Monday, December 15, 2003

Thanks to the brilliant advice of Kevin Smokler (thanks, Kevin!), I have created a mailing list, "Live Birds". Now I can send everyone updates about my readings and publications and other juicy stuff on occasion. Let's see if this works...



join my Notify List and get email when I update my site:

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It does work! Yay! Send me your emails and I'll keep you up to date (and I promise not to bombard you or share your email with anyone--these messages will just be sporadic bits of info.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Jenny Dressell at Mostlyfiction.com listed my novel as one of the best of the year (and we don't even know each other!) You'll probably never read this, but thank you Jenny Dressell! And three of my friends made other reviewers' top picks on the same site--Brian Malloy's book, The Year of Ice, was chosen by Kam Aures, Anne Ursu's book, The Disapparition of James, was chosen by Judi Clark, and Amanda Eyre Ward's book, Sleep Toward Heaven, was chosen by Cindy Lynn Speer (all are wonderful books, definitely among my top picks for the year.)

I read so many amazing novels this year, but the one that thrilled me the most, I think, has to be The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Inventive, beautiful, and a real love letter to my sweet home Chicago. It has been haunting me ever since I finished it, sobbing. So has another MacAdam/Cage book, St. Ursula's Girls Against the Atomic Bomb by Valerie Hurley (which I had the honor and pleasure of blurbing). MacAdam/Cage, which also published Sleep Toward Heaven, is publishing some of the most incredible new fiction around.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

My friend Peter Cashwell, author of the witty and wonderful book, The Verb, To Bird, just posted a very sweet blurb about my novel, along with several other Readerville friends' novels, at his online journal. If you click on a day other than today, look for the 12.3.03 entry. Thanks so much, Peter!

Thursday, November 27, 2003

I just happened upon a real surprise at Amazon--my paperback cover for Fruitflesh! I had no idea it was going to be so different from the hardcover. I have to get over my shock before I'll know how I really feel about it--I had no idea a new cover was even in the works, so it was a very unexpected thing to find it online--but I think I like it. I think I like it a lot. I like the lowercase font for the subtitle. I like the notebook feel of the background. I like the watermelon (although the knife is a bit troublesome.) I like the freshness and lightness of it, such a contrast to the deep dark mysteriousness of the hardcover. Both are luscious in their own ways.

I'm looking forward to holding the paperbacks for both books in my hands. They come out May 1, 2004. May Day. A day to celebrate new life. I hope my books--which have been so lovingly, but so quietly, received--will find new life in their new form. Thanks to those who have read my books and have been so generous in your response. I am very grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving! There is so much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

CaliforniaAuthors.com just posted my essay about having author photos taken (which, I should add, was a very trippy experience for me.)

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I've decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge again this year--50,000 words in 30 days. I'm about 4/5 there, but the rest of the month is not going to allow for much writing time, so I'm not sure whether I'm going to make it to the finish line. I'll let you know what happens.

Hi, it's me again, ten days later! I crossed the finish line at 10:45 am today, November 26th. I haven't finished the story yet, but I reached 50,000 words. Phew! I hope I won't lose this momentum now--I probably have about 20,000 words to go to finish this most extremely rough first draft. I got a nifty "Winner" icon, but I can't figure out how to post it here. Imagine a lovely little square with some pages that say "The End" on them. But this isn't the end. Not by a long shot. Revisions are on the horizon...


Monday, November 10, 2003

I think I forgot to link this before--I was a guest at my friend Wendy's luscious site, Earthly Delights a while back. Her writing always makes my mouth water.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I am so happy to be part of the launch issue of Literary Mama, a wonderful new mama-centric lit journal put out by a group of amazing mamawriters. You can find one of my short stories, "Eyes in the Back of Her Head" there, along with the interview that originally appeared in Philly Mama, plus some fabulous prose and poetry from other mamas (including a gorgeous story by my friend Susan Ito.)

Friday, October 31, 2003

Okay, I guess I have one more contribution to fire lit. Hip Mama has posted my essay, Smoke Inhalation. Happily, things are much better today. It may even rain.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Southern California is on fire. The skies are tinged a strange orange-gray; the air is heavy and flecked; ash is caked in the cracks of the sidewalk outside our house. The fire, thankfully, is not near us, but the smoke continues to saturate our neighborhood. I send my thoughts out to everyone affected by this raging. And I send this story out, too, my own small contribution to the literature of fire.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

CaliforniaAuthors.com, a great site dedicated to California literature, just posted my essay about the process of writing The Book of Dead Birds.

The whole story feels almost mythical to me now, but while I was living it, the process was so full of frustration and stops and starts (plenty of blissful moments, too). I need to remember that as I thrash around with my new novel; I find myself wanting it to be perfect straight off the bat. I need to remind myself that it is the thrashing about, the not-knowing, the period of discovery, that is often the most fruitful and fun. I wonder what stories I'll have to share once this novel is done (if that ever happens...)

Friday, October 10, 2003

A blushingly lovely review of my book is in the October issue of January Magazine.

If you'd like a sneak peek of the paperback cover, mosey on over here.

Peace,

gayle

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Hey, guess what? I'm Bad Girl of the Month over at the fabulous Bad Girls Press website. Bad girls unite!

Friday, September 19, 2003

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been four months since my last blog. A very intense and wonderful and horrible four months. An eternity. But here I am.

I wish I could encapsulate the last four months for you. My dinner with Barbara Kingsolver (we ate Nepalese and Tibetan food! Ping noodles and butter tea! And she is the loveliest, most generous woman. When she introduced me at my reading, she said she felt like she wasn't giving the world a book, she was giving the world an author. I still get chills when I think about it.) My book tour, where I met so many warm and wonderful people (thanks to all of you!) and stumbled upon so many wild, sometimes goosebump inducing, moments of synchronicity (when I read in Boulder, I met a woman who had heard my radio interview in Santa Cruz the week before. A bird crashed into her windshield and, sadly, died, while she was listening to me talk about dead birds!) The deep sadness in our family when two relatives died unexpectedly within weeks of each other. We are all still reeling. Life continues to be full of surprises--so much beauty and pain and neverending wonder.

I started writing a memoir this summer, which is something I never expected to do. It came to me in a dream, and when I woke up, entire chapters were clambering to be written. I'm about half way done with it now (at least the first draft of it)--it's been a healing and surprisingly amusing endeavor. The glimmerings of a new novel have also started to spark.

I will try to stay in better touch. In the meanwhile, here's a recent interview. Hope everyone is doing well!

Monday, May 12, 2003

Yet another review, this one from the Denver Post. It's really lovely.

In less than 24 hours, I am going to be having dinner with Barbara Kingsolver and then she is going to introduce me and speak about The Bellwether Prize at my reading at Vroman's in Pasadena. I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that I would be in this position as a writer. I am nervous and thrilled and so deeply grateful. I feel unworthy. I feel affirmed. I feel utterly amazed and humbled and verklempt. I love Barbara Kingsolver. Everything about her. I love her work. I love her passion and presence and her commitment to social justice. I just hope I won't be too tonguetied around her. I'll have to let everyone know how it goes (and if anyone wants to come, it's at 7pm, this Tuesday the 13th at Vroman's Books, 695 Colorado, Pasadena; please be sure to say hello!).

Monday, May 05, 2003

Well, the book is out. I can't believe it. The release of The Book of Dead Birds feels very different from the release of Fruitflesh, somehow. With Fruitflesh, I felt like I was naked to the world. With the novel, I feel like my characters are naked to the world. I almost feel more protective of them than I do of myself. It's like sending the kids to school for the first time, hoping they'll make friends, hoping they won't get teased (or beat up!) on the playground. I know the book is out of my hands at this point, but I want to hug it to my chest and keep it safe. Writing is so much a process of letting go.

It's been so lovely to meet people at my readings over the last few days. I am so grateful for the warm response I've received. My daughter threw me for a bit of a loop at my reading on Saturday, when she asked me to dance (after I had finished answering a question about my dance background). I wasn't prepared for that. I did some sort of twirly thing and tried not to get too dizzy. I never know what to expect from that girl! She and my son are both a constant source of amazement.

Here is a nice review of the novel on BookPage.

And here is an excerpt from an article in Pages Magazine that lists me as a "promising debut".


Read the book and let me know what you think!

Friday, April 18, 2003

An amazing thing happened yesterday.

The Book of Dead Birds started off as a poem about all the dead birds I've come across in my life. The first one was when I was 6. I was walking home from school and my friend Sonja and I found a dead baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. It was featherless; its eyes hadn't opened yet. It was the first time I had seen a dead thing, and it had a huge impact on me. When we got back to my house, my friend Sonja and I put together an elaborate ritual to honor the dead bird's life.

Flash forward 29 years. The book is about to come out. A reporter (actually my good friend Donna) and a photographer from the local paper came to my house today to do a story about the book. They wanted to take a shot of me on my front porch. When I sat down on the bench that's built into the end of the porch, what did I see next to me but a dead baby bird, featherless, its eyes closed. It looked exactly like the one that had started me on this whole journey. Total full circle.

The photographer took some pictures of the dead bird. I don't know if that image will end up in the paper--the editors might be squeamish about it--but I'm going to try to get a copy.

My daughter and I had a little ritual to bury the bird (she said things similar to what I had said as a girl). I am blown away.

Another cool thing yesterday: I found out that O Magazine calls my book "a moving and perceptive first novel." Yay!

Sunday, April 13, 2003

It is hard to believe The Book of Dead Birds is coming out so soon. It doesn't quite seem real to me (then again, I've been dealing with some yucky sinus stuff which is making everything feel slightly unreal these days. I hope I'll get some more energy in time for all of my events. I'd hate to nod off during book signings!)

A very sweet thing--my daughter, who is 9, read my novel (I was a little uncertain about whether or not to share it with her--it covers some pretty dark terrain--but she was insistent, plus she's a lot more mature than most people twice her age. I wouldn't suggest any other nine year old read it, but Hannah is a force of nature unto herself.) The day she finished reading it, she surprised me by making a board game based upon the book, with a Chutes and Ladders-style board and cards with trivia and true/false questions about the characters and the plot. We played, using pennies as game pieces. I was so deeply moved that she took the time to create something out of my creation (and I was deeply moved by how proud she is). All I can say is, let the bad reviews come. I have the love and support of my family, and no weird outside reviewer person can change that.

I hope some of you will want to give the novel a try. In the meanwhile, if you feel like reading some of my fiction, I have a silly new story up at Pindeldyboz.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Many thanks to the lovely and talented Eula Palmer for updating my website! Now you can get the latest info on my novel, coming soon to a bookstore near you (and I may be coming soon to a bookstore near you, myself--check out the link to my tour schedule on the site. I look forward to seeing everyone!)

I just received my first copy of the hardcover yesterday. It is amazing to be able to hold it and smell it and rub my hands all over it. It is a beautiful thing.

I also recently received my contributor's copies of a great new book about breastfeeding--Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts by Fiona Giles (who edited the amazing Chick for a Day and Dick for a Day). Fiona incorporated my essay, "Mammatocumulus", into the introduction of the book. If you have breasts, or if you like breasts, you must read this book!

Hope everyone is doing well during this uncertain time. I wish you (and the world) peace.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Amanda Davis. She died in a plane crash Friday along with her parents (her father was piloting a private plane; he was taking Amanda on her book tour. Her amazing first novel, Wonder When You'll Miss Me--a title which takes on heartbreaking significance now--was just released this month. She was also the author of an incredible book of short stories, Circling the Drain.) I was just getting to know Amanda, and was so touched by her deep talent, by her kindness and humor and zest for life. I am still in a state of shock. We are trying to get her novel on the bestseller list as a tribute--please consider buying a copy; you won't regret it (although when you read her work you will certainly mourn the loss of such a wild and beautiful talent, such a generous human being). To read some beautiful tributes about her life, visit McSweeney's.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

I never thought I'd say this in my life, but...I am a swimsuit model! I was asked to participate in the Poets of Southern California Swimsuit Calendar, organized by the dynamic Sholeh Wolpe at Tebot Bach, a literary organization that does a lot of poetry outreach in the community. I had read an article about the project a couple of weeks before in the LA Times, and was tickled by the thought of it; I went to the Tebot Bach website (www.tebotbach.org) to get more info, and discovered that my beloved former poetry professor from Redlands, Ralph Angel, was going to be in the calendar. The project was great giggle fodder amongst my friends; we thought it was such an hysterical idea. I felt a little sad (and a lot relieved) that I wasn't part of it.


Then, this past Tuesday, I got a phone call from Sholeh herself saying she wanted to use me in a photo shoot (with Ralph Angel, no less!) I thought all the photos had already been taken, so this was a huge surprise. I found myself dealing with tons of conflicted emotions...Do I want to be immortalized in a bathing suit? I'm always railing against the objectification of women--wouldn't doing this be hypocritical of me? I felt hypocritical, too, because Fruitflesh is so much about loving our bodies, no matter what size or shape they may be, and I was suddenly struck with major thigh anxiety. I love my body fully from the inside out, from the lived experience of it, but I have not made total peace with the image of my body from the outside. My thighs, with their stretch marks and veins and bulges, are just about everything we're told thighs shouldn't be. That's what made me decide more than anything that I should participate. It's important that we see all kinds of thighs in the media. We only see Barbie doll thighs, and it makes those of us who don't have Barbie doll thighs think that something is wrong with our bodies. If we saw all kinds of bodies regularly, we would all feel a lot better about our own bodies. Plus, this calendar is actually going to be filled with poets of all ages and body types. It is a tongue-in-cheek swimsuit calendar, one that subverts the regular swimsuit calendar ideal. I decided to do it.


My friend Denise, who owns a vintage clothing store, brought over a bunch of cute vintage bathing suits for me to try. I chose one that is probably from the '50s; it looks more like a little jumper than a bathing suit, with a halter top and flared shorts at the bottom, in a crinkly fabric (black with white and rainbow beach designs.) My thighs felt quite comfortable in it.


The shoot itself was loads of fun. We took the pictures in the bathroom of one of Sholeh's friends--a big ornate bathroom with a huge whirlpool tub surrounded by pillars. Ralph wore a snorkel mask and flippers. We all held glasses of champagne (there were two other women in the photo, too--Sholeh, and Edith, a wonderful woman whose last name I've forgetten). At some point, a rubber ducky was involved. We ended the evening all smushed into the tub, smearing bubbles over each other's hair. It was so wonderful to catch up with Ralph (I never could have imagined that this is how we would reconnect!) He was instrumental in setting me on the path I'm still on today--his generosity and soulfulness continue to have a deep impact on me.


If anyone wants to preorder the calendars (which will be available in April), you can do so through the Tebot Bach website (www.tebotbach.org).


Speaking of websites, please visit www.poetsagainstthewar.org. It's so heartening to see so many voices clamoring, whispering, singing for peace.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

This afternoon I participated in a 24 hour short story writing contest sponsored by www.writersweekly.com (I think they have these contests twice a year.) As far as writing marathons go, this was much, much simpler than November Is National Novel Writing Month, although I suppose I shouldn't even compare the two--this contest was more like a 50 yard dash than a marathon (it took me about 2 hours rather than 30 entire days!) The hosts email all participants with the topic and word limit the day of the contest so people can't cheat and write their stories ahead of time. This time, the story (950 words or less) had to somehow address a situation where a woman is watching tv during a blizzard and then someone who had died 10 years before appears on the screen. I wasn't quite sure what to do with that, and ended up writing a weird little tale about a woman dying of hypothermia and hallucinating about her dead husband. It sounds pretty grim, but it was a lot of fun to write (I should mention that the woman, much to her dismay, winds up getting saved in the end. I couldn't quite bring myself to kill her off. One of my downfalls as a writer--I tend to be too nice to my characters; it's hard for me to let them suffer in peace. I'm getting better at it, but it's not easy).

It was an enjoyable writing day; I love contests/themed journals like this one where they give you certain hoops to jump through. It's nice to have a trigger, to see what emerges from it. I love it best when an idea for a story strikes me like lightning, out of the blue, but I really appreciate prompts, too. It's a cool way to get the juices flowing.

Friday, January 17, 2003

I have a poem in a beautiful new anthology, Proposing On the Brooklyn Bridge: Poems About Marriage, edited by Ginny Connors (Poetworks/Grayson Books). On February 9 at 2pm, I'll be giving a reading from the anthology with three other poets (all wonderful)--Judy Kronenfeld, Cecilia Woloch, and Sherman Pearl--at the Montclair Borders. The book would make a great Valentine's gift!

Monday, January 06, 2003

Today I went to register.com to register www.thebookofdeadbirds.com for my website upgrade (coming soon-ish to a monitor near you!)
They offered me some amusing alternative urls, including:

thebookofdeaderbirds
thebookofdeadflock
mythebookofdeadbirds
thebookofdeadanimals
thebookofdeadestbirds
thebookofdeadbirdsit
freethebookofdeadbirds
thevolumeofdeadbirds
greatthebookofdeadbirds

Almost as much fun as an anagram server!