When I last talked to Nora Frenkiel she was at home doin three loads of laundry on a snowy Friday afternoon. "Isn't that what always happens," I asked her, "when you take a year off from work to write the Great American Novel?" (I was feeling more than a little envy, I have to admit, although I don't particularly like doing laundry.)

Nora, a features writer for The Sun, has been on leave since last October. To keep her hand in, she's done a couple of pieces for the magazine, including our cover story two weeks ago, "A Place for Nicole," and this week's essay, "Love Among the Hardware." Mainly, though, she's at home writing fiction -- not, she was quick to correct me, a novel. "A longer work," she calls it. "I'm not ready to use the big word novel."

I asked her how it was going, and she admitted it's been more difficult than she thought it would be. "In journalism, we learn to compress our stories, we rarely have to expand. The pacing is different. I enjoyed writing the essay so much because it was so finite, with just one theme."

Still, she's enjoying herself. "I feel like I'm living out a fantasy so many journalists would like to do, but just don't have the means to do it."

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