The Writeaholic’s Blog “First Year Tally”

Here is a post from The Writeaholic's Blog.

Luanne discusses "the first year" of her first novel.

In the post, Aheila, the Writeaholic talks about previous posts by Luanne, and the release of her new book, The Silver Boat. Visit The Writeaholic's Blog daily for updated posts, and writing articles.

Thank you to Mike O'Gorman for filming and posting.

The Rocks at High Tide

The Rocks at High Tide is one of my first published short stories.  It is one of many three sisters stories I wrote early on, and a predecessor to my first novel, Angels All Over Town.  It came out in ASCENT.   I was so fortunate to be plucked from the slush pile by the brilliant editor Dan Curley.  He went on to publish several other stories of mine, and helped me connect with the editors of other literary magazines.

Dan was wonderful.  I remember having a story accepted at another small magazine about the same time as my first publication in ASCENT, and Dan insisted that I let him claim me as his discovery, that he be able to say that ASCENT published me first.  How flattering that was to a young writer.  I'd thought no one could possibly care about such a thing.

He was a great champion of fiction writers, and I am so grateful for all his support and guidance.  We met only once--he was reading from his own fiction at the library in his hometown of Bridgewater, Massachusetts.  He'd mentioned the reading casually in one of his letters, and  I knew I'd get there no matter what.  And I did, and we met, and our work went on for many years, and when he died--so many years ago now--it took me a long, long time to get over.

Please click on the link below to read the story.  (Thanks to Mia Onorato, an incredible writer herself, for ransacking the bookshelves at Hubbard's Point, finding the magazine, and scanning the story to me.)

The Rocks at High Tide

Sea Education Association

Sea Education Association by Luanne Rice

November 1975, Woods Hole.

One stormy November night, studying in a carrel at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Library, I picked up my pen, wanting to capture the moment.  Feelings of being at SEA, living in Woods Hole, learning about the oceans from great teachers, preparing to join WESTWARD in the Caribbean…  I wrote: “The wind is howling across Eel Pond, clanking in the halyards of boats on their moorings.  Soon I’ll be going to sea.  What will happen?”

I still have that notebook.  Looking back now, did I realize then that I was in the midst of the single most influential experience of my life?  I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and at nineteen had the resounding sense that I was completely unqualified by life to write about anything worth reading.  SEA changed all that.

We met WESTWARD in St. Thomas, and I was assigned to C-Watch, with Mike Phelps as the watch officer.  I spent the first night on lookout—standing at the bow, watching for obstacles, more vigilant than I had ever been.  The wind was so salty and warm, the sea flashed with bioluminescence, and by the time I was relieved by the next student, I was already transformed by the fact of having helped guide my ship and shipmates through the night.

Our cruise track would take us through the Lesser Antilles, across the Old Bahama Channel, and into the Turks and Caicos as we tracked humpback whales.  We hung hydrophones over the side and recorded their songs.  We watched the whales breach and dive, swim alongside the boat with their newborns.   The science we did challenged previously held ideas about migratory routes and about where and when the whales mated and birthed their young.  I internalized the experience of what I observed and felt, and I have been writing about it ever since.

So many of my characters have benefited from my experience with SEA.  The oceanographer in ANGELS ALL OVER TOWN, my first novel, got started aboard a schooner like WESTWARD.  The marine biologist in SAFE HARBOR researched humpbacks in the Caribbean.  I write a lot about artists who paint nature, and I attribute their attention to the beauty and minutiae of various species to my time spent in the shipboard lab.  The meteorologist played by Gena Rowlands in the film version of CRAZY IN LOVE studied in Woods Hole and used to hear the halyards clanking in the wind blowing across Eel Pond.

Most of my novels take place on oceans and shorelines; I can’t even imagine my work without everything I learned from my time in SEA.  Not just the facts taught in class and on board ship, but the sense I gained of the world and my place in it.  The enormity of the sea, the capacity we have to sail it, our responsibility to each other, to future generations, to the sea itself…

I stopped believing that young writers, including myself, lack things to say—instead, it’s more a matter of learning to trust oneself and one’s voice.  Even so, I consider SEA to be my Hemingway experience: Young Woman and the Sea.  I sailed by the stars, followed whales, climbed a mountain on Mona Island, spent Christmas far from land on Silver Bank, watched sharks in a feeding frenzy in Mayaguez Harbor, pondered existence.

Amy Gittell, my Woods Hole roommate and WESTWARD shipmate, has remained a wonderful friend.  I’ve always felt grateful to Dewitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, founders of Reader’s Digest, for giving me the scholarship that made my time at SEA possible—ironically, my work is now published in many languages in their Select Editions, and my gratitude extends to SEA every time I see one of those volumes and realize how much of my material comes from my time there.

One of my favorite words, and states of being, is inspired.  To inspire means, literally, to breathe life into, to impel, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration.

I think back to the wind that long ago November night, when I wrote: “Soon I will be going to sea.  What will happen?”

Now I know: I was about to be inspired.

For more information about SEA, please visit

Portrait of the Writer as a Young Chelsea Girl

Portrait of the Writer as a Young Chelsea Girl by Luanne Rice

When I first moved to New York City, I lived on Tenth Avenue just north of Fourteenth Street, over a speakeasy that used to be frequented by the Irish mob.  My mentor, a writer at The New Yorker, had helped me find a room in an SRO.  He’d told me that all writers had to live in New York, preferably in squalor, and since I had basically no money but many dreams, I was on board with that.  Chelsea was the Wild West then—gunshots were a common way to be awakened at two in the morning.  I got so I would dial “911” in my sleep.

My mentor suggested I live as stable a life as possible, writing all the time and not falling into the temptations of drink, parties, and a messy love life.  Soon I married, and moved to an actual apartment in the same neighborhood.  My then-husband was a young lawyer.  We had no money, but big dreams.  I published my first short stories and wrote my first novel in New York—Angels All Over Town.

Throughout this time, the Empire Diner was my café.  I went there for coffee every morning, and until it closed last spring, continued to do so over the last twenty-plus years.  Back then Paulina Porizkova and Elle Macpherson were roommates, and I would see them at the next table.  There were lots of clubs in the neighborhood, and half the diner would be filled with people just waking up, half with people on their way home.

But the part of Chelsea I’ve always loved best has been the seminary block.  West 20th St. between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.  Built on land owned by Clement Clark Moore (author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,”) it seems very alive with ghosts.  I’ve always felt them there, and I wrote about them in Silver Bells.

Back when I first lived here, West 20th St. was home to two of my favorite writers—Ann Beattie and Laurie Colwin.  It was like a literary mecca for me—to walk down the street on the off-chance of seeing them.  Which I often did…

In spite of his admonition to not become distracted by the literary life, my mentor used to take me to lunch at the Algonquin, where we would sit one banquette away from Mr. Shawn, and to the theater, and opening night parties, and literary soirees.  Once I sat at a table with him, Norman Mailer, John Updike, William Styron, and George Plimpton.  Then I came home to write and try not to feel daunted.

I’ve been a writer my whole life, and I still live in Chelsea.  What a solitary time it was when I first lived here—my husband worked all the time, and I hardly ever saw him.  I just wrote.  My friends were artists, writers, and musicians.  Eventually I did fall prey to all I'd been warned against, and certain things fell apart, and others seemed to come together.   My husband and I divorced.  Hearts were broken and broken again.  I became a wild child, which was inconvenient because by then I was in my thirties.  Chelsea saw me through.

Galleries took over, and the streets became not so gritty.  New places opened.  I found an apartment with two views: a sliver of the Hudson River to the west, and the historic district of Chelsea to the east.  Directly across the street is an old warehouse that sports billboards advertising self-storage with messages such as the one I'm looking at right now: "Material Possessions Won't Make You Happy or Maybe They Will."  Most days I have lunch or at least coffee at the Half King, a café owned by Sebastian Junger and Scott Anderson.  There is a sidewalk terrace, back garden, and black leather couches under slanting ceilings.  On Monday nights there is a wonderful reading series.

After a more recent divorce than the first one, I went into Dan’s Chelsea Guitars and bought an acoustic guitar.  I began to take lessons from Mark Lonergan, a great guitarist who lives in the building next to the Hotel Chelsea.  He’s taught me a lot, but I don’t practice enough.  Even so, I write songs and have formed a band with two women from the neighborhood.  They’re both really good: Dianne plays bass, and Ali plays keyboards.  We’re all in the arts and do so much work from home, we call ourselves “House Arrest.”

Chelsea has been home for so long, it hurts to see the major changes occurring.  Fancy new buildings going up.  Where are all the young writers, musicians, artists, actors supposed to live if all the cheap apartments get torn down so “luxury high-rises” can go up in their place?

It confuses me, but I have faith in young writers.  I found my own inspiring patch of squalor here in New York City, and I trust that they will, too.  They’ll find their way to a Chelsea all their own.