Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I have a creative anarchist in the house--my 11 year old daughter is messing with Wikipedia as I write this. You can check out her additions at the bottoms of the listings for Ugliness, Bacon, and Japan (check the last part of the "Classical Era" section.) At least you can until the Wikipedia people take her stuff down! I can hear the keyboard going in the other room, so I'm sure she's playing around with other words, too. Watch out world--this girl loves to shake things up!

Update: That was fast. Wikipedia already took her entries--which were hysterical, by the way--down and has banned her from editing any more entires. Oh well. I'm sure she'll find another way to wreak creative havoc.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My friend Sefi Atta lives in Meridian, Mississippi. I'm waiting to hear from her to see how she weathered the hurricane, and I find I keep thinking about her amazing short story, Toward the End, which takes place during a huge storm. The title alone gives me chills. From the online searching I've done, it appears that Meridian has lost power, but I'm not sure about the real extent of the damage there. Sefi, I hope you and your family are safe. I imagine Katrina will give you material for many more stories. Such wrenching stories are coming out of the Gulf Coast now...

Update: I just heard from Sefi. She and her family are doing okay. I'm so relieved.
Cindy Sheehan's goodbye-to-Camp-Casey blog choked me up so much. In it, she reveals that "Sheehan is Gaelic for 'Peace' which I think is such a cool thing, and not a coincidence. Casey Sheehan's sacrifice will stand for peace forever." What a beautiful connection. She ends the blog with these words:

Tonight I will write to look back on the good times, less than good times and the miracles that occurred here in Crawford. But I want to thank one person for the best "vacation" and most amazing experience I have ever had: George Bush: Thank you George for not meeting with me on August 6 th and thank you for being the motivation for Camp Casey. I know you don't want Camp Casey to come to the place you reside between vacations, so I would suggest you bring our troops home immediately.

But most of all: thank you my son. Thank you for living the kind of life that inspires people to work for peace and justice. Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. Thank you for being the embodiment of love and thank you for being the inspiration for the Camp Casey movement. I promise you it won't end until all of your buddies are brought home. And I promise I will fight for your unborn nieces and nephews and the rest of the children of the world, so they won't be misused and abused by corrupt leadership like you and your buddies were.

I love you Casey.

Thank YOU, Cindy, for bringing so much love and strength and energy and momentum to the peace movement. You hear stories about mothers being able to lift cars off their children when they're in danger--how women are suddenly imbued with that surge of superhuman power. Well, you, with your supreme mother-power, have lifted the crushing sense of hopelessness off of the anti-war movement. You have given us a second chance, a new sense of hope and possibility. I will be forever grateful for your courage, and will continue to be inspired by your dedication to peace.
Ron at Beatrice posted a link to this wonderful story of body-image revenge. The author, Dianne Sylvan, has a new book coming out in October, The Body Sacred, which sounds right up my alley. Here is the Publisher's Weekly review:

Americans are not just engaged in wars on terror and drugs, says Wiccan priestess Sylvan. We are also waging a war against our bodies, trying to prevent our breasts from sagging, our faces from wrinkling and our buns from expanding. Sylvan, a self-proclaimed fattie, has had enough. Marrying cultural critique with user-friendly how-to, she urges readers to reject society's insistence that they spend countless hours and billions of dollars trying to look thin and youthful. Rather, says Sylvan, women should embrace their bodies for what they are — incarnations of the Goddess. Above all, this book is practical. Sylvan suggests exercises and rituals designed to help readers live more comfortably in their own skins: envision five women who hate their bodies, and then note that these women probably look perfectly fine; meditate on Artemis, the divine huntress, an 'intensely physical goddess'; tape a copy of Maya Angelou's poem 'Phenomenal Woman' to the mirror; dance or take up tai chi. What distinguishes this book more than anything is Sylvan's sense of humor — she's tackling a serious topic, but she'll have readers laughing from page one. Pull-out quotes in the margins offer inspiring wisdom from women ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to Alanis Morissette.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I just heard from Medea Benjamin that the lyrics below were inspired by our op-ed article. How cool!

Every Day Is Mother’s Day

by David Rovics

There’s a camp in Crawford, women in grief
No way for them to find any relief
Their sons are dead and they’ve come to see
The man who made their destiny
He’s squirming there on his vacation
Trying to look like he’s leading the nation
But folks are vying for that position
They’ve got guts and they’ve got a mission
You can open your ears and hear everybody say
That every day is mother’s day

Well things were getting a little gritty
So the president went to Salt Lake City
And a sleepy little town in Idaho
But the mothers are on him wherever he goes
He just can’t get ‘em outta his hair
Wherever he is, they’re right there
Calling him out for the liar he is
Saying don’t kill more kids for your oil biz
Saying George, give up and just go away
‘Cause every day is mother’s day

And when George goes back to Washington
He’ll have no place left to run
With rocking chairs to greet the dawn
And mothers camped on the White House lawn
Heeding the call of Julia Ward
A moral and mighty, motherly horde
The future is coming and the future looks hard
For W and his house of cards
The mothers are coming and they’re here to stay
Every day is mother’s day

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Today I went to visit my friends and their beautiful five day old baby, Lily. Being around a new baby fills me with awe. It's like being with a creature from another world, like being close to the heart of mystery, the heart of life. One of my very favorite things to see is the back of a nursing baby's head. I love the way the baby is so utterly focused on the breast, that beautiful closed circuit of mother and child. I love the little bobbing, the subtle back and forth, the small head moving with the flow of milk.

Many years ago, at the zoo, I sat on a bench and nursed my baby across from a gorilla, nursing hers. That gorilla baby's head had the same sweet focus, the same intense concentration as mine, same whorl of hair on the back of the head.

I love that whorl of hair on the back of babies' heads. I love to put my nose right in the center of the lovely sweeping spiral and breathe in that caramel new baby scent. Lily's whorl today reminded me of the satellite photos of Hurricane Katrina, but they couldn't be any more different. Lily's whorl speaks of life and hope and boundless possibility; Katrina's whorl, as beautiful as it is from a distance, speaks of destruction, uprooting, devastation.

My heart goes out to all the people in New Orleans and other affected areas as they flee their homes and brace for the storm. I've never been to New Orleans, and have always wanted to go. I've always assumed it would be there whenever I got around to buying a ticket; why would I think otherwise? It's a town that has always had a timelessness about it. How dizzying to remember that it (like everything else on the planet) is actually transient, finite. I find myself grieving for a place that I had hoped to get to know. I just read that one million people may be left homeless by this hurricane. One million people displaced. My mind can barely begin to comprehend the magnitude.

My sister and her family visited New Orleans last month. They bought me a gift there--a hairbrush shaped like a mermaid. Maybe when human beings evolve more, we'll go back to our watery roots and become amphibious, like mermaids. Then, after a hurricane hit, we could return to our flooded homes and lie down on our underwater sofas and flip through our sodden photo albums and find a way to adapt. But this hurricane isn't going to have any sort of fairy tale ending. This is going to break our hearts. And all I can do is try to feel the New Orleans in my mermaid brush, and brush the whorls out of my hair.

Friday, August 26, 2005

My daughter and I are going to be part of this event tomorrow night. It should be an amazing evening--please come if you can:

The Venice People's Centennial Celebration continues at SPARC (Social & Public Art Resource Center) with "Divas of Venice," a month long art installation and series of musical concerts, film, poetry, politics, readings and presentations, including the "Venus of Venice" awards, a pink slip progressive wear fashion show, and performance piece, reflecting the diversity and uniqueness of extraordinary Venice women.

The Divas of Venice shows close this Saturday, August 27th at 7:00 pm with one of our founding members of CODEPINK, Political Diva, Jodie Evans- along with special guests (the spirited musician Michelle Shocked, and outrageous comedian Citizen Reno), a pink slip fashion show, and performance piece the "Election Hygienists of CODEPINK." This will be a night to celebrate and honor the creativity and dedication of our favorite activist divas, as well as their chance to share their talents and inspirations with us.

Jodie is back from Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas for this night only...
So please join us and hear first-hand accounts of life and action outside the Bush Ranch.

"Divas of Venice" is sponsored in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Liberty Hill Foundation/Robert & Heidi Greenwald Fund, Susan Adelman and Claudio Llanos, Edward Ferrer, Don Geagan, Linda Lucks, Michael McGuffin, and Linda Shusett.

All events are free and open to the public. SPARC is located at 685 N. Venice Boulevard in Venice.

For more information visit these websites at: www.VeniceArtsCouncil.org and www.SPARCmurals.org.
Mother's Day in Crawford, the op-ed piece I co-wrote with Medea Benjamin, is featured at Common Dreams today.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Academy of American Poets has a great feature up about poetry of the body. And of course my beloved Whitman is invoked:

For Whitman, celebrating the body became a celebration of the democratic spirit of his new America:

The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred—is it the meanest one in the
laborers' gang?
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as
much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.

Poems about the body are often poems of celebration and awe, poems that delight in the body's mysteries, its "dream of flesh" says Mark Strand, poems that wonder at the body's remarkable capabilities—the hands, bones, face, eyes, brain, arms, genitals, and, of course, the heart, that "ragtime jubilee," as Yusef Komunyakaa calls it.
Yes, yes, and yes.

I have been so moved by the reports of Cindy Sheehan's return to Camp Casey. And I was also very moved by Robert Shetterly's essay about painting this portrait of Cindy.
Most of the time when I receive Google Alerts, they tell me where my books are being sold cheap, remainder marks tattooing the bottoms of their pages, but sometimes the alerts bring surprising and beautiful things into my inbox. Today, I received this link. I am so touched to see what my book Fruitflesh has inspired; such a tender and gorgeous meditation. Thank you, Maitri, for sharing your stunning words, and thank you, Google Alert, for bringing them my way.


Julie Kenner is our latest GCC guest, currently touring cyberspace to promote her new novel, CARPE DEMON: Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom.

"What would happen if Buffy the Vampire Slayer got married, moved to the suburbs and became a stay-at-home mom? She'd be a lot like Kate Connor, once a demon/vampire/zombie killer and now "a glorified chauffeur for drill-team practice and Gymboree play dates" in San Diablo, Calif., that's what. But in Kenner's sprightly, fast-paced ode to kick-ass housewives, Kate finds herself battling evil once again." -- Publishers Weekly

A combination of mommy lit and fantasy, the book has been receiving praise since even before its release when Booksense honored it by selecting CARPE DEMON as one of its Top Ten Summer Paperback Picks for 2005. The book was also selected as a Target "Breakout Book" and has held the Number One slot on Barnes & Noble's SF/Fantasy trade overall bestseller list for seven weeks (and counting!).

CARPE DEMON has also been optioned for film, and is currently in development at Warner Brothers, with 1492 Pictures (Chris Columbus, Harry Potter) producing.


I had the chance to ask Julie Kenner a few questions, and she was gracious enough to share her thoughts. Here's our conversation..

--Your most recent books have such fun titles: Carpe Demon, The Givenchy Code. Did you come up with the titles first and then write stories to fit them, or did you write the books first, and then come up with the titles?

Alas, I suck at titles. Fortunately, I lucked out with my friends and my agent! Seriously, CARPE DEMON was a line I used in my synopsis, but it never occurred to me to have that as the title. My original title was the truly gag-worthy Demons & Dirty Diapers. My agent, wisely, said I had to change it before she shopped the book, and I came up with the rather obvious Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom. But it was missing something. She and the other agents at her office brainstormed, and one of them read my synopsis, saw the "carpe demon" line and basically said, duh! That's the perfect title. And, of course, he was right!

As for THE GIVENCHY CODE, that wonderfully clever title was the brainchild of my critique partner, Kathleen O'Reilly, who was kind enough to give it to me in exchange for a lifetime supply of lattes (well, not really, but I feel obligated to supply her anyway!)

--You have published over 20 books in five years. How are you able to be so prolific? What is your writing process like? When did you first start writing?

The easy answer is that I write pretty fast. That's also the obvious answer since if I wrote slow, that level of productivity wouldn't be possible! The harder answer is that I budget my time pretty strictly, especially back during the years when I was working full time. Early on, it was easier because I had no child and my husband was in grad school (read: lots of guilt-free writing time at night). Later, it became more difficult. Even now, working full time as a writer, I have to budget strictly because in addition to family obligations (I don't write when my daughter's up and about unless it's ABSOLUTELY necessary), I also have all those "extras" that come with being published: galleys, copyedits, promotion, etc.

As for the process, I set a daily word count and then try (I don't always succeed, but I try) to hit that count on a daily basis. Often, though, I'm making up pages at the end of the week. I also use goal sheets (a trick from author Janelle Denison), and I have sample goal sheets on my website (in the Articles section) that folks can download.

I can't remember not writing. Seriously. I even wrote "gibberish" novels as a small child on my dad's typewriter. In elementary school I wrote poetry (and in high school), and then later I wrote short stories, newspaper articles, edited the school paper, etc. After and during law school, I piddled around with plays and screenplays and bits and pieces of novels. But if you're asking when I got serious, when I sat down and actually said "I am going to finish a book," that would be in 1997.

--What are you working on now?

At this very moment, I'm working on the last few chapters of CALIFORNIA DEMON: MORE ADVENTURES OF A DEMON-HUNTING SOCCER MOM

--Since I always ask a fruit related question--What do you think is the most demonic fruit, and why?

Ah, well, I guess I'd have to say the apple! Which, of course, is my
favorite fruit. Hmmmmm.

--I love 'em, too; I guess that makes us both demonic! Thanks so much for stopping by, Julie! Have fun on your tour; may CARPE DEMON continue to flourish.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sex-Kitten has a new issue out--"Author Author"--full of essays and panel discussions about the writing process, including an essay about the connection between dance and writing, and a conversation about writing about politics, sex and religion (my friend Bee Lavender is part of the panel.) Check it out!
Salon recently published some absolutley horrific photos from the war in Iraq (click on the "photo gallery" link to view them, but be forewarned--they are deeply, deeply disturbing. I feel ill just thinking about them now.) As hard as it is to see these pictures, it is so important that they are made available--the media normally shields us from the true pain and tragedy of war. These photos bring it home in the most visceral way.

Many readers have written letters commending Salon's decision to publish the photos. Kim Pananides suggests the photos should be enlarged and displayed at Camp Casey; "It may be the only way that our president ever sees them," she writes, "since he's so busy getting on with his life these days."

K. Frederick writes:

As a human being, I am repulsed and tormented by the photos of war you have published. As an American, I am both disgraced by and outraged at what our government has done, and continues to do, especially in the name of 9/11. I am a native New Yorker who was there that day and lost many dear friends; this is not justice for them or me. It may seem an odd thing to say thank you for: grotesque, painful images that are supposed to be "too real" for us, but I do thank you, and salute you, for showing us the truth of what our troops are going through, and, more importantly, allowing us to finally begin looking in the mirror.
My lovely and amazing editor sent me a link to this BBC article: Why Mothers Push for Peace. It is a wonderful look at how mothers are shaping the current anti-war movement. Medea Benjamin and I recently cowrote an op-ed on that very subject, focusing on how Cindy Sheehan's vigil embodies Julia Ward Howe's original Mother's Day Proclamation, which was written to protest the deaths of sons during the Civil War. If the op-ed finds a home, I will be sure to share the link.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Joan Baez performed at Camp Casey yesterday. I knew there was a possibility that she and/or Michelle Shocked were going to sing my "CODEPINK Rose of Texas" lyrics (a possibility that still totally blows my mind), so I was searching online to see if I could find out anything about the performance. When I Googled "CODEPINK Rose of Texas", nothing about the concert surfaced, but I did come across a ranting conservative site that refers to the song.

A man who calls himself "monkeyfan" (and signed up for the CODEPINK alerts using the name Zoe Vagina to keep tabs on our movement) wrote: "The walnuts even managed to Elton Johnize up a hippie protest song" and provided a link to the lyrics.

I must say, I am happy to be called a walnut. I love walnuts. They are full of delicious goodness. I don't mind the Elton John reference, either (although I know it wasn't meant as a compliment.) And I've always wanted to write a hippie protest song, so there you go.

"monkeyfan" later says the song should be called the "CODEPINK Pose of Texas", and someone else on the forum wonders how much money Cindy Sheehan is making for this "protest" (quotes theirs). They see her as an opportunist and a pawn rather than the courageous, amazing, selfless, spirit she is.

Sometimes I wonder whether it will ever be possible for the two sides of the fence to have any sort of intelligent dialogue. There is so much animosity in both directions, so much vilification. We seem to forget that we are all human beings, that we have the capacity to connect, to understand one another even if we don't agree with the other's point of view. I hope one day we can figure out how to coexist more peacefully.
I generally don't pay a lot of attention to astrology (except for Rob Brezny's Free Will Astrology, which I adore), but sometimes my daily horoscope tickles me. This is what my horoscope said in the LAT Times today:

Seeing is a miracle. Hearing, tasting and feeling are miracles, too. Appreciating your senses and learning to use them more fully will open you to favorable fortune. This is easier to do when you travel out of your usual environment.
This is a good reminder for me to practice what I preach. With all the sensory writing and awareness workshops I teach (I'm teaching one for little kids at 826LA next month), sometimes I forget to keep my senses open in my daily life. As the horoscope mentions, it may be easier to appreciate our senses when we travel out of usual environment, but I think the most profound appreciation can come when we pay deep attention to the things around us that we normally take for granted.

I had a fun sensory treat last night. Hannah was playing with her cousin down the street; she came home with three small Mason jars of jelly--orange mint, kudzu, and rose "pedal"--from the Restoration Cafe (which I think is in the South somewhere.) The jellies are all loosely set and are quite subtle--the predominant flavor in each of them is sugar--but if you close your eyes, you can taste the mint, the rose, the slight tartness that must be kudzu. The colors are subtle, too, barely tinted translucence, like sea glass. I like seeing them there in the fridge, perking my senses with their gleam, their promise of strange flavors.
I woke up crying this morning--I couldn't get the finale of Six Feet Under out of my head. I don't want to say too much about the last show, because my sister hasn't had a chance to see it yet, and I don't want to ruin it for her, but, man, how perfect and heartbreaking and beautiful an ending was that?! It moved me so deeply. It made me feel so alive. It made me want to hug everyone in the world (and draw those I love even closer to my chest).

I tend to cry when things end. I cry when I finish reading a book that I loved (and I always kiss the cover of those books before I put them back on the shelf.) I cry at the end of plays, even if I didn't like them that much (I especially cry if there is a standing ovation.) I often cry at the end of movies. I hate saying goodbye to people. I love how fluid life is, love how life is constantly changing, but endings--even though they usher in new beginnings, new possibilites--hit me hard.

At my last reading of The Book of Dead Birds, I felt a little rush of sadness--I realized that since I have a new novel on the horizon, I probably won't be reading out loud from The Book of Dead Birds much anymore. The sadness surprised me--when I was touring around a lot with the book, I started to get tired of hearing myself read from it, hearing myself talk about it, but now that I read from it less often, I feel a real sense of loss. So many little endings in life. I guess they help prepare us for the final ending, the final letting go...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Stephen Elliot is a writer who has done an amazing job of weaving together his life as an artist and his life as an activist (a balance that has always been important for me to navigate--now so more than ever). The San Francisco Chronicle profiles his latest event, a poetry reading and film showing to raise awareness about the injustices of the juvenille detention system (a subject Stephen knows about intimately.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

A friend sent a link to this wonderful commencement address by Barbara Kingsolver. What lucky students to hear these words:

You don't have to be a Gandhi or Mother Teresa to find more successful motives in life than simple greed. As we run out of stuff we reach the end of a purely profit- driven form of success, and that is just a fact, plain as a box of rocks. Governments tend to be slow on the uptake, but individuals can change quickly -- working people, thinking people, entrepreneurs. One person with only ordinary resources could, for example, found a bank that lends money to half a million women villagers in Bangladesh, allowing them to found small businesses, raise their families out of destitution, and work with dignity. I know this because it was done, by a man named Mohammed Yunus. Creative social entrepreneurs are building sturdy, valid businesses that advance positive changes in human life and environmental sustainability.

This is the kind of thing you'll get to be a part of, like it or not. Probably you will like it, because it feels good to marry your work with your heart, to spend your days on the job doing things that feel right to you. It's not just a paycheck then, it's paydirt, it's knowing you are not just taking up shelf space in this world, you're honestly living.

What will be required of you is a paradigm shift, the novel idea that making a living is not just about picking up the bread, hauling off all you can carry, but about living with an eye to what you really need, and on what you could spare for the future. You could distinguish yourselves as the first American generation that behaves as if there's going to be a tomorrow.
Dolly Parton, activist.

Parton's live cover of "Blowin' in the Wind" should probably have been cringe-inducing, but it wasn’t. Stripped down to Parton’s powerful pipes and a guitar, it worked. And she definitely enunciated particular verses, especially the questions "How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry? And how many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died?" Parton, who had perfect silence for the first half of the song, finished it to a massive standing ovation from the New York crowd. And however unlikely the messenger, it was almost impossible to imagine the lyrics being about anything other than a direct message to George Bush.


I love it. I'm almost feeling a hankering to head over to Dollywood now.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Happy birthday to my beautiful husband, Matt (he's the one sitting at the pedal steel guitar on the left. You can also see him sitting next to me at the vigil below if you look closely!) May all your birthday wishes come true!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Thank you to everyone who came to the vigil tonight. What a beautiful, moving, inspiring evening.

We gathered on the steps of the Riverside Public Library, and our numbers kept growing (one person counted 77 people; another said we were up to 120 at one point.) At 8:00, thanks to someone's excellent suggestion, we created a silent candelight procession through the street festival in progress a block away. As we walked, people touched my arm and said "Thank you". Some onlookers broke into spontaneous applause. I was expecting to receive some hostile responses, but they never came.

After circling the block, we reconvened at the library and formed a huge circle. People who felt moved to do so--including the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq in December and a woman whose husband is currently stationed there--stepped into the center of the circle and shared their thoughts. I could feel so much energy in that circle, could feel peace rippling off all of us into the night. It was wonderful to remember that over 1500 groups were also gathering, all of us sending out peace from our communities. The tides are turning. I can feel it. We can change the course of this war.

Thanks to Rhonda Neugebauer for the pictures!

Update: You can read the Press-Enterprise coverage of local vigils here.
You can find two of my food-related poems in the "Esculent Flummery" issue of Hiss Quarterly. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I am organizing a vigil to stand in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan tomorrow night in downtown Riverside (over a thousand vigils are taking place at the same time around the country.) For more information, and to RSVP, please visit the event page at MoveOn.org.
Over the weekend, I was moved to change the lyrics of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" to honor Cindy Sheehan's vigil (and to connect it with the pink rose campaign we just launched at CODEPINK). You can read the resulting song here (where you can also send your message of support to Cindy.) I haven't written in rhyme in a long time--I tried to stick with the rhyme scheme of the original song; it took me back to my childhood, when I used to change the lyrics of songs to make them more subversive (Frosty the Snowman ended up running around with a machine gun in one of them! The pink rose lyrics are pretty much the antithesis to that one!) It looks like some ultra cool things may be happening with the song; I'll keep you updated...
I love this addition to McSweeney's Dear Mr. President page:

Dear Mr. President,

Have you ever noticed that every place in the world has a different smell? I smelled decaying marigolds and ash in India, rose-scented miracles and dried blood in El Salvador, and clear water running over mossy gnomes in Austria. I am from Texas, and our farm smells like hay bleached by August sun and pond water scattered with pine needles. This morning I opened my window at dawn and burned incense on the ledge. Now my apartment smells just a little bit like India.

Perhaps not every place has a different smell. The suburbs all smell the same. And even worse than People Forgetting is that people are Beginning Not to Notice.

What does the White House smell like? What does Baghdad smell like?

Sincerely,
Ann Crews Melton

Monday, August 15, 2005

Here is a link to the new CodePink campaign I've been working on. Please consider sending a flower to Cindy to show your support. Can you imagine how powerful it will be to see her surrounded by pink roses in the middle of the arid Texas landscape?

Some more exciting developments are on the horizon; I'll keep you abreast as they unfold...


Today, we have not just one girlfriend visiting our blog on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, but two: Robin Epstein and Renée Kaplan, who collaborated on the novel Shaking Her Assets, which, according to their publisher, is "a clever and quirky debut novel featuring the adventures of a modern-day Manhattan heroine."

Their main character, Rachel Chambers, is a "New York City copywriter, collector of vintage compacts, and self-proclaimed eBay-addict" who finds herself out of a job and out of a relationship in a short span of time. She is forced to reinvent herself (and is turned into a comicbook super heroine along the way!)

Robin Epstein received her MFA from Columbia University. She has worked on sitcoms starring Joan Cusack ("What About Joan," ABC), Al Franken ("Lateline," NBC) and sold an original pilot to the Oxygen network. She is a contributor to NPR’s This American Life and is currently scripting a video game for Atari called Tycoon City: New York.

Renée Kaplan was a writer and editor for the New York Observer, before transitioning into television journalism, first as a producer for the "Charlie Rose Show" on PBS, and most recently for "60 Minutes II." Today she is a freelance television producer and writer.

Here is our cyber-interview:

--I once collaborated with a beloved friend on some choreography and it nearly ruined our friendship (but thankfully it didn't, and, ultimately, it brought us closer together.) Could you talk about your collaborative process, and how it affected you as friends and writers?

A: We were both really worried that doing something as subjective as writing together could potentially be very dangerous to the state of our friendship. Renee and I have known each other since freshman year in college, and our friendship over the years has been incredibly important to both of us. Fortunately one of the cornerstones of the friendship has been a real mutual respect for the other's intelligence and talents. And so even in the moments when we didn't agree with one another, we knew we should always take a step back and say, "wait a second, she's making this comment for a reason--and we would debate a point knowing that things were always being said to make the novel better." So generally if we hit an impasse, we knew to look for a third way around it, and generally what we'd come up with together was the best solution... And that's our story and we're sticking to it!

--A reader who posted a review of your novel on Amazon talked about her complicated relationship with chick lit as a feminist; she was happy to discover that your book has an empowering message for women. Could you say a few words about chick lit and feminism?

A: Renee and I have slightly different opinions on chick lit, but my feeling on it is this: I enjoy chick lit and consider myself a strong feminist. As far as I'm concerned, "Chick Lit" is a marketing term and shouldn't be used as a value judgment on books. Do I think some of the candy colored covers make the books look silly? Yes. But if something like that helps move the merchandise, I'd be in favor of using scratch and sniff candy covers. What I object to is the notion that a man swoops in at the end of a book and makes things perfect for the heroine. Does this happen frequently in books deemed chick lit, yes. But doesn't the same thing happen in fairy tales? And romantic comedies? And, for that matter, all comedy in Shakespeare's cannon? Yes, yes & yes. So I'm happy to consider myself a writer of chick lit... after all, chicks are the only people buying books these days anyway!

--How did the comic book aspect of the novel come about? Are either of you graphic novel fans?

A: Interestingly, neither one of us is a big graphic novel/comic book fan. But one of the main characters in our novel is an art director who draws comic characters on the side, so as we were mapping out his character, we thought, "hey, wouldn't it be cool to include some of his art in the book?"

--I always have to ask a fruit-related question: What do you think is the most ass(et)-shaking fruit around?

A: Melons immediately come to mind... but since our heroine's drink of choice is the vodka gimlet (and since vodka itself isn't a fruit), I think the vibrant lime has to be the answer!

Thanks so much, Robin and Renee! I wish you and your book all the best!

Friday, August 12, 2005

I spoke by phone today to Medea Benjamin, who is in Crawford to support Cindy Sheehan. I can't tell you how amazing it is to suddenly find myself connecting with, and helping out, women I so deeply admire and respect. Medea has been mythical to me (and not just because of her mythical name--she is someone whose bravery continually astounds me.) I can't believe she was on the other end of my phone line! I am working on a new CodePink campaign now (it should go public on Monday--I'll keep you posted. It's a truly beautiful idea; I'm honored to be part of it.)

For more on Cindy Sheehan, be sure to visit her Code Pink blog. Salon also continues to provide great coverage of the vigil; here is their latest piece.
My character Ava in The Book of Dead Birds may be a bird killer, but she would never do anything this intentionally inhumane. The poor ducks!

When I was in high school, I wrote a letter to editor decrying the mistreatment of ducks I witnessed at a beach in Wilmette, IL. I think I've always felt protective of birds; stories like the one above make me feel sick. The little man-made lake down the street from us is full of muck right now; I worry about the ducks and geese who have to swim through the thick clots of algae and trash. I think I feel another letter to the editor (or at least a letter to the City) brewing...

I found a picture of my grandmother online (my Nana, Molly Bransky, who died when I was 6 and she was 90; she was the only grandparent I ever knew.) How amazing to see her as a young woman, staring at me from my monitor. I found her in the archives of the Jewish Museum of Maryland; my father's family landed in Baltimore after fleeing from Russia. I had lunch with my parents on Tuesday; my father told me that his grandfather had owned a department store in Baltimore, and had killed himself when he lost his fortune during the Depression. I hadn't heard this story before, so I went online to see if I could find out more. I couldn't find anything about my great-grandfather, but I found this image of my grandmother at a Zionist conference when she was 22 years old. I know she's on the blanket, but the photo key only lists three names out of the four people sitting there, so I don't know for sure whether she's the Princess Leia-looking woman on the far right or the saucy-looking woman sitting next to her (my dad thinks she's the latter, but it's hard to tell in a fuzzy photo.) Either way, here she is, in cyberland. Amazing. My dad was surprised to discover his mother was involved in the Zionist movement at such a young age; many years later, she became acting president of the Women's League of America, after founding a synagogue in Chicago with my grandfather. I feel as if I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of their stories. The Jewish Museum of Maryland offers genealogical research services--I may enlist them to see what else they can uncover about my family's roots.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My friend David Abrams, a marvelous writer, reviewer, and human being, is currently stationed in Iraq. Nothing brings home the devastation of war more than first hand accounts like this.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

My interview with Diane Wilson is up on the CodePink website now.

As I'm writing this, my husband is turning one of my poems into a song. He had wanted to write an anti-tv song (we're getting rid of our cable in two weeks, after the--sob!--finale of my true tv love, Six Feet Under. We've gone in and out of tv-free life since we've been together, and we're ready to let it go again, at least for awhile.) I remembered I had an anti-tv poem, "Open the Television" in my pool o' poems, so I shared it with him. It's so much fun to hear his interpretation of it. It's like the poem's been reincarnated. I felt the same way when I saw the screenplay adaptation of The Book of Dead Birds that Casey DeFranco is writing--the spirit of my story in a new body! (I should note that there are no plans to produce the screenplay at this point, but the possibilities are cool to think about...)
I spent some time at the CodePink house yesterday while my daughter was at her comedy writing class down the street at 826LA. I asked if I could be of help, and they put me to work, researching Bush's schedule and writing a press release for a planned protest in Illinois tomorrow. It feels so good to be involved.

Venice is starting to feel like our second home; this was our third time there in a week. We bought some pink salt from the Himalayas at a wonderful little corner gourmet shop (we also had a great caprese sandwich there.) I am a salt-aholic, but this salt is almost too intense; one crystal of it made my whole mouth sting. I'm not quite sure what to do with it--we definitely need to be judicious; a speck or two could season a whole pot of soup. It's gorgeous, though. I brought some to the Code Pink house, where it fits right in!

Salon has an interesting article about the right-wing backlash to Cindy Sheehan's protest. Conservative pundits like Drudge and Michelle Malkin are accusing her of "flip flopping" (which appears to be a cardinal sin in their black-and-white world.) As Salon notes, though, "It seems pretty clear that until the mess in Iraq is cleaned up, more and more Americans are going to join Sheehan in opposing the war. And the ranks of alleged flip-floppers will continue to grow."

Maureen Dowd also has a great piece about the administration's mishandling of Cindy Sheehan's vigil.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I had the pleasure of speaking by phone to Diane Wilson, the woman who started the CodePink hunger strike in Crawford, Texas, earlier today. I wrote this piece for the CodePink site, but thought I'd share it here, as well:

Diane Wilson, commercial fisherwoman, environmentalist, and co-founder of CODEPINK: Women For Peace, launched a hunger strike August 7, 2005 to support Cindy Sheehan's roadside vigil at President Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch (or, as she likes to call it, "White House West.") Sheehan has said she won't leave the fire ant infested, 100 degree temperature site until Bush speaks to her about why her son was killed in Iraq. Members of CODEPINK are launching vigilant fasts around the world to express their solidarity.

Wilson knows how powerful hunger strikes can be. In 2002, her hunger strike against DOW chemical resulted in criminal charges in Bhopal. Her longest fast lasted 31 days. "A hunger strike is a very powerful action," she said by phone. "It creates soul-power, as Gandhi says. It creates change." She said even a one day fast of solidarity can solidify intent.

"I believe Cindy is going to be able to talk to Bush," said Wilson, who drove for seven hours to get to Crawford. "The time is coming that he is going to have to relate to the common American people. During Vietnam, most of the protestors were students. Now mothers are protesting, families are protesting. People are showing up on his doorstep saying, 'Hey George, where are those family values that you've been talking about?'"

Wilson noted that at first the authorities didn't understand the seriousness of the situation, but, she laughed, "it's starting to dawn on them." Over 20 Secret Service and law enforcement cars have patrolled the protest site. Steve Hadley, national security adviser, and Joe Hagin, deputy chief of staff, met with Sheehan, and even sat on the dirt with her, but they continued to feed her the party line. Wilson said Sheehan told her "I may be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid." And she's not leaving until she speaks to Bush, himself. Wilson has promised to stay and fast with her for the entire length of the vigil.

Wilson is the mother of five children, including an autistic son who has been approached by military recruiters. "This isn't just about Cindy's son," she said. "This is for every new death, both US and Iraqi. We're here to say 'No more. No more.'"

Wilson is committed to the transformative power of civil disobedience, on both a personal and cultural level. She has been pleased by the support and amount of press attention the protest has received. "You know?" she said, taking a deep breath. "We are a lot stronger than we think."
Yesterday, my daughter and I drove to the cool air and cool vibe of Venice Beach so Hannah could audition for a play, "The Election Hygienists of CodePink" (CodePink, in the off chance you haven't heard of it, is a grassroots peace and social justice movement that seeks positive social change through proactive, creative protest and non-violent direct action. I am in love with their bold and beautiful actions and am happy to count myself in their numbers.) We showed up at the lovely CodePink house, where we were welcomed by a group of generous, talented women. Hannah got the part of the daughter of the Registrar of Voters--she is very excited; she gets to speak in a Southern accent! And I was enlisted to stand in for the lead role (Hygienist Helga) as they did a read through. I have never acted in a play--other than the one line I spoke as Grandma Josephine in a 5th grade production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory--so this was a very fun and unexpected turn of events. I will probably step in at the next rehearsal, as well, since the lead is going to be out of town. And if they can find a gurney or hospital bed, I am going to play the ailing Lady Liberty, which feels very fitting (I was named a "Steward of Liberty for the next 100 years" in 1986, when my essay about the liberty of the human imagination was included in the centennial time capsule of the Statue of Liberty. I can't think of a better way to embody my stewardship.) The play is going to be produced in the SPARC building in Venice on August 27th, in conjunction with a pink slip fashion show (to give Bush the pink slip!), and a ceremony to honor Jodie Evans, one the co-founders of CodePink, and a recently named "Diva of Venice."

The most exciting part of the day for me was meeting Jodie. What an amazing woman--her vision and dedication and generosity and ability to get things done are deeply inspiring to me. While we were there, she received news that Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, was standing vigil in Crawford, Texas to demand a meeting with Bush. She and other protesters had been driven into a fire-ant infested ditch by authorities, but they refused to leave until she was able to ask Bush why he killed her son. CodePink was starting a hunger strike to stand in solidarity with her. I asked Jodie if there was anything I could do to help; today she called and asked if I could write a press release. I was happy to do so; you can find the release here. I look forward to helping out even more in the future.
I took the kids and my niece Maggie to the X Games a couple of days ago. We hoped to see the Women's Street Skate Finals, but the stands were full by the time we got there; we were able to watch the Men's Vert Skate Finals, though--it was very exhilarating. The kids were thrilled with all the free samples (Power Bars! Mountain Dew! Deodorant!) And I got a temporary tattoo--a green and orange one on my bicep, that seems to say The X Waste (I got it at the Recycling Store, where you can turn in bottles and cans for goodies).

Seeing it on my skin reminded me that the only time I've been tempted to get a real tattoo was when I first heard of Shelley Jackson's Skin Project. Reading about it now, I'm feeling very tempted again. Jackson has written a 2,095 word story; she wants 2,095 people to each have a single word from the story tattooed on their bodies. She's up to 1780 participants. The only place the story will exist is on these bodies. And from the time they receive the tattoos, "participants will be known as 'words'. They are not understood as carriers or agents of the texts they bear, but as its embodiments." I love this idea so much, being an embodiment of a word. I always go on and on about the connection between writing and the body--here Jackson explores that in a very tangible way. And in looking around her website, I discovered this amazing hypertext, "My Body", where you can click on different parts of a drawing of her body and read stories connected to those parts ("I was a scholar of legs, carrying on my investigations down on the bricks or flagstones, among the grown-ups' feet. Here I am with my jacks, my tops, my patterns in the dirt. Around me are the tree-trunks of legs, with their tropical growths, the parasitic vines of their varicose veins, the gorgeous locoweed of burst blood vessels...") I am swooning over all of it; I think I'm in the throes of a major artist crush. If I go ahead with the tattoo, it will be like inscribing a heart with the name "Shelley" inside it into my flesh.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Last night, I walked a labyrinth at a monastery with some friends and my daughter. What a beautiful experience; the night was dark, but the concrete of the labyrinth glowed enough that we could see where we were going. We walked in silence, in bare feet, feeling each placement of foot, each breath. I loved it--it was both solitary and communal all at once. I loved the twists and turns of the labyrinth (which was based on the design of the one at Chartres)--you think you're getting close to the center, but then you realize you have a lot more journeying ahead of you. At the center, I lay on my back next to my daughter and stared up at the stars, and felt my body shimmer inside. It was very cool. Such a lovely thing to share with her, with my friends.

I have recently entered a labrynith of a different kind--I have set up a MySpace page! I don't plan to spend much time over there, but you can look at my profile if you're curious to know what sorts of music and movies I like! And feel free to add me to your Friends lists if you are MySpace denizens, yourselves.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Thanks to everyone who came to my event at the Carlsbad Library yesterday. It was one of the most enjoyable book groups I've ever visited--such a lively and thoughtful crowd!

On my way there, my daughter and I stopped for snacks at a gas station. I picked up a box of animal crackers, since my stomach has been bonkers lately, and animal crackers were the only thing in the sea of Funyuns and HoHos that I thought I could handle. It turned out to be a fortuitious choice--on the drive, I remembered that animal crackers appear in the scene I had planned to read from, so I was able to use the box as a prop! A fun synchronicity. A very fun day.
The NYT recently featured an article, Your Body Is Younger Than You Think, which explores the speedy turnover rate of our cells:

Although people may think of their body as a fairly permanent structure, most of it is in a state of constant flux as old cells are discarded and new ones generated in their place. Each kind of tissue has its own turnover time, depending in part on the workload endured by its cells. The cells lining the stomach, as mentioned, last only five days. The red blood cells, bruised and battered after traveling nearly 1,000 miles through the maze of the body's circulatory system, last only 120 days or so on average before being dispatched to their graveyard in the spleen.
This reinforces the sentence I find myself using often: The body is a verb, not a noun.

Our bodies are like rivers, constantly changing. But there are some things that remain the same: even though our cells keep sloughing off and regenerating, the new cells hold the memories of the old cells. Our entire history is recorded inside those little luminous globs. Someone can touch our back a certain way, and a memory comes flooding through us, even though those original back cells are long gone. This isn't really covered in the article, but it's something I've explored myself and find so utterly fascinating.

I found this sentence of the article quite poetic:

About the only pieces of the body that last a lifetime, on present evidence, seem to be the neurons of the cerebral cortex, the inner lens cells of the eye and perhaps the muscle cells of the heart.
The sites of thinking and seeing and feeling--it makes sense that those are the places that stay intact our entire lives. Maybe it's those unchanging things that give us a coherent sense of self, of soul, even. But I think it's probably our shifting cells that are most in tune with the rest of the continually changing world.
I have an essay about body image in the new Fall issue of Imagine Magazine. Check it out if you have a chance. Imagine is a beautiful journal; its subtitle is "Creating a Meaningful Life."

The java jacket with my poem on it also arrived in the mail today! It's fun to see the actual jacket in person, to know that some people sipping coffee in Madison, WI will get an unexpected jolt of poetry.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

On a GCC day, I have some awful GCC news. One of the members of the circuit, Marianne Mancusi, came home from a writer's conference to find that her house had been struck by lightning and had burned to the ground. Everything was lost (although fortunately no one was hurt). Literary Chicks has organized a drive and auction to help Marianne; please consider donating, if you can.


Our GCC guest today is none other than the mother goddess of the Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit, herself, Karin Gillespie!

Karin is currently hitting the road to promote her new novel, A Dollar Short, the second novel in her Bottom Dollar Girls series:

It isn’t every day a movie star steals your husband. Former beauty queen Chiffon Butrell faces that dilemma when her husband Lonnie wins a trip to Hollywood. Lonnie meets mega movie star, Janie Lynn Lauren—known as Jay-Li to her elite circle- and leaves Chiffon behind in Cayboo Creek, S.C., with three kids and no money.

Not to be missed, A DOLLAR SHORT (Simon and Schuster, August 2005) sparkles with energy and wit, as well as the compelling story of emotional loss and the strength to endure. It is a hilarious saga of loss, sisterhood, and the will to survive in small town Cayboo Creek, South Carolina.


Jennifer Weiner calls the book “As tart and delectable as lemon meringue pie… a pure delight!”

You can read an excerpt here. And you can read my conversation with Karin here!

--When you started writing Bet Your Bottom Dollar, the first novel in The Bottom Dollar Girls series, did you envision it as the beginning of a series, or did the characters ask to appear in more novels once you finished writing the first?

My very savvy editor read my book and suggested a series. At first the idea made me a little nervous, but then the characters started scrambling and shoving to have time in the spotlight and I realized that the Bottom Dollar Girls had more stories to tell.

--I love reading your blog, Southern Comfort. It is a wonderful resource for both readers and writers. What inspired you to start (and reach out via) the blog?

I didn't want my web site to be a stagnant thing and blogging seemed to the best way to keep it topical. I'm glad I did it because I've met wonderful writers through my blog and if I wasn't a blogger there would be no Girlfriend Cyber Circle. I blog about women's fiction, the writing life and promotion.

--Could you please talk a little bit about your decision to start the GCC? What were your hopes for the Circuit, and how has the experience been for you so far?

I started the GCC because I'd heard about virtual tours, and I thought they were a fabulous idea. I also knew several women writer who had blogs so I thought why not have a virtual tour with women writers only? I put a little item on my blog and the authors who wanted to join came pouring in. I initially thought 10 authors or so would be a good number, but the interest was so strong I ended up with 25 authors instead. The tour had definitely exceeded my expectations. I hear from publicists and publishers who want their authors to join, and now there's a waiting list. The authors who tour tell me they are picking up new readers and the bloggers enjoy having some great content. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

--Your characters have fabulous names: Chenille, Chiffon, Attalee, etc. How do you go about naming your characters? (And if you could share a bit about your writing process in general, that would be wonderful, too.)

My books are set in the fictional small town of Cayboo Creek so I would thumb through small-town phone books to get my names. While touring for my paperback, I visited Plains, Georgia and got a phonebook from 1978! I plan to use a lot of names from that book.

As far as process is concerned, I'm the kind of writer who doesn't outline but waits to see what the "muse" will dig up. Sometimes it's and old sock or a rotting piece of wood; others times it's a tiny bit of treasure.

--You are embarking upon the "Take Back the Tiara" tour. What can people expect who come to one of your readings? Also, I'd love to hear more about your experiences touring with the Dixie Divas.

I like to turn a book-signing on its head, making it more of an event than a signing. Expect some theatrics, including props, costumes, dollar store door prizes as well as a red carpet. I have an acting background so my talks are more performance than anything else.

I started the Dixie Divas because author signings can be so lonely, and it's hard to attract people to author talks without injecting a little pizzazz. All of the DDs have their own personalities. I'm the Dollar Store Diva, and I wear finds from the dollar store. We have a Deadly Diva who dons black and crime tape, a Tomato Queen diva and a Roseflower Diva. Our personalities are related to the books we write.

--Any advice for aspiring writers?

Learn the publishing business! Read Publishers Weekly and subscribe to Publisher's Lunch. (It's free!) Learn all the ins and outs of the genre you're writing in and join associations related to your genre. There are all kinds of forums out there that discuss what editors are looking for. Immerse yourself in your writing genre and you'll have a true advantage when you start querying agents to sell your work.

--Since I always ask a fruit-related question...What fruit most exemplifies the Bottom Dollar Girls, and why?

The Bottom Dollar Girls are tomatoes (or "maters" as we say in the South). The reason? They're bursting with juicy gossip!

--Thanks so much, Karin (and thank you for starting the GCC!) May your Take Back the Tiara Tour be a blast (not to mention a fabulous success!)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

These things happened August 2nd:
My grandmother Molly was born (1884)
My sister Elizabeth was born (1972)
Her daughter Mollie Violet was born (1994)

Sister, you gave birth on your own
birthday, that day so hallow
already, the third generation
of women that day born. Sister,
my memories start that day,
the day you came home fresh
in the world, my fourth year,
Sister, my memories before that day
are yellow and fuzzy like the rug
in our room, like light
through a closed eyelid, Sister,
that day my mind slips
into Technicolor, like Dorothy
steps into Oz after all that Kansas
gray. Sister, I remember holding
you on an olive green pillow,
inhaling your burnt caramel scent,
admiring the chapped elegance
of your hands. Sister, I remember
waiting for your fingers
to open, your eyes. Sister,
that day opened the rest
of my life. My memories start
with you.

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth and Mollie! I love you!
I just found out my friend Sefi Atta won the International PEN David T.K.Wong Prize for Short Fiction 2005. Congratulations, Sefi! What a beautiful (and beautifully well-earned) achievement.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I finally got around to reading Madeleine is Sleeping, by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. Wow. Wow! What an amazing melding of dreams and waking, the sensual and the absurd (which are often one and the same.) Each short chapter--ranging from a single sentence to two pages long--is a perfect prose poem, filled with gorgeous, haunting language and imagery. Copyright issues be damned, I have to share this chapter, which contains both birds and fruit, and thus forever won my heart:

fruit

Papa grows impatient with the fruit that litters his orchard. The air assumes the rich rot of a winery; he complains that breathing alone will make him drunk. In the evening the children wander home, bloated and sticky, but still they cannot eat the pears as quickly as they fall. The local birds, too, are so fat with apple that they can barely reach their roosts as night, and when darkness falls, the orchard floor bubbles as the sated birds make listless, halfhearted efforts at flight.
My book deal has been officially announced! Here is the listing from Publisher's Lunch:

Winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether prize Gayle Brandeis's SELF STORAGE, a humorous story of a young mother of two who loves to attend self storage auctions, and then sells her winnings at yard sales, to Anika Streitfeld of Ballantine, in a two-book deal, by Arielle Eckstut at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency (world).
Very exciting! PL signficantly pared down the original press release; it's kind of funny to see the book listed as a "humorous story." I do hope readers will find themselves laughing here and there, but as far as I can tell, humor is not the predominant tone of Self Storage, which delves into life after 9/11. In case you're curious, here is the original press release:

Random House Publishing Group
In her first acquisition for Ballantine, which she officially joins August 1st, Senior Editor Anika Streitfeld has acquired World rights to two novels by Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether prizewinning author Gayle Brandeis. The first, SELF STORAGE, is the moving, funny, and insightful story of a young mother of two who loves to discover what's hidden inside of things and attends self storage auctions, then sells her winnings at yard sales. Jacquelyn Mitchard says this about SELF STORAGE: "If you doubt that a deadly serious thread--also somehow all but laugh-out-loud funny--can connect the pillage of metal storage units, the fierce devotion to family, the rape of human sensibility, and the pursuit of art, read SELF STORAGE by Gayle Brandeis. Or better yet, just take the hand of its great-hearted and deeply bewildered heroine, Flan, and hang on for the ride." Brandeis's first novel was THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS.

The agent is Arielle Eckstut, The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. World rights, first serial, audio inquiries to Claire Tisne, ctisne@randomhouse.com
You know, I see this in black and white, but I still can barely believe it. Part of me is expecting to get a call saying "Ooops. We made a mistake. We take it all back." But the rest of me is incredibly thrilled and deeply, deeply grateful.