Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Just thought I should post another reminder about the conference on Saturday. Hope to see some of you there!
I have been heartened to see the word "impeach" pop up in unexpected places this week. The current issue of Harper's Magazine has a strip stapled to the cover that says "Impeach Him" (unfortunately it's not visible on their online edition), and now Garrison Keillor is calling for Bush's impeachment. Maybe sanity will prevail after all...

(In an unrelated note, I was also happy to find that the current Harper's also has an excerpt from Anne Carson's latest book. Her work is so cerebral and strange; I love it.)
Part Two of Jasmina Tesanovic's three part dispatch on the Serbian war crimes trials:

Less than Human
(The Cunt, the Gun, The State)

22 February 2006

I refuse to speak the name of the Bad Guy Who Became
the Good Guy. When Milosevic was in power, for years
on end, his words and face everywhere, his and his
alone, while those of us, the political idiots, the
victims, were so baffled and mute, I gave a vow to
myself: the Word is power. I will never mention his
name, privately or publicly.

This Bad Guy who became a good guy, because he
pleads guilty in front of his God: he wants attention.
He gives long speeches, speeches full of himself and
his new way out of prison: out of himself. He pleads
for our sympathy, for compassion as though this
lessens his guilt, and the victims' relatives feel
disgusted. So does his boss, the number one indicted,
who gave the order, who conveyed those orders from
somebody else... He, who plays the game of the big
Serbian hero from past centuries, and displays his
grandeur saying literally:

I care for only three things in life: the Cunt,
the Gun and the State.

God knows how many women he raped, whispered a
relative sitting next to me...

His wife is sitting in the audience too... Today
they are loud and laughing. While the Bad guy who
became Good is describing how he executed his first
victim by asking the "Poor Thing" to step out of the
row and then shooting him, the sister of the shot man
sobs aloud in court. The Good guy chose his first
victim at random, and he does not know if his hasty
shot actually murdered the man. He claims: I wanted
to do it fast and clean -- for their sake. Answering
the question of his own lawyer, he continues, yes,
they had military elements in their clothing, they
wore short trousers, thick socks. They were banging
metal cooking pans to make noise and irritate us. He
still despises them for this. An unrestrainable moan
is coming from the audience. I believe even his women
could not stop it.

We are not gypsies, he adds: we are telling the
truth here and facing each other. We are not
proletarians, says his superior, whom he fights for
not facing the truth and admitting he gave the orders.
He says: We have still our people outside the courts
and prisons, we are doing this for our country, our
children. I am a Serb and this is my nation.

As we are silently sobbing, fighting the urge to
scream, one of hero's supporters turns around
nervously and proudly shouts: stop whimpering, you

The Scorpions are named for the guns they carried,
the second major value they killed for. They carried
the guns out of their homes, and used them on any
land they felt it was their country: that third

I am in a judgmental mood. I find it incredible
that they believe such bullshit for even a second.
Their relatives swagger in overpriced finery, from
head to foot: ugly and fantastically vulgar, but
preening with self-esteem.

The Bad Guy who became Good is not whimpering: in
his haughty manner, he is claiming that, for ten
years, he slept badly: not because of their atrocity,
but BECAUSE of the film. If it hadn't been for the
film, he could have forgotten the episode of executing
six bound young men, face-down in a ditch, but the
fact that the film existed made him come out. The
others claim they too have come out: to be arrested
for various noble reasons. Are we all dreaming? Not
one of these indicted criminals gave themselves in:
they were all caught and nailed. Just as the ghost of
their true hero and leader is still hanging in the
courtroom... Today, when the press hysteria about his
alleged capture once again has sunk into passive

So you feel guilty because of the film? asks
Natasa Kandic.

The Good guy who claims God will condemn him,
fails to deny this; the film is God's stick of
chastisment, come out of heaven.

The director of the atrocity film -- tomorrow, he
testifies himself -- apparently asked for stage help
from both victims and killers. He required to arrange
themselves in a convenient way before he himself
started shooting the video sequence. An assistant
director had to charge the camera's batteries...
The Bad guy turned good, who was the first one
to pull a trigger, claims that his commander wanted
this video made to endear himself to somebody
important. That was the purpose of this artistic
endeavor. But in his rage and for all his broken
illusions about the grandeur of his leader, he still
is not spilling the beans...

The women in the audience are cat-fighting the
women of the victim's families, and us the Women in
Black. A mother just breaks in tears: to Hague, to
Hague with all of you...this is too much... We are
hushed by the policeman in the courtroom, I am hissing
at the hysterical laughter of their women. We should
not really sit together. We are repeating the primal
scene from ten years ago, only with lawyers rather
than guns.

The Good guy is speaking of the humorous slang
they used, of the "packages" that were human beings,
of the "petrol order," meant not for their cars but
for cremating corpses. They referred to prisoners as
"jale", cattle, the less-than-human. Jale, I've never
heard of it. I am sitting with the mothers just like
myself, women who gave birth to "jale," children
executed for being less than human.

The Good guy says: we were trained to kill, but
not to bear the consequences of going through with
it: I never expected a clear order, I never got a
clear order before: "kill these guys."
Hard to believe: in those days 8000 people were
killed through hints and insinuations: the Divine Eye
never registered it.

Nobody wanted to be a cunt, repeats the Good
guy, meaning a coward who refused to kill.
Meaning...what? He is explaining genocide. Nobody
acted normally, he is adding, we were nervous, tight
and laughing, but we faked it...

A lawyer points out that if the war criminal
didn’t know he could refuse the orders, then he is
treated as somebody fighting for his own life.
Our hero claims he never heard of the Geneva
convention, how to treat prisoners or civilians... and
yet he speaks so much of military pride and honor...

It goes on. Two men, godfathers to each other's
children, start insulting each other in a
confrontation. They are almost in tears with each
other, falling out of love... I wonder why the judge
is letting this indecent family scene go on forever.

This morning, one of our young punk-styled Women in
Black was not allowed to enter the courtroom, because
she was dressed "indecently." The lawyers are
lamenting that they are not allowed to use the local
restaurants, by law, even though, thanks to their
profession, they are spending entire days inside the

Did you say, or not, that I ratted us out as a

Yes I did say that, says proudly the Other.

Did you say that one of the Scorpions didn’t
shoot because he was a CUNT?

Yes, I did.

That is my philosophy, says the commander.

This tape is of an incident I didn’t know about --
but even if I did give the orders to kill, and killed,
I would never say sorry afterwards. Destiny was on my
side at that time, and someday it will be again. I
have nothing to regret and no need to apologize.
Maybe it is a good thing to hear a bad guy turn
good. Then you can see what it means when the Other
remains bad and claims that destiny will redeem him.
That God, that destiny, they shared more than a bed,
more than a love, those words that we Women in Black
hear, record, compare in our notes, whisper over in
the court, and promise to each other, trembling, as if
raped by their intact criminal ethic, that we will
never pronounce. Because the word is power, but power
is in words, too.

That is why we write this.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I am profiled today in The Redlands Daily Facts. It was a real treat to talk to Darcie Flansburg; she is currently a student at my alma mater and is a lovely, deeply engaged writer.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A while back, I mentioned that I was going to be in a production of The Vagina Monologues today. I hope no one has been planning to attend; our production has been postponed until next year. In the meanwhile, if you still want to come out to Riverside to see The Vagina Monologues, productions are happening today at UCR and RCC. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend either--I have my first Annie Get Your Gun rehearsal this afternoon (yee haw!)

For more information about The Vagina Monologues, you can visit the V-Day website. Eve Ensler, who started the whole movement, is a goddess--she has done so much to empower women and help stop violence against women and girls worldwide.

Friday, February 24, 2006

My Women Say No to War essay was picked up by OneWorld.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Online petitions of the day:

Tell Bush torture should not be tolerated

Ask your congressperson to support an investigation of our administration's criminal behavior

Ask Bush to stop the Dubai ports deal (you can find lots of other actions at this link, as well.)

Protect and aid families in Darfur

If you haven't signed the Women Say No to War call yet, please consider it (men can sign, too.) We're trying to get 100,000 signers by March 8th.
Part One of the latest three-part dispatch on the Serbian war crimes trials, from Jasmina Tesanovic:

Belgrade 21 February, 2006

When Bad Guys become Good Guys

Today the " Good" Guy of the Scorpion Srebrenica trial
finally spoke out: I shot the six Muslim men, I am
guilty before God and you will decide, from the
special court for war crimes, if I am guilty for you
too. I obeyed the orders... Others, the "Bad" guys at
the same trial, are in denial.

At this hour, B92 and some other media are
unofficially reporting that General Ratko Mladic in
charge of Srebrenica action is being arrested, but the
Serbian official government is in denial. Only a few
hours ago, the special adviser of president of
president Kostunica said he knew nothing, except that
it is imminent.

I just arrived from the mountain place close to
Belgrade where Mladic has been reported to be hiding
in the past, in a military base.

Mladic has been seen a little bit everywhere. Until
2002 Mladic was openly "hiding" in Belgrade, he was
buying bread at the same bakery as my friend, but
since 2002, the rumors, or stronger things, have even
killed some supposed eye-witnesses involved in his

At this moment there are difficult negotiations in
Vienna for the future status of Kosovo, torn between
90 percent majority Albanians, demanding autonomy
after Milosevic's troops pulled out in '99, and the
Serbian central government which is fighting for its
sovereignty in that part of a once-united country. A
difficult task for the EU leading the negotiations,
but an excellent opportunity to demand that all the
parties comply with international war tribunal.
Mladic, who until recently was claimed to have big
popular support for his non-surrender, seems to have
lost all of it these days; from good to bad guys.
Yes, we all know he gave the orders.

8 p.m Contradictory news on B92, is he arrested, about
to be arrested, or already flown to Hague?
Again, as when they were arresting Milosevic back in
2002, we are relying more on tips and foreign press...
B92 is broadcasting a football game, they will
interrupt if the biggest goal in Serbia is scored...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It is my great pleasure to welcome Michelle Richmond to the blog today. It's a treat to connect with another literary Girlfriend.

Michelle grew up in Alabama and currently lives in San Francisco, where she publishes the online literary journal Fiction Attic. Her story collection, The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress, won the 2000 Associated Writing Programs Award for Short Fiction, and her novel, Dream of the Blue Room, was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. She is the recipient of the 2006 Mississippi Review Fiction Prize. Her stories have appeared in Playboy, Glimmer Train, Other Voices, and many other magazines and anthologies. Her new novel, Ocean Beach, will be published next year by Bantam.

About Dream of the Blue Room:

On a warm night in July, 32-year-old Jenny finds herself sitting on the deck of a Chinese cruise ship next to a charming but secretive stranger. In Jenny's lap is a tin containing the ashes of her best friend, Amanda Ruth, mysteriously murdered fourteen years earlier in a small Alabama town.

In this foreign landscape, filled with ancient cities that will soon be inundated by the rising waters of the Yangtze River, Jenny must confront her haunted past and decide the direction of her future. As the ship moves slowly upriver, from one abandoned village to another, Jenny journeys deeper into her own guilt and eroticism.

Dream of the Blue Room explores the nature of friendship and the intimacy that exists between young girls as they struggle toward adulthood. Set alternately against the impressive landscape of the Yangtze and in a small river town in Alabama, this stunning novel reflects on the human desire to control and tame what is ultimately untamable.

Praise for Dream of the Blue Room:

"A dreamy, haunting work with a deeply personal feel. Any time a work of fiction raises our sights to higher truths, as this one does, the writer has done her job." Florida Sun-Sentinel

"Some childhood relationships are so fulfilling they shape our lives and leave us wondering why they didn't last longer. Richmond captures, explores, and intertwines these bonds so elegantly, you might even think the relationships are your own." USA Today

"With the slow build-up of a mystery, the exquisite pain of a coming-of-age novel, the masterful images of a travel writer, and a darkness that is true to the Southern Gothic, Dream of a Blue Room is a work of wonderfully chimeric form. " Joanna Pearson, Small Spiral Notebook

"Intelligent, original, complex." The San Francisco Chronicle

"A complex and nimbly fashioned first novel." Kirkus Reviews

"The book is finely crafted and compelling, and its emotions resonate true and clear ." Booklist

You can read an excerpt from Dream of the Blue Room in USA Today, and the story behind the novel at Backstory.

I had the chance to ask Michelle a few questions...

--Between your own work and Fiction Attic, you are obviously deeply committed to the craft of fiction. How did fiction first enter your life?

When I was a child, my mother read to me a lot. As far as writing fiction, my conscious beginnings were in my high school creative writing class, where I had a wonderful teacher named Ms. Inge. In college, I concentrated on poetry for the first year, but after taking my first college fiction workshop as a sophomore with Lynn Pruett (author of Ruby River), I was hooked.

--You write both novels and short stories. How does your process differ between the two forms?

I like to think of stories as a sprint, novels as a long-distance marathon. With a story, I almost always begin with language--with a sentence that strikes my ear--or if not language, with an image. The story "The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress" began with the image of a girl dancing on a walkway above Market Street in San Francisco. In a story, I just write from that first sentence or first image, and let the story take me where it will. I love that process. With a novel, though, because it requires such a huge committment of time--3 years, for each of the two novels I've written--I begin with a larger framework. I have a pretty strong idea at the starting line of who the characters are and where the story will lead.

--Any advice for aspiring writers or a favorite exercise you'd like to share?

I have lots of exercises on my website. Here's one I like:
Write a sentence that briefly describes/identifies a risky behvior. Follow it with another sentence in which this behavior leads to something terrible. From here, write a story that is neither tragic nor moralizing. EXAMPLE: from Stephen Dixon's story "Flying" : "She was fooling around with the plane's door handle...Suddenly the door disappeared and she flew out and I yelled 'Judith' and saw her looking terrified at me as she was being carried away.

--What are you working on now?

I'm in the editing phase of a novel, Ocean Beach, which will be released by Bantam next year, and am in the early stages of a brand new novel. I'm also always at work on a story collection. One of the stories from the collection-in-progress, "An Exciting New Career in Medicine," just appeared in Playboy (Feb). Another just received the Mississippi Review Prize and will appear in the April issue of MR. Another is forthcoming from Glimmer Train. I'm very happy to be writing stories again, because I took a long break from it while writing Dream of the Blue Room and Ocean Beach, and really, short stories are my first love.

--Since I always have to ask a question about fruit...If Dream of the Blue Room morphed from a book into a fruit, what fruit would it be and why?

Maybe a pomegranate. It's a pretty sexy book. I also attempted to make it into a very textured book, with layers of detail and meaning. Pomegranate sort of embodies those things, I think.

--Thank you so much, Michelle! I am eager to read more of your work. Enjoy the rest of your tour!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I just found out my short story "Flotsam" was nominated by the editors of Drunken Boat for a Million Writers Award (sadly, no, that doesn't mean that I will get a million dollars if I win. It's very, very cool to be nominated, though. If I end up a finalist, I'll let you know where/when you can vote for me...)

Monday, February 20, 2006

A lovely review of my recent Poetry at the Loft event by the lovely Darcie Flansburg.
Do you remember that breathless, giddy feeling you'd get playing tag as a kid? Well, I've just been meme-tagged for the first time, and it feels the same way! The fabulous Jordan Rosenfeld has tagged me to answer these 7 questions...

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Travel to Greece
2. Travel to India
3. Snorkel in some gorgeously tropical place
4. Make an outrageously generous donation that will really make a difference
5. Create more visual art
6. Learn to sing (I'm working on it!)
7. Tell everyone I love just how much I appreciate them

Seven things I cannot (and will never) do:
1. Smoke
2. Be good at cleaning (I've finally realized it's just not going to happen)
3. Hurt someone intentionally
4. Travel into outer space (even though it would be cool)
5. Collect Precious Moments figurines
6. Pierce my tongue
7. Eat an eyeball

Seven things that attract me to my mate:
1. He knows me, inside and out
2. He comes up with the goofiest, most brilliant puns
3. His eyes shift from hazel to green, depending on the light
4. His lips are utterly luscious
5. He has the cutest earlobes
6. He supports me with all his heart
7. He really appreciates a certain Impressionist (private joke)
8. He brings home mystery fruit

Seven things I say:
1. I love you
2. Trust your instincts
3. Do you have any homework?
4. I'm sorry
5. That's amazing
6. I don't know (in answer to "What are we having for dinner?")
7. Life is good

Seven books I love:
1. Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (shared with Jordan!)
2. American Primitive, Mary Oliver
3. The Dead and the Living, Sharon Olds
4. A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman
5. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
6. Lolita, Nabokov (also shared with Jordan!)
7. St. Ursula's Girls Against the Atomic Bomb, Valerie Hurley

Seven movies that I've loved:
1. Wings of Desire
2. Pee Wee's Big Adventure
3. Rivers and Tides
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
5. Strictly Ballroom
6. The Yes Men
7. Muriel's Wedding

Seven obsessions I’ve had:
1. Figure skating (ages 5-13)
2. Twin Peaks (tv show--shared with Jordan)
3. Mermaids
4. Scratch-and-sniff and puffy stickers (ages 10-12)
5. Trying to eat at every Indian restaurant in Chicago at least once (high school)
6. Fruit
7. Six Feet Under (tv show—latest obsession; shared with Jordan, too!)

Seven people to tag:
I'm going to take the easy way out, and say whatever seven (or more, or less) people would like to play!

Tag, you're it!
After posting a comment about the forthcoming Gather the Women conference, I thought I should post the full schedule here:

The event will take place from 9am-4pm at the Cal State San Bernardino campus. Jodie Evans, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace will be the keynote speaker at 9am. A great variety of workshops will be offered the rest of the day:

Session 1
10:00-10:50 The Why of Activism: Befriending Our Fears and Creating a Better Future— Jodie Evans
10:00-10:50 OWL Older Women's League—Shirley Harlan
10:00-10:50 Creating Our Visions-- Paige Polcene-Markin
10:00-10:50 How to Webweave: Women Supporting Women in Business-- Judi Finneran

Session 2
11:00-11:50 Creating Sacred Space with Sound—Sharon Seitz
11:00-11:50 Signs of Spring Within—Janet Morrissey
11:00-11:50 Creating a Journal for Your Soul—Sabrina Molinar
11:00-11:50 Dancing Through the Chakras:Empowerment thru Movement—Saahira

Session 3
1:30-2:20 New Alternatives to War: The Nonviolent Peaceforce—Linda Dunn
1:30-2:20 Celebrating Our Lives: Creating Rituals of Transformation—Susan Damron and Nancy Tedder
1:30-2:20 Women's Spirituality Workshop- Express Your Spirit With Wearable Art—Wendy Lou Eads
1:30-2:20 Drumming: It Is What Girls Do—Jennifer Vallely

Session 4
2:30-3:20 Women and Religion: The Mystery Reveled—Patricia Little
2:30-3:20 Navigating Life with Vitality and Joy—Jo Ann Levine
2:30-3:20 What is a Sensory Garden and How to Develop One--Tracey Emmerick Takeuchi
2:30-3:20 Writing to Surprise Ourselves—Gayle Brandeis

Hope to see you there! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to place a comment below or email me at gaylebrandeis at gmail dot com.

Last summer, Julie Kenner stopped by to promote her book Carpe Demon. Today, she's back with her new book, The Manolo Matrix. Reader to Reader Reviews says "This is a Wow! book that is exhilarating, non-stop (hey – you snooze you lose), sexy, and fun, fun, fun to read." I had the chance to ask Julie a few new questions this time around...

--What inspired The Manolo Matrix? What inspires you, in general?

Well, the book is a sequel, so part of the inspiration was built in and stemmed from the first book (I wanted to write a book -- a series, really -- wherein the characters had to solve a series of clues to stay one step ahead of the killer). This particular book, however, was inspired by my love of Broadway. In the world of my book, someone has started playing a computer game for real, with deadly consequences. The clues stem from a player's interests, and in this case, the clues stem from Broadway. I've been addicted to broadway musicals since I was in high school, and it was great fun pulling out bits and pieces to create clues to lead to specific locations!

As for what inspires me generally ... Well, that would be paying the mortgage!!!!

--Any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Write, write, write and read, read, read! Believe in yourself and don’t give up!

--What are you working on now?

At the moment, I’m finishing up my first young adult book — The Good Ghoul’s Guide to Getting Even (April 2007). After that, I turn back to THE PRADA PARADOX, the final book in the series that started with THE GIVENCHY CODE and continued with THE MANOLO MATRIX.

--Last time you visited, I asked you about the most demonic fruit you could think of. Now, I'm wondering what you would consider to be the most exciting fruit...

Hmmmm.... I don’t know it’s name. Yellow, hard rind. Kinda spikey. Exciting and adventurous. (And, kinda nasty tasting, imho. And in the opinion of my four year old!)

--I wonder if you mean the horned melon? It was among the treats my husband pulled together for my Valentine's Day cavalcade of fruit--it is definitely a strange and exciting one!

Thanks so much, Julie! Enjoy the rest of your tour!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Until I have more time and energy to blog again, please enjoy these pictures of tiny people and food...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I have been listening to the Annie Get Your Gun soundtrack pretty much non-stop to learn my songs (there's a lot of them!) One line of lyrics keeps popping into my head now (from "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun"):

Oh, you can't
shoot a male
in the tail
like a quail

Maybe Annie can't, but Cheney sure can! Not that it was the poor guy's tail he shot.

Why isn't Cheney behind bars already? The man is a menace to society.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

More information on Jill Carroll, including analysis of why her captors switched from Al-Jazeera to Al Rai TV:

Carroll's Iraqi kidnappers change channels in bid for more prominence

By Paul Garwood

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Kidnappers of journalist Jill Carroll have chosen a new TV station to broadcast their videotapes in a bid to promote their demands more effectively and increase pressure on the U.S. government, security experts said Friday. The third and latest tape, which appeared on a Kuwaiti station late Thursday, also gave new hope that the 28-year-old freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor is alive. The American was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad by gunmen who shot and killed her translator. The first two videotapes of Carroll in captivity were aired last month on Al-Jazeera television, but the station did not carry her voice.

The private Kuwaiti station Al-Rai broadcast the new 22-second video in its entirety and with Carroll's voice. She spoke of having sent two letters but did not say to whom. "I am with the mujahedeen," she said. "I sent you a letter written by my hand, but you wanted more evidence, so we are sending you this letter now to prove I am with the mujahedeen."

An Al-Jazeera employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to make statements for the station, confirmed the first two videos referred to a letter. The station did not mention any letters when it aired the videotapes. It did report that the kidnappers were demanding the release of women held prisoner in Iraq.

Al-Rai owner Jassem Boudai said his station has given U.S.authorities Carroll's letter, which he only described as "sensitive." The station didn't reveal its contents, he said, out of concern for the reporter. Some terror analysts said Carroll's kidnappers used the relatively unknown station to get more of its message across and to avoid being tainted by Al-Jazeera's reputation as being biased toward insurgents.

Al-Jazeera came under sharp criticism for airing videos showing al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, with hostages they soon beheaded. The station cut the tape when masked gunmen drew knives and moved toward their doomed victims. Since then, Al-Jazeera has sought to air just enough material for news value without appearing to be a conduit for gruesome propaganda. Station policy is not to carry the voices of hostages.

"There are a lot of question marks for insurgents at Al-Jazeera because they don't air all their tapes in entirety, or not immediately or sometimes not at all," said Mustafa al-Ani, director of terrorism studies at Gulf Research Center in the United Arab Emirates." But these small stations will jump at such opportunities because they aren't famous," he said. "Very few people had heard of Al-Rai before that tape, but now people all over the United States know it."

Another senior Al-Jazeera editor concurred, saying Carroll's kidnappers had found it impossible to get their demands aired fully because of his station's strict content policies. He said the kidnappers wanted to make their demands clear and used Al-Rai to do so. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to make statements for Al-Jazeera.

A top U.S. media analyst said being able to get their messages out in their entirety will have an impact on the American public, and could put pressure on officials to question the Bush administration's approach to the war in Iraq. "These videos will prompt us to feel fear, hope, heightened anger or frustration about a matter as viewers will have little control over, and this could lead us to putting more pressure on our public officials," said Bob Steele of the Florida-based Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
I find myself wondering about the letter in Jill Carroll's hand, whether she was able to write freely, or whether her captors told her what to write. Most likely the latter. But I like to think that even in captivity, she can find a way to express her thoughts, use her voice. In the meanwhile, many of us will continue to try to be her voice by proxy.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A new tape of Jill Carroll has been released, this time on Al Rai, a private Kuwaiti tv station, not Al-Jazeera. I wonder if the blank notebooks sent in support of Jill Carroll have reached Al-Jazeera yet. I would love to someday find out how many notebooks were sent, what the impact was.

In the tape, Jill says "I'm here. I'm fine. Please, just do whatever they want, give them whatever they want as quickly as possible. There is very short time; please do it fast." Those last words give me chills. I continue to send wishes of safety and support her way...
Whoever invented Emetrol, thank you! I wouldn't have been able to get through my reading without it last night (I only wish I had known about it sooner, so I could have done something yesterday other than writhe around in pain. Oh well. At least now I know!) I had so much fun at the Loft--thank you to everyone who came; what a warm and wonderful crowd, not to mention a warm and wonderful roster of performers! A real family experience, too; it was a treat to be on the same bill as my beautiful husband (and the rest of Old Brown Shoe), and to read in the same building where my daughter did her tour-de-force Juliet turn a few months ago. A fabulous night.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I have been doing some research about Annie Oakley today, since I have to become her over the next few weeks. I was delighted to discover that she was a pioneer for women's rights:
Annie Oakley was probably the nation's finest marksman. Born in 1860, she was an outstanding Ohio woman who gave freely of her time, funds and energies to benefit other women.Oakley's shooting skills were developed early in her life and when she was age 21 she met her future husband, shooting champion, Frank Butler by defeating him in a match. They toured as a team for some years before he retired to manage her career. She joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1885 and performed as the star of that 19th century show for more than 16 years. She astonished Americans and royalty across England and Europe with her amazing skill.She was injured in a train accident in 1901 that ended her career with the Wild West. After she recovered she went on to shoot in charity events to help orphans, widows, and underprivileged women. She campaigned for women's rights to hold paid employment, earn equal pay, participate in sports, and defend herself in her own home and on city streets.
Almost every day, as I sign online petitions and do my daily Hunger Site clicks, I am grateful for online activism. It's so easy to make our voices heard online, to contact our elected officials, to connect with other activists through sites like MoveOn and CODEPINK. This article, Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics?, explores the potential impact of political blogs...

When journalists reject bloggers as cranks or wingnuts, they also do the same to a large segment of the American public who seeblogs as an expression of their views. Such dismissals feed the very alienation that makes blogs and bloggers popular.

The irony is that bloggers are most powerful when they work in tandem with the very media establishment they despise. “Bloggers alone cannot create conventional wisdom, cannot make a story break, cannot directly reach the vast population that isn’t directly activist and involved in politics,” says Peter Daou, who coordinated the Kerry campaign’s blog outreach operations. Blogs instead exert an indirect form of power, amplifying and channeling the pressure of netroots opinion upwards to pressure politicians and journalists. “It’s really a rising up,” says Daou.

Can this online rebellion lead to real political change? The prognosis thus far is encouraging, but far from definitive.

(Thanks to Feministing.com for the link.
I woke up this morning still stunned by the fact that I have suddenly found myself as the lead in a musical (I also woke up with a bit of a cold. I hope it won't affect my readings this week. I guess the show must go on, hardee har har.) I have no idea if I can pull this Annie Oakley thing off. The fact that a pacifist vegetarian writer is going to play an illiterate gun-slinger seems ultra-ironic, somehow. Fodder for an essay at least. I feel as if I'm on that MTV show "Made" where they turn self-professed bookworms into cheerleaders, and the like. I wonder if I'll be able to pull it off. It will be very interesting, indeed. I am so touched by the directors' faith in me--I hope I'll be able to live up to it. A fun thing--I get to dye my never-dyed-before hair red! And it looks like my daughter is going to play my sister! I am excited and terrified...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Just a reminder of my events this week:

Wednesday, 2/8, 7:15pm, I will be featured at Poetry at the Loft in Redlands (I will be reading fiction, Gail Mazur will be reading poetry, Jo Dierdorff will be dancing to Gail Mazur's poetry, and Old Brown Shoe will be opening and closing the night with their fabulous music.) The Performance Loft is located in The Mitten Building at 345 N. 5th St. in Redlands. You can get more information here.

Thursday, 2/9, 7pm, I will be reading from and discussing The Book of Dead Birds at Imagine That! Bookstore, 5225 Canyon Crest Drive, Suite 13 in Riverside.

Oh, and by the way, I GOT THE PART!!!!!! Say hello to Annie Oakley! I am beyond stunned. Those of you who said you might fly down, reserve your tickets now! :)

(Thanks to Dave Frey and his daughter Haley for the marquee picture)
It is my great pleasure today to welcome my friend Andi Buchanan back to the blog. Andi is currently sprinting through cyberspace to promote her fabulous new anthology, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined. The anthology, culled from the website of the same name, is a gorgeous compendium of mama-centric poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. My story Eyes in the Back of Her Head is included in the book; it's an honor to be pressed between the covers with so many brave and talented women.

Last month, I traveled up to Oakland to participate in a Literary Mama reading. What a delight to meet other Literary Mamas, to soak up their words and their wonderfulness. And, as I mentioned, it was a joy to finally meet Andi in person after years of cyber-friendship. She is a beautiful force of nature. Andi has given mothers an important voice and forum, not only through her websites and series of anthologies, but through her book Mother Shock, which has given so many women permission to tell the full truth about motherhood, the bliss and bother of it. Her own voice is a shining light.

Andi and I sat down for a brief cyber-conversation about Literary Mama and life:

> --How did the idea for LiteraryMama.com first come about, and how were you able to bring it into being?

The site grew out of Amy Hudock's real-time support group for new mothers exploring motherhood through writing. The women in the "Writing About Motherhood" group had put together a collection of the essays, poetry, and fiction that had come about through their writing sessions and discussion, and they were looking for a way to share that work. I met Amy shortly after Mother Shock came out, and when I went to the Bay Area for part of my book tour, I met with her and her group of writers. I read their collection and even talked to my editor about the possibility of publishing it, but she felt like there needed to be more there than just a local group of women whose lives were changed by writing about motherhood.

So Amy and I brainstormed, and suddenly there it was: we would start a literary magazine, featuring the kinds of writing these women were doing, and we would publish writing about motherhood. We'd publish mothers who were famous writers and new writers, fiction writers and nonfiction writers, poets and essayists. We would do this to emphasize the importance of writing about motherhood, and eventually, Amy theorized, we would have enough content on the site to merit an anthology. Within a month or two of coming up with the idea of Literary Mama, we had a site, and we had a roster of editors -- the women who had worked with Amy in the Writing About Motherhood group. Other women came on board, and we worked over the internet, with Amy as editor-in-chief and myself as managing editor, and a network of over 20 editors -- all of us mothers, working around our children, regular jobs, and real lives. Within a year, we'd been named one of Forbes.com's "Best of the Web" picks. In January of 2005, after the site had been live for just over a year, I pitched my editor the idea of a Literary Mama anthology, and she jumped at it.

> --Can you talk a bit about your experiences juggling writing, editing/managing, and mothering?

Well, some days I don't feel so much as though I'm juggling as much as I'm dropping all the balls! But although I feel more scattered than ever before in my life -- probably because I am forced to work now on many things in small spurts, since I have young kids and limited time -- motherhood has actually made me more focused and productive. Since I'm working from home, and my kids are there with me most of the day, I have to make the most of the time I have. (Which isn't to say I don't loaf around or surf the web or procrastinate!) I don't have any organized system for keeping everything together, as my schedule is very fluid and dependent on the health of my kids at any given time; the randomness of school holidays, performances, and parent conferences; and ever-shifting deadlines. I just try to attack the moment when I can, and rest in the moment when that's possible, and hopefully -- eventually -- make progress.

> --What are you working on now?

I'm working on completing a short story, writing a novel, and finishing up a handful of nonfiction book proposals. You know, a little at a time!

> --That little at a time adds up to a lot--I am in awe of all you've been able to accomplish in the last few years. Thanks for being such a wonderful advocate for mothers, and such a wonderful person in general, Andi! Enjoy the rest of your book blog tour...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Jena Ball, who runs The Nature of Writing, an online school for nature, food, travel and memoir writers, touched base recently to let me know about her new writer's guide. It sounds like an excellent resource. She writes:

My writer’s guide – Writing and Selling Personal Essays – is now available for purchase as a PDF. This 45-page guide is based on the popular essay writing classes I teach for The Nature of Writing and is packed with practical information and exercises that will help you write and sell your personal essays. For just $24.95 here’s what you get:

Twelve Lessons designed to walk you through the process of crafting, refining, and finding publishers for your personal essays.You will learn:

- What a personal essay is and why it's different from other kinds of essays.

- The four-parts of an effective narrative essay.The skills that are necessary to write each part of your essay.

- How to go about finding publications that publish the kinds of essays you write.How to approach editors.

-How to query, submit essays, and follow up with editors.

- What to expect when an editor wants to publish your piece.

Writing and Selling Personal Essays can be purchased online at www.thenatureofwriting.com. Click on the Paypal link below the description.
Last week, I mentioned that I brought Hannah to an audition for Annie Get Your Gun and the director convinced me to audition, too (something I hadn't entertained until that moment.) Well, I got a call today, saying I am one of two women being considered for the role of Annie. I am beyond shocked. I never in a million years pictured myself as the lead in a musical (except when I was a girl, I suppose; my sister and I were always singing along to musical sountracks and putting together our own productions.) The director wants me to come in to the studio tomorrow night--they want to see which of us has better chemistry with the male lead. I may just tell them to go ahead and give the role to the other woman--I really don't have time to take on such a huge endeavor--but I'm very flattered (and, I have to admit, curious to see if I could actually pull it off. I know I would learn a lot in the process.) I'll let you know if I decide to give it a go tomorrow night...
RIP, Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan, the feminist crusader and author whose searing first book, "The Feminine Mystique," ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and in so doing permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world, died yesterday, her 85th birthday, at her home in Washington.

So many women pioneers gone this week--Friedan, Wasserstein, King. I am grateful for all of their examples; they have given us such strong foundations to leap from, to work toward even greater freedoms and justice.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Jasmina Tesanovic sends me her latest dispatch: another searing account of the Scorpion war crimes trial in Bosnia:
Day 1, January 23, 2006

The fifth indicted Scorpion hardly speaks. When he does, one cannot understand him, in this small courtroom where the Scorpion trial continues today. It is minus 11 degrees here in Belgrade, it snows, we still have our Russian gas heating on, but for how long?

He mumbles, groans, and shakes his head while the severe judge woman interrogates him. From behind, I see his thick neck and body, distorted as if in pain. He is a couple of meters away from me. He is asked to speak louder, but he has nothing to say really; he pleads not guilty. Until recently his defense was silence. Today the few words extorted from him by the impatient judge are I DON'T REMEMBER, I DON'T KNOW...He twitches and his eyes are-directed to the patch of floor in front of him. He was the chauffeur who took the six Muslim prisoners to the meadow where they were
executed. He had a Kalashnikov, he had a pistol, and he claims he didn’t shoot. He saw them being executed but he says: my eyes were blinded by sudden darkness, I know nothing.

For five hours he tells this story. He was the driver, supposed to bring bread to his fellow soldiers, but brought them prisoners and then death. They shot first only four prisoners, and then made the other two take the bodies to a house nearby, where they shot them too. Lawyers and judges are interrogating him. He has nothing to say.

Finally one other indicted member of his paramilitary group comments that he was the one who shot the last two prisoners in the house. Then he screams: of course I shot, we all shot... Again, he lost his temper. Night blinded his sight. The judge
is angry with him. She says: all this time you claimed another thing! He recoils... hustle in the courtroom.

"I saw the film for the first time on TV and I think the film was manipulated, some people who were there are missing..."

Who is missing? The victims, the Bosnian officers, his paramilitary friends... again he knows nothing. The trial is adjourned.

We are silent, we Women in Black, together with friends of the victims who came again to Belgrade. The brutality and banality of the killer's coming-out has sucked away my sense of morality. If he has no regrets, nothing to say, is there anything at all to say in this world?

Day 2, January 24, 2006

Day of maps and confrontations. Today, hardly anybody mentions bodies or guns. It is a day of military jargon and display. If one didn’t know the trial was about the Scorpions, one could even get interested in their discourse. All of them have inflated egos and high self-esteem: now they are sitting in front of each other, and clashing in front of the judge, with their varying versions of who said what, who was
responsible for what, who was where... Ten years ago, that very day when innocent civilians were executed in cold blood.

That is not their main issue. Their topics are loyalty, the silence of omerta, honoring their hierarchy and sacred military duties. They are relatives, kin, godfathers to each other and to their children. One of them is married to another's sister. The judge asks him to explain their family ties. He replies: why do you think that being in bed with a woman makes me closer to her than to her brother?

He is the number one indicted, obviously responsible for the execution, but he is playing it tough, denying everything, waving his long hair in arrogance and showing off his built-up body as if he were a gay model. He despises the court, the judges
and the audience. He answers only to himself, and to Serbian honor, and he lies. He lies all the time, denying everything.

His subordinates are deluded. They are heavily disappointed and sad. They are spilling the beans, revealing what they think they know, but the deeper truth is coming out. Even the arrogant top guy didn’t give the ultimate orders. He got his orders from somebody else, from some proper Serbia authority, from the secret police, from the regime.

Tell the court who gave the order.

YOU tell, if you know. They are fighting each other. The name hovers in the air. Nobody is saying it. Their pledges of sympathy and innocence have nothing to do with reason or politics.

The courtroom was packed up, the press hustled from our media center room so that they could not get a proper insight. Another parallel trial is going on, the trial of the murder of our late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Not the trial of the Scorpion paramilitaries, but the trial of the Zemun Clan mafia.

We all meet on the coffee shop. We stare at each other during the recesses. A sinister guy from a mafia family hisses at us: Women in Black! When the Radical Party gets into power, you will be DONE!

I heard that many judges who presided firmly and justly against the clan power structures were put aside afterwards. Who rules in Serbia today? Who pulls the strings and gives the orders, six years after Milosevic left for The Hague?

Day 3, January 25, 2005

After days on end of war criminals and their lawyers, the victims appear on the podium. These are the grieving survivors. We no longer have the actual victims, for they are not only dead, but, as DNA tests proved, their scattered bones were dissipated into several mass graves. Some pieces are still missing. Is there hope to restore the identities of the missing?

Six family members of six victims are entering the courtroom today. Mothers, sisters, children and other kin, they came to Belgrade from Srebrenica and around in order to testify and identify their nearest and dearest. With Muslim names and clothes, they are aliens to this big dirty city, with war criminals loose, and to this clean fancy court, where justice is attempted.

Every day, B92 television is broadcasting documentary material about the Scorpions. I hear that, even when in prison, they are still among the richest war-profiteers in Serbia. Even if they get a life sentence, which in practice means 20 years, once
they are out, being men in their thirties now, they will still be rich and powerful.

The judge in the court says: International law is above the national law. So, we have to respect the decision of several other family members, who are afraid to come, but will testify via Internet. This is a big offense to swallow for the war criminals and their nationalist lawyers.

The first witness testifies, in despair more than in tears. This mother recognizes her missing 16 year old on the film of the killing. The audience trembles.

This morning I mingled with the relatives of the criminals. They are always loud, and they sit in the first rows. I broke through their solid, shoving front-line and sat in the first row myself. Now, their wives and sisters of the killers are sobbing uncontrollably, along with me.

The sister of the dead boy has to interrupt her testimony, because she cannot speak. She manages to say: You cannot imagine the situation that day, July 11, 1995. The UN troops were doing nothing. The Serb militia were raging. People were being bombed, pushed from one side of the country to another, divided up, and executed... Girls were torn from their families and raped. In the camp where we spent the night, we fifteen thousand souls, insane screams would wake us during the night, and we would all start shivering. Waiting to be executed, people were committing suicide, or going out of their minds. Nobody knew the truth of what was happening, but we all felt death, and we were right.

The eighteen-year-old son of the executed father says: I was eight. I saw him leaving us. I knew I was seeing the last of him. I saw the film, made a few hours later, shown here ten years after they shot him. He had that same shirt, and that same face I loved so much. I will never forget. I need no DNA tests. I know that is my father.

His father was filmed while executed. And the 8myear old boy was also filmed, while being given sweets by Ratko Mladic, the child fed candies while his father was shot.

Another mother cannot go on with the photo identification. She does not even weep; she simply faints. I understand this woman best. When they tell us: if you were not there you cannot understand, I can recognize that: I know that I don't understand. These six people in front of me lost almost all of their nearest and dearest in those few days of killing.

They all have the same earnest question: WHY. Those who were killed were not soldiers. All they wanted was to flee the UN enclave and live. Invariably, after their speeches, they turn in amazement to see the faces of the guys who did it. They stare. The men she did it stare back. Nobody utters the words: ethnic cleansing.

One of the indicted even manages an apology. A witness hears him: my deep condolences. But I obeyed the orders.

One question is the central issue at this trial. Who ordered this? Natasa Kandic, human right activist, wants to prove that was state terrorism. The criminals want to define themselves as honorable civil warriors. We sit through the evening with our
new Bosnian friends. They ask only justice, and even believe they will get it here in the special-court in Belgrade.

We are knitting our new lives together. We speak the same language, though we call it different names. We share a history, though from opposite sides. We
have the same beliefs. Call them justice, and truth, or love for the world.

In this second round of the Scorpion trial, the banality of evil was revealed by these six simple heartfelt voices of reason.
The main character of my forthcoming novel, Self Storage, goes to auctions at self storage facilities and bids on units that have gone into lien. I never thought about what would happen if the storage locker of a famous person came up for auction. Maybe I'll have to write a sequel...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

If you're here via BoingBoing (which has become an invaluable resource for me, by the way), welcome! Here is the latest letter from Abby Frucht regarding the action to support Jill Carroll:

Hi. A few of us at readerville.com are initiating a gesture of support for Jill Carroll. We don't harbor any illusions that by doing this we will effect her release....but we want her to know, when she is released, that she had the support of other readers and writers and that we didn't forget her.

Here's how it goes.

Send a blank journal, a blank notebook, or a small sheaf of blank papers to: Al Jazeera International, P.O. Box 23127, Doha, Qatar.
On the first page of the blank book, write this letter or one like it:

To Al Jazeera News, I am one of a group of readers and writers sending you this blank book in the hope that Jill Carroll will soon be able to fill it. Please do your best to convey this message to her captors: Let Jill Carroll go, so that she might continue to write about the things that have made you so eager to claim our attention. Through Jill, and through the gesture that you will make by setting her free, we other writers, readers, and thinkers will better understand the differences, and the vast similarities, between our corners of the world.

Send the books airmail asap. Thanks for Joining Us.
Abby Frucht
Let me know about your support! abbyfrucht@yahoo.com
Update: Welcome to Salon Broadsheet readers, as well. It's cool to find myself in the places I visit daily (especially when it's in the service of a greater good).
Bitch Magazine just sent out this fun call for movie extras:

Hannah, a listless lesbian who is self-effacing to the point of near invisibility, finds a driving new direction in her life when she meets the sexy Sadie, who recruits her for her feminist political action group. THE ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE is a new feature film from Power Up, filming between January 28 and February 23, 2006 in Los Angeles. The cast includes Clea Duvall (Carnivale), Tammy Lynn Michaels (Popular), Leslie Grossman (What I Like About You), Jane Lynch (Best in Show) and Guinevere Turner (Go Fish). It will be directed by Jamie Babbit (But... I'm a Cheerleader) and produced by Andrea Sperling (D.E.B.S., Prozac Nation). We need a lot of help filling the background with plenty of wonderful extras, so if you're interested in helping out, please e-mail ibtc.movie@gmail.com.

(I apologize to anyone who clicked on the link before I fixed it--I put a URL that went to a very non-feminist-magazine site by accident at first. Yikes!)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Today's GCC guest is Melissa Sentate, author of several wildly popular books, the latest being The Breakup Club. I asked Melissa some questions about her writing life, and she smartly incorporated my questions into her answers:

What inspired The Breakup Club: "A close friend, who I admired so much for haivng the courage to leave her bad marriage and start a brand new life, said one day, "Thank God the breakup club is meeting today. It's better than too many margaritas or food." Turns out she and her coworkers met a few times a week, usually over lunch, to commiserate over the breakups they were all going through. That support saw my friend through such a bad time. Another friend said, "Ugh, misery loves company. A bunch of sadsacks sitting around moping." Hardly. But that actually is the point of support groups--if you need to be a moping sadsack (how's that for redundant), you can be! I was also inspired to explore how co-workers who normally wouldn't say two words to each other around the water cooler can become like family.

What inspires me in general: "My office inspires me. The poster of Chagall's "The Birthday," which makes me so happy to look at all day long, and my tiny angel statue from the Vatican Museums (if I could live anywhere, it would be Rome), pictures of my brother and sister and myself as young children. Then there are those gems I overhear from people chatting across from me in the coffee lounge who send my mind off on tangents, and suddenly I have a new idea for a book. I'm also inspired by people I see every day but don't know at all, like my town librarian or the twentysomething with seventeen earrings who gives me my Earl Grey tea every morning at said coffee lounge or even the cop who gave me a 185 dollar speeding ticket yesterday on my OWN STREET. Total strangers who I interact with for a minute here and there make me wonder and ideas start forming. Right now, though, I can't shake the idea of someone on one of those awful bus tours of a region. I have no idea where it came from, but I have a feeling my next book will be set on a bus! I think many of my ideas come from my dreams, which I never remember.

How does it feel to have your book translated onto the screen: "I have seen the TV movie of See Jane Date eleven times, and every time it's on I feel that same magical, I-can't-believe-this-really-happened joy. I love the film, love how it was adapted. There were changes made, but the spirit of the book, of the main character, is all over the screen. Then there's the fact that Antonio Sabato Jr., whose Calvin Klein underwear model poster I had up over my bed in my college dorm, played the guy who broke Jane's heart. I couldn't have hand-picked the more perfect actor for that role. The entire experience, from start to finish, was just pure joy and icing and I-have-to-pinch-myself."

Transition from editor to writer: "I'd already decided to leave publishing and my career as an editor behind when I wrote my first book (which I actually never had any intention to write until an editor I used to work with called to tell me I should try my hand at this new "chick lit" stuff). I'd enrolled in graduate school to become certified to teach high school English in the New York City public school system, but after my first year in the program, I had to ask myself what I really wanted to commit to: this new writing career, which seemed to have so much potential, or teaching, which would require 110% of me and leave little energy for writing. I figured I could always go back to the program or work with teens in a different capacity, and I commited myself to writing full-time. As for what editing taught me about writing--I hate that this is my answer: that publishing is a business."

Advice to aspiring writers: "Read. Read. Read. Go to writer's conferences and learn about agents and editors and publishing houses. Network. Find like-minded people who share your passion. Trust your instincts! But most of all, write."

My favorite fruit: Plums.

Thanks so much, Melissa! Best of luck on your GCC tour and beyond!