Alane Salierno Mason and Words without Borders

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I have often spoken of Alane Salierno Mason here on this blog—as my first editor (she edited three of my memoirs), as a friend, and as the editor of authors, mostly recently Brad Watson, whose books often feature on my blog. I'll soon be sharing with you another Alane Mason book, this one by debut author Jake Silverstein, but before I get to that, I'd love for you to watch this video, in which you'll see New Yorkers talking about recent books read or not read, as well as Alane herself, who is the founder of the extraordinary publishing phenomenon, Words without Borders. You'll learn about what people read, and about why Americans should be reading more in translation. You'll also get to peer inside a rather cool-looking Brooklyn deli.


Full Moon, Traveling

This was the world that I woke to this morning. A full moon, moving too quickly for me to hold it in one place.


There's a Heart web site; there's a Heart contest

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A special someone has been at work on a dedicated Heart web site and has designed a most beautiful Heart contest. I'm going to say nothing more about it except this: Check it out.



A dear soul from a Colorado bookstore sent me this image yesterday—a gift of many proportions and a reminder that today The Heart is Not a Size is officially launched on the market.

Those who know far more than me—about how to share word of a book in a bookstore, about how to throw a book party, about how to create a Facebook fan page, about how to design a blog tour—are helping me in countless ways with this release, and I'll be forever grateful. Heart is my eleventh book. My second was the memoir, Into the Tangle of Friendship. Were I to return to Tangle after all these years, you better believe I'd be making room for a few new chapters.

Today the cover story for Heart is posted over at Melissa Walker's blog. Today Anna Lefler, that wild and crazy, smart one over at Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder informs us (which also means me) that there will be a Heart contest in her neck of the woods. Today I learn that there's a badge for Heart Facebook fans and a big blog tour planned. Last night I learned that Elizabeth Mosier has not just planned a Children's Book World party (in the Haverford book store, April 20, 7 PM), but like a party party. With watermelon juice and a pinata and salsa and Mexican chili-chocolate cookies (did you know there was such a thing?) and even a Beth Kephart trivia quiz as designed by her two brilliant actor/singer/writer daughters. (I hope I know at least two of the answers.)

Like I said, and I mean this:

I need to write a long addendum to Into the Tangle of Friendship. For now, this blog will have to serve as its proxy.

Additional thanks of the day to NomadReader, an aspiring writer and future librarian, for her review of Heart.

And even more thanks to Priya and the good souls of Readergirlz, for posting Priya's review today. Priya was one of the very first to read this book, and I will always be so grateful to her for her early words.


Bookmarking Upcoming Events

Monday, March 29, 2010

I married an artist (have I mentioned this before?), and I have the privilege, on some occasions, of doing work with him.

I can also ask him, from time to time, if he can help me with little dreams of mine.

Today he fashioned a bookmark for me, featuring titles from recent years, all leading up to the Dangerous Neighbors release in August.

I'm going to print these now, and any of you who find me at Devon Barnes and Noble (April 13, 3:30), Fox Cities Book Festival (April 14th - 16th), Philly Book Festival (April 18th), Children's Book World (April 20, 7 PM), University of Pennsylvania alumni reading (May 15, 4 PM), Kelly Writers House in NYC (May 20), the Agnes Irwin workshop (May 25, all day), the BEA (May 27), the Book Bloggers Convention (May 28), or the Rutgers-Camden Writers Festival (June 25th) are welcome to one. Whew. I hope I got that list right.

In any case. I hope to see you.


A Heart Giveaway at Miss Em's

When I titled my fourth young adult novel The Heart is Not a Size, I was referring to my characters, Georgia and Riley—each so different from the other, each tested by their experiences in Juarez, each finding their way back to a friendship.

Since publishing the book, however, I have learned (again) about the unbounded hearts of others—so gracious, so generous, so true.

Em of Miss Em's Bookshelf is one of those hugely hearted people. I'm guest blogging there about my love of all things Spanish today. A copy of Heart will be sent to one who comments. Please do stop by.


Reginald Gibbons, Peter Turchi, and Maps of the Imagination

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fever enshrined, bronchitis wracked, and client focused, I have not, this past week, been an honest bibliophile; the book stack has not diminished. Late this afternoon, however, I began to read Peter Turchi's Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, which has the distinct pleasure of making writing sound like something I might want to do someday or, at the very least, something I still need instruction in doing.

On page 16, I stopped, for there I came upon the voice of Reginald Gibbons, a poet/novelist/teacher/editor I'd met in Spoleto, Italy, in the early 1990s, during my first-ever encounter with other writers. Here, in Turchi's book, Gibbons was, as articulate and eloquent as ever. His quoted words:

"Writing delivers us into discoveries of what, till we had formed some way to articulate it in language, had remained unformed, had been unknown to us. The articulation becomes the knowing; the knowing comes out of the process, and it refuels a further effort at voyaging, comes to us in the exhilarating moments of being in-our-work-in-progress."


Unbridled Passions (excerpt from an upcoming Wisconsin talk)

I’ve lived my whole life that way—wanting, reaching, exuding, falling, reaching again, wanting more. I was an ice skater as a kid—the one skating fast, the one jumping big, the one who could not control her spins. I left ice skating for track and field—to my mother’s chagrin—and there I wasn’t happy with just the 100 yard dash or the hurdles. I had to compete in the 200, too, and also in long jump, and also in high jump, and also in the relays (not just one but two), and come fall, I signed up for cross-country. It’s not that I was great at all of these events, or even that great at one of them. It’s that I made commitments—wild and huge—to live, to hurt, to want, to try, to transform myself into more than I was.


Palm Sunday

Here on this Palm Sunday morning, I want only to be with my friends from church, inside the knell of bells and hymns.


On Being Rejected (and on rudeness, in general)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My friend Reiko, knowing that I had lately received what can only be described as the rudest rejection letter ever (a rejection apparently based not on my work but on this editor's estimation of my career), sent along a link entitled "30 famous authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers."

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not famous (which was this recent editor's accusation against me). But I do take solace (and shouldn't we all?) from reviewing again (for we've reviewed them in the past) these bits and pieces from the annals of whoops.

"We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."

— from one of many publishers rejecting Stephen King's Carrie

"It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA."

—from the editor dismissing George Orwell's Animal Farm

"There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice."

— a publisher assessing the poetry of Sylvia Plath

And my personal favorite:

"I'm sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

— a San Francisco Examiner editor rejecting a Kipling short story

Everyone, of course, has his or her right to his or her opinion, and editors can only buy those books with which they are in love. I'm simply not altogether convinced that cruelty need enter the scene.


The Jazz Loft Project and the future of books?

Friday, March 26, 2010

I love absolutely everything about this audio slide show, posted on the New York Times page, featuring photos by W. Eugene Smith from the Jazz Loft Project, a bit of history for which we might thank writer Sam Stephenson of Duke's Center for Documentary Studies.

I try to imagine myself in the midst of so much music making. I love, most, Smith's words, about how, if a composer was composing, the others would "try desperately not to play music to interfere with his composing; otherwise, any noise at any time of the day or night was fine." I love the image of the street taken through the torn black paper, and of Smith's daughter, hovering near the "creak" of stairs.

If we someday must lose books altogether to the web, I hope they turn out like this.


Juarez and Secret Angels

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In a March 23rd article in the Christian Science Monitor, Sara Miller Llana wrote of a father named Adrian Cadena whose son was one of the 15 murdered in Juarez in January, while attending a birthday party. Adrian's son had hoped to play soccer, Llana writes, in college. Today his dad, living through his grief, "has put his energy into volunteering for the local team, cleaning parks, and raising money through barbecues and carwashes" in an attempt to help those who remain. "There are thousands of boys left behind," the author quotes Mr. Cadena. "We have to focus on the survivors."

Juarez, one of the bloodiest cities in the world, sits opposite El Paso, one of the most peaceful cities in the states. It is home to children like the gorgeous one pictured here. It deserves its cessation from a chaos spawned by warring drug cartels. It deserves our attention.

Today I would like to thank two angels who are helping to spread word about a book I wrote based on a trip I took to Juarez five years ago. The first is Holly Cupala, whose novel (and the early buzz is great), Tell Me a Secret, is due out from HarperCollins in June. She interviewed me about the making of Heart; the conversation is here.

The second person I'd like to thank is the secret agent angel who has set up a Facebook Fan page for Heart. She knows who she is. We'd love you to hop on board so that you'll get early news of coming contests, reviews, and content.


Guest Blogging at HipWriterMama's House

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today I'm guest blogging over at the fabulous HipWriterMama's house, another blogger and writer who entered my world early on and stayed. She asked me to write a bit about The Heart is Not a Size, and I did. Here's a small quote from a longer piece that I hope you will stop by and read.

(My photo today is of one of the truly beautiful young women with whom we traveled to Juarez. It was toward the end of the trip, when the wood frame of the community bathroom we'd pounded together was finally upright, lifted toward the sky.)

I have always sought to write books that somehow make a difference, and if I can, with HEART, bring attention to Juarez, if I can help girls who are battling with the secrets with which Georgia and Riley do battle, then I will feel as if the journey that I took with HEART was ultimately the right one.


To Live a Poem...

I have blogged here in this modest space since October 2007—not always certain what I had to say, not always happy with the photos I had to say it with, and never sure who might visit or why.

Today I introduce one of the very first people who stopped by this blog. Her name is Grete. She lives an ocean away. She found me by listening to a Barbara DeMarco interview. Some of you have likely read her comments here. I've had the privilege of coming to know her off the blog, through her photos, musings, and poems.

A few days ago, Grete launched her own blog, titled "To Live a Poem." Her goal is to bring the lyric lines to life, and she is doing that in a wholly original way. I encourage you to visit her.


More reviews of Heart (that so gladden this author's heart)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I wrote the first draft of The Heart is Not a Size several years ago, and then it sat, waiting for my imagination, which was teased into fuller life by both Laura Geringer and Jill Santopolo. Between now and then, I've waited for this story to be released to the world—tremulously, as I tend to do, but also with hope that I might shed some light on a part of the world, Juarez, that I came to love.

You write a story. Others carry it forward for you. Today I wish to thank the ever-generous My Friend Amy for her glorious review, as well as Bookworming in the 21st Century and Read What You Know.


WordLily Reviews The Heart is Not a Size

Monday, March 22, 2010

and my heart was pounding (will I ever get past the nerves of this business?) and then I held my breath and then I read.

I am beyond grateful.

Her words here.


My Dad and Me, Years Ago

You have read here, often, about my dad. The way he daily tends my mother's grave. The way he insists on goodness for each of his three children. The support he extends. The vacations he sends us on.

This past weekend, my dad gave me another, gigantic gift—an evening I will never forget. He shared as well the book of photos he's been making for me these past many weeks—an album of memories, from days long gone.

Here is one of those memories. My dad and me, on my eighteenth birthday. Everyone who meets us says at once, You are so your father's daughter. This weekend a friend of mine said, Your dad makes me miss mine.



I worked the garden yesterday. I spoke with friends. I did not work, on purpose.

Here is something I have learned: When you are holding on too tight, too tight, too tight to people or projects or things, ease up on your grip. Eliminate the force fit. Unwhiten your knuckles.



Sunday, March 21, 2010

There are no words for me today. None.

Just love in my heart for my family and friends.


Editing Thyself Part 2, and The Genius in All of Us

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In reviewing The Genius in All of Us, the new David Shenk book subtitled Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong, Annie Murphy Paul gives us some tantalizing insights into a world of personal possibility. "That means there can be no guaranteed genetic windfalls, or fixed genetic limits, bestowed at the moment of conception," she writes in the New York Times Book Review. "Instead there is a continually unfolding interaction between our heredity and our world, a process that may be in some measure under our control."

There could be no one happier than yours truly to read this. My life brings me into constant contact with people of far greater intellect than I believe I'll ever possess,and I was never the smart one in my family. I am only and ever the one who keeps on working hard, who keeps trying, even as failures mount, to get somewhat ahead of myself.

This, apparently, is what Shenk is calling for, to "think of talent not as a thing, but as a process; not as something we have, but as something we do," in the words of the reviewer.

Shenk's own words are quoted here, toward the end of the review. They, too, touch me deeply. I recognize in him the striving that I yesterday described about myself. I am given cause to perhaps stop berating myself when I cannot at first get the sentence right:

“My attitude toward my own writing is simple: I assume that everything I write is rubbish until I have demonstrated otherwise. I will routinely write and rewrite a sentence, paragraph and/or chapter 20, 30, 40 times — as many times as it takes to feel satisfied.”


Editing Thyself

Friday, March 19, 2010

Last night, toward the close of my talk at Rosemont College (what a fine group of people), a question came up from the very back row: Can you tell us about how you go about editing?

I answered thusly: The work begins with paper and pen, scribbled at some strange hour in handwriting I can barely interpret a day or so later. I then rewrite my scribbles, still with pen, making numerous changes as I go. Next I'm on the computer, typing things in, and here again, every sentence is weighed, and many are shifted. Two pages at a time, typically, and when the next two pages are layered in, they never quite fit with the first two pages, so editing begins again in earnest. Every time new pages come in, I'm reading back, several pages, then reading forward, to help achieve a seamlessness. And all of that leads to a first draft, which is only a first draft and never nearly a whole.

It is creating the whole, I indicated, that is in the end the hardest thing. It's easy to write sentences. It's possible to write passages. Often chapters congeal. Books, entire books, remain, to me, a mystery. Sometimes I get there. Sometimes I don't. My drawers are littered with lovely passages that never found their home.


Wanting/Beth Kephart Poem

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wanting only the short break
in the long pause
of a poem,
the scattering of senses.

Wanting the moon to rise upside
right in the sky,
and the dawn to ink pink,
and the earth to stop breaking
into its pieces.

Wanting the loudest thing
in the morning light
to be the heart,
still beating.


Metamorphosis at the Dance Studio

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm going to tell you something: I did not look pretty today. My hair is two weeks past the cut I'd promised it (I'm getting to it, I tell it). My clothes are the ones that aren't in the laundry room (sorry, but that means they are not my favorites). My mascara is tending toward globby.

I did not look pretty today, and yet I went dancing. Oh, poor Jean, I thought, as I went up those stairs. The things that man has to put up with. My chin too low on some rumba moves, my feet not yet always firmly planted, my New Yorker sneaking up on my ronde, and my hair. Never good, but even worse when it is two weeks past a hair cut.

Whatever. I'd worked through perhaps 100 emails, five drafts of different projects, and at least a dozen calls; there just wasn't time to deal with me. And I was about to apologize for it, about to make a bunch of lame excuses, but Jean is my good friend Jean. Jean, I realized today, is the kind of friend and dance instructor who can laugh with me despite how I look and not make me feel too flat-out unattractive to dance a cha-cha or a salsa.

That's friendship.


The Heart is Not a Size: An Educator's Day and a Launch Party

The news from Juarez grows ever-harder to bear. This week, three U.S. Consulate Workers were murdered. Two were Americans, a couple shot down while returning from a child's birthday party. Their brutal murder left their own child orphaned in the back of their car.


I am eager to talk about this place, Juarez. Eager for The Heart is Not a Size to be released on March 30th. Eager to raise more awareness about what is happening, south of the El Paso border, where every life means something, where every life should be safeguarded.

I am grateful, therefore, to Maureen Montecchio, the community relations manager at Barnes & Noble Devon, who invited me to join her wonderful group of educators and librarians at her store on April 13th, at 3:30 PM. If you can, I'd love for you to be there.

I am grateful, too, to writer and teacher (and mom extraordinaire) Elizabeth Mosier, who reached out and said, We should have a party. She'd been saying that for months, but I'd been deflecting. Finally, she went ahead, she talked to folks, she circled back. We're having the party on April 20th in Haverford, at the beloved Children's Book World, 7 PM. We are going to have cake, because we love cake. We are going to talk about Juarez, because it matters, and about teens, like the two in my book, who hide dangerous secrets from each other. We hope that you will find time to be there with us.


Researching Creative Nonfiction: A passage from an upcoming talk

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'll be speaking at Rosemont College this coming Thursday evening on a topic I've often thought about but never spoken on—the art of researching creative nonfiction. I'll be talking about three books—Flow, Still Love in Strange Places, and Ghosts in the Garden. I'll be inspired, in part, by this photograph, found for me by my friend Adam Levine in the city archives. This from the talk, just written:

Whether I’m writing memoir or novels, fables or poems, young adult novels, adult novels, or fantasies, I am, at one point, reaching far beyond myself, to bring the greater world in. I am following the always persistent, hardly consistent, rarely well-tiled path of my insatiable curiosity. True, research is often either a surfeit of overwhelm, or a tease. Still, and nevertheless, I don’t believe in bringing presumption to the page—in writing simply and only what I already know. I don’t believe in closing doors before I’ve opened windows. I want to be alive when I am writing—engaged, in suspense, full of the unprotected what ifs? I want to convey my own surprise, dismay, or basic indignity right there, on the page. Formulae don’t cut it for me; formulae have been done. Research scrambles the math.


Plant TV

So there I was, waiting for a client call, when I again picked up the latest New Yorker to breeze through "The Talk of the Town."

Oh, I thought, here's Adam Gopnik in a piece called "Bright Ideas/Plant TV."

It begins like this:

"Jonathon Keats—a San Francisco-based experimental philosopher who has, over the years, sold real estate in the extra dimensions of space-time proposed by string theory (he sold a hundred and seventy-two extra-dimensional lots in the Bay Area in a single day); made an attempt to genetically engineer God (God turns out to be related to the cyanobacterium); and copyrighted his own mind (in order to get a seventy-year post-life extension) came to New York a couple of weeks ago to exhibit his latest thought experiment: television for plants."

Television for plants, as we readers who read on discover, is "an extension of an earlier project to make pornography for plants."

I could continue; I will not. I will say only this: Here I sit with a history and sociology of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and I have not a single clue what Mr. Keats and Mr. Gopnik are speaking of.

I want my father's money back.


I Changed my Header Photo

Monday, March 15, 2010

(I just couldn't deal with the snow anymore.)


Supernatural Fantasy

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It was Maya Ganesan who asked me once (during a readergirlz chat) if I would ever consider writing fantasy—something within the supernatural vein.

I said, I don't know how.

It was hipwritermama who said, I bet you could.

I'd said that before—I don't know how. I'd said it about memoir, about young adult fiction, about poetry. I'd said it about corporate fable and novels for adults. I'd said it about being a mother. I But questions open doors. Would you ever consider...?

Lately, I have.

Inspired by a recent conversation I had with a certain someone from the world of film, inspired by Maya and bolstered by hipwritermama, I have just sent the first 77 pages of a supernatural mystery to my agent.

I think I'm onto something. I am hoping. It can be very difficult, as a writer, to keep your hopes alive. But I'm alive right now. Very much so.

Time, this rainy Sunday, to return my thoughts to corporate work.



Saturday, March 13, 2010

Those of you reading between the lines of this blog know that the past many weeks (actually, past many months) have been a tad interesting. We are emerging from a difficult economy differently, I'm beginning to understand. Pressures, which have always been keen, are unlike any I've ever seen. I am used to the eighty-hour work week. I'm less used to some of the new industry dynamics.

This morning, absolutely none of that matters. All of the weight that I've been carrying dissipates. My son is sitting in my office, telling me stories, listening to mine. That takes me a long way to whole.


He's Coming Home

Friday, March 12, 2010


Lucky in Life

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sometimes (often) I really miss my cat, Colors. I found her when I was an eight-year-old in Boston. She traveled with us to suburban Philadelphia. She lived until just before I married. She was so gorgeous. She was so calm. And when I was sad or angry, she brought her peacefulness near.

When I miss her I try to remember this: But she belonged to you. Once.


Does Literature Move Forward? (and more on names)

Yesterday, inspired by an Elif Batuman book and a James Wood essay in The New Yorker, I wrote about novel names. I absolutely adore those of you who shared your own perspective on this. Sarah and others wondered how I name my characters, and I will admit here that sound has so much to do with my decision making. Sophie suggests a particular kind of person to me—internally focused, quietly questing, curious. Riley, for me, is an artist. Tara is wise, winningly sarcastic, eager for the next thing. Like Melissa, I don't question a name once I find it, and I don't overly freight it with meaning. My own name, Beth, means House of God. That's a whole lot to live up to (I certainly haven't yet), and I've never named a character that.

In focusing on names in this blog yesterday, I did not have the opportunity to quote from the beginning of the Wood piece ("Keeping it Real: Conflict, convention, and Chang Rae-Lee's 'The Surrendered'") which also struck me as rich with conversational possibilities. Here it is. I'd love your thoughts:

Does literature progress, like medicine or engineering? Nabokov seems to have thought so, and pointed out that Tolstoy, unlike Homer, was able to describe childbirth in convincing detail. Yet you could argue the opposite view; after all, no novelist strikes the modern reader as more Homeric than Tolstoy.... Perhaps it is as absurd to talk about progress in literature as it is to talk about progress in electricity—both are natural resources awaiting different forms of activation....

Wood goes on to make some very interesting statements about the "lazy stock-in-trade of mainstream realist fiction," but it wouldn't be fair of me to quote him at greater length here (buying magazines helps continue the livelihood of magazines). I encourage you to take a look. I'm eager for your reactions.


Novel Names, or Names in Novels

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Twice this day, I've encountered critics reflecting on the names writers give to their characters—the authenticity or not, the too-frequent overdeterminedness of the enterprise, the leap of faith that is all bound up in naming.

In Elif Batuman's marvelously idiosyncratic memoir, The Possessed (ingeniously subtitled Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them and rather otherwise ingenious, all around), Batuman, writing of the "perfection" of Anna Karenina, celebrates, among the novel's other attributes, the fact that "Anna's lover and her husband had the same first name (Alexei). Anna's maid and daughter were both called Anna, and Anna's son and Levin's half brother were both Sergei. The repetition of names struck me as remarkable, surprising, and true to life."

Later, in surveying the contemporary American short-story scene, Batuman notes, "No contemporary American short-story writer would have had the stamina not to name (Chekhov's) lapdog. They were too caught up in trying to bootstrap from a proper name to a meaningful individual essence...."

At the end of the day, reading James Wood in The New Yorker on "Conflict, Convention, and Chang-Rae Lee's The Surrendered," I discovered this:

"And this does not even touch on the small change of fictional narrative: how strange it is, when you think about it, that thousands of novels are published every year in which characters all have different names (whereas, in real life, doesn't one always have at least three friends named John, and another three named Elizabeth?)...."

I present this then, to all of you. I wonder how it is that you go about selecting your characters' names, and what you believe in, and don't, when encountering the names of characters in the novels and stories you are reading.


The Heart is Not a Size: The Giveaway Winners

I asked readers of this blog where they would take their next best journey.

Lenore said Bologna, Italy, NYC, and perhaps Senegal and Kuwait. Bee dreamed of Greece. Bermudaonion and wordlily named Asia, Melissa Sarno named Japan, and Kelly H-Y spoke of Tuscany. Inspired by Nora Roberts, Fantast fantasized about living in Montana and Alaska. Pink Dogwood said she would either stay home and live a simpler life or travel beneath the Tuscan sun. Cuileann said "the faroe islands." CK said "the city that never sleeps (New York)." Sarah Unger would like to stay home. Mandy spoke of England/Ireland, Malta, Peru, and the southern US. Steph Su spoke of a life spent partly in San Francisco, Portland, and neighborhoods in Canada, New York, Maine, Nebraska, and Australia. Amy is already planning a trip to a working winery near Sienna. Susan Uhlig spoke of Haiti.

There's no rational choosing from among so many terrific dreams, and so I did the irrational: put the names, literally, into a hat, and drew one out.

The winner: wordlily.

Then I thought, oh what the heck, and I drew a second name out: Bermudaonion.

Then, because I was feeling lucky, I drew out a third: Kelly H-Y.

Get in touch with me, you winners three, and I will send you a copy of The Heart is Not a Size, which will take you to Juarez. Heart is officially here, arriving a little early, at least in my house. With this blog entry, I officially launch this Indiebound book.


Atlantic City, Almost Night

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

(all red letters, all bright lights)
(I keep remembering then; it was last Thursday; I was free)
(I don't gamble, just for the record)
(I go for the possibility of the photograph, and for dinner at Cuba Libra)


Target Practice


You Were All Right

Monday, March 8, 2010

...I found that I couldn't actually go three days without writing something of my own.

I couldn't do it.

What I needed, I realized, was to write something entirely new. A different voice, a different tempo, a subversive sense of humor.

The sun came in, and for three hours, before the clients cast a glance in my direction, I wrote.


Abandoned Go Kart Tracks, Atlantic City

Sunday, March 7, 2010

In Atlantic City on Thursday afternoon we happened on an old Go Kart track—stripped to the bones, awaiting restoration. Only the hob-legged pirates stood while just beyond them surfers rode the crash-waves by the pier.


Raimund Abraham, 1933-2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I've learned just now of the passing of Raimund Abraham, the gentleman designer who taught at Yale while my husband was there getting his master's degree in architecture. He was Austrian, a visionary, already white-haired when I met him. He believed as much in works on paper as he did in the metal and glass of the buildings—Manhattan's Austrian Cultural Forum, most famously—that he designed. He was, to me, a legend—that rare individual whose intelligence and artistic fierceness figured prominently and formatively in my husband's imagination. Under Abraham's instruction my husband designed an imaginary building of the cut-through of shadows for Times Square. Raimund made me see my own husband differently, and all through the years, I have remembered this—the way that Raimund carved a path for my husband's particular way of seeing.

Once, at the close of a critiquing session, Raimund took the studio out for a meal; I was there for a visit and he took me, too. The restaurant was dark, down a set of stairs, more like a grotto. Toward the end of the table, the great man sat, and you could feel his greatness permeating. You could feel each person at the table registering the moment in their minds, saying, to themselves, This is a meal I'll always remember.

Raimund Abraham was killed in a car accident on Thursday in Los Angeles. A building called the Musicians' House was in the works at the time in Germany. If there's anything more tragic than a man passing away before his time, it is an architect of Raimund's caliber passing away before he could walk beneath, between, and through the shadows of a building he created.


The Lacuna/Barbara Kingsolver

Ruta Rimas sent me a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna for Christmas, and it's been sitting over there, on the chair of unread books, ever since—gold and heavy-weighted.

This morning I rose to a desk full of work, glanced at the book chair and said to myself, "Well, who is going to notice, really, if you spend an hour of this morning reading?"

So that's all I've done—spent an hour reading The Lacuna—and may I just say that if nothing else wonderful happens in this story (and I doubt that will be the case), the first 28 pages contain Kingsolver's best writing ever, anywhere, as far as I can tell. This book takes place in Mexico, a country I've visited just twice (Juarez first, San Miguel de Allende, where I took this photo, second). I can now say that I've gone to Mexico thrice.

Read this:

Salome put on the new frock, painted a bow on her mouth, took her son by the arm and walked to town. They smelled the zocalo first: roasted vanilla beans, coconut milk candies, boiled coffee. The square was packed with couples walking entwined, their arms snaking around one another like the vines that strangle tree trunks. The girls wore striped wool skirts, lace blouses, and their narrow-waisted boyfriends. The mood of the fiesta was enclosed in a perfect square: four long lines of electric bulbs strung from posts at the corners, fencing out a bright piece of night just above everyone's heads.

I've been there. I've seen that.


The Heart is Not a Size: A Lovely Blog Review

Friday, March 5, 2010

These beautiful words about The Heart is Not a Size conclude a week that was, for me, full of both tumult and deep graces.

Every writer living is grateful to sympathetic readers. I am particularly grateful today.

Thank you, Susan Uhlig. My box of Heart arrived this week. On March 10th, I'll be announcing the winner of the Heart giveaway contest.


We Went Away

(then we returned)
(20 hours undesked)


What is Dance?: The House of Dance Contest Winners

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Something rather extraordinary happened when I invited you to define dance here, in this blog. It was as if all the other noise of the world had been turned off, and only music was playing. Your responses were all so good that I've chosen to reprint them all here.

I have chosen not two, but four winners (and wish, indeed, that I could send books to you all). Those of you who see your quote highlighted here, get in touch with me so that I can mail you a copy of House of Dance, now out in paperback.

Dance is a physical expression of music, a chance for anyone who is willing to close their eyes and lose themselves in the moment, to let their bodies respond to the sounds that fill their ears. Unlike any other art form, it's a blending of heart and mind, body and soul. Dance can be freedom. But not everybody wants to be free. — Solvang Sherrie

Dance is feeling the rhythm suffuse itself throughout your body, become your pulse, and allowing your body to naturally follow that beat. It's letting yourself go to the moment, to the joy of life, to inhibitions and fears. — J. Petro Roy

Dance is the body telling a story. It brings the song to life, as if your body is a host to the music. — Jami

I think that dance is a way to physically express emotions that can't always be expressed verbally; or sometimes its a way to tell a story that might not have the same effect by simply speaking it. — Lauren

Dance is expressing yourself and your emotions. You tell a story.Delete — uprobablydontknowme

In simplest terms dance is self expression. It is the self expression of the creator of the movement, the choreographer. It is also the self expression of the dancer. Trained or untrained it does not matter. It is about expressing emotion through movement; whether to music or silence, in front of an audience or alone in your bedroom. — Danielle

Dance is telling a story with your body in it's simplest form...perhaps only a feeling...but an expression nonetheless. — Stiletto Storytime

Dance is creating art and a way to express who you are. — Sarah

Dance is the poetry of movement. I know my answer isn't as long as others but I feel that is the best way to describe dance. Terrific contest Beth. — Briana

Dance is a physical response to an irresistible stimulus, bringing internal and external rhythms together and forcing the body to move in time with them. As they sang in Hairspray, "You can't stop the beat." — Florinda

Dance is losing your inhibitions and expressing how music physically moves you. — BermudaOnionDelete

Dance is an acristic:

Dappaankuthu from Tamil; percussion; Bollywood.

Ardha from Arabia; Bedouin; war-dance.

Nutbush from Tennessee (City Limits!); line dance...

Coček from Serbia; belly dancing; gypsy brass!

Eisa from the Nansei Islands; memorial service - Ryūkyū musicians...

Take your pick!

Tanja Cilia

Dance is opening of your heart and mind to the bodily movement of the inspiration that grabs hold of you. — Katie Guzman

Dance is moving your body in new ways, pushing boundaries and changing perspectives. I love getting lost in my own movements- sometimes even caught off guard. Dance allows you to be who you want to be (especially when done in the privacy of your own room). It is awesome. — Taryn

Dance is the body's way of celebrating freedom of mind and spirit. — Bee

Dance is when your body becomes a channel for which music can flow. When your veins run with the flow and rhythm. Your very movements are decided by the tempo, you get lost in the beat. Dance is like the changes of nature, for which each sound, your body, and the dance change in a never ending cycle. Dance is an expression of yourself,as you find your heart, and others somewhere on the smooth wood floors. To me, dance is an expression of emotion, but more importantly, Dance is the movement of life. — GooseGirl

Dance is a chance to express yourself through music, it's an art - blah blah blah. The classic textbook answer is that and such. Not that it's wrong, but I believe you can't just define dance to be a mere meaning to be able to just move your feet and/or body to a rhythm (though that's highly necessary, in matters that you wouldn't want to just fling your arms about and smack someone). For some people, dancing is their life. Others, it's a culture (perhaps to celebrate their succesful day of hunting). Wrong thinking would be, such as various belittling professionals: if you aren't willing to do your best, don't dance at all.
However that's not even remotely true. Just because you can't doesn't mean you shouldn't. If you want to say what you mean and you're not good with words, dance. Show others you mean something and that the beauty in what you see will be shown to the rest.
Plus, it's great exercise. — Jade

Dance is what you feel like doing when you are happy - so I could say that it is happiness in 3D :) — Pink Dogwood

Dancing discards the shell; discovers the soul. — Sherry

To dance is to let loose. Forget about the world and just flow with what's within. — TruBlu93

Dance expression of everything one feels. It can be fast or slow; it can be with someone or alone. It can be joyful or sorrowful. Dance doesn't have to be perfect, nor can anyone really define perfection. It doesn't have to be pretty, but it has to come from the heart. Someone dancing without an ounce of rhythm can be just as beautiful as someone dancing with technical perfection. It expresses what one feels inside, and should be shown with unabashed freedom. — Hilary

I have always thought dance was your own form of interpreting the music. — pitu572

Dance is sweeping the air into life, learning that you can move, that you can fly; that you have every right to live and put your inhibitions behind you. — Inkgirl

Dance is the act of freeing your mind, body, and soul and just feeling the beat of the music as it moves through you, girating as if the whole world belongs to you and all your problems are wished away. — Boriquaz

To me dance is many things. First off - it is a way to express your emotions, your passion and your energy in a purely physical way. Dance is also something where you can view someone's entire soul by the way they hold their hand or they way the spin. It's beauty and poetry with no formal training required. — Michelle

Dance is letting go, remembering, or expressing yourself and your emotions. Dance simply is whatever you want it to be. It's anything, and everything. — Lea, YA Book QueenDelete

dance isn't just moving along the music... is moving with the music, feeling it & expressing your own feelings to it. — CaRiiToO


Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives/Brad Watson: Some Thoughts

Sometimes it seems that I already know people I've never yet met. The profoundly talented Brad Watson is one of those. I first heard of him through my W.W. Norton editor, Alane Mason, who recounted discovering Watson's work in a literary magazine. He was a fresh talent, book worthy. She got in touch. Their first publication, Last days of the Dog-Men was uncanny and brave. It won the Sue Kauffman Award for First Fiction.

I was working with Alane then on a sequence of books, and so, from time to time, I would hear wind of a new Brad Watson book—this one a novel, The Heaven of Mercury, set in the early 20th century south. It was gothic, Faulknerian, adjective-rich, a thing utterly apart from the short stories. It was named a National Book Award finalist.

A few years ago, my friend Alyson Hagy, while having dinner at my house, spoke of her hope that a certain Brad Watson would join the creative writing staff at the University of Wyoming. After he did, I would sometimes hear stories of long hikes or fishing trips. A few weeks ago, Alyson mentioned that she'd seen an early copy of Watson's new collection of stories, Aliens in the Prime of their Lives. "It's gorgeous," she said.

Yesterday and this morning, I've been reading through. This isn't Dog-men. This absolutely isn't Mercury. This new collection of stories is so utterly new and once again bold; it is internally consistent. It's as if Watson, having expended so much energy on the lyrical and braided in Mercury, decided to see what might be done with a minimum of back story and a scarcity of adjectives.

A whole heck of a lot, is the answer. These stories achieve power, momentum, and absolute artistry through the accretion of odd facts, strange circumstances, and the wholly exposed wires of human circuitry, which are not, as it turns out, always so pretty. But pretty wouldn't be half as compelling as these stories are.

"Vacuum," my personal favorite, is the story of three boys who hear their overworked and unhappy mother threaten to walk away and not come back. With the boys' father already missing, the brothers set out to save the mother. Rarely have so many good intentions gone so terribly wrong; rarely does innocence yield such havoc. Watson lays it all out, one crooked turn after another, in language that is spare and terrifying. You finish reading "Vacuum" and you understand that you are going to have to steel yourself for whatever comes next. It will be undecorated and uncompromising. It won't be like any other story you've read.

Reading the collection, I thought again of just how lucky the creative writing students of the University of Wyoming are to have the equally talented Alyson Hagy working alongside Brad Watson, sharing space this semester with Edward Jones, among others. (Last semester they even had Kate Northrop, the poet, with whom, through Alyson, I've also become friends.) I never went to school to learn how to write prose, but if I were younger, just setting out, I'd want to know what these writers would teach me.


Sarah Laurence takes us to the ponds of Maine...and Undercover

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't spend a second more on my blog today. Head here, to Sarah Laurence's beautiful blog—rich with her photographs and musings on books and the writing life. This week she's featuring an interview with me (my favorite teen books, my assessment of teen readers, a never-before-seen photo of me in high school, among other things) and a review of Undercover. But more than that, she's sharing her own lovely sensibility. I urge you to take a look.


Bring your Imagination: Alice in Wonderland

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I was reading "Rabbit Redux," the Ramin Setoodeh piece in this week's Newsweek.

He was talking about the imagination—those who use it splendidly well—and I was remembering my friend, Cuileann, who is one of the most imaginative people I know (we met in San Francisco, late last summer). Oh, what she does with words and photographs. What she does with heart.

So I was thinking about her, and then I kept reading, and I was thinking about my own book about the imagination (Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World) and then I thought, I wonder what my blogger friends would say about these thoughts Mr. Setoodeh is expressing? So I put them out there, for your comments:

"The only way to understand Alice is to use your imagination. Do you even remember how to do that? In our society of Web links, Wikipedia, Facebook, and reality TV, everything and everybody comes with a label and an exhaustive definition. There's scant room for ambiguity and interpretation. The genius of the 145-year-old Wonderland is that it forces you to bring your own creative juices to the tea party....

"Compare Wonderland with the great children's stories of our time: the Harry Potter series. As inventive as J.K. Rowling's seven books are, they're meticulously detailed (the intricate rules of Quidditch, the class rituals at Hogwarts, all the wizard paraphernalia) to the point of being encyclopedic, which is why the movies work as well as they do—they're road maps of the plot."


  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by 2008

Back to TOP