Thursday, July 31, 2008

This is super last last last minute, but I wanted to let you know I'll be bellydancing at the Orange County Fair today at 4:30pm on the Main Mall Stage. It's fun to think about dancing at a county fair again--until this year, the last time I performed as a bellydancer was at the LA County Fair 15 years ago, when I was six months pregnant with Hannah! I seem to be in fair mode right now--last weekend, I attended the Pear Fair up in the Sacramento Delta as extra research for my novel; a sweet and yummy day.

I'll be teaching at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference this weekend; I hope to do more blogging upon my return. Until then, take care!

Friday, July 25, 2008

I was gearing up to write a blog about how my 14 year old daughter was stranded alone at the airport in New York for several hours on Wednesday (seven of those in a grounded plane with a faulty AC system before the flight was canceled), how scary and frustrating it was to be so far away from her and not be able to do anything, how vulnerable and helpless I felt. But then I received an email this morning that put everything in perspective.

Vicki Forman, who writes the beautiful Special Needs Mama column at Literary Mama, lost her son Evan to a sudden unexpected illness yesterday. I just had dinner with Vicki and a bunch of other writer mamas last month after the Maternal is Political reading in Pasadena, and she spoke of Evan, who would have turned 8 on the 30th, with such tenderness and humor and love. My heart aches for her and her family as they process this incomprehensible loss.

I find I can no longer complain about Hannah's airport ordeal. Sure, it was a long confusing day, and Hannah didn't get home until 4am, but she is home, and she is safe and I can wrap my arms around her. As I waited for her at the gate at LAX, there was a large crowd waiting to board a plane to Guadalajara, and they had turned the terminal into a party--little kids running around, people playing guitar and drums and doing raucous versions of the Macarena at 2am. The rest of the airport was totally quiet except for the floor cleaning machines, but this little corner had become a festival. It was a lovely way to welcome Hannah back.

I can only begin to imagine the silence that Vicki and her family are facing today, even with all the support the community is sending their way. Marjorie Osterhout has set up a memorial fund in Evan's name; if you wish to make a donation, please click here

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A couple of events on the horizon...

--I'll be teaching a workshop on Writing for Social Change at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference August 2nd (my sister/niece/grandmother's birthday!) The conference runs from July 31st-August 3rd. I'm excited--I've never been to Mendocino before, and have heard wonderful things about both the area and the conference.

--I'll be speaking at the annual fundraiser for the Democratic Club of Carlsbad-Oceanside on Sunday, August 10th (thanks to my mom for setting this up!)

And, because things have been so quiet around here lately, let me leave you with an image of someone who seems to love strawberries as much as I do (thanks, Michael, for sending me the link):

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I was delighted to see this reference to Obama talking about writing and reading at a recent event:
There was one question in particular of interest to us book lovers, and that came from a woman who asked what Obama would say to young writers. He was surprised by the question, which he admitted was one he hadn’t heard before, but didn’t hesitate to answer. He referenced his two books, and specifically mentioned how he wrote them himself, along with many of his speeches. With a light inflection, he said, “In terms of getting a job, knowing how to write is a good thing.” He talked about how he kept a journal, and how it was important for teaching him not only how to write, but also how to think. But my favorite part was when he said, “Over the course of four years I made time to read all of the Harry Potter books out loud to my daughters. If I can do that and run for president, then you can find time to read to your kids. That’s some of the most special time you have with your children.”
How refreshing to have a potential president who can actually read and write and think (his recent FISA vote excepted!)

I was also delighted to read about this recent Barbara Ehrenriech event at Skylight Books in which she shifted the spotlight away from herself and invited labor organizers who work with local car wash employees to speak about their current struggle. She was able to get the audience engaged in this very real issue--I love how she took her activism off the page and into the room, how she used her platform as a writer to give others a voice. Very inspiring indeed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

If you've read my book Fruitflesh or taken any of my classes, you're probably well aware of the fact that a strawberry changed my life. You probably not know, however, that there is a wild horse connection to that life-changing strawberry. I myself had forgotten about it until just recently.

The subject of wild horses has been rising up all around me lately. In the LA Times last Sunday, I read the front page book review piece about Deanne Stillman's latest book, Mustang with great interest. A couple of days ago, I received an email from Deanne, a fellow teacher at UCR Palm Desert, although we haven't yet crossed paths (I loved her first book, Twentynine Palms). She asked me to pass along info about her upcoming reading in Norco for local readers (sidenote: I was once the movie and restaurant reviewer for the now defunct rag, the Norco Pony Express--I have many stories to share about that experience). Norco is a fitting place for a reading about wild horses; it is a real horse town--my niece trains for horse shows there, and there are places where people can tie up their horses in front of every fast food establishment (not sure if people can ride them through the drive-throughs, too!) Here's the info about Deanne's reading:
it's at the Norco library in Riverside County on July 26 at 11 am. Address is 3954 Old Hamner Rd, Norco 92860.

"Mustang" tells the story of the wild horse on this continent, from prehistory through its plight today, with chapters on its return to the Americas with conquistadors, its partnership with Native Americans, its role on the frontier, and its plight today (round-ups, massacres). The big question my book asks is why are we, a cowboy nation, betraying the horse we rode in on?

It was while finishing up my previous book, "Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave," that I began my journey down the wild horse trail, after learning of the massacre of 34 wild horses outside Reno. Two of the accused were Marines and one was stationed at Twentynine Palms. Having grown up around horses, I was drawn to the story.
I find myself drawn to the story now, too. Just today, I received an email petition from Care2 asking us to urge the BLM to not kill wild horses, as they have planned. I hope we can find a way to protect these majestic creatures.

As for the strawberry/wild horse connection...After Ms. Sweers gave everyone in my high school philosophy class a strawberry and had us explore it with all our senses but taste for five minutes, then take five more minutes to eat the strawberry, slowly, mindfully, she showed us a short, wordless film of wild horses, set to soaring music. Wild horses stampeding across fields, wild horses crossing rivers, wild horses--strangely, disturbingly--running through fire. It was only after the film was over that she asked us to write haiku about our experience. I had forgotten about the film part of the exercise until now. I was so thoroughly mindblown, woken up, by the strawberry, it makes sense that's what has burned most brightly in my memory over the years, but now I remember feeling some wild part of me stir as I watched those horses gallop across the screen, strawberry still zinging on my tongue. The horses didn't enter my poem, but they set something racing inside my heart at the time. It makes me very happy to think of them still running free; may that ever continue, despite all the challenges they face today...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

This Sunday, July 13th at 7pm, I'm going to be part of a panel on Activist Writing sponsored by PEN Center USA. The other panelists are Celesete Fremon, George Larkin, and my amazing former Antioch mentor, Diane Lefer. It will be so wonderful to reconnect with her, especially now that I am an Antioch mentor, myself. My time at the residency was incredibly rich--inspiring and energizing (even as it was exhausting!) I am thrilled to be able to work with my group of mentees.

The event this Sunday is going to be held at a private residence in Los Angeles; if you're interested in attending, please email Victoria McCoy at and she'll send you the address (you can email me for the info, too, but you'll also have to email Victoria to rsvp.)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sorry for the silence around here--life has been a dizzy spin (sometimes exhilarating, sometimes disorienting) and my brain has not been able to find any blogging space for a while. Until I do find that space, here is a blast from the past--an "Odd Shelf" I pulled together for Readerville five ago has been reprinted at the now-online Readerville Journal. It's great to see the Journal resurrected. The same part of my brain that doesn't have time for blogging hasn't had time--in ages, alas--to dip into the vibrant forums at Readerville, but I'll be forever grateful for the community and friendships I found there.

Hope you're all having a wonderful summer. I have some good writerly news to share, but I think I'll wait until the contract is signed before I spread the word in a public way--I don't want to jinx myself! If you're super-curious, drop me an email and I'll whisper it in your digital ear...