Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Zenyatta: All About the Heart

Zenyatta kickin' it.
And now we must consider Zenyatta, that magnificent filly, who inspired a loyal following even among folks not normally given to horse worship. Who raced her heart out for 19 races, socking all of them into the win column. Who, in going for her 20th straight win, made a claim for the ages. Who reads as a winner in everyone's heart, if not the record book - her final race a virtual tie, separated by six inches. For her glory was not just in winning, but in heart, in presence, in her ability to inspire others to stretch for the finish line, no matter how far away.

Her story is all over the internet; many of you might know it already.  But my friend Elizabeth Whitney has been following her quite closely; she flew to Churchill Downs for that race and posted this very thoughtful and rousing account of the race on her blog, Beyond the Horizon:  Into the Vortex

It's long, but so well-written and thoughtful and captures all of the threads feeding into this story. And she has great photos. Be sure to check out the photos.

Then, for more even info and pix, check out Steve Haskin's post (from Hangin' With Haskin):  Zenyatta Stirs the Emotions.

Be sure to go to the last picture there to see a connection between the two.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm baaaaack...as a Thief

...what better way to get back into the blogging saddle than sharing a most excellent blogpost:

The Thief and the Soloist: A Very Brief Taxonomy of Writers

In this fella's (Lev Grossman) taxonomy I have to declare myself a Thief. Whenever I find myself writing-blind, I'll open up a source text: Ron Carlson, say, or Yi Yun Li (The Vagrants, in particular), Michael Byers, Barry Lopez, etc and see how they do it. How they open a chapter, how they weave details and dialogue together, how they create echoes and harmonies with objects and places, how they construct such marvelous sentences, how they end the damn chapter. You'd think I'd end up with a clunky mish-mash of unrelated styles and disparate techniques, but what I find is that these out-sources just serve as a jumping-off place and through revision after revision, the bumps and lumps are smoothed out, the sight lines tightened and it all distills into my own approach.

However. I'll also use Tarot cards, throw the I Ching, sneak in a Chinese Fortune Cookie fortune, roll dice (those Dungeon and Dragons dice are great -so many sides, so many options!), steal plot lines from Dear Abby and otherwise grasp at straws. But whatever helps me survive the draft (as Ron Carlson says), right?

And if I can't write a blogpost myself, I'll piggyback off someone else's brilliant post.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Direction at All

In the interest of seeming more professional, I've been updating my profile in all the Webby places: FB, Goodreads, Linked In, etc., etc., just in case some poor fool wandering the Web-o-sphere might be looking for a relatively un-published writer upon whom they can bestow, well, what I wonder? A contract, I guess, for the book I haven't yet written.

I've been pretty good with the submission bios, keeping them short and sweet, sticking to the basic facts with only a smattering of truthiness. I don't believe in tarting up my accomps any more than I have to. Not fond of being coy or cutsey-wootsy either, so I avoid statements like: "when not herding cats the size of watermelons on the far reaches of the Canadian Prairies, LK writes with gremlin-sharpened egret feathers dipped in ink of a giant squid the better to capture the pure essence of...well, whatever." or " LK waits for the dog of inspiration to drop the well-chewed bone of contention into her lap; then gets busy."  Even if it is true. Or, true-ish.

But my professional cv is rather slim, having been busy with other things. Too many other things.

So, to pad things up a bit,  I'm tempted to use this:

Lakin Khan has been, in no particular order,  a gymnast (though you wouldn't know that now), an atheist (until I had children), a violinist, a tool-and-die machine shop programmer back when we used punch-tape to code the instructions (believe it!), a waitress, a short-order cook, a restaurant owner, a swimmer, a tabla student of Allah Rakha and Zakir Hussein at the Ali Akbar College of Music, a freelance photographer with a wandering eye, a wedding photographer's assistant who never understood the old cake-in-the-face business, a photo-journalist, a wannabe-acolyte in the church of my own creation, an English major, a flute player, and for one year, a double-major in math and French; a half-assed wife, a worrier par excellance, a born-again agnostic and a Neo-pagan Evangelical Unitarian, one of those truly bad girlfriends, a good-enough mother, a Fictioneer and A Friend to Poets; a professor-wrangler, cat-handler, badger-worshipper; and every other Friday in June, a banjo-strumming nitpicker with misplaced mordant wit and a bad case of insomnia.

Just the usual writer resume, all over the place with no direction at all*.

 * with thanks to Bobby Zimmerman.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. For realles.

If I was really, really goode Ich be riteing this all in Middle English, but since I ain't, that's just about all you're gonna get. However. Those of you who love Chaucer, Middle English and all things mashed-up will want to check out Brantley Bryant's Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. Hysterically funny, sometimes punny and always Chaucer-referential, the blog makes Speak Like a Pirate Day look like kindergarden while sending up everything pop-cultureish; then and now.




The blog became so popular, it becameth a booke. 
For realles.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Molly Fisk's Kickstarter Essay Project


So have you heard about Kickstarter? It looks like a mighty cool way to get projects funded in a very interweb-tastic way.  The main premise is a person with a project figures out what financial support would be needed to get that project under way, like a play produced, a movie made a cd cut, a book published... then posts a description of the project,  with goals, prospects, benchmarks, etc. on the Kickstarter website

Also included: a plea for funds ... but not just any old plea. First of all, a goal is stated, $1,000, $149, $10,000...whatever the creator determines is needed to get the roll going. Secondly, a deadline. The money has to be raised by such-and-so date, otherwise it's a no-go, and the contributions are rescinded. Actually, your credit card isn't charged unless and until the goal is reached by deadline day. Thirdly, there are many sorts of enticements for contributors: a copy of the book, perhaps, or acknowledgement in the program, or a poem a day, or a personal signed copy of cd or dvd. The projects are multifarious and the enticements (rewards) all over the map. It's worth checking it out. Because it may give you hope, a good kick in the pants, to get that book finished, if there might be a way to fund its publication.

Molly's latest poetry book
pub: March, 2010
Here's a worthwhile project to start with: Molly Fisk's Kickstarter Essay Project. I first heard about Molly Fisk when friends of mine signed up for her Poetry Bootcamp and raved about it and her. It's just what it sounds like, too. Six days, six poems, get real. Like her poems, real.

But I'll let Molly tell you about  her Kickstarter project:


"I'm an award-winning poet and I write weekly four-minute radio essays called Observations from a Working Poet for my local community station. I've written 215 of them so far, gratis. People love them, and I love writing them. They're haphazardly funny, poignant, fierce and/or edifying, and always thoughtful. And I have a good voice for radio. You can listen to one here as a podcast and see what you think.  http://kvmr.org/programs/fisk/index.html "
Molly's Kickstarter is to match a $5,000 grant from Corporation for Public Broadcasting to market her book to radio stations, do readings, send out podcasts and CD's etc.  She has until Oct 22nd and she is oh, so close! No donation is too little (a cool thing about Kickstarter) as every little bit adds up. So, check out the website, check out the project, donate if you are inclined or spread the word to any and all who might be so inclined. Let's get the ball rolling!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

September: The Write Month

September is always a busy literary month around here: The Petaluma Poetry Walk one weekend, the Sonoma County Book Festival another. It's loaded with literary birthdays, too: Euripides, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, Truman Capote -  and that's just in the final week.  Like any good writer, the month is unpredictable: tar-meltingly hot one week, cold as the proverbial witch's-whatever the next. 

Last Saturday, I squeezed in a quick visit to the Book Festival, hoping to hear Abraham Verghese and Yiyun Li at the Santa Rosa Library and Robin Ekiss and Molly Fisk at the Poetry Tent. It was a cooker of a day, though not the hottest it's ever been. Still, hot is hot. Fortunately, the library lecture room had air conditioning. Unfortunately, by the time my tardy self got there, the lecture room was packed and the overflow crowd crouched in every bit of the shade on the garden patio, where an excellent sound system was set up. Verghese's voice was clear and distinct in the baked air; even as I melted on a corner of a stone bench, I felt I was melting for a darn good cause. 

I'm in the middle of Verghese's novel "Cutting for Stone" now; I loved his two previous books, the memoirs/personal histories,  "My Own Country" and "The Tennis Partner." Between him and Atul Gawande, we are rich in doctor-writers with most excellent prose and great stories to tell. 

Yiyun Li
We should count Yiyun Li in that category as well; she was on her way to a PhD in Immunology before she made the (excellent, imo) switch to writing. I was third in line to get into the lecture room for her reading, you betcha. She read an excerpt from "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl," just published Sept 14th. It sounds like it might be a kinder-gentler world than that of her previous book "The Vagrants," which is a stunning work of art. Can't wait to read the new book (signed, of course!) 

A bit later on, I wandered around the square in a heat-induced daze trying to find the Poetry Tent and bumped into (yes, quite literally)  JJ Wilson (co-founder and leading spark of the festival) and we both agreed that Yiyun Li's work and writing is just brilliant. I confessed to her that when I'm stuck on a fiction piece, I'll pick up "The Vagrants," find a sentence and use it as a model for construction and inspiration; it gets me going again. 


To my regret, I missed both my poet-friends; guess the heat melted my synpases, particularly those relating to spacial orientation, and cooked whatever meager concept of time was left to me. Apologies to Molly and Robin!

JJ and I are not the only ones who think Yiyun Li is the bee's knees ~ she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (in September!) as announced here on the NewsHour.  





Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last Call from Wellspring?

Some of my best times over the past few years, whether writing or relaxing, have been at a unique, though not secret, location in Mendocino County, the Wellspring Renewal Center. Now I've received some sad news.  They are closing. I am bereft.

We all know the economy has been hitting everyone hard, particularly non-profits. Like many institutions, Wellspring has always had to work to keep their outgo covered by their income. It seems that it has at last become insurmountable and after 30 years of operation, their board made the difficult decision to fold up the tents and turn out the lights.

I imagine that letting go of the book-balancing struggle is a relief in itself. But the place will be sorely missed by so many people. Moi, especially. It was my own Writers Residency that I was always accepted to; it was a retreat to the soul-healing woods when I and the Captain (aka Nearly Normal Norm) needed a respite from work, family, suburban noise and strife.


It's where the cabin porch always beckoned.
Where the swimming hole had its own friendly beast. 
Where I found an abandoned car in the forest. 

It's also where the Captain and I shared our cabin with a bat, but that's another story, and sadly enough, I have no pictures of that. "What in flaming blazes was that?" and  "Shoo, bat, shoo!" plus a frantic, high-pitched discussion about whether lights would attract or scare away flying rodents figured largely in that story. Eventually the poor beast found it's way out the opened door, and the next morning the staff treated us with that dignity reserved for suburban folk not used to country life, while patching the hole right away.

Actually, these were, in general, nice bats, important in maintaining an acceptable level of insect life nearby.  The next night, the Capt. and I sat on the porch at twilight and watched them swing out and around the meadow scooping up all those annoying flying critters and we were content. Especially since the bats weren't using our cabin as home base.

There are more stories of course:  the nightly call of owls, the sight of rabbits and herons, the amusing activities of the acorn woodpeckers and stellar jays - some of which I have told already. There were moments of poetry and moments of quiet companionship; there were times of insight and contentment only possible when the frantic buzz of our electronically-mediated world has seeped away. It will be difficult to replace this retreat in my life.

Wellspring will stay open through the fall season, until October 30th. Which means, if anyone is interested, there might still be time for one more visit, one more writers retreat. I'm plotting and planning right now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Attitudes Not Platitudes

The Goddess of Green Lights woke up on the wrong side of bed yesterday morning. So I had plenty of time to read all the bumper stickers on the dark green Mustang convertible in front of me, as we hit red light after red light on my way out of Petaluma to work.

I’d Tell You to Go to Hell But I Work There (and I don’t want to see you everyday)
How About a Big Cup of Shut The F**k Up
It’s been 365 Days Since I Gave a Sh*t.
I Used to be F**king Stupid But Then We Broke Up.

Who the f’ing hell drove this car? Tried as I did, I never got a good look at the driver and there wasn’t a passenger to give me any auxillary clues. The car didn’t pull into SSU as I assumed it would (had to be a student, right?), so I wasn’t able to park nearby to get a good look. Drat and dagnabbit!

I really wanted to know who drove that car. Would the persona created from the bumpersticker ‘tudes match the person who actually got out of the car? A fellow or gal as aggressive and rude as the stickers,  short hair with a confrontational stance perhaps, with loud, even cruel, laughter? Or reserved, with a small ever-present smirk and few, though pointed, comments? Would he/she be constipated? Why do I think this car belonged to a fella?

Or would the driver be against type?  Mild-mannered, the proverbial “nice, quiet, never any trouble” kind of guy yet seething on the inside, bones buried in the back yard, a secret room filled with the photos and trophies of a stalker. Were these bumper stickers meant in all irony? Perhaps it was an uncle’s car and they were somewhat embarrassed to be driving it. Maybe the bumperstickers were the only things available when rust spots began showing up. A soccer mom with a hidden message for the coach?

Near the key-lock for the trunk, sort of the center for all the wordy messages, was a sunbleached image of a Native American dreamcatcher with a superimposed wolf’s head in the middle and large feathers or long wooly tails hanging down. Now -- does this add depth and dimension to the character, create empathy? Does it blend with the messages or add a different, contradictory flavor? Or does it read as erroneous, something that came with the car (assuming it was second hand), or that someone stuck on as a joke? 

Who do you see driving this car?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Major Jackson

 Major Jackson and Vicki Zubovic

The best thing about conferences: getting to meet fabulous writers and poets. 

This conference, for me, it was the poet Major Jackson
(I love this picture, even if I did take it myself. The smiles say it all.)

There is no question that Major Jackson is a formidable poet and a master of form. He's also an engaging, personable speaker, both as a reader of his own work and as a lecturer during the craft-talk at the NVWC. His reading at Mondavi took us everywhere: The Frost House in New England, the b'ball  courts in his Philly neighborhood, a long chat with Gwendlyn Brooks. He read some poems from his  just -about-to-be-published book, "Holding Company," and some from "Hoops." While some of the poems in the latter book soar and bounce with the jump-shot rhythm of basketball (Hank Gathers, Moose),  the second half is a 70-page epistolary poem to Gwendolyn Brooks in rhyme royal.  Like I said, a master.

Other Links

AND! see who's featured this month in  Poets & Writers 





Sunday, August 29, 2010

Poetry of Place in Pt Reyes

Next weekend, Brenda and Bob will be in the house. Not the house, exactly, but nearby. In Pt Reyes, out in West County (Marin). So I'm going. How could I not? The coast, the town, the poets, Toby's Feed Barn. (there's a link to the local weather on the FeedBarn site. Very useful if you're planning a day out there.)  Cowgirl Creamery, too, but let's not get distracted by cheese. 


I'm planning take Brenda's book, Cascadia, with me....but when I went looking to see what I have of Bob Hass's, I realized that most of my poetry books are still packed up. In the basement! Gaaaaack!!! 


Though this does give me the excuse to pick up some more books


So check it out....Brenda Hillman, Bob Hass: Reading in Pt Reyes. See you there? In spirit, maybe?



Friday, August 27, 2010

Running Hot, Then Cold


It was so hot on Monday (100+ degrees),  all I could think about was winter. Not just the mamby-pamby winter of the West Coast either, but deep winter.  With refrigerant. 
From the freewrite that night:

Winter echoes
Eaves plip, drip into soft snowdrifts
gritty along the crest,
The creak of ice over black branches, the
tight squeak of snow compressed under red boots
portals to our discontents.

And now, four days later, it might not  break 80 degrees.  No wonder our tomatoes are going nutz. During the three day heat-blast, several of our green tomatoes were cooked right on the vine, squishy and soft and warm. Ruined and sorta gross. And many more were sunburnt, semi-circles of crisp skin along their shoulders stretched paper-thin over green pulp. Don’t know if those will ripen or are permanently wrecked. Maybe it’s time to find some green tomato recipes.

Sigh.

I should say though, that the tomatoes in the straw-and-compost sandwich bed are in the best shape. Slow, of course, just barely coming in, but tasty. Fortunately, they get some late afternoon shade, so they weren’t heat damaged. 



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Bookself

Some might notice, over to the right, a blogroll that is slowly increasing. It's my collection of blogs from Napa Valley Writer's Conference participants, faculty, staff....anyone, actually, with any sort of relationship to the conference. I try to introduce them as I add them, but don't always manage that.

I just discovered Joan's blog The Bookself ...with some great posts about the NVWC conference and a truly hysterical (I think, anyway) staff photo. Not sure they'd run it on the website, but it cracks me up just looking at it; we were all rather punchy by then - as you might be able to tell.

Joan published quite a few posts from the conference, with perceptive and astute notes from the craft talks and workshops and some really good photos. Seriously. And she has a nice collection of blogs from Agents and Publishers, worthy of cruising, if anyone is so inclined.

So, check it out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lady GaGa - Library Fan?

In honor of Lady Ga Ga being in town, I had to post this YouTube of the

Lady La La's

just check it out, if you love a librarian. Or a good library.

Held Breath

These are the dog-days of August, the lull between the high activities of summer proper and the fall semester looming ahead. Usually, these are hot and even sultry days, but this year we awaken to leaden, fog-cold mornings and wait impatiently, bundled in sweatshirts, wool socks and fleece, for the heat of short afternoons.

Slow, even listless days. The very air is still; the campus silent with quietness of a held breath. No students chattering in the courtyards or calling across the quad; no bustle as throngs troop down the hallways, no lines (savor that!) at Charlie’s or Toast; no bands blaring at noon.

Walking along Salazar Hall, I miss the squeaky, buzzy swallows, their mud nests for the most part empty except the few hardy couples double-clutching, raising a second brood. The rest of the swallows, oldsters and youngsters, have decamped to begin the long trek to South America for the winter. Midday, I take the path over the little knoll to sit on a wide bench at the top edge of the Alumni Amphitheater grove just as the fog thins to blue. I welcome this lull, this silence, this held breath. Even the poplar trees are merely whispering in the faint occasional lackluster stirrings of air.  

Juv. Cooper's hawk, photo: Becky Olsen
All last month, though, this small grove of poplar, pine and oak, was a noisy nursery for a clutch of Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) fledglings. Becky Olsen in Financial Services had been keeping an eagle (ooops) eye on the nest since mid-spring, when a pair of hawks had taken up residence the large oak. One day last May, on a bird walk about campus, she took several of us to the south side of Salazar.  “Stand right about here, “she said, directing our binoculars to the top of the majestic oak, “look into the middle of that dark section there.” And there it was, a very large collection of sticks and twigs, the work of several seasons. Truly, if you did not know the nest was there, it wasn’t.

After that, I planned my walk-about routes to pass by it.  Several times, I saw the swoop of a parent hawk, mostly brown from my viewpoint, bringing tidbits to the nest. And every so often, I would see one perched on the branches of nearby trees, as still as could be. And then, in early July, I saw a fuzzy, white something poking over the edge of the nest: hatchlings!

Juv. Cooper's Hawk. Photo: Becky Olsen
By mid-July, they were fledglings and were hopping around the branches of the oak (known as branching); then, as they got the hang of flight, in nearby trees. And not just one, three! Quel surprise! Each day, they flapped a bit further, all the while begging keee!kee!keee! for tasty morsels. The parents were having a time of it, reminding me of the endless grocery runs when there were teens in my house. The Cooper’s hawks certainly picked their nest-site well. Their market is right next door, under the eaves of Salazar,  for the main prey of Cooper’s hawks are small birds, though they are willing to vary their diet with little mammals and lizards if the opportunity presents itself, or if necessary.

The Cooper’s hawk is one of three species of Accipiters, the long-tailed, blunt winged, forest-dwelling group of hawks. They are swift, agile birds, designed to dodge through trees after their flying prey. Elegant and dignified in adulthood they are, with a slate-gray back (lending them the nickname big blue darter), ruddy-brown and white ribbing underneath and bright red eyes-though I have yet to see those with my own peepers. The young begin as those outrageous white puff balls that morph into yellow-eyed juvies, with barred brown-and-cream plumage

It’s thrilling to see these hawks on campus; they are every inch dignified and regal birds. And they have skirted the edge of extinction several times. They were once the bane of farmers, who thought they were drawn to chickens (thus dubbed “chicken hawk”) and thus hunted to dangerously low populations in the late 1800’s. In the mid-1900’s, they (along with so many other birds of prey), suffered from the ravages of DDT, which led to fragile-shelled eggs and the loss of several generations. Now they face loss of habitat as the wild woodlands are leveled or logged.

But they are doing their best to adapt. Once considered reclusive, to be found only it forests far from human habitation (gee, I don’t know why) Cooper’s hawks have been seen scouting and snacking at suburban bird feeders and even in urban parks.  So it’s not that surprising that they nest here, in this park-like setting, with a ready supply of swallows, and people who leave them alone.
And though the bird-parents are done for the season, resting on their laurels, enjoying the peace and quiet, we will be faced with all the human fledglings, due to arrive in a week. Maybe they'll bring some hot weather with them.

more details on Cooper's hawks:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

From Napa Hills to Pt Reyes Bookstore

Nothing quite like starting the day contemplating poetry and ending it with a reading. (Conferences are good for that!) Trying to do the former as often as possible, and always on the lookout for the latter.*

Here's a morning-kickstart poem from Brenda Hillman's "Cascadia."

The Rise of the Napa Hills

The sea has receded a little. Mild layers stack up
without panic, like e-mail.  Twin frenzied suns watch the ocean
sediments settle under Oakville Grocer. Flittery
strings tied to the tops of young vines shimmer two versions of 
the actual: red, white. The curfew vintner walks below,
tapping smooth metal vats with a spoon. He asks them the twelve
questions: Did you love your life? How 'bout now? Can you recite
the table of sunsets? Did the weather wait for you? Did
you wait back? When he shook before the world did you shake too?
Did you fall in the milky sunshine? Do you hear their
gritty theories still? Would you like a drink? Can you live in 
two directions with border guards? You're not answering. 
Why didn't you fight more? Didn't you love being bad?


Love the 12 Questions! and "flittery strings...shimmer two versions of the actual"

Talking as we were about Lab Lit, it's cool to note that  Brenda's work is rich with all aspects of science, primarily geology in this poem. Yet "two versions of the actual" lead us to contemplate what is beyond the tangible world. 

* as for an evening reading, Brenda Hillman and Bob Hass will be at Pt Reyes Bookstore on Sept 4th, at a benefit for West Marin Review.  So ... supporting the local arts, and hearing the great poets of our age.
What's not to like?
I'll be there, foursquare. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Funny It Ain't

Wrote a limerick for the Martini House Gang...and then realized why it wasn't much good.  Just not funny. Can't be a limerick if there aren't any guffaws; the very structure of a limerick refuses any sort of seriousness. So this below might engender a quick smirk or two, but there's no real humor.


After 10 p.m. in the town of St Helena
no meal can be found, hi-fat or leana
      'cept at the gas station mini-mart
      there are bagel-dogs and apple-tarts
that we purchase from a counter-clerk named Tina.

Now, the task before me: funny this limerick up. 

Science in Literature

Apparently, it's a whole new genre, science in fiction -- as opposed to science fiction, that is. And here's a website devoted to it: Lab Lit.

Who knew?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This weekend, I've done little except nap and read and try to recover my good senses, such as they are. After such intense experiences (the conference, wedding, readings,etc.), it's as if I have to crouch under a blanket and block all incoming input for a day or two. Nothing new, please! my system demands, I'm not done with the old stuff.  No conversation, no hot discussions, sometimes not even music; I have to damper myself down.

So this weekend, I've bounced between reading a novel, taking 3 and 4 hour naps and lounging on the hammock with my new poetry books. And by bouncing, I mean dropping the book over my face as I fade into dreamland, or wavering down the back stairs to the hammock with a pillow, a blanket and a cup of tea.  It feels wickedly indulgent. Especially the not talking to anyone part.

I'm adoring "Percival's Planet", Michael Byer's latest novel. The four storylines seem so far apart at the start; it's fascinating to see the little ways they begin to connect, pulling the web of the novel together. Like seeing the stars that you know make a constellation; first they are just bright, unconnected stars in a loose array at some section of the sky; then you begin to see the faint lines - then the whole constellation pops into place.

The characters, the place, the time, all are so loving wrought and evoked; I just fall into it. But I'm also kind of a sucker for science in literature. It's a huge chunk of what we know, for one thing; it's fascinating for another. And even though most of the math is astronomically (not sorry) over my head in this book, I don't have to parse out the equations, there will be no test; I get the gist of it enough to follow the story. And I love just hearing about the math and physics, seeing how it's used. The language of it. The derivation of linear least squares, the residuals. the complex laws of orbital resonances. I love that Byers includes all the mechanics of grinding the glass lenses, the Carborundum, the iron sesquioxide and the structure of telescopes; that he has shows us the unrelenting grind of most scientific work and the politics that swirl around discoveries.

But it's not just about deep sky; there are also dinosaurs involved. Deep time.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Napa Recovery Week


As you might guess, I was way too busy and having far too much fun at the NVWC to post here. But other people not only worked hard, had fun, wrote a ton but posted, too. So here's a link to the fine blog of one of our fictioneers: Fog City Writer.

But I did take a few photos:

Brenda Hillman, Mary Shea and Andrea Bewick


Ron Carlson and workshoppees at Thursday's picnic
At the lobby table: considering plot, character or what's for lunch?


*Jiminey Cricket… I am my own 10,000th hit. Wanted to offer a prize to such a person, but of course had no way to figure out how to make that happen. Guess the universe responded...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

30th Anniversary Reading & Lecture Series — July 25–30, 2010

The Napa Valley Writers’ Conference presents:

In honor of the conference’s 30th year, we’re planning a party! Join us Tuesday, July 27, at 6 pm, at the new Educational Center for the Performing Arts at Napa Valley College for a literary celebration.

Hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served, and the evening program will include reflections on the conference’s 30-year history. In addition, a tribute will be offered to the late Dr. Chris McCarthy, who was president of Napa Valley College and a major supporter of the conference. The evening will conclude with readings by 2010 conference faculty members Curtis Sittenfeld, best-selling author of Prep and American Wife, and poet C.D. Wright.

The full schedule of faculty lectures and readings for the 2010 Napa Valley Writers’ Conference is as follows:

Sunday, July 25

*   7:30 pm Wine reception and reading with poet Arthur Sze and fiction writer Michael Byers, Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus, St. Helena

Monday, July 26

*   9 am: Poetry lecture by C.D. Wright, Upper Valley Campus
*   1:30 pm: Fiction lecture by Lan Samantha Chang, Upper Valley Campus
*   7:30 pm: Wine reception and reading with poet Major Jackson and fiction writer Ron Carlson, Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville

Tuesday, July 27

*   9 am — Poetry lecture by Brenda Hillman, Upper Valley Campus
*   1:30 pm — Fiction lecture by Michael Byers, Upper Valley Campus
*   6 pm — 30th anniversary gala reception, Educational Center for the Performing Arts, Napa Valley College, Napa
*   7:30 pm — 30th anniversary program and reading by poet C.D. Wright and fiction writer Curtis Sittenfeld, Educational Center for the Performing Arts, Napa Valley College

Wednesday, July 28

*   9 am – Poetry lecture by Arthur Sze, Upper Valley Campus
*   1:30 pm – Fiction lecture by Ron Carlson, Upper Valley Campus

Thursday, July 29

*   9 am – Poetry lecture by Major Jackson
*   1:30 pm – Fiction lecture by Curtis Sittenfeld
*   7:30 pm – Wine reception and reading with poet Brenda Hillman and fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang, Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena

Tickets

Admission to the July 27 gala costs $25 for the reception and reading; make reservations prior to July 20 by calling (707) 967-2900 x1611 or emailing writecon@napavalley.edu<mailto:writecon@napavalley.edu>. Tickets for the reading only will be sold at the door after 7 pm and cost $10.

Admission to all other evening readings costs $10, payable at the door. Admission to the daytime lectures may be purchased at the door and costs $25 apiece, $90 for the four-lecture series in either poetry or fiction, or $175 for all eight lectures. Students with valid student IDs will be admitted free of charge to all lectures and evening readings.

About the Faculty

Michael Byers is the author of the novels Long for this World and the forthcoming Percival’s Planet, as well as the story collection The Coast of Good Intentions. His books were named New York Times Notable Books, and his stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Awards. He has won a Whiting Award and the Sue Kauffman Prize. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, he currently teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Ron Carlson is the author of ten books of fiction, most recently the novel, The Signal. Previous work includes Five Skies, At the Jim Bridger, and The Hotel Eden. His work is included in many anthologies, including the O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories. In 2006, GQ Magazine called him “one of the great things about America.” Carlson is currently director of the graduate writing program at UC Irvine.

Lan Samantha Chang is the author of the novels Inheritance and the forthcoming All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, as well as the story collection Hunger, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award. Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, The Atlantic and Best American Short Stories. She is currently director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Brenda Hillman’s eighth book of poems, Practical Water, won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry. Named by Poets and Writers to a list of the 50 most inspiring authors in the world, she is the Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary’s College and an activist with Code Pink.

Major Jackson is the author of three collections of poetry: Holding Company, forthcoming in August; Leaving Saturn; and Hoops, which was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literature: Poetry. He is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at the University of Vermont and the Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review.

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the bestselling novels American Wife, Prep and The Man of My Dreams. Prep was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 by the the New York Times, nominated for the UK’s Orange Prize, and optioned by Paramount Pictures. Her work has appeared in many publications including Salon, The Atlantic and on public radio’s “This American Life.”

Arthur Sze’s acclaimed collections of poetry include Quipu and The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998. He won the Western States Book Award in Translation for The Silk Dragon: Translations of Chinese Poetry. For over twenty years, he has taught as a professor of creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

C.D. Wright’s poetry collections include Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil and Deepstep Come Shining. Her other works include One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana (2003), with photographer Deborah Luster. A poetry professor at Brown and co-editor of Lost Roads Press, she won the 2009 International Griffin Poetry Prize for her collection Rising, Falling, Hovering.


Napa Valley Writers’ Conference
Napa Valley College · 1088 College Avenue · St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone 707-967-2900 x1611 · Fax 707-967-2909 · writecon@napavalley.edu

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Napa Conference, go go!

I was in St Helena today for conference prep; very pleasant, in the mid - 80s, buffered by fog in the morning that didn't burn off until mid-morning. Forecast, for what it's worth, calls for more of the same, with Sunday the 25th, being the coolest, maybe not even 80. The nights will go down to the 50's!  So layers, folks, layers.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hot Week, Full Moon.

A week to go til conference-time: yep! yep!

Pulled up the extended weather report for St Helena for conference week.
Looks like temps will run from the mid- to high 90's. Hot, but not too hot.


But hey, it cools down at night.
Unlike some places in the country.

Plus the full moon on Sunday, July 25th.
Perfect for the plein-air reading that first night on the lawn.

Looks to be a grand week.

Of course the forecast could be off by several degrees in either direction.
But the moon will still be full.

Will I still be talking in couplets on Sunday?
Bets are being taken.

Winner treats at Ana's Cantina.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Curtis Sittenfeld

I can't help myself, I'm addicted, I'm cruising all around the InterSchnitzels looking for tidbits about or by our NVWC crew of writers. But hey, research pays, check out this piece in the New York Magazine by Curtis Sittenfeld. A lively and sassy interview of two other authors, Meghan Daum and Emily Gould.

I was so completely impressed by "American Wife," Sittenfeld's latest novel. She has managed to create a book that is irrefutably fiction, yet offers insight into one of the most puzzling marriages in recent history, that of George and Laura Bush. It is a remarkable feat, this blend of imagining and inventing that brings understanding. There's plenty of discussion around and about it, too -  as you might imagine. See what they say, starting here.

This is for the poets and those who love them

...for those interested in a sneak preview to the NVWC, Brenda Hillman, one of our distinguished faculty at NVWC this summer, will be reading in SF this Friday, July 16th at a benefit for our friendly competitor, (cough, cough),The Squaw Valley Writers Conference.  Of course, you have to be pretty local to make this one, but still. The reading is in honor of the great Lucille Clifton, the money goes to benefit The Poets Scholarship Fund and she's in great company: Forrest Gander (previous faculty at NVWC, also!), Kazim Ali, Evie Shockley and Dean Young.

Busy, busy summer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Byers Breakdown

Endless research on Michael Byers while avoiding actual productive work has gifted me with these two gems:

Hot Metal Bridge - an interview with Michael in this literary journal of University of Pittsburgh, where he taught for three years.  Solid interview, which I will quote from, I swear, in my introduction at the conference.  Also an awesome list of lit journals, ripe for the submitting. Go! - take your pick.

5Chapters - Holy Dickens, Batman....the daily serial is making a comeback. Check this out: one five chapter story per week, a chapter posted each week day. Brilliant! M. Byers has a story here, too, that involves a man plotting to kill his wife, one kangaroo and a pair of elderly lions. I know there are readers out there who have material to submit. So do it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

One Ron Carlson, One Story

Don't know how many folks out there are One Story fans.... but I love 'em. It's like getting the New Yorker without all the ads or the extraneous non-fiction stuff. Just the story, ma'am, every three weeks. Check it out.

But wait, there's more.

For the 99th and100th issue (a few years back) they published one of Ron Carlson's stories, Beanball, as a deluxe, hand-press issue.  Yes, our Ron Carlson, who's on faculty with the Napa Valley Writers Conference.  Pretty darn cool, eh?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Napa Valley Writers Conference

The workshops for Napa Valley Writers Conference have been created, the manuscripts are being uploaded (for the most part); let the games begin!  Anyone who hasn't logged into their workshops's Google Group, time to get cracking--you've got reading to do!

And as a tidbit for all you workshoppers, here's a link to Kathy Stevenson's post about her first residency at Bennington. It's is just about too funny... and sooo true. Enjoy!

More constructing...

...going on. A new look for a new month. Not a terribly edgy, just a somewhat eggy, look.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Voice of the River Reading! July 1st!

Did you know that Petaluma has  a river that runs through it? Come by the  Petaluma Arts Center Thursday, July 1st for an evening of poetry and prose about said river.Starts at 7 p.m. Readers are contributors to the The Voice of the River Book created by Patti Trimble and Susan Starbird as part of an ongoing P. River consciousness-raising project. Yours truly, among many others, is one of those readers. Free to the public.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer is for Bloggin'

Hotter than a pistol today. Yesterday too.  Summer's arrived, skipping right over spring, which wasn't much of anything anyway. By hotter than a pistol I mean one that was recently discharged, like at least mid-90's, probably hotter. My working-studio faces west and I can feel the air heating up in the room right now, expanding, pressing on my eyeballs, fuzzing up my brain.  I've penciled in a siesta starting in 20 minutes, so I hope to snooze through the worst of it. It's the only way to survive. Now if I could only get work to agree to this most sensible of plans.

I've been collecting the blogs of Napa Valley Writers Conference attendees past and present, faculty, staff and workshoppers. (see sidebar) I just added links for Michael Byers (Finding Pluto), Janet Miller (Persistent Unwanted Thoughts), Sandra Vahtel (The Sweet and the Sour). If any of you readers are NVWC attendee of any stripe and want to be included, let me know in the comments and I'll load you up. I'd love to get this to be about 50 blogs long.

Time to peace out; I'm breaking a sweat just typing. Catch you all on the flip side.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Under Construction....

yes. I've been messing around with the template!    please bear with me....I'll find something a little less busy, bland, neophyte, whatever...soon. I think.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Napa Valley Writers Conference Link

A very nice article about the Napa Valley Writers Conference, which is celebrating it's 30-Year Anniversary.  Includes some history and famous names.
Napa Valley Register

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Aram's Last Supper

Our favorite cafe and restaurant , Aram's, closed Friday night. We knew it was going to happen, just not when. Armenian to the core, it was my favorite place to hang out  and not just because I loved William Saroyan's work or the Armenian Coffee that arrived at the table, steaming hot, in long-handled coffee pots, waiting to be knocked down ( 3 x 3 knocks, I had been taught once) and the slightly sweetened brew poured off, leaving the ubiquitous sludge at the bottom. The food was delicious, yes, absolutely. But the atmosphere was, too. The staff (Jenny, Stephanie, Carol, Kelsey and several others whose names have escaped my rattle-trap brain) tended to stick around, the sign of good treatment by management and customers alike. It was a community affair; customers were loyal and local. We were a type, the Aram's Krew. If we weren't friends already, we'd become so over the years; we could recognize others of our ilk in any crowd. 


We changed our plans to be there Friday night for our last opportunity for Armenian Pomegranate Chicken, Shawarma and the particularly fine feta in their Greek Salad. More photos here of the place and people.  


The staff will stay on for the new restaurant, Avatar's Punjabi Burrito; as long as I can commandeer my favorite table by the windows and Pomegranate Chicken stays on the menu, I'll be there. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Random Plank

A week ago Saturday was a bright day, hot for the first time this spring (or so it seems), the sky as blue as could be, endlessly blue. A day of de-clutttering and arranging, of uprooting crap from the basement and planting tender starts into welcoming soil. I even got around to clearing a bunch of stuff out of the studio -- it's become another collecting point again, an eddy in the river of crap that runs through our house, garage, yard.

Remember that Get Rid of 100 Things a Week project? That diet plan for my Inner Hoarder? The good news is that Saturday I managed to get rid of almost 100 things, if you count  each hanger I took to Saks Thrift Avenue, that is.

But my reward for clearing out the crap was a trip with my sis to Heritage Salvage in Petaluma for garden supplies. This is like going out for chocolate cake and ice cream to celebrate losing two pounds. But we had a list and we'd stick to it, dammit: cinder blocks, a metal structure (bedframe, wire fencing) as a trellis for the clematis clinging desperately to the back deck, border-edging for the garden path. Didn't find any affordable metal trellis work, but we scored on cinder blocks and cadged a deal on edging rocks, red stone cut into long, roughly rectangular blocks.

Then a 7-foot long, 16-inch wide crappy looking plank called to me. It was splintery, weathered-grey, with surface splits and thin patches of ancient white paint here and there. The edges and corners practically ate our hands.  But to me it had charm and character; it deserved to be rescued. With a bit of scraping, sanding and filing, I figured, it would be a fine, if very rustic, bench for my backyard.

And so it is becoming. The WP* was impressed with the plank's dimensions and suspected it might be old redwood; using the full complement of power tools at his disposal, he spent a good part of the weekend sanding, smoothing, patching and and then sanding that plank again. After three coats of spar varnish this week, the old, splintered, cracked piece of redwood (which is what it revealed itself to be) will be installed as a handsome garden bench, no splinters for the unwary behind or careless hand.

So. I dumped 100 things, purchased 24, ended up with a net loss of 76 things. And if the items I brought home have an immediate purpose and are a delight to behold, they don't count as clutter, right? right?


"Why take pictures of a plain plank when such a handsome, debonair cat-about-town is close by?"

*Wonderful Partner

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bird Walking with Becky Olsen

One of the long-lasting effects from the last Staff Appreciation Day were the extra lunch-hour workshop sessions held over the year. One such was the Bird Walk led by Becky Olsen from Financial Services about two weeks ago. She's an experienced, excellent and enthusiastic birder who has been keeping an eagle (sorry) eye on birds in, around or flying over campus for fifteen years or so. She told us, as we gathered on the north patio of the commons, that she's seen over 100 different species of birds on campus during those years including resident birds, temporarily resident (wintering over or here for the breeding season) and migratory birds, aka "fly-overs." She's also been a long-time volunteer at the Bird Rescue Center for Sonoma County.

Becky led our merry (though shhh! quiet!) band of five from the commons along the paved path toward the creek. We stopped by the palm trees near the pond, looking for a hooded oriole, a bright yellow bird that I'd never seen before and didn't then either. (But I did on the walk back, thanks, Becky!) Just before the walking bridge, we took a jog to the west to watch a family of chickadees flit around some low bushes -- actually, the parents flitted around while the three or four kids (they all moved too fast to be counted) clutched skinny twigs and begged: dee, dee, dee, dee!

Chestnut-backed chickadees (Poecile rufescens) are plucky year round residents, living, breeding and raising their kids in the heart of Wine Country and on our campus. They are active, inquisitive, chattery, amusing little critters, about 4.5 inches long on a good day, feeding on insects when they can get them and seeds when they can't. In the fall, they'll cache seeds, storing them against the meager fare of winter. It's been estimated that one chickadee can hide and remember up to a hundred thousand seeds in a season. Bird brain indeed! I can barely remember where my 10 keys are at any given time and they're all on the same ring.

During the fall and winter, when chickadees cache and retrieve seeds, the hippocampus of their little birdy-brains expands; in spring and summer, when they no longer need that info, it shrinks down to normal. Certainly gives credance to the motto "use it or lose it," as it applies to brains. Time to break out the crossword and jigsaw puzzles, folks, take up a new language, find that guitar in the back of the closet and take lessons again.

There are seven species of chickadees in North America: Black-capped, Carolina, Mountain, Boreal, Mexican, Grey-headed and our Chestnut-backed, with little overlap in territories. Most are various arrangements of grey, black, buff, russet-red and white. Ours sports a dapper chestnut-colored back and flanks, appearing at times to wear a very dashing suit coat with grey sleeves, or perhaps a tasteful russet-hued vest for the holidays. With strong legs and feet, chickadees often hang upside down as they forage, which is somehow quite endearing. They are perching birds (passerines) and quite social in nature, existing in loose flocks of several chickadee families, as well as in mixed foraging flocks composed of warblers or bushtits. They often share territory with downy woodpeckers and nuthatches. But for all their tiny size, they are spunky and not easily intimidated; they've been known to mob predators such as owls or hawks.

Chickadees are cavity-nesters, often commandeering old woodpecker holes in trees. As our small birding band backtracked east and wandered along the creek toward the butterfly garden, Becky pointed out a snag -- an old, mostly leafless, tree trunk leaning over the creek. Near the top was a nice-sized round hole and within moments, a chickadee had flown into it and then after a bit popped out, flying off immediately. "Babies are still in there," Becky said, "hungry babies." Within the hole, there might be a nest similar to the photo below (courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), moss and strips of bark providing structural support on the outside, soft animal fur, hair and even feathers, providing coziness on the inside.

Fascinating to think that while we're busy in our offices and class rooms, contemplating numbers and philosophies, examining theories and texts, balancing budgets and signing contracts, these little chickadee families are thriving in the bushes and trees along our fringes, hatching and raising their youngsters, teaching them how to find tasty bugs and save seeds, how to evade predators, how to sing, find a mate and thrive.

Everywhere you look, brains are working, critters are learning.


More links for thought:

Madrone Audubon Society
Hiding seeds, Black-capped Chickadees
Hippocampus and the Chickadee
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We tried a new  method of gardening this weekend, one designed to spare the backs and knees of the boomer generation. It's a variation of the Lasagna Lawn, though I call it Compost Layer Cake Gardening, or alternatively, Compost Cookie gardening. The best part? No digging involved. The next best part? Water thrifty. I heard about it from my Garden Maven friend whose mom emailed her this article from the LA Times. It sounded easy ... and it was. Really, really, really, no digging, just hoisting a few bales and hauling some sacks of amendments around.

So, for the Compost Layer Cake. First we laid down interleaved newspaper and cardboard (the plate) as a basic barrier against weeds, then plopped down the first layer of alfalfa flakes, added bone and blood meal (filling), slapped on a thicker layer of straw, tossed in a few soupcons of blood and bone meal (for flavor) and then iced it with a thick, choclately layer of compost.

Ours, being rather freeform,  ended up looking like a tasty layer cake, or a gi-normous chocolate-drop cookie.

After it sat for a few days, I planted three Early Girl tomato starters in it late this afternoon, to take advantage of the predicted, though highly unusual, rain.  Steam rose as I dug down into the hay, it was like a little furnace down in there. Man, that pile is busy!

I might give it another layer of icing this weekend. It's looking a bit naked there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Erratic Week in an Aberrant Spring

After a weekend of stunningly perfect weather (bright blue skies, mild wind, brilliant sun), last Monday arrived cold and rainy, a thick sky of grim nimbus clouds and a wind too full of itself. Cloudburst, downpour, sprinkle, drizzle, rinse, repeat. The view out the office window was grey, grey, grey, all day. Still, not much daunts the intrepid Amateur Campus Naturalist and so, jamming the hat down to my ears and cinching tight all openings of the raincoat, out I went. Sticking to a route under overhangs and close to trees, I avoided becoming completely drenched while freshening my lungs with oxygen-rich air. Win, win, win. At least for me.

We're not used to this sort of wet and variable spring in Sonoma County. All this cold rain and dreary grey feels more like epileptic relapses into winter. April showers bring May flowers in other parts of the country. Here, the ultra-pleasant and dry weeks of April merely launch us full-tilt into summer; by mid-May, telltale patches of brown will line the crests of the hills as the winter rains recede into the water table. This spring though, with rains every other week, the hills are staying green, and with rainfall totals above normal, the three-year drought has been conquered. (Fingers crossed on that one.)

Walking just inside a silvery curtain of rain under the Salazar overhang, I wondered where the cliff swallows hide in all this wet. The birds had arrived per usual in mid-April, with their radio-static buzzy clicks, swinging freely over the quad in waves, then winging over the playing fields, scooping up their bug lunches. Certainly nest building has suffered from rain delays; under the eaves high above, I could see only the most rudimentary lines of daubed mud sketching in the nest foundations. How will this affect raising and fledging the next brood?

From Salazar, I hopped, skipped and skidded around the gym and up into the Kenneth Stocking Native Botanical Garden. Under the tree-canopy, the rain was but a minor nuisance. I wandered along the spongy floor of dense leaf-litter and needles, breathing deep, the air fragrant and damp, and stopped to watch through crossed tree branches as the lessening rain dimpled the pond. Suddenly I heard dee! dee dee dee! dee! shockingly close to my head. I spotted the commotion right away:  two spry chestnut-backed chickadees bouncing around the branches and twigs just above me, gleaning insects and bugs as fast as they could to feed their fluffy, demanding, just-fledged progeny, three lumps-on-a-branch, barely moving, except to open their beaks for food or to dee! deee! deee! for more.

Obviously, this aberrant spring has had little effect on these adorable (admit it, they are) little busybodies.   And it probably won't do more than slow down the swallows as they follow the inevitable course of actions leading to the next generation. Nor will it interfere with our own about-to-fledge graduates who, in about two weeks, will fling up their black caps, tassels and all, and come rain or come shine, fly on.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Settler's Chase

My friend Doris Eraldi's second book, Settler's Chase, will be released in July 2010 by Berkeley. This is a sequel to her book, Settler's Law, also published by Berkeley in 1998. Now, it seems like a long time between books, and it is, but I happen to know that she's written at least one whole novel in between,while training a slew of horses, teaching horsemanship, coaching young riders and in general gallivanting around. No moss grows under her hooves. Anyway, as a first reader of her first book, I am now an eager awaiter of her second.



I'm starting to send out the scholarship award letters for the Napa this weekend; how exciting! It's also the first hot-hot weekend of the year, 80's for at least an hour or two this afternoon, the sky brilliant and sun all over the place. Feels like the conference is about to start any minute.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"The Oracle of Stamboul,"

Michael Lukas, a fiction participant at the Napa Valley Writers Conference last summer, wrote to say that his novel "The Oracle of Stanboul," has been purchased by HarperCollins and will be released in February, 2011. WhoooHoooo!  ZZ Packer's group will remember seeing his first chapter.

From Michael's website:








I enjoyed reading the chapter which he submitted for his application; I particularly remember the image of hoopoes circling the harbor and the town and then settling, "coating the town like frosting," which opens the book. I look forward to reading the whole thing, printed and bound.
A thousand and one congratulations, Michael!