The Miss Dennis School of Writing

Overview

The first book by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Steinbach is an intimate, personal collection of essays, remembrances, and columns that follows in the creative nonfiction tradition of Anna Quindlen and May Sarton. While it recounts the experience and observations of a divorced, working mother, it expresses hopes and fears universal to all women. Steinbach focuses on the big and small things of life: the bond between lifelong friends; coming to grips with loss; the quiet, everyday moments between parents and child; ...

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Baltimore, MD 1996 Hard cover New. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 307 p. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a ... return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Overview

The first book by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Steinbach is an intimate, personal collection of essays, remembrances, and columns that follows in the creative nonfiction tradition of Anna Quindlen and May Sarton. While it recounts the experience and observations of a divorced, working mother, it expresses hopes and fears universal to all women. Steinbach focuses on the big and small things of life: the bond between lifelong friends; coming to grips with loss; the quiet, everyday moments between parents and child; the spiritual connection to nature; the realities of being a single parent. She writes of the people who've touched her own life: the influential teacher; the worldly aunt; the writer hero; the woman she sees regularly at a bus stop as both head to work. She offers us beautifully written lessons she's learned during a lifetime of changes and challenges.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this collection of her essays and columns, Pulitzer Prize-winning Baltimore Sun journalist Steinbach seeks to "rescue from insignificance some of the small events that make up a life." These pieces thus explore, with quiet grace, the unexpected pleasures that are gleaned from an appreciation of the "ordinary"a sleeping cat, a blooming garden, a well-cooked meal. Such familiareven ostensibly mundanedetails of our lives, Steinbach maintains, play a far more important part in shaping our identities and our sense of our relationship to the world than do the "exotic encounters" or momentous events to which we attach much significance. Alternately poignant and humorous, sedately contemplative and bristling with emotional energy, Steinbach's various musings on the daily rhythms of her own moods and experiences transform "everyday life" into a rich and meaningful journey. Author tour. Oct.
Library Journal
Steinbach, a columnist and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun and 1985 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, presents in her first book an open, honest, charming, and witty collection of personal essays. Focusing on the familiar, Steinbach relates private thoughts and remembrances of people who influenced her, the loss of loved ones, childhood follies and fantasies, the ever-present continuing lessons from her deceased mother and grandmother, her single motherhood and relationship with two grown sons, romance, fashion, growing up, and parenthood. These essays reveal the influence of time and experience on memory, imagination, and reflection. Steinbach offers an inspirational book that will appeal primarily to women over 30 who will identify with the type of experiences and memories she describes. Recommended for public libraries and comprehensive women's studies collections.Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Kirkus Reviews
Journalist Steinbach is a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the award was given for feature articles written for the Baltimore Sun, not for this motley assortment of reflections on "the small events that make up a life."

In the footsteps of other essayists and columnists—Erma Bombeck and Steinbach's hero E.B. White among them—Steinbach digs for the universal in the personal, and from time to time, she strikes pay dirt. Among her favorite, and more successful, subjects are her sons, her cats (in particular the charismatic Max), and her late mother. Tired and dated are observations on Gloria Steinem, Martha Stewart, and dieting. The essays are corraled into the usual categories, including relationships, raising children, childhood memories, work and growing older, with each section introduced by a brief commentary. The Miss Dennis of the title was the author's ninth-grade creative-writing teacher, who loved Emily Dickinson and directed her students to "pay attention" and to "find [a] unique voice." Steinbach clearly learned how to pay attention—she is, after all, an award-winning reporter—but she is still tuning her rather self- conscious voice. Nevertheless, there are some memorable turns of phrase here. Regarding wishing for the "world on a string" vs. small satisfactions like an uninterrupted supper hour, she says: "Small hopes . . . are a lot like dogs: They tend to come when they're called." There are also tender memories of her mother in the garden and her father on vacation. Steinbach's eye for eloquent detail is conveyed in only a few pieces here, among them "Pioneer Women."

Overall, Miss Dennis would not be happy. Resurrected from the newspaper morgue, these pieces tend to lose whatever punch they may have initially had.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780963124623
  • Publisher: Bancroft Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Pages: 307
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Steinbach
Alice Steinbach
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Alice Steinbach believes in following the advice of Japanese poet Basho: "To learn of the pine, go to the pine." From her debut travelogue about finding herself in Europe (Without Reservations) to her globe-trotting follow-up, Educating Alice, Steinbach invites readers on delightful vicarious adventures.

Good To Know

In our interview, Steinbach shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself:

"When I was 15 I took a summer job (after giving my age as 16) at a venetian-blind factory. I worked on an assembly line, stringing the cord that runs through the blind, opening and closing it. It was the hardest work I ever hope to do. Eight hours a day with two 15n-minute breaks from the line and a half hour for lunch. I hope one day to incorporate it into a story. The good part was that at the end of the summer, I quit, took the money and spent a week in Manhattan, visiting galleries, seeing plays, and writing down everything I saw."

"It seems as though my future as a ‘travel writer' was foretold. During the last weeks of my mother's life, when she was dying in the hospital, we talked of everything. And one day she told me this story: ‘Do you remember when you were eight years old, and your favorite game was to pretend you were going on a trip? She asked me. You would go to the basement and haul up an old suitcase, cut out a circle of white paper and write on it, PARIS, LONDON, ROME, then paste it on the side. Then you would go to your closet and take out all your clothes, remove them from the hangers and carefully pack the suitcase. You never tired of doing this.'

In the 20 years since my mother died, I have thought often of this, always with pleasure. What a gift to have time to say goodbye to my mother, and what a nice memory to have. If I close my eyes, I see myself again, an 8-year-old, removing my dresses from wire hangers and folding them into neat bundles, fitting them into an old striped suitcase."

"There are three things in life that have never let me down. I call them 'the three C's': children, cats, and coffee."

"I have no hobbies, really, but I do have interests. Collecting Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo period. Writing poetry. Traveling. Pursuing a project that entails writing biographies of a number of old passages in Paris. And, of course, my most intense interest and biggest fantasy: looking for an apartment in Paris."

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    1. Hometown:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Education:
      University of London, England

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
The Miss Dennis School of Writing 5
Women and Men 13
An Old Flame 15
Fathers 18
He Said, She Said 21
My Funny Valentine 24
Crossing the Gender Gap 27
Romance 30
Women and Confusion 33
All About Eve 36
A Matter of Appearance 39
Youth and Beauty 41
Fashion: Sense and Non-Sense 44
Charm School 47
Losing It 50
Hair Problems 53
Fashion: More Sense and Non-Sense 56
Raising Children 59
Mother's Day 61
Thanksgiving at the Holiday Inn 64
Philosophers 67
The World on a String 70
Lost and Found 73
Letters from Camp 76
Land of Adolescence 79
Parents are Forever 82
The Solo Life 85
To Wait or Not to Wait 87
To Share or Not to Share 90
At the Beauty Spa 93
One of Us 96
In the Garden 99
Unpacking a Life 102
The Working Life 105
Having It All 107
The Opera Singer 110
Rejection 113
Success and Failure 116
Second Acts 119
Still Betty After All These Years 122
On Assignment 125
Growing Up 129
Counter Culture 131
Camp Baltimore 134
Sibling Rivalry 137
Christmas 140
Prom Night 143
Piano Lessons 146
Girls to Women 149
The Mocking Birds 152
Daily Pleasures 155
One Moment in Time 157
Camelot 160
Mail Chauvinist 163
News of the World 166
Friends and Recipes 169
Daily Afflictions 175
Deconstructive Criticism 177
Worrying 180
Cats 183
Now and Then 186
Canceled Checks 189
Perfectionists 192
A Pain in the Back 195
Martha Stewart and Me 198
Role Models 201
Lessons from a Wise Fox 203
Well, Here We Are 206
The Real Me 209
Taught by Children 212
Two Unusual People 215
17 Years, 11 Months, and 13 Days 218
Pioneer Women 224
Anne Frank 229
A Sense of Place 233
Home 235
Familiar Strangers 238
Fifth Grade 241
My Neighborhood 244
Beyond Words 247
The Geography of Hope 250
As Time Goes By 253
September Song 255
Stars 258
Spending Time 261
Scents and Sensibility 264
Signs of Life 267
The Middle Ages 270
Before Air Conditioning 273
Better-Late-Than-Never Mail 276
Departures 279
The Girl Who Loved Cats and Flowers 281
Homer: A Dog's Odyssey 290
Elegy for Max 293
Empty Nest 296
Remembering E. B. White 299
The Girl Who Loved the Wind 303
About the Author
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