Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tis the Season - for Novels

It's November and novelists are tucked into every corner of the coffeeshops, lurking in libraries, pounding the keyboards.  For those of you still wavering on the fence on the the importance of this Novel-in-a-Month idea, Catherine Thorpe, has written an insightful blogpost on that very subject: Beyond the Purple Bar.

And you know, there is still plenty of time to sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)...and grab a table at your neighborhood coffee & tea establishment.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Teardrop Trailer - or Vacation in a Can

Vacation does something to you; rearranges your brain molecules, restructures your thought-habits. After a week out of the office and camping out by the beach,  I'm trying to ease back into town-life as slow as I can.  Yes, laziness is a by-product of vacations. 


We read bunches and bunches - first of all, because we could and second of all, because it rained the first day and night. What goddess prompted me to rent, in August, a Teardrop Trailer for our October vacation?  "Rain, schmain " we said, warm and snug in our little bug. 

The Teardrop trailer, named The Chili Pepper, a.k.a. our savior
(Rented ours from Vacations in a Can in Penngrove, CA. Great design, excellent craftsmanship; you won't be disappointed)


We camped at Bodega Dunes State Campground, one of our favorites go-to spots along the Sonoma Coast.  The campground is set back from the Pacific ocean beach, hunkered behind long dunes; our campsite was bordered a thick stand of eucalyptus and a creaky hallway of old and dignified cypress, planted as windbreaks by farmers long ago. It's beautiful even in the rain, and especially beautiful from the cozy-warm hella-cute super-fab little tag-along.
Eucalyptus in the mist
A faint path wends its way between
two rows of cypress
Our morning espresso cart - a bit soggy,
 but serviceable. Yay for canopies!
Reading nook extrodinaire! Note plenty of cubbies
for all your books, munchies, spare glasses, pens, notebooks.  
Serendipitously, we had tickets for the Picasso exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco for that unexpectedly rainy day - perfect timing, eh? The drive to SF from Bodega is about about an hour and a bit, but heck, we were on vacation, but what else did we have to do? And nothing much better than a museum on a rainy day, I say.

So, after a few doses of camp coffee - note the espresso pot on the propane stove, 'cause that's the (only) way we  roll, strong coffee, sraight up - we drove into P-town for breakfast, drove to SF for the exhibit (fabulous, of course - thanks, Stephanie!), drove back to camp and scurried into the Teardrop, visually provoked and culture-sated. And we still had plenty of time to read a bunch more before we went out for dinner at a seafood/Mexican place just down the road.

Still raining, before, during and after. Not a hard, sluicing rain, just relentless, thick and starting to get on our nerves. But, look, ma - no muddy tent, no soaked clothes, no damp sleeping bags on a cold mat or sagging air mattress - which, swear to Jumping Jupiter, starts to deflate from the moment you shove that little plug into the air vent.  Much as we loved camping, that was the main reason we'd given up on it: our grouchy backs just couldn't take it anymore.

The next morning, the rain was over. A full moon graced the skies that night and the rest of the week was sunny, breezy, just about perfect.  



We're so smitten with The Can, we're plotting ways to procure our own. Because between staying dry and sleeping on a real, very comfortable mattress, it feels like we can camp again. 

Hallelujah!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Second Poem: Green Hills

Here's my second re-orient-the-brain dual-purpose poem,*

Green Hills
by Kay Ryan

Their green flanks
and swells are not
flesh in any sense
matching ours,
we tell ourselves.
Nor their green
breast nor their
green shoulder nor
the languor of their
rolling over.

If that isn't the perfect rendition of the hills of West Marin and Sonoma, I don't know what is.  Ryan captures our attention by telling us that the "green flanks and swells" really aren't body and flesh. And just when we are mentally contradicting her because yes, they do look like shoulders and thighs and the sway of reclining backs and hips, Ryan goes one step further and animates those green hills in that clever play on the rolling hills ... magnificent.

p.s.  occasionally they do roll - like when the earth quakes.

links to photographic evidence:

green hills 1

green hills 2

• see previous post

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dual Purpose Poems

Work has become its own beast lately, with a steep adjustment curve to new paradigms and programs.  In an attempt to cope, I've started to memorize a poem a day, hoping to divert the obsessive part of my mind from continually rolling down the grooves of irritation, which with repetition, will only become deeper, the negative reactions more entrenched, more intractable. I felt that if I could interrupt the process, I could block the high hits on the Stress-O-Meter and halt the accompanying rise in cortisol. Plus give myself something pleasantly literary to think about. And liven up my little grey cells.

So when I feel the anxiety rise, I resort to the poem, reciting it under my breath like a verbal amulet or a Spell for Protection.  It seems to be working; I don't feel so wound up in the morass of a SNAFU which is not of my making and which I can not change. Recalling the poem is sometimes all I need to regain a more tolerant and reflective state. Or at least get me though the next half hour without incident, embarrassment or name-calling. 

There have been some unintended (though welcome) consequences of this practice: getting this close to poetry and language is firing up my desire to be swimming in the deep end of writing and literature. (More on that later.)

Because I so love her work and because she is one hella tight poet, I've started with poems by Kay Ryan.  I'm enthralled with her imagery, rhythm, metaphors, the way her poems cinch right up at the end.  There is never any doubt that you've landed at the end of a Kay Ryan poem. Doesn't hurt that they are often short; my old gray brain just ain’t what it used to be. And oh, yeah, the poem-a-day quickly became a poem-a-week. 

So here’s the first poem, which has already stood me in good stead several times so far:

A Cat/A Future

A cat can draw
the blinds
behind her eyes
whenever she 
decides. Nothing
alters in the stare
itself but she's
not there. Likewise,
a future can occlude:
still sitting there, 
doing nothing rude. 


Such plain-song, everyday language -- except for the tight arrangement, the rhythms, the internal and sprung rhymes: blinds, behind; stare, there; eyes, decides; occludes, rude. And except for the word occludes, which captures our attention at once: it is the mystery door into meaning.  To occlude means to obstruct, shut off, block.  The future is occluded, hidden from us as if by blinds; we can’t really see it -- we can only imagine it. It sits there, merely one second, one day, one year away, but unknowable, blocked off from us until it happens.

And in another way, the future itself occludes: our tendency to plan for the future can sometimes prevent us from noticing the beauty of the moment, the realities of now.  We are so focused on the future, we become blind to the present.  We project our imagined future in front of us, as if on a screen, but a screen that hides the only known future that awaits us all: the inevitable, unknowable end of our tunnels. That future is definitely there - but not there, because we prefer to (or need to) ignore it.

By the end of this poem Ryan has layered meaning onto object; has melded the cat and the future, both “still sitting there/doing nothing rude.” Sweet!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sonoma County Book Festival ( with Napa Valley Connections).

What better way to spend a September Saturday in Sonoma than browsing the 12th Annual Sonoma County Book Festival? It's less then two weeks away (Sept 24th), so you still have time to pencil it in ~ and then do it!  Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa will bloom with tents, all filled-to-bursting with books, readings, panels, signings and all things literary.  Events usually spill out of the square into venues nearby, with readings and panels at the Central Library Forum Room, Corrick's, Mary's Pizza Shack, La Rosa's Tequileria. Plenty of kid's activities and throngs and throngs of poets and writers milling about. What's not to adore?

Just published!
And among the throngs ~  Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Hirshfield, Ann Packer...as well as Francisco X. Alarcon, Belva Davis, Zoe Fitzgerald Carter, Gaye LeBaron, Andrew Lam, Michael David Lukas.  Some (like moi)  might notice that the festival is seeded with Napa Valley-ites, both faculty and workshop attendees. Jane Hirschfield, one of our faculty stalwarts, and Ann Packer, faculty in 2008, will be reading at the Central Library Forum Room. I know of at least two alumni with reading slots, poet Judy Halebsky, from this past summer ("Sky=Empty") and Michael David Lukas, (2009) whose well-received debut novel "Oracle of Stamboul"  came out in paperback just this September.

Judy Halebsky
There are probably even more, but I'll let you discover them for yourself. So pack up your spectacles, fleece for the morning fog, parasol for the afternoon sun and be ready to indulge in literature, writers and words all the live-long day.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/2011

The Harvest moon rises tonight on a nation as yet un-healed; ten years ~ not nearly long enough for our wounds to seal.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

From Ailurophobia to Wamble; or Fall 2011 Underway

And so the semester begins, with all its fits and starts. Students trying to get into classes, teachers trying to cram students into classes, new faculty and staff coming on board, retirees scampering out, ready to gallivant and giggit about the countryside. The usual office tasks surface: ordering supplies, copying syllabi and oh, ooops! the minutes from the final Department Meeting last semester. Been hustling those meaningless scrawls from four months ago something legible the past two days!

Transcribing minutes can be a somewhat tedious, thankless task. Which is why I try to add some sparkle and flair to them, figuring if I’m distracted into silliness, what about my readers? Don’t they need a little lift now and then? Though, my fun often means I have to attach a glossary to the minutes. For lack of anything more illuminating, I’m posting the most current glossary, just for ducks. You, my friends, get to imagine what sort of minutes I was typing…

Glossary
Ailurophobia – abnormal fear of cats
Borborgymus – the rumbling of gas and fluid in the intestine
Bosky –1) consisting of or having an abundance of bushes, shrubs or trees 2) tipsy, on the point of being drunk
Celsitude – 1) elevated position, high rank; eminence 2) exalted character
Divagate – to wander…though not necessarily lost
Fank- a sheepfold; a walled or fenced pen for sheep
Flub-dub - nonsense
Gallimaufry – jumble, hodge-podge, a ridiculous medley
Gledge- a sidelong glance
Grinagog – foolishly grinning
Hornswoggle – hogwash; to cheat, deceive or hoax
Huff-nuff – a braggart, a conceited, would-be swashbuckler
Nipperkin – small amount
Oculogyric – rolling the eyeballs in their socket (all parents of teens know this maneuver all too well)
Thingummy – a. k.a, dingus, thingamabob, whatchamacallit, doo-hickey, lick-em ups, or wham whams. Capiche?
Tiggy – hedgehog, or, colloquially, “it” in a game
Whippersnapper –a young thing, full of speed and attitude (but really, no match for age and treachery)

Other words I wanted to use, but just couldn’t find a way to shoehorn them into the notes:
Brool – a deep, low humming sound; a murmur, as of a large crowd.
Brimborion – a thing of no value, trash
Fopdoodle –a fool, simpleton
Leam – n) a ray, flash , or gleam of light v) to shine, to gleam
Slubberdergullion- slovenly oaf
Wamble- 1) to move unsteadily; to stagger 2) (of the stomach) to churn queasily

(all definitions courtesy of Foyle's Philavery, 2007.  collected by Christopher Foyle)

Friday, August 19, 2011

D.A.Powell blurbs Paul Lisicky

Napa Faculty folks continue to be busy:  Check out  D.A.Powell's exquisite blurb of Paul Lisicky's soon-to-be-published book, Unbuilt Projects, posted on Paul's blog . One could hardly ask for a more well-crafted and poetic blurb. Here's a tease: "If there's a place for poetry and prose to co-habitate, it's here in Lisicky's world: under the snowy rooftops and inside the empty rooms of apartments built, unbuilt, and destroyed. "

It does everything a blurb should do: it shares the promise of the book; it creates a longing and desire to read it; it's beautful in and of itself. Neither the book nor the blurb should be missed!

 
Doug Powell, faculty NVWC 2011



  
Paul Lisicky, faculty NVWC 2008


Blog
Poetry.org

Paul Lisicky
Blog
Etruscan Press

D.A.Powell blurbs Paul Lisicky

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blog Tour: PlayAnon

Tooling around the interwebs, I often run into the blogs of great writers (crash, bang, etc- yeah, I'm a bit of a wacko driver, even virtually). I tend to slap them into the BlogRoller list and figure those who are curious will scope them out. Because that is what we do, isn't it? Putter and poke around, twiddle and fiddle away what should have been productive hours.

But I love traveling, discovering new places, new voices, stunning writing. And I don't think it is unproductive when I read someone's fabulous blog. It's inspirational, really; it prods me into stretching my own myself, my own writing. At the very least it counteracts the doom-and-gloom newspaper news, thus restoring my faith in humanity.

So I've decided to introduce the blogs as I discover them, so you'all will have a chance to twiddle away time in an equally awesome but, since I've done the research, a more efficient manner.

PlayAnon - Smart Spew, Straight Up is the subtitle and that pretty much says it right there. Catherine Kustanczy, a freelance journalist and broadcaster (currently back in Toronto, but recently nee NYC and missing it very much), blogs about all the usual things that strike one's fancy, like Ai Wei Wei's Zodiac Heads sculpture or attending the Colbert Report taping and letting her Hobbit Flag fly or an update on the Toronto Zombie Walk.  But she also posts insightful interviews of theater and music folks and thoughtful reviews of plays, music, books, you name it. She's a "Journalist, Broadcaster, Writer, Thinker, Dancer, Prancer, Chancer, Vixen (sometimes)"  as she says on her profile and has many radio spots to her name, which you can find at her SoundCloud. I think you all should drop by sometime and check it out.

And hey, if you know of any great writing-based blogs, post them in Comments, er, BaconBits! I always enjoy having a destination when I amble around the Blogiverse.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Conference returned; update a bit late, but worth the wait (maybe?)

Daniel Alarcon, concentrating on one of his workshoppee's manuscript.
We were honored to be Daniel's first summer workshop
The first day is always about the naps and the laundry. And the second for processing all that went on. Words escape me in my toasted-brain state, so I"ll rely on this group of photos to tell some of the tales from the Napa Valley Writers Conference 2011. More photos in a bit!


Jack Leggett, past Director of the Iowa
Writers Workshop,
and co-founder of the NVWC
(along with David Evans),
enjoying the Mondavi winery. 
Novelists and poets: Adam Hazelett  chats with Lan Samantha Chang,
current Director of the Iowa Writers Workshop (foreground).
Background, poet Major Jackson and novelist Lois Leveen.



Angela Flournoy, Ayana Mathis, Michelle Huneven ~ 
watch for novels from each of these writers in the future. 




From left, unknown gentleman, Pat Perini, 
Eleanor Coppola,  Jack Leggett, past Director of NVWC
 and Andrea Bewick,  current Director of the NVWC
Conference Staff, Jeannie Kim-McPherson,
and Christy Pallella, with 
poet Aaron Di Franco
Sue Brown and Janet Constantino, Participantes Extrodinaire.





Thursday, July 21, 2011

Somehow It Seems Sufficient

Holy Toledo ~ The 2011 Napa Valley Writers Conference is about to start! Feels like I'm in the batter's box, waiting to get called to the plate.
Last few days have been all about prep: arranging classrooms, writing introductions, finding my suitcase, cleaning my dress-up outfits. Tucked into one of the side pockets of that suitcase, was a much creased piece of paper, notes scribbled all over it, with lines and arrows and exclamation marks*, and this poem from Major Jackson's inspiring craft-talk last year.

(I love how the whole poem rolls down the page, with the slow, intense weight of a running stream, pushed by the commas and colons, the only punctuation until the final period.)


Gravelly Run

I don't know somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever comings and goings is,
losing the self to the victory of
        stones and trees,
the bending of the sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine:

for it is not so much to know the self
as to know it as it is known
    by galaxy and cedar cone,
as if birth had never found it
and death could never end it:

the swamp's slow water comes
down Gravelly Run fanning the long
   stone-held algal
hair and narrowing roils between
the shoulders of the highway bridge:

holly grows on the banks in the woods there,
and the cedars' gothic-clustered
   spires could make
green religion in winter bones:

so I look and reflect, but the air's glass
jail seals each thing in its entity:

no use to make any philosophies here:
   I see no
god in the holly, hear no song from
the snowbroken weeds: Hegel is not the winter
yellow in the pines; the sunlight has never
heard of trees: surrendered self among
   unwelcome forms: stranger,
hoist your burdens, get on down the road.


                                  ~ A.R. Ammons


* and directions to the Martini House on the back

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parking Ticket Appeal

I am somewhat of a parking zone scofflaw, I admit that. I'll race onto campus, getting as close to my office as I can (because, yes, I'm running a tad late) by sliding into the 30-Minute Zone behind the Library. Then, when I go for coffee at the campus cafe, I'll re-park in something more legal. If I remember that is. Sometimes it can be an hour or two before that gob-smacking moment when I realize I've got to move my car before the Parking Demon slides a ticket under my wiper.  Mostly I make it, because the budget cuts are making for fewer and fewer Parking Demons. Sometimes I fail. And then I'm faced with whether to make an appeal or not. I mean, there's no denying that my car was in a 30-minute zone for 4 hours, but still one has to try, right? At least it delays the painful moment when I have to cough up the $45 for my space-cadet law-breaking ways. Plus I think a good story might persuade them to drop the fine. What do you think....will the explanation below get me off the hook?


"Although I had every intention of returning to my vehicle within the allotted time, I was held up by several extenuating factors. First of all, the meeting I was already late to had relocated to The CB Cafe; I had to scoot, flying like a mad Banshee down the steps leading from Darwin to CB's. I didn't trip, or fall or break my leg, but I think I was moving so fast I must have slipped into another dimension of the time/space continuum. Well, whatever it was, it was warped. At CB's, my  mates were chowing down on pesto-ciabattas and everything bagels, and gulping crazywild mugs of freeflowing coffee. It was a scene, I tell you, like that scene in the Outer Worlds bar in the Star Trek movie; loud, convivial, everyone wearing masks. I forgot all about my Blue Bomber Honda in the EarthZone. Captain Quigglesbottom finally marshaled us into the Return Capsule; we got back just in time for lunch. Only to find a ticket on my patient car. :-(  I ask, that considering the stress of this unusual experience, this ticket be dismissed."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Readings & Lectures ~ it must be July!

Join our internationally acclaimed faculty of poets and fiction writers for a series of public lectures and readings during the 31st Napa Valley Writers' Conference, which is hosted and sponsored by Napa Valley College.

The eight poets and fiction writers who serve as conference faculty are united by critical acclaim for their work. In fiction, Adam Haslett’s Union Atlantic has been called “the first great novel of the new century,” while Michelle Huneven’s novel Blame was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics’ Circle Award. Daniel Alarcón’s novel Lost City Radio prompted Granta magazine to name him one of America’s top young novelists, while Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, recently publishedAll is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, which National Public Radio called “a full and resonant story of the pains and perils, falsehoods and truths of trying to be an American artist . . . unforgettable.”

The poetry faculty includes Jane Hirshfield, whose collection After was shortlisted for England’s T.S. Eliot Prize and selected as one of the top books of 2006 by the Washington Post. D.A. Powell’Chronic and Major Jackson’s Leaving Saturn were both finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, while David St. John, author of nine volumes of poetry, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Study for the World’s Body: New and Selected Poems.

Morning and afternoon lectures on the art and craft of writing will be held at the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena. Evening readings are scheduled for various venues throughout the Napa Valley. The full schedule of readings and lectures is as follows:

Sunday, July 24
7:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet D. A. Powell and fiction writer Daniel Alarcón at the Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena
Monday, July 259 a.m.: Poetry lecture by Jane Hirshfield, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Adam Haslett, Upper Valley Campus
7:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet David St. John and fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang, Rubicon Estate, 1991 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford
Tuesday, July 269 a.m.: Poetry lecture by D.A. Powell, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Daniel Alarcón, Upper Valley Campus
7:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet Major Jackson and fiction writer Michelle Huneven, Robert Mondavi Winery, 7801 St. Helena Highway, Oakville
Wednesday, July 279 a.m.: Poetry lecture by David St. John, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Lan Samantha Chang, Upper Valley Campus
6:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet Jane Hirshfield and fiction writer Adam Haslett, Educational Center for the Performing Arts, Napa Valley College, 2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway (Highway 221), Napa
Thursday, July 289 a.m.: Poetry lecture by Major Jackson, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Michelle Huneven, Upper Valley Campus
Tickets
Admission to evening readings costs $10. Admission to the daytime lectures is $25 apiece, $90 for the four-lecture series in either poetry or fiction, or $175 for all eight lectures. Tickets for all public events may be purchased at the door by cash or check. Students with valid student IDs will be admitted free of charge to all lectures and evening readings, along with conference supporters and community housing hosts.

For more information about the conference and the reading and lecture series, visit napawritersconf.org or facebook.com/napawritersconference.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Applause for Jerry

Bravo for Governor Jerry Brown for recognizing a slap-dash hokey deal when he saw it and veto-ing the patched-together, inadequate budget yesterday. It's time for the Republican Obstructionists, who prefer to stick to principle in thier deck chairs even as the ship sinks, to man-up, woman-up, grow-up! for Pete's sake and get real about our finances. Those R.O legislators don't have a clue: people really do want parks, repaired streets, access to health services (senior care centers, child care centers, mental health support) and they see the need to fund them. The Obstructionists don't want to take the extension of taxes measure to a ballot initative because they know they'd lose. If they were confident that their principles were sane and correct, they should have no problem letting the people decide the fate of extending taxes. But they aren't, so they won't.

If the State were a family swimming in debt and heading into foreclosure, the Repubicans would be the spouse who refuses to get a job because it goes against his/her principles: I ain't working for the Man! or No way I'm getting up at 6 a.m, it isn't in my nature or I'm waiting for a call back, don't hassle me.   As the family hunts in the couch for quarters to buy hot dogs, the spouse shouts, "Stop spending money!" But there comes a point when spending less is meaningless, like when you have no money to spend at all. If my spouse acted like an R.O., he/she would be out of the house and camping down at the river where he/she belonged, with the rest of the can't-see-beyond-my-own-frigging-nose folks.

So, isn't it time we took a page from Wisconsin and recall those Republicans who have signed that Pledge To Not Bring In Any Income? They aren't helping; they're adding to the problem and should be cleared out of the way. Perhaps they don't go to parks for recreation (maybe they have their own personal park surrounding their nice house?) or drive on roads (who needs roads when they have a private jet?) or don't understand why ordinary people don't go to the doctor anymore (why worry about other's medical predicaments, when their own health care costs are covered so handily by taxpayer dollars).

Yea-yah, that's right. Those R.O. Legislators use taxpayer dollars to pay for their full-benefits health insurance, but they are only too willing and happy to cut any programs that provide health services to the rest of us. Go figure. If those R. Obstructionist Legislators are so cut-happy, they should start looking at their own benefit packages. Start to live like the rest of us, paying full price for bad insurance, praying we don't get sick and trying to fit in a stay-cation or two to the nearest park to relieve the stress.

One that's open, that is.

But don't let me get started on the disaster of closing the State parks. Oy! we'd be here all night.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Bloomsday

Took a break from Conference work today, to celebrate Bloomsday, not so much with kidneys for breakfast or a pint ( I was blue mouldy for the want of that pint. Declare to God I could hear it hit the pit of my stomach with a click.) - as those days of organ meats and Guinness stout are past (for the most part) -but to dip into my ragged copy of "Ulysses," ponder, free-associate, get punny. Other folks around the world are also celebrating June 16th (the day in 1904 that the novel takes place),with pub crawls, staged readings of the book, and these folks at Bloomsday Burst, who are tweetcasting the 600+ page novel.

Now that I gotta see...hear...receive? to believe.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On a Cold Summer Night, "Silver Sparrow"

I've been watching* Tayari Jones, following her blog and writing, for a while now. She's been turning up in all sorts of places, writing a popular blog on She Writes, being profiled in the MayJune 2011 issue of P&W( though that's not online, only in print - dang), winning awards here and there.   Jones, a Professor in the Rutgers MFA Program,  has wonderfully elastic prose and writes intriguing stories.

Her third novel, "Silver Sparrow," has just been released and I'm proud to say I scooted right down to Copperfield's Books (my Indie) to snap up a first edition.Yes indeedy.

Links to more legible version
Now here's the next fab thing: she'll be at a  Rumpus Room Reading event, namely, Cold Summer Nights, on June 13th,  in San Francisco. That's next Monday, folks. SF in June, brrrr! definitely a cold summer night, even in normal times. But what better way to warm up than hunkered down at the Make Out Room, with Tayari Jones, Camille Dungy, Tamin Answary and a host of others in a thick peasoup of fine words. So if you're in the neighborhood, go. And if you're not in the neighborhood, go anyway!

As a bit of a tease, here are the first few sentences from "Silver Sparrow" -
"My father, James Withespoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother. In 1968, she was working at the gift-wrap counter at Davisons's downtown when my father asked her to wrap the carving knife he had bought his wife for their wedding anniversary. Mother said she knew that something wasn't right between a man and a woman when the gift was a blade."

Love the way she so succinctly gives us the time, the place, the situation, the conflict and a knife in three sentences. And makes it look so easy. Whoooeee!

(But of course, there's a Napa Valley Writers Conference connection: She studied in the Arizona State University MFA Program, working with Ron Carlson, one of our highly esteemed and more frequent faculty.)

* hey, not in a creepy way! interested-in-an-up-and-coming-writer way!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

For the Love of Sniddle, Moff and Cheewink

                                            

Foyle's Philavery - Christopher Foyle
 
Perhaps you've discovered this book already and I am but late to the party, but it's a treasure-trove for any word freak. Christophor Foyle, over his years at Foyle's Bookstore in London, England, has collected unusual, quirky, little-known and infrequently used words, (sniddle, moff, cheewink, slubberdegullian, to name but a few) and offers them to us as a gift of splendacious fabulousity.  I could fill the page with all the words that delight me, so I'll try to restrain myself with these few - for now.

sniddle:  "1. coarse grass, rushed or sedge 2. stubble" (pg 195) As in: "My, what's that adorning your jaw, dear Rhett; is it the new fashion, then? Come closer, let me run my hands over your lovely, grey-flecked sniddle."

moff:  "a silk fabric from the Caucasus" (pg 139)  "The toff doffs his moff bowler in your general direction."

sluberdegullion - "a mean, slovenly oaf " (pg 195) .... need a great password? nickname for a grumpy, less-than-tidy cat? 

cheewink - a wonderful, alternate name for towhees, those ground-loving, long-tailed members of the finch family, Piplilo erythrophthalmus (aka ground robin). They have a high-pitched, single-note call, like chink! ... then a few seconds ... chink! used to establish territory and communicate.  If you have several nearby (as we do) and they start calling back and forth, it's like someone tuning a set of vibraphones of very narrow range. Cheewink is a such a better name for them, onomatopoetically speaking.  (pg 40)

The best news? There's already a second collection: "Foyle's Further Philavery." Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kept Awake by Literature

Like most writers these days, I have a day job. And by day, I mean it starts at 8 a.m. Not horrendous, but a daily challenge for a night owl like myself. I work at it. I use a blue light when I first wake up, hoping that it will rouse the bleary brain; I try to exercise vigorously, so the physical unit has an excuse to need sleep; I limit caffeine in the afternoon and double down on the Sleepytime tea.  Sometimes all this works, sometimes even for several weeks in a row. My undoing, though, is when I take literature to bed.

Here are three of the latest culprits that have cut into my morning efficiency and effectiveness at the workplace.


Union Atlantic, by Adam Haslett.
Good Lord, what a story, such a cast of characters! Haslett presents the world of Wall Street and high finance to us for what it is: characters of odd moral character controlled by one of most basic motivators of all, greed. What appeared to me as a story too complex, too technical, too convoluted to tackle, instead became a Shakespearean tale, comprehensible to all. And not all that fictional, as we have  come to find out.

Can't wait to delve into his book of short stories, "You Are Not A Stranger Here." It's on the bedside table, just begging to deprive me of honest sleep.





The Help – Kathryn Stockett.
So many people told me about this book that I had to read it. One of those recommenders simply pressed it into my hands saying, "Here, just read it. Then we'll talk." And so it happened.

Well, I found the story completely engrossing and compelling. Though I wasn't of the place, I am of the times; the book rang absolutely true for me.  Stockett sets her novel in 1962, in Jackson, Mississippi, during the birthing pangs of what we all hoped would be a new era. Like all births, it was very rarely pretty.

The story is told from the points of view of three protagonists: a recently-graduated white journalist, Skeeter, just returned to her home town, and two black maids, Abileen and Minny, whom she enlists in her project, writing a book that will reveal the maids' true reality. I was terrified for the maids most of the time and irritated with Skeeter for so blithely assuming everything would be fine since she, white and privileged, was involved. Slowly, Skeeter begins to understand the real risks these women take in telling their stories.

While much has been discussed in reviews and the book-blogosphere about Stockett's rendering of the maid's dialect in the book, I found her ability to capture their vernacular impressive. And I found that it located this story in its era. I do think Stockett could have also rendered the white Southerner's vernacular and voice more accurately, which I think would have enriched the book and balanced the treatment of the voices. But I'm willing to listen to opinions of others.

Meanwhile, it kept me up way after hours, leaving me to stumble into work bleary-eyed and late every day for a  week.

Blame, by Michelle Huneven – another compelling story, tautly written, that kept me up way past my bedtime. A cautionary tale from the get -go: a woman is convicted for a double murder committed during an alcoholic blackout.  The enduring consequences are well captured, as Patsy's life is forever molded by the chain of events. Huneven's prose is sinuous and flexible, ranging from the tenseness of prison life to the lyrical beauty of landscape and oceanscape, a beauty too often ignored even by those free from prison bars. There is a beacon that shines below the text of this book, much as there is in our own lives, a beacon and a beauty just waiting to be acknowledged.

Full disclosure: both Adam Haslett and Michelle Huneven will be faculty at the Napa Valley Writers Conference this summer. Those participants are so darn lucky!

Monday, May 9, 2011

About a Word, About Paul

Here is a very cool literary site you simply have to check out: aboutaword, which I discovered because I love to visit Paul Lisicky's fine blog, The Mystery Beast. Paul is one of the featured writers at aboutaword, where he talks about alligators and desire and his just-published new novel,  "The Burning House."

Paul is also out on tour, so if he's in your neighborhood, go! And tell him I sent you. Then maybe he'll kickback a copy to me. So I can review it, yeah, that's the ticket, review it, not just indulge in reading it.

(kidding!) That book will be in my bookstack sooner than Paul can whistle Ned home, or Dixie, for that matter.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hike and Write: Plein Air Writing

The falls in full tilt boogie in
very early spring. 
Docent training, hiking every Sunday from the end of February until mid-April around the Fairfield Osborn Preserve, had become part of my routine, a high point of the week. I loved being under the trees, along the creek, skirting the marsh, looking and listening, learning to identify creatures and plants, feeling welcomed by the world. When training came to an end, I knew I'd have to find a way to continue getting my nature-fix.  I'd heard the calls of the Virginia rails, but I hadn't yet seen them. And the weather was finally starting to get better - no more slogging around in the rain and cold.  Plus I knew I'd bulk up again without that weekly straight-up, straight-down-the-hill hike.

So I concocted a plan, a plan that combined my two desires: lead hikes for writers! Thus, the workshop described below was conceived. If you are in the area, come on up the mountain and join us. If you aren't, well, then, guess you'll just have to wait for the blogposts.

Workshop: Plein Air Writing: Combine your love of the outdoors and your way with words while exploring the varied terrains and habitats of the Fairfield Osborn Preserve located on the flanks of Sonoma Mountain.  Join Lakin Khan, local essayist and writer, on a Sunday ramble, pausing frequently to observe and take field notes. Later, we'll use these notes as a basis for essays rooted in nature, writing on site at the Education Center, and continuing at home if you wish. 

This is an ongoing series of six Sundays beginning April 10th (skipping Easter) until May 25th. Meet at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve (link to directions below) at 10:30 a.m.; we’ll walk and write until approximately 2:30 p.m. Wear sturdy shoes, brimmed hat and sunscreen; bring a water canteen, bag lunch,  journal and writing implements.  Layered clothing highly recommended. $15 a session includes a donation to the Preserve. Four or more sessions, $50.

To enroll, contact Lakin at lakhan@sonic.net.

Directions to the Fairfield Osborn Preserve, which is at the end of Lichau Road in Penngrove. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reduction Sauce, or On the Way to Orion

From the Friends of Copeland Creek
website.
Once upon a time, a few years back, I wrote some essays about the interaction between our suburban/rural campus and nature, which were irregularly published in the campus newsletter. One of those essays was about Copeland Creek flooding the campus; the piece had some interesting observations, irrelevant asides and a mix of imagery. It was a bit chatty and close to 1,000 words long.

A little over a year ago, I dusted the piece off, tossed away most of the irrelevancies, reworked it to be more about rivers and streams in general and submitted it for inclusion in the  Voice of the River book, edited by Patti Trimble. It came in around 600 words.

Then, about six months ago, I trimmed it down drastically to a something I could read in three minutes for the Women on Writers Conference at Skyline College. Whole paragraphs were lopped off, the rest of the asides and most of the witty remarks were slashed.  I got it down to 450 words.  It was acquiring some polish, I thought.

Okay. Last month, I took that same small piece, took out all the really unnecessary words (particularly the witty remarks), added back in the location details, tightened up the structure, smoothed out the transitions. I spent hours grinding and buffing it down  to a condensed nugget of 350 words. This I submitted online to the "The Place Where You Live" feature on the Orion Magazine website in March.

I didn't get a response, so I chalked it up to experience and moved on. But then, last week, prompted by a teaser-message in my inbox for the new issue of Orion, I went by the site, read an article or two and clicked the link to TPWYL. And and lo and behold, there it is, under the red star marked Sonoma State University.

So if you enjoy writing about place, check it out, submit something. In time, the map will be filled with a billion red stars, each linked to a snippet about a particular location, which when read,will create an ever-expanding, aggregated collage of our planet, place by place, moment by moment. Now how cool is that?


Monday, April 25, 2011

Something about Spring and Squirrels

The Rumpus is running Paul Lisicky's poem "Squirrel"  as the POTD (Poem of the Day) for National Poetry Month. It's a charming prose-poem with fable-like qualities, that engages the imagination and plays with our fascination for worlds we can never know.  Check it out!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Little Red Writing Book

elizabeth in her writing blog, Fog City Writer, passed along this excellent idea: a dedicated journal to note what writing and/or writing business you do every day. A blog post, a query letter sent, two paragraphs on a story, a chapter revised. No comments, no kvetching, just a notation. Sometimes it might be only a brief note that you started editing that article before being interrupted by a bawling baby, or that, standing in the Express Lane while some Cro-magnon unloaded from his cart a month's worth of beer, franks-in-buns and pre-sliced cheese (just three things, see?), you suddenly realized that Billy in your latest narrative needs sagging jeans and a beer gut. Or that you had two hours of writing at the cafe. Hey, sometimes it happens.

This strikes me as infinitely better than those endless scrawled lists that I keep with circles and arrows and a few items blacked out: three blog posts (behind already!); submit, submit, submit; query Heyday Press, STAT!  These lists are for the most part wishful thinking (really pure fantasy) about what I think I could and/or should do. They're also a constant set-up for failure because that list is never, ever completed - or if it is, another item pops right up on it. I even know the deal, yet I still feel like I've done squat-all as I add yet another impossible task to the list.

In the world of carrot and stick, this falls under the carrot method; that is, it functions as positive reinforcement.  Look, I've done something! it tells you, unlike a list, where the crossed-out items disappear into the background, and you are left with all the things you didn't do staring right back at you.

For most of us with dayjobs, family and the need to walk at least around the block, time to write is limited or even nonexistent on any given day. Knowing that I've done at least something could be the morale booster to carry me through the week, to keep hacking at it until some time does open up. And as Susan Bono (of Tiny Lights fame) said in our conversation last Friday at the Press Table in Volpi's, it could also serve as an encouraging nag: well, have you done anything to note in your Little Red Writing Book? 

At least today I can say yes: I wrote this post.

And posted it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Skip the Lamb, Go to Ham

Even though it was way too hot yesterday to make Bikini Lamb Stew, I did use the oven to bake. Briefly, like for 20 minutes, after 6 p.m. Et voila, the result.

In the words of He Who Ate Most of It:
Oh, tender spears of asparagus, anointed with extra-virgin olive oil, nestled in a creamy bed of melted pepperjack cheese, topped provacatively with thin strips of prosciutto on a raft of flakey puff pastry:
How yummy you are!

In Like a Grumpy Lion, Out Like a Lamb in a Bikini

Such a month.

Overnight, we've gone from the very, very long tail-end of winter with its grey skies and cold drenching days shortened by gloom and storm, to the shock of lambent, gentle air, intense sun and daylight past 7 p.m. No one knows when to eat; no one knows what to eat. Stews and casseroles no longer fit the bill, but who has watermelon and cold cuts on hand?

Today I woke to sun: bright sun, oh-my-god sun, eyeball-aching sun. Bird song was bursting out everywhere - the endless variations of a mockingbird across the street, the buzzy calls of a Bewick's wren, the twittering chatter of robins, the chorus of finches as they mob the feeders. The plants have gone on high alert, ramping up the pollen machines, pushing out buds and new leaves in double-quick time after such a rocky start to spring. Oh, allergy meds - where the hell are you? Do not forsake me now.

The shock of such brilliance after the weeks and weeks of rain and wind, threatened mudslides and downed power lines, has stunned us. We love it, we relish it, but we are unprepared - we search for sunglasses and sandals, wonder if there's still sunscreen from last summer. I finally find the shorts and tee-shirts, all tucked into the bottom corners of the drawers, out of rotation, wrinkled and looking worse for the storage.

A walk downtown to purchase something lighter for dinner rubs it in - my socks are pointless, the light jacket senseless. In my spring attire, I am woefully over-dressed. The large digital read-out at the Bank of the West unequivocally states 80 degrees Fahrenheit and it's not yet noon.

We have leap-frogged over spring and gone straight to summer.  At least for now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Napa Faculty Notes

C.D.Wright at NVWC Picnic
talking with Jamie Figueroa and
unidentified participant
C.D.Wright, Poetry Faculty this past summer, just received the  National Book Critics Circle Award for her book, One With Others [a little book of her days].  We had the privilege of hearing her read several excerpts from it in the brand-spanking new Performing Arts Theater on the Main Campus in Napa for our 30th Anniversary celebration. That was a pretty spectacular night.

Catherine Thorpe wrote a nicely crafted blog post on C.D.Wright as the first entry on our new NVWC blog. Cruise by and then join us in the search for a spiffy blog name; all suggestions welcome! Okay, maybe, not all. 

A nice surprise in the latest Sunset magazine (April 2011) ~ a tender essay by Antonya Nelson about the extraordinary gardening skills of her treasured mother-in-law who passed away last May.  It doesn't seem to be linked online anywhere, but perhaps you are a lucky subscriber....or know how to use a library. Do check it out if you get the chance. It is accompanied by a lovely painting by Jade Boswell Webber (Toni's daughter) of her grandmother tending the earth.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Visit to The Fairfield Osborn Preserve

The long and winding road to the Fairfield Osborn Preserve seems a most appropriate approach to the 400-acre preserve spilling along the north-west slope of Sonoma Mountain. The fifteen minute drive starts flat, running through pastureland and fields, then quickly rises, past old farms and ranches, pastures on either side sprinkled with horses, cows and llamas. Each new curve on the climb reveals a different angle to the spectacular view of the valley floor spread out below, edged by rolling slopes and ridges and the round rumps of coastal hills. Quotidian and mundane tasks that narrow our vision fall away, deadlines fade as the wide vision, the big view dominates. The road winds through the last few miles of oak woodlands; we arrive at the gate of the Preserve already in a different frame of mind, prepped to breathe the oxygen-enriched air of a natural, not a manufactured, world.



The Fairfield Osborn Preserve was created from a gift of land from the Roth family in honor of Emily Roth’s father, Fairfield Osborn, and dedicated to both nature education and scientific research. Originally owned by The Nature Conservancy (still an easement neighbor), it has been owned and managed by the School of Science and Technology of Sonoma State University since 1994. To protect the land and the integrity of its research sites, the Preserve (fondly known as FOP) has limited public access. However, there are guided hikes and workshops offered on many Saturdays for anyone interested. A calendar of upcoming events and hikes can be found on the FOP FaceBook page


Additionally, the Sonoma State Preserve Program has developed an extensive and well-respected outdoor education program for elementary school children. Through guided hikes and information, the program introduces them to the flora and fauna of our environment, the wonder of the natural world and research and the scientific process itself.



Throughout my own guided tour, I spot odd things in odd places: white buckets, data loggers, wire-fence exclosures (to keep the critters out), little flags of different colors marking trees and bushes, trees and bushes with labels and monitoring devices—all evidence of the research going on here. FOP encompasses various forested and riparian terrains: oak and mixed evergreen forests, grasslands and chaparral, a perennial stream, a marsh, a small lake, a vernal pool, which provides a wide canvas for environmental and ecological research. The projects, some funded by the National Science Foundation and others by more local entities, revolve around issues such as Sudden Oak Death, the effect of grazing on native habitats and the relationship between insect pests and their natural bug enemies.

As I leave, the road winds and curls, leading me downslope; the valley sits below, muted under a misty haze. In the far distance is a slim line of blue: the ocean. This brief introduction has only whetted my appetitite; I'll return for more hiking excursions on the Preserve. I'm even considering becoming a docent so I can lead tours of my own  - and visit that much more often. 


 
( reposting for logistical reasons, from early fall, 2010)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

WOW

... stands for Women on Writing, an annual conference held at Skyline College in San Mateo. I went a few years ago with a bwf (best writing buddy) where (among other superb writers) I first heard and met Yiyun Li; her novel "The Vagrants" had just been published. Her reading was electrifying.

This year, Alison Luterman and Li Miao Lovett will share the podium ... and moi during the Open Reading at the end. I'll have 3 minutes to stun the literary world with my, ahem, brilliance. Can it be done? Well, probably not, since brilliance is required. However, I'll give it the old college try.  And I'll be meeting fabulous writers; you sure can't beat that for fun and grand stories.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More Napa News!

Get your keyboard running. Get out on the Interwebs. I'm looking for some writing ... so send it on its waaaay!...(apologies to Steppenwolf and to those who don't recognize the reference and who therefore think I'm losing the few marbles I still have.)

Anyway - Applications for the Napa Valley Writers Conference open March 1st, day after tomorrow ~ yessiree-bob!

I've lubed-up my eyeballs, cleared a space in my office for submissions and given the cat notice not to bug me; now I'm just waiting for apps to be lobbed over the transom. Well, can't lob over transom too well anymore, guess it's more like clicked through cyberspace.

Be that as it may: bring it on! 10 to 15 pages of fiction, your choice of author to work with....all the devine details to be found on the  Napa website. I'm awaiting and the cat is getting buggy.

Napa News!

A two'fer for Napa alumni:

Conference attendee (2009) Michael David Lukas' debut novel "The Oracle of Stamboul" was published this February by Harper Collins. Yahoooiee! Michael brought his first chapter to workshop; I'm sure those of us who had the privilege of reading it remember the opening scene: white and purple hoopoes flying over the town square as invading Russian troops gather for their assault on Constanta, a father racing to his wife's side as their daughter is born. A wonderful interweaving of plots and characters, of rising tension and a future unfolding.  Reviewers have called it "a gem of a first novel," "a delight," "enchanting."   This one is getting fast-tracked to the top of my reading-stack.

Plus, Reese Kwon, a Napa attenedee from that same summer, wrote a lively interview with Michael David Lukas that was published on The Rumpus.

Read and enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Imperfectly Perfect

The day began grey and thick with rain, a downpour so dense folks were actually driving slowly this morning, unable to see even with the windshield wipers going double-time. The ditches ran wild, water poured off the drowned campus lawn and over sidewalks in sheets. Now the storm has moved off to drench the inland valley, and the 99.9% full moon rides high and fuzzy in a cold silvery sky.

I've returned all jazzed and snazzy from a talk given by Zoe Fitzgerald Carter at the Writers Forum here in Petaluma about her book, "Imperfect Endings." An accomplished writer and journalist with an important and timely story to tell, she urged us to stick to our voice and honor our story. And cut, cut, cut all unnecessary digressions, anything that doesn't relate directly to the story we want to tell. Check out  her blog  and this story from the Washinton Post for all the details of her story.

It's a perfect ending, though to this ragged day, inspiration at its finest.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pie-Kudos

Heart on a Tart
Today, just for a lark, I went down to Copperfield's, our local indie-bookstore, to participate in their First Ever Pie-Ku Contest.  ¥es, indeedy, haiku about pie. Copperfield's had teamed up with the Petaluma Pie Company for this pre-Valentine's Day event. Prizes and and refreshments (pie, of course) were promised.

Well, it wasn't just a lark. Haven't been writing much lately. Felt like I had forgotten how.  So, I figured I'd at least go hang out with some writers who are writing, see if that wouldn't prime the pump. Not to mention the prospect of free pie. Excellent pie, too. The Petaluma Pie Company knows pie. Everyone in a 50-mile radius should be planning their pie-pilgrimage right now. Oh, heck, within 500 miles.

It was a nice gathering in the bookstore, some youngsters but mostly oldsters, maybe twenty folks in all. Maybe five and twenty. But we weren't baked in a pie. Just writing about pie. We scribbled for about half an hour on 3 x 5 cards, groaning and chortling over our work, some of us collaborating. I finished about 6 or so pie-kus.

One of them was just plain silly:

Pies will be square when
pigs fly, cows jump over moons,
my spoon becomes your dish.

another was goofy:

Rolling the elastic crust
Layering apples, butter
Dark mood skedaddles.

and this one took the, err, pie. That is, it was deemed Most Romantic.

One cold afternoon
kitchen steamy, the aftermath
of sweet love, pie, you.

So there's my pie-kudo for the week. I'd love to see your pie-kus!  Just post as a comment on Bacon Bits below.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Word for the Year


Rather than drawing up a bunch of Resolutions  for the New Year, poet Molly Fisk and her cadre of friends choose a Word for the Year, by-passing all the guilt and grief resolutions seem to bring. You might have heard her radio-essay on the subject on KVMR, up in Nevada City.

So, I've been thinking about this for, like, 20 freaking days, trying to come up with my word.

A Word for the Year should be carefully chosen, I figure, for it would have the ability to direct my attention and intention, in conscious and unconscious ways, towards something - maybe something productive and positive, if I choose well - or into a divergence, a distraction from what I'd like to accomplish. Definitely want to consider this with all due diligence; it could be a case of being careful what you wish for. (Another blogger, Busha Full of Grace, also contemplates this Word-for-the-Year thing and has some interesting points to make.)

"Walk" struck me as a good word, full of purpose and promise. Going for walks, considering my walk in life, two topics nagging the heck out of me already anyway. "Change" perhaps? Aaack, a trifle over-used and way too ambiguous. Molly and her compadres chose some good ones: precision, sing, ease, simplify, minimize, reach, pause. Good words, but taken. Somehow, I want my own word. I've considered: flying, fountain, wamble, expedition, truckin', abundance. None of them, (though I do love the idea of traveling and abundance sure would be handy) grab me.  If I keep this up, the year will be over before I've made a choice. Par for my course; decisions flummox me.

Little things, like deciding where to go for dinner (and then, oh horrors! what to have) or which jacket I should wear to work, can hold me up for hours. Sometimes, standing in decision-fugue mode in front of the coat hooks, I'll grab three jackets, stuff them in the car, and hope I'll figure something out before I get to work. If I'm lucky, it will start raining and my decision will be made for me. With luck, I snagged a raincoat. That shop of 31 Flavors? I just about short-circuited. The easy solution there was to pick a favorite, Jamoca Almond Fudge, which worked until the day they ran out of it. Then I stopped going.

Big things - I won't even get into the long, drawn-out dramas that major life decisions engender; suffice it to say there is a reason why my hair is thin and patchy. I'm usually holding out to the very, very last minute, muddling myself up by considering each and every option, all permutations of possibilities, the what-ifs and maybes, until the urgent necessity to make the decision overrides my reluctance to commit to a plan. Perhaps that is my word: commit.

Well, no. Commitment is one part of the process. But I've been committed to creating this book for year now. What I'm really interested in is completing the damn thing. Decisions are hard, committing is harder, but following through and completing something is hardest of all.  Let's say I figure out which jacket to wear. Returning home, I usually dump it on the nearest chair, never getting around to hanging it back up on the coat hook where it belongs. Meaning that, the next day, once I've finally made a decision to wear it (half an hour there), I then have to search for it (another 15 minutes). Late for work, again! I'm not famous for putting things back, completing a task, finishing up. Thousands of little projects are all over the house, in corners, in bags, in stacks, waiting patiently to be finished: bills to be paid; books to be read and reviewed, cushions to mend, curtains to hem; workshop plans created and submitted; blog posts, essays, novellas (3!), query letters to write.....so yep,  I think thats the word: completion!

and hey, I've finally completed this task. One down, 999 to go. 









Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1/11/11 at 11:11 pm - yes!

Napa Valley Writers Conference - Faculty posted!  Check it out!

1/11/11

I have had the privilege of working on retreat in Pt Reyes Station these past few days, putting together a book proposal that I will send out this weekend. I swear.

Today began chilly with high white fog cover, a day that called for a wood stove, or at least a lot of baking. By mid-afternoon, the air seemed polished, the chill overcoming mist, hardening it. The sun, sliding invisibly to the west behind the thick cover, nevertheless blushed the icy air a light pink over a pale arctic blue. I layered up in fleece, down vest and bits of cashmere here and there (gloves, long scarf) and walked down the slight slope to the library, admiring the briskness of the afternoon. And then a drop here, a drop there; by the time I returned my book and picked up another one, the afternoon had warmed up to rain, not a fierce rain, but still rain. Darkness settled in as I wended my way the two blocks to downtown, then to walk the two blocks of town and return, a warmer and wetter darkness than the brittle cold I had started out in.

And in the same unexpected manner, still in the first rosy blush of the year, 2011 has had its first sea change. ( I may be on retreat, but I'm not off the interwebs.) I am not an astute political pundit, much of what I think is knee-jerk liberalism which is why I avoid political commentary on this blog. But some things can't be ignored. Some things go beyond the political and begin to challenge the very core of what we think it means to be an American, what it means to have a democracy.

My heart goes out to Senator Gifford and to her family, and to the families of Judge John Roll and the others killed or injured in the Tucson shootings on Saturday. I can't help but feel we are at some sort of tipping point here.

This is what I think: The Republican leadership has a responsibility to be leaders, to model how democracy works, to be on better behavior than drunks at a honky-tonk. They need to be their better selves, even if they do represent drunks at a honky-tonk. They need to show that America is a country of debate not disparagement, of law and votes, not guns. And they need to leave the honky tonk in the honky tonk and act as elected officials - that is, adults, not bullies on the playground.

Nuff said. Back to regularly scheduled programming.