Linda Tatelbaum

Writer on the Rocks--Moving the Impossible
6" x 9" paperback
128 pages
Photography by Paul Caponigro and others
ISBN 0-9654428-3-7
Price: $12.95

"The impossible is only a name for what we haven't yet accomplished," Linda Tatelbaum declares in Writer on the Rocks. A meditation on ambition and despair, these essays reveal what it took for her to overcome writer's block and become her own publisher. She learns to move words again by struggling to move big rocks on her back-to-the-land homestead in Maine.

Linda devises a course to put body and mind together -- "Body English." She learns how physics magnifies personal strength, and how language is another way to move things. The essays track her progress through "Body English."

VISION finds her down in a dry old well, searching for what matters. ERGONOMICS poses the problem of what's possible, in her humorous attempt to move the Big One, a rock that's been knocked askew by an errant bulldozer. LEVERAGE instructs her that failure is the fulcrum for moving anything, even words. Linda finally moves the Big One, and ends her writer's block by becoming a publisher, a task as arduous as labor on the land.

Writer on the Rocks weaves a melancholy and triumphant story of a woman who won't take No for an answer.

Praise for Writer on the Rocks

"In addition to being a genuine homesteader, Linda Tatelbaum is a professor of English. Anyone who reads this book can tell she could also be teaching philosophy. Or writing under names like Linda Emerson or Henry David Tatelbaum. For Writer on the Rocks is a series of linked essays, each of them more philosophic than how-to, each as much about life, death, and the spirit as they are about digging wells, moving rocks, and writing. On balance, however, it is the act of writing, setting pen to blank page and then creating something of value, that is the solid trunk supporting a cluster of branches. This is a book of digressions as well as dissertations, a philosopher's view of writer's block, a philosopher with a fine sense of metaphor and metaphysics. 'Write about not having anything to say,' a friend counsels the author early in this collection of essays. When you read these charming and vehement (yes, both at the same time) transcendental essays, you must wonder if there will ever be a time in her life when Linda Tatelbaum has nothing left to say."

John Cole, Lewiston (ME) Sun Journal

"From the darkness of lost hope to the very act of bringing out this book, this wonderful story of a writer on the land -- and in the community -- reaffirms the creative power of human, earth-loving ambition."

Kate Barnes, first Maine Poet Laureate

"a memorable celebration of the body and nature...a lesson in elegance"

Monica Wood, Novelist

"lovely, inspiring, galvanizing"

Letty Cottin Pogrebin, President, Authors Guild

"Lots of people (too many) can write about writing. Very few can write about homesteading and its hard-earned lessons."

Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write Ê

Excerpts from Writer on the Rocks


Body English
a course to put body & mind together

VISION- what matters  
history The Lessons of the Well
religion Witness
life science Whereas an Arbor is Real

Body Yiddish

ERGONOMICS- what's possible  
anatomy Used Body Parts
physics Comeuppance
history of science Archimedes Mon Amour
design Write About That
LEVERAGE- what moves  
psychology Writing Degree Zero
writing The 3 Rs: Writing, Revising, Rejection
geology Entering the Black Rock Zone
economics Pulling Your Own Weight

Beyond Gravity
moving the impossible



I'm a writer, without words,
looking in the rubble for what's left of me.

English has failed me.
Body is the only way out.

But how do you speak Body?

Body English

Rocks, he said. What you want to write about is rocks.

Ed says this, rocking back in his chair in the little office he had before he moved into the big office with windows on two sides, the office "a distinguished professor of English" deserves but one he never filled in the same way he filled that other one, because by then he was dying. In the little office at the end of the hall, his door was always open and he would rock back in his chair and talk to you no matter how busy he was.

He never said that. He never said to write about rocks.

He says it now. In my head, in the little office in my mind where dead friends look me in the inner eye and tell me what to write. They're full of good suggestions, these old friends. They dash them off to me as lightly as a scrawled memo, or rather like a feather blown my way, without a care for the problem of language or leverage. These dead editors think everything is easy, and have no pity for how a living arm can't just push a pen without being moved by some force mustered from . . . where? From this little office in the mind where dead friends preside? They rock back in their chairs and smile. Force is exactly what doesn't worry them now.

Okay. Rocks. What would he want to hear about rocks? Force is, in fact, the issue, the way you canÍt move a big rock that's sitting flat on the ground, but if you jack it up and get even one small round stone under it, get it off balance, it can be moved. He'd want to hear the way even the biggest rock will rise and sing to the clever dance of a well-placed fulcrum. The way, hot, a rock will generate more heat, as when you choose a July day to approach it with an iron bar, determined to pivot it up and across the grass using body english, marking its hot surface with speckles of your sweat. And the way, later, marked in your lower back by its obstinate weight, you return to touch its cool texture in the dark, reading with your hand the blind story that words can never write.

So why does he tell me to write this ice-age story that only the body knows, the story he wants to hear? I wonder, looking out the dining room window at a big white slab left lying under the lilac bush, picturing the beautiful bottom step it would make, building in my mind's eye the next step upon the next to reach the upper bank behind the house. I wonder, seeing too the lilies and delphiniums I will plant there, and the way the morning light will fall through tall pines and make swaying shadows on the stones. I wonder if I can ever move that first and biggest stone, if Archimedes was right, that given a long enough pole and a place to stand I can move the earth. And I wonder where to get such a lever, and what unimaginable planet I will have to stand on. . . .

Carrying Water         |         Writer on the Rocks           |         Yes & No

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