Wednesday, October 1, 2008


By Miriam @

Pen or muse, chicken or egg? Which came first? In either case, do we really know?

I began pondering this point almost from the moment this blog was named. I loved the name. It said so much to me, but in the convoluted way my mind works it twisted the title, inserting an “or” for the “and” in a way that gave me to know it had a point to make.

I wondered when I first began to feel my Muse and if it pre-dated my ability to use a pen…or even a pencil, for that matter. The answer to my question was not long in coming. Memory drawn from more than fifty years ago told me this happened when I was four years old, ill with what was thought to be appendicitis. I was not too young to understand that this was a serious matter and that an “operation” might be required. I even knew pretty clearly what an “operation” was. And I was scared witless.

As we awaited test results, my mother (who was also scared witless) searched for some method to calm me. It was too early in the science of behavior modification for the words “counter-phobic behavior” to have any meaning for Mom, but instinctively she knew what it was. I had to face a fear and overcome it. Since the fear of surgery couldn’t yet be overcome, because they didn’t know if an appendectomy would be necessary, she gave me something else.

My mother’s answer was to read a poem no one in their right mind would ever read to a child today. But I never said my mother was in her right mind. Like mine, her brain took side trips down dark alleys, peeking in thrill-seeking wonder at things better left untroubled, going, “Aha!” And so my dear mother (and she was quite dear in her own way) read me “The Skeleton in Armor” by Longfellow.

Melancholy and macabre, it was the poetic tale of a knight who had fallen upon his sword out of frustrated love for maiden fair (this memory is close to sixty years old and may be a tad off, but you get my drift—he was a Poor Soul). Consigned to a hideous haunting, he roamed the halls of his former castle, presumably still clanking; well, it was called “The Skeleton In Armor,” after all!

I was entranced. Bemused. One might even say…be-knighted. The term “chicks in chain mail” hadn’t been coined yet, either, but I was always a marked girl. Chick. Poet. And eventually novelist.

My appendix is still with me, lol!, these many years later. And so is my love of poetry, armor and hauntings. How many of us have such memories? What of your own awakening into the Muse?

Stories, anyone?


  1. What a great story, Miriam! Your mother sounds wonderful, and I'm sure she still inspires you today in her own way. Congrats on your first blog!

  2. Caldecott Medal runner up in 2nd grade - I think that did it for me.

  3. Great story, Miriam. Aren't moms wonderful? My mom never balked at buying me a book, no matter the content or my age. I credit her with my love of the written word.

  4. A very interesting blog. We have so happy to have you part of DCL Publications!

  5. Hi, Steph and Stuart, and thanks for stopping by. Steph, your memo sounds great.

  6. What a great story about your introduction to "musedom." You have a lyrical command of the language, Miriam, and now I know it stems from your early exposure to Longfellow!

    I met my muse my freshman year in college when my English 101 professor charged the class with writing an essay about our impressions of the first two weeks of college. I wrote mine from the perspective of Winnie the Pooh, whose wisdom I've always espoused. The professor read it aloud in class, and I was on my way.

    Take care and keep feeding that muse!