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.  


  1. I'd enjoy a wander around such literary luminaries in tents myself, whatever the weather. You are indeed fortunate.

    Our writers festival in Melbourne happens in August, still under the weight of winter. I know no greater pleasure than t bask in the ambience of a worthwhile writerly event.

  2. It isn't over yet around here...the LitQuake is going on in San Francisco this week and weekend. Next year, I'm taking a week off from work and indulging in it!

    Do you usually go to the Melbourne Festival? It looks like a fabulous event.

  3. I remember Yiyun Li from Tin House one year. She's a good writer, and a nice person.
    Great post!


Noise makers!