Friday, March 30, 2007

Much to my surprise and delight, my first novel, The Book of Dead of Birds, has been named one of the Greatest of the Great books for book clubs by BookWomen Magazine. I wouldn't have known about this if Karen Templer hadn't told me--thanks, Karen (and thanks to the book clubs that nominated my book!)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I am so thrilled about all the press CODEPINK is receiving! Check out this fabulous six minute video--CODEPINK Sends a Message to Capitol Hill--that appeared on the Washington Post's website today. I had goosebumps for several minutes after watching it. You can see more of the coverage we've been receiving over at our Don't Buy Bush's War Press Room.

My "Disrupting Power" piece continues to draw attention, as well; it was discussed recently in the LA Times blog, Political Muscle.

As I say at the end of the alert I wrote today: We're making our mark—now let's use this visibility to bring our troops home!
Small Spiral Notebook is one of my favorite literary journals, so it's a real treat to be interviewed there. Thanks to Jess deCourcy for such kind words and thought-provoking questions!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The wonderful Irish author Damian McNicholl has named this blog a Blog That Makes Him Think. I'm so touched (especially since I often wish I put more thought into this blog rather than just dashing off posts here and there.) You can find more about the origin of these awards atThe Thinking Blog.

Now it's my turn to name five blogs that make me think. I am a bit of a blogaholic, so it's very hard to choose only five--there are so many blogs out there that spark my thoughts and inspiration. Here are some of them:

1. rae's CODEPINK road journal, which keeps me beautifully up to date with all of CODEPINK's creative actions. I wish I could be in DC at the CODEPINK house right now, but at least I can get the vicarious experience through Rae's blog.

2. Have Fun*Do Good. The tagline says it all: "A blog for people who want to make the world a better place AND have fun!" A delightful and inspiring resource.

3. Susan Henderson's LitPark, "Where Writers Come to Play". Susan offers up wonderful interviews with writers and artists, and asks a thought-provoking question about the writing life every week for her readers to explore. Susan just sold her first novel, and I know it will be as insightful and entertaining as this blog!

4. A Change in the Wind. Kit Stolz has created the most accessible and enjoyable blog about climate change around (not that climate change is enjoyable, but Kit's writing sure is!)

5. Buzz, Balls & Hype. M.J. Rose often reminds people that writing is an art, but publishing is a business. This blog helps writers navigate the often-confusing business side of things (plus she offers Writer's Therapy with the amazing Dr. Sue every Friday.)

I'm already feeling guilty about leaving off so many fabulous blogs--I wish I could have nominated 50 instead of 5! I remember when I first heard the word "blog", it sounded like something phlegmmy and disgusting. I couldn't imagine the word ever becoming part of my vocabulary. Now I can't imagine blogs not being an important part of my day, a vital source of information and inspiration. It's incredible how our lives change with technology (and how people change technology to make it their own...)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thanks to everyone who responded to my piece over at the CODEPINK website. The essay has a life of its own--it's been picked up by places like AlterNet, OpEdNews, DailyKos, After Downing Street and more. I'm grateful for the response it's receiving. I also understand the questions people have about the supplemental, and want to address them here.

Here is CODEPINK's latest alert on the matter:
Today, Monday, March 19, marks four years of war in Iraq. We hope you attended one of the hundreds of actions this weekend against the continued bloodshed. Today you have another opportunity to attend rallies, call and visit your congressperson before they vote this week on the supplemental bill that would allocate another $100 billion for war. Tell them "No More Money for War."

You also have an opportunity to pressure one of the largest on-line activist groups, MoveOn has not taken a stand against this Supplemental. It asked its members to take a vote on whether or not to support the Supplemental, but failed to explain how disastrous this inside-the-beltway compromise really is:

• It will keep the war going well into 2008;

• It omits Cong. Barbara Lee's amendment, which would have fully funded withdrawal by the end of the 2007;

• It gives the President the right to waive requirements that troops sent to Iraq must be properly trained, equipped and rested;

• The funds can be used for attacking Iran, since the final version removed language saying the president had to get authorization from Congress before attacking Iran.

• And finally, MoveOn neglects to tell its members how absurd it is to give George Bush another $100 billion for war when there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq.

The Democrat leadership says this is the "best bill" they can get passed, but admits that President Bush is likely to veto it anyway. We need to tell Congress to stop the political machinations and use its Constitutional authority to end war by cutting the funds. We need to tell MoveOn to join the rest of the peace movement with the clear, principled call to Congress: Vote No on the Supplemental. Don't Buy Bush's War.

This week, your leadership is crucial. Call your member of Congress at 800-828-0498, and inspire your friends to do the same. Attend a MoveOn candlelight vigil tonight with the real message: No Money for War.

Standing strong,

Dana, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Jodie, Liz, Medea, Nancy, Patricia, Rae, Samantha, and Sonia
United for Peace and Justice sent out a similar alert:
The House of Representatives could vote today to give President Bush another $100 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Democratic Party leadership of the House is trying to portray this bill as a positive step toward ending the war, and some organizations are saying the bill challenges the Bush Administration's failed policy in Iraq, and therefore should be supported by the antiwar movement.

United for Peace and Justice strongly disagrees.

We urge you to call your representative in the House NOW and tell him or her to VOTE NO on the supplemental, to VOTE NO on the "Iraq Accountability Act."

If you are not sure who represents you in Congress, you can find out by clicking here:

Call the Congressional Switchboard toll-free: 888-851-1879 (ask the operator to connect you to your Representative's office).

Your message is simple:

*Bring the troops home now;
*Vote NO on the supplemental (the "Iraq Accountability Act");
*Support military funding only for the safe withdrawal of the troops (the Lee amendment).


Here are some of the reasons we oppose the supplemental spending bill (also known as the "Iraq Accountability Act") the House will be voting on:

*It funds both the continued occupation of Iraq and Bush's escalation of the war.
*It allows Bush to decide when U.S. troop withdrawal should begin -- possibly not until Sept. 1, 2008 -- a full 18 months from now.
*It is silent on the question of attacking Iran. (Language requiring Congressional authorization for military action against Iran was removed from the bill.)
*It allows an unspecified number of troops (10,000? 30,000? 50,000?) to remain in Iraq indefinitely.
*It would bring spending on the Iraq war to more than $500 BILLION!

Democratic members of Congress may tell you, "this is the best we can do." No, this is not the best they can do! The voters of this country didn't elect a new Congress to give us excuses; we elected them to use their power to end this war -- to stop the flow of money for war and to set a specific, short-term timeframe for bringing the troops home.

Any funds Congress appropriates must be restricted to withdrawing the troops as soon as practicable. We are outraged that the Congressional leadership might not allow an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee (and supported by Reps. Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey) to even come to the floor for debate. This amendment would limit the use of new funds to the safe withdrawal of all U.S. troops and military contractors from Iraq by December 31, 2007, to reconstruction in Iraq and to regional diplomacy efforts. If the Lee Amendment is allowed to come to the floor, we will call on the members of the House to vote YES on it.

The Congressional struggle is far from over. Next week the Senate will debate and vote on its version of the supplemental. The two versions passed in the House and the Senate will then go to a conference committee, where differences between them will be reconciled. In other words, there will be more opportunities to pressure Congress to begin to do the right thing. We will keep you updated on what's happening in the Senate and will let you know when calls to your Senators are needed. But right now, the most important thing is to call members of the House!

Finally, all of this Congressional activity is unfolding as the fifth year of the war in Iraq has begun. There have been more than 1,000 antiwar activities in cities and towns all across this country marking the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. We've been gathering reports on the local actions and we encourage you to take a moment to read them -- it's truly inspiring!
I hope this clarifies my position against the supplemental--please feel free to ask any further questions!

Monday, March 19, 2007

This weekend, Jodie Evans and I disrupted a speech by Congresswoman Hilda Solis--it was an amazing experience; you can read my reflections here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Need a splash of color in your life--or maybe just your wardrobe? Check out my meditation on red--red bras, red dresses, red shoes--over at Lux Lotus...

In a fun bit of synchronicity, Poetry Thursday offered "red" as a prompt last week. My friend Cati Porter came up with this stunning poem in response.

Update: I found another lovely fruit-filled Poetry Thursday poem; this post even has a sweet reference to Fruitflesh!

I am so excited that my friend Masha Hamilton's gorgeous and amazing novel, The Camel Bookmobile, is going to be released next month. I have been raving about the book ever since I read the galleys last fall; it is utterly transporting. Life-changing, even.

Masha, who is amazing herself, is using her platform as a novelist in such a beautiful way--she was created a Camel Book Drive to support the real camel book mobile, which operates from Garissa in Kenya’s isolated Northeastern Province near the unstable border with Somalia. Masha writes:
Initially launched with three camels on Oct. 14, 1996, the library now uses 12 camels traveling to four settlements per day, four days per week. The camels bring books to a semi-nomadic people who live with drought, famine and chonic poverty. The books are spread out on grass mats beneath an acacia tree, and the library patrons, often barefoot, sometimes joined by goats or donkeys, gather with great excitement to choose their books until the next visit. I visited the region and walked the bush with the camel library, and you can see pictures and a short video. But of course, the bush is hard on books and the traveling library badly needs more.
More than 120 authors have signed up to donate boxes of books. I am delighted to be part of that group. There are many ways to get involved--visit the book drive link above for more information.
Last night, I went to pick up dinner at Pho Saigon, a wonderful local Vietnamese place. As I waited for my order, Kay, one of the owners, came up to me with a little dish. "Would you like some food?" she asked. I gratefully took it, even though I had no idea what it was. There was a scoop of what looked like pale green rice, with a couple of large potato-like chunks on top, covered with a thick white sauce.

It turned out to be sweet rice and coconut milk. The chunks were taro. The combination was surprising and soothing all at once. It reminded me of the rice with milk and sugar that my mom would make for me when I was sick; the taro added a starchy, slightly savory counterpoint.

When I went up to the counter to thank Don and Kay, they told me it was a traditional Vietnamese dessert. Sometimes, they said, the taro is replaced by corn. The dessert isn't on the menu, Don told me, but sometimes Kay feels like making it. I was so touched that they shared their treat with me; such a sweet and unexpected moment of communion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rest in peace, Betty Hutton.

Betty Hutton's turn as Annie Oakley in the film version of Annie Get Your Gun was such an inspiration for me when I unexpectedly found myself in the same role on a local stage last summer. I loved her wonderfully goofy presence, her no-holds-barred performance.

A friend recently forwarded me some photos from the dress rehearsal--I didn't have any pictures from the show at all, and haven't seen a copy of the dvd yet, so it is wonderful to relive memories of the experience. In one of these photos, I'm my country bumpkin self handily winning a shooting contest (I'm the one crouching with the rifle near the back of the stage--something you probably wouldn't expect to see a peace activist do!) In the other, I'm at a ball in my honor; in that number ("Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night"), I got to dance on a table and get lifted in the air and carried all around--great fun! The whole experience has felt like a dream to me; it's good to see these pictures and remember it really happened.
From the lovely Jordan Rosenfeld:
We writers seem to need a lot of support to keep going. Rebecca Lawton (author of Reading Water, Capitol Books) and I first turned to each other for writerly support over three years ago and the partnership has played a far greater role in our creative success than we ever dreamed. Buoyed as we were by this, we began to extend more of this support to other writers through the work we call Write Free. We led weekend retreats, day-long workshops and co-authored a book that is forthcoming in Summer from Kulupi Press's new "Wavegirl Books" imprint. And in January we launched the inaugural Write Free E-Letter.

Even if you don't choose to subscribe to the newsletter, we solicit submissions for a section within it called Your Turn each month. A guest editor selects their favorite essay and makes comments on a small round of finalists. Finalists are given a complimentary issue of the newsletter, and the selected essay is printed in the newsletter.

Here are the guidelines for the April Issue. Deadline is this week: March 15th, so hurry!

Deadline: March 15

In Your Turn last month, we asked for your 300-word contributions written on the theme of Revision. Thanks to all who've submitted pieces! There is still time for those wishing to submit to write a piece of 300 words or less and email their submissions to us at by midnight March 15. If you have trouble with the email server you may email me directly at: jordansmuse (at) gmail (dot) com.

We offered the following writing prompts, which you may use if you like.
The time I decided to do ________ instead of ________ . . .
Because I changed my mind back in [insert year], I . . .

Or you can answer these questions:
Did changing my mind [when I ________] hurt anyone?
Did changing my mind benefit me?

For the May Newsletter, deadline April 15th, the theme is Prosperity.
I have a couple of guest blog posts up today:

--Laila Lalami has posted my recommendation of Diane Schoemperlen's In the Language of Love as part of her "underappreciated books" series. My friend Laraine gave me this book as a graduation gift when we were both getting our MFAs from Antioch, and the novel has been one of my favorites ever since. I love how it reminds me of Laraine, of that heady MFA time, of how gorgeous and inventive language can be.

--I've always loved the "If I Only Had an iPod" feature on The Happy Booker, so it was great fun to write my own playlist there ( actually I wrote a playlist for my character Flan Parker. She's more likely to listen to an iPod than I am!)

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm several days late, but I wanted to mark International Women's Day. Here are two actions you can take to help women around the world:

Demand the release of two women's rights activists in Iran

Join with PEN American Center to celebrate courageous women writers and journalists and protest the imprisonment, threats and even murder that seek to suppress these critical voices.


Our local celebration of International Women's Day, Gather the Women 2007, was such a joy this Saturday. A day of poetry and singing and activism and healing. Such a nurturing group of women. Only one person came to my writing workshop, but it ended up being a blessing--it gave me a chance to catch up with my former student Rachel, as well as her character, Sarah. You can read Rachel's account of our private workshop, and see the beautiful letter Sarah wrote to her here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I am so delighted to be able to welcome Alex Espinoza to my blog. Alex is a friend from Riverside; his beautiful first novel, Still Water Saints was released by Random House on January 30 (a week after Self Storage! We were both invited to be part of an event in Sacramento--it was Alex's first event as an author, and I was so delighted and honored to share that experience with him.) Alex is one of the sweetest, most generous and supportive people I know. His compassion infuses Still Water Saints, which Sandra Cisneros rightly calls "as perfect as the beads of a rosary. One alone is a little miracle, the whole together capable of renewing one’s faith in new fiction."

Here's the publisher's description of Still Water Saints:

“Fresh, magical, beautiful, evocative” says Lisa See, about this wonderful first novel by Alex Espinoza. Still Water Saints chronicles a momentous year in the life of Agua Mansa, a largely Latino town beyond the fringes of Los Angeles and home to the Botánica Oshún, where people come seeking charms, herbs, and candles. Above all, they seek the guidance of Perla Portillo, the shop’s owner. Perla has served the community for years, arming her clients with the tools to overcome all manner of crises, large and small. There is Juan, a man coming to terms with the death of his father; Nancy, a recently married schoolteacher; Shawn, an addict looking for peace in his chaotic life; and Rosa, a teenager trying to lose weight and find herself. But when a customer with a troubled and mysterious past arrives, Perla struggles to help and must confront both her unfulfilled hopes and doubts about her place in a rapidly changing world.
Imaginative, inspiring, lyrical, and beautifully written, Still Water Saints evokes the unpredictability of life and the resilience of the spirit through the journeys of the people of Agua Mansa, and especially of the one woman at the center of it all. Theirs are stories of faith and betrayal, love and loss, the bonds of family and community, and the constancy of change.
Alex's book is utterly transporting--I finished reading it on a bus in New York; as I blinked tears away and looked out the window, I was shocked to remember that I was on the East Coast...I had been so thoroughly immersed in the world of Agua Mansa. I was very excited to see Alex's beautiful blue cover displayed prominently in bookstores around the country. It has been getting rave reviews, too--the Washington Post calls Still Water Saints an "elegantly crafted novel", and the San Francisco Chronicle notes: "The author, too, possesses el don, and that is his beautifully impressionistic writing, which captures not only the inner lives of the novel's many characters but also the somewhat melancholy tone of a changing community, of a place that is increasingly becoming like every other place."

I had the chance to ask Alex a few questions:

--One of your characters says muralists are "artists of the people. Their work is public art, art that needs to reflect the people, their hopes and desires." When I read this, I wondered if perhaps you were talking about writing, as well--your book so beautifully reflects the people, their hopes and desires. What do you see as the function of the writer in the community?

All aesthetic concerns aside, I think a writer is a person who bears witness and embodies, to some extent, the community that he or she writes about. I think about a place like Agua Mansa, which was a real place that was wiped away by a flood in the 1860’s; all that remains of it now is a cemetery. There are so many places like that, lives like that, that go undocumented, so many communities that vanish and disappear. And I think a writer is responsible for documenting these places and these people.

And I think there is, specifically, a responsibility as a Chicano writer. I’m still trying to figure that out. Sometimes it can involve being a sort of “native informant”, bearing witness and mediating between cultures. But there’s also a responsibility to give back to your community, to share knowledge and not just horde it, to be a role model. A few weeks ago I gave a reading at a Borders in Pico Rivera. I knew no one there, but there was this great turn out, and the audience was almost entirely Latino. And I was especially gratified to see people bringing their children, sharing with them the power, the importance of the written word. There’s this hunger for literature in a lot of communities that have often been overlooked by publishers, by booksellers, by the media, and it was just so amazing and humbling to be there reading to that crowd, answering their questions, talking about the importance of education, of writing, of language, sharing my experiences. And honestly? It’s probably been my favorite reading so far.

--I loved reading about Perla writing with her gold pen, "the words
shiny, the flecks of glitter sparkling under the store's light." You
write "She wrote a list of words. She didn't think, just let them come
to her: rain, river, water, hill, mountain, car, speed, time, statues,
store, shopping, center, nice, going, trees, home, bus, learn,
remember." Is your process like this—not thinking, just letting the
words come—or do you map out your writing first?

A little of both: It depends on the character, and it depends on the situation. A writer should be vigilant and savvy enough to know when to push the process along and when to sort of let it do what it needs to do. For example, take Shawn – one of the first person narrators in the book. His voice was so relentless, so loud, so aggressive that it basically just poured out and took very little editing. Despite it being a very bleak story, it was so wonderful for me to write that chapter. I have rarely been able to replicate that, but I am always trying to reach that point again, where its almost automatic writing.

On the other hand, there are other characters who took more time and effort, and sections that took a lot more rethinking, replotting, planning, and executing. I think it’s important to determine what kind of story the character is going to require you to tell. Sometimes that’s clear, but a lot of times it’s not. For example, when I started writing Juan, the businessman with the Elvis-obsesssed mother, it wasn’t until I reached the end that I figured out what the character wanted to tell me, what he needed to tell me. And then I was able to go back and rewrite the story.

And the overall structure of the book changed a lot over time. The final novel started life as an undergraduate thesis, then got reworked and elaborated as my MFA thesis, and then became the manuscript of the novel – which has only a few traces of the theses that came before it. The undergraduate version was basically a suite of stories all centered on customers at the botanica, and Perla was a cipher. In the MFA thesis, Perla’s chapters took place over the course of a week – a really horrible week – and Perla was herself a weak, pathetic, victimized, indecisive character. When I went back to revise the manuscript, I threw out almost all of Perla’s story and recreated her. But I think I had to write what she wasn’t before I could write what she was. And it was also in that last major revision that I introduced the character of Rodrigo, the boy Perla struggles to help through the course of the year.

--When did you first start to write?

I think a lot of little things contributed to my starting to write. As the youngest of eleven children, reading and writing often gave me a quiet place to be in an otherwise boisterous house. Also, my parents and oldest siblings spoke only Spanish, so serving as a translator and learning to explain things clearly with words was a skill I had to develop early. Plus, I was born partially disabled. In PE, I was usually given a whistle to serve as ref or asked keep score, so I got good at watching people without them realizing I was there. I got good at observing, seeing everything, and keeping mental notes of all of it (and I think that is one thing writers do – we’re the people on the sideline, with the whistles and the scorecards, and you forget we’re there until we blow the whistles or call the fouls).

I started to write seriously, though, when I was in high school. I’d written an essay, and my teacher read it to the class. When she asked the class to guess who had written it, everyone turned around and looked at me – it was the first time I realized I had a voice on the page, but I didn’t know what that meant at the time. It really only all came together when I got to community college and took an English class where I first read poetry and fiction by Latino writers. I realized there were stories that needed to be told that were just as valid as those of the writers I’d read and loved in high school, like Poe or Twain. And that’s when it really all clicked.

--What was the initial spark for this novel?

When I was pursuing my BA at UC-Riverside, I needed a senior thesis. My mentor Susan Straight began talking about students at my level wanting to write novels, but I was intimidated of that word. Instead, I decided to write a set of linked stories dealing with my mother’s crazy home remedies (for example, sleeping with crushed tomatoes wrapped in rags on your feet to cure tonsilitis) but I abandoned the idea quickly; I couldn’t figure out a way to make these work as anything more that an incredibly artificial device.

Coincidentally, around this time, I was frequenting a botanica near my mother’s house; I was intrigued by the images I saw there, the smells, the soaps to help bring luck, the candles to help you find a job or win a lawsuit, the prayer cards, the mixing of different icons – the way a gold Buddha sat next to a statue of Santa Barbara. And I overheard stories about sick babies, dying parents, poverty, infidelity. It was very intimate and also very strange, very extraordinary and at the same time mundane. And I wanted to somehow capture that, so I came up with this idea of chronicling the lives of some of the customers who came into a botanica.

--And where did all of these amazing characters come from? They all feel so real, so whole—I would love to know if you had a clear vision of them before you sat down to write, or if you got to know them through writing about them.

I got to know of them through writing. I tried to write about people as unlike me as possible, and I wanted to write in many different voices, with a lot of tonal shifts. I wanted to be able to portray a range of facets of a community, to let Agua Mansa, California be my Winesburg, Ohio. So I have a drag queen, a speed freak, a schoolteacher, a business executive, an overweight teenager, a painter. And there were some narrators who got cut but who I hope will find homes someday: an elderly white widower, a young mother whose friend is trying to have a baby, and a college bound high school student enjoying a last night on the town before he leaves the city. Sometimes, a secondary or tertiary character in one story so interested me that I wanted to write his or her story as well.

--Several years ago, I wrote a novel (most likely never to be
published!) featuring a Santeria priestess. I spent time in local
botanicas, learning about Santeria, all the rituals, etc, and I really
appreciated your exploration of that world. What sort of research did
you do to delve into botanica life? I know you're working on a
historical novel now (which I can't wait to read!)--how do you find a
balance between research and writing?

I spent a lot of time in botanicas. I had to be careful, though; at some shops I went to, I sensed that the people got suspicious if I got too inquisitive, probably thinking I was planning on doing an expose. Far from it, though; I wanted to be respectful. I never faked illnesses, or pretended I had a bad gambling habit, or needed a limpia (a cleansing). Fortunately, coming from a big family, I had brothers and sisters who had visited botanicas, and I heard about how they were treated for various ailments or problems. And some botanica owners were more forthcoming. One gave me books to read and told me that that was how he had learned. Plus, years and years of working retail helped me to capture a lot of the day-to-day elements of running a shop – stocking merchandise, doing displays, cleaning. And to capture, I hope, that strange intimacy that can develop between a customer and a shopowner.

The new novel is historical, and while I started by reading some general histories, looking at some archival photos, and talking to family members who remembered the period in question, I didn’t want research to end up as an excuse for not writing: “I can’t start the novel until I know exactly what kind of shoes people were wearing in 1937.” I find that bouncing between the writing and the research is the best method for me.

--Any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Six suggestions:

1.) Commit yourself. If you’re going to do it, do it. No more excuses.
2.) Write regularly. Write on a schedule. Write every day. Writing’s like a muscle – if you don’t exercise it, it atrophies and gets weak. For a first draft, I write at least 1,000 words a day; I don’t worry about spelling or grammar, and I sometimes leave things out to fill in later. Then I have the clay to mold into a more finished work, which is where the real work begins.
3.) Read good work. Develop a palate for what you consider good fiction, and be inspired by that.
4. )Put yourself out there. Go to workshops. Go to readings. Meet other writers. There’s something to be said about saying to a writer that you admire, ‘I am a writer, too.”
5.) Be tenacious. Don’t give up, even in the face of rejection. I got rejected a lot before I sold my manuscript, and my work still gets rejected even with that on my resume.
6. )Trust the process. Know that your work, if it is good, if it is honest, will find its audience.

--Fabulous advice, Alex. Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful answers!

Alex just accepted a job teaching at CSU Fresno. I'm going to miss having him here in Riverside; Fresno is very lucky to be gaining him, indeed. And the world in general is very lucky to be gaining Alex as an author. Pick up Still Water Saints--you'll know just what I mean.
Check out our exciting new campaign at CODEPINK: Don't Buy Bush's War. Please help us urge Congress to vote No on the supplemental appropriations this March 14th (and every other budget hearing the rest of the year.) We need to remind Congress that they have the power of the purse to end this war--if they fund it, they own it, and they probably don't want that blood on their hands (especially not after the 2006 elections!)
In my work, I feel free to delve into all sorts of darkness, but I have a tendency to shy away from negative stuff in my life. In an effort to not just be Pollyanna-ish about my book release, I thought I'd share a couple of bad reviews.

This guy calls Self Storage a "really lousy book"


this reviewer deems it "an underwhelming piece of chick lit" (first time my work has been labeled chick lit as far as I know!)

I've always known that not everyone will like my work. I'll admit it stings to read these reviews, but it's easy enough to get past that, to let it go (and try to learn from it when the shoe fits). I just wanted to share with you that this being-published experience is not all hearts and roses!

I suppose in part I want to be honest about this because I don't want to unwittingly inspire envy by acting as if everything is perfect. My friend Peggy recently wrote a gorgeous meditation on envy which was inspired in part by an email I sent to friends and family announcing my book release. It makes me sad to know that my news brought up these feelings in her, but I'm grateful that she shared those feelings, that she opened up a larger dialog. Dr. Sue has also explored envy amongst writers, a subject I think is important to explore--it's hard to create a truly supportive community of writers if we don't acknowledge all aspects of the writing life. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This Saturday, March 10, at 2pm, I will be teaching a workshop on "Writing Women's Wisdom" at the Gather the Women 2007 Conference to be held at CSU San Bernardino.

This is the 5th annual "Gather the Women" conference sponsored by the Women Creating Peace Collective (my local peace group) and The Santos Manuel Student Union Women’s Resource Center. The conference celebrates International Women’s Day, and this year features singer/storyteller Karen Wilson, one of the most soulful and amazing women I know, as our keynote speaker; there will be workshops on activism, creativity and more for the body, mind and spirit throughout the day, along with a Women's Marketplace. Registration starts at 9:30am, and the conference runs until 5:30. It's always a fun and inspiring experience.

A $25 donation is requested. Students are free with student ID. Valid CSUSB parking or $4 daily pass required. A free box lunch will be provided to the first 75 registrants.

For more info, call Nanette at (951) 686-5542 or e-mail (or just post a comment below!)
A couple of places where you can find me online:

I applied the Page 69 Test to Self Storage.

I answered a few questions for Metro papers (the interviewer was my former editor at was so cool to catch up with her)


A lovely former student has posted this review at

You can also find an interview with me in the latest print edition of Hip Mama.
Well, I'm back from my tour--it was great fun, but I'm beat. Thank you to friends and family who came to events, who shared such wonderful meals and car rides with me, who made the whole experience so rich; thank you to booksellers who were so generous and enthusiastic, even in the face of small audiences; thank you to author escorts who were such fabulous guides, to media people who welcomed me so warmly. There were so many memorable moments, but I'm only going to list a few since I am so tired and have so much to catch up on...

--Reading at my cousin's bookstore, De Colores, in Olympia, WA, which was both sweet and a bit bittersweet; the last time I read there, I had a coughing fit, and my lovely aunt Mimi handed me a cough drop. This time, I had another coughing fit (strange--this is the only bookstore where that has happened!) and it made me miss Mimi, who died two years ago, tremendously. The next morning, we went back to the store and folded dumplings and did calligraphy as part of Chinese New Year storytime--so much fun!
--Wondering what to do about the drunk kid who read along with me out loud in Seattle and laughed and muttered throughout my reading until he was asked to leave. Probably the closest thing I've had to a heckler so far!
--Soaking in the bathtub at my hotel in Seattle--a huge jacuzzi tub at the top of several majestic stairs. I want to live in that bathtub.
--Being on not one, but two flights with Chris Abani, who was also on tour.
--Being able to wake up in San Francisco and walk across the street to have breakfast in the Ferry Building.
--So many sweet and fun and yummy unexpected moments, I can't begin to list them all...

I was home for a couple of days in between legs of the tour, and managed to spend one of those days throwing up. Ick. My mom was worried, so she ended up flying with me to Atlanta for AWP. We had a true adventure together. A few highlights from Atlanta:

--Learning there is a waiting list of over 250 people for Self Storage at the library in Lawrenceville (meeting with the book club there was a real highlight in itself!)
--Seeing a review of Self Storage in the Atlanta Style & Design Magazine in the hotel room
--Feeling like part of a tribe at AWP (and running into so many great people! Although it was a bit disconcerting when we first got there--I suddenly felt like a huge cliche. So many other women with long curly hair, not wearing makeup, wearing similar clothes to me!)
--Dancing wildly with my mom at one of the AWP dance parties
--Meeting a long lost cousin and his wife (what fun to learn I have a cousin with a southern accent!)
--Tasting boiled peanuts for the first time (yum!)
--Missing our connecting flight in Vegas and getting a free unexpected 24 hr Vegas vacation (the airline put us up for the night in a nice hotel and gave us meal and taxi vouchers for the whole next day. My mom and I saw two shows and even won a little money in the slot machines. What a surreal and spontaneous and delightful day! A great way to end the tour.)

I still have some events and travel ahead of me, but the big push is done for now. Please excuse me while I melt into a puddle on the floor...