To the Editor: How learning to write letters to editors
is expanding my range, skill, and publication credits

May 20, 2016 – I made an amazing new friend in November 2014, via our mutual passion for writing. Talking frequently about craft and “inside baseball” by phone, between New York and Los Angeles, has also helped both of us fuel our writing activities more. We met for the first time recently when he visited New York, appropriately, in the New York Times building.


My passion, at least with respect to published works, has been creative non-fiction, and my friend David is a prolific writer of letters to editors. He writes and submits letters frequently and in great numbers to newspapers, magazines, journals and other publications. His list of published works is endless, his scrapbooks are numerous and thick, and he is appearing in new publications regularly.

So now, with his example and guidance, my passion is extending to this genre (yes, it really is a genre). There are concrete, specific skills one can acquire to get published by any journal, even the most prestigious and exclusive.

I’ve decided to start journaling what I’m learning, and document my published items in the print and online editions of journals. David, a retired librarian, has helped me appreciate the print medium, due to its physicality, permanence, and beauty. Getting a letter on a publication’s Web site is an achievement, but to make the print edition is harder, decidedly more prestigious, and very satisfying once you see your work on a printed page over your byline.

Here is the start of my log of published, pending, and unpublished letters:

THE ECONOMIST  |  This prestigious weekly newspaper dates to 1843 and, I am told, is very hard to crack. I learned of this paper last year, and sent Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes two pieces in one weekend relating to articles in their Feb. 14th, 2015 issue. I did not follow up, and discovered purely by accident 14 months later that one of them was published! Lesson learned: It takes skillful writing and persistence to crack such a journal, and anyone is capable of it. Track your submissions. Try, and keep trying.

Pending: 1 article. Unpublished: 1 article.

THE NEW YORK TIMES  |  Although I have had nine items published in the Metropolitan Diary, my recent attempts at sending letters have not yet resulted in getting a letter published. I have a lot to learn; it has been a fun process writing, sending, failing, and learning. When I met Letters Editor Mr. Feyer and his staff recently, he gave me advice and encouragement that sparked new efforts. I look forward to getting my first credit as a letter writer, and many more. And the great thing is, The New York Times has many columns and sections that invite letters, not just the Opinion page.

Unpublished: 5.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH  |  A tribute I wrote after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and sent to four or five of Ohio’s major newspapers was published by one of them, resulting in a life-changing story you can read here.
MY BUCKET LIST  |  I told David recently that I need to list the publications I’d like to get into. Many of them are ones that David has been published in. Here is my ambition list:
  • The New Yorker
  • The Financial Times of London
  • The New York Times
  • Vogue
  • Vanity Fair
  • People
  • Time
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Smithsonian
  • TV Guide
  • NRA’s American Rifleman
  • Newsweek
  • Bon Appetit
  • Rolling Stone
  • Popular Science
  • Field & Stream
  • Popular Mechanics
  • GQ
  • Forbes Fortune
  • Wired
  • Mad Magazine
  • Town and Country
  • Cigar Aficionado, Wine Spectator, and other publications of Marvin Shanken
  • National Geographic
  • Readers Digest
  • Major U.S. newspapers such as The Washington Post, Washington Post Magazine, Washington Times, New York Times Magazine, Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Boston Herald, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, and others (including smaller newspapers)
– p.k.


Britten’s exquisite English art song cycle,
“Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings”

March 16, 2013 – Here are the lyrics and a YouTube audio of Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (Op. 31).  The poems are by Cotton, Tennyson, Blake, Jonson, and Keats, as well as the unattributed verse known as the “Lyke-Wake Dirge.”

This 1971 Angel recording features tenor Robert Tear and horn player Alan Civil, with the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra conducted by Neville Marriner. Enjoy!

PROLOGUE (instrumental)

PASTORAL (Charles Cotton, 1630—1687)

The day’s grown old; the fainting sun
Has but a little way to run,
And yet his steeds, with all his skill,
Scarce lug the chariot down the hill.

The shadows now so long do grow,
That brambles like tall cedars show;
Mole hills seem mountains, and the ant
Appears a monstrous elephant.

A very little, little flock
Shades thrice the ground that it would stock;
Whilst the small stripling following them
Appears a mighty Polypheme.

And now on benches all are sat,
In the cool air to sit and chat,
Till Phoebus, dipping in the West,
Shall lead the world the way to rest.

NOCTURNE “Blow, Bugle, blow” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809—1892)

THE splendour falls on castle walls           
      And snowy summits old in story:         
    The long light shakes across the lakes,  
      And the wild cataract leaps in glory.    
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying. 

    O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,       
      And thinner, clearer, farther going!     
    O sweet and far from cliff and scar       
      The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

    O love, they die in yon rich sky,  
      They faint on hill or field or river:       
    Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
      And grow for ever and for ever.           
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,        
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

ELEGY “The Sick Rose” (William Blake, 1757—1827)

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

DIRGE “Lyke-Wake Dirge” (Anonymous, traditional)

THIS ae nighte, this ae nighte,
— Refrain: Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
— Refrain: And Christe receive thy saule.

When thou from hence away art past
To Whinny-muir thou com’st at last

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Sit thee down and put them on;

If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane.

From Whinny-muir when thou may’st pass,
To Brig o’ Dread thou com’st at last;

From Brig o’ Dread when thou may’st pass,
To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last;

If ever thou gavest meat or drink,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;

If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
— Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
— And Christe receive thy saule.

HYMN “The Hymn of Hesperus” (Ben Jonson, 1572—1637)

Queen, and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep :
    Hesperus entreats thy light,
    Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose ;
Cynthia’s shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close :
    Bless us then with wishèd sight,
    Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal shining quiver ;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever :
    Thou that mak’st a day of night,
    Goddess excellently bright.

SONNET “To Sleep” (John Keats, 1795—1821)

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:

O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.

Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;

Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.

EPILOGUE (instrumental)

This post is dedicated to my new friend Elliott, for these last rare views of the sunset through the interlacing branches of Harlem’s winter trees.  – p.k.



The Front Page is published weekly on Mondays.

Recent articles...

  • Enjoy John Singleton Copley’s Watson and The Shark, and other art, on the Virtual Museum Tour. Links to the Met, MoMA, Whitney and NGA are updated.
  • Give new ESV Bibles to your friends and neighbors for as low as $2 – or even $1 – apiece.
  • My sister recently introduced me to an easy, yummy Chicken Stuffing Casserole.
  • “Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants,” performed by the legendary sleight-of-hand artist under the direction of David Mamet, is this week’s Feature Presentation in a 6-part YouTube playlist.
  • Like Scrabble? My new list of playable given and proper names may surprise you.
  • My short items in The New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diary” are linked on one page.
  • Hear Tim Keller’s sermon, “Injustice: Hasn't Christianity been an instrument for oppression?”
  • Many links and tools throughout the site are now refurbished and updated.


$2.99 Bibles available for $2 apiece, and as low as $1

Crossway’s affordable
ESV Economy Bible
February 20, 2011 – A few years ago, I fell in love with a new and fresh translation of the Bible, called The English Standard Version (ESV). And today, I’d like to share with you how you or your church can buy some very inexpensive, elegant editions of this Bible for $2.00 each, and even as low as $1.00.

Everyone should have a Bible, and every Christian should be prepared to give a Bible to anyone who wants or needs one. This can be done economically. Crossway, the publisher of the ESV, has made giving Bibles much easier by publishing the most affordable edition of the Bible on the market, called The ESV Economy Bible.

Crossway calls these “outreach editions,” a trade paperback designed specifically for giving away in small and large quantities. By producing them inexpensively, they can be purchased in cases of 48 by churches and even individuals, at a low price. Crossway’s outreach editions are lovely to look at, with very elegant typesetting (a feature I have always loved about their Bibles), and are easy to carry and read. Some are full Bibles (Old and New Testaments), and some are New Testaments only. They have NT editions with both Christmas- and Easter-themed covers, priced at $1.00 and perfect for use in inviting your neighbors to holiday services.

ESV Outreach Bible,
Blossom Design
The ESV Economy Bible has a retail value of $2.99. But it is only available by the case; when purchased quantities of 48, or $86.12 per case, the price drops to $1.80 apiece. With shipping ($20.83), the total cost per unit is $2.29.

For an even more amazing price, you can purchase 5 cases at $48.00 per case; this is 240 Bibles for $240.00, or $1.00 apiece, an ideal price and quantity for churches. Shipping for 5 cases is $98.01, making the per-unit cost $1.41.

Remember, this is a full Bible, not the New Testament only, in an edition less than 1" thick that includes an article on What the Bible is All About, a Reading Plan, and a Plan of Salvation.

Follow these links to learn more about the translation philosophy of the ESV, its team of translators and its editors, and the history of translations leading to this version. An excellent study Bible is also available, complete with an amazing interactive digital version on the Web which allows you to bookmark pages, highlight passages, and even make notes in the margins, just as you would with a paper Bible.

– p.k.

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Cooking for Non-Cooks: Chicken Stuffing Casserole;
Revised to reduce sodium for a better-tasting dish

February 10, 2011Chicken Stuffing Casserole is a tasty and hearty “homemade” dish that is easy for non-cooks to make. It is guaranteed to satisfy everyone, from finicky children to grown-up foodies. It will get gobbled up at potlucks, and freezes well if you like to stock up on homemade meals. Read more »


“Household” names, playable in Scrabble

February 4, 2011 – One of the delights of playing Scrabble is learning unusual and arcane words.  Recently I was surprised to find that the first names of two of my siblings, Laura and Timothy, are actually playable words. Read more »


My pieces in The New York Times Metropolitan Diary

Revised April 13, 2017 – Welcome, New York Times readers and fans of the Metropolitan Diary! If you followed a link to this site from David W. Dunlap’s fine article about the column’s history, you can read more about our November 2016 anniversary celebration here.

Below are my Metropolitan Diary items, and my thoughts about the column. If you enjoy them, I’d love to hear from you.

Illustration by VICTOR KERLOW

“A Stranger in the Building on Official Business ( | At first, he thought maybe the woman in the elevator was from a utility company. Then things got interesting. | April 13, 2017

“Ivy Hears Me in the Hall ( | A poem about a neighbor’s sweet potato pie. | October 13, 2016

“A Practice Nook in the Subway” ( | A singer found a great acoustical cul-de-sac in a Midtown station where he could exercise his scales. | April 16, 2015

“A Reader at Home in Middle-Earth” ( | With his scruffy beard, ginger hair and eyes matching those on the dust jacket, the subway rider looked like the Tolkien characters he was reading about. | January 21, 2015

“A Busker Counts His Coins” ( | An occasional subway performer reflected on how people’s gratitude for his singing meant more to him than the money. | August 24, 2014
Illustration by LARS LEETARU

“A Misunderstanding at the Starbucks Counter” ( | A customer hears what he thinks is racially offensive coffee terminology. | May 22, 2012

“The Motormouth” ( | A memorable quip from a hilarious cabby. | March 29, 2010

“The Lollipop” ( | A sweet but sticky subway situation. | May 5, 2008

“The Goose” ( | A cabby and his passenger kick off the holidays together. | December 19, 2007

“The Tourists” ( | Visitors to New York City get an exciting firehouse tour, but no pole dancing. | March 19, 2007

“The Everything Bagel” ( | My first Diary piece, about an unintentional quip that never fails to make me smile. | May 29, 2006

– Paul


Each Monday in its print edition, and each weekday online, The New York Times publishes reader submissions about life in New York City in the much-loved and widely read “Metropolitan Diary” column. It’s a day-brightener of anecdotes, cute stories, overheard conversations and acts of kindness which reflect the city’s unique signature.  The Diary was edited and curated by Michael Pollak during most of time I have contributed; since the fall of 2016, Ed Shanahan has been at the helm. The column has run since November 1976 (

It has been a distinct honor to have had a number of my original works of creative nonfiction and poetry, some of them autobiographical, selected for publication in this column. At last I can say I am a regular contributor. Entries are published under my byline (and some listed in the Times’s author index).  Two stories were cleverly illustrated; one by Lars Leetaru (“The Tourists”), and one by Victor Kerlow (“A Busker Counts His Coins”).

I look forward to submitting more work for consideration, keeping my fingers crossed each time I hit the send button, and joyfully sharing my pieces when they appear in the column.

In the future, I plan to coordinate gatherings here in NYC for other Diary contributors, for fun, support, and the joy of sharing our experiences with each other over lunch. If you are a published Diary contributor and wish to receive invitations to these private gatherings, contact me at

– p.k.


Vive le cliché! Julia Child’s recipe
for Boeuf à la Bourguignonne

January 13, 2010 – Julia Child’s publisher, Knopf, has generously made her legendary Boeuf à la Bourguignonne recipe available online (view it below).

As you know, the dish was featured in Julie & Julia. After it opened, The New York Times ran a piece about the reaction in France to the movie, Child, and her cuisine.

One prominent French cookbook author and television personality, Julie Andrieu, called Child’s cuisine a “cliché,” “academic and bourgeois.”   But she does admit that Americans write better cookbooks than the French.

“The French think that they are natural-born cooks; they prepare a dish off the top of their heads, without testing it,” she said. “In France, we rush over explanations.”

And then Andrieu followed Child’s example and tested the recipe.

From the article:  After watching “Julie & Julia,” Ms. Andrieu said, she felt compelled to go home and make boeuf bourguignon according to Ms. Child’s recipe. “I cut the flour in half, and it turned out to be the best I had ever made,” she said.

So much for clichés!

While preparing for my future attempt at this great dish, I stumbled upon a terrific video (see below) produced by Wine Spectator which makes reference to chef Thomas Keller’s refined version of Child’s recipe (adapted here).  Normally I would not be interested in such a thing, but Bruce Sanderson and Owen Dugan sold me on it.  (Another remarkable suggestion worth sharing – one which I believe sells itself – is to serve the stew in puffed pastry shells!)

Additionally, they have chosen a wine to be served with the dish.  Child pioneered the inclusion of wine pairings with recipes; Sanderson and Dugan followed her lead and recommended a red Rhône Syrah, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Sélections Saint-Joseph Offerus 2006.  At $29.95, it is quite affordable.  It is widely (and wildly) praised on the Web, and Snooth can help you find it.

Julia’s recipe:

Wine Spectators video:

I found this recipe online by accident. I was going to ask one of my two older sisters to copy it out of their Mastering the Art of French Cooking and send it to me. (The past two Christmases we’ve talked about making it, and I have a standing promise to visit Laura upstate to do just that.)

– p.k.


Julia Child, drunk on her own authority

December 12, 2009 – Part of Julia Child’s charm is that she nonchalantly became her own authority. One of my favorite quotes is her description of her “brand-new, super-duper” Chocolate Mousse Dessert Cake:

“And here it is: Le Gâteau Victoire au Chocolat, Mousseline! One of the great chocolate cakes of all time, according to me.”

Not, “in my opinion,” but “according to me.” Who says that? A master citing herself, that’s who.

She restates this notion of self-authority in the same television segment, a guide to an intimate tableside cooking of Steak Diane:

“So, as I said at the beginning before we started cooking, I think this is a nifty little dinner (and I really agree with myself) for a chafing dish dinner.”

The menu (which she pronounces “may-noo”) of this very simple feast includes:
  • A cold first course, a ceviche [“sev-EE-chee”] of scallops, with fresh artichoke bottoms
  • Steak Diane (“cooked in a chafing dish, right at the table”)
  • Mashed potatoes, “made out of actual potatoes, which is a rare thing” (rare in 1978, I guess)
  • Fresh peas
  • The cake, made with a full pound of chocolate
Child must have imbibed quite a bit of alcohol on a daily basis, I think. I cannot believe that someone whose recipes and menus included such a prodigious amount of spirits, and a kitchen so well-stocked with them, did not start drinking around lunchtime.

For this meal alone, the following alcohols are used:

As ingredients:
  • For the cake, rum.
  • For the steak’s sauce, “a little bit of Madeira or port… [plus] a few drops of cognac” added at the last minute for taste. (“That never hurt anything.”)
Served with the meal:
  • “With the Steak Diane, I would serve a nice red Bordeaux, or a cabernet, and with the first course, the ceviche, you could serve a chablis or Riesling.”
  • And with the dessert, “a fine bottle of vintage champagne, maybe one of the great California wines.”
Bon appétit, à la vôtre, and enjoy the video.

(From Julia Child & Company, 1978.)

– p.k.

2/21/11  |  Postscript: I am amused to see that many Google searches leading readers to this page include the words julia+child+drunk, was+julia+child+drunk, or words to that effect. No, my headline is only a play on words, reflecting Child’s citation of herself as an authority, and her love of using alcohol in her cooking. Her producer, Geoffrey Drummond, watched the 700+ shows that survive on tape, and never once saw her drinking from a bottle or exhibiting signs of inebriation (or, for that matter, dropping a chicken or reusing food that fell on the floor).

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Putting it together: ESV bibles and candy canes

December 7, 2009 – Now that Christmas is almost here, it’s time for me to prepare my bible gift bags so I can leave them at my neighbors’ doors (see previous post). The bag is a “door hanger” and will include a festive New Testament, a gospel tract, an invitation to my church’s Christmas services, and a coupon for a free trial access to the ESV Online Study Bible.

One thing I am concerned about is, when people see the bags hanging on their doorknobs, I don’t want them to think it’s a throw-away advertisement. I need a way to customize the outside of the bag so it’s more personal and invites the recipient to actually look inside.

My solution? Candy canes. Attached to each bag will be a bright piece of candy to give it a festive personal touch.

I found a great deal at CVS yesterday: 52 candy canes for only $3.99. That’s less than 8¢ per candy cane! The only other expense I’ll have is the cost of printing the Christmas service invitations, and I don’t think that’ll cost much either. With the price of the 50 bible kits at $58 (including shipping), I expect to spend less than $70 on this project, or $1.40 per gift.

Since I won’t have access to the inside of many of my neighbors’ apartment buildings, I may have to attach the bags to their mailboxes in the public area. So again, I think having the candy canes on the outside of the bags will make it clear that these are gifts from an actual person, not a business promotion.

I thought about including a short history of the candy cane as well, but I did some research and discovered most of the claims of their historical religious imagery (red stripes, secret codes for persecuted Christians, a candy maker from Indiana) are urban myths. I don’t want to distract from the historical truth of Christ’s birth with meaningless legends – I just want to find a way to make sure people open their bags!

Another idea I had, if I have time, is to buy or create bookmarks and insert them at Luke 2 (between pp. 46-47). This is where Luke begins his account of Jesus’ birth. If I don’t have time, I may use the Max Lucado gospel tracts or the study bible coupons as bookmarks.

What are your plans for your bible gift bags? Leave a comment below.

– p.k.