The Patriot Ledger Review

June 08, 2002

Watch the world go by - one story at a time: Columnist Terry Marotta has published her second book

The Patriot Ledger

She won’t use a computer, saying that she can’t even type, and her dented minivan acts as her office. She keeps a stack of legal pads in the van, just in case an idea pops into her mind. Some of the legal pads are clean, waiting to be filled, while others have discarded ideas.

‘‘Sometimes I read some stuff or I watch people and then I get an idea and I just write down a sentence. And then when that idea runs dry and it doesn’t produce other sentences, then I throw that legal pad in the back seat,’’ says Terry Marotta, 53, whose syndicated column, ‘‘Home Front,’’ appears every other week in the Weekend Family section of The Patriot Ledger.

Her column touches on subjects such as as home and family, daily observations and other life experiences.

The author of ‘‘I Thought He Was a Speed Bump’’ and her latest book, ‘‘Vacationing In My Driveway,’’ says writing helps her to sort out and hold on to her thoughts.
‘‘It’s how I know what I think,’’ says Marotta, a Winchester native. ‘‘I can’t seem to figure out what I think unless I have a pen in my hand. It’s a good way to have a visit with yourself.’’

‘‘I write out of fear of it all slipping away,’’ she adds. ‘‘Writing stuff down makes you feel like you haven’t lost it utterly or at least you can go back and remember it and retrieve it.’’

Marotta likes writing in her mobile office.

She rolls down the windows and sticks out her feet to help get the inspirational juices flowing.

‘‘I write in my car because I’m out in the world and not just in my own little study,’’ she says. ‘‘You have to be out in the world.’’

For Marotta, the car offers her protection to observe her surroundings as they naturally unfold.

People don’t notice you while you’re in your car, she says. ‘‘You just blend right in. It’s like you’re one of the maple trees.’’

‘‘And sooner or later the whole world goes by,’’ she says.

Relaxing in her car at a local park, Marotta becomes the observer.

‘‘The writer is supposed to be the observer unobserved, because when people can tell you are looking at them they become self-conscious,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s like when you take their picture and they know you’re doing it, the smile is always overly different.’’

Marotta stresses the importance of respecting the subjects of her observations.

‘‘The real criterion has to be writing with respect towards the person you are observing so when they see it they don’t feel mocked.’’

‘‘I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m exploiting people by watching them, like I’m using people in order to find fuel, because I don’t feel that way,’’ she says. ‘‘I think that if I didn’t go out and have those conversations with strangers every day, I would feel much the poorer in my life.’’

‘‘It’s a privilege to be the one that gets to just watch and jot it down,’’ she says.

Her latest book, ‘‘Vacationing In My Driveway,’’ brings together 52 true stories observing the hidden and clear characteristics of nature’s four seasons.

Beginning in January and ending in December, readers are taken on a year-long journey into Marotta’s insights and observations of our world.

This sense of tranquility and acceptance within her writings is an aspect of Marotta’s own beliefs.

‘‘We think that we drive our lives and make these choices, but so much that happens to us simply befalls us, like a sudden illness or some tragic loss,’’ she says.

‘‘I think that you can make your peace with almost any situation if you can just sit back a little bit and try to stop resisting it.’’

Marotta recalls her own experience of overcoming life’s little curve balls when her 80-year-old mother died suddenly at her own birthday party.

She says it was this event that prompted her to write her first book, ‘‘I Thought He Was A Speed Bump.’’

‘‘She died and I missed her,’’ she says.

Marotta says that several of the stories in the first book include her mother.

‘‘She told great stories and I think that I was trying to conjure her up in a way (by writing the book).’’

The close relationship Marotta had with her mother is an example of the importance of family for the former Somerville High School English teacher who has been writing for 23 years.

With the help of her husband of 32 years, David, she holds a family dinner weekly at their home.

‘‘We have Wednesday night dinner and they all come,’’ Marotta says.

And by all of them Marotta means her own children, Carrie, 25, and Annie, 23, who both live in Somerville, and Michael, 18, along with the kids from A Better Chance - a program that takes kids out of the inner city and provides them with access to other educational opportunities.

The Marottas have been a host family for several kids.

‘‘We had five or six kids that we have helped bring to adulthood,’’ Marotta says.

‘‘They’re still our kids,’’ she says.
Terry Marotta will be at the Borders in Braintree for a reading at 2 p.m. on June 15.

A mini ‘Vacation’
Here is an excerpt from Terry Marotta’s new book, "Vacationing In My Driveway." This is from the short story, "Not a Bowl of Berries for Terry and the Pirate."

I took an airplane flight during which, like many a passenger, I had occasion to visit the bathroom. Only first I couldn’t LOCK its little door, and banged and wrestled with it loudly. Then, minutes later, I couldn’t UNlock it. Between the one effort and the other, I had its rigid vinyl walls a-shakin’ and a-tremblin’ like a sinner facin’ Judgment; and when I burst forth at last, the folks in the last few rows gave me a round of applause.

But returning to my seat, I felt strangely cheerful, and settled in beside the pony-tailed man who for the last two hours had been poring over a hockey magazine.

"Um, so do you PLAY hockey?" I made bold to ask.

"Semi-pro, baby! Eleven years!" he said with a big smile.

"Yikes, how’re your teeth? How’s your, uh, mouth?"

"150 stitches and two caps!" he shouted gaily. "Only I don’t bother with the caps much." And he smiled even wider, showing me a mouth like my pirate’s back home.

It’s the smile I keep on remembering, for the lesson it gave me: namely, whatever droppings the heavens choose to rain down on you, the choice of how you react to them is still yours to make.

Franceen Shaughnessy may be reached at

Copyright 2002 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Saturday, June 08, 2002

Terry Marotta will be at the Borders at Braintree for a reading at 2pm on June 15th.

©Copyright 2002-2012 Terry Marotta, All Rights Reserved.