Marion Winik

University of Baltimore Professor Marion Winik writes Bohemian Rhapsody on the first Wednesday of the month. She is the author of "First Comes Love," and, forthcoming in fall 2018, "The Baltimore Book of the Dead." She is the host of The Weekly Reader on WYPR. Sign up for her monthly email at

How to Celebrate the Day of the Dead


It seems to have become a tradition to re-post this 2013 column on November 1. At my house, Day of the Dead season opened a couple of weeks ago when I started a new book project: a sequel to The Glen Rock Book of the Dead. It will be called The Baltimore Book of the Dead, again named after the place it was written, again containing very short lyric essays, each a portrait of someone who has died. The first one is my mother, The Golfer, who left us right after I finished the first book, and I’ve got a handful of others already. I can picture the two little books standing next to each other, so maybe it will actually happen and you will read it someday. If I continue to be swept up in the writing, you might be reading essays from the archive for a couple of months, but I’ve been digging around and there are some very ancient ones that I bet most BFB readers have never seen. Happy Day of the Dead, shots of tequila all around. 

Drape a small table with a cloth in the favorite color of the person you loved who has died. Adorn it with candles, flowers (marigolds are traditional) and framed photographs. Set out some favorite foods: a slice of pie, a bottle of beer, a Milky Way. Add the instruments of their hobbies and vices: a pack of Newports, a deck of cards, a banjo. A People magazine, a racquet, a Terrible Towel. A copy of Peter Pan, of The Joy of Cooking, of the Bible.

Baltimore Writers Club #8: Four UB Alums Take Flight


A couple of years ago, my colleagues and I at the University of Baltimore Creative Writing MFA program watched with pride as D Watkins published The Cook Up and The Beast Side, a memoir and a collection of essays from two major publishing houses, and quickly became recognized as a major voice of his generation of African-American writers. D had just graduated from our relatively young program, and his level of success was a first for us.

Harvey’s Choice


As soon as I heard about Hurricane Harvey, I started worrying about the animals. The ones tied up in backyards, the ones waiting on roofs, the ones peering out attic windows. I hoped it would go better for them than it did in 2005 when according to the Louisiana SPCA, tens of thousands of pets died.

Surprise Party Surprise

The birthday boy.

For Vince’s 27th birthday, his longtime girlfriend Shannon decided to throw a surprise party. Shannon is a gorgeous blonde and a smart cookie too, but her real superpower is worrying. She can worry ordinary people under the table. As you might imagine, planning a surprise party gave her some material. Whom to invite, and how many, and is this everyone? Can they all keep a secret? Might Vince find out some other way? Let’s say it comes off — does he even want a surprise party? Vince can be a crank. As one of his friends recently pointed out, Shannon is “the only person Vince is actually nice to.” Where to have it, what to serve, how much is all this going to cost?

The Return of Tracy Beth Richardson


A couple of months ago, as we were stuffing our blocks into the cubbies after a yoga class, a woman I saw frequently but knew only as “the short one with the beautiful blond hair” introduced herself. Alex Hewett is one of the producers of the Baltimore/DC chapter of Mortified, a show where adults present diaries, letters and other archival materials from their childhoods. She wondered if maybe I, or some of my students, would be interested in performing.

Baltimore Writers Club #5: Don Lee’s Lonesome Lies Before Us


Here’s a preview … don’t miss the launch on June 22, 7 pm, at Bird in Hand.

According to the bio on the back of his fifth book, Lonesome Lies Before Us, Don Lee “splits his time between Philadelphia and Baltimore.” I laughed when I read this. Don’t most two-city authors split their time between San Francisco and Paris? Or New York and Rome?

Backstage at the Wedding


Big news: My son got married last week, and now I have a daughter-in-law. I have lucked out in this department. Maria is a formidable person with beauty, brains and a lovely family hailing from the country of Ecuador. I often describe her as “the younger, prettier Penelope Cruz.” She is bilingual, she is doing her residency in orthodontics at Harvard, she is sweet and has a lot of really cute dresses. In general, she is a pretty upscale specimen of the human race.

Baltimore Writers Club #6: Madison Smartt Bell’s Behind the Moon


I’m sitting here trying to recover from reading Madison Smartt Bell’s new novel, which is quite unlike most anything else (except previous books by MSB – I’d recognize the ferocity of the prose style anywhere). I’m a little shaken, I’m spent, and I truly feel like I have been Somewhere Else.

Keeping Up With Caitlyn


Last night at school, my student Amelia had a question. “As writers,” she asked, “do we have to feel shame for liking books written by celebrities? Because —” She cast down her big brown eyes and gathered her courage. “I love them.”

The Long Way to Okay


For about a year now I’ve been feeling the pain of my empty nest, though it will not actually occur until the fall of 2018.

In the spring of that year, I will turn 60. That’s pretty much fine with me. Listen, by the time you get to the end of a decade, 28, 29, 38, 39, 48, 49, it’s like, enough already, let’s just get on with it. Thirty and forty were good for me. Fifty was a new beginning if nothing else– my mother died, my marriage died, my first generation of kids hit the road, and I left the boondocks of south-central PA for beautiful downtown Roland Park.