Heart to heart about memoir, Cleft Heart.

As part of the International Authors’ Day blog hop hosted by  b00kR3vi3wsI’m going to tackle some of the questions that’re asked of me as I do various book events on Cleft Heart book tours. Debdatta, who reviews books at his site,  b00kR3vi3ws, claims he’s addicted to books. I hope he never goes into rehab.


cleft heart book cover

1. Why now? What made you decide to write Cleft Heart

I finally got some time off from being a professor and decided to have another go at aspects of being a cleft afflicted person. During a sabbatical decades ago I wrote a screenplay abouta young man with a repaired cleft trying to be a news anchor (a fantasy of mine during the Walter Cronkite golden age of news broadcasting).

The screenplay went nowhere even though Sherry Lansing’s studio expressed interest. Called “Stop, Look, and Listen,” it died when my agent, Bertha Klausner, died. The grande dame of New York literary agents, she had Upton Sinclair and Eleanor Roosevelt as clients.

I wrote Cleft Heart mostly to show people with facial differences that they can rise above, that normal is a state of mind, that you’re only as “normal” as you feel. And, too, I wrote it because I found out no cleft had ever written about the cleft palate experience before. Zounds! Can you imagine?

2. How have your old friends from the Ivy League accepted Cleft Heart? Did they realize the insecurities with which you dealt?

My Ivy friends who’ve read the book have liked, and even loved, it. They feel Cleft Heart captures the sights, sounds and tone of our times in college and grad school.

Of my Ivy friends, I’m most in touch with my Yale classmates , who are male ‘cuz the college didn’t go coed till after I graduated. Some of these guys didn’t realize I’d felt so insecure back in the day. (They are often “old school” males whose competitiveness then, and even now, make them oblivious/insensitive to such things/feelings.)

Some guys, closer to me at the time, knew of my insecurities and struggles. And some, gays in touch with their feelings, have revealed that they felt imprisoned by their own insecurities back then, frightened and seemingly alone “in the closet” in the ‘60s.

3. What part of Cleft Heart makes you the most proud?

I’m proudest when I hear from readers about how my literary voice changes, gets more complex as I get older in the book. I worked at that…and at keeping the story moving along.

4. Do you have a favorite sentence, favorite paragraph or chapter, or a favorite point you make?

My favorite sentence is: “A taller version of Winston Churchill, he growled softly at me in German.” I do like another long sentence about drunken classmates which ends with “preferring froth and foam to Freud and Faulkner.”

I like the adventure and sexual tension of “The Long Way Home” chapter.


Cleft Heart is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Just click the image or button to your right.



To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.


  1. Thank You for joining in the celebrations for #IAD!

  2. Jenn Strohschein says:

    Wow. I never realized the depth of the disorder beyond a few corrective surgeries. Thank you so much for your hard work and opening yourself up to being vulnerable. I’m in awe.

  3. HeldenKline says:

    The cutest baby I ever saw (1972) was when I was working in a military hospital. She had a perfect double cleft & to me her mouth looked like a little flower. Of course she was there for a repair–the palate had to be closed and the lip repaired so she could suck more easily. They did good work on her!

    • I’ve featured photos of several cute cleft babies on my site. In some cases–especially in double/bilateral clefts–symmetry is possible to achieve during restorative surgery.
      Also, microform cleft kids like Joaquin Phoenix, often have sensational closure surgery results . . . because the floor of the nostrils hasn’t been undermined/compromised by a cleft palate.
      Yup, Phoenix has done well! An admirable fellow, in my estimation.

  4. HeldenKline says:

    Incidentally…I’m looking up your book at our library, and if they don’t have it I’ll request an order. Also: Joaquin Phoenix has done pretty well for himself, cleft & all. Right?

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