Novel Excerpt: Watch Me Disappear

Diane Vanaskie Mulligan ’01 began writing her first novel, Watch Me Disappear (available at, during an after-school writing club she moderates for high school students. She generously shares the first two chapters of the novel with us here. When Diane isn’t teaching or writing, she’s the managing editor at The Worcester Review and the director of The Betty Curtis Worcester County Young Writers’ Conference. You can also find her occasionally strumming her guitar and singing at various bars in central Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband.


I swear, every time we move to another town and I have to start over at another school, my mother looks at me and thinks, “Maybe this time she’ll make some friends.” She’s a realist. She never advises me to go out there and be myself. Instead she tells me to use this fresh start to reinvent myself, which means to fix whatever is wrong with me. All I want is to be invisible. My plan for senior year at my new school: Get straight A’s and get into a top-tier college. But this move is different from all the others. This time, my dad keeps reminding me, we’re moving home, to the town where he grew up. This isn’t Texas (which is like another planet) or California (which is like another universe). My entire life, this has been the one place we’ve always returned to, but up until now, only for short visits. There’s the park where I learned to ride a bike, the ice cream shop that makes the world’s best mint chocolate chip, the hill behind my grandmother’s house where my brother and I used to go sledding on snowy Christmases. Maybe this time I can let my guard down a little and not just be the quiet new girl. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

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Novel Excerpt: The Flower Bowl Spell

Olivia Boler ’93 is a freelance writer and author of the novels  Year of the Smoke Girl (2000) and The Flower Bowl Spell ( 2012), from which the following excerpt is taken. Boler received her master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis, and has published short stories in the Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) anthology Cheers to Muses, the literary journal MARY, and Facets Magazine, among others.  She lives in her native San Francisco with her family.


I’ve always known that rats live in the Muni Metro tunnels, but this morning, after I almost fall onto the tracks, I find out that fairies hang out there too.

This should come as no surprise to a person like me, even though I banished magick from my life two years ago. In that time, I haven’t come across anything like fairies or talking sparrows. Not one rag doll has tried to jump into my shopping cart in ages. Yet, all at once, magick has come back to me.

In the Castro Street station, waiting for an M, L, or K car to take me to work downtown, I stand on the edge of the platform with a trickling crowd of morning commuters. Teenagers heading to Union Square for midsummer shopping sprees mingle with hipsters and Asian elders. There are a couple of indigents, one slumped against the wall, the other pacing and muttering. They wear shabby clothes with dirty, threadbare cuffs. Their BO could be bottled for biological warfare.

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Novel Excerpt: Silent Night Violent Night

Carol J. Verburg ’70 is a freelance author, playwright, and  consultant. A storyteller ever since she could talk, Carol spent the 1990s collaborating on theatre projects with the late artist and writer Edward Gorey. Their friendship inspired her novel Croaked: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery and her monograph Edward Gorey Plays Cape Cod, as well as her play Spin, or Twilight of the Bohemians, winner of the 2012 Centenary Stage Women Playwrights’ Series and the 2011 Ashland New Plays Festival.   Her international literature collections Ourselves Among Others, Making Contact, and The Environmental Predicament have inspired thousands of college writing students. In her latest novel,  Silent Night Violent Night: a Cory Goodwin Mystery (2011, Boom Books), two former Mount Holyoke College comrades-in-arts grapple with the dark side of publishing. Carol shares Chapter One with us below.


Chapter One

As I swung out of Copley Square onto the Mass Pike, the band on my radio swung into “Hernando’s Hideaway.”  Desultory snowflakes were drifting through the orange sky like petals.  Half an inch, the weatherman predicted.  I’d picked this station because Oxbridge, Connecticut, is a three-hour drive from Boston and the rest were all playing Christmas songs.

Silient Night Violent NightMy dad taught me “Hernando’s Hideaway” longer ago than I care to remember.  He’d stand me on his shoes and we’d sing it together as we tangoed across the parquet floor of our Manhattan living room.  Dad’s a ballroom virtuoso.  As my mom says, he’ll always have that to fall back on when he irks the State of New York into revoking his detective license.

What I hadn’t noticed until now is that Robert Frost wrote “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” to the same tune:

My lit, -tle horse, must think it queer

To stop, without, a farmhouse near . . .

Try getting that out of your head when your alternatives are “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” Continue reading