Gwen Strauss

Keeping Track

Building a Wall

November 15, 2017

Tags: Black plague, Provence, Mur de la Peste, living in France, Marseille, political walls, plague iconography

Saint Roch, patron saint of the Plague, by Saraceni
Near where I live in Provence, in 1721 they decided to build a wall to protect themselves from the bubonic plague. On my hike to see the vestiges of the 27 kilometers long plague wall, I couldn’t help but think about other walls that may be built with the hope to keep evil out. I don’t blame them for wanting to build it. (more…)

A room of one’s own.

August 15, 2016

Tags: writing, writer's rooms, poetry

It was spoiled of me. Self-indulgent. I thought I should be able to write anywhere and at anytime and I would not trick myself with stupid rituals and all the other trappings of « being creative. » Also the Bukowski poem, space and light, echoed in my head.

But Bukowski was a white man with few responsibilities, not a mother. (more…)

Signing Contracts

February 15, 2016

Tags: writing, contracts, PACS, France

I have signed another book contract. I have been signing all kinds of contracts.

Even one I never thought I would do again: I plight my troth.
I recently signed a PACS: Le pacte civil de solidarité. Contract means both to shrink and to draw together.

I have been thinking about these words. Troth means truth. Plight means pledge. Our contract was for deeply practical reasons. And nothing like the first time (more…)

Taking the Truffle Pledge

February 10, 2016

Tags: Truffle, France, Award, Tuber melanosporum

I want those hats and capes!
It is a mystery equal to the Tuber melanosporum itself why I received the Medaille d'Honneur from the Confrerie du Diamant Noir et de la Gastronomie (The Brotherhood of the Black Diamond and Gastronomy), or why I was invited to join Confrerie de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon (the brotherhood of the truffle and wine of the Luberon). But during the Petit Marche aux Truffe de Menerbes, which happens each year on the first Sunday after Christmas, I was inducted into the order, grade of “Chevalier” and pledged an oath to uphold the truffle and defend it against usurpers. (more…)

Mommy! I want a penis!

September 30, 2014

Tags: feminism, gender identity, writing

My daughter howled.

She was taking a bath with her twin brother. They were three years old. She was weeping and begging me to fix this problem.

It started when her brother had discovered he could put the shampoo bottle lid on the tip of his penis and it would stay there. He could then take it off. He could repeat this action. It was entertaining. Sophie watched for a moment. Sophie grabbed another lid, looked around for her penis, and then she began to bawl.

I am a feminist. I spent many hours in college insulting Freud and his stupid Penis Envy theory. I was not going to let this happen to my own daughter. (more…)

Visiting Les Camp des Milles

September 15, 2014

Tags: Novel, writing, publishing, France, Holocaust, Aix-en-Provence, concentration camp, Varian Fry

There it is: an ugly red brick heap of a building standing alone on a flat open plain, a desolate wind-swept landscape, surrounded by train tracks and little else. In this building between 1939 and 1942, more than 10,000 people were imprisoned in terrible conditions. Most of the prisoners were not French nationals; they were refugees in France from totalitarian and fascist regimes. They came to seek refuge in the land of “les droits de l’homme” from Spain and Russia, and from pogroms in Eastern Europe. And then the Germans invaded. They were Jews, and Gypsies, and artists, and famous scientists. In 1942, 2000 people were deported directly from here to Auschwitz where they were murdered. (more…)

Got an agent

September 12, 2014

Tags: Novel, writing, agent, literature, writing, publishing, France

I am no stranger to rejection. I’ve had high hopes and seen them dashed. This last novel, I wrote to make myself laugh. Being so serious and “literary” was really not working out for me. I figured I would not get myself too worked up about publishing it. I set a goal for myself. I would find twenty agents to submit to. I would work my way down the list. If I got to the end of the list with no takers, then I would self-publish. (more…)

The Pitch

January 31, 2014

Tags: Writing, novel, publishing, France, provence, Guru, agent, pitch

I am in the final (I think) phases of writing my novel, My Stray Guru. I am not sure how long I have been working on it. But I like to tell people that I am a writer and a failed novelist. This will be my fourth novel manuscript. Each one takes about 5- 10 years to write. I have come very close to getting one of them published. I have been hopeful and despondent. I have felt scared and brave. I have been angry and found laughter the best cure to existential despair. (more…)

Selected Works

Juvenile Nonfiction Ages 7-10, Grades 2-5
The True Story of a young Holocaust survivor
Children's picture book
In the early 1950s, newly built interstate highways invited Americans to travel by automobile, but the open road wasn't so open for African-Americans, especially in the South.
Until he meets Marcia, Eric doesn't speak -- the Night Shimmy does all the talking.
Poetry
Strauss explores the theme of metamorphosis in fairy tales in this collection of poetry.
a series of poems in the form of a sonnet garland
Novel
Kay koule twompe soley men li pa twompe lapli. A leaky house can fool the sun, but it can't fool the rain. --Haitian Proverb
The adventure story of a young couple who sail to the Yucatan

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