Saturday, September 30, 2006

My segment on the Food Network has started to air in the last couple of days--I've heard from a couple of people who have seen the one minute story on tv, which is exciting. You can see the three minute version of the piece online here (click on A Single Strawberry).

I am amazed at how the producers were able to take seven hours of footage and boil them down to one and three minute stories! Such an incredible editing process.

I had so much fun the day of the shoot. My mom and my friend Stephan acted as Production Assistants, setting up snacks and moving furniture and doing whatever the producers needed them to do. I had to pull together a writing class very quickly for the shoot--it was during the summer when school wasn't in session yet, so I sent out frantic emails calling for potential students, and, with the help of friends and family, was able to assemble a class of twelve wonderful people (including my son--he's the one who says his strawberry was "buggy".) The crew was great and made me feel so at ease, even though I normally am a bit camera shy. I learned a lot from them (including the fact that voice over artists eat apples to get rid of "mouth sounds" before a recording session!) And even though I have a hard time watching myself on film, it is great fun to see the fruits of that day.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I got my first real review for Self Storage, from Publisher's Weekly. When I saw an email from my editor with "first review!" as the subject line, my heart started pounding a million miles a second--I wasn't expecting a review to come in so soon. I am hesitant to post it here because it gives away more of the plot than I would like to share. If I can find a link, I'll post it here so anyone who's curious can take a look. My agent and editor assure me it is a good review (it calls my main character "endearing" and "juicy", which makes me happy) but there is one negative sentence and it's a doozy. It just about knocked the wind out of me. It calls the political musings in the book "unsatisfying and banal." Unsatisfying and banal! Yikes! I think this cut deeply because the political aspect of the book (not to mention my life) is very important to me. Ah well. My agent told me she has a friend who references all his bad reviews when he does readings, and always gets a laugh. So if I say something along the lines of "I'm reading from my politically unsatisfying and banal book" at a reading, you'll know why! It's crazy how those few negative words can burn into the brain while all the lovely ones fade away so quickly! is featuring an essay today written by a first time author struggling with bad first reviews. As my editor assured me, the trade reviewers (PW, Kirus, etc.) tend to be a little cranky. I hope the author of the essay will find some more thoughtful reviews elsewhere--his book sounds wonderful. Plus, I need to keep reminding myself that my PW review is not bad; it just has that one whopper of a sentence!

The sting of that sentence was alleviated greatly by the fact that I received an amazing blurb from Barbara Kingsolver today. Barbara read an early draft of the book and was very honest with me about all of its flaws and all the work I had ahead of me. She said she would only write an endorsement for a book she truly believes in. I'm so delighted that she believes in it now. Here's what she wrote:

"With fluid skill, bold as brass, Gayle Brandeis has revised the "Song of Myself," reconfiguring "self" as an open circle. This is a novel of passion and consequence, identity and accountability. I love the narrator, her children, her wild ride, and this truly American story of getting mad and getting wise."
Her feedback means so much more to me than any anonymous reviewer's!

In other review news, Google Alert recently pointed me to this lovely review of The Book of Dead Birds, written by the fabulous author Damian McNicholl. Thanks so much, Damian!
It was a real treat to come across this essay by Janis Cooke Newman, whose novel, Mary (a first person account of Mary Todd Lincoln's life), was just released.

In the essay, Newman writes about how she baked some of Mary Todd Lincoln's recipes (namely her "white cake", a vanilla/almond confection) to help get under Mary's skin. She talks about how the scent of almonds during the baking process helped her understand Mary's response when the spirit of her dead son Willie came to her during a seance. Willie's skin smelled like almonds, Newman decided, so when Mary smelled almonds in the air, she knew his spirit was in the room with her.

The main character of the novel I'm working on is a 12 year old girl who thinks her family is the Lincoln family reincarnated; she believes she used to be Willie, herself. It's interesting to see how another author envisions Willie's life/death. I don't plan to steal Willie's almond-smelling skin for my own book, but I'm eager to see what Newman does with the Lincoln family in her novel. And I definitely want to try that cake.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Happy International Day of Peace!

You can read my latest CODEPINK alert here.

I look forward to watching the movie Peace One Day today; my dad rented it from Netflix and lent it to me last week. I've been meaning to watch it since then; today feels like the perfect day to give it a viewing.

(And because peace activists need to have fun, too, I am also very much looking forward to the season premiere of The Office tonight. Go Jim and Pam!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

If you'd like to know some of my thoughts about writing and music, head on over to

Looking at the interview now, I wish I had named so many more musicians/bands as my favorites. I think my brain freezes a bit when I'm asked to name favorite books or albums or foods--I love so many; it's hard to boil all that love down to a handful of names. The artists I listed are definitely among my favorites (especially my beloved Talking Heads!), but I neglected to mention so many others--The Beatles, the Stones, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Queen, Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, Tom Waits, Aterciopelados, David Bowie, Luscious Jackson, Le Tigre, Le Chic, De la Soul, Deee-lite, Led Zeppelin, Louis Prima, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Portishead, and so many that aren't at the tip of my brain at the moment.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Today, as I was driving down my street, I saw a hawk standing in my neighbor's front yard. Just standing there like some sort of Egyptian statue. This was quite strange and amazing in itself--I don't think I've ever seen a hawk on the ground before, just on telephone poles and wires and in the air (and it's always a thrill for me to see them in any of those places. I see hawks quite often, but they never fail to get my heart pounding a bit faster.) Then the hawk dipped its head down and I saw that it was standing on some sort of creature--a small bird, I believe--that it must have recently killed. The center of the creature's body had been ripped open and was scarlet red inside; the hawk bent down to eat, pulling up one bright dripping strand of flesh after another. It was a brutal thing to witness, but strangely beautiful, too. Such wildness on a manicured lawn. Such raw life seen through the window of my car.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My latest CODEPINK alert builds on my recent 9/11-Gandhi post:
September 11, 2006 not only marked the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; it also marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's original call for peaceful civil disobedience. It is time for us to listen to Gandhi anew. While our administration wants to use this anniversary to instill a fresh sense of vengeance in our hearts, Gandhi reminds us that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Our administration squandered the opportunities presented by 9/11 -- the opportunities to bring those who attacked us to justice, while at the same time pursuing true international dialogue, cross-cultural understanding and diplomacy. Now, with the November elections on the horizon, we have an opportunity to create a new post-9/11 America, an America where security doesn't mean intervention or force or an erosion of our rights. An America we can be proud of once again.

Last week, CODEPINK launched our Give Peace a Vote campaign. We hope you have had a chance to sign our Peace Pledge to let our candidates know the Peace Vote is a mighty force to be reckoned with.

Now you can step up your involvement. You can join Susan Sarandon, Jackson Browne, Willie & Annie Nelson, Michael Franti, Alice Walker, Anne Lamott, Steve Earle, Cornel West, Dolores Huerta, Vanessa Williams, and many others by becoming a Peacemaker. A Peacemaker commits to getting at least 100 people to sign the Peace Pledge. As a Peacemaker, you will carry on the noble tradition of Satyagraha, which Gandhi described as the "Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence." Our goal at CODEPINK is to gather 1,000 Peacemakers and 100,000 peace voters in time for the November elections.

There are many creative ways to inspire others to sign the Peace Pledge -- talk to your friends and family; host a Give Peace a Vote house party; bring sign up sheets to movie openings and concerts and vigils; the possibilities are endless. All the materials you need are available on our website.

From this day forward, we need to keep our focus on the November elections. Let us, like Gandhi, commit ourselves to promoting peace, and encouraging those around us to only support candidates who will further our call for peace.
I plan to sign up to be a Peacemaker, myself. If my posts inspire you to sign the Peace Pledge, please feel free to list me as the referring Peacemaker.

Monday, September 11, 2006

In my desire to focus on peace today, I would be remiss if I didn't mention CODEPINK's exciting new campaign, Give Peace a Vote. Please take the Peace Vote Pledge and let our candidates know that we will only vote for them if they commit to a speedy end to the war in Iraq and will work to prevent future unprovoked attacks on other nations. Together, we can create a powerful voters bloc and make the Peace Vote a real force to be reckoned with.
Today not only marks the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; it also marks the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's call for non-violent civil disobedience. After the 2001 attacks, we had such an opportunity to begin an open international dialogue; we had such an opportunity for connection and cultural evolution. Instead, our administration squandered this opportunity to further their own power-hungry agenda, a disastrous agenda that has led to the needless deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis as well as thousands of our own troops. I want to focus on the message of Gandhi, the power of satyagraha--the force of truth of love, or non-violence--on a day when our administration and the media will do their best to try to stir a renewed quest for vengeance in the American heart. I plan to attend this local event tonight:

On September 11, 1906, Mohandas Gandhi convened a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, to mobilize his community to oppose racially degrading legislation. That evening, more than 3,000 people solemnly pledged to disobey the proposed law, despite the consequences and without the use of violence. Here began the model of nonviolent action for achieving social justice, as employed in the Civil Rights Movement in this country via Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We will honor Gandhi’s devotion to nonviolent action, reminding ourselves and our community of our inherent right to peace, and of this powerful alternative to war and violence. We will help each other find the courage to work nonviolently towards achieving justice and peace in our own daily lives, in our local communities, and in the whole world.

September 11, 2006 -- 5:30pm to 7pm

Downtown Mall in Riverside, CA
Event begins with Peacewalk at 5:30 pm
Meet at the Martin Luther King Statue (near city hall at 9th St)
(signs, banners, and candles provided)
continuing to the Candlelight
Commemoration & Program
at the Gandhi Statue, Mission Inn Avenue at the
Downtown Mall

Sponsored by
Inland Communities Fellowship of
Reconciliation (ICFOR)**
and the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP)**

the Mission Belles, Terry Boyles and John Rockwell of the Congregational Church, plus members of IC-FOR and Unitarian Universalists in Sing Alongs.

Speakers include, among others, Katherine Pitts of the Pasadena Mennonite Church, Jerry Hobby of the Riverside Community Center for Spiritual Living, Linda Dunn of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Marilyn Sequoia of IC-FOR. Participants will have an opportunity to speak briefly or to read the Peace Quotes that will be distributed.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Here is the text of my latest CODEPINK alert. Please do try to call your senators today. We need to give Bolton the pink slip!

While our CODEPINK delegation was in Lebanon witnessing firsthand the pain and suffering caused by the conflict with Israel, US Ambassador John Bolton was at the United Nations trying to block a ceasefire.

Talking a leaf from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's 2003 criticism of France and Germany as "old Europe", Bolton called the French ceasefire initiative "old thinking". We at CODEPINK believe Bolton is the one who truly represents "old thinking"—his thinking that might makes right, that we need to go it alone, that compromise is a sign of weakness, are all sadly antiquated notions of power.

This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on whether or not John Bolton will continue to represent the United States at the United Nations. Please call your senators TODAY- Wednesday, September 6- and urge them to oppose John Bolton's nomination as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

We are grateful that, despite Bolton's protest, the international community forced a ceasefire through the Security Council, and Italy and France took the lead to send peacekeepers to the border.

CODEPINK is delivering flowers to the French and Italian embassies to thank them for working so steadfastly toward peace.Their contributions of peacekeeping troops—2,450 from Italy and 2,000 from France—will help enforce the ceasefire along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Please send your own words of gratitude to let them know how much we appreciate their diplomatic efforts.

French Embassy

Italian Embassy

It is time for true diplomacy in our own country. We need to get John Bolton out of the UN and replace him with an ambassador who will acknowledge that we are part of an interdependent, international community. An ambassador who believes in the power of negotiation and international cooperation to create positive change in our world. That is certainly what we need right now to end the violence in Iraq and get our troops home.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I received another very generous Self Storage blurb today:

Peppered with wry wit and Walt Whitman, Self Storage is a skillfully told treasure hunter's tale of compassion, coming of age, and, most importantly, transforming the life you've got into the life you want. In the American tradition of songs of oneself, Gayle Brandeis has written for her characters a standout song of personal growth accelerated by social awakening.

-Maria Dahvana Headley, Author of The Year of Yes
It is so lovely to have Maria's blurb, since her book is all about Yes, and the word Yes is so central to Self Storage. Yes!
Ha! I just found out someone has been messing with the Wikipedia entry about me. Check out the last two lines. Hannah, my subversive Wikipedia-changer girl, was that you?!

Friday, September 01, 2006

I still plan to blog about my Food Network experience (speaking of food, I've also been meaning to blog about an amazing five course dinner I had with my friend Greg at Farm Artisan Foods a couple of weeks ago.) Until I find the time and energy to do either of those things, though, I thought I'd share some fun news...

My poem Buttered Women was nominated for the Best of the Net anthology


I am officially a staff member of CODEPINK! According to the website, I am now the CODEPINK Communication Goddess(!), and will be helping out with weekly alerts and other writing-related campaigns. It is a true honor to be on board with such creative, kick-ass women.