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.