Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Readings and Such

I've been having a great time over the holidays, catching up with old friends and making new...just like the song says to do, which is why I think we've named two of the kittens Silver and Goldie. The other kitten is a black/calico named Phoebe Bear, after a great great great relative, and b/c her paws are black like a bears. So, you can see what I'm consumed by right now. My daughter Jackey and I caught three "feral" kittens up at the high school, along with their mother (currently named Noelle). They are living in my writing studio so that I can have a reason to turn the heat on and go out there. They're so much fun. Momma cat is a little too wild, but she's well-fed. We're sending them to fix our ferals in January and then, I don't know. Mom will go back in the wild once she gets fixed and the kitties? Anyone want a beautiful gray and white or a gold or a black/calico kitty?

As for writing, publishing, and readings: I had a wonderful reading in November at Books and Bookshelves reading for Switchback. That story is near and dear to my heart--"If It Hasn't Already"--a story about those of us living in the suburbs, our children, and how we're dealing with the war. It's a collage story. Still so grateful to Crab Orchard Review for publishing my story "Goat Herder."

I went to a wonderful reading last night, seeing an old friend Ken Rodgers read from his new poetry book Passenger Pigeons. I can't wait to dig in. Ken and his wife Betty are producing a documentary about one of the worst battles in the Vietnam War. It's on-line at, if you're interested or want to get a heads up on this soon to be great indie film. Ken talked about interviewing many people from the war and the effects of war on these individuals. I think it's a wonderful and compassionate project--a story that needs telling and retelling.

Went to a terrific b-day party at Alia Volz's place and met a lot of writers there. Great party and great to be in the mix. Check out the Portuguese Writer's Reading Series...more on this later.

I'm hoping to read friend's and colleague's books over the break and to continue with my little self-publishing gig of an older collection of my short stories. This is for personal reasons only. I'd like to get copies into the hands of friends and family. A student of mine gave me a book about Asberger's Syndrome that I want to dig into and want to read Some Things That Meant the World to Me by Josh Mohr, a fellow teacher from the Writing Salon.

I had a great time teaching the Raw Writing class this go-round at the salon and am looking forward to helping people generate writing in the next series of classes (March for my class). I also attended a meditation/solstice/writing retreat at Clara Rosemarda's place in Santa Rosa. It was possibly the best thing I had done for myself in a long time, braving the rain to honor my commitments to my own writing. I encourage you to find Clara on Facebook and take one of her classes. She's amazing and it's worth the commute.

And now, I'm finally done X-mas shopping, sort of. My teenager Del went with me this year and picked out most of her own gifts. That was the best shopping trip ever. I get so much anxiety about getting the right gift. I hate being unoriginal or wasting my time with gifts people are going to take back. So, it's time to turn back to writing and reading good books. I appreciate those of you who have time to go on to and register the books you read. I am still reading that first short story collection of Anthony Doerr's and hoping to read Cutting for Stone--my sister said it was great. Clara Rosemarda said that the new Jonathan Franzen novel Freedom was pretty damn good, so I'm going to download that onto my Nook. I wanted to wait, like friend Andy Dugas said to do, until all the hype died down, but I appreciated Clara's opinion of this bestseller.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Literary Death Match

Well, LDM was a hoot (what an old word, but owls are in right now). I read "Manx" and went over by about 30 seconds. They decided to super-soak me, despite my pathetic attempt for mercy by crying "Pneumonia." I did just recover from whooping cough, but they were unswerving in their desire to soak somebody. I went dressed for it--tank top and jeans. The thing is, I hate, hate, hate people who go over the time limit. I had it timed at 6 minutes and 30 seconds. The problem was, people were laughing. It's a funny story. They read it on Liar's League. Go listen to it. It was 12 minutes on there. I pared it down to the essentials. I think the judge Russell Blackwood just wanted to shoot that watergun. Afterward, Matt Stewart convinced me to take his cap gun (a prop) and shoot Russell when he went into the women's bathroom. I took some convincing, but hey, it felt good. Really good. He got capped four times. Thanks, Matt, for the loan of your weapon and catching it on your cell phone, you-tube. See it here,

Other news, because I really have been sick and probably should not have done the reading at LDM, I asked Jane at the Writing Salon to allow me to cancel my upcoming five week class. I'm so grateful to her for understanding. I have to get ready for the new school year at Hercules High School and it's a hard time to get a class going. I basically do a little more each day. So sorry to the people who had already signed on. I'm hoping to teach a five-week class in the fall that is strictly writing, no revision. Something that I think is sorely needed in the academic world. I see so many stuck writers, people who get jammed up b/c of poor workshop attitudes and too much criticism too soon.

If you want a great website to read about writing inhibitions, read Jane Anne Staw's I'm her biggest fan. She's helped me edit many of my stories and she's a thoughtful, caring mentor. She helped me get "Goat Herder" into shape, which is out now in the beautiful new Crab Orchard Review. I can't wait to find time to sit down and read the whole issue. Thanks to friends who purchased a copy from me.

As for recent books, still reading the Pushcart Prizes and the Dzanc's Best of the Web. Almost done with both. It's interesting to compare the type and style of stories in each. A good writing / reading endeavor for those of you who are short story writers. Read both and see what you think is the difference or the same. I think there's quite a bit more flash and surreal work on the internet than in the print mags. By the way, internet magazines can nominate for Pushcarts, but the work still rarely makes it in there. Thanks to Dzanc for giving us the opportunity to see what they think is working on-line.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Friday Night, Liteary Death Match

Well, it's on. I was invited to read at Literary Death Match and I've been thinking I'll be like death warmed over because I'm recuperating from pneumonia. However, I am feeling better today and am ready to throw it down. My colors are orange and turquoise. I was just going to go for red, but my birthday was today and my family had other ideas. I've been practicing all week and I just can't escape "Manx," which is my favorite story to read in public. I have only read it once locally and it was the bomb, so I shortened it and now I think it's even better. I thought about reading "Stealing" or "This Scarred Wish," but "Stealing" would have to be cut down, too and it's a little confusing. Well, what of my writing isn't. And then "This Scarred Wish," which is coming out in OxMAg on-line soon is very sad and quiet and needs a different setting to be appreciated. Because I'm representing the magazine Eleven Eleven from the California College of the Arts, and my story in there is called "Rat Stories" (too too long for LDM), I decided to stay with the animal theme and read about cats. My story out in Crab Orchard Review is called "Goat Herder." Let's see, rats, cats, and goats. I think we have a short story collection going. The theme is how to deal with animals that drive you insane.

Hope to see all my friends at LDM on Friday--the Elbow Room, 7:00.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

California Vacation

Well, I'd like to say I'm exaggerating, but I was bit by a flying ant and my daughter was bit by a fire ant, so we decided it was time to stay in a nice hotel. We traveled through Yosemite, saw the biggies--Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome. We stood at the foot of Bridal Veil Falls. I've never been at the bottom of a waterfall, which is odd. I've been at the top of one in Yellowstone and with my fear of heights, it was a scary and surreal experience. Yosemite is a place that evokes those words: awesome, spectacular....fills you with joy. Then we stayed at the Virginia Creek Settlement--went to see Bodie Ghost Town, one of those touristy places that is not touristy, kind of in-between. Because the homes are locked up and in a state of degradation and disrepair, there is more of a sense of loss and loneliness to the place. The cemetery was probably the most interesting place--lots of youngsters...babies died there, especially in the first few months of life. It was odd to hear the names of original settlers that matched the names of people I grew up with ie. Jamie Cain. Lots of German and Irish names. Then we went to the natural springs up in the hills behind Bridgeport. That was an amazing place--little hot pots that you didn't have to pay to sit in, natural mudbaths and just a beautiful sunset. Ahh. Then, on to Bishop and the Keogh Hot Springs where we stayed in a tent cabin. I have to say despite the 100 degree weather, I enjoyed it there much more than I did up in the Lake Tahoe hotel I stayed in a week or so ago. Maybe this place reminded me of living on the farm in Iowa. I think the minerals in the pool and bath helped my shoulder stop hurting. There was a quaint little rock garden and a retro bathhouse. That's where the bugs were though. Next day, we went to Manzanar. I'm so glad I went. It was 106 that day, so we got the full effect--hot winds, dust, beautiful mountains, the monument--the beautiful Japanese art, the toys the children played with, imagining losing one's home and business and living in this desperate place--not knowing whether one would be allowe to return to one's home. I'd have to say it was more than just an educational experience. Then, of all things, we went into the small town of Bishop and went to see Eclipse again. Saw it at the drive-in before and had to hold my breath to keep from laughing out loud at Jacob with his shirt off. Whew. That was fun. Bishop is a cute, clean little town. Lots of beautiful Indian (and Hispanic) people--Paiutes, I think--saw some more of their history all along the way. I read The Autobiography of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins quite a few years ago, so this was rewarding to see the countryside and imagine the history, both wonderful and terrible. The gymnasium at Manzanar had information that the local Paiutes had helped construct the camp. Well,that's my vacation so far in a nutshell. We crossed back to the coast via Lake Isabella and the Kern River and are staying at some fancy Best Western on the ocean beach. Lovely not to have to spray down the chiggers for a night.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Goat Herder

So, another few months have come and gone and I haven’t been on my best behavior in writing on my blog. Why? Because I’ve been busy. First, the Hercules High School Creative Writing class had to get their literary magazine The Dynamite Factory finished. It’s subtitled Aftershock and it’s amazing. Amazingly, it pretty much sold out. We have a few issues left, but those will go fast in the fall. I especially like the cover art by student Alyssa Dulaney.
I’ve also been prepping for my Thursday night class at the Writing Salon. We’ll be studying the craft of fiction writing and writing, writing, writing. The elements we study in the class are the tried and true standbys, but every term, I use fresh new stories. To that end, I’ve been reading this year’s O’Henry winners and the new edition of the Pushcarts. I also ordered Dzanc Publishing’s Best of the Web 2010. I really enjoyed their edition last year and look forward to seeing what Dzanc considers the best on-line writing to be.
Thanks to Laura Riggs for organizing the Father’s Day reading in Berkeley called Daddy-O. It was packed and, my favorite outdated word to use, awesome. I was impressed by all the readers.
Personally exciting news is that Crab Orchard Review accepted a favorite story of mine called “Goat Herder” for publication in their next issue out in late July. I’m honored and hope you’ll read the issue.
Mostly, is mostly a word even? Mostly, I haven’t been blogging because I want to find a way to find this blog more meaningful than simply self-promoting, although I make no apologies for self-promoting. How can I get the word out that I teach fiction writing and have a reading coming up or a story coming out unless I use every avenue available. However, I like what my friend and colleague Ken Rodgers is doing with his blog—posting short essays and stories and poems he’s written involving his travels and life (and his fictional life). I also like Meg Pokrass’s blog—she offers up free word banks for writing, especially tuned to flash fiction. Check out the website Fictionaut to see some of the best and most intriguing flash on-line.
My main concern is that blogging is a business tool that I’m using to avoid the daily writing…so I will end with that and go back to work on my story that is overdue to a writing friend.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Two New Publications

It's been a while. I've been busy writing and teaching. Taking a meditation and writing class with Clara Rosemarda to help ease stress and find new subject matter. It's wonderful. Two new stories of mine are out on the web and people have been asking, so let me know if you've read them. Eleven Eleven has a story of mine out called "Rat Stories" and Stone's Throw Magazine has one of my stories called "Always Say Sorry." I'll post connections in the sidebar. Mainly I've been recovering from a couple of bouts with spring flu, but I don't like to talk about illness, which is why I'm going to keep this short. I'm rewatching New Moon from the Twilight series. I know. My eleven year is Team Jacob and has a poster shrine to him in her closet. I'll write more later.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Oh, I'm so sorry. I haven't been able to blog lately. I was too busy getting a haircut and then growing my hair out. I have a writing class coming up, starting next week. We'll be reading short stories and chapters of novels. Then we'll do lots of writing exercises. I've noticed a lot of stress in my clients lately around getting their work "CRITIQUED!" I want to reassure those of you who are thinking about taking the class--workshop is not a requirement. You don't have to submit. You can come and help others who are a little more sure of themselves with their writing. I think that too much pressure around getting it right is spoiling the desire to write and really needs to be avoided early in the writing process. I like to think of the Writing Salon as a place where people can come and relax and meditate on their writing...a place where you can create new stories or new chapters. We do have a workshop portion, but we are very gentle and kind. I insist that people talk at length about the strengths of the work. It's also a first draft in many instances, so the writing needs to be handled with care. The class starts Thursday, February 4th. We delayed the start of the class so it would get a little larger. Hope to see you aspiring writers there.