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Doris Buffett: 1928-2020


Doris Buffett, sister of Warren, and megaphilanthropist in her own right, passed away peacefully last month at her home in Rockport, Maine.

I never met Doris. But if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have been commissioned by one of her foundations to write Letters to Doris: One Woman’s Quest to Help Those with Nowhere Else to Turn.

I wouldn’t have been blessed by the creative synergy with my co-writer, Anita Mumm, and our photographer, Stephanie Craig. I would never have met Amy Kingman, the boss you want to have on a project that involves traveling across 19 states for the better part of a year.

If it weren’t for Doris, I would never experienced such heart-breaking, in the sense of heart-opening, interviews with her grant recipients. I would never have met Ken Prather in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who asked for funding so he could take terminally ill children to the zoo in a reliable vehicle. A man who was getting by himself on a tiny monthly disability check had started his own foundation.

I would never have known there were English Labs capable of detecting when a human’s blood sugar level dropped to dangerous levels, until I met one in Rockwell City, Iowa, along with her new owner, Kalie Buenting, a 12-year-old brittle diabetic. Bringing the two of them together was another of Doris’s good deeds.

I never met Doris, but I met her spirit in each of the two dozen individuals we interviewed for the book—and there were hundreds and hundreds more we could have spoken to. This is what great people do. It isn’t about meeting them; it’s about getting to know each other, about getting together to help each other through this life. That is why, when a great person dies their essence remains here more than anything is gone.

You can read Doris’s obituary in the New York Times here. And if you were lucky enough to meet Doris, you can leave a story, memory, or message on this site, which will eventually become part of a virtual celebration of Doris’s life.

Amnesty Day

In preparation for Father’s Day, the Today Show website has run an excerpt from the memoir I’ve been working on.

Amnesty Day: How I got my teenager to tell me the truth is up in the Parenting section.

If you like what you read, vote it up! (That’s what they say there.)


When my daughter, Fifer, was young, we were very close. I was among the first wave of fathers to do at least 50 percent of the childcare as my wife was pursuing her graduate degree in psychology … and those doctorates take time! When Fifer was little, we collected bouncing balls and Spongebob-themed stickers. When she got a little older, we invented our own card game (based loosely on Gin Rummy) and kept adding new rules that only we understood.

When Fifer became a sophomore in high school, however, I began to feel her pulling away. It wasn’t just about boys—I got that. It was about the things she thought she shouldn’t tell me. The things she thought she couldn’t tell me… (Read More).

We Have a Winner

I’m going to have to ask you to believe that the fact that the winner of the First Annual Book Architecture Git-R-Done grant is writing about a pivotal moment in the history of what became the Black Lives Matter movement AND is a nurse who has been treating people with COVID-19 six days a week for three months is a coincidence. Or fate, which is what I would go with.


(But seriously, judging was complete in later February. We just didn’t announce the winner because she’s been so busy saving lives and we wanted her to have her moment in the sun.)

Amy Wilson is writing a novel set during the MOVE bombing in 1978, when the city of Philadelphia battled what they termed a terrorist cult whose civil disobedience was aimed at exposing systemic brutality against black people. Her novel, Roof Girl, will explore the issues of family, belonging, and the power dynamics around truth. Amy plans to use the $2,500 grant stipend to travel to West Philadelphia (where the events occurred) for interviews, visit the archives at Temple University and immerse herself in the scenic detail of Philadelphia landmarks like the Franklin Institute and the Mutter Museum.

I swear it is another coincidence that she and I are both from Philly and lived there when these events transpired. We didn’t know each other, and besides, the judging was all done in a double-blind process by InkHouse PR. Speaking of InkHouse, they praised a number of contest entrants and reported the penultimate tier held many worthy candidates. I hope we will see some of you again next year.

Once, you know, people leave their house, Amy will embark on her travels and keep us updated. Go, Amy!

More Mantras!

Believe It field Unsplash

Finish Your Book in Three Drafts provides these and more mantras to help writers with whatever draft they’re in. For the second, or “method draft”, it’s all about change.

Sometimes Isolate Unsplash

Or not changing.

The second draft is re-visioning your manuscript, and Finish Your Book in Three Drafts gives you the tools you need to take the best parts of your book up a level.

To help you ASAP, here is a package of free screen savers of the book’s Draft Two Mantras.  You can download them: HERE. And if you’re a technoklutz like me, you can get the instructions for how to install them: HERE.