Monday, August 25, 2008

I found this time lapse video of a man trapped in an elevator for 41 hours strangely beautiful (if a bit claustrophobia-inspiring!) It also made me think of Neighborhood News, the little local newspaper I created when I was ten years old; my first headline was "Girl Stuck in Elevator!" I sold subscriptions door to door in my apartment building and learned that writing could be a way of connecting with my community. I suppose the alert writing I do for CODEPINK is a virtual extension of that!

Update: I recently learned that Madonna plays a remake of this video on her new tour, but Britney Spears is the one trapped in the elevator. It seems as if trapping Britney in an elevator might not be the best idea--the poor thing has been through so much already (then again, maybe she found it cathartic to freak out on camera in an intentional way!) You can see that video here

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another fruit-loving animal. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jennix over at Daily Kos has written a thoughtful post about literature and activism. She opens it with this wonderful anecdote:
True story. The scene is a Manhattan supper club, circa 1952. Eleanor Roosevelt approaches a table at which John and Elaine Steinbeck are dining. Elaine makes introductions, and then...

Eleanor Roosevelt: "When I go to the Soviets, they ask, 'Does that awful treatment of farmers still happen in the U.S.?’ I say, 'No, my husband and John Steinbeck took care of that.’"

John Steinbeck: "That is the best literary review I've ever received."
I can't imagine a better literary review, myself--I love how Grapes of Wrath woke people up to the plight of the farmer, and, as a result, changed the country's perspective.

I was saddened to hear that Jennifer Nix, along with other activists, had abandoned reading and writing fiction in order to focus upon activism; thankfully she realized that
As activists, we must not lose sight of art, or its value to the work we do and the sustenance and inspiration it can provide...I also realized that we needn't choose between the "activist path" or the "artist path" either. We can do both. This epiphany made me want to have these issues discussed in public forums, particularly on progressive political blogs, because I believe bringing more art into our mix will have a profound effect on our individual and collective imaginations.
I agree whole heartedly. The classes I've taught on Writing for Social Change, both online for UCLA and at the Mendocino Conference, reinforce how many people out there want to use their voices and their art to make the world a better place (and are doing beautiful, creative work in such service). If we abandon our art to serve our activism, we're abandoning one of our most powerful activist tools--our ability to reach people's hearts in addition to their minds. As Jennix writes, the best stories create empathy--they help us look deeply into the lives of "the other" and find human connection there. And that's where change comes from--when the "us vs. them" divisions dissolve and we realize we're all "us" and we need to work together to create a more just and sustainable future.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I crossed the 50,000 word mark with my novel in progress, Pears, yesterday. This feels hugely significant to me, possibly because 50,000 words is the goal of National Novel Writing Month, plus it's such a nice big juicy round number. These 50,000 words took a year rather than a month to write, though--one of the most challenging years of my life; between the separation/divorce, taking on more teaching, and dealing with other assorted life issues, it hasn't always been easy for me to find the time/energy/focus to write. Some small part of me was worried I'd never finish this novel, that I'd have to keep renegotiating my contract with Ballantine, but reaching this milestone makes me feel as if November 1st is a do-able deadline now. Of course I'll have plenty of revision to do after this draft is complete--this draft almost feels like an outline of what the book wants to become--but just getting the story down will be such a relief. The fact that I've done NaNoWriMo twice gives me confidence that I can crank out the rest of the book with a little less than three months to go. If I finish in time, maybe I can even take part in NaNoWriMo this year!

The pears that I picked up at the Pear Fair in the Sacrmento Delta two weeks ago are ripe now; it is so lovely to be able to picture the orchard the pears came from, to watch them transform from hard and green to soft, yellow, fragrant, delicious. My novel doesn't feel ripe yet, but it's getting there, and I can finally trust that it will come to full fruition.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

California is an amazing state. Sure, we have the occasional earthquake that goes on and on until you're not sure the ground beneath your feet will ever be stable again, and sometimes our mountains catch on fire, but man. What a gorgeous place. I'm not necessarily talking about Riverside (although, despite my daughter's protestations, it does have its own beauty and charm). Over the last couple of weeks, I've had a chance to take in different parts of the state's character--the slow, quiet pace of the Delta region, with its burgeoning pears and ears of corn and rivers that can't help but make you take a deep breath and settle into yourself a bit. The gentle rolling hills of Sonoma wine country, the unexpected drive through redwood forests (where the light changed as it came through the trees, turned green and syrupy, like really good olive oil). The signs to watch out for deer, and then actual deer appearing, bounding through the woods. The bursting out onto PCH with its rugged drops into the ocean. Breathtaking, truly.

I had never been to Mendocino before, and am so grateful I had a chance to soak it in during my time at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, even though my time was abbreviated; I had to miss the first couple of days of the conference because of my teaching schedule, and then missed my Friday night reading because of a late plane and bad (5 hr) traffic--by the time I got to the bookstore, everyone was gone, alas, and only a few cubes of cheese remained on the snack tray. But the time I did get to spend at the conference was rich and sweet; an utterly lovely group of both faculty and participants, all brought together by the director, Charlotte Gullick, who is charming and funny and does a beautiful job of making the conference tick--all while giving it a social change emphasis. To top everything off, she put me up in a stunning local guest house that had a huge skylight over the bed so I could see the stars as I fell asleep at night, and windows out to the ocean and the deer during the day. I look forward to returning to the area some day and having more time to explore, more time to partake of all its gifts.
Another reason to like Obama--he believes in fruit. :)