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  

Kate Gale, Kate Coles, Nicelle Davis at the King’s English tomorrow night in Salt Lake City

Tuesday night amazing reading we packed the Annenberg Beach House, then great party at Barbara Abercrombie’s house right on the beach down from the pier.

Then teaching, then joining my AROHO peeps in Crestline for a two night one day meeting/party. We drank wine, ate Mexican food and figured out everything for the Ghost Ranch conference next year.

Today, breakfast in Crestline with Darlene. Darling town! I want a little house there, I want to run around Lake Gregory. I was in love with it. The clouds rising off the water, the moon dipping into the trees, the lake spread out like happiness.

Then down off the mountain, met my home girl Jodi for lunch, drove to Beverly Hills for tea with Elaine Attias who is so cool! And her house is lovely. And now I’m in Larchmont at Peets getting ready to meet my home girl Susie in Koreatown at the Korean spa. She’ll want to drink afterward. Mark will want me to come home.

Flying to Salt Lake tomorrow for this reading. Sunday night going to the Master Chorale. I never say, I wish I was doing something more exciting. It all feels like a tango, maybe a waltz.

Published in: on October 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Red Hen Press: Genevieve Kaplan, Jessica Piazza, Leia Penina Wilson, Mary Johnson

Reading at the Annenberg Beach House tomorrow night

A Room of Her Own, To the Lighthouse winners

6:30-8 pm

We need to write more love letters

IMG_0161You will soon find more adventure in life


That’s what my fortune cookie said.  I don’t think that’s a good idea for me.  I think any more adventure and I’m going to be completely done in.  I like my adventurous life, but it’s a little exhausting.


We had a good dinner party last night.  Mary Johnson came over with her friends Carol and Bruce and Percival Everett and my friend Elise Capron.  Feeling energetic after my recent trip to Frankfurt followed by being ill, followed by an early five mile run, I did most of the cooking.  I wanted to do some baking for dessert.  Mark said, you aren’t going to want to do that, I said yes, I will. But he was right, by the time I was cooking the chicken and making the soup, baking was out of the question.  My friend Lisa is a really good baker and she likes it, but I am a slow little baker and even more pathetic as a candlestick maker. 


At this point, I am so tired that I can’t believe I am still sitting at my desk, but there isn’t anywhere else to sit.  I think that writing letters is under rated and we should all write more love letters.


If you were going to write a love letter, who would you write it to?  I could write love letters to many people.  Writers who stories hang with me, artists who make me happy.  Composers, activists.  And of course, my actual friends and family.


What about hate letters?  Who would you write a hate letter to? I wouldn’t write to anyone.  There isn’t anyone I hate.  There are people I might not want to go on a canoe trip with, but I don’t hate them. 


Rumpus contributor Steve Almond self-published a collection of hate mail that was sent to him (along with his responses) entitled Letters From People Who Hate Me. You can read Almond’s argument for self-publishing here. The following is an excerpt from his book:


Dear Asshole,

You are a fucking idiot!! And your daughter in the picture on your website looks like a maggot!You are a disgraceful american and it would have been so nice if you had been a passenger on one of the planes that crashed into one of the wtc towers on 9/11/01.




Dear J.,

Okay, you got me. My daughter does have kind of a maggoty look to her. For a while there, my wife and I were able to delude ourselves. I guess all parents do. We’d tell people her skin was alabaster, or sometimes pearlescent. We thought it might be the kind of soap we were using. But I think in our heart of hearts we knew something was wrong with her.

Then came her first interaction with carrion. There was some kind of dead animal in our backyard. My wife says it was a rabbit, but I’m almost certain it was an opossum. Anyway, Josephine somehow got wind of it and we found her out there, burrowing into the thing’s eye socket. The neighbors came out to watch. It was kind of awkward.

I guess it would be sort of like if you, Joseph Kelly, found yourself talking to some buddies at a party and you said, “You know that guy Steve Almond. I totally wish he’d been killed in the 9/11 attacks.”

And this voice behind you says, “Yeah, totally. We should have killed that filthy infidel Almond!” And you turn around, hoping to maybe give the guy a high-five, only to discover that it’s Osama bin Laden.

Published in: on October 13, 2014 at 11:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Princess Flowers

I ran five miles and made breakfast and am judging prizes and we are having a dinner party tonight.

Mark went to the market for our supplies.

A princess flower is what we need in the back yard, I told him.

Also known as the glory bush.

I tell myself to live with grace.

Which means breathing, getting enough sleep.

When I deplaned, I felt like I was dying, but I didn’t die.  Mark dropped me at shiatsu

and after a long time at CJs, where they give you acupressure,

I started to feel

like I could move.

Rag doll to Olympian.

I feel like a polar bear.  I want to sit around on an ice shelf and eat fish.9721_15203 images

Published in: on October 12, 2014 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

How do you feel about your parents?

While I wait at airports, I like to listen to listen to jazz. Today, standing at the Frankfurt Airport, since our flight was a couple hours late, I listened to Chris Tarry.  Which kind of says to me, Be cool, you got this.  It’s going to be a long flight, but you are already there.  Chris has a lilting joy in his music, very cool joy.

On long flights, as I’ve pointed out, my tendency is to watch one movie after another and on the flight from Germany, I ended up watching Malefecent.  It was kind of cool that the bad guy was the main guy in District 9.  The movie was a good kid movie.  I also saw this movie Middleton with Andy Garcia.  I asaw Queen Victoria which Mark would not have been keen on, about her romance with Albert, it was kind of cool, Emily Blunt was so great in it, I love watching her.  Then I saw Neighbors which was ridiculously perverse.  I am pretty sure my kids would love that movie.  It’s a frat house movie but very well done for a frat house movie.  I cannot think of any smart adults who would admit to seeing it.  It’s kind of the same kind of humor as the movie Ted, so if you liked Ted, rush right out.

Let’s go back to Middleton. Andy Garcia is so very cute, but this movie’s awfully thin on plot.   One thing that’s scary sad in the movie is the whole part where this young girl is so excited to meet this brilliant white old male professor played by Tom Skerritt.  Scary.  Although I love when they start to talk about Chomsky.  These parents are taking their kids to a very white liberal arts college that costs 43K a year.  The weird thing is that the girl is super mean to her mom and tells her mom she is determined to go to college so she won’t end up selling furniture like her mom does.  My kids wouldn’t say that to me whether that is true or not.  The girl really wants to study with this one professor and she finds out he is going to be on sabbatical for four years, she is really angry.  I was never that intense about college, and maybe that was part of the problem.

I would like to say that there was a master plan to accomplish a lot and have a career and then I strayed from the master plan, but there really was no master plan that got trashed.  I think it’s easier if there never was a master plan.   They can do it.  But as they breeze past like the hare jogged past the tortoise, I want them to be super nice to me.  When I see kids bully their parents or ignore their parents, I think This is it kids.  These are your only parents.  And they’re just getting older.  You’ve now managed to miss their early fifties and they’re changing; do you know who they are any more.  I’m glad I went to see my mother.  We’ve missed thirty-three years, and I don’t know what happens next but whatever happens, I am ready and best of all, I have my kids to have adventures with me.  They love me and they are kind to me and there’s still time.  I might surprise myself and have a career.  I hear good things about careers.

Published in: on October 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Last comments on Frankfurt

I found a good Italian restaurant where they were super nice to me and since I couldn’t read the menu, I just told them foods I like and they made me pasta and sea food and then gave me angel food cake. The Germans are pretty nice. So weird to scarf down carbs. That’s going to stop when I land on American soil.

On Lufhansa they treat you like you are important. They check your passport eleven times at the airport, okay, I’m exaggerating, only about seven times. But still. The Germans are careful.

Also, German men like me. I’m not kidding, I’m going to bet that in China or Japan, I wouldn’t be the flavor of the month as I would tower over most males, but here in Germany I look like a healthy German woman of substance and I’m always showing off my legs. Sad to say I’m not attracting the same attention on the coasts of my own country. I think that’s my problem. It isn’t that I’m not skinny enough, I’m just living in the wrong part of the country, wrong part of the world or the wrong era. Let’s face it, in the days of Renoir, I’d be modeling for the great painters. Wait, weren’t the models mostly prostitutes? Right, okay, the painters would be longing to have me as a model but I’d be too classy to take off my clothes for them. Stop laughing Mark, I am classy sometimes.

Back to Germany. It is grey and wet here in October, but I think that Germany would be a lot more fun if I were with someone else. By yourself, it feels too much like the East Coast, walking in the rain, kicking up the leaves munching the fall apples which smell great, but still, Frankfurt is a lonely business.

And now I’m going home. For those of you who have not done enough international flights, you get on the plane and you have eleven or twelve hours and for some reason, it’s hard to sleep and it’s hard to work, and it’s hard to think so you go into this bizarre zone. Like you just lost those hours, like they were zoomed out of your life, like you’re in a strange luminous nether world, you are this numinous being hanging in space thinking deep thoughts that you won’t remember afterward. I think of that zone as the Oceanic fugue state since I am always flying over large oceans. In Frankfurt, people are always inviting me to visit. Come to Zurich, come to Finland, come to Tokyo. And I think I could get in another plane and float off into space.

In other countries, they like to check your suitcase if you don’t take your fluids out. I’ve gotten used to not taking them out because security in the U.S. doesn’t require it, so I have a policy, throw your panties on top so that when they open the suitcase, there they are. Panties give them pause. I’ll stop there. I think that’s a good note.

Published in: on October 10, 2014 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

What makes a person interesting?

We find people interesting who we have something in common with or are curious about.

People I usually find interesting if they aren’t weird, obnoxious or crazy:

  1. Smart people with big ideas, but not so many ideas that they never stop talking.
  2. If you don’t go anywhere, there’s less to think about.
  3. People who create things—art, music, books, plays, songs.
  4. People with lively curious minds. Quick wits. But it’s nice if their mind can rest once in a while. There is a crazy stage where your mind is like a flash pan.  Stuff always flashing in and out of it that’s pretty annoying.  At some point, I might want an omelet, which means the eggs need some time in the pan.
  5. People who are always changing and trying to find ways to be better human beings, but not changing all the time. There has to be a core self there.
  6. People who read widely. Intelligent books.
  7. People who know what is going on in the world and are interesting in finding more.
  8. People who are just fun to be around because they aren’t thinking of themselves all the time and they aren’t always working.
  9. People who can be in the moment and don’t have to post everything. Please tell me you don’t actually think Facebook is a real part of your life?  It’s like shaving your legs.  Don’t tell me about it.
  10. People who can relax once in a while. I learned that from my friend Jim, who had a writer we mutually knew stay at his house. She never relaxed, he told me.  She was always intense.  I got that.  Just breathe.

People I am not very interested in:

  1. That whole thing when older people only talk about their doctor visits and their health. Okay, if you are sick, I do care! But as you get older, talk about something else.  Knit for godsakes.
  2. People talking about television shows they watch, ditto sports.
  3. People who talk constantly about their remodel, kids, or new acquisitions.
  4. People who like to talk down to you and give you ideas for your life. As my daughter likes to say,  Excuse me, I didn’t realize you were going to advise me on my life.  Would you give me a minute so I can take notes?
  5. You’d think a certain amount of crazy would make someone more interesting but the fact is that you can be too weird/crazy. Or the wrong kind of crazy.  The kind where you think you’re the center of the known universe.
  6. Too much for me—people who constantly choose to make their life as chaotic as possible. I need a nap.
  7. People who give you way too much information. Whoa, info overload.  I do not need to know all that stuff you just told me.  We just met. Actually, even if we have known each other for years, slow down.
  8. It goes without saying that if you “tolerate” anybody, that means you have to think about it. We are way past tolerance my friend.  We’re embracing and celebrating. We’re all one people.  We are all Black. We are all poor.  We are all transgendered.  We believe in one God and many.  We are all Egyptians seeing everything and nothing.
  9. People who want to be indoors all the time. I need light.  Alaska may not work for me.
  10. People who never want to go anywhere. I want to go. My default is action.
Published in: on October 10, 2014 at 12:08 am  Comments (2)  

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