Posts Tagged ‘writer’s block’

Life, connections and striving

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator




I have been writing about life, illness, and end of life experiences.  I am recalling the untimely death of my mother in her 50s of Linitus Plastica.  Then I recalled my cousin, Robert E. Liss, who was a reporter for the Miami Herald who came down with Hairy Cell leukemia and sought a cure. He wrote a book about the experience that would be a read for medical students.  He died of his illness in 1980, leaving a wife and three children.  I had not seen him since our youth, but I see his sister, Barbara, and my only living aunt, Bernice, who is 95.  I accidentally came across a cousin he had on the Liss side who loves photography a few years ago, as I also have done photography and darkroom work some years ago, which complicated my recent move to be near a daughter, her husband and grandson.  I am reminded of what I missed in seeing my terrific children growing up.  I have been totally absorbed in Medicine for so many years that retiring was difficult.  My surgical colleague, now deceased, once told me that all of his colleagues died in their boots.  That may be a passing generation.

I admit that I am somewhat off the topic. I’ll return to a brief picture of Bobby Liss, author of a “Fading Rainbow”.  He and his were of a more activist generation, despite the fact that they were within a decade of my birth, my mother coming to US in 1941 at 18 years age with her 11 year old sister.  They settled in Cleveland where that side of my family lived.  Bobby and Barbara’s mother married an airforce pilot who had served in the Asian campaign, and they settled in Chautauqua, New York, where my family visited when we were children. I remember my father hitting a deer in the travel in upstate New York.


Fading Rainbow: A Reporter’s Last Story
by Robert E. Liss

Renee‘s review

Oct 03, 10

Unfortunately, Bob Liss died before completing this book and it shows. He’s an amazing writer and it’s obvious this book would have been a masterpiece had he been able to complete it himself. His wife, Bonnie, did a good job finishing it, but I’ve never yet read a book that was started by one author and completed by another that was a great book. But it’s still worth reading. Facing one’s own death is never easy, but Bob (my cousin, by the way) has an amazing outlook and I feel like I really learned a lot. Plus, it’s an easy, quick, engrossing read.



Fading rainbow: A reporter’s last story Hardcover – 1980

by Robert E Liss  (Author)

Published by Methuen

ISBN 10: 0416006310 ISBN 13: 9780416006315

Leukemia – Biography. | Journalists



For architect Bonnie Holmberg, writing began with tragedy. Diagnosed with an incurable form of leukemia, Holmberg’s first husband, Miami Herald reporter Robert Liss, had written most of Fading Rainbow, a book about his experience with a terminal illness. When he died before the book was finished, Holmberg completed his last few chapters in 1983, and the writing bug bit.

As the head of corporate design for now-defunct Eastern Airlines, she wrote her next book, Cruising at 30,000 Feet, aboard planes, writing about her life as a new widow and mother of three school-age boys (two of whom are now writers).

These days, Holmberg, 60, is remarried, retired, and a guide-in-training at Monticello, working under first-place winner David Ronka. Neither knew the other had entered.

Her winning entry, “Felonious Monk,” she says, was inspired by a friend who had put her home in her son’s name.

“I thought, ‘Oh gosh, what could go wrong there?'” she says. Fortunately for that friend, nothing terrible happened, but the thought stayed with Holmberg– and a recent Charlottesville bank robbery offered further inspiration.

The judges were drawn to her “felonious but strangely empathetic central character,” suggesting that the story’s only flaw was “a sense that the ending may best serve as the end of a beginning!”

They must have ESP (or else Jefferson really was whispering secrets from beyond). It turns out that “Monk” is her first short story, and it’s actually a part of her third novel. The first two, she laughs, “no one seems to want.”

She keeps her spirits up in a writing support group– an idea she suggests to anyone who wants to get into writing.

“It’s really given me a lot of encouragement,” she says, “kind of like AA.”

Bonnie Holmberg

Anyone who’s ever started a sentence with “I’m too old to…” should take a few pointers from first-place winner David Ronka.

“I was 49 or 50 when I went back for the MFA,” says Ronka, a long-time government worker who earned his graduate degree from University of Massachusetts-Amherst where he studied fiction under famed novelist John Edgar Wideman.

These days, Ronka, 61, is a historic interpreter at Monticello, but writing remains a passion.

“It’s something I can be doing when I’m 90,” he says.

His winning story, “What Can’t be Cured,” explores death through the eyes of a man whose marriage has also expired– but just might be resurrected.

Judges offered glowing praise.

“By putting an interesting twist on some recognizable male emotions, the author delivers present conflict and resolution in a light, but sincere vision of a man willing to admit his mistakes and try again,” they wrote. Ronka’s compliance with the contest rules, they said, earned him high marks as well.

So just how does one come up with the idea for a winning story?

“By observing, listening, asking myself constantly, ‘What if?'” says Ronka, whose inspiration for this story– originally a 61-page novella– came when a good friend passed away.

So what’s his favorite part of the story?

“The opening line is a pretty good hook, if I do say so myself,” he laughs. Getting readers interested immediately is “pretty essential,” he explains, “so I’m pleased with that.”

David Ronka




Oh, no birds that flockin’ round my feet
No pockets full of grain, of crumbs
The wiener cake, the soft ice

So I left my fading life
I left my hands with an open door
Left it like an open sore
I couldn’t stop the wind from flowin’

So I left my fading life
I left my hands with an open door
Left it like an open sore
I couldn’t stop the blood from flowin’

So I left my fading life
I left my hands with an open door
I left like a fading rainbow

So I left my fading life
I left my hands with an open door
I left like a fading rainbow

Oh, I left my fading life
I left my hands with an open door
I left like a fading rainbow

Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/jenny-wilson/like-a-fading-rainbow-lyrics/#HREG26plFA5bH5VP.99


Jacobson, Richard
Fear and loathing on tenure trail

I do not know if she took my advice. Although I

offered to act for her, she left my office in the company

of her husband, who was still angrily demanding that

any letter contain the declaration that she had really

earned tenure. She never returned my calls.


The effect of an adverse decision is shattering. I

have noticed that rejected professors typically become

rather careless following the decision: they cross

streets without looking, they speak indiscreetly. One

client, following each of three adverse decisions, would

accidentally drop a pot of hot coffee on his hand or

foot. This symbolically suicidal behavior must be a

comment on the awful event: either it is an internaliza-

tion of the rejection-if you reject me, I reject

myself-or else it is a kind of dramatic reproach, as if to

say, if this is what you think of me, look at how great a

result you caused.


My advice to those I assist is nearly always that the

most important thing they can do is exactly what they

did before. They should go on with their work of

teaching and writing, if possible more energetically

than ever. This serves several purposes: it not only

diverts the mind from the powerful sense of grievance,

but it also confirms the identity of the client as teacher

and scholar. They have been put through a symbolic

execution, and it is up to them to carry out a symbolic

resurrection of their professional and personal vitality.


While I have always given this advice-and taken it

in my own case-I have only recently been able to ar-

ticulate the reasons for it. While I was writing the first

draft of this essay, I read a book written by a college

friend with whom I had lost touch, and which was

published posthumously (Fading Rainbow, Methuen

1980). Robert Liss was a very good writer who had

never quite achieved what he hoped. At the time he

learned he had a rare form of leukemia, he was a

reporter for the Miami Herald. He found a way of

transcending his pain and fear when he remembered

what he was, first and foremost: a writer and a jour-

nalist. So he spent the time remaining to him in-

vestigating his disease and writing about it in an in-

spiring and utterly truthful book.


If the basis of dispute is ultimately the fear of an-

nihilation, of a loss of the self, Liss teaches us that the

way to transcend the fear is through regaining your

Self. The effort may not change the external reality,

but it can alter the more important one. Courage is also

a denial of death.


Why do I bother with this’ business of helping

grievants? In most cases they do not pay me, and it

carries certain disutilities in my personal and

professional relations. The Authorities do not thank

me for it-although arguably my activity helps

legitimize their own. Being at odds with one’s world is

an extremely uncomfortable feeling: one grows

suspicious of other people, and one feels oddly guilty

about challenging Authority.


In one sense I think this kind of work is my own ef-

fort to achieve transcendence. I take pride in doing it

well, and most of those I have assisted have won sub-

stantial concessions, despite the conventional wisdom

that you can’t win these cases.


When the client soberly determines to undertake the

struggle to reverse the adverse decision, knowing the

immense stamina required, we both must face the in-

tensity of self-justifying response.



Family Hospice Care:
Pre-planning and Care Guide


Copyright © 1986, 1989, 1993, 1999, 2002, 2006 Harry van Bommel

In the twenty years since this book was first published, hundreds of thousands of patients, family members, professional and volunteer care providers have learned the basic fundamentals of providing physical, emotional, spiritual and information supports.
People need to relatively pain free and alert for as long as they can. The hospice philosophy of care is about living life to its fullest before you die. That is not what typically happens for people near the end of their lives. Their physical pain is often not controlled well. That is inexcusable. No one need suffer unbearable pain. No one.
Many people hope that their last weeks and months will be filled with compassionate medical support, well-informed and caring family and friends, and information on how to live life fully. That is what excellent hospice care is all about. That is what Family Hospice Care is all about.
Harry van Bommel helped his mother, father and grandfather to live at home until they died. He has helped countless others through his writing, speaking, teaching and one-to-one support turn an end-of-life experience into something to be treasured rather than feared. His detailed suggestions help people take some control of the roller coaster ride of emotions, feelings and experiences.
The journey at the end-of-life will have moments of frustration, anger, tears, despair and overwhelming fear. That is too often the only experiences people have. Family Hospice Care is a tool that helps you minimize these negative experiences while providing specific ideas so that you can also experience profound moments of love, laughter, joy, retelling of stories, bonding with family and friends and care providers. Like birth, death can be an incredible opportunity to review your own life and its direction and find out the wisdom of all ages: it is our relationships with others that matter most at these times. Living fully until you die provides an opportunity to nurture those relationships to an even greater degree.

Study Finds Shu Gan Liang Xue Herbal Formula Has Breast Cancer Anti Tumor Effect

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2014 |




interesting finding. Of course, you won’t find a large scale study for a medicinal that is regulated as a FOOD. Whatever the cost, if the side effect were insignificant, it would be a challenge to pharma, but the cost is not picked up by insurance.

Fading Rainbow
A Reporter’s Last Story
by Robert E. Liss
Methuen, Inc. 1980
Leukemia – biography
ISBN: 0-416-00631-0


Reporter for Miami Herald, merit scholar graduate from Brandeis U., father of 3, develops Hairy Cell Leukemia, going out like a “failing rainbow”, tells the story of tests, hospitalizations, treatments, pain.  Story completed by his wife – Bonnie Liss.


Renee Liss

But what really stuck with me, what really is making a difference in my life, the thing I need to remind myself of every single say is this: One of the characters goes to see a published author speak about his latest novel. They end up having a brief affair and she suggests one of his books for the group and he attends to meeting. In the course of speaking about his process, he tells the group that he used to putter around the house all day waiting for inspiration and it never came. So now he sits down at his desk at nine every morning and just starts. And the words come and he writes twenty pages a day.

So I’m trying something similar to that. Since I have a full-time job that is not writing a novel, I can’t sit down at nine every morning and just write all day. But I have decided to dedicate a minimum of one hour per day to it. I’ve done that for three days now and plan to continue today.


My friend Amy over at Mrs. Thor is in a similar situation — trying to get inspired and trying to make significant changes in her personal and creative life. So we’ve started our own private little writing group, though I don’t know that’s the appropriate term. We’re going to speak on the phone once a week and set goals for ourselves (like my writing an hour a day) and then check in by e-mail each day on whether we met the goals. It’s no pressure, but it’s still being accountable to someone else and hopefully inspired by the other person’s progress.

So far, I’ve added 3,100 words to my novel and rewritten a short story from a few months ago. It feels good.

Posted in My Thoughts on WritingTelevision


long before the idea of a corporation or land ownership or anything else modern, people traded and bartered for goods and services. We use money in our modern society, but humans for most of our very long history, have in one way or another purchased items for life from each other. It may have been that I have a cow and you have an orange tree so I traded milk for oranges.

But beyond this, let’s think about whether we truly want to model human society based on what other species do or do not do: ……

  • No more central heat, air conditioning or indoor plumbing.
  • Give up your cars, bicycles and all other forms of transportation other than swimming or walking.
  • Build your own house with no power tools.
  • Build that house without tools made with any form of power tools.
  • Quit your job to do nothing but hunt and garden and fight for resources.
  • No more flower gardens.
  • No one will be allowed to keep pets. In fact, you can’t have that cow I mentioned above because what other species keeps cows? Or dogs? Cats? Horses? You’re on your own. PETA will be happy.
  • No music.
  • No dancing.


Sun isn’t considered Hemingway’s greatest work and it was a strange book in that there really was no plot. Or maybe a very weak plot that the reader has to kind of search out. It was just a story about a series of events that happened to this group of people. But I still enjoyed it on a certain level. Almost like a course in creative writing without having to sit in a classroom.

I’m discovering how very much I have in common with this man. It’s all very strange. I’ve always said that my time as a journalist was the best thing that ever happened to my creative writing style. The quick, active, short way one must write newspaper articles — getting to the point quickly and using limited space to convey a vast amount of information — translates excellently into short story and novel-writing. One learns to not waste words or over-describe. Turns out, Hemingway learned the exact same lesson in the exact same way I did. He began his writing career in journalism and he learned to write fiction by emulating the journalistic style.

I hate to compare myself to him because he’s considered so widely to be one of the best writers in history and especially of the twentieth century and I haven’t even published a short story. Maybe I’m arrogant in my comparison, but I see so much of my style in his. I see the writer I maybe am not yet but want to be some day.






Read Full Post »