Monthly Reading @ MINE Gallery

Exciting news!

I am reading my modern Gothic novel, 181, serially at MINE Gallery in Fairfax, CA, in a monthly reading series. This event is FREE and open to the public! Each reading will feature a summary of the previous events in the novel.


February 24, 2013 @ 3:00 PM
March 24, 2013 @ 3:00 PM

MINE Gallery is an art gallery and creative space newly opened Fairfax:


1820 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Fairfax, CA 94930

Hope to see you there!


In Answer to Your Question: "Can I Still Turn In My Two Late Essays and Try to Pass?"

I just want to start from the beginning with you
oatmeal and books on winter mornings bananas
and books in the summer shade
quilts and silence art and spice running all out
and crying all out and laughing music
dirt and small triumphs

Maybe I could keep that hurt look out of your eyes

I could be wrong
maybe you had all that
could reach your toes down
and touch the sand
treading water
all the time
the bottom just under your feet

Maybe nothing could have prevented your presence
here in front of my desk
a baby in saggy pants
shocking soft
brown eyes lashes
girl long
mouth in the shape of every other talk
with every other teacher

But I can see you ten years from now, five
I can see you rise
I saw you wake up in this class
learn to speak
up hook up
one idea with another
look on your face
changed to self certainty
its clear to me

I'd take you now
what are you not twenty
I'd make you know to grow is a possible
miracle in the right habitat
even injured thrive

I give you till Wednesday
all I can say is
I'd really like
to see you succeed.


Not Lost

From my airplane window seat I am struck as always by the sudden remoteness of the world as viewed from above. Looking down at my own city, at the streets and trees familiar to me most of my life, I recognize nothing, all the humanizing details of the locale invisible from the sky. Inaudible too, as no bird song can be heard over the blare of the jet engines, no rustling of leaves, no waft of music from a passing car stereo.

And I think as always how easy it would be to get lost, either by accident or on purpose, in a landscape as vast and remote as ours, as viewed from the sky. I feel too a little lost already, searching the ground in vain for a sign of the known. It seems at any moment the plane might drop me into this strange landscape and I must find my way, but on the ground, in my nightmare, the streets would be as flat and foreign as they look from the sky.

We expect to feel this alienation in travel, and I both savor and dread it. To break from the familiar and surround myself with the new gives shine to both the new and the familiar: upon return the sights and smells of home are twice as sweet. In this middle place, between home and my destination, the sight of the flat anonymous streets I should know gives me a quiet chill.

But I am going toward a home, one of mine: the company of a childhood friend and her new baby. The visit allows me many pleasures, one of which is to stare out of the plane window, feel the chill. Another is to complete a kind of happy circle offered sometimes in life: my friend and I were in diapers together, so to marvel and share and abide through her daughter's diaper time together, even if only for a weekend, is a satisfaction.

There is a neatness to this completing and continuing, but there is a sense too that we have survived the vastness I see from the plane window: we have not gotten lost from each other. Through this time and others, we each will be a light on the wide, cold landscape by which the other can navigate.

In class this week are writing about the places, people, items, tastes, sounds and experiences that make us feel a deep sense of belonging: our "homes". Most students take to this topic easily, which I think must be a hopeful sign: they are already girding themselves against the chill.


How To Remove Your Clothes In Public, and Why

The good news is that my novel is undergoing a revision. The other good news is that there is a lot that I am keeping.

The patient will retain most of her vital organs in this home surgery, but some long-term festering ulcers of lameness will be removed, and certain systems will have to be rearranged as a result. It's a procedure, an ECTOMY, with some resulting lateral alterations.

There will also be new organs added, which should give her more pep.

As the patient sits, noticeable white, on the table next to me, it occurs to me that to begin this surgery takes a lot of courage. And so does every other damn thing worth doing in life.

Backtalker inside my head says, "Not the dishes. The dishes are worth doing, but don't take courage."

Actually, they do. Because to have to do the dishes implies that you are not living alone, as anyone in their right mind would never wash a single plate if no one was looking.

Dishes-doing is part of the responsibility-spectrum of tasks associated with living in a community, even if it is just a community of two. And living with others takes courage, because it is making a promise that you will endure the company of others, and make yourself endurable, that you will take hold of the rope of cooperation and not let it drop, that you will be human and humane to a degree that you wouldn't need to if living alone.

But beyond dishes and revisions, I thought of this..what is worth doing that doesn't scare us? Relationships, marriage, yes. Scary and worth it. Having children? Scary certainly, and worth it. Art, yes. Social justice, yes. Speaking up, speaking out, yes. Providing help and aid to those in need? Even this can be scary, can take courage, and in many cases, takes a lot of courage. And is worth it.

All these precious acts and processes take courage, which can be in short supply. I often feel I'd rather clothe myself in familiar comforts than feel the chill of the new. But though it is a sad fact that I am no mathematician, the problem can be stated in terms of a Cost/Benefit analysis.

What does it cost us to take a risk? To try the new, over the old? To summon up our courage and leap? The fear of failure sits like an attentive and vicious dog, waiting for its cue to bite. So that is the cost.

What do we gain from risk? To leave the warm living room of Same and enter to cold basement of Different? Simply this: we gain the very thing that it takes to try: Courage. By exposing ourselves we learn that we are capable of much, including great acts of courage. Our very idea and notion of ourselves grows with new acts and risks. With practice, it may not take so much to leap each time we come to the brink.

But I will posit there is another cost. This is the cost of safety, of sameness, of the familiar. Without the courage to take risk, we are dulled and lulled. Our idea and concept of ourselves shrinks. It is this cost which is so deadly.

The third option, obviously, is to write about courage until you have enough of it to begin your task, to take your act.

Sometimes these things take a little warming up to. I think I'm ready now.



Parties are boring. This we have decided.

Not that we are drowning in invitations, but my husband and I do attend the occasional parties, and always end up together (thankfully) in the kitchen, talking to each other and helping out the host with dishes, clean-up, etc. Explanations for this strange behavior vary, but can be summed up by saying we like each other, have outgrown most of our vices, and don't enjoy chit-chat.

On one of these nights recently, while the other guests stumbled past in togas, we had an important conversation. We are both artists; he is a sculptor, I'm a writer. Between kids, work and life, our time to pursue these passions is a narrow slice between dinner and bed, or a few hours here and there on a Sunday afternoon.

But the passion we feel for these pursuits is in inverse proportion to the time we have to give to them.

This necessitates planning, though planning what to write is a bit like planning how to fall in love: not much good. You can't plan a trance, you can't plan a swoon, you can't plan passion. Nevertheless, when stuck in that place where all your brain and heart want to do is WRITE, but your body is in a kitchen at a party full of people wearing bed sheets, plan you will. It's the next best thing.

Late last year I finished the first draft of a novel. I'm happy about that. Somewhere along the five year way of this novel, I decided it was young-adult in nature, however, and I think that's where I may have lost my way. In other words, by putting that frame on it, I think I may have skewed it in a direction I don't like.

I don't know this, but I sense it.

I sent it off, as recorded in this space, and it was at first greatly received and then rejected by the agency. They were kind and gave fair criticism.

Most of the way through the next year now (month 8) I have realized two things: One, I think the novel needs major revision. Two, I miss writing, and should not forestall writing because I don't know how to approach these major revisions.

At the toga party, my husband told me he thought I should set a regular writing time which was unbreakable, and work on some poetry and shorter prose pieces. Have some fun.

I think he's right. In fact, I know he is, the way that when someone says something out loud that's what you've been thinking all along.

Whenever I go to a bookstore I feel a little ill...so many books, so many great ones and so many mediocre ones. And I come away with two thoughts...what an odd thing it is to do. And if you're going to do it, make it the best, strongest, purest, wildest thing you can. Love it.

But if you can't, at this point, reach the shores of revision on that novel, as I can't seem to, continue to practice your art, craft, or whatever you want to call it. Not because you should, or I should, but because when it isn't being the worse toothache in your life from the want of it, it is the best feeling ever in the doing of it.


my essay as a guest blogger on karin's charivari

Welcome to the Family*
My husband has been a painter, an ad man, a bike messenger, a brewer, a product designer, a contractor and a sculptor. I’m probably forgetting a few. But beneath all the guises he has worn, one seed of potential has lain unsown..until now. My husband, the farmer.

It started with plants. Increasingly each season, our garden has grown and our yard has shrunk. What started as two narrow planters has become six queen-bed-sized boxes. It is still possible to traverse the path without using a machete, but space for humans in our yard has been relegated to a shady, cramped corner where nothing much will grow. We’ve got vegetables for miles come every August.

Then came the little live things, first on only a small, slimy scale. I admit I enjoyed cheerfully announcing in mixed company: “We have worms!” Millions of em, actually, their healthy pink goo contained in a tiered bucket into which we scattered our kitchen scraps. The bottom tier, equipped with a tap, released a muddy brown “tea” the plants loved. Everybody won.

Next, a leap. Two frogs, and six baby chicks. The frogs, which we raised from tadpoles, graduated to a rocky and watery landscape in a fish tank which sat in our kitchen. Frogs are boring pets, grumpy looking and frustratingly placid, if you can see them at all. The only highlight of the frog adventure was when one of them ate the other.

One night, I happened to glance into the frog tank. One adult leopard frog sat on his rocky plateau, with the legs of his tank-mate sticking out of his mouth. He looked somewhat put out, as if the possibility of his pal being more than a mouthful hadn’t occurred to him. Presently, he spit him out, and we were able to give the gummed green carcass a proper burial.

The chickens’ arrival was a major event. Husband farmer built the world’s most luxurious chicken coop, in the other shady corner of the yard. To defend against earth-bound predators, he dug a six foot foundation and poured concrete. Against raccoons and the like, he chose cross hatched fencing too small for a paw to reach through. He found salvaged doors and even windows, so the birds could have natural light. He even fashioned roosts from dropped branches, securing them to the corners inside the coop. In the dramatic light of the heat lamp, it looked like an art installation.

The stagey lighting was appropriate, because the chickens became instant local celebrities. We somehow found time to spend hours sitting with the little fuzzy yellow and black chicks on our laps, delighted with their impossibly soft feathers and their scaly dinosaur feet. Droves of friends and even strangers stopped by, peeking their heads shyly in the gate, so many we built a chicken observation bench and strung up a bottle of hand sanitizer. They loved to fly up and sit, blinking their reptilian eyes, on your shoulder.

Soon we were up to six eggs per day, and the once-fluffy chicks were tall beefy chickens with bustles of glossy feathers and distinctly superior expressions. The cats, who had once sat entranced and salivating outside the coop as the babies scratched and pecked, now slunk away from the sharp beaks and clawed feet of their proud yard mates.

Farm animals are a little like tattoos: once you start, it’s hard to stop. Any initial reticence I had felt, based on the thought of adding to our already-overwhelming list of chores, was gone the minute a chick fell asleep in my hand.

A murderous frog and six healthy chickens, as well as millions of worms, might have been enough for some husbands. But the reading had begun..he devoured every book of the Urban-Farm-Sustainability-Do-It Yourself-Backyard-Organic-Everything genre, and soon he was contemplating how to up the farm ante.

Back in his ad man days in Manhattan, my husband had a menagerie of roommates: a dread-locked stripper-cum-law student, an obsessive road biker who trained on an indoor bike treadmill through the snowy winters, and a body builder with a pet duck. The duck lived in a cardboard box in the kitchen, made a terrible smell, and watched television to stave off loneliness. The lesson being, obviously, that what we needed was ducks; not one, but two.

However wrong it may seem, baby ducks travel in the mail. Ours came from a duck farm in Southern California, and our local postmistress was not impressed. “Pick them up immediately,” she said in her message, “that is our policy.” Her voice was edgy. But if she had only seen them, she would have melted. Baby ducks are the Platonic Ideal of cuteness. We put them in a dog kennel in our bathroom.

Again we sat for hours watching them and holding them, delighting in their tiny parts. But not for long: ducks grow at an alarming rate. Our wee ones seem to double in size each night, and their “leavings” grew in volume too. They learned to swim in our bathtub, at first noisily paddling around, then dunking their heads with a snakelike movement to bathe, then finally shooting beneath the water like arrows.

This week, sleek feathers appeared next to the messy fuzz of their down, giving them the awkward look of adolescents. On their wings, bright blue shafts of wing feathers. It was time the ducks moved outside, to live with the chickens.

According to one of our many farm books, ducks are sensitive and dislike change. They can even be disturbed by an unfamiliar shovel or rake appearing in their vicinity. So we moved them in their dog kennel into the coop. The chickens seemed interested only in the duck food, and hustled over in a hungry mob to sample it. The ducks, who we had named Nina (Simone) and Jane (Grey), cowered together in the corner. When we took them out to get some air and sun, they hurried back inside.

Apart from the sudden cannibalism of the frog, the duck problem was our first animal challenge. We read everything we could on integrating them into a coop, and lay awake wondering if they were laying awake afraid of their new home.

Finally, we took a two-pronged approach. Every morning, we take our cups of coffee down to the yard and hold the ducks on our laps in the sunshine, talking to them and petting them. They settle down like a cat on your lap, and even tuck their heads into the corner of your elbow. Nina doesn’t go in for such intimacies, but Jane will set her beak on my hand and allow me to stroke it.

Husband farmer has also built Nina and Jane a house, with a doorway too narrow for our beefy chickens to squeeze through, and a removable roof for easy access to the ducks and eventually, their eggs. The whole thing stands about two feet off the ground, and is accessed by a slatted ramp, another discouragement for the portly hens. They seem happier, and less freaked out. We feel like good duck parents.

What new species this spring will bring I can’t say, but I’m hoping for bees. A life full of life, bursting with growth, is worth a few stings.


what sunshine can do, or how to ring a bell

i love my work. teaching, that is.

i love writing, too. the feeling of writing and writing well.

in class we have been talking of fulfillment, after reading Ibsen's A Doll's House. Nora with her secrets and her macaroons, also secret.

but most of us don't have to choose between fulfillment and family...we strive for both, in both.

and how our mistake is to believe like Faust that fulfillment will be the event of a moment that will then transcend time and carry us up and over the dirty dishes of daily life.

commercial success comes to mind. the call from the agent

rather, fulfillment in writing, for the artist, is like a bell that with a sound so sweet and deep and true like its made in our bones can be heard through the din of the creating. Its sound lasts a few moments and is gone.

but we ring it through the doing

in the making of the work

not the selling of it

There is a jungle on my kitchen table of maybe fifty baby plant starts...tomatoes and lettuce and cucumbers, none more than four inches high. They love the sun which has suddenly flashed out here after weeks of rain, making a grand entrance into spring instead of the usual gradual one. The starts have been growing without the sun, feeding off the light of it through the clouds, and the heat of the room, occasional spritzes of water.

I take them as my examples today.

Often we don't feel the fierce glow of our desire to create art. Often we don't feel the bright desire to set ourselves to the task that can ring the bell.

But we must take what light we can and keep growing in it.