Mary L. Tabor

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Mary L. Tabor

Goodreads Author

Baltimore, The United States



Member Since
December 2008


Mary L. Tabor's is the author of Who by Fire: A Novel (November 2012) with a book club where she interviews other authors about their books: Join and discover authors in person. Mary is also the author of (Re)Making Love: A Memoir, available on Amazon and she is posting it for free at Her book The Woman Who Never Cooked won Mid-List Press’s First Series Award. (BTW, I love to cook!) That book of fiction was published when she turned 60 after a 16-year career in corporate America, a senior executive, director of public affairs writing for the oil industry’s trade association, landing her in both Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who of Americ ...more

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Mary L. Tabor “Write what you know” in fiction does not mean “write your life.” It’s better explained by acknowledging that artists who write close-to-the-bone rely…more“Write what you know” in fiction does not mean “write your life.” It’s better explained by acknowledging that artists who write close-to-the-bone rely on the unconscious mind to do the work of invention.

You can tell when you’re reading work that does that. One extraordinary example is the unforgettable and brilliant work of Gabriel García Márquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude feels so real that nothing can compare with its brilliance. I am quite certain that even as Gabo invented, he wrote from his own unconscious knowing.

As I said in answer to your first question, I am inside all my characters. My novel is a fictional tale—the narrator is a man and well-versed in Physics, in Quantum Mechanics, in finance. He plays the piano. I can barely balance my check book and I don’t play an instrument, but I did years and years of research to create my narrator’s voice and to think the way Robert would. In this way fiction released me to write the story as if I were my husband who had left me and then lost me, meaning totally lost through death.

I am every character in the novel. I tell stories about myself all through this novel, stories I don’t actually know. My daughter, who is in fact a philosopher, accuses me regularly of remaking the past.

Memory by its very nature is flawed. Revisiting memory again and again is the way we search for the narrative of our lives.

William Faulkner says in Light in August, “Memory believes before knowing remembers.”

The difference between memoir and fiction is that memoir is bound to the facts. Fiction, on the other hand, when it is startlingly good often reads like memoir in this sense: We believe it as if it is happening as we read. A gorgeous example is Lydia Davis’s The End of the Story.

In the memoir (Re)Making Love, I recall events. I cannot make up those events to suit the narrative. I cannot lie in the book. But, for example, the psychiatrist in the chapter “Something Old for Something New” would surely not tell the story the way I have—with the notable exception of the phone conversation between us that he recorded, transcribed and then e-mailed to me.

The reason I chose memoir as my form for this tale is that, in this case, the truth is stranger than fiction. I don’t think anyone would believe my story if it were written as fiction. In that sense it’s a romantic comedy that really happened—but was deeply wounding to live through. (less)
Mary L. Tabor The idea of working to “hook” a reader only operates for me in the sense that I know how good writing works. On the macro level: I read great fiction…moreThe idea of working to “hook” a reader only operates for me in the sense that I know how good writing works. On the macro level: I read great fiction and memoir and poetry. On the micro level: I know, as one example, that the first sentence of a story needs to do a lot of work—or forget it. Your reader is already gone, out the door.

However, and more to your point, the real problem for me is that “hooking” a reader based on my last book, would be an act of “selling direct.” And I think the work would be “idea” driven. Ideas are not conflict as we understand the nature of conflict in fiction or memoir. Good memoir and fiction don’t operate that way.

Let me explain this way: Newspaper op-eds sell direct—the idea drives the essay. Stories that sell direct—and no, I won’t name names here—only wear the clothes of good fiction and good memoir.

A story takes on the feeling of experience for the reader when it’s told inside the character. In my memoir (Re)Making Love, I am indeed the foolish, broken-hearted woman who lived the tale to tell it. My readers know I’m telling them the story from inside me, as the character on a journey. I’m not pulling punches. I’m on the page in a way I could never be in person or in any social situation.

I hope my readers will want to read my novel Who by Fire that tells this real-life story through fiction—and a very different story it is: For one thing, the heroine is dead in sentence one. In whatever sense my novel is autobiographical—and maybe Freud would have a field day with this one—I kill myself off at the get-go. I suppose I felt as if I had died when the man I love left me.

In this fictional account I go to the place of hard emotional truth in a way that my memoir can’t do because of its hold on the facts, on what really happened. I hope readers who get to know me will want to read that book and my fourth book. It’s in the works.(less)
Average rating: 4.39 · 74 ratings · 28 reviews · 5 distinct works · Similar authors
Who by Fire

4.74 avg rating — 31 ratings — published 2012 — 2 editions
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(Re)Making Love: A Sex Afte...

4.27 avg rating — 22 ratings — published 2010 — 6 editions
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The Woman Who Never Cooked:...

3.95 avg rating — 20 ratings — published 2013 — 3 editions
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(Re)Making Love: a memoir

it was amazing 5.00 avg rating — 1 rating
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(Re) Making Love: a sex aft...

0.00 avg rating — 0 ratings — published 2011
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More books by Mary L. Tabor…
In memory

How Brassiere
Straps Bind

An old family story says that my Aunt
Libby, whose birthday is today—she would have been 104—and my mother, Freda, who died more than two
decades ago on this day, were once so drunk after a family party that they
ended up lying down in bed together, that they passed out and that they woke
with the back hooks of their brassieres linked inside one another, Read more of this blog post »
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Welcome to Goodreads. And thank you so for joining the book club. We can have some great conversations there, online and off!


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I read this novel in two dream-like sittings. I literally was unable to put it down. It is like nothing else I've encountered. The novel has the feel of unflinching autobiography, of examination of the self through reflection from and knowledge of an ...more
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
"I first heard of Elena Ferrante in 2015 in an interivew in the Paris Review. What caught my attention - and which has become a sort of talking point around her - was her wish to remain anonymous and use a pseudonym, despite being considered one of..." Read more of this review »
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“One sure window into a person's soul is his reading list”
Mary L. Tabor

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet)I want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
E.E. Cummings

“There it was before her - life. Life: she thought but she did not finish her thought. She took a look at life, for she had a clear sense of it there, something real, something private, which she shared neither with her children nor with her husband. A sort of transaction went on between them, in which she was on one side, and life was on another, and she was always trying to get the better of it, as it was of her; and sometimes they parleyed (when she sat alone); there were, she remembered, great reconciliation scenes; but for the most part, oddly enough, she must admit that she felt this thing that she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance.”
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
tags: life

“To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception; it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or in eternity.”
Søren Kierkegaard

“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”
Nora Ephron

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

82279 Who By Fire Online Book Group — 108 members — last activity Mar 14, 2016 06:37AM
Join Mary with guests on Rare Bird Radio broadcasts and also join her to discuss the arts and the creative process. She'll discuss her novel but she a ...more
31471 Goodreads Author Feedback Group — 8696 members — last activity 46 minutes ago
This is the official group for authors to give Goodreads feedback about the site, including the Goodreads Author Program, Ask the Author, the newslett ...more
25350 THE JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB — 7018 members — last activity 23 hours, 21 min ago
ALL GENRE COMMUNITY OF BOOK LOVERS-Perfect for those interested in good books of any genre, film and lively discussion!-(300 PLUS DISCUSSION TOPICS)fr ...more
69983 Albany (NY) Public Library's Online Reading Group — 139 members — last activity Aug 25, 2014 03:35AM
Welcome to Albany Public Library's Online Reading Group. Here, you'll find a great place to share and connect with local readers, and many suggestions ...more
23555 DC Literary Group — 13 members — last activity Sep 12, 2010 07:38AM
We read and discuss classic and contemporary fiction and poetry from cultures around the world. We meet in cafes or homes in and near Washington, DC o ...more
16084 The Write Vision — 304 members — last activity Apr 18, 2015 02:46PM
Write the vision! Have you completed your vision (book), and now want to share it with the world? This is the group for you! We will discuss the proce ...more
43519 readers advisory for all — 3323 members — last activity May 02, 2016 09:23AM
life's too short to read crappy books. this is why readers' advisory exists. feel free to join if you are looking for "a book like____" or "a book tha ...more
970 Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die — 14809 members — last activity 4 hours, 55 min ago
For those attempting the crazy feat of reading all 1001 books! For discerning bibliophiles and readers who enjoy unforgettable classic literature, 100 ...more
48527 Q&A with Richard Godwin — 489 members — last activity Jan 20, 2016 12:51PM
Crime Pays.
86172 Approaching the Natural Book Club — 8 members — last activity Dec 11, 2012 04:43PM
Sid Garza-Hillman, nutritionist, philosopher, actor, and musician introduces his original philosophy of health. Sid’s philosophy is simple: the closer ...more
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message 5: by Mary

Mary Peg wrote: "Just watched your video! Adorable! You radiate positivity and yes, HOPE. Definitely have to read your book now! I'm thinking starring Meryl Streep ... everything we wanted Eat, Love, Pray to be ......"

I certainly hope I replied to this earlier! Such a lovely comment. I am seeing it now on my page and so touched by what you said, Peg. --Mary

message 4: by Mary

Mary I have a book club here on Goodreads at that I hope all my Goodreads friends will join. At this club, I interview live authors you want to know and may very well have read. I have interviewed worldwide journalist Michael Johnson, poet extraordinaire and author of The Paper Garden Molly Peacock, Cuban author of Tomorrow They Will Kiss Eduardo Santiago and on Wednesday November 7, 2012 at 4 pm ET, I will interview the poet and literary force Dana Gioia. All the links to the radio shows are on the club site. Please join: no obligation whatsoever to my novel that will be released November 15.

message 3: by Mary

Mary For the record: The quote on my page that I do agree with and love: “One sure window into a person's soul is his reading list.” was not said by me. Its author is the journalist Mary B.W. Tabor. I did not put the quote on my page and can't figure out how to give Mary B.W. Tabor credit. But she deserves it!

message 2: by Mary

Mary Dear Peg,

You have made my day. How lovely of you to have taken the time to watch the video and to comment. My world is better today for what you have written here. Your generosity and your hope for my book radiate from your post.

With gratitude,


message 1: by Peg

Peg Just watched your video! Adorable! You radiate positivity and yes, HOPE. Definitely have to read your book now! I'm thinking starring Meryl Streep ... everything we wanted Eat, Love, Pray to be ...... but alas it was not ;(

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