Add your name to the hat!

Greetings, friends, neighbors and farflung fellow citizens of this enormous world,

I’m giving away three copies of my just-about-to-be-published picture book, “Making a Friend.” Yes, it’s that pretty blue snowman book right over there. Written by me, illustrated by the wondrous Marc Rosenthal.

In order to have your name added to the hat, first click “Like” on my Facebook author page 

– and then add your name to the comments list underneath the “Making a Friend” post.

If you’re already a member of the author page, just add your name to the post.

Spread the word to your friends! Everyone who clicks “like” and then posts her/his name to the comments list will be added to the hat. The drawing will be held this Sunday night, October 2, and I’ll ship the books out next week.


Poem of the Week (excerpt), by Albert Goldbarth

Liquid (excerpt from)
– Albert Goldbarth

“All told, the moon’s water—locked away in rocks
under the surface—equals “about two and a half times
the volume of the great lakes.”

                         —The Week, July 2-9, 2010

What other things, what other conditions, are locked away
improbably in rock—in an inhuman hardness?
Moses … doesn’t the story go he smote
a rock in the wilderness with his staff and, lo,
therefrom the waters poured? And Mrs. Sommerson,
the Great Stone Face my mother called her,
regent of the Eighth-Grade Algebra Kingdom, she
who pity’s violin strings couldn’t move a quarter inch
from her unyielding scowl and decimal-pointed grade book …
when one evening I was late in leaving,
and quietly making my passage
down those eerily untenanted halls, I saw
her home room door was opened just enough to show her
at her desk, in tears, her head held in her hands
with such an autonomous weight, she cradled it
as if trying to rock into comfort a terrorized infant.

For more information about Albert Goldbarth, please click here:


". . . and I heard my name as if for the first time. . ."

Unlike your sisters Oatie and Robert John, you had no nickname growing up. People, including your family, called you Alison.

You can remember your father, the bestower of nicknames, studying you one day and then trying out the nickname “Champ.” That lasted for about a day, whereas Oatie and Robert John still answer to their nicknames.

It seemed as if, from the get-go, you were not the nickname type. Which was all right, because you always liked your name. Alison. You still do. You like its one-l-instead of two-l-ness, its three-syllableness. You used to write it over and over in notebooks, in loopy middle-school script, when you got bored in class.

You drew the line at dotting the i with a heart, star or flower, though. (Is that evidence of a Puritanical streak? Did the Puritans dislike nicknames?)

Your nicknameless childhood passed and you went off to college, up there in the mountains, and life expanded in all directions. You met your best friend the day you arrived. Within days she was calling you Allie. That was your first real nickname. She is still your best friend, and she still calls you Allie. Sometimes she says “Alison” in a certain tone of voice if she needs you to listen up, and you listen up. You have nicknames for her too: El, or EBHBSP.

Some people find it almost impossible to call a person by their given name, their proper, legal name. This sort of person bestows nicknames instantly and without thinking. You work with such a person at the university where you teach in the fall. She is one of the reasons why you love teaching there.

“Hey, Allie,” she said the second time she ever saw you, her brown eyes full of fun. “You don’t mind if I call you Allie, do you?”

Nope. You didn’t. And don’t, as long as she and your best friend and your sister Oatie are the ones calling you Allie.

She has nicknames for all your other friends there at the university too. Some she calls only by their last names, others by shortened first names, and still others by nicknames which last only a day, or an hour. She’s a Jersey girl; talk and laughter come easily to her. Maybe that makes a nicknaming difference.

To this day, almost everyone calls you by your full first name. Because you’re not a Jersey girl? Because you give off a don’t-mess-with-my-name vibe? Because you never dotted the i in Alison with a heart or star or flower?

There is one nickname, though, that a very few people who know you very well use around you. This nickname seems to arise in each of them spontaneously, and each, over the years, began using it without asking first –“hey, do you mind if I call you _______?”– or even seeming to think about it.

This nickname crosses many years and much geography and is confined, again, to a very few.

When others who don’t know you well use this nickname, having heard those others use it, your entire body tenses. No. You have no right. Outwardly, you might smile politely, but inwardly, you bristle and fling up walls against the invasion.

From the original users, though, the ones who spontaneously arose with the nickname, it sounds exactly right. They don’t ask if they can use it, you barely notice (but you do notice) when they first do, and something inside you shifts.

There must be something more to nicknames than you consciously know. There is so much in a name, after all; the same must be true or truer for a nickname.

The truth is that everyone who begins to call you by this nickname is someone you adore, someone who loves you back. This nickname is a name you didn’t choose and wouldn’t, in any other circumstance, like. But here? It means that you have been seen. You are known. You can let down your guard.

Sometimes it seems as if, on some level, you walk through life waiting to hear this name.

Poem of the Week, by Miller Williams

A Poem for Emily
– Miller Williams

Small fact and fingers and farthest one from me,
a hand’s width and two generations away,
in this still present I am fifty-three.
You are not yet a full day.

When I am sixty-three, when you are ten,
and you are neither closer nor as far,
your arms will fill with what you know by then,
the arithmetic and love we do and are.

When I by blood and luck am eighty-six
and you are someplace else and thirty-three
believing in sex and God and politics
with children who look not at all like me,

sometime I know you will have read them this
so they will know I love them and say so
and love their mother. Child, whatever is
is always or never was. Long ago

a day I watched awhile beside your bed,
I wrote this down, a thing that might be kept
awhile, to tell you what I would have said
when you were who knows what and I was dead
which is I stood and loved you while you slept.

For more information on Miller Williams, please click here:



Twitter: alisonmcghee

Manuscript Critique Service:

Poem of the Week, by James Wright

Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio
– James Wright

In the Shreve High football stadium,

I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,

And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,

And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,

Dreaming of heroes.   

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.

Their women cluck like starved pullets,

Dying for love.


Their sons grow suicidally beautiful

At the beginning of October,

And gallop terribly against each others’ bodies.

For more information on James Wright, please click here:

Poem of the Week, by Rosanna Warren

From New Hampshire
– Rosanna Warren

It’s not your mountain
but I almost expect
to meet you here

I think you have taken a long late evening walk
Your heavy shoes glisten with dew
I hear your footsteps pause on the dirt road

and I know you are picking out
the dark mass of the sleeping
mountain from the dark

mass of night and testing the heaviness of each
Your hands are small but they know weights and measures
You are a connoisseur of boundaries

You loved the bears
because they pass between
leaving their stories

in fat pudding turds on the grass
Here it’s raspberries they’re after not our
sour Vermont apples     No matter     You will find them

When they hoot in courtship
you always hoot back
more owl than bear

They don’t mind     They always answer you
And tonight I imagine you’re out waiting up for them
by the berries, which is why you don’t cross

the dew-sopped lawn
don’t press open the
warped screen door

of the kitchen where I sit late     by a single glowing bulb

For more information on Rosanna Warren, please click here: