Call Me Frodo, published in Huff Post

Off to Phoenix tomorrow to read at Changing Hands!

and to see Peggy Shumaker!

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Should I wear a costume for Halloween?

I need advice.  I’m reading on Halloween, should I read in costume, Nicelle Davis style?


Tempe | Poetry Readings | Kate Gale, Peggy Shumaker, and Pamela Uschuk

Start: 10/30/2014 7:00 pm

Poetry Readings with Kate Gale, Peggy Shumaker, and Pamela Uschuk

Celebration of Poetry

Event Date: Friday, October 31 at 7:00pm

Join us for a Celebration of Poetry with 4 amazing poets.

Kate Gale, author of The Goldilocks Zone

“…These poems… prove repeatedly that Gale possesses a poetic tone and pace all her own.  She is also refreshingly out of step with today’s poetry of self-absorption, for she is fascinated less by her ego than by the strange variety of the world around us.” —Billy Collins, Former U.S. Poet Laureate

  • Cynthia Hogue, author of Revenance

By turns elegiac, ecopoetic, and impolitic, Hogue’s 8th collection is a condensery of empathic encounters with others and otherness.

  • Liza Porter, author of Red Stain

“With unflinching honesty…, Liza Porter peels back the human skin to reveal its darkest, most raw underside. And yet, her work leaves us with hope, and most important, with love.”—Naomi Benaron, author of Running the Rift

  • Peggy Shumaker, author of Toucan Nest: Poems of Costa Rica

In the 8th book by Alaska State Writer Laureate Peggy Shumaker, her encounter with Costa Rica has produced a work of startlingly beautiful mindfulness and imagination.

The reading at Op Cit was terrific.  They bought books! The store was packed.  We rocked it!

Published in: on October 27, 2014 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Reading tomorrow at Op Cit Bookstore in Santa Fe at 2 pm!

All these readings are amazing and wonderful and making me dizzy all at the same time.  It’s great, but I’m getting ready for a break.

By the way, all you writers our there, if you are going to pick someone’s brain, warn them first.  We all like to be people first, then people carrying around expertise.  When I want to ask my friend Lisa to dig into her well of therapist advice, I warn her, Can I ask a therapist question? I say.  I don’t want to delve into her expertise without checking first.  My friend Jen has a chef friend who’s always being invited to dinner to give advice on cooking.  He just wants to be a person, not a chef all the time.  Is that too much to ask?

I too just want to be a person unless I am warned that I am going to be working during drinks and dinner.  It’s very confusing how mixed up it all gets.  Life is very mixed up.  Sometimes I wish I were a kid again eating honey and reading about Winnie the Pooh.

Published in: on October 25, 2014 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Santa Cruz has a lot seals

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Are you looking forward to better times?  Or do you remember better times?  Do you feel sure that either the past or the future will be better than right now?  That’s a mistake.  Right now is the best time.  In the future, you will not be richer than you are now.  In the past, you were not having a better time.  You may have been more limber, you may have been better looking, but right now is it.

The fact that Americans spend so much time reading self help books, going to the therapy and reading about how to be a Buddhist  (which is such an excellent idea,) shows that we don’t quite have it right.

We like Farm to Table.  That’s great.  This place we’re going out tonight at Revival Bar and Kitchen in Berkeley for Tobi’s Birthday is all about farm to table.  In the Middle Ages, people were all about Farm to Table too.  I’m not laughing at, I’m not dissing it.  I think that just because you eat organic produce, you are not necessarily a better person.  Just because you know about art, music, literature, doesn’t make you smarter or cooler.

There aren’t enough smart people with quick interesting minds though, that’s a fact.   As I get older, I want to accept everyone just the way we are, but I also think that there is a shorter list of people I want to spend intense time with.  In college, I could hang out with anyone who wanted to have a margarita.  Now, I want conversations and what I really like is to talk about books.  Not what I can do for them.  Just books and life and the universe.

Back at the French Hotel

I love Berkeley, the sunshine bouldering through the clouds the way it just can’t seem to do in other parts of the city.  I love Andronico’s which is a way better grocery store than any we have in our neighborhood with amazing cheese.  What I like best about Berkeley is the feeling that people are not trying to be perfect all the time.  Los Angeles can be quite exhausting.  Off to Santa Fe tomorrow for the reading at Opcit.  Right now is perfect.

Published in: on October 24, 2014 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Off to Santa Fe


This Sunday I am reading in Santa Fe and it’s going to be great. I am flying on Saturday to New Mexico.
Today’s reading with Andrew Lam was amazing. We rocked Santa Cruz! And then we went out with a bunch of students and faculty afterward for Chinese food at Shun Feng. Karen Tea Yamashita was there and she is a great writer; she teaches creative writing at UC Santa Cruz. We are staying at a place called Sea and Sand. It’s a very cool little hotel overlooking the ocean.

Andrew commented that in the East, people care about money and that in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh is unknown. I found that interesting. We search for what we do not have. We reach for what we do not have. The West is oozing with consumer goods made in China while the East is ready for the triumph of financial success. We want what we do not have.

Tomorrow we’re staying at the French Hotel in Berkeley and going to Revival with Tobi and Molly for Tobi’s birthday. We will have a grand time. It’s been good to get away. To get some rest, hear the waves and breathe. New Mexico with Darlene and Santa Fe reading!

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bitterness does not become you

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In Greece you see the widows everywhere dressed in black.  They are waiting to die.  They walk slowly in the spring air, out into the rock salt hills, they collect eggs from their chicken and milk from their goats. They make cheese and bread, and they regret the husbands who died long ago and the children who moved to America.  Around them the air breathes.

A lot of writers are like that.  They carry bitterness with them in pails like water.  Up hills and down them, splashing a little bitterness here or there on their shoes, on the rocks, on their feet, into the warm soil.  They say, I deserve better.  What they mean is that mediocre writers everywhere are winning prizes and getting jobs, being offered all kinds of juicy teaching positions and riding on elephants.  Okay, not riding on elephants, but you get the idea.  It looks like everyone around you is riding on elephants and you keep walking along on the jungle floor being eaten by ants.  And you know, for a fact that you too deserve an elephant ride and for the life of you, you can’t figure out why aren’t you getting one? So you get bitter.

I hear writers talking down the “big” writers with prizes, publications and tenured jobs.  I’ve heard myself make these remarks in the past, but now I just pass on it.  My life is a kite in the sky.  I’ve had a lot of love and a lot of sky.  I have nothing to be bitter about.  I feel gratitude that I’ve gotten to be part of the dance even though I’m not a very great dancer.

Bitterness does not become you.  It doesn’t become anyone.  One never wishes one could spend more time with someone who is bitter and one rarely wishes to help that person.  You want to get away.

Who knows what we deserve?  Maybe the problem is that we all think we deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I hear writers tell me what they should have.  Go get it I think.  Do I look like I have a Pulitzer in my back pocket?  I don’t have a Pulitzer, I’m not even on the prize committee.  I don’t have a tenured job.   Whining is never getting you anywhere, so when you hear yourself starting to feel bitter, do what I do.  I remind myself of how much fun my life is.  Of how many great friends I have and of how the air smells in the morning when I go out into the front yard.  The roses are in bloom, and these mornings, the air is damp and the fog is sweet along the streets, brushing the branches like the trees and the clouds are in love.

Published in: on October 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paper or Plastik Café

I spoke with Dana Gioia’s class on Arts leadership at USC and had lunch at the University Club.  I saw Morten Lauridsen there and I was so excited to see him because I when I hear his music, I feel joy.  The class was great; the students very engaged intellectuals.  I gave them the history of Red Hen Press and they asked excellent questions about organizational work and intellectual activity and how all that fits together at a non profit press.  Now I am at Paper and Plastik Café and will soon be meeting with Cecilia Woloch and Brendan Constantine.  It’s an excellent little café full of people working on their laptops and quite a number of them appear to be doing homework.

The food looks outstanding.  I really want some of their caramels but they are ridiculously expensive.  They have foods like Fig and Olive Tapenade and pickled green tomatoes on ricotta toast which sounds highly unusual.  I bought some tea for Mark as he needs a constant supply of black teas.  We leave tomorrow night for Santa Cruz and we’ll be up there for a couple days.

The press is hopping.  It feels like we are all on fire and it’s sort of a non stop roller coaster.  I wouldn’t mind getting off it once in a while and getting in touch with the ground, but that’s obviously too much to ask.  It feels like we are all working at full tilt as we approach the biggest literary event we’ve ever had.  It’s touch and go on this one, and I can only hope that all this runs smoothly.  Mark is working on books, the anniversary staff are clicking away on the timeline for the event.  It’s a time of stress and work, not play.  But, we will get through it and come out the other side flying, singing and dancing. That’s just me joking around.  We’re not going to be doing anything like that until the press closes for the holidays in December.  Then we can drink some champagne.

Dana talked with his students today about gratitude.  There is a shortage of that in the literary world.  You give up everything to make a difference, to publish books that are being ignored and afterward you have to kind of clap for yourself because otherwise there isn’t much clapping.  But fortunately, we are rather centered people.  We keep living in grace and that’s the best you can do as an arts administrator.

Published in: on October 21, 2014 at 2:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Red Hen Press anniversary event


This 20th anniversary luncheon celebration is the biggest party we’ve ever thrown, and we at Red Hen like a good party. Writers/actors who have attended Red Hen’s readings and luncheons in the past include: Virginia Madsen, Billy Collins, Viggo Mortensen, Ray Bradbury, Mark Strand, Yusef Komunyakaa, Toi Derricotte, Robert Olen Butler, Joy Harjo, Ishmael Reed and the list goes on.
This year we have Pete Fromm, Sharon Olds, Richard Blanco and Pam Houston. We’re getting pretty excited as the day gets closer. I even bought a special dress for the occasion. Every waking moment I am trying to remember what I might have forgotten about the planning.

We did a tasting at the Westin so I feel good about the food, but I want everything to be perfect and if not perfect, then super fun. Tobi and Molly are coming and Stephen as well. Mark’s son Jared is coming. Douglas Kearney, Brendan Constantine, Nicelle Davis. Amy Gerstler, Dana Gioia, Mark Doty and Ron Carlson. It’s going to be stellar.

When I was responsible for the food, flowers and decoration, I had 99 red balloons on the ceiling because who didn’t like that song? But with our amazing committee there will be champagne and orchids of longing everywhere. There will be music and there will be books. The auction items include travel and jewelry, art and a Kindle. We are going to rock Pasadena.

One year after the anniversary event, I agreed to do a meeting on Sunday night. It was a big mistake. Even with my phone, I could not find my way and I remember when I arrived at the meeting with this very beautiful woman and my friend was there being very nice about the fact that I was so crazed my brain was rolling around on the restaurant floor. Never again. Now, we go out for a family event the night of the big anniversary event and no brains are necessary. That is such a good ad for a vacation. No brains are necessary. I like the idea of going on a vacation where your brain can go off someplace by itself and not bother anyone while you hike, swim, relax, drink, sleep, write, but write without thinking. If you think, they are edible thoughts which are the best kind of thoughts.

My friend Nicelle gave me caramels after our reading in Salt Lake and I am still thinking about them. Lisa gave me some when we were in London. I plowed through them like a little snow plow. I have a ridiculous addiction to caramels especially with sea salt.

Come to the Red Hen anniversary event. There will be caramel. There will be books and magic and fun. You don’t want to miss it. All the stories in the world swooping like great gulls in the washed light of morning light; they swerve, smudging the sand with their shadow, lifting the air with their sky dreams.

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Who do you admire?, Parachute time

We all have our own role models, our people who we want to be when we grow up.  As a twenty something, I wanted to be Bette Midler.  I remember telling someone and she laughed at me.  You’re a tall blond Swede who wants to be short and Jewish?

I never had noticed that she was short and I didn’t know she was Jewish but I’ve always wanted to be Jewish because then I’d be one of the chosen ones, plus I’d be super smart and I’d have a back story.  I wanted to be Bette Midler because she has pizzazz.  She is not a smudge on the perfectly formed landscape, she is electric in her bones.  She is fully alive.  That’s what I want.

I still like Bette Midler.  People I have met in my life and would like to be like:  Peggy Shumaker, Joe Usibelli, Ben Saltman, my grandfather Gus Swanson, Blasé Bonpane and his wife Theresa, both my kids Tobi and Stephen because they are fearless.  People who I would like to be more like:  the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Frida Kahlo, and Cindy Sherman. It’s all about being creative, being a great leader, and having grace. I believe in grace.  I believe in kindness.  My friends Darlene and Lisa have enormous grace and wisdom.  I could use more wisdom.  I sometimes make decisions with my stomach when I should get my brain involved.  I am all about heart decisions, but I’m getting better.

It was an interesting reading last night at the King’s English.  They were so nice to us! It was amazing, I love the people at that bookstore.  The audience was mostly Nicelle’s friends and family.  Nicelle’s son JJ was there and he was so happy to see me and I got him some books which he needed, and he was being super good.  Nicelle’s family were so glad to see JJ too.

It’s weird when you travel and do readings how chilly the whole thing is in some ways.  When I was in Minneapolis, Jen picked me up at the airport and we went off to lunch and then we hung out together at her house and we went out to meetings and readings and it was a girl party and when I do readings in New Mexico, Darlene and I are hanging out. But if you drop into a town where you don’t have buddies, it feels like you are a parachute jumper.  You parachute in, you hang out in your room, you do your reading and that part is exciting and then you sip your warm coffee in the morning if you are lucky enough to have coffee and you get dropped at the curb and then you parachute out.

Next week when I go to Phoenix and Tuscon, I will be staying with Peggy and we will hang out and it will be like home away from home. We talk about our lives and who we are and where we are and what we’re working on.  I like reading places where your home girls show up and you’re still home, but a lot of times readings and workshops and talks are parachute time.  Be glad you have a parachute that works both ways, you fly in, and you fly out and then you tap your red shoes and say, There’s no place like home.  I’m flying back to Los Angeles right now.

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Red Hen Press Champagne Anniversary is coming up! Do Not Miss It!

Landed in Utah at 2:30.  I always forget how dry it is here.  You can see from the air how stark and beautiful the valley is cupped into the mountains.

The reading tonight is at 7 pm so Kate Coles dropped me at her club downtown and took off.  It’s a nice room with high ceilings. I exited in search of food.  I ran five miles this morning and never got around to eating so I wanted something yummy.  I didn’t find anything yummy, but I found food.  Right across from my room is the Utah Republican party headquarters.  I walked past that and past the Joseph Smith building and found a café with some packaged food and bought a salad.  Sometimes anything is so much better than nothing.

The air seems very clear here.  The Mormon temple is impressive.  The city is cool and flat, and I will be home tomorrow.

Darlene asked me if I am excited about our 20th anniversary coming up, and I am.

This week, I am pretty excited about speaking at USC on Tuesday and at UC Santa Cruz on Thursday, two nights in Santa Cruz and then we are staying at the French Hotel in Berkeley and celebrating Tobi’s birthday which is actually on Halloween.

Then I fly to Albuquerque to hang out with my friends Darlene and Steve and read at Op Cit with Red Mountain authors and Ron Koertge.

On Halloween I’ll be reading in Phoenix and then Tuscon with Peggy Shumaker and Cynthia Hogue.

Then Bogota and Cartagena Columbia for the International Women’s Poetry Conference.

Then Colorado College where David Mason teaches.

Then the amazing Red Hen Press anniversary event.

Sometimes I think I can only get excited about so many things at once.  But I am already excited about Thanksgiving because we are going to have eight or ten of us and it will be great plus that will be a few days that I can breathe/think. I like breathing days.

The AROHO party/meeting was great, and seeing Tobi and Steve this week and then hanging with Darlene and then with Peggy is going to be amazing.  Life is beautiful.

But, back to that anniversary event.  It is going to be awesome and we are running out of seats/tables.  All four of these readers are going to rock your socks.  Be ready to be amazed.  We still have a few seats and one gold table.  So buy yours today.  See you on November 16th!

Published in: on October 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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