbeth. Five questions each. The winner gets a Montblanc pen, courtesy of this office,” and just as I was saying, “You’re on-” the press arrived, a flurry of cameras and microphones. And the office’s press secretary rounded us up in an organized line: four senators, three police widows, and the governor, at his desk to sign our bill.

“Governor Cuomo wants to have a literary contest with me,” I whispered to Mary Beth, while the flashbulbs went off. I felt a surge of joy. “The bill includes every New York State police and fire department,” the governor told the press, “And it has all come about as a result of the hard work of Kathleen Murray, Mary Beth O’Neill, and Susan McCormack.”

Later, we sat across from each other in the dining room, the governor and I, our plates piled high. “Okay Murray,” Governor Cuomo said, when we were settled. “What did Lady Macbeth say when she thinks she sees blood on her hands?”

I smiled. The easy ones first. “Out damned spot.”

We were a table of eight, including Matilda Cuomo, the first lady, who had come to lend her support to police widows, Mary Beth, Susan, and I, and senators and commissioners. Everyone at the table turned to listen as the Governor announced, “Correct! One for you.”

I would begin with an easy one as well. “What do the weird sisters predict?”

The governor waited a second. “That Macbeth would become thane of Cawdor.”

“How does Lady Macbeth comfort Macbeth when he begins to hallucinate?” he asked as I dug into my plate of pasta salad.

“She comforts him by putting him to bed.”

“Yes.” We were even. I leaned forward and asked my last question. “Why is it Banquo and not Duncan who haunts Macbeth?”

The governor squeezed his bushy eyebrows together as he thought over the question. “Because Macbeth is more troubled over murdering a king than a thane.” I popped a grape in my mouth and waited to see if he was going to revise his answer before I said, “Banquo was a greater threat because he heard the witches’ prophesy and knew of Macbeth’s ambition to become king.”

I couldn’t help but smile at the victory as the governor took from his pocket a box containing a black pen with the white star on top.

A Writer’s Highs and Lows

The momentum began with Salon.com, a story they called Meeting My Husband’s Killer, which delivered 20,000 hits. Then the HuffPost contest, the one I didn’t care much about but entered a story in my files, Escape From Prison, and soon forgot until the email, which read that the piece was selected from over three thousand entries and one of the finest they had received. I was on a roll. Salon voted my first article their #3 Life story for 2014. An honor indeed, until HuffPost saw the reprint and notified me I was disqualified from their contest because a part of my manuscript had been previously published. I had pondered the wording of their contest rules, asked others in the industry for interpretation, and all said the same thing: initial entries must not have been previously published meant only the story submitted to enter the contest. Their legal department begged to differ, and I was out. While licking my wounds, NPR asked to adapt a radio version of Meeting My Husband’s Killer, Woodstock Writer’s Radio asked for an interview, and a media consultant was so taken with my story that she volunteered her time to promote my book.