Call me M. Elizabeth


In an honors course at the University of Minnesota, the woman I was writing a paper with and I decided we would be taken more seriously as writers if we made a slight change in our names, so I became M. Elizabeth Hirsch. Perhaps I should have kept writing under that name.

As a Minnesota writer, it is not surprising that I apply for the prestigious Bush Foundation writing grant. Of course, as a backup, I also apply for the prestigious Publishers Clearing House grant. Every time I mail in my applications I envision myself receiving a letter telling me I won or someone at my door with a big-ass check and some balloons. Yet I would not win; so I developed a plan to change this outcome. I studied the winners of the Bush award to see what I could learn from them. But after reading the Bush Foundation reports, and the artists’ statements, it became obvious I may not be Bush grant material. One winner described his work as:

“… an allegory of the West’s relationship with the Arab world centered around an Irish knight searching for a lost white bear; a script involving a picnic in heaven where biblical lives parallel the events in a Smokey Mountain community.”

I think I’ll wait for the movie. Other artists went on to describe their creative life with statements such as:

“Sympathetic magic is a fantasy of the powerless, but I keep hoping that the dictionary might be a book of spells, that somewhere in the swirling, oceanic potential of the language I might find sentences apt and melodic enough to offer their subjects a better future.”

Actually I’m not sure I would want to say words like that–you’re never invited to the fun parties, and when you talk, people are thinking about what they are going to have for dinner tonight.

“I write to remind myself that I am alive, and my individual voice matters.”

If I want to remind myself that I am alive I stop paying my bills and lots of people remind me I am still alive.

“Novels … are passers-by standing in the rain looking in on the human family sitting around the dinner table, at the glow of life and light within.”

Why are they standing in the rain peeping into windows? I would think if you are smart enough to get a Bush grant you are smart enough to come in from the rain.

“I search for and find Beauty, Brilliance and Compassion in every single person I meet.”

Obviously you don’t hang out at the same places I do.

“I’m constantly questioning myself …”

Join the club honey. I question myself all the time: Where the heck did I park my car? Why did it cost me $127.53 when I just went to Target for a toothbrush? Why did I leave Target without buying a toothbrush?

“Ice in the jungle is magical if you have never seen it.”

Is this one of those trees-falling-in-the-woods Zeny kind of statements? I’ll tell you what is magical in my life: ice in the ice cube trays of my freezer.

“I read aloud my poetry because I have no choice; it is in my blood.”

Not real sure what is in his blood–reading aloud or poetry. I may not have poetry in my blood but I can create a sentence that is not ambiguous. Plus I know big words like ambiguous and often say them aloud because I have no choice.

“The work I’m doing is going to be passed on to my children and to the community. I feel like I’m working on a project larger than myself.”

I don’t feel any project I work on is larger than myself. Maybe if I lost a few pounds …

“Love is a mutable energy.”

Apparently this writer isn’t into greeting cards: “Honey, like bacteria in a Petri dish our love is a mutable energy.” Unless your lover is a chemist, that card isn’t going to get you any action.

Perhaps I could try for more irony or symbolism in my writing or, better yet, I think I’ll buy a subscription to Allegory Monthly.

M. Elizabeth Hirsch is a prestigious humorist with a cracked Foundation. You can find more of Mary at