By Veteran, Mother, Writer
Always learning with a bit of fun. Sharing the best ideas and writing out there, MyLinh Shattan has a particular fondness for words, music, and the power of story. “I adore your podcasts; each and every one is a little gem. You never say three words when two will do. Everything you do shows unusual respect and appreciation for your listeners’ time and intelligence.” Buzz, former Managing Editor for News and Public Affairs Programming at WHRB-FM/Harvard Radio Broadcasting
Giving Thanks for Dissent and Cookies
Gratitude is vogue, hip, lit. It's handy and eternal, an ever-ready virtue . . . but it's the sense of duty and expectation that gives it a gloss and cheek that's a bit off-putting. In walks a fresh voice on basketball coaches and how to make the best ever soft-in-the-center, crispy-at-the-edges chocoloate chip cookie.
November 30, 2022
On Perfect Love and Longing
What I learn from my mother on a Tuesday morning about love and longing. How Susan Cain's new book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Makes us Whole, helps me understand her.
November 16, 2022
"Kinda This, Kinda That" in the Mid-pack
Mid-life has its miseries. And, mid-life for me has fitness challenges. It was most noticeably on display in the Army’s ten-miler around Washington, D.C. this October. Here’s a story of inspiration for the mid-packers and the mid-lifers.
November 06, 2022
What to Say When People Thank You for Your Military Service
True story from the SMA--Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston--who spoke at the Army Ten-Miler. A man with 35 years of service in the Army and a half dozen deployments shares his wisdom on service with grit and grace.
October 13, 2022
Everyone Should Write
In her new book, Write For Your Life, Anna Quindlen argues for the importance of the diarist, such as the secret yet eternal life of Anne Frank. She ruminates on the doctor, the student, the gangster, the child, the parent. Love letters. Queen Elizabeth “spoke through her handwriting.” Writing is a human endeavor, for all of us, from criminal to royal. Learn why writing is one of the most precious and uncommon gifts we can give.
October 04, 2022
What can music teach us about writing?
Just like song, for writing to work it must have rhythm. This has taken me a long time to learn. I came across the idea in Haruki Murakami’s memoir, Absolutely on Music. This book is about a series of conversations with the former conductor of the Boston Symphony, Seiji Ozawa. The novelist meets the maestro. They talk. Learn what the novelist has to say about writing and rhythm and decide if prose rhythm matters with less than average examples. Hear the music in the prose of Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace.
October 04, 2022
Reading for Foodies
My Vietnamese side of the family are foodies, planning visits and life around meals. Writers focus on the visual and often forget the other senses, taste and smell and sound and touch. Learn about Michelle Zauner's megahit-memoir and how it resonates with this reader, at times pitch perfect.
September 15, 2022
Bringing Writers and Readers Together
Maybe the better way to think of this is, why you listen to or read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it’s about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same coin. Why do you Write? Who do you write for?
September 13, 2022
"Old Age is Not for the Young"*
Society obsesses with youth as if beauty were the monopoly of the young. Yet, wisdom and truth which come with age are beautiful in their own right and something we are quick to dismiss. The old and the very young have always held sway for me because of bald and unerring candor, and the lack of affectation. The title quote is from Ursula Le Guin's No Time to Spare. Learn what Le Guin and former Poet Laureate Donald Hall share about old age.
September 07, 2022
What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?
What book do you believe is that good that you could hunker down and spend the remainder of your days with it? The absolute pinnacle of lexicography in one volume. Word work and how it improves writing. The Professor, the Madman, and Noah Webster. What is the singular trait common to each man and does each of us have the ability to tap into it?
August 26, 2022
Charlie Munger and the Art of Swearing
True story of the iconic investor. When is offensive language appropriate and effective? Ursula Le Guin on the last two swear words, George Patton on eloquent profanity, and Munger with the shock value of a well timed one-liner.
August 19, 2022
The Sentence Fragment
What is a good fragment and why use it in your writing? Passages from Mary Oliver's essay, Upstream, and guidance from Priscilla Long. Two book recommendations.
August 17, 2022
No Ordinary Hike: Marchback for the USMA Class of 2026
The march back is a 14 mile ruck with full gear and M4 rifle for 1200 new cadets in the West Point Class of 2026. It is the culminating event of Cadet Basic Training at West Point. Learn about the march, the Long Gray Line, and listen to life-changing stories.
August 10, 2022
On Fighting and Writing: Blackwing and Bruce Lee
A visit to Augusta's Indie Book Store and local bakery. Learn about the cult pencil's limited volumes Blackwing 651 named for Bruce Lee, a prize purchase at The Book Tavern with insight on a fighting triad and writing.
August 01, 2022
Spandrel: Byproduct of Evolution and Thing of Beauty
Word of the week. Dig into the word's roots--in architecture, psychology, philosophy, even philately--for a surprising and stirring take-away on function and beauty.
July 22, 2022
Thoughts on Music and the Brain
Pitch is purely a psychological construct. If so, why do we love the music we love? A philosopher, a neuroscientist, a dog, and Roy Orbison help us understand why.
July 18, 2022
Essays that changed me: Alison Lurie and 'When most boys... joined the armed services.'
In her 2019 collection, Alison Lurie wrote an essay, Their Harvard, which describes her life at Radcliffe in the 1940s. It has fascinating and humorous insight on her experience as a second-class citizen, a poorer relation to the men of Harvard. She also includes a passage, shocking by today's standards, about the men and war.
July 09, 2022
Simba the Designer Dog? A Perfect Combination of 5 Breeds
My latest canine addition, Simba, had his Dog DNA analyzed. What's in the analysis and what does that tell me about Simba? Word play on his breed types as a new designer breed: Bel-Ger-Sam-Box-Sky, BelGerBoxSky. Does it make a difference now that we "know" what he is? Embark public profile, Breed Reveal, Simba's Family Tree. We did learn why he has a curly tail and one floppy ear, his expected weight, and his percent wolfiness!
June 23, 2022
Notes on a Year of Love
Reading a year of love stories, with examples of simile and metaphor. Why an apt metaphor makes the writing sing. Two book recommendations: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie and Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. The music in the prose.
June 23, 2022
Why I write
For fame, for money? The creative process of writing and the incredible joy it can unlock.
June 10, 2022
"The Q-tips Are for Your M4" and the Art of the Paragraph
The soldier's pack list today includes items for women. Learn about the four types of paragraphs and the rites of passage for a family with generational service in the armed forces. What is the climactic paragraph or the turnabout paragraph? See how to create interest through suspense, concrete details, and idea development.
June 07, 2022
"Keep the Faith For Which They Died" this Memorial Day
Listen to "new" or lesser-known poems by Poet Warrior John McCrae, best known for his poem In Flanders Fields.
May 30, 2022
The Last Recital
An old carriage house as a music school and 17 years of piano recitals leave lasting impressions. Learn about the wisdom and lessons gleaned from someone who loves words and notes, how the music lasts and how sentence construction lends meaning to the experience. Writer's Toolbox on the series sentence and the infinitive phrase.
May 28, 2022
"Django with One Finger," a Living Music Icon
Willie Nelson is 89 and still touring. What can we learn from his writing, his short memoir, and a life on the road?
May 22, 2022
On Puppies and Babies: a "Communion with Terror"
What do puppies and children have in common? Learn about what Ross Gay describes as terror and delight in children, why the two coexist side by side. This truth in raising children applies to puppies or a full lunar eclipse.
May 17, 2022
Books for Mothers and Daughters
A list of books for Mother's Day, for ages 9 to 99.
May 06, 2022
What Makes a Speech Great? an Admiral Tells 3 Stories
A great speech is one we remember. Notes on the 3 stories McRaven shares at the observatory of the One World Trade Center, or Freedom Tower, and what makes it lasting. An event which commemorates the 11th anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear, the mission to capture Osama Bin Laden.
May 03, 2022
Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute
These tales pay homage to Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau published 1947 in French, English Translation 1958. Queneau was later elected to highly prestigious Academie Goncourt. In it, Queneau retells an unexceptional tale ninety-nine times: in Cockney, Haiku, sonnet, among scores of others. The examples in this TreeHouseLetter tell a different story but emulate his style: the narrative, two subjective points of view, and Unexpected, the final chapter.
May 03, 2022
1000 Push-ups? Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
A memoir about Jesse Itzler's 30 day regimen with a Navy SEAL makes me laugh out loud. It also has me doing more push-ups this week than I've done in the last year.
April 26, 2022
Bedside Counselor on Parenting in Anger, in Two Translations
An Ancient Counselor offers counsel and solace at midlife, with children on the cusp of adulthood. The language in two translations may vary, but the wisdom is eternal. Marcus Aurelius is dubbed the Philosopher King and his stoic writing has survived nearly two millennia.
April 19, 2022
What I Learned Walking With a Friend
My friend Kenny Mintz walks across America; I join him in Maryland and we walk into Pennsylvania together.
April 09, 2022
A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness
It made me feel flawed as a human to read this passage in Lucia St. Clair Robson's Tokaido Road. What does a woman warrior learn from a poet and from poetry on the classic hero's journey?
April 04, 2022
A Fool is Full and a Pool Not a Pull
For puzzlers and word nerds: Nonsense and numbers, Schrodinger's Cat and Edward Gorey have something in common. As do the numbers 91, 32, and 4122. Happy Spring!
April 01, 2022
Three Sunsets in One Day
Hiking the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon at sunset. The wildlife on the way and the ups and downs of spontaneity.
March 28, 2022
Each sentence reflects 3 choices
What we intend to say and what we accomplish may not be the same thing.
March 22, 2022
Spicy Rooster and a Coffee Outpost
Who were these people at an industrial facility where sugar packs, creamer, and stir sticks were arranged at the bar in green ammo cans? Welcome to the new coffee craze with outposts across the country and an outlandish and irreverent brand. Vietnamese cousins find comfort in hot sauce and hot coffee.
March 17, 2022
Firecracker and a Humble Queen
Dreaming big: true story of a baller in Philly. Visit TreeHouseLetter.com to see photos.
March 13, 2022
Essays that changed me: Rachel Cusk and “Making Home”
The essay had me going back to it, not in the tangible way of opening the book though I did that, but in my mind. Have I inherited my mother’s view of home or my friends’ and what are my principles? Cusk chronicles the complete remodeling of her London flat and near compete personal breakdown. How much space does a body need? What makes a house a home?
March 10, 2022
Writing on the Road and the Creative Process
How do you write when you're traveling? How do you know you're a writer? Thoughts on the creative process with highlights from 4 writing books. Writing tight and making every word count while keeping true to your voice. Toolbox, ages 9 to 99. Learn more about the books on treehouseletter.com.
March 05, 2022
Poetry for Emergencies: Ukraine, Howard Nemerov, and the War Dead
2 poems for a crazy world as we think of our friends of freedom in Ukraine, who have everything at stake. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Howard Nemerov wrote: Poetry is a way of getting something right in language. Learn about the Soldier Scholar and Warrior Poet, why rhetoric and courage are essential in dire times.
March 03, 2022
Sex Over 70 Years and the Synecdoche
2 Books, 2 Rhetorical Devices, and the Music in the Prose of Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. How the language of sex has changed over 70 years and why we still read these classics.
February 27, 2022
Adult Child and a Zen Koan
Adult child is an oxymoron but you never stop worrying about your children, whether they're 18 or 48. A ski story, 2.5 Zen koans, and the em dash. Bonus Footnotes: the Easter egg of the TreeHouseLetter.
February 24, 2022
Love in a Sad Cafe
The only love you can be sure about is the love you give. This episode considers the Music in the Prose of Carson McCullers' story, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Just what is it about her writing that makes the tale timeless? What does she teach us about love?
February 19, 2022
A Valentine Canine and the Circle of Life
These holidays can seem a chore, another small way to feel defeated if I don't get it right. When I skip it like I did this year, opting to adopt this shepherd mutt from Texas, I figure I'm rebelling against the commercial mandate. Isn't it better to show love and affection on my own schedule? or in my own way?
February 16, 2022
If You Want to Write, Your Writing Has to Have Rhythm
Toolbox: On Sentences and How to Improve Your Writing Immediately. No one ever taught me this. But, as someone who wanted to improve my writing as a craft, this is something I set out to understand: why is writing good? The best writing has rhythm and readers might not even be aware of it, but that’s why we return to the writing again and again. The story and structure have to be there, but without rhythm as the foundation, the writing doesn’t work.
February 12, 2022
The Meaning in Music
Your job will change, where you live will change, the people in your life will change, but you will always have your music. What is the meaning in music? And, what makes it lasting? The best music is like the best writing. Without analysis, we know this: we like what we like and we love what we love. Here's why.
February 09, 2022
Coaching Habit by Stanier: Short Take on How to Avoid Crappy Advice for the Wrong Problem
If you're like me and have to work with people, at home or in the work place, then you're looking for ways to improve interactions and relationships. Here's insight from Global Coaching Guru, Michael Bungay Stanier, with a link to his TEDx video.
February 06, 2022
Books as Trophies, the Bibliophile vs the Bibliophagist
I have a book problem. It's a good kind of problem, if a heavy one. Learn the difference between these terms and hear a bonus passage about the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, a scene from Jay Parini's memoir, Borges and Me: an Encounter.
February 02, 2022
Thay's Miracle: Short Take on a Long Life (Thich Nhat Hanh)
A tribute to the Vietnamese Zen monk: I read his book No Death, No Fear after my father passed away. Thay (name for teacher) was from my mother's town of Hue and I imagine he approached his death in the manner in which he wrote.
January 31, 2022
The Sexy Semicolon, Really?
Loved and loathed, the semicolon has survived 500+ years. What you need to know, Orwell's Sixth Rule, and why the winking mark is sexy.
January 26, 2022
Poetry for Emergencies: Lain S. Thomas at Daybreak
Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and I'm scared. Tragedy befell friends and a go-to for me has been poetry. Thomas at daybreak is a restorative for the soul.
January 14, 2022
New Year: Goals Versus Habits
What are your resolutions and goals? Consider focusing on habits instead. Learn about Chi Running and the benefits of good habits.
January 10, 2022
Graveside Gratitude, Giving Thanks in November
I learned more from two friends in death than I had learned from them in life. Giving thanks to those departed souls.
November 24, 2021
The last First Day of School, the end of summer, just what summer means, and life's next stage
September 21, 2021
Alaska Mountains May Spoil You For All the Rest
Southeast Alaska, the Inside Passage, Klondike Gold Rush
July 30, 2021
Father and His Letters
A dying art, a gift from yesterday, there's nothing so full bodied and rich as words on paper. Photos may capture the appearance in any given moment, but words, his words, they capture his mind and spirit
June 21, 2021
Memorial Day, Reflection and Celebration
On generational service and the reasons we serve. Remembering sacrifice and celebrating a new Army lieutenant in the family.
May 31, 2021
A Story and Two Short Poems: by a Zen Monk & Mary Oliver
April 26, 2021
Two Truths and a Lie, a Fools Game
April Fools Day and Humor in Uniform. Three stories from cadet life. The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes. Churchill
April 01, 2021
I Met a Man at the Top of Chimney Rock
“Would you mind if I take off my shirt?” he said. A story from a retreat in North Carolina. The Odyssey, the Devil, and a Home
February 10, 2021
Family Travel in a Pandemic - By Air and By Land
Fun things-to-do and great eats in Key West. New Year's on Wheels - Road trip (Ct to VA) and family skating.
January 07, 2021
Giving Thanks in 2020 & Simon's List
Tough times define us. Whitman's Ghost or Simon, played by Joe Pesci in the 1994 film With Honors, shares a message.
November 27, 2020
Spirits of the Fall: Episode (4) Toddler Vision
Brady Shattan joins us to talk about spirit friends, his guardian angel and extrasensory perception.
October 31, 2020
Spirits of the Fall: Episode (3) Visits From Beyond
What happens when someone dies, when the worldly connection is broken? Where are the healers and the mediums and the shamans today? This is the third episode in Spirits of the Fall: True Stories of the Season, eerie occurrences, real-life horrors, ghosts, and second sight.
October 26, 2020
Spirits of the Fall: Episode (2) Where the Driveway Ends
Second in the series of the season: real-life horrors and ghosts.
October 20, 2020
Spirits of the Fall: Episode (1) In the House
This is the first in a series of True Stories for the season, of eerie occurrences, real-life horrors, visits from the beyond, haunted rooms, and childhood visions.
October 14, 2020
Learning to Run
Fall is the season for running. This story is about failure and mastery, how that became a commander's story.
October 08, 2020
Would You Kneel? A College Coach & a Veteran on the National Anthem
Thoughts on the anthem and the flag, what they mean.
September 24, 2020
Birthday and Death Day, Catholics and Customs
A graveyard visit on a father's death day and a daughter's birthday. Maya Angelou's advice on the legacy of departed loves.
September 05, 2020
The Vulgar Parrot
I've gotten to know my son better now that he's left.
August 12, 2020
On Becoming Sheepdogs, A Modern Fable
Today’s letter is about something that matters, an important debate happening in society right now. In the wake of recent events regarding the tragic death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, this letter is more relevant than ever. It has been updated to relate my own experience and the role of the brave men and women who are called to the profession of arms, with a special thank you to those in the West Point Class of 2020 who graduated this weekend. These young officers have taken an oath to support and defend the constitution against all enemies, giving their life if necessary, so that all Americans might enjoy the blessings of a free nation.
June 14, 2020
Memorial Day Reflection - Two Poems and a Tribute
Death of a Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell and Twilight by Lucretia Maria Davidson A tribute to my Uncle, a South Vietnamese officer who never came home
May 26, 2020
Why Nursing Homes Suck
My story about a Nursing Home. Some Gorey stuff, some sad stuff, some crass stuff. What gives life meaning? what would great writers say?
May 17, 2020
Are We Killing the Fat Man? The Corona Trolley Dilemma
Consider the pandemic crisis and the moral claims of shutting down the economy. What are consequences, good and bad? How do COVID deaths compare to other mortality data?
April 17, 2020
For The Class of 2020 During the Pandemic
A pulse on High School and College Seniors, where they are and how they're doing. Taking comfort in poetry and a mother's wish.
March 23, 2020
The Three Gifts - What have you learned in 50 years?
A child's note, three gifts, and Leo Tolstoy's famous story
February 28, 2020
On Presidents, Politics and War, and Poetry
You ever have that moment when something you’ve believed for some time begins to shift and slip, leaving you a bit off-balance?
February 13, 2020
Raise Your Glass! A Toast by W.B. Yeats
Three simple toasts, suitable for most occasions, and easy to remember. And, a little about the semicolon.
January 31, 2020
The Light in Your Day - a New Take on Winter
How much light do you gain each day in January, over the month? and the next months?
January 17, 2020
Solzhenitsyn and the Gulag - A Russian Novel About Your Life
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn What can we learn from the Gulag? About the military, about the body and soul?
January 08, 2020
A Book for Everyone, Even Nonreaders and Grinches
With special guest Hayley Swinson, writer and editor, on how books help her get into the season. On receiving books and giving books.
December 06, 2019
Giving Thanks in 2019 - Looking Back on Life's Big Questions
A friend in hospice talks about time, love, friendship, and the search for meaning.
November 28, 2019
TikTok Connect the Dots - the United States and China
A college freshman and a Vietnamese centenarian on China. Hong Kong Protests, Confucian Centers, TikTok security.
November 21, 2019
A View From Above: Army Colonel Ken Mintz on Afghanistan
A true, gritty account of the American Soldier and a child's role, in the longest war in U.S. history. Visit treehouseletter.com to see photos.
November 08, 2019
You've tidied up your closet and your house. Why not tidy up your writing?
Thoughts on writing from Dreyer's English and Brandon Royal's Little Red Writing Book. Get rid of useless words. How many drafts until finished? Grammar Versus Style and the Big Three Nonrules
October 30, 2019
Murphy's Law and the Army Ten-Miler
Did you know that Murphy was in the Army?
October 15, 2019
On Poetry and Mondegreens and Teenagers
Why memorize poetry and what's a mondegreen?
October 10, 2019
The Making of a Myth or Legend - Stephen Siller
Do myths and legends shape the stories we tell? Hear Stephen's story and retrace the steps he took. A 9-11 memorial.
October 03, 2019
For the Love of Milk
Sometimes a search for one thing leads to another. Like this Burl Ives folk tune: On a summer's day in the month of May, what was the burly bum singing of?
September 24, 2019
A Case for the Personal Letter
In the Digital Age, do letters still matter? What about a dusty box of letters in the basement?
September 16, 2019
Suicide and Suffering - Army Veteran and Secular Buddhist on the Four Noble Truths
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Hear a story and learn about the Four Noble Truths.
September 12, 2019
Whales, Migration, and Back-to-School
What can whales teach us about learning and mastery?
September 03, 2019
In These Walls
Unexpected summer visitors
August 25, 2019
Kili at 50 - Episode 3 -Summit Assault and Days 5 & 6
Hiking Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route in Six Days - learn about the final days and Kibo, the volcanic summit
August 12, 2019
Kili at 50 - Episode 2 - Jambo! Dreadlocks & Day 4
Episode 2 - Hiking Kilimanjaro in the Machame Route, Day 4
August 10, 2019
Kili at 50 - Episode 1 - Hiking Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route in Six Days
A middle aged account of Kili and more. First episode on Days 1 to 3 and the guides.
August 09, 2019