Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Menu!

Thanksgiving Day
Thursday, November 28, 2013

Spiced Nuts
Selection of Cheeses
Selection of Cocktails

Roast Turkey
Cornbread Stuffing
Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Potatoes &Gravy
Gratineed Mustard Creamed Onions
Roasted Butternut Squash with Ginger
Brussels Sprouts Cockaigne
Pinot Noir, Elk Cove, 2011
Saint-Peray, Anne-Sophie Pic & Michael Chapoutier, 2011

Pumpkin Pie
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

Coffee & Tea

Saturday, November 23, 2013

GWU's FREE Jenny McKean Moore Community Workshop in CNF...Apps Due 1/7/14

The George Washington University
Jenny McKean Moore Free Community Workshop
Spring 2014 – Creative Nonfiction Workshop

Wednesdays, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
January 22 –April 23 , 2014

Led by Molly McCloskey

Come and take part in a semester-long creative nonfiction workshop! To apply, you do not need academic qualifications or publications.  The class will include some readings of published writings (primarily memoir and the personal essay), but will mainly be a roundtable critique of work submitted by class members.  There are no fees to participate in the class, but you will be responsible for making enough copies of your stories for all fifteen participants.  Students at Consortium schools (including GWU) are not eligible.  

To apply, please submit a brief letter of interest and a sample of your writing, 12 pt type, double spaced, and no more than 7 pages in length.  Make sure you include your name, address, home and work telephone numbers, and email address for notification.  Application materials will not be returned, but will be recycled once the selection process is completed.  Applications must be received at the following address by close of business on Tuesday, 7 January 2014. 

JMM Creative Nonfiction Workshop 
Department of English
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street, NW (Suite 760)                                                     
Washington, DC 20052

All applicants will be notified by email of the outcome of their submissions no later than Saturday, 18 January 2014.

Molly McCloskey is the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington for 2013-2014. She is the author of two collections of short stories, a novel, and – most recently – a memoir, Circles Around the Sun. She normally resides in Dublin, Ireland.

The George Washington University is an equal opportunity institution.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Favorite Thanksgiving Stuffing

It’s that time of year again…the time we start making lists and thinking about what we’re thankful for, and FOR SURE I am very, very thankful for this stuffing recipe!  I post it on my blog every year just in case someone is looking to change up their own stuffing or—gasp!—hasn’t made stuffing ever.  This is simply the best stuffing there is.  “Some people” might even call it a dinner entrée.

Cornbread & Scallion Stuffing
Adapted from the beloved, still-missed Gourmet magazine, November 1992
(It’s actually called Cornbread, Sausage & Scallion Stuffing, but in an uncharacteristic nod to heart-health, I don’t put in the sausage. See the note below if you’d like to add the sausage.)

For the cornbread:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the stuffing:
¾ stick unsalted butter plus an additional 2 tablespoons if baking the stuffing separately
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 ½ cups finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons crumbed dried sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
½ cup thinly sliced scallions
1 ½ cups chicken broth if baking the stuffing separately

Make the cornbread: In a bowl stir together the flour, the cornmeal, the baking powder, and the salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, the egg, and the butter, and add the milk mixture to the cornmeal mixture, and stir the batter until it is just combined. Pour the batter into a greased 8-inch-square baking pan (I actually use a cast iron skillet) and bake the cornbread in the middle of a preheated 425 F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. (The corn bread may be made 2 days in advance and kept wrapped tightly in foil at room temperature.)

Into a jellyroll pan, crumble the corn bread coarse, bake it in the middle of a preheated 325 F oven, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until it is dry and golden, and let it cool.

Make the stuffing:  In a large skillet, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and cook the onion and the celery over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened. Add the sage, marjoram, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste and cook the mixture, stirring, for 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the corn bread, the scallion, and salt and pepper to taste, and combine the stuffing gently but thoroughly. Let the stuffing cool completely before using it to stuff a 12-14 pound turkey.

The stuffing can be baked separately: Spoon the stuffing into a buttered 3- to 4-quart casserole, drizzle it with the broth, and dot the top with the additional 2 tablespoons of butter, cut into bits. Bake the stuffing, covered, in the middle of a preheated 325 F degree oven for 30 minutes and bake it, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.

Serves 8-10; fewer if I am one of the dinner guests!

Note: Here are the instructions if you want to add the sausage: The recipe calls for “3/4 lb bulk pork sausage” that you brown in a skillet. Remove it from the pan—leaving the fat—and proceed with cooking the onions, etc. Add the sausage at the end, when you combine the cornbread and scallion with the onion mixture.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Writing Short Stories vs. Writing Novels...Highlights of My Recent Talk

I recently spoke at the excellent First Fridays writing series in Leesburg, Virginia, sponsored by The Writer’s Center.  My topic was how to make that big move from writing short stories to writing novels, one of my favorite problems to ponder.

Attendee—and friend!—Karolina Gajdeczka  was kind enough to post a summary of my remarks on the Potomac Review blog.  Clearly she takes AMAZING notes, as some of this is virtually word-for-word:

Characters:  Characters should all mean something in a novel, and should have depth so they are capable of something surprising.  Ideally, characters in a novel need to act, and preferably act poorly, so their actions lead to more and more complicated circumstances and more desperation.  What do the characters want? Externally and internally?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Easiest, Amazing-est Spaghetti Sauce...with Canned Tomatoes!

I have to pass along the world’s simplest, super-yummy dish: Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, based on a recipe by the renowned Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan.  I’m sure everyone else in the world knows her recipes, making me late to this party…but better late than never! 

The New York Times Magazine ran an appreciation of her on Sunday, accompanied by several recipes, with some mouth-watering photographs.  But this one in particular really caught my eye, since it looked suspiciously easy.  Three ingredients plus salt and spaghetti noodles?  Canned tomatoes?  I could make this without going to the grocery store?  Sign me up!

I can’t speak to the magical chemistry that is the combination of canned tomatoes and butter—I can only speak to the fact that there is, indeed, magic in this dish and that you MUST make it immediately.  You could serve this at a dinner party and everyone would rave.  You could eat the whole pan all by yourself…which is what Steve and I did.

My only caution is that quality matters here, and that you really do need the better canned tomatoes (which are worth the extra $ anyway). I used a whole can of diced San Marzano—white label with a silhouette of tomatoes.

Here’s the piece in the Magazine, and here’s the easiest version of the recipe and its link to the New York Times (with a hilarious correction at the end):


  • 2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.

2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

 ~Recipe by Marcella Hazan

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Story in The Gettysburg Review

My story “The Circle” is in the current issue of The Gettysburg Review.  (And, ahem, my name is even on the cover! Yes, of COURSE it’s spelled correctly…this is a top-quality journal with an excellent team of smart, dedicated, and extremely careful editors.)

This story is close to my heart because it is the first one I wrote that addressed this part of my life, and it led to the collection of linked stories I recently finished. I was inspired to write “The Circle” after a breakfast conversation at VCCA (Virginia Center for Creative Arts), when the poet I was sitting with talked about how she was teaching a class that focused on the literature of subcultures.  I walked to my studio and thought, “What subculture could I write about?”  Then I wrote the first draft of this story, in about 2 days. (Here’s a short write-up of that pivotal writing moment in 2011.)

 Here’s where you can order a copy, should you so desire. The journal is also available at many university libraries and often at Barnes & Noble. (The cover shows a beautiful picture of skyscrapers…with MY NAME on the back!)  This is one of my favorite journals, so I also recommend subscribing…I’ve been a steady subscriber for at least ten years.

Finally, here’s a glimpse of my story:

            The church door was locked, so the group stood in the May evening, a cluster of seven women and one man, none of them saying much of anything beyond murmurs about what time it might be, and that surely someone would come soon to let them in.  It was a Lutheran church, or maybe Methodist—one of those churches that blurred a bit for not being imposingly Catholic like the churches she had known growing up in Chicago.  This was a church that was more like a school:  functional, not worshipful, nothing to inspire.  That was okay.  Impossible to imagine she would feel inspired ever again.
            The church was located in Virginia, off a Beltway exit she had never taken—Little River Turnpike, which was a charming, old-fashioned name for a road, though the buildings and houses along it were like everywhere else—and not too far from the Beltway.  Standing silently, she heard the distant drone of traffic. 
            She worried that she would be the youngest one.  She worried that she would be the oldest one, though the man was surely older than she was; he had to be in his late forties.  Still.  People sometimes looked old when they weren’t.  
       She was thirty-five, turning thirty-six in September and couldn’t wait to not be thirty-five.  Like being a child, caring intensely about a birthday.
            Across the cluster stood a woman with shoulder-length, wispy, white-blond hair—not colored but naturally that way—and the blue eyes a country singer might have.  The woman’s arms were pressed rigid against her sides, perfectly straight and stiff, as if someone had told her not to let them move, not even a little bit.  Her cheeks were pink, as if from the sun or wind, a natural pink. There was a trick she had learned from her mother, “Find one person in a group who you could be friends with.  That settles the butterflies.”  
            Her.   The white-blonde woman. 
           But picking the white-blonde woman didn’t mean she would smile, or go talk to her, or do anything but stand in this shapeless, formless clump, waiting for the person who was supposed to come and unlock the door for them, the person who was going to show them what to do, the leader they would follow.

             Ruth Feinstein is a social worker who specializes in grief and grieving.  When the newscasters report that grief counselors are available to students in a school tragedy or to office workers following a shooting, Ruth might be one of them.  “How can you do that?” people ask at parties when she tells them what her job is.  “It’s so depressing,” they announce, as if they somehow know Ruth’s life, and on and on they go, about how sad it would be to be around sad people talking sadly about sad things.  Finally, there’s the point where Ruth always says, “What’s sad to me is people who cut themselves off from feeling.  That’s what’s sad to me,” and she stares in a lingering way, making clear the unspoken conclusion to the sentence: That’s what’s sad to me—assholes like you.
            She’s the one with the key to the church, and she’s running late now, at seven-thirty, because five-fifteen was the only time her doctor could squeeze her in, and when they work that hard to squeeze you in, it isn’t because they’re anxious to give you good news.  So she leaves her office early to drive all the way out to the doctor in Reston—rush hour traffic is hell times two—and once she gets there, she parks the car and sits in it, hands staying dutifully on the wheel in the proper position.  …  

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Order a Story Collection

Laura van den Berg offers some good advice about how to think about ordering a short story collection in this Glimmer Train essay:

With so much thematic overlap, there can be a very fine line between "coherence" and "redundancy," and so I tried to make sure each story was turning over a slightly different kind of stone. I made lists of all the first and last lines to help determine the arrangement.  


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.