17…16…15…the countdown begins in “Rip” campaign

The days are slipping away — just 17 of them remain for folks to make pledges toward the kickstarter.com campaign to help fund publication of my humorous novella “Rip,” a modern-day “retelling” of the classic Rip van Winkle story, which is scheduled for publication and release in early November by Steve Hart’s literary imprint , Black Angel Press, which will also be publishing my novella “The Dogs of Arroyo.”

Please go to my “Rip” page at kickstarter for information about how you can quickly and painlessly make a pledge. In return, you’ll get a reward, ranging from $15 for a copy of the book to $30 for a signed copy to as much as $250 to have a minor character in the story renamed after you!

We’re halfway there but still $600 short of the goal. So please consider joining our effort.


I confess. I’m an optimist (or overly optimistic, take your pick). So I’m already scheduling book-signings and readings for “Rip” as well as my other Black Angel Press novella, “The Dogs of Arroyo.”

And I’ve got three events scheduled already!

The first: On Sunday, Sept. 25, as part of an outdoor townwide arts event in Highland Park, N.J., I’ll be reading from both novellas at Steve Hart’s Nighthawk Books on Raritan Avenue. Time will be announced.

Sometime in early November, if all goes according to plan, there will be a book(s) debut and signing at Nighthawk to celebrate publication of the two books.

Then, on Nov., 19, from 2 to 4 p.m., I’ll be back in my old stomping grounds, for a reading/signing for both books at Book Garden on Bridge Street in Frenchtown.

On Dec. 3, I’ll be appearing from 5 to 7 p.m. at Half Moon Books in Kingston, N.Y., up there on the Hudson River opposite Beacon, N.Y.

Still in the works: Possible appearances at Bruised Apple Books in Peekskill, N.Y., and Golden Note Books in Woodstock, N.Y., both for “Rip,” and Raconteur Books in Metuchen, N.J., for both “Rip” and “Dogs,” and — here’s one I’m really hoping pans out — a possible “Rip” reading at the amazing Dia art museum along the Hudson in Beacon.

I’ll keep everyone posted as more appearances are scheduled.



Take a few minutes to read this elegantly written and beautifully felt 9/11 remembrance by my daughter Laura Gutmann.

A few nights ago, I read the New York magazine 9/11 tenth anniversary issue. Not recommended before bedtime if you want to have sweet dreams. Nonetheless, as each piece of that day was dissected and reexamined, I couldn’t help but go back to my own ten years ago:

The Day of:

My roommate stuck a Post-It note on my laptop which told me to turn it on instead of rushing straight to class. My homepage was the same as always – set to the New York Times. As I read about the first plane, I called Harold to see if he’d heard. It was so difficult to conceptualize the news that I actually said, “Well, at least no one got hurt.” He kindly reminded me about all the people onboard and the workers in cubicles and conference rooms that were now on fire, smashed and broken. Oh.

Striding across campus, I called my father to make sure the ground was still standing in rural New Jersey. I knew that it would be, but it felt good to get confirmation. My morning professor told us that her approach to these sorts of things was to go on as normal, so we half-heartedly agreed and pushed forward. In my next class, the tone was quite the opposite. We spent the next few hours in collective shock as students swapped stories and updates – more planes, more losses. This professor openly sobbed and I appreciated that.

9 months later:

Harold and I moved to NYC, beginning our adventures in a city that we would only come to know post-9/11, post-tragedy. That first summer, we trekked down to the place where the towers once stood. Everything had sort of been cleared away, but there were still buildings covered in black shrouds and an incomprehensible hole and grey, dusty, empty streets and frozen, boarded-up storefronts.

At first I would indulge visitors who wanted to go see the site, too, but after a while I would send them down there alone, with subway directions and an apology for being too tired of seeing all the emptiness and the leftover flyers. The missing person flyers were especially the worst, still attached around the fence surrounding the church across the street from the WTC. You knew that they probably hadn’t done any good, and there were so many, filled with snapshots, filled with life. They were like the sum total of the Portraits of Grief being thrown at you in one fell swoop. The Portraits of Grief that ran in the Times after 9/11 were perfect and poignant, but they made me ache. Not to mention the vendors selling flags and trinkets and cashing in on graveyard souvenirs. Those folks were the second worst.

That fall:

Our apartment was just down the block from a firehouse that had lost several members that day. To mark the first anniversary of their sacrifice, a woman put up a huge, ornate display of flowers and candles below their photos, which hung outside the station. I passed her as she stood in panic, trying not to burst into tears as her carefully placed candles accidentally set all the flowers on fire. ”Oh, my God!” she cried. I half-joked that she was in the right place to be starting a blaze – that she could just go inside and the guys in there would help her out. She stared at me for a second and then pulled herself together. ”Right – I’ll go get the guys.” At least this mishap had an easy solution. I watched the flowers until someone came to the rescue.

By Halloween, Harold and I were confessing that we both purposely avoided walking on the firehouse side of the street, because passing the photos of those who had been lost was just too depressing to confront on a daily basis. In the next moment, we passed the station doors and caught sight of a baby dressed up as a firefighter, taking pictures next to the real thing. We smiled and said, “Well…I guess that was uplifting!” Life goes on.


The flyers were eventually taken down from the church fence. People started to bustle around the gaping hole again. Yet, there were still emergency drills every few months with my kindergartners. There were bag checks at subway stations, and police cars lined along 42nd Street, and no liquids and shoes off at airports. There were the “See something, say something” posters, urging us to fear large backpacks during each step of our morning commutes. There were Arab (or Arab-looking) friends who faced discrimination. There was the knowing that there was no going back and President My Pet Goat was going to shepherd us through this new reality. New Yorkers will always remain confident, but now there was that lurking bit of uneasiness that kept creeping through, that couldn’t be stamped out.


It remains difficult to imagine that we’ll ever be able to shake those insecurities and fears. But, at least memories of the past ten years have also been coupled with hope and pride in Manhattan’s ability to rally and thrive. When we lived there, Harold covered a race held in memory of a firefighter who heard about the incident, put on his heavy gear and ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to get to the scene of the crime, three miles away. He left home on his off-day to help out – and it eventually cost him his life. Each fall, his friends and supporters race that same path in his honor, some wearing the same 60 pounds of gear.

Why did he feel compelled to rush to the scene? Was it his training, his sense of responsiveness? Was he drawn towards the action, feeling the pull of potential heroics? Perhaps. But I’d like to think that the greater part of him simply wanted to go help his firefighter comrades – and to help the people trapped in the towers. That undeniable sense of humanity is the most hopeful part of 9/11, by far.

Because of this, I remain grateful for the firefighters and police who did their best to respond and remember them along with the ordinary citizens who did nothing to deserve their terrible fate. All the same, I have to believe that looking forward is just as important as looking back. When my sister and I end phone conversations, our sign-off is always, “Peace, love & happiness!” It might be a bit much to ask, but I hope that the world ahead is full of just that, even when confronted by our darkest challenges and a city full of dust.

Is it tweeting on Twitter or twitting on Tweeter?

As part of marketing plans for my novellas “Rip” (a modern-day parody of “Rip van Winkle”) and “The Dogs of Arroyo” (a spooky and surreal parable set in Puerto Rico) which both have a publication target date of November 15, I’ve started a Twitter feed.

So, if you’re a tweeter or a reader of tweets (to paraphrase either Shakespeare or Groucho, I forget which), and would be kind enough to “follow” my tweets (does that sound funny to you, too?!), you’ll find updates about the status of both projects — and other writing-related matters — at @nidigiovanni as well as at @vcca, which is the feed for Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, which has kindly offered (and has already begun) to publicize the books, which are being published by a new independent publisher, Black Angel Press.

More information is and will be available, too, via this blogsite as well as at kickstarter.com and blackangelpress.com

“Rip” tide slowly rises toward publication of really funny book

The campaign seeking pledges to help defray production costs for the Black Angel Press publication of my novella “Rip” — a modern-day parody of the Washington Irving’s classic “Rip van Winkle” — is just about halfway toward achieving the $1,200 goal.

Here’s a link to the project website, including a description of the book, details of the project, a list of people who have already pledged, and information on how to make a pledge, which takes about five minutes: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/858629110/publication-of-rip-a-parody-of-the-rip-van-winkle

Keep in mind that the amount pledged is not charged to your credit or debit card until the funding goal is reached. What’s more, if the funding goal is not reached by the target date at the end of September, then no pledges can be collected; the pledges are collected only if the goal is reached.

As it happens, I just spent a few days visiting Washington Irving’s beloved Hudson River valley. Above are a few photos I snapped while out on the river. The first, taken late in the afternoon, feels to me like the beautiful and dramatic river landscape Irving described with such affection and warmth. The second, taken at sunset from a bluff overlooking the river, evokes for me the magic and mystery of those very old hills where old Rip van Winkle fell into his lengthy slumber and Ichabod Crane encountered a very disconcerting sight in the moonlit wooded hills of Sleepy Hollow.

Please consider making a pledge. As little as $15 gets you a copy of the book when it’s published — hopefully before the end of the year. Double that pledge, and for $30 you get a copy signed by the author! For even more generous pledges, there are even better rewards! Click on the above link for further details.