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Aha or Oy Vey

Dorothy Parker's Ashes

This was published in Dorothy Parker's Ashes last week. If you are a major producer

or a talented, well-known actor or both, please read the piece I wrote called: My First Play: Written in

Life's Second Half that I linked in my author bio at the end. xxxx Nancy

At age 8, I began writing on legal pads my father took from his office. My mother was ill and distant. My pencil and pad became my friends. I loved being alone to say what I wanted.

My heart is in the personal essay. As a teacher on New York’s Lower East Side, I wrote about losing my class during a Museum of Natural History field trip, my desk-banging pupil who would arrive late and hungry if he arrived at all, and the racist teacher assigned to train me.

The articles editor of a well-known parenting magazine, accepted one of my articles on my weekends as a divorced parent.

“What about the other piece?” I asked. “The funny one?”

“We didn’t find it funny.”

Lessons learned: Rejections are part of the deal. Submit one piece at a time. Make and use contacts. My father and Aunt Yetta might be the only people who think I am funny.

I received a contract saying I would be paid $1500. “They put in an extra zero,” I told my father.

“Cash it. Quickly,” he said.

The editor-in-chief left a message to call her, obviously realizing their boo boo. No, actually, that was the right amount. She said to submit future pieces directly to her. After a few more, I could write two-paragraph leads and summarize where I would go. My fee would increase. In the 1980s and 1990s, she published three or four pieces a year, editing very little. It only takes one.

“I like that you understand the difference between self-revelation and self-absorption,” she said. It’s the difference between Aha and Oy Vey.

As a writing instructor, I give my students the space to express their truths and vulnerabilities. We have what my grandmother called “great rappaport.”

I do not write to hurt anyone. I write to find out what I am feeling. I write to tell my story.

Now I am adapting my memoir for the stage. I continue revising and submitting. The challenges do not throw me. Neither does my age. I believe there will be productions before I am in a home.

Nancy Davidoff Kelton teaches writing at the New School, privately, and at the Strand Bookstore. Her essays appear in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, AARP, McSweeney's, and Next Avenue, among numerous other publications. Her 7 books include: Writing From Personal Experience and her memoir Finding Mr. Rightstein which she is adapting for the stage. Link to her Next Avenue essay about the play:


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