Just announced: Margo is the winner of the 2019 Tom Howard/John H. Reid prize!

Author of Award Winning Essays and Memoirs

Author of Award Winning Essays and Memoirs

Author of Award Winning Essays and MemoirsAuthor of Award Winning Essays and Memoirs

Excerpts and Essays

picture of cairns (stacked stones) on red table

Excerpt: A Gift From My Father

... By the time my father died, I had already missed his bright wit, his loving sweetness, even his craziness, for years, as drink and mental illness took away from him, and from me, everything cherished and special about him and replaced it with the chaos and rage and despair I came to know. 

My father was born doubly cursed. Coiled like a sleeping snake deep in his DNA lay not only the genes that drove his addiction, the genes he passed on to my brother and later to grandchildren my father would never know, but the genes of madness, of the manic depression he bequeathed to me. During his lifetime, so very different from mine, there was no help for my father’s mental illness. There did not even exist a name for the condition that caused the soaring grandiosity, the wild torrents of creativity, the boundless energy I loved in my father – and the crippling depression for which he sought relief in the searing pleasure of a long draught of vodka. The chaos he created turned our picture-book family into a horror show, and set in motion the events that would devastate my mother and my siblings and me, affecting each of us in ways as unique to us as we were from each other: snowflakes in the family storm....

Excerpt: Bird of Doom

... The ancient Romans believed that death could be foretold by the appearance of an owl; that in fact the deaths of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Agrippa and others had been thus foreshadowed. William Wordsworth called the owl the bird of doom, and many in his time believed that an owl’s flight past the window of a sick person foretold the patient’s imminent death. I carry the owl’s influence within me now, this dreadful belief that somehow, I have the power of retrospective vision when someone I love has died; that I could have – no, should  have – seen it coming, had I only been paying attention. But when my internal owl calls, this loathsome bird of doom, it does so cruelly, mockingly. It only calls when it is too late; too late for me to change the course of my loved one’s fate; too late even to see, barreling toward me, my last chance to tell him that I love him, that I will miss him. When I lost my father, I lost that chance, and when he left me, I spent months, years even, reeling in the knowledge that I had failed him, that had I been more attentive, I could have clung to him as he teetered on the brink, could have hauled him back from the cliff and given him another chance at the life he had squandered. ...

Excerpt: Anointed

... Driving one weekday morning from the wooded enclave where I lived with my husband, I encountered a traffic jam. I inched forward, and finally was horrified to see the cause: a car had hit a deer in the road ahead of me and left it there to suffer, mortally wounded. Three of the deer's legs were broken, and as it struggled frantically to cross the road into the safety of the brush, its one unbroken leg fought to pull the rest of its heavy body across the pavement. The three fractured legs twisted and splayed as the panicked deer dragged itself forward, its head back and its eyes wild with fright. It bawled in pain and terror, and when I saw driver after driver steer around the struggling animal, I could not bear it. I pulled over and ran toward the terrified doe, waving traffic around her. I called 911 and pleaded with the dispatcher to send someone right away to relieve this animal of its suffering. ...