Monday, August 28, 2006

Last Wednesday, I filmed a segment for a new Food Network series, The Power of Food. I have been meaning to blog about the experience (which was very fun and rewarding!) but somehow haven't been able to find the time. Until I'm able to do so, you can read Darcie Flansburg's account of the day over at the Redlands Daily Facts.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My website redesign is up and running! Deep thanks to Eula Palmer for all of her hard work and creativity. I am very, very grateful.
A new Self Storage blurb:

The personal and political collide in Gayle Brandeis' complex and witty new novel, Self Storage. Like the flashlight Flan shines into storage lockers to find treasure, Brandeis' novel illuminates the way we define our loved ones, our neighbors, and ourselves.

--Amanda Eyre Ward
Amanda is such a wonderful writer (and wonderful person!); it's a real honor to receive her endorsement.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A beautiful essay from Garrison Keillor on the censoring of the 9-1-1 tapes from 9/11.

In the end, what we crave is reality. The woman crying on the 83rd floor was real. Our countrymen died real deaths on a warm September morning, and then, to avenge them, even more have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. In our hearts, we know we're on the wrong road, the road to unreality, but the man says to stay the course. And now as November nears, congressmen who have supported the war, no questions asked, find it convenient to admit to having "questions" about it. "We are facing a difficult situation," they say. They are "troubled."

The woman who cried on the 83rd floor was more than troubled. She saw death. It is indecent for New York to stifle the voices of the people in the towers. The congressmen who deal so casually with life and death ought to sit down and listen to those phone calls.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I'm often frustrated by how the media latches onto diversionary stories, like the strange development in the JonBenet Ramsey case, to make us forget what is really happening in the world, what our leaders have really gotten us into. But sometimes I appreciate a bit of diversion in the news, so it was kind of fun to see this headline, nestled between "Journalists in Gaza Protest Kidnapping" and "Israeli Commando Dies in Lebanon Raid" on the AP Wires: Man Trapped Waist-Deep in Chocolate.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Whenever I teach a sensory writing class, I remind my students to not just write about beautiful sensory experiences--there is power in our prickly, disturbing sensory experiences, as well. So I was tickled to find this article in the Washington Post about a writer's quest to find the stinkiest spots in New York. He takes a retired sanitation worker and a perfume maker along to help him map out Manhattan's most disgusting smells (the perfume maker gets quite overwhelmed at times, and has to walk away from the most offensive odors.) In A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman explores about how difficult it is to write about scent, since it is such an ephemeral sense--we have to come at it sideways, through metaphor. Here are some metaphors I appreciated in this article:

--There is a fish market nearby with an assortment of scallops and lobsters cooling on ice, but those odors have been overwhelmed by something else, something vile and pitiless. Hints of rotten mustard, a soupcon of ammonia, undertones of armpit. The scent evolves in your nostrils like an argument that escalates -- it starts off testy, then insults your mother.

--This is like honeyed rot marinated in hummus, as odious as a wet kiss from a wino.
--If migraines had an odor, they would smell like this.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Because my second novel is coming out in a few months, it was very interesting to read this Newsday article about second novels. Of course, this article mainly focuses on the sophomore curse for authors who have had blockbuster first novels. Since my first novel didn't reach anywhere near blockbuster proportions, perhaps I can avoid that curse (and maybe the fact that Self Storage is actually the sixth novel I've written, not the second, will help.) We'll just have to wait and see. In the meanwhile, I'm hoping my third(/seventh) novel will start to find a better flow soon...

Monday, August 14, 2006

This story breaks my heart

The son of novelist and peace activist David Grossman has been killed in southern Lebanon, the army said Sunday, just days after the author urged the government to end the war with Hizbullah guerrillas.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Jill Carroll has begun to tell the story of her experience as a hostage in Iraq.:

They wanted to know my name, the name of my newspaper, my religion, how much my computer was worth, did it have a device to signal the government or military, if I or anyone in my family drank alcohol, how many American reporters were in Baghdad, did I know reporters from other countries, and myriad other questions.

Then, in a slightly gravelly voice, the interpreter explained the situation.

"You are our sister. We have no problem with you. Our problem is with your government. We just need to keep you for some time. We want women freed from Abu Ghraib prison. Maybe four or five women. We want to ask your government for this," the interpreter said. (At the time, it was reported that 10 Iraqi women were among 14,000 Iraqis being held by coalition forces on suspicion of insurgent activity.)

"You are to stay in this room. And this window, don't put one hand on this window," he continued. "I have a place underground. It is very dark and small, and cold, and if you put one hand on this window, we will put you there. Some of my friends said we should put you there, but I said, 'No she is a woman.' Women are very important in Islam."
I felt very invested in trying to help secure Jill Carroll's release in whatever teeny tiny way I could at the time, and am so happy and relieved that she is free and able to give voice to her experience. The link above leads to the first installment of what will be an 11-part series; I am eager to read the rest of it over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

In the midst of all the chaos in the world, it can be easy to feel as if one's writing, one's voice, can't make much of a difference. I am grateful to Dr. Sue O'Doherty for reminding us that our words matter.
It is not an accident that so often an invading army’s first triumphant act is to sack and burn the libraries and museums. A people without access to its art and accumulated wisdom is indeed vanquished. It is significant that dictatorships make a practice of imprisoning dissident poets and novelists. Real artists—people who distill and communicate the truth, often at great personal cost—are the most dangerous figures in a repressive society. And that is why you are needed, desperately, now.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Small Businesses Poorly Named After Classic Literature

(I was especially amused by Song of Myself Adult Bookstore, given the Song of Myself/Self Storage connection!)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The lovely Jordan Rosenfeld recently told me about an online class she and Rebecca Lawton will be offering online next month: Creating Space: The Law of Attraction for Writers and Other Inspired Souls (based on their book of the same name which will come out next year.) They describe the book (and the class) as "part writer's guide, part spiritual journey." It sounds deeply inspiring and transformative--I'm tempted to sign up, myself!

I just finished reading my friend Ayun Halliday's delicious and hilarious book Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste. Along with vegetarian fumblings, poistcoital breakfasts, and other motley adventures in eating, Ayun explores my favorite fruit in the world--mangosteens! That section of the book is available online for your reading and gustatory pleasure.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Yay! I can upload pictures on Blogger again! Which means I can show you my Self Storage cover now. Isn't it cool?!
I love the idea of using peaches as a source of fuel. Fruitflesh power!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Women in Black vigil was a beautiful experience tonight, and a lovely turnout for such short notice. So powerful to stand in silence with others praying for peace. You can read about us in Thursday's Press-Enterprise.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy, happy birthday to my sister Elizabeth and her daughter Mollie (and our grandmother, Molly, who would have been 122 today.) I miss you so much already!!!!

After I dropped everyone off at the airport yesterday, I headed over to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA to protest Tony Blair's support of the war in Iraq (Blair was presiding over a lunch inside). I was glad to have a positive way to channel my heartbreak after saying goodbye to my lovely people.

It was a funny little protest. The hotel takes up an entire city block, and we were told that the sidewalk surrounding the hotel was private property, and we were not allowed to stand there. This led to a lot of protestors wandering around, not quite sure where to set up camp. I was dressed head to toe in hot pink, and looked around for other CODEPINK people to stand with. Eventually I found another pink woman who looked as lost as I felt, and we tromped around together, looking for more pinkness. Eventually, a cluster of people converged on the street behind the hotel, directly across from all the parked motorcade motorcycles. Only a small pink contingent turned up, but it was delightful to be with them--CODEPINK people know how to make protests fun. This particular protest was overall a bit more strident than fun--there were a lot of people yelling over a microphone, a lot of angry faces (which is understandable--the present world sitatuion does call for a healthy sense of outrage). I tend to prefer vigils like the Women in Black event we're planning for tonight, where participants try to embody peace rather than countering war with more aggression, or CODEPINK events where creativity and life-force and play offer an antidote for all the destruction in the world. But I was glad to be at this protest, too.

One of the coolest things about the event was the presence of Danza Azeteca Cuauhtemoc, an Aztec dance group, which consisted of at least three generations of dancers, from the very young to the beautiful white haired leaders. They drummed and danced and chanted in their elaborate costumes, and held signs calling for peace. Very inspiring. There were some comic--if disturbing--moments as well, when a couple of Bible thumpers came by to tell us the errors of our ways, and preach about how we need to wipe Islam off the face of the earth. When one of my CODEPINK friends asked the vitriol spouting man who Jesus would bomb, he looked at her and yelled "The Muslims!" without any trace of irony. Jesus would be so proud. Sheesh.

Another funny overheard moment--some people were walking by, and one of the protestors asked them if they liked Bush. A woman turned to him, said "I HAVE a bush and I like it!" and kept walking.

(Speaking of funny overheard moments, my friend Jordan is starting a weekly "Overheard around the World" feature on her blog. Be sure to send her your best eavesdropping treasures!)

At the protest, I was interviewed briefly by Harrison of Harrison On the Edge (a progressive radio talk show). Even though I felt a bit giddy and inarticulate, I was able to wax rhapsodic about CODEPINK for a while, which I was glad to be able to do.

The protest fizzled out before Blair left the building, so I didn't get to see the motorcade drive by. I'm not sure how effective our presence there was, but it is always a treat to be with other like-minded people, to know that we are not alone in our desire to bring some peace into this crazy world of ours.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Please join me for this event if you can...

WOMEN IN BLACK call for a special vigil this Wednesday, August 2nd, in response to the recent outrageous attacks in the Middle East.

The Violence Must End

Join us in silence to meditate, pray and raise energy towards PEACE

WE STAND IN SILENCE, because words alone cannot express the tragedy that wars and hatred bring.

WE STAND IN BLACK, mourning for lives broken or lost through violence in the United States, Afghanistan, Palestine/Israel, Iraq and in all wars.

WE STAND IN WITNESS to the suffering of victims of violence all over the world.

WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY with people all over the world who struggle for justice and peace.

WE STAND CONVINCED that the world's citizens can learn the difference between justice and vengeance, and can call world leaders into accountability to employ nonviolent means to resolve conflicts.


Riverside Women in Black is part of an international network of women standing in silent vigil, calling for peace, justice and non-violent solutions to conflict. Begun in 1988 by Israeli and Palestinian women, it has spread to conflict areas all over the world. Each group is autonomous, related to the others by the way women stand in silent vigil dressed in black.

Join us this Wednesday, August 2nd, from 7-8pm, at the Main Public Library, 3581 Mission Inn Ave., dressed in black clothes. Please keep silent during the vigil unless you are leafleting. Men in support of Women in Black are welcome.
For more information: please call (951) 237-6857