Wednesday, February 8, 2012

International Women's History Month Literary Festival

Looking forward to a March 10th discussion in Baltimore on "the intersection of place, time and culture in literature and in the lives of women" with four amazing women:

Leila Cobo, a Fulbright scholar from Cali, Colombia, novelist, pianist, TV host, and executive editor for Latin content and programming for Billboard. She is considered one of the country's leading experts on Latin music. She is the author of Tell Me Something True. Her second novel, The Second Time We Met (Grand Central Publishing), will be released February 29, 2012. (

Jacqueline Luckett, author of Searching for Tina Turner and the newly published Passing Love (Grand Central Publishing). She participated in the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) writing workshops and, in 2004, formed the Finish Party along with seven other women writers-of-color. (

Bernice L. McFadden, author of seven critically acclaimed novels, including Sugar and Glorious. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist. In her new novel, Gathering of Waters (Akashic Books), McFadden brings her own vision to the story of Emmett Till and the town of Money, Mississippi. (

Linda A. Duggins, moderator from the Hachette Book Group.

More details here

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Conversation with Sixers Review

Appearing in Sixers Review today, a brief conversation with Goddard MFA graduate, Shokry Eldaly, who will someday be a literary marvel himself when he gets that half-finished novel done. Here is a sneak peek:
"Are you asking what you do when you are asked to conform? You don't. It's very simple. Why would you? Why would any person ever think that another person, or a structure (like publishing, or banking!), or a cultural assumption, knows what you need and who you are better than you do? You are the expert on you, and you have an urgency in your own preoccupations that is important for the rest of us to hear about. Otherwise, you become a bad copy of a character that someone else has made up."
Read the entire interview and take a look at the journal here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Free in the New Year

What if there was no penalty for being who you are, and no prize either? If you didn’t have to worry about being judged, shunned, made fun of…what would you allow yourself to do? How would you act? What choices could you make? And what if there was no pressure to do the correct thing either: that you must write the bestseller, win the race, get the promotion, wear the most fashionable shoes? No approval, no praise.

Then everything you do every day, every choice you make, would be want you want to do at that moment, what you feel is right. You would be free to take risks. You would be free to play, and to find joy. You would be free to set your own priorities.

You would be free, free, free.

Happy 2012. Have a brilliant new year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Daily Mentor on She Writes

This week, I have the privilege to be the Guest Editor for She Writes, a virtual community, workplace, and emerging marketplace for women who write, with over 15,000 active members from all 50 states and more than 30 countries.  It gives me a chance to bring together two writing communities I love: She Writes and Goddard College, where I teach in the MFA in Creative Writing.  All this week, I will be hosting a feature called the Daily Mentor, with excerpts from essays about the writing life from my Goddard colleagues.  You can find the Daily Mentor on the main page at She Writes all this week, and you can start here for the series.

Here is a taste:

Years ago, someone asked me who my writing mentor was.  When I said I didn’t have one, she exclaimed, “Poor Bubbeleh!”  I had never studied writing, and was just beginning to teach in the Goddard Masters in Creative Writing program.  I had published a novel, was rewriting a memoir, and could not imagine what a mentor could offer me.
I know better now.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Love is the Revolution

"You have such gifts, that are important...For a long time our minds have told us that maybe we are imagining things, that it's crazy to live according to what you want to give...This isn't crazy...This is how to live."

This video is perfect.  Check out the website, for more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One year

Today is the day I must choose different words.  To leave "my mother just passed away" behind and embrace "my mother died one year ago." It is something of a shock.  It is sudden.  Yet, there it is.  A new year.

This is the two of us, when she was the age that I am now.

I don't know what this day is called, the anniversary of a passing.  Today, please keep my family in your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Pen Fall Literary Tasting

Come join me at Westbeth for an evening of readings, conversation and cocktails.

What should you be reading this season? Hear from Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson Books about the runaway hits, the beloved secrets, and the must-reads of the 2011 fall season. Then wander the halls of Westbeth to attend live readings in the homes of Westbeth residents by some of the most exciting authors writing today. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to explore the oldest and largest artist community located in the heart of bohemian West Village, repurposed by renowned architect Richard Meier into 383 living and working lofts. The evening ends with a reception and cocktails.
When: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Where: Westbeth, 155 Bank St., New York City
What time: 7 p.m.
Tickets: $10. Purchase at or at the door

Sunday, November 13, 2011

No Demands

The genius of the Occupy Wall Street movement is its lack of demands.  Not just because there cannot be one person who speaks, or one set of needs.  Yes, consensus is good.  But the minute something is asked for, we will be told it can't be done.  We give up our power and autonomy because we will depend on someone else to effect this change.  And in the time-honored way of the politics of negativity and exhaustion, any proposal that is made will be shot down, and no other solutions offered, because the powers that be do not want change.  They do not want a solution.  They want us to shut up.
We do not accept this. We will not play your rigged game. You come up with something better if you want our money, our shopping at your store, our working at your company....  
This is what the Occupy movement is saying, should say.  No.
Because we can live without them.

The genius of Occupy Wall Street is that, in the absence of demands, we the people each have to decide what we want to do.  We may not choose to live in a park in the snow.  But we may embrace National Bank Transfer Day and invest in ourselves through credit unions.  And we may join a CSA and become shareholders in a local, organic farm.  Or we may stand up against fracking.  We can turn to each other in community and start a coop or refuse to buy genetically modified food, or refuse to spend hundred of dollars on toxic beauty products.  As individuals, we can decide what we want to occupy in our lives.  What we want to change.   Occupy Wall Street can be this generation's version of Gloria Steinem's proposal, years ago, on outrageous acts:
"If each person in the room promises that the very next day she or he will do at least one outrageous thing in the cause of simple justice, then I promise I will, too. It doesn't matter whether the act is as small as saying, 'Pick it up yourself' or as large as calling a strike. '"
Perhaps only a mother knows how outrageous, how life-changing, the words "Pick it up yourself" can be.

Here is something else we can "occupy": rape.

From Eve Ensler (this is highly abridged.  Check the link for the full text):
I am over rape.
I am over one in three women in the U.S military (Happy Veterans Day!) getting raped by their so-called "comrades." 
I am over the fact that after four women came forward with allegations that Herman Cain groped them and grabbed them and humiliated them, he is still running for the President of the United States. 
Which reminds me, I am so over the students at Penn State who protested the justice system instead of the alleged rapist pedophile of at least 8 boys, or his boss Joe Paterno, who did nothing to protect those children after knowing what was happening to them. 
We need to OCCUPYRAPE in every school, park, radio, TV station, household, office, factory, refugee camp, military base, back room, night club, alleyway, courtroom, UN office. We need people to truly try and imagine -- once and for all -- what it feels like to have your body invaded, your mind splintered, your soul shattered. We need to let our rage and our compassion connect us so we can change the paradigm of global rape. 
There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated. 
The time is now. Prepare for the escalation. 
Today it begins, moving toward February 14, 2013, when one billion women will rise to end rape. 
Because we are over it.
Look for this movement. Start your own. Because the only way we are going to get a safe, healthy, equitable, sustainable, clean and respectful society and world to live in is if we begin by picking it up ourselves.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Words become us. Occupying our words.

On my calendar next week:  Go to Zuccotti Park when Jan Clausen is there.

On Cara Hoffman's blog today Jan writes:
A. I'm at Zuccotti Park, where I go every day, wearing a sign that says BECAUSE THEY'RE TRYING TO DRIVE OUR PLANET OFF A CLIFF. Cold rain is blowing sideways and I fight with my umbrella while reading Allen Ginsberg's poem "America." Looking up, I spy a tall young man clad in excellent rain pants, standing a few paces away. He pronounces each line as I do, with such assurance that it's clear he knows the entire poem by heart, all the way to the famous ending ("America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel"). We talk. It turns out he's one of the Occupy Wall Street librarians. "We have a whole Allen Ginsberg section in our library!" he exults. For the rest of the day, I feel more alive, because poetry lives.
And she also writes, about an anthology of essays about writing and the writing life, about the "the ragged edges and torn borders that truly invite creative motion":

I'm certainly not saying word artists don't need to spend lots of time alone, wrestling with their materials. Or that we shouldn't be paid. Or that we shouldn't study craft. I'm saying that art is more than the sum of these things, that the central impulse comes from elsewhere, from someplace webby and tentacled. What if the artist's vocation as prophet simply isn't compatible with being a profit center? Although Alchemy of the Word can be put to fine use, it is not a 'useful' book. It's a bountiful array of forking paths leading back into the thicket where one person's imaginative language always reverberates with the languages, purposes, visions of human others.
It is "our offering."

Read her full essay here.
Find the anthology Alchemy of the Word here and here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Blast from the Past

Here is an interview I did with Rachel Glass for Evergreen Radio/WTBBL in Seattle last year, before the motherhood explosion, when the conversation was really about Japan and the atomic bomb and writing.  It's quite interesting to go back in time.  When Rachel and I sat down, we discovered, of all things, that her parents knew my parents in the old days in Hawaii.  It is, especially in the islands, a very small world.

The MP3 link is here.