Tuesday, December 30, 2008
* Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a shocking, powerful memoir; she lived more life in one page than I have in 46 years)
* The House on Beartown Road by Elizabeth Cohen (a memoir about Cohen's caring for her father, who has Alzheimer's, while she's also the single mother of a one-year-old)
* The Underwater Hospital by Jan Steckel (a powerful voice, stunning poems; Steckel is a bisexual activist and former medical doctor)
* Breach by Anne Haines (I re-read these poems; she's phenomenal)
* The Cellar Gang by John Carder Bush (one of the strangest novels I've ever read; creepy and fanciful--refreshingly surprising).
We've also been watching some Netflix movies. Recently saw Unveiled, a German film about an Iranian lesbian who escapes to Germany. It's great, although it has a flawed ending.
Mom and I went to see Marley & Me. I bawled. She didn't--but she liked it. I hadn't realized Owen Wilson could be so charming.
Next week we're going to see Doubt with our friend Scott.
Don't miss Milk if you haven't seen it. Best film I've seen in years, for many reasons.
Happy Obama New Year all!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
While you're on Collin's site, check out the video of the lame duck ducking. Poor guy got a shoe thrown at him. Not quite equal to getting bombs and chemical weapons thrown at you. But the message couldn't be clearer.
Today I gave finals #2 and #3 out of 4. Final #4 will be a party at my house on Wednesday for my literature class. Today's finals were poetry readings by my brilliant creative writing students. They were feelin' it, and so was I. It's a crazy thrill to be able to provide an opportunity for young writers to thrive. Today was a teaching high.
And yet, I'm ready for winter break. I'm so looking forward to writing every day. It will also be make-or-break for my historical novel. I've been stuck in the mud on it for a while--and I'm going to decide during my 5 weeks of daily writing whether or not I'll continue, take a break from it and work on something else, or abandon it altogether.
There must be something about writing an historical novel that creates this problem for writers. Michael Chabon once said he was struggling with Kavalier and Clay, so he set it aside and wrote Wonder Boys in a few weeks. He was then refreshed or reprogrammed or refurbished enough to go back and finish Kavalier and Clay. Yes, you heard it: The wonderful novel Wonder Boys was written in a "few weeks." Don't think about it. Musing over that stuff is enough to create writer's block.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I could have done without what came before: a fire-and-brimstone priest who threatened us with eternal damnation if we didn't believe. I grew up Catholic and had never before experienced a Catholic priest in the Southen Baptist vein. This guy missed his calling.
Speaking of god, my poem "Religious Poem," was just released in the latest issue of Limp Wrist.
I just received an amazing email from someone who read my novel. If I can hook anyone on a book, I'm thrilled!
THANK YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS OF PURE ENTERTAINMENT.... Seriously, I have not sat this still, reading, since I can remember. I totally loved your novel and can't help to wonder about how much partying "Norma Rogers" really did in college...I can' t wait to read "Complementary Colors" [my next novel, which is previewed at the end of For the May Queen]. Again thank you very much, you are very talented and more people need this type of entertainment...turn off the tvs and ghetto blasters, get back to the basics just plop down, relax and enjoy a great novel.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
When we were kids, he pulled pranks on us, like cheating at the innumerable card games we played during holidays. He told hilarious jokes, trying to get us to lose it so that the coke we were drinking would shoot out of our noses.
He was 2 years older than I was, and I always looked up to him because he was so, so handsome and cool and urban. I was a little suburban girl, and I was in awe of his platform shoes and perfectly feathered hair and non-white friends. He was a whiz at bumper pool. He listened to exotic music, like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Michael Jackson. The first time I heard "Rollin' on the River," he'd played it for me on his stereo.
Steve leaves behind two teenaged boys who are going to miss their dad beyond what I can imagine, I'm sure. He had their faces tatooed on his chest, which he used as inspiration to stay sober for a lot of years. Unfortunately his disease got the best of him. It sounds cliche, but it's true: Everyone loved Steve because he was funny, smart and just a plain sweet guy. Every time I saw him he'd give me a big hug and say, "Hi, beautiful."
We'll all miss him.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
A majority of blacks and Latinos voted to ban same-sex marriage in California last month, but socioeconomics — not race and ethnicity — was the decisive factor in Proposition 8, according to a new statewide survey of voters.
Even after the California Supreme Court's landmark ruling, after an estimated 18,000 same-gender couples wed between June and November, and after the two sides in the Proposition 8 campaign spent more than $83 million to sway voters, the state remains locked in an ideological stalemate on same-sex marriage, exactly as it was three years ago. Neither side in the same-sex marriage debate holds a majority. Forty-seven percent are in favor of same-sex marriage; 48 percent oppose it.
The new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California of 2,003 Californians who voted Nov. 4 found significantly less support for Proposition 8 among blacks than had been indicated by exit polls. Election Day exit polls triggered recriminations between gay rights advocates and black leaders. And now the new data indicates that 61 percent of Latinos voted for the ban, an even higher percentage than exit polls indicated on Election Day.
But while a majority of non-white voters backed a ban on gay marriage, the key finding in the new survey was that voters' position on Proposition 8 was determined more by their level of education and income than their race or ethnicity, said PPIC president Mark Baldassare. Among Californians with a high school diploma or less, 69 percent voted for Proposition 8. Among college graduates, 57 percent voted against it.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The sometimes scary world of For the May Queen’s dorms reminds me of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert (who also chronicles a personal journey of self-discovery among conflicting messages on women, sex, and freedom)’s observations: “…when the patriarchic system was rightfully dismantled, it was not necessarily replaced by another form of protection…If I am truly to become an autonomous woman, then I must take over that role of being my own guardian.”
This novel chronicles Norma’s journey towards learning to protect and define herself, choose who she wants to become and what she values.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Yep, I'm 46 today. I remember sitting on my bed 30 years ago and writing, "Today I turned 16." I still have that diary in a box with a pile of others, stuck in my dark basement.
In spite of all our watches, calendars, techie devices...time is a mystery.
If it's not raining, we're hiking in the redwoods for my birthday. No matter the weather, we are having food and great beer at our favorite pub in the mountains. They always have a roaring fire this time of year.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. In ee cummings custom, I give thanks for the "leaping greenly spirits of trees and the true blue dream of sky."
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE EVANS by Annie Tobin
Kate Evans is a faculty member in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San Jose State. Kate’s stories, poems, essays and book reviews have appeared in more than 50 literary magazines and anthologies such as the North American Review, Santa Monica Review, Seattle Review, Cream City Review, and ZYZZYVA. Her novel For the May Queen was published in September by Vanilla Heart Publishing of Seattle who will also be releasing her second novel, Complimentary Colors, in Summer 2009. Her previous books include a collection of poems (Like All We Love, Q Press) and a book about lesbian and gay teachers (Negotiating the Self, Routledge).
In 1991 she received an M.A. in English Literature from SJSU. She then went to Yokohama , Japan, where she taught English for a year. When she returned to the Bay Area, she took a poetry class at SJSU from the poet Virginia de Araujo—a class I was also taking. That is where we met, and we’ve been together now for 15 years. During that time, we’ve lived in Santa Cruz and Seattle (where Kate received her Ph.D. in Educational Philosophy at the University of Washington). We now live in San Jose. I’m currently working on my MFA in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction while also teaching Art at Gilroy High School. Kate and I recently married on a boat off the coast of Santa Cruz. When it was suggested I interview Kate it seemed like an interesting angle—being an insider and all.
Annie: How has graduating from San Jose State’s MFA program affected your career as a writer?
Kate: Applying to the program was a great way to signal to myself and others that I was making a commitment to writing. When I decided to apply for the MFA, I was teaching at San Jose State but in a different department, in Education. I was feeling restless, feeling like I wasn’t really doing what I wanted to do in my life. So when I decided to go for it and do the MFA—you were there, you remember because you’re the one who suggested it!—when I made that decision I knew I was veering my life in a new direction, toward what I truly wanted to do. I’d been writing my whole life, starting as a kid. But I’d never fully focused my life on it. So deciding to leave my full-time job and return to part-time teaching while doing the MFA was a huge life decision. That was more than, what—six, seven?—years ago, and I’ve never looked back. So graduating from the MFA has affected my career as a writer by allowing me to devote myself to writing, to say I am a writer, and to truly be one.
How does teaching at San Jose State influence your writing?
I have less time to write! You know how time-consuming teaching is.
And how much energy it takes.
True. After a full day of teaching it’s hard to even think sometimes. And for you, even more so since you teach high school. I don’t know how you do the teenagers thing.
I guess I never grew up myself.
No comment. (We laugh.) But of course there are advantages to teaching English. I’m surrounded by colleagues and students who value the arts. In preparing to teach, in teaching and in reflecting on my teaching, I’m always learning new things about writing and literature. There are so many great literary events happening on campus that I learn from and that keep me fired up.
Why do you write in so many different genres—fiction, non-fiction, poetry? Are you drawn to one genre more than another? Is there a common thread that runs through all of them?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve written stories, poems and essays. Each genre has its own power. I like to read writers like May Sarton, Margaret Atwood, Mark Doty, etcetera who write in multiple genres. I like to see how they treat their obsessions from different directions.
That’s one thing, by the way, that I like about San Jose State’s MFA program is the requirement to focus on two genres. If I could have, I would have done three. When I came out of the program I’d completed a story collection and a poetry collection. Do you like being forced to focus on two genres in the program, Annie?
Actually, yes. I think poetry and memoir are related—at least for me. The autobiographical component of both appeals to me. Sometimes only a poem takes me deep enough to express certain things; I guess that’s why poetry is my primary genre. What inspired you to write your latest release For the May Queen, a novel about a 17-year-old woman’s first year away from home, living in the dorms?
Everyone leaves home at some time and has to make decisions about how to live life away from their family. That’s a meaty topic, filled with lots of built-in personal and social conflict. Also, I’d been wanting to write about the world of the dorms for quite some time. I think it’s a unique culture. It doesn’t hurt that in the dorms there are a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Although people don’t have to live in dorms to experience that life.
Right. You have three projects: your novel Complementary Colors, a memoir about care giving, and a historical novel. Do you normally work on so many projects at once? How do you keep focus on each?
Generally I focus on one project at a time. Complementary Colors is the second novel I wrote. I was working on it while finding an agent to represent my story collection (which was my MFA thesis) and my first novel, For the May Queen. After finishing the second novel, I began on the historical novel. I was in the middle of doing a lot of research and some writing on it when my dad died. As you know, he was sick for a really long time, and we’d been hoping my mom would have a new lease on life once she was released from all the caregiving she did for him. Well, just weeks after he died, she had a series of accidents that led to months in the hospital followed by an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As you well know, this was on the heels of your mother’s long illness and all the caregiving you gave her.
So I’d been thinking a lot about mortality and caregiving and modern medicine and families—and in fact, a lot of the poetry I’d been writing had focused on these issues. After all that happened, I had a hard time going back to the historical novel. I found myself beginning to write about my dad, my mom, you and your mom—all of us. I wasn’t sure what I what I was writing, I was just writing. Soon, though, it became clear I was writing a book. That was the memoir. Now I’m back to the historical novel.
What compels you to write? What, for you, are the hardest things to write about?
Life compels me to write. I’ve always been compelled to write, ever since I was a kid. So it’s kind of a mystery to me, actually. I do think it’s connected to reading. My mom used to read with me every night before bed. I felt extra alive then. Perhaps I’m always trying to achieve that feeling as a writer.
The hardest things to write about? Perhaps things that are pure imagination and not so much rooted in my experience. Then I have to find the emotional connection and the voice so that the story will take off.
Do you have people read your work as you write, or do you wait until a project is complete? What would you say are the benefits to either approach?
You are my number one reader. Whether you like it or not. (We both laugh.) I know I am for you too, so I know we’re lucky in that way.
It’s good to have another writer living with you. A lot of our relationship is built on our love for literature, writing, the arts.
And dogs. . . . I began writing For the May Queen in a writing workshop headed by the Santa Cruz poet Ellen Bass. I’d come each week and read a chapter aloud and was spurred on by the group’s feedback, and especially their laughter. I enjoyed writing each chapter with them as an audience in mind. I also read each chapter to you as I wrote it.
I had something to look forward to every couple of weeks. Kind of like you were serializing the book.
Exactly. That was fun. However, I didn’t want too much critique too early on. I just wanted to hear what you liked and what questions the chapters raised. It wasn’t until I’d finished the first draft that I asked for full-on critique from several people, including you. For me, too much criticism too soon can stunt my progress.
Which authors do you read? Is your writing influenced by other writers?
I’m an eclectic reader. And definitely, my writing is influenced by everything I read. I’m always reading on two levels: for the power or enjoyment of the piece, as well as for an awareness of the writer’s craft. All writers are my teachers. I read poetry, stories, novels, memoir. I have a huge list of writers I admire, including Emily Dickinson, Jeffrey Eugenedies, Virginia Woolf, Isabelle Allende, Marilyn Hacker, Toni Morrison, Monique Troung … I could go on and on.
What are some of the things you do to improve on your craft? Do you attend conferences? Take workshops? What works best for you to improve how and what you write?
Mainly I read a lot. And write a lot. Those, to me, are the best ways to improve as a writer. As I mentioned previously, I was in a workshop with Ellen Bass for a few months. Since I finished the MFA, I’ve taken a few weekend courses and attended the Foothill Writers Conference. I also teach and present at writers conferences. I’m not sure these are the best ways to learn to write. Your time might be better served just reading and writing. They are great ways, though, to meet other writers.
What do you look for in a prospective publisher? How did you get a publisher?
I look for someone who likes my writing! I got my publisher when I saw a book they’d published, didn’t recognize their name, and looked them up. I saw they were accepting manuscripts and that they specifically liked coming-of-age stories. It turned out to be a good match.
What were your best and worst experiences with an editor? What is the role of the editor?
One of the best was when one of my stories was accepted into the Bellevue Literary Review. The editor made some suggestions that were small and elegant, and they helped the story shine. Another good experience was recently when something happened to me that had never happened before. The editor of ZYZZYVA, Howard Junker, had read on my blog that I was working on my memoir, and he emailed me asking to see it. I sent him the manuscript, and he pulled out two sections to put in the next issue.
A bad experience I had was when my agent was sending out For the May Queen to some of the big publishers. An editor wanted the book. She’d told my agent she loved it. She took it to her group, and she was shot down. The decisions for what gets published at the New York houses are made by committees of editors and PR people. One of their concerns was that the novel was a cross-over between an adult novel and a young adult novel. Soon after, Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Prep was published to rave reviews. It was on the New York Times bestseller list. And it was considered a cross-over sensation between, yes, an adult novel and a young adult novel. In fact, it’s shelved in both areas in most bookstores and libraries. It was disheartening to have my novel rejected for what turned out to be a strength.
I witnessed that whole process firsthand. How do you not get discouraged when things like that happen?
I do get discouraged, but I try not to let that feeling overwhelm me. The best way to do that is to keep writing.
What, from your perspective, are some of the most common mistakes first-time authors make when starting out in the business?
Perhaps focusing too much on the business and not enough on the art. Perhaps forgetting what they love about writing in the first place. Listening too much to what other people say they “should” do and should write as opposed to following their hearts.
What do you think are some of the most effective things an author can do to advertise her or himself?
An online presence is always a good thing: a blog, Facebook, MySpace, all that stuff that can bring you free PR. An excellent site for connecting to other readers and writers is Goodreads. Because of my online presence, I’ve had a number of requests for print and radio interviews. Of course the problem is all of this can suck time and energy that could otherwise be used for writing.
Right, which is why we’ve unplugged the internet at our house.
I’m still having some withdrawals!
How much time do you spend on publicity and marketing? Does this aspect of being a writer hinder or enhance your writing process?
I’ve been spending a lot of time on this stuff lately since my novel just came out. I just got back from five days in Atlanta where I was featured at a literary festival, and I have about ten readings and other events scheduled over the next couple of months. It’s fun to an extent but it’s also absolutely time consuming and has kept me away from writing. I just keep realizing that the marketing intensity is high now because the novel was just released and that things will calm down soon.
Lastly, what’s your favorite thing about being a writer? And what do you totally hate?
I love the solitude of writing, the way I can lose myself in a world of my making. What I hate about it is that at times it can be really hard. Sometimes just pushing the words out is hard. I crave those days, which don’t happen as often as I’d like, when writing is complete fun and flow. At those times I feel that writing is the most difficult thing I’ve ever loved—other than you. Ha!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I'm also glad I'll be seeing him and his partner Paul Lisicky again when they come to my campus in February.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I also met a guy, Byron, who was one of the high school student authors of The Freedom Writers Diary. He's now married and has a beautiful little baby daughter. Talking to him inspired me to reconnect with my activist roots and infuse a little more of that in my courses in the spring.
Because we spent a lot of time getting the party ready, we weren't able to join the thousands of people who protested for marriage equality in downtown L.A. yesterday--but it was great to read the paper this morning and see the thousands upon thousands of people who converged nationwide yesterday.
Fortunately we were part of two protests last week, so I carried that energy with me.
It's so smokey here today because of all of the fires. We had planned to go to Venice Beach, but being outside would probably be like smoking a pack of cigarettes. So instead we hung out, ate and talked--a perfect way to spend a Sunday with friends.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Don't buy anything!
Make it your own personal day of rest.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday we drove to Sacramento for a rally and march with about 5,000 people. Christine Chavez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez, spoke along with many others. It was a powerful event of solidarity. Governor Schwarzenegger did not make an appearance, but yesterday he spoke out on CNN saying, "I think this will go back into the courts. ... It's the same as in the 1948 case when blacks and whites were not allowed to marry; this fallsinto the same category." (It wasn't until 1967 that the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws illegal in Loving v. Virginia.)
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. --Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yes, I've been extremely disappointed with the passage of Prop 8 and the results of other same-sex marriage issues on ballots in other states.
I take it personally since Annie and I got married in July.
However, seeing President-elect Obama on stage Tuesday night reminds me of something extremely important. All civil rights come with struggle. Every person who integrated a school, every person of color who sat at a whites-only lunch counter or in the front of a bus, every person who refused to see skin color as moral difference, every person who refused to use the bible to promote racism: each one of these people made President Obama possible.
And now, every queer person who comes out, every straight person who supports same-sex marriage, every straight person with a queer family member who treats them just the same in private and public as their straight family members, every person who flies a pride flag, every person who continues to educate others that gay people have familes too, every person who continues to fight Prop 8 and every other initiative that would make queer people second-class citizens, every person who insists on separation of church and state: each one of these people will make true equality possible for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
This election period was a huge set-back for gay rights. And yet the force behind these events is not more powerful than the force behind equality. Those who would try to stop marriage equality are not in line with the inevitable. Same-sex marriage is legal in Masschusetts, Canada, Spain, South Africa and Belgium. And although separate but not equal is not true equality, all of the many other places in the world that offer domestic partnerships are part of this sea change.
In spite of these election results, there is no question what direction we are headed in. Yes, the passage of Prop 8 was a supreme disappointment. It won't be our last. But we must continue to fight. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Norma comes from a loving home, not unlike the Brady Bunch's quirky suburban enclave (sans four siblings and a maid), yet her sense of self is fragile at best. Fresh from reading her mother's copy of Fear of Flying, Norma shows up at her freshman dorms ready to put her sexual liberation into practice. She quickly falls into a rabbit hole of recreational drugs and bed-hopping, leaving little time to actually attend classes.
At times, I wanted to reach into the pages of Evans's book and stop Norma from climbing on top of yet another nearly anonymous partner. When Norma finally finds "somebody to love," (Queen lyric reference intentional), he remains painfully elusive and Norma must confront the question at the center of the novel: If no one loves me, then who am I?
I might have hated Norma if I didn't identify so much with her college-years angst, teenaged lack of self esteem, misplaced belief in empowerment through sexuality, and her desire to be defined by someone, anyone.
But Evans brings Norma's growing sense of self along nicely, giving the reader the satisfying feeling that Norma just might make it after all, while never giving in to the temptation to give her heroine the happy ending you might expect from a first time novelist. Instead, the happy enough ending Evans gives us satisfies even more.
And though the themes in the book are deceptively dark, Evans keeps the tone of the novel light, weaving in pop culture references that are spot on reminders of times gone by--some we remember fondly, and some that we'd rather forget.
--Anne J. Paris
Thursday, October 23, 2008
1. I heard about a tee-shirt that reads: Barack "Who's Sane" Obama. Perfect, yes?
2. I'm going to hear Kay Ryan, the Poet Laureate live tonight! It'll be interesting to see if she says anything about politics.
3. A new interview with me about the writing process was just published over at Editeyes.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I'm taking a little break from blogging, facebooking, myspacing, etc. etc. so I can focus on my writing. I'll be back in a few weeks to celebrate the election of President Obama.
In the meantime, in the words of Elvis, don't be cruel. Follow Kate Bornstein's one rule: don't be mean. I like that. Try to be kind to one another, even when you feel like ripping someone's head off. I'll try to follow my own advice. I want to be anti-war not only in my politics but in my heart.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Now I'm at a computer in the common area of Collin's huge apartment complex. It's a lot like living in a huge hotel.
Today Collin had to go to work, so I walked all around Mid-town Atlanta. Went to the Carter Center and Presidential Library. It was phenomenal. So many exhibits, lots of videos, etc. It was inspiring to be in the midst of the life work of a President whose main interest was in promoting peace and human rights. What a striking and distressing contrast to what we have now.
I also walked around an area called Little Five Point, a neighborhood that has lots of funky stores, tye-dye, art, health food ... my kind of place. I had a great berry smoothie. It was warm with a bit of a breeze, probably low 80s.
Now I'm going to take a nap then shower and dress. Tonight's my speech. Afterward Collin and I will come back to his place and watch the debate, which he's recording. Should be fun to watch it with him since he's so funny. Maybe we'll riff on some jokes together that will appear on his blog.
Monday, October 13, 2008
I can't believe I leave for Atlanta tomorrow! It'll be my first time there. And, yay, I get to hang out with Collin and meet so many people I've known only online all these year.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
It's extremely disconcerting to see how much hate is out there and how easy it is to whip up a furor, or Fuhrer. And it's notable how McCain didn't refute the notion that being an Arab is a horrible thing. Instead he said Obama's a decent man--implying no Arab could be.
The only light in this dark situation is that the hate seems to be backfiring. Recent polls show Obama with a double-digit lead in some areas and with a 4 point lead nationwide.
Funny how shit runs downhill ... now a bi-partisan panel has found that Palin broke the law, abusing her power as governor. That's what you get when you don't vett a maverick. I wonder if this means that SNL will uninvite her to their October 25 show?
In the face of all the political brouhaha I almost didn't see this amazing development: same sex marriage has been ruled legal in Connecticut! Three states down, 47 to go.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
"The same standards of clarity and candor must now be applied to my opponent."
Monday, October 6, 2008
Since then, I've read her new book, Between Two Women: Conversations about Love & Relationship. It's a lyrical, haunting memoir structured, in great part, as a conversation between two lesbians who've led very different lives.
The memoir tells the story of 51-year-old Patricia falling in love with a woman for the first time. The book also illuminnates some very important history of lesbian life in the mid-20th century by exploring the memories of Carol, a lesbian in her 70s. The weaving together of these two stories makes for rich and captivating reading. It's an important book in many ways. And it asks a question of the human condition: what happens to us and those around us when we change?
I asked Patricia a few questions about the book and her life.
Why did you decide to write BETWEEN TWO WOMEN with the focus on "Conversations"? Was this a structure you discovered as you were writing, or did you decide on it in advance?
I definitely discovered the structure as I was writing. I started the work as a long personal essay describing my initial encounter with Carol and an audiotape that she gave me to transcribe. The tape was such an abbreviated account of her life that I asked if we could meet so I could interview her to delve more deeply into the rich story lines. Each time we met, I record our conversations then went home and transcribed the tapes.
Why did you decide to juxtapose your coming-out story with Carol's life story?
When I was transcribing the tapes, I found that my own story kept getting tangled with hers. I began to realize the degree to which I was trying to make sense of the monumental change in my life by exploring the story of her life. In a way, the memoir arose from trying to transcribe her oral history.
In the book, you refer to many different writers who have influenced you. How important was literature to your coming-out process, and why?
My first inclination when faced with ANY question is to turn to books and that is exactly what I did when I fell in love with Cindy. I think reading writers like Adrienne Rich, Dorothy Allison, Eloise Klein Healy, Audre Lorde and Esther Newton gave me a framework for understanding my experience and the coming out process. I felt both awed by their voices and grateful for the words they'd committed to the page. I'd say literature was a critical component in understanding the magnitude of the step I'd taken and gave me firm ground upon which to stand.
Have you met many other women who have come out at age 50 or beyond? How do you think that experience differs from someone who comes out earlier in life?
Surprisingly, at the same time as I fell in love with Cindy, there were three other women in my community who were over 50 who left marriages to live with women lovers. That's four women in a small rural community which seems significant to me. I was casually acquaintanted with each of these women, two of whom I have since come to know better. In discussing our "coming out," it seems to me that our experiences are more similar to one another than they are to women who came out earlier in life. However, I don't believe I could give a quick, clear, or definitive response regarding how the difference in timing compares though I do attempt to explore those differences in my conversations with Carol.
Do you still see Carol regularly? How is she doing?
Carol, who is now 78, still lives alone. I call her every three or four days and visit her about once a week. Along with advancing age, she is dealing with diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, but she gets a lot of help from three of her former lovers who live nearby and from her huge network of friends. She continues to go to a fitness class twice a week and she enjoys promoting the book and calling me with orders for more copies.
Has your relationship with your ex-husband and children changed in any way since the end of the story in the book?
My ex-husband and I continue to see each other regularly. We parent and grandparent as a unit when the occasion demands and have a yearly coffee date on the anniversary of our separation. He has remarried, and his new wife and I have developed a warm friendship. I also have a terrific relationship with one son and his wife. Two of my kids share a significant ideological (religious) difference regarding my relationship with Cindy. However, we have come to a reasonably comfortable place of interaction. We basically have agreed to disagree and we tiptoe around the issue very carefully. I don't know if those differences will be resolved in my life time, but I wanted my perspective available for my grandkids should they ever want to know, and I think the book accomplishes this.
How did your ex-husband and children react to the book? Did you share parts of it with them as you wrote, or did you spring it on them at the end--and why?
I did not share parts of the book with my family as I wrote it. They knew I was writing a book, but it was not something we talked about. With two of the kids it, the topic was something steered away from in general. I offered the manuscript to my husband when it was completed, but he said he'd wait until it was a book. Since the publication, he and his wife have read the book and our discussions have been nothing short of remarkable—confirming and insightful. My children have NOT read the book, though one of my sons helped finance the publication and came to the book launch. His wife is mentioned in the acknowledgements as one of the readers of a late version of the manuscript.
How did your partner Cindy react to the book? Did you share parts of it with her as you wrote, or did you spring it on her at the end--and why?
Cindy was audience for every single word I wrote. I read sections and chapters aloud to her as I worked and revised. When I felt I had a final draft, I read the whole book to her. She is a very fine critic—encouraging, insightful, and sensitive. I trusted her instincts about many issues I faced during the writing. There were parts of the book that felt scary to her in terms of the degree of self-disclosure. We talked at length about this and she helped me make decisions about what to include and what not to include.
What are you working on now?
When I retired from teaching, I started a freelance writing business which has taken a lot of my writing energy. In addition to writing for several local businesses (newsletters, fundraising letters, web content) and two online educational sites, I write theater reviews for the local newspaper. I just started ghostwriting a non-fiction book on modern women inventors for a woman who did some fantastic research but doesn't have time to pull the book together. And I have another memoir/oral history project in the works, collecting the stories of local family practice doctor who recently retired. He was the doctor who delivered all of my babies and most of my children's babies and attended my parents' death beds. His kind of doctoring is fast fading and I think his is a story that needs telling in the midst of the current health care crisis.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
I want to thank you Kate for your encouragement and support as a lesbian writer and teacher. You appeared at the perfect moment in my life and I was simply astounded by your generosity of spirit and good will.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
From AQLF (Atlanta, GA, 10/01/08)--
"The 2nd Annual Atlanta Queer Literary Festival will be held October 15-18, 2008. The event--one of only two queer-specific literary festivals in the nation, both of which are in the South--will feature readings, workshops, signings and theatre by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning authors, poets, playwrights and related artists. Confirmed participants this year include Kate Bornstein, Mark Doty, Kate Evans, Daphne Gottlieb, Ed Madden, Dan Vera, Blair, and Alex Sanchez. The festival's main venues are Charis Books & More, OutWrite Books, The Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library, the Ponce de Leon Branch Library and EyeDrum.
Also new this year is the festival’s affiliation with the internationally renowned Larry Corse Prize for Playwriting, including a four-night run of the winning comedy, Skin Deep, written by Rich Orloff and directed by Larry Corse. Out of 150 submissions from eleven nations, Orloff won the $1,000 prize for a play about a straight Ohio couple that inherits a clothing-optional resort in Key West from their gay son. A visit by the couple to claim the place turns worlds upside down. The play will be staged at the First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta.
All events are open to the public, and all events are free with the exception of $10 tickets to the play, Skin Deep. Please find the complete schedule up on the festival website, and on the second page of this press release.
There is only one other festival in the U.S. dedicated specifically to advancing the work of queer writers--The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. The festival organizers have learned a lot from that Deep South neighbor and are returning to their own festival preparations with bolder ambitions for this second year, including a broad range of invitations to nationally recognized and award-winning writers with a strong emphasis on the diversity of participants. Atlanta has an opportunity to be the flagship for queer literature in the U.S., and the festival board is proud to serve their community by ushering in a new era in the literary life of the city.
In addition to the venues listed above, festival sponsors include: Emory University, PD Publishing, The Paideia School, The Galloway School, and Southern Voice."
Check out the complete schedule here.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Check out what Dustin Brookshire is up to: changing the world for queer young writers.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Amazing how I can type at the same time, huh?
It is now very real to me that For the May Queen is out in the world. And wow, it looks great! Vanilla Heart Publishing puts out a quality product. The fonts are like buttah, and the book feels great in my hand.
Annie and I were on campus late last night and when we walked in the door, this:
was on the table. Annie had snuck home during the day and bought me a congratulatory bouquet. I felt celebrated and very, very lucky.
Speaking of my sweetie, today I was at the grocery store filling up our water bottles.
A guy approached me and said: "Is it that water that keeps you so beautiful?"
I laughed and said, "Oh, must be."
Him: "I saw you from over there and wondered who that beautiful blonde was."
Me: "Well that's very nice of you. I'll take the compliment."
Him: "Does your husband drink this water too?" (That's right up there as one of the worst pick-up lines of all time.)
Me: "I don't have a husband." Dramatic pause. "I have a wife." (That's the first time I've used that word to a stranger to describe Annie. I usually say "partner" ... or that I'm a "lesbian." I realized there was a certain power to saying "wife." Perhaps it gave him less of a fetish image to feed from than "I'm a lesbian" might.)
Him: "You're kidding me, right?"
Me: "No. Really. We've been together 14 years and we just got legally married."
Him: "Wow. Okay. Well, you just can't tell anymore who's gay."
Me: "So true."
Him: "Well. Ah. Hm. You can't even tell with guys anymore."
Me: "I know!"
Him: "Okay, well, good luck on your marrage."
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
I don't normally send out political mailings because we all have too much email flooding our mailboxes, but the right to marry affects me very personally so I am asking for your help.
In my own life I've experienced the devastating effects of homophobia. I didn't come out a a lesbian until I was 35 so I had years of life experience and could withstand any discrimination, judgments, or hatred directed at me. But my children were vulnerable and suffered in ways that were heartbreaking.
I know that extending the right to marry to gays and lesbians won't end all discrimination and pain for gays and lesbians and their families, but I am sure that it is a crucial step. I believe that if the right to marry is extended to gays and lesbians that we will save lives--gay youth will be able to visualize a healthy, loving future for themselves. We will support the children in gay and lesbian families. And we will afford respect to gay and lesbian couples.
My partner, Janet Bryer, and I have been together for 25 years, through raising children, through good times and bad, through sickness and health. It's still hard for me to comprehend how some people assume they have the right to regulate other people's hearts. But right now the polls say that voters are about equally split on this issue. And the anti-gay forces are pouring money into it. No On 8, the campaign to defeat the ban on marriage, is in serious need of funds. For many of us, the bulk of our efforts--both monetary and time--are going into the presidential election. This is certainly true for me. But if we all make even a small donation to the No on 8 campaign, it will add up to a significant contribution.
Whether you are gay or not, whether you live in California or not, whether you even believe in the institution of marriage or not, this is a critical time to defend equality for all people.
To contribute online, please go to Equality California.
Or send a check to:
NO on 8 – Equality California
Attn: Leanne Pittsford
2370 Market St, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94114
Thanks for your help. If each person who receives this email sends $25, that would be over $50,000! If you don't have $25, please send $10 or $5. And of course if you can send $50 or $100 or more, that would be terrific.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for making a contribution. Thank you for your integrity and your support.--Ellen
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
This book was my baby for so long it feels weird (and wonderful) to have it out in the world for other people to experience. If you read it, I'd love to hear what you think. If you have a Bay Area book group who wants to read it, I'm happy to visit as a guest.
To read about it, look at the blurbs on the left, or click here and here and here for more.
You can go to your local bookstore to buy it. If it's not on the shelves, any bookstore can order it.
You can also purchase it through Vanilla Heart Publishing and on Amazon.
Keep an eye on my blog for annoucements of Bay Area parties and readings, as well as a Book Party in L.A.!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
and same with Lindsay Lohan, perhaps they will both be able to find some centeredness and happiness within the insanity of celebrity culture.
At the very least, all this coming-out of celebrities is great for queer kids and societal progression.
Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Also, there's a video on youtube analyzing the issue:
"Move over Holden Caulfield --- there is finally a female character who is not afraid to tell us what it really is like the moment you leave the safety net of your home and your parents’ inquiring eyes. For the May Queen by Kate Evans is a powerful new debut novel that is destined to secure a place in bibliophile mania, equal to that of Catcher in the Rye.
"I did something I rarely do and that is fell in love with Norma Jean Rogers, the central character after reading the opening lines. By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked, so hooked, I didn’t put the book down until I was finished.
"Norma is a young woman who is off to college and on her own for the first time in her life. She is fearless in her pursuit of discovery of self. Her sense of bravado makes her human and believable as she teeters along that fine line between girlhood and womanhood, and between throwing away the last inhibitions when one suddenly decides that ‘I am an adult.’
"Within a few hours after her parents leave her with bag and baggage at the dorm, Norma is on the floor with three strangers in her underwear. From there it goes on a wild and fun ride through the growing pains of womanhood, life and friendship. The first chapter is full of getting to know Norma and her menagerie of friends who are all memorable in their own right. But it doesn’t stop there and we are continually introduced to new characters who breeze in and out of Norma’s and her other friends’ lives.
"The novel reads like a fine memoir, is often poignant, often funny, and never dull. Yes, there are sex scenes, drinking, wild parties, and an occasional high, but they are done so tastefully, and so honestly, that even as a parent of teenage girls, I have no qualms about them reading the story because I want them to read what young people face in the real world, and perhaps see that growing up is also about making decisions, right or wrong, good or bad, but they are your decisions and choices to make.
"Although the novel is set in the early 1980s, ever decade is a tumultuous era, and even more so, this first decade of this new millennium. I venture to say that throughout history, leaving home has never been more honestly and thought provokingly written about. Taking the steps to achieve adulthood is like riding a roller coaster. Kate Evans is a writer extraordinaire with an equally amazing storytelling voice. For the May Queen is a must read and a book that you won’t be able to put down."
Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
He read two short pieces then took questions. The first piece he'd forgotten to bring but was able to read off his i-phone! He thanked Steve Jobs afterward. That piece was a hilarious one about a guy who, like an idiot, cheats on his hot girlfriend, who catches him by reading his diary. The speaker claims the diary is the start of his new novel, but the jilter girlfriend doesn't buy it. The second piece Diaz read was an excerpt of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Both pieces were in second person. He talked a little about how writing in second person is unnatural and therefore a good challenge for a writer. He also said second person voice pulls in and agitates the reader, which he said is good. Writers want to do both. (One of the first pieces I ever read in second person was the title story in Pam Houston's first book.)
During the Q&A, Diaz talked about how much he loves reading comics and Manga, and he recommended one called The Drifting Classroom, which is now on my reading list because he called it "amazing."
He also talked about the government bail-out of Wall Street and how disgusting it is that almost a trillion dollars is suddenly available for the big capitalists, but not for schools who have been asking for money "for forever."
Several times he slammed his father as "the biggest asshole ever . . . really!" and talked about machismo and patriarchy as a stain on society. He said male writers can work to create alternative masculinities. It's very harmful, he said, to keep inside the anger against those who have harmed us. Instead, he said we need to work on healing and cultivating compassion. Even though his father's a "big dick," as he put it, he said he has forgiven him.
What can I say? This guy's an original. He's the real deal. Too bad he can't run for President since he was born in the Dominican Republic. But he's doing great things with his art, teaching and speaking. Don't miss him if he's speaking in your 'hood.