Saturday, December 27, 2008

Iowa Short Fiction Awards

Well, it's bittersweet. Once again, a semifinalist for the Iowa Awards. I know you are saying, bitch, you should be happy. Ten years writing and writing once we hit '09 and still no book published. What do I have to do? I have to write 15 Stories that will knock your socks off. Or just get lucky, I guess. Maybe it's something to do with the times. Oh well, I think I'd rather get a semifinalist letter than no letter at all. That's in the top 20 out of almost 400 people, according to the quit y'bitching, Ms. Genna. That collection is still out there looking for a home. It's called Stories I Heard When I Went Home for My Grandmother's Funeral. The stories in it all have some reference to Iowa. I thought it was pretty lucky to get picked as a semifinalist for the Iowa Prize because they don't look for Iowa stories. I have been shopping for a press that does Midwest stories, but they are few and far between.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Thank God, X-mas is over. I still want to to go to church, just to sing all the old hymns, clear those rusty pipes out. But hey, it's time to look forward. Can someone point me to a bookstore? I'm finished reading all my lit mags that I have on my shelf: Cimarron Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and, oh wait, I still have to read River Oak. The Cimarron issue started off a little slow, but then it grew on me. I'd have to say I enjoyed the poetry the most--lots of narrative stuff that I could appreciate. Toni Graham is the fiction editor there; she used to teach at USF, so I thought I'd check it out. The stories in there--let's see, I really liked "Funny Looking People" by Gemini Wahhaj--a story I thought my students at Hercules would like. "Gazelle" ended a little abruptly for me, and I love an abrupt ending. Oh, and I finished Opium 7. I love the graphics in that magazine. What's weird is that my name's in it and I keep forgetting that. I'm going to show it to my students as a possible idea for imitating some of the different layouts. We produce a high school lit mag called The Dynamite Factory, which sounds like an old school 70's name, but is really based on the fact that all of Hercules used to be a powder works company. We should have our website up and running soon for that class, too.
Okay, so writing. I think the best thing is to read what you want to be writing. By that I mean, if you're gearing up to write a novel, read novelists you admire. Someone gave me a copy of Water for Elephants, and I can't get past chapter 2. I wanted to read it, just for the fact that it's about circus people, but I couldn't get past the convention of old fart telling his life story. I remember a really good novel called Geek Love that does this much better. Read some Richard Yates. I heard a review of the movie Revolutionary Road on NPR that said it was an okay version of the book, but don't do what I did with Atonement and watch the movie first. I can't get through that book now, and I felt the movie was anticlimactic. The lit mag Water~Stone Review is just beautiful, inside and out--try that one. I have a few more pages of that left to read. So my two faves in L.M. This year are still The Iowa Review and Opium. They fit my sensibility. Of course, there's always McSweeney's and Missouri Review. If you're a short story writer or a poet or a creative nonfiction writer, you should be reading lit mags, period.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stories to get oneself fired

Finished the Mississsippi Review's magazine about Literary Magazines (Volume 36, Number 3) and found a great deal of the information in there to be useful to me as a short story writer. I also finished Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and loved, loved, loved it. His dark themes and his writing style are right up my alley. If you're a writer, order that lit mag; it'll be worth the investment. The editors who talk up in the magazine also recommend some new writers and I found them all disturbingly inspiring. I'm not a critic, just a writer and a reader--so order it for yourself and decide.

Well, it's vacation time--time to catch up on the writing and make some resolutions:
1. Get in better shape--the back problem is, for the most part, resolved, so it's time to work on the legs and the arms. They got a little flabby this year. Personally, though, I think it's pre-menopausal stuff, to be honest, because I stayed pretty active even with a bad back.
2. Well, it's time to start thinking about a novel. I have an idea for one--As Lewis Buzbee said to me once, "Don't write a novel unless you've got an idea for one." But what happens to me is I start out to write a novel and it ALWAYS turns into a short story. That may just be who I am.
3. Which, by the way, leads me to another resolution and that is to order a new copy of Lewis's book Steinbeck's Ghost and read it. I had just started it, took it to school to show off to my students, and it came up missing. An avid high school reader, perhaps? Anyway, I can't wait to get it again and read it.
4. Read some long fiction: I'm thinking Toni Morrison's new book Mercy sounds good. Any suggestions? I like to read books that I could also share with high school students, so nothing too obscure. It works best if it's something that will get published later on in paperback.
5. Read some short story collections: Ron Carlson, Charles D'Ambrosio? Any suggestions there? I read Haruki Mirakami's collection this past summer. How about a woman writer? Nona Casper's collection was also right up my alley (IoWa, IOwa, IOWA).
6. Write some short stories about my teaching experiences, if they won't get me fired. As always, thought, that might not be such a bad thing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New flash on-line

This is a story I wrote for Big Toe Review called "The Holiday Issue." Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Correction: The Mississippi Review / Literary Magazines

OOPS! The magazine is the Mississippi Review: A Journal of Contemporary Literature. The issue is called "Literary Magazines / Volume 36 / Number 3. I just got it and will let you know if it's useful for finding out about literary magazines. I want to know what the state of the art is. I send a work called "The Holiday Issue" to Big Toe Review and got accepted, so look for that piece of irreverent flash. More later, recovering from the flu.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Read about Literary Magazines in Missouri Review

Reading the Newpages blog and they had a great note on one of Missouri Review's literary mags--it's a magazine about literary magazines. They talk to editors about the state of the art in lit mags. I ordered my issue. I'll be curious to see what they say about issues of print vs. web. More and more, I'm turning to websites to publish because the wait time with print is so long. I love seeing my work in print, but one thing I've found--I've said this before--is that telling friends, students, coworkers they can find your work archived on-line is really rewarding, especially when the work you've gotten published is some of your finest. When I sent my story "Stories I heard when I went home for my grandmother's funeral" in to Storyglossia, I had no idea he'd nominate it for a Pushcart, but I did know that I liked it well enough to send it without any input from my writing group. There's a job posted for Northwestern College, which is in Orange City, Iowa, on that blog, too. I could go back there and teach creative writing. Orange City is an all Dutch town (or mostly). It really is a throwback to another time to go back there. Oh, I miss it all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Classic lit, Acting, and Unblocking

Well, it's 1:15 on a Sunday afternoon. My teenager's eighteenth birthday came and went yesterday. I've been reading the River Oak Review and finding it much more diggable as I went on. Loved the short story "Misfortune" by Lanner Tremont about a fortune teller substitute. Clever little flip to it. It felt like a story I could share with my creative writing students at HMHS. "Sky Full of Burdens" by Meg Moceri especially trips my trigger because of its reference to a fear of heights. I thought the dialogue in it was funny. I'm still reading it. I'm looking to read a few good novels between now and end of the school year. Probably Toni Morrison's Mercy. Did anyone go to see her talk in SF this weekend? I had to act in the school play--what fun! I realized that what I've been missing once again is activity. By that I mean, moving around and having fun. I'm finally getting over a back injury from a year ago, getting out and walking the new puppy, exercising, and thinking about what to write. The activity has to be fun, though. Just acting in a play, recalled all the memories of teaching theater at Richmond High School. Love those 11 YEARS. I miss it, but I know the amount of work that goes into being a theater teacher, which is why I decided to become a writer instead. I missed doing things on my own rather than always teaching others. And that moment in the spotlight Friday night made me realize that I'm teaching too much or else falling into the trap of quizzes and study guide questions again. I wanted to teach My Antonia, Farewell to Arms, Ethan Frome, and The Great Gatsby: 1870-1930 lit: in a new and interesting way and I started just assigning and moving on. YUK. So it's time to reasses. Monday, no quiz. Kids will have to draw what's missing in Huck Finn. They were joking, no pictures, Ms. Genna and I said, well, they're used to be. We talked for a long time about the language in Huck and what's redeemable in it, but Ilike to give them class time to read. I think they should draw or make a graphic comic or a play. It's been done, I know, but not by them. We'll see. As for my own writing, I keep debating about whether to write memoir or fiction or novel, and suddenly I decided I was giving myself a block. Why not do all three! I can always write memoir and keep a running story going--these stories about growing up in Iowa in a farming family of 10 kids are classic. I don't have to think about publication. I could also write stories as they occur. Still looking for that novel idea, but I think I need to be reading novels to be in that frame of mind.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taking a break

Well, I figure if the only writing I get done is this, at least I've gotten some writing done. I had to take a break from reading The Crucible essays and stories from my two creative writing classes. I'm reading my e-mail and regretting not being able to go to the FlatmanCrooked party. Couldn't find a babysitter--actually Jacklyn's 10, but still gotta have that older person there to look after her. Enjoying the new puppy every day--he's sweet and has learned how to sit up instantly for a treat--he looks like a thick little prairie dog! AWWWW. Got a super-fast rejection from Memoir(and)--one day, and wondered if they even read my stuff. It was super-short, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. I think I'll order a copy of that mag, though, because it looks interesting. I got a copy of River Oak in the mail and thought it was a little on the quaint side, but still have to look through it to get a better perspective. I read pretty much all of Water-Stone Review and was impressed by the quality of the work. Recently finished Opium's latest mag and had mixed feelings on the stories. I wanted more depth. The writing is good, but feels trendy at times without substance. I did like the writerly quotes in there. Lewis Buzbee gave me one and then he submitted one. I hope this magazine stays on top with its quirky humor and strange angles of life. So, I recommend sending for a few samples of magazines if you're wondering where to submit. See if they're your cup of tea. Sometimes I find that a magazine has all "names" in it, with very few new people and I think, nope, not yet. Gotta' wait til I get a book published (if this every happens). I went through a long period where I sent no manuscript out. Just tired of those finalist/semifinalist letters and thought maybe I needed to change something. Now, I'm in a down period because of lack of time. Dont' think I'm not thinking right now, that I could be writing instead of this, but this is a nice way to clear the deck.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November already

I can see that FACEbook has taken over the blogging territory. Does anybody blog anymore? I see blogs attached to lit mags. The one on New Pages is pretty good. Storyglossia's editor used to have more entries, but fewer now, so I think everyone's over to Facebook format. My concern is that someone will post something inappropriate on my facebook account. Writing world for me is non-existent right now. Too much to do--grade essays, grade, grade, grade. I can see where teaching interferes with my creative process. I'm curious how people who are teachers deal with losing the impetus to write when they are all the time working on lessons, evaluating, and don't forget--going home and taking care of kids and pets. McSweeney's and the new FlatmanCrooked are having a shindig in San Francisco tonight. Look it up on the web and think about going. I'm going to try to make it over there. I did write some experimental type lyric essays, but need the time to sit down and edit them. I don't think it's about being blocked--I think it's about being overextended.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This Blog

I am doing the following: dealing with pets, grading Scarlet Letter short answers (not bad), feeling woeful over not being asked to read at Litquake by Tim Foley for the magazine Farallon Review. Long story, but do not feel like going into it. Suffice it to say, he has according to him--"not done anything wrong." A version which I strongly disagree with. According to Litquake people--they leave it in the hands of the cocurators to invite who they want. They encouraged me to get to know other editors in the area and submit. Therefore, I am moving past it. On a personal note, I am loving my creative writing class. Ken Rodgers came by and taught a lesson on imagery and the kids, as always, loved it. Yeah, Ken. Thanks for the respect and commitment. You're a friendly face at a time when I needed to see one. As for writing--I gave myself permission not to write until my back feels better. I'm going to see a specialist at the end of the month--it's beyond Tylenol's help. Not doing too bad today, though. Hi, Jean Womack. I got your comments--your paintings of Yosemite are dynamite. I want to buy one. Are they expensive?

Sign up for my fiction class if you are a new time writer or experienced or even if you have taken the class before. I'll be mixing in new stuff with the old, so it won't be tired. This class is about working on your fiction. I do have novelists that take the class and work on chapters. That's okay with me. I am primarily a short story writer, but study the novel and teach it.

We had a lot of fun the last time I taught the Flash Fiction class, so join in and see what creative ideas you can come up with. The short short is an art form that deserves a second look.

More later.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Online Journal

I have a few minutes and then it will be time to lie down with Jackey on her bed--read a little of The Longest Winter to her and then go to sleep. I didn't have time to read Period 1's essays about a turning point in their lives, although they are easy and enjoyable to read. I just need a moment to cleanse the palate of my mind. Today, I did not read a book. The students didn't read--it was picture day, which took almost all period. We did discuss the use of the hyphen, a rule I think will stand them in good stead. I could be reading one essay right now. My plate is too full, though. I need a break. Tomorrow night is my creativity class, so that'll be a refreshing break from American Literature. We are going to generate stories and a mind map. Hmmm. Stealing this idea from someone. In October, my friend Lewis Buzbee's book Steinbeck's Ghost is coming out. He's reading in the city somewhere...Oct. 9th I think at a bookstore. I'm looking forward to this book. All right all. Goodnight.

Monday, September 8, 2008

To sleep or not to sleep

Ayee, too much work. Reading the study guides for The Scarlet Letter that I thought I did not assign this summer. In class I forgot where the story takes place and got all owly with students when they called me on it. Boston or Salem? Oy. Boston, but Hawthorne lived in Salem--what a stupid trivia question. This absent-mindedness I am attributing to 1) my dad's side of the family--his undiagnosed dyslexia--I've got it when it comes to remembering people's names, street numbers, and numbers, period. Oh, you're saying, everyone has that. No!!! Not like me. I could forgot the name of a former best friend. It is like a huge hollow space in my head and then suddenly, three days later it pops into my mind. I could memorize a scene from Macbeth and then suddenly four whole sentences will be gone. I reverse order of words all the time. It's embarrassing to run into your former babysitter with the unusual name that you know starts with a V and not be able to remember that his name is V---I can't remember now--Ventura! I got it. It gets worse when I haven't had enough sleep. I don't get enough sleep when my back is acting up, which it did this weekend. MISERAble. I'm trying not to complain out loud, though. So I'll just do it in writing. What does this mean for my writing, though? I have to clear the air, get rid of the frustration with pain, find a quiet and pain-free space and a line that keeps repeating itself inside my mind--a line that wants to be a story or a poem. A sentence that someone uttered, a moment that sticks. What is it? I can remember those. I remember standing outside the French doors of our newly remodeled basement and not speaking to my husband. I remember seconds and flashes of moments, but not names. You could tell me the name and the number of the street and two, no one, second later, I will say where? This isn't Alzheimers, it's for life. Ahh, the brain. I hear exercise is good for it, so maybe I'll go work out, or else go lie down.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


So, I was thinking and thinking about writing this morning. I wondered how to make this blog useful to both myself and others. I think maybe clients might read it; teachers from my school; a few old friends here and there; some family members might read it (that'd be rare, but they are sure to talk about it to each other rather than to me!). I think writing in seclusion can be frustrating, yet if you don't do the alone time, nothing gets done. I like to go for a walk, then write. I like to get on a schedule. I like to teach. I like to hang out with my kids and / or my husband. BALANCE is essential. The other day my nine year old went somewhere with a friend and I was at a loss for what to do when I didn't have to squeeze writing in. That was a signal to me--I could get that empty nest syndrome when she's gone, even though I have plenty to keep me busy. What I need to do, however, is write. So that's what I'm going to do: make a list of stories that need work, pick one, and revise. I was looking at a story this morning that I thought was finished, but that I wasn't quite happy with. I'd been sending it out, getting rejections, but still that feeling--I don't like it as much as other stories I've written. Having left it alone for a long time, rereading it, I realized the language was a little listy, a little clunky. I wanted to throw it away, but Ilove the ending of it (I'm not saying which story). So I realized that I need to go at it with a pen and my vocal chords. Read it out loud. I had read it aloud when I wrote it, but now with time and distance, I can hear it better. So I'm going to go into my new writing studio and read it out loud. CU LTR

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Places you can't find my work: the fifth corner of the Monopoly board game, the Missouri Review, the New Yorker, on the side of a bus, tatooed on my tooth, the Kenyon Review, inside the dynamite factory, Alaska Quarterly Review, written on a roll of duct tape, oh stop. You get the point.

Which is not say I haven't tried. Well, I haven't tried the New Yorker, and I haven't sent anything to the Kenyon Review for a long time. But the only way to find out if someone will or won't publish your work is to send it to them.

On talking to people who've never been published. It ain't that easy. Send to smaller magazines first. Go on-line, read magazines on-line that have received notoriety and success in the on-line market: Storyglossia, Wheelhouse, Story South, Pindeldyboz...(Stop putting these websites down; we're talking short story writers here, not novelists, although lots of novelists have been published on-line). There's many many others. Read that stuff! It's great. A few good writers you can read on-line: Laurie Seidler, Neil Crabtree, Stephanie Dickinson, Steve Almond, Tobias Wolff. Those are not in any particular order. See the writers.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back to Work

I'm taking the RIAP conference on teaching reading and writing and am overwhelmed with work, so the blog is off the map right now.

Just want to mention my Creativity Jolt! class at the writing salon. It runs five weeks and is starting August 20th. Sign up! You'll love it. It's just the thing you need if you want a place to write without judgment.

To all friends who are waiting for me to read their work--sorry, but I'll get to it. You know I'm good for it.

I'll be back this weekend.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Class: Creativity Jolt!

I've created a new class to teach at the Writing Salon in Berkeley. It's for those of us who need to be energized with our writing. It runs five Wednesday evenings, starting August 20th through September17th. We'll be doing timed writing exercises and then sharing our writing in a nonjudgmental atmosphere, looking for that germ of an idea for a story or a chapter. Often in a writing class, it's about criticism and revision, and there's a valid place for that, but I need to get excited about the idea. So we'll be doing writing exercises around creating story, character, setting...the craft elements of writing, but we'll try different techniques for getting into the writing. I want to make writing fun again--not work. You can do that at home. In addition to writing and sharing, everyone will be given a manuscript consult on one work from the class, so you'll still get that individualized attention. I think I'm more excited to teach the class than you will be to take it. Feel free to e-mail me (ask Jane for my e-mail via or comment or ask questions about the class via this blog. I still have openings for the flash fiction class that starts Saturday, August 2nd from 10-4.

As for my own writing, I'm stoked to go to the FC2 Writer's Edge Convention. We'll be studying fairy tales, creating a collaborative novel, and looking at experimental combinations of mixed media (film, writing, art). I'm so looking forward to this trip. I love the ten hour drive--I'll have to read the work for Lance Olsen's class on the way up, though. I've been drywalling my new writing studio in the back yard for about three weeks and it's finally done, so when we get home, I'll have to start writing something for real. I did write a little something called "In the Shed" with the help of my own writing coach, but it needs revision.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Writing Process

Lately, I've been paying attention to the fact that when I'm on the computer in the morning and researching venues to send my work to, I get a very businessy mind that is hard to shake. I get like this anxiety and a sort of crunchy feeling inside after I've been at it a while. I guess sending my work out gets a little ouchy sometimes. Trying to figure out where to send work and who will accept it leaves me a little empty. There's trendy, experimental, voicy kind of magazines (read contemporary) and then there's the more traditional mags. There's on-line shorter types of magazines that seem to want edgy flash pieces that sometimes read like poetry rather than story. And there's contests to consider. Whew! So I have to figure out what category my work falls into; then I have to decide whether to read a little of the stuff on the website, if it's offered. I have to decide if I personally like the name of the magazine. I also have to decide whether to buy an advance copy or order one when I submit, or simply to submit blind. (I don't recommend doing too much of that last one.) There really is no such thing as a clearly blind submission. When I'm submitting, I look at, again, the title, the editors, the blog--if they have one, sample selections (Yeah to those mags that do have these) and as often as I can, the magazine itself. I get the magazine by entering a contest that gives you a sample copy. I send for a sample copy if I like all of the above, or if the editor has given me a rejection with a nice note. Or I subscribe, if I really like the stuff I've seen inside. I especially subscribe to magazines that publish my work. If a magazine seems to fit my personal profile of writing, I subscribe to that mag. I actually don't subscribe to many magazines lately, but I like reading magazines more than books. So, I guess this is a blog about subscribing to magazines and about publication. Where I was really headed was to write about how to get out of business head and write stories. Yesterday I went swimming at the public swim pool for a while, read a little Lydia Davis, and then felt the urge to write, so I pulled out my journal and wrote a few pages. Voila, writing block broken. I urge you to get away from your computer and publishing. Go read, exercise, then write. These are not new ideas. Read Jane Anne Staw's book Unblocked. That'll help. Reread The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 9th; Post Fourth of July

Let's take care of business first:

Writing Salon /
Fiction Class: July 23rd, Wednesday nights, 9 weeks, 7-9:30
Flash Fiction Seminar: August 2nd, Saturday, 10-4

I listened to Chiasmus Press's (ooh 3 s's, ooh 2 s's) podcast, and I have to say boring promo for their press. It took 15 minutes for them to start talking and they didn't really get into what the Press's books were about. They do have a book contest for new, avant garde, experimental, edgy stuff: undoing the novel. I don't think my work is out there enough for them, but when I go to FC2's innovative fiction workshop, I'll take a look at their authors--Chiasmus is linked to Lydia Yuknavitch and others, so they'll be there. My personal concern is that innovative might just really be a catch phrase lately (and this is not in connection to FC2's or Chiasmus Press books) for anything dealing with sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, or maybe something that doesn't have a story line. Or maybe I'm just the one who plays it safe all the time. So I'm tired of my own blog and feeling like I should voice an opinion about something once in a while. I don't have all the time in the world to listen to podcasts, though. At the same time, I have a hard time sitting down with mainstream literary novels these days. I think I'm somewhere in between.

Haven't been any place lately--drywalling our new shed in the back yard so I can have a writing studio. Hanging wash on the line, so I can utilize the power of the sun rather than the dryer. Two jobs I love, in a way. Dry walling is satisfying--putting the mud on the wall, scraping it even. It's the sanding part I hate--dusty and time-consuming. The part I hate about laundry is putting the clothes away. Isn't it weird that we have parts of jobs we like and parts we hate. I don't mind loading the dishwasher; I hate unloading. I don't mind painting my daughter's room; I like moving furniture around; I hate cleaning the room, though. I don't mind blogging; but I hate editing my own blogs. I don't mind editing other people's work, but I always hate it when I feel like a student/client isn't really going to revise. Well, hate's a strong word.

I was reading the Emerging Writer's Network blog and thinking about how I could make my blog more useful, interesting, perhaps valuable, and crap I couldn't come up with anything except being myself. Which makes me think of something else. When I moved out to California, I found out that Californians think the word "crap" is a dirty word. I never heard that before. We said it in school and no one ever corrected me, but out here, my students say, "Ms. Gennna, ooh you said crap." Well, maybe it's just because a teacher is using it. Well, that's silly.

I saw the fireworks in Pinole with my younger daughter--beautiful and oohful. Back in Iowa, if you crossed the state line into SD, you could buy fireworks, and I miss being a kid and watching my dad and uncles get that big box out of trunk of the car at dusk and setting them off at night at my Grandma and Grandpa Skinner's house. Now that's what Independence Day is really about!
Go to Disneyland and watch their fireworks display and see if you don't get all choked up, no matter how much propoganda and brainwashing you think is in a Disney movie.

Well, someone once told me I was a fence rider, and I think that's true. You can see a lot of things while sitting on a fence, but some things I'm not so fencey about. Injustice, poverty, cruelty, waste, racism. I mean it's the important things.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Flash Fiction Class

The flash fiction class is August 2nd. Whew! I thought I did a scheduling snafu, but I didn't. I'm starting the fiction class on July 23rd, Wednesday night and the flash is on a Saturday. I go up to the FC2 conference on the weekend of July 25th - 27th.

Books I'm reading: Still working on Miranda July and Lydia Davis. I read a couple of the shorter selections of Davis's out loud in the car to my husband and when I stopped, my nine year old said, "Keep going." So her comedic wryness can hold the interest of a nine year old girl. Hmmm.

If you're a writer, check out the Emerging Writer's Network. Got to go--do some writing for real.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Flash Fiction

I forgot to mention in an earlier post that I will also be teaching a flash fiction class at the Writing Salon. In this class, we'll be studying some classic short-shorts by Hemingway, Carver, Kate Chopin, among others. These will fall under the heading of sudden fiction because they're longer than what some think of as pure flash. Then we'll be studying some current flash fiction from various places I've been reading. At the same time, we'll try timed writing exercises and creative ways to write flash. This class is all day on a Saturday at the Berkeley salon (Strawberry Creek business park). I believe it's on July 23rd, but check the website: Or call Jane, the owner/manager with questions. We'll try writing short stories that are 1,000 words, 750 words, 500 words, and possibly even shorter. But we won't sacrifice story for length. Check it out.

Quick Reads Worth Looking For

Read Laurie Seidler's short story "Falling" in Small Spiral Notebook. It deserves more than one read-through. I was reading VerbSap's summer issue and saw her link to the story and I agreed with another editor. It's the kind of story that makes you pause. Very skillful blending of imagery: the moon, the surf, the narrator's situation. Poetic.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fiction Class at the Writing Salon

I'll be teaching a fiction class at the Writing Salon again this summer. It starts on July 23rd and runs for nine weeks. That's on Wednesday nights from 7-9:30. If you haven't taken a class at the salon before, it's got a great atmosphere for writing. It's in the Strawberry Creek business park; there's a little grass park right there and you can hear the creek bubbling by. Jane has a wonderful studio for writers there that is quite conducive to inspiring people to write. If you've taken the class before, but wish you could take it again, don't hesitate. I think you'll learn something new. I like to use different readings to study, but the craft issues are always important to look at. I'm also into using new writing exercises and new essays by people who really know what they're doing. We look at the arc of story, plot, character, what the character wants and desires, setting and how it affects story, point of view and voice, theme, metaphor in story, and much more. You'll get a chance to write and workshop at least two full-length stories for class. When I graduated from the masters program at USF, I continued to take classes through the Writing Salon so I could stay inspired and continue to grow as a writer, and I was never disappointed. So I think my class is beneficial to both new and experienced writers. A rough draft is always a rough draft, so don't feel intimidated--just write.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Watchword Press's shindig

Wow, the art at Watchword Press's thing last night was pretty amazing. And the performance pieces were really quite moving: some funny, some disturbing in a good way (whatever that means). I had a chance to chat with the author whose work the installations and dramatics were based upon--Britta J. Astin. Each day for a year she typed little "stories" or as she said, not wanting to call them anything, on little notecards with an old-style typewriter. One act interpreting her work used typewriters as a main prop and when they brought out the tan suitcases it brought back fond memories for me of my parents' old typewriter I used to play with growing up. I am old enough to have had to learn how to type on a typewriter, how to erase with a whiteout reel or tape, and how to retype a whole page when you really screw up. I was the second fastest typer in my high school...Laurie Schlueter being the fastest. She was an adopted Asian girl, the only Asian girl in our all-white high school back in Iowa. You see the floodgates that typewriter image opened up for me. Speaking of floods--my parents farm is not underwater, it's on the other side of the state, but their bottom is, as always, flooded. I don't feel so bad about it--dad sold the bottom and kept the fishing rights to the river, which just means that, for now, they can't go fishing. And no, they can't just fish in the field.

Watchword's exhibition is still going on at Intersection for the Arts at 426 Valencia and the work is really worth seeing. They're having an encore presentation of the performances on the 26th of June, I believe. Susanne Dyckman's poems on iconic religious cards are worth reading, looking at. Love the holiness of putting poems on the back of what was a staple in my grandmother's household growing up. Pictures of Jesus and the lamb. Mary, Joseph, and the baby--all with halos around their heads. There is one particular picture of the baby Jesus that looks just like my youngest sister when she was a baby--pure white skin, rosy cheeks, rosebud lips. Hilarious and yet so sweet. See how we get our religions.

Picked up the new Watchword X and have only had time to thumb through it, so stay tuned on that lit mag. I'm also reading Lydia Davis's book Variety of Disturbance Stories. It caught my eye because of a story called "The Fellowship," which is hilarious. It's about how when you apply for a fellowship your work isn't good enough or that you have to forget about applying for the fellowship or else you won't win. This cracks me up. I was reading the Tao of something in my sister's bathroom in Malibu and it was suggesting the same thing--that if you want something too badly, you won't get it. That you have to send it out to the universe and forget it about it and the you will be rewarded. What a nut-job way of thinking of god, that if you pray for something, but pretend you don't want it, god will suddenly reward you with it. Yeah, that's why I send my work out everywhere, all the time, so that I can pretend that I don't really want to be published.

I'll be attending FC2's summer writing conference called the Writer's Edge, in late July, so I guess in preparation, I'll be reading a lot of out-there kind of stuff. Hoping it gets my creative bug juices flowing. I also picked up a copy of Miranda July's book that's out in paperback, No One Belongs Here More Than You, which I know I've already read a couple of stories from. I heard her read last year at Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco and she was great, very charming and quirky, just like her movie and her writing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer's Here!

Yeah, the time has arrived to finally get some more exercise, eat right, read books, and write. This is a not-necessarily-in-that-order list. One summer must-read is--The Elements of Style. I've read it before, but oh-so-long-ago. (This is a hyphenated summer blog.) I was determined to go to sleep and get up early and start with gardening and laundry in the morning; then writing in the afternoon and what-do-you-know, my back was killing me last night, so I had a rough night and had to sleep late. Tennis is not good for a bad back, I guess. I was thinking it'd be useful to post some of my favorite websites for writers on this blog so here goes: are both great resources for writers to find places to publish
Go to emerging writers website--it's a blog under, but I'm sure if you google in Emerging Writers you'll find it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Reads

What are you planning to read this summer? On deck: The Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, Oh Pioneers! by Willa Cather. I have to finish reading the set of the Little House books to Jackey. Still have The Longest Winter and These Happy Golden Years to do. I also never read The Little House in the Big Woods to her, but I think by the time I get to that, she'll want to read it herself. Lately, she's been reading the Junie B. Moon series. As for myself, I plan to pick up several short story collections. I keep seeing Pete Orner's name around and want to see what his works like. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


VerbSap's Summer edition, 2008, is now up and a short story of mine called "Reruns" is on there. It's a crazy womaen story--go to My high school creative writing class finished their lit mag--The Dynamite Factory and it's beautiful. We did, however, have a student who submitted two plagiarized poems. Sad. Other students recognized the poems--They were the kind of poems kids read on myspace and other e-mail it forward type of poems. I don't know why the student thought this was okay to do, but I think it was probably just a naive mistake. Like, Oh, I really like these poems, can I submit them? Not realizing they had to be their own original work. Odd that someone who loves poetry so much would not try to write their own, though. Overall, though the kids did a great job. Now it's time to start reading my summer backlog of stuff I want to read--all the new stuff that is out in paperback. Go to some readings in SF--I see Aaron Shurin, the director of USF's writing program (along with others), has some readings coming up for his new collection of essays. I'm hoping to go to the one in the east bay.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reading: The Sun, the Iowa Review, Farallon Review

I'm reading my copy of the Iowa Review, where my story "Dry and Yellow" appears and really like all of the writing in it. I'm not much of a critic, but I do find the essays intriguing. Eula Biss's "Time and Distance Overcome" has an interesting take. She (he?) writes about the history of telephone poles and then morphs into some history around the use of telephone poles for lynchings. The stuff you find out on Google! Definitely a disturbing and need-to-know topic. Patricia Hampl's "The Dark Art of Description" looks like a great essay to use with creative writing students. I am also reading a couple of stories from the Sun magazine--comments later because I don't have my copy in front of me. I feel remiss that I haven't ordered a subscription to the Iowa Review before this; it's a solidly good read. Sounds funny when I say that. Getting together a collection of stories centered around the place (IOWA!!!), but don't feel like going back for the all-school reunion. Don't want to spend the money for plane fare for one thing, but I would like to see my folks and the landscape. Oh well. If you are a student taking my class this summer at the writing salon, feel free to drop me a line about questions or concerns you have regarding the class. It starts in July.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yeah, Finalist for the HUdson Prize

Yeah, I'm a finalist for the Hudson Prize. This is short story collection or poetry collection prize. There are quite a few finalists, but keep your fingers crossed for me. Don't be a hater. My collection is called Still Slipping on the Ice. If you want to know more about Black Lawrence Press and their other contests go to--

Sunday, May 11, 2008

May 2oth at the BAZAAR CAFE: FARALLON REVIEW Reading at seven

Dear Friends,

Come to the Bazaar Cafe on California Street in SF for a reading on the 20th. We'll be reading selections from the new Farallon Review ( It's a new SF magazine that has some very interesting stories in it. My story is called "A Good Swim." And I'll be giving a little teaser from that story.

I'm waiting anxiously for my copy of the Iowa Review to see my story "Dry and Yellow" in print.

As for what I'm reading--I got a free copy of the most recent Glimmertrain and was impressed once again by the quality writing in that mag. "The Closer You Were The Less You Knew" is an interesting 9/11 story. (At times, I did feel it was a little too novelistic, as if trying to shove too much into a short story, but I ended up liking it.) I also have a copy of Georgetown Review, which I think really suits my tastes--lots of stories about real people. I like Brady Rhoades's story "Home Inspection"--a realistic/sci-fiish story that blends fantasy and reality really well. Read Neil Crabtree's story (sorry, I forget the name of it at the moment) on VerbSap. It was nominated for the StorySouth's notables list and I recall enjoying it when I read it. I don't want to switch over and find it--I lose my post too easily. All right, I'm going to go look for it right now.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Keep reading about publishing this morning and feeling that familiar anxiety that comes up after investigating lit mags and venues for publishing collections. It gets so bad I don't feel like writing. I need to break my morning routine of looking at on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I get super-discouraged about writing. Life was better when I wrote and wrote stories, but wasn't trying to get anything published. I had no knowledge of publishers, lit mags, on-line venues, e-books. I wrote for the love of it. I guess I'm too far gone to go back to those days: the pre-publishing days. I wouldn't want to wrote those stories again, but there was something about just writing for the love of it. Even this self-reflexive writing on-line is replacing the private and somehow magical journal writing I did in the morning. Are you feeling this?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Back pain and Literature

Okay, so I go to get an injection in my back and the doctor says that I have arthritis in my L4 joint. What exactly does that mean? I say. She says, you have no cartilage left between these two bones. I can't see any. OUCH! So she gives me an injection there to see if that's the spot and now we wait. The funny thing is--people respond to my back pain entry, but not to comments about writing. This is what's happening to us--we're getting older. The problem is, all the doctors kept saying, but you're not old enough to have arthritis. I keep telling them--aerobics! I taught aerobics for twenty years: high-impact, step, low-impact, you name it. I ran for so long, I broke my foot in two places. Now, all I can do is walk. I guess I'm going to have to switch to swimming or yoga.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nature, Cysts, Back Pain, Dynamite

Went to the Headlands in April and saw an otter swimming in the lagoon. Then he came up to the shore and stuck his head up and looked right at us a couple of times. Were we lucky. Then last weekend we went up to Point Reyes to the lighthouse and saw a baby whale and its mother swimming all the way around the lighthouse. Lucky again. Of course, both times the camera was full and we couldn't get a pic, but so what--it's all up here. Wonderful times hiking around. Got an MRI this week for my "Bad BACK" and found out I have a cyst on my joint. The doctor said these things don't usually cause pain, however, since I am experiencing pain right there, in that spot, specifically where the cyst is, maybe that's what's been killing me for over a year. I went on-line and researched cysts on the L5 joint and found they were the most common place in the spine for cysts and they can compress a nerve and cause a lot of pain. I am praying praying praying that this injection will kill the pain. I'm hoping she accidentally nicks the cyst and pops it. Nothing worse, except for teeth pain. So sick of Vicodin and sleep medication. It was really interesting to read about what's inside a cyst: blood, hardened gel, fluid, calcium deposits. Blegghh. I've become my uncle Bob. "Hey can you look at this lump I got on my back? Maybe I should go see a doctor and have that thing scraped off!"

As for reading--some more of Tobias Wolff's stories. Read "The Liar." LOvvved it. So This Boy's Life in a short story. I look at the cover of his book and see him looking at me and then when I get home there's a pic of Ray Carver looking at me and they're saying--WRITE A STORY! I've been listening to the radio in the morning and hearing them talking about people with kids and people who choose not to have kids and I thought maybe I'd write a story about that. That's all I'll say, don't like to take the power out of it if I talk too much.

Students in my Creative Writing class decided (at my pushy suggestion) to name the high school lit mag at Hercules, The Dynamite Factory. I am so stoked about that b/c Hercules used to be mostly a dynamite factory and there's a lot of history behind that name. In my research I also found out that there was a whaling dock outside of Richmond, which I just find fascinating. The kids in Hercules used to go out to the dynamite factory after it closed down and they hung out, skateboarded, and graffitied inside. Someone had taken photos of that before they tore it down, so it was really groovy to look at all those photos and read about the buffer zone for explosions. I think it's a great title, and most of the kids do, too. Last year, our magazine was called Sui Generis, which I like, but it somehow wasn't quite right for our class this year.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spelled Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri, not Jumpha--ouch

Friday, April 25, 2008

KIte Runner

Yeah, we read it; we watched it. Something else. I'm open to Filipino titles, too. We've read When the Elephants Dance. I'm open to suggestions.

Andrew Lam

Go to You Tube and watch Andrew Lam's video about his return to Vietnam. It's very interesting. I worked with him for a while in a writing group. Check out his book Perfume Dreams, about the Vietnames Diaspora. I'm looking for books, plays, poems about Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, India--you get the picture. Stuff I can use with my high school students? We just finished reading Fences by August Wilson and they liked it, but the comment was--Ms. Genna, why are we always reading black lit? And I said, that's what's in the book room. I have some short stories by Jumpha Lahiri but really I need some diversity. Poems by Rammi? Any ideas? Current stuff that kids can relate to?

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Reading the Tobias Wolff collection still and enjoying the newer works. I felt punched out with "That Room." I had read several of these stories here and there already and was surprised at how much I've followed Toby's work. It's like that line in Catcher in the Rye, which those of you who know me, know I cannot quote exactly, but it's about wishing you could call a writer up and talk to him. I've also recently visited the website Eclectic ( and found a great website for fiction, poetry, nonfiction, etcetera. It's great. It's been around for a long time and I've missed out. I'll be sending something their way and keeping my fingers crossed.

Classes coming up: Fiction class at the Writing Salon in Berkeley--if you've taken the class before, it's the same format, but I'll be using new material. I always like to try new things. Of course, some of the basic material will be the same. I like Burroway's chapters on writing from several of her textbooks, but I'm still reading up on the craft of writing and intend to infuse the class with lots of ideas. It starts this Wednesday and there is still space available. Go to One thing I did after graduating from an MA program was I continued to take classes through the salon and other venues because I need the excitement and energy of a group and to share my work with others. I always learn something new. So don't feel intimidated by taking a class even if you have "GRADUATED."

I'll also be teaching Flash Fiction on April 26th, all day. We'll be reading some of the latest work that's out there and trying all kinds of creative writing exercises. The thing about flash that I like is that the kernel of the idea comes from that, but sometimes I get together two or three flashes and they become a longer story, so the art form is not limiting. I don't like gimmicks either. I'm not especially focused on word count, but more on the idea that we'll come up with a story by looking at other short-shorts, both classical stories and newer stuff that's coming down the pike.

So check out Tobias Wolff, Eclectic (Or is it Eclectica?), and check out my Fiction and Flash Fiction classes at the Writing Salon. Yes, this is a sales pitch, but you get your money's worth.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The latest

Just a few minutes to check-in: Farallon Review is out with myself and five former USF MFA students from different years. (By the way, I have a masters from there--missed my chance to turn it into an MFA by a year.) My story in there is called "A Good Swim." Check it out at (To purchase). The magazine is not limited to receiving submissions only from USFers--it's just that this is the first issue and that's who submitted. Tim Foley and friends have turned out a tidy, professional magazine. I especially like Ken Rodgers short story "Brown Sparrows." More on a possible reading later. Vestal Review has my flash fiction in Issue 31, titled "Quitting Smoking." This is another one that needs to be ordered.

I'm reading Tobias Wolff's collection, Our Story Begins. Went to a reading/interview at the Herbst Theatre in SF--thanks for the tickets. It was wonderful and refreshing. T. Wolff seems like a very genuine, lightly humorous, sweet person. I, of course, have been a fan of his for a while, but it's nice to reread some of my favorites of his: "The Rich Brother," "Powder," "Bullet in the Brain." I'm excited to see what he's writing now. He reminds me of a softer Carver, whatever that means. Did you read the article about Tobias Wolff in Poets & Writers? He's very accessible and he also talks about Carver's recent republications of his work by his widow. Controversial, but the argument is a little passe'. (I'm trying on this word, so give me a break.)

Waiting anxiously for my May 2008 edition of The Iowa Review, which contains my short-short "Dry and Yellow."

As for teaching, I'm reading a collection called PP/FF from Starcherone Books in order to expand my repertoire of flash fiction for the flash fiction class I'll be teaching through the Writing Salon in Berkeley. I like it--order it if you're so inclined. Two other classes I'll be teaching are Fiction Writing class (9 weeks) and a publishing seminar on Friday, April 18th. The publishing seminar is a discussion of on-line and print venues for short fiction and poetry. We'll also touch on where, how to send out work to contests--this includes longer manuscripts such as collections of short stories and poetry. Probably you already know this information, but it is always nice to touch base with an instructor and other writers who have run the gamut of trying to get published. You get to ask questions about those bothersome little ideas like should I publish on-line? Isn't that considered "not as nice" as print? What are some of the "better magazines?" Is there such a thing? How do I know when to send a piece out? I don't know if we'll have exact/right/correct answers to these questions but we will have a forum for discussion! I've met lots of people who needed this venue. Feel free ask questions via this blog.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Coming UP

The University of Iowa's on-line venue "Iowa Writes" for writers from Iowa or writing about Iowa got ahold of me and asked if they could publish my flash fiction "Dry and Yellow" in The Iowa Review. Hell yes! Suhweet. In the May, 2008 issue. Then I got my copy of Vestal Review, issue 31 with my short story "Quitting Smoking" in it and was thinking how there's room enough in this world for all of us. I received my first paycheck for a story, too--$15 for a flash fiction story. What a pretty paycheck. Tim Foley and friends new SF lit magazine The Farallon Review is going to be out in a couple of weeks. Who wants a copy? Get a hold of me to order. The --logo-- for it is rather cool. Check out his website: If you're a writer, you might think about submitting. They want SF writers or writers who have a specific Western take. BRAG BRAG. I have a soft spot in my heart for the story I submitted to it--it has blow jobs and boulder fights in it. Same old, same old, Ms. G. Hey, calling all on-line lit mag readers--nominate your favorite short story for the storySouth's Million Writers award. (Hint, hint: "Stories I heard when I went home for my grandmother's funeral" Storyglossia, Issue 24). Well, my daughter nominated me already, but she honestly loves that story. I have 9 brothers and sisters to put me up for it, too. But I do like that story. Actually, read Stephanie Dickinson's "Where the Flashlight Girls Run" on Storyglossia. It's an amazing story. Still reading Alice Munro's The View from Castle Rock. C.J. Singh loaned me his copy of Deepening Fiction and I'm slogging through that, too. But really, too busy grading essays, group roles for novels, and reflective essays. Those personal reflection essays are cake--I learn the most interesting stuff about my students and I wonder how it is I don't even know who they are. This is the facade we all adopt . Go to class, behave, or act out, but who are we, really?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Girl Scout Cookies

Ayeee, I am overwhelmed with fat and sugar--GSCookies. Impossible to eat just one. BUSY grading those Great Gatsby essays, reading work from the writing class, and figuring out how to do an on-line signature for the FAFSA for my daughter's education. I say live at home and eat the parent's food and get free room and board, but independence is knocking. Not much new on the lit scene--I went to a reading by the USF alumni and was very impressed and entertained. I especially liked a story about a woman in a recovery type place. I'm reading Alice Munro's View From Castle Rock. At first, I didn't care for it, but once I got into it, I started enjoying it, appreciating the sense of history blended with story. Still trying to finish Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. This is not to disparage the quality of his writing--I'm just a short story reader. I am looking for several novels to read this spring and summer and am thinking of writing a novel, always thinking about that, but I think I'd need an MFA program to get it done. Every time I read a novel, I start thinking about writing one. Glad the primaries are winding down (or are they). I am not married to either Clinton or Obama, but I am worried about McCAin getting into office after hearing him speak on the radio today. It didn't sound like he'd be in any too much of a hurry to get us out of Iraq. or look into diplomatic and communicative ways to solve our country's issues in the Middle East. SCARY!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Read Wheelhouse Magazine On-line

My short story "Wood is Wood" just came out in Wheelhouse magazine. It's an on-line zine that I found to be edgy, political, and I loved the artwork and video aspect of it, so I submitted and voila. "Wood is Wood" is one of my funky relationship stories--you just have to read it to appreciate how weird people really are. I'll put a link at right. So what else, I'm teaching this fiction class and the question comes up--what is Memoir anyway, and I'm thinking how I read the Writer's Chronicle and whenever I come to one more article about the difference between fiction and memoir and James Frey's name gets mentioned, my eyes glaze over (break out the country girl / poor white trash profanity). Really, I think it's about our fear of writing true and personal stuff down and getting in trouble for that--at least for me it is. Whenever I write a fictional story that is somewhat autobiographical in nature (which is quite often!), my family members always say--well that is your perspective, or that's how you saw it. Of course it is! There's always some underlying tone of reproach, which I really think is guarded jealousy that one of them did not sit down and write it first. I know I DON'T always get my facts straight and that I bend and put events together that did not really occur at the same time. My sister or a brother will correct me and say--that's not when that happened or , "No, you said this!" But c'mon, as my MA teachers always said, you are digging for the EMOTIONAL TRUTH of the story, and that's why I write fiction--because I don't always have to stick to the exact facts. I have a poor memory for those things (facts) anyway, but I know I have emotional intelligence or else I wouldn't be a writer. I think that some of us writers are more concerned about writer's ethics and that this is just another way to block ourselves in our writing. I do have to say--there are some things I can't or won't write about (right now). I was reading an on-line interview with Junot Diaz on where he said it takes ten years for him to write about his past, and for some reason that tidbit rang true for me, too. That is why the divorce stories of mine are still coming out in print (Sorry, Kent--they're fiction! and that's a story from your perspective, Jamey). And I am just now getting stories about post-divorce relationships published. I'm reading at a French Garden Restaurant in Sebastapol on March 2nd--poetry with the Topper's Hair Salon Poetry group. They graciously allowed me to read with them even though I have not recently been a dedicated attendee or have not even been writing poetry. I did, however, read a recent issue of West Branch and loved the poetry in there. So, on-line magazines to check out:, ,, and again,, and I'm trying to come up with a list of on-line faves. Going to the Chinese New Year Parade this Saturday in SF as my teenager is in Color Guard. GO DEL! still missing Roger. USF alumna are having a reading Saturday night at Canteen near the ACT theater. Their reading series is called Babylon Salon if your'e interested. I will attempt to post some links at right. Peace out--we need a new way to peace out. Keep writing...oh yeah, Jane Anne Staw is giving a free lecture tonight, Thursday, Feb. 21st at UC Berkeley on Creativity. Love her.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Upcoming Flash Fiction Seminar in Sebastapol

On March 17th, I'll be teaching a class in "The Quickie." We'll be reading and writing flash fiction on a Monday night at the Sebastapol Arts Center. The classes are only $15 and are, in part, funded by the Poets and Writers Grant. So, look them up and see what other great writers will be there. I intend to take all of them! They start in late February or early March, so sign up early. It may be a ways for some of you to travel, but the rewards are worth it. On February 16th, the Progressive Reading Series is meeting at the Makeout Room in San Francisco to help raise funding to beat initiatives that want to get rid of rent control. Steve Almond and Charles D'Ambrosio will be reading so check it (along with other terrific artists). I'm going. How about you?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

End of January

So, what's going on. I've been teaching a fiction writing class through the Writing Salon in Berkeley and it's really interesting and exciting for me to be able to begin working with adults who want to write and read and share fiction. I'll be teaching a flash fiction seminar up in Sebastapol in March. This is a series funded by Poets and Writers. Lately, all I've been reading are short story collections. Then I went with a friend to hear Khaled Hosseini(Sp) to hear him talk about Afghanistan and his books. I picked up his new one A Thousand Splendid Suns, started it and got caught up in the prose. I'm teaching The Great Gatsby in my high school class again and trying to make the students slow down and appreciate the gifted prose. Then in the other class, we're reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. I'm hoping to sustain the interest level, but those high school kids are a picky crowd. Some of them are pretty literal and when Zora Neale Hurston waxes poetic about the bees and the pollen, some of the guys' eyes wax over (and some of the girls' too) and I've lost them. Oh well. They do like the word play when Amos Hicks is trying to hit on Janie. Been thinking about all the things going on in the world and how far removed I am from everything--the war, the economy, movie stars accidentally od-ing---sad, sad, sad. Wonder how we're ever going to get out of Iraq if a Republican wins the election. My teenage daughter has a good friend over there--kid fresh out of high school, a boy who went to church every Sunday by himself because he'd had some kind of vision, but couldn't find a job when he got out, so he enlisted. And the people over there, sustaining the hit. There's a new cable channel called Current (107) that shows podcasts and videos from viewers, has interesting insight and less censorship--take a look at it. It's a strange world.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


1. Spend less time on-line ie. use time on-line to check e-mail, respond, go to favorite websites and read a story or poems.
2. Write in journal once a day.
3. Exercise once a day.
4. Sign kids up for classes--keep 'em busy. (Jacklyn: French and piano / Del: ?)
5. Take a vacation this summer with husband.
6. Go home to Iowa.
7. Go to other writers' readings in SF, Berkeley, Sebastapol.
8. Decide on a focus for my collection.
9. Find new writing spots.
10. Keep classroom focused -- have them do more creative writing, along with required stuff.

Time to go write this down in my journal--what's yours?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

New Years Resolutions: Write some more short stories. Create a new collection. I'm reading Creativity for Life by Eric Maisel (in little bits and pieces). I especially enjoyed the chapter on the artist's personality. I did some of the exercises with my teenager about her goals and plans for the future--pretty funny. One said to draw two animals, describe them with three adjectives, and then ponder them for how they are symbolic of one's own contrasts in personality. It was amazing how she picked two completely opposite animals and a little scary how the issues attached to the animals were similar to things she struggles with. Then we did an exercise around goals where she had to draw symbolically things that were in the way of what she wanted out of life and we found that money was the number one road block. So we talked about that for a while. I can see where my own fear of poverty has reared its ugly head in my own daughter. Time to write a story about mother/daughter relationships, I think. We made sock monsters over the holidays--super cute. I finished Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones. It's an older collection of his short stories, but I'm definitely a fan. I also read Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie, which I enjoyed. He does have a sentimental tone to some of his stories, but they gave me the courage to write something less ironic. Looking for a new collection to read. I usually go to a used book store--Dog Eared Books in SF is one of my favorites. There's also one in Oakland on Piedmont that I like, but due to my dyslexic nature around names, I've forgotten what it's called. Finished reading The Little Town on the Prairie to my younger daughter and now am looking for old used copies of The Little House in the Big Woods, The Long Winter, and These Happy Golden Years. My mother bought the set for me and my sister when I was in the fourth grade, but these are missing. If you're not from the Midwest, you probably think these books are boring, but we don't. Jacklyn is shocked that Almonzo, who is 23, walks Laura (only 15 and a half) home from church. She keeps saying, "That's eight years older! She's not even 16!"