Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bye Bye Bin Laden, Kim Addonizio, Book Giveaway

My friend Scott's hilarious animated film is now available on Netflix. Support him, and independent art, by putting it in your Netflix queue!

Kim Addonizio was on campus this week. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet her in the afternoon with a small group of MFA students and faculty. She talked about writing poetry, memoir and fiction. Given that her fiction and poetry are so edgy, I found it intriguing that she's anxious about the reactions of certain people to her in-progress memoir. It was refreshing to hear. There's always something so vulnerable about sharing our art. In the evening she gave a reading, including some new, unpublished poems. A lot of sex and death. Great stuff.

You can now enter the free Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Complementary Colors (and many other books).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Wizard of Oz on Acid & My Sally Field Moment

Red Room asked their authors to write something about The Wizard of Oz. Here's mine.
(Weird! I found this image here after I'd written the piece. Goes to show you there are no original thoughts, just ones we think are.)
You like me, you like me! I'm thrilled and honored that Complementary Colors is one of six of Vanilla Heart's titles nominated for the Pushcart. The others are:

Robert Hays, The Life and Death of Lizzie Morris
Chelle Cordero, Final Sin
Victoria Howard, Three Weeks Last Spring
Collin Kelley, Conquering Venus
Vila SpiderHawk, Forest Song: Little Mother
Congrats to all!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Who can turn the world on with her smile?

I went to a play last night with my friend Scott. Made dinner for us in my place, then we walked to the San Jose Rep to see a play, Groundswell, which takes place in South Africa. I agree with a lot of this review. I loved the ambiance of the set and enjoyed some of the acting but thought the opening dragged. I realized when talking to Scott afterward that all that information given during that beginning could probably have been provided along the way, rather than front-loaded. Every art (and life) event teaches. That's what I always tell my students: to read (and in this case view) art and literature as the greatest writing teacher.

The place Scott and I talked post-play was the theater balcony after the show, drinking our complimentary wine and cookies. No, the cookies weren't liquid. Just wondering if you're paying attention.

Living downtown is so fun. When I'm out walking my turkey, I mean dogs, I feel like that girl.


I've updated my other blog and now have information about both novels, as well as free previews. Thanks, everyone, for all your love and your support of books and small presses.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Amazing week

Yes, it has been.

Saw Mary Roach tonight on campus. She's hilarious, brilliant. Was thrilled to get to hang out with her at a reception afterward, to drink wine and talk about writing, sex and cadavers. No, not sex with cadavers, although one of her books does touch on the subject. If you've never read her, you must.

In an amazing event of serendipity, in my film class we just happened to be watching Milk this week. I hadn't planned it to coincide with National Coming Out Week, but it did. Not only did Obama pledge (ve shall see) to end DOMA and DADT over the weekend, but on the very day we watched the last part of Milk, our Governator signed a bill to create Harvey Milk Day. My classroom was electrified.

What else? At my I'm-Living-A-New-Life Open House, we drank 30 bottles of wine, untold amounts of beer and vodka, and danced on the furniture until the wee hours. I'm so blessed by all the people in my life. I looked around that night and realized it's because of these people I'm alive. And thriving.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Does Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

Obama Derangement Syndrome...

Sex is fun with strangers

Just read a provocative interview with Collin Kelley in SubtleTea. Here's an excerpt:
Question: Martin (in Kelley's novel Conquering Venus) has genuine affection for David. I can see him settling down and staying true to the relationship. However, though seediness lurks in the darker side of any sexual camp, I've heard many queer folks admit a frustrating popular culture of wantonness. In one of many exchanges about sexuality, Martin tells David that he tries "not to be a whore." David replies that he "thought gay guys fucked everything that moved." Martin tells him that this is "a myth." A line in "The List", a poem by your fellow Atlantan, Dustin Brookshire, cries out for romantic exclusivity: "I want a man/who'll know that monogamy isn't a type of wood." Is it difficult for a guy to find a "decent guy" these days? In your experience, do many gays aspire to the everything-that-moves myth, which fulfills it and fans the flames of self-righteous bashers?
Collin Kelley: I do believe gay men are more promiscuous, but painting the gay community with a big whore brush is stereotyping. Trust me, I know straight guys who have been with hundreds of women: banging them in nightclubs, back seats or wherever else they could find a dark corner. I think it's a man thing more than a gay thing. I went through my own whore phase in my late 20s and early 30s, hooking up with two or three different guys a week when I wasn't in a relationship. I don't feel ashamed or have any regrets. Sex is fun and sex with strangers (with protection) can be very exciting.
I haven't been in a relationship in about eight years. I date, but finding a guy to settle down with is difficult. The older you get, the tougher it is to find someone you can share your life with - and I think that goes for hetero couples, too. Back in the day, you found someone, married them and had kids. It was expected by society. Today, people aren't willing to settle just to say they've settled. I wasted a lot of time on guys who I was madly in love who just weren't that into me (to coin a phrase), and I'm at a point in my life where I get more happiness out of my art and friends than making compromises for a relationship.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Teaching in these times

I'm in the midst of living an upside down life, I'm finding teaching to be extra rich and rewarding--even on the days I'd rather walk on the beach or curl up in bed, trying to speed my healing.

Perhaps it's because I look out into the classroom and remind my tender, raw self that each person there has a whole world. A world of love, connection, pain, loss. I'm being re-reminded that teaching, for me, is about connecting with people, really listening to one another, and providing students opportunities to express themselves, to cultivate curiosity, and to explore words and worlds.

In my Queer Film class, we are watching Milk this week. As students watch it, I ask them to jot down questions. The last few minutes of class, we discuss their questions, and I ask them to look them up and bring what they find to class. They are looking up everything from "Who's Cleve Jones?" to "Where is gay marriage legal in the world?"

I'm also teaching a section of English 1B (second semester Frosh Comp). Students are reading memoirs in groups and developing questions out of them that will lead to research questions. For instance, one group is reading Colby Buzzell's My War, and one research question coming out of that book is: How does post-traumatic stress affect veterans? Another group is reading Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There, and a research question coming out of that book is: When do most transgendered people begin to feel they are in the "wrong body"--and what are the possible options for what to do about it?

One young woman who is reading Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is developing a fascinating question related to whether or not religion is, as she put it, the opiate of the African-American community. Another group who is reading Andrew Pham's Catfish and Mandala--the story of a young Vietnamese-American guy who rides his bike across Vietnam--is developing questions related to bicycling infrastructure.

I'm trying to teach them that asking questions as they read helps them understand how books connect to the world.

Also this semester I'm teaching a Fiction Writing workshop. It's fun to read several student stories a week, to see what their minds have created. And I'm teaching Introduction to Creative Writing. We just finished our memoir unit, and now we're moving on to fiction, with a focus on flash fiction.

On Tuesday the 13th, Mary Roach is coming to speak on campus, then later this month we have Kim Addonizio and next month, Denis Johnson. In spite of furloughs, a 10 percent pay cut (yep, we all got them) and all the weirdness that is our horrible state budget (and is my divorce), I'm trying to remind myself that I'm lucky to get to work in a world where books, words and people matter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Poem

On What Was Once Love

The Al Gore of your soul is alarmed. Line
of your heart: you thought hate had disintegrated,

ecofriendly. Hulking polar bears, uninitiated,
can't get a foothold. A few fringe lovers

declare conspiracy. A miles-wide tangle
of synthetics in the sea appropriates

the mounting waters. You create
greenhouse gasses, neglect to separate

your recyclables. You haphazardly debate
the cavities, the virtues, of belief and disbelief.

Your car gets horrible mileage. In the park you retrieve
a plastic bottle from the garbage like the homeless.

Where are the landfills? What feels more formless
than an inconvenient truth? Which is the best bitter pill

they make? Of the chemicals interred in your soil,
which will nourish, which poison? We forget what is most

biodegradable is the body, eyeballs to bones.
Embalming chemicals are meant to sustain

a fa├žade of self. Steel coffin, we try to retain
the unsalvageable. Dropped deep in dirt, it’s dark.

We pretend all will keep, even worm and hook
in that cool murky world of enough, and time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Love

Look what came in the mail today: Collin's novel! It's been a joy to watch this novel go from manuscript to galleys to an absolutely gorgeous Vanilla Heart production.

Here's what one famous writer has to say about the novel:

Unflinching and mysterious, Conquering Venus is that rare combination of poetic and page-turner. Collin Kelley who refreshingly faces taboos head-on has packed his cinematic debut novel with compelling characters, meaty plot twists and satisfying surprises. This novel is freshly contemporary as well as, in its own fashion, a love letter to Paris.

Oops, that's not a famous writer, that's moi. But still, you can trust me, it's a great read! Oh, and some other writers who aren't his close, personal friends have said great things about the book, including Charles McNair and Gary Zebrun.

You can order it from any bookstore if it's not stocked there, you can buy it on Amazon, and you can order it directly from VHP.


I'm headed to L.A. this weekend. I'll be staying with an old high school friend and his beautiful family. Always great food and swimming pool time there. They are taking me to something called the Avocado Festival. I expect it to be a bacchanalia as it always is with them.

I reconnected with this old friend not long ago after not talking to him since high school. He's such an upstanding citizen now that have so much fun teasing him about the things he did in high school. One time he snuck out of history class through an open window and the teacher didn't notice--not until he did it the third or fourth time. Everyone played dumb about how he escaped. I "passed" Chemistry class only because this dear friend changed my grades in the grade book for me when that teacher had left the room, probably for a drink from his flask. This friend also taught me how to drive a stick shift at the fairgrounds, so if not for him I never could have driven cool sports cars.

On Sunday I'll be at the West Hollywood Book Fair. if you're in the area, come by, see our books and say hi. The three lovely authors present will be happy to sign your books or body parts.