If too many people like it, it’s just not that cool

If too many people like a thing, it’s not worth liking. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. I told someone today that I like Samuel Barber’s “Adagio in Strings,” and he replied, “You and millions of other people.” That got me thinking, he might be right! If you like something too many other people like, it’s simply not worth liking. If you like Pierce Brosnan, so what? If you think the dwarf in Lord of the Rings is cool, that’s kinky.

If you like Bjork or 50 Cent or Tupac, so what? You are just not that cool. If you like some musician who just started to play music the last couple months, you must be super cool.

If you like baseball, millions of others like baseball too. But baseball isn’t considered culturally important. If you like a book, a painting, a piece of music and millions of others do too, then you have weak taste.

Anything that’s really cool, and I mean super cool, there are only about ten people who like it. If you like the Mona Lisa, that makes true art lovers scoff. You like some obscure poet in Wayne, Nebraska, some odd painter in Dutch Harbor, Alaska? Now that’s cool.

Mary Oliver and Billy Collins are the most popular poets in America and for that alone there must be haters.

I want to be cool so I try not to develop a fondness for any book more than ten people have read, any piece of music after five people listen to is just old and tired for me. I’m on the other side of cool. I’m developing a new brand of cool and as for fashion, I’m inventing it as we speak.

Published in: on December 2, 2014 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

what is your no fly zone?

hh 227

This week I am going to Chicago for our sales meeting.  I like Chicago in he springtime when the flowers open and the trees push out and that very male city is momentarily verdant, but still smelling of coffee and scotch all the time.  In winter it’s cold and I will miss my gloves which I left in a cab in St. Louis.  In winter Chicago smells of a cold snow and bites your cheeks.

In working on a character in your writing, think about what their no fly zone is.  Some people are all no fly zone.  So much of their life is not to be discussed with anyone, not to be dealt with.  What is your no fly zone?  And is it no fly with everyone?    I know people whose life is one big no fly zone.

I’m trying to gather up my energy here but now as I get ready to finish the semester, but everything keeps drifting around me and my energy is moving slowly like particle waves.  I need to gather it like sunlight on a hot day.  It’s been raining here, which is absolutely incredible.  Rain in Southern California. Wet clouds opening.  I’ll sleep and walk outside into mist.

Published in: on December 1, 2014 at 9:28 pm  Comments (1)  

I have a book to finish.

kitty 044

Thinking about the book and avoiding the book is taking most of my energy and time now that my book tour for the poetry books is over. I will finish it. But finishing a book isn’t easy. You tend to keep clawing at it. You keep biting it and chewing it. I want to make sure that the book has everything it should and not too much of anything.

At the end of the year, we have a big party for the staff, and I look forward to that. It’s usually at Mijares in Pasadena where they bring us pitchers of margaritas and the food is pretty good. Then we close the office for a couple weeks for the holidays. This is a good thing for all of us. We need to not think about Red Hen all the time. When we do think about Red Hen when we’re not there, we think differently, better.

When you have a non profit company, it gets complicated. There’s the way it works on the inside and the way it works on the outside. The inside and the outside are two different parts but they work together. It likes one of those cool clocks that sit on the mantelpiece, everything inside the clock has to work well or it’s no good. But when you look at the clock from the outside, you can see things you can’t see from the inside of the clock. If you have the right people in your life, they help you see the clock from the outside while you live inside it.

But the fact is that we all like to give advice. We can see other people’s problems much more clearly than we can see our own. It’s much easier to give advice than to take it.

Okay, last thing on my mind as we near Christmas. Families. It’s weird how when you get to be around family members, you sometimes find yourself in deep. Families can be crazy. And for some reason holidays are a time when you get to remember just how crazy they are. Most families have someone who isn’t speaking to someone else for some very good reason. It’s one of the mysteries of human existence that we can’t simply drop whatever we’re pissed off about. We humans seem to like carrying luggage. Often the other people that we’re pissed off at have no idea what we’re pissed off about.

I am going to finish this book. I need to wrap my head around it. It’s a lot easier to get going on a book than it is to finish one. The last stages are crazy making. But I am going to get this finished. I keep saying that I’m going to celebrate when. When this book is finished. When it gets accepted. When it gets published. When. When. When.

Published in: on November 30, 2014 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Accidental Sexism

kitty 049

Can you be an accidental sexist, an accidental racist, an accidental homophobe? Not unless it’s already inside you. Almost everyone harbors some prejudice which grows out of fear. We fear that which we do not understand. Sexism comes from an underlying fear that women might know more than you know, might be better than you. Psychologists talk about hostile sexism versus what they call “benevolent sexism.”

Benevolent sexism is when a man says something like, Women shouldn’t have more than one more drink. They get sloppy.

Do they now? As soon as you have us and them, you’re in a sexist world. Them defines prejudice.

You need to change your name. My name will do for both of us.

A name isn’t a gift. We all have a name that we were born with. We get that name right in the hospital, and there is no reason for us to give that name up just because some guy came along.

When a man says, Don’t worry about your achievements, you have wonderful children, that’s sexist.

Don’t worry about writing poetry, that child of yours is a poem.

Casual sexism is when you make decisions about your family without consulting your wife. It’s when you walk around the house and you can’t really see any signs that your wife made any of the decisions about the place.

When you say, I wish she would be quiet, that’s casually sexist.

When you say, “Is that buzzing an idea in your head?” that’s sexist.

Benevolent sexism is still sexism and we’re just talking about actual comments. What you see much more often is the kind of casual sexism where men just don’t give women room in the world. My favorite book on this subject is still Deborah Tannen’s Men and Women You Just Don’t Understand. Tannen shows throughout the book that in public men simply out talk women and we women have been conditioned to expect it. We listen, we cock our heads back, and we listen and then we smile. We smile up into their faces and drink their words down like vodka.

The main point Tannen makes is this:
For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships … For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order.

When you have a conversation with a man at home, you can get words in but in public, women listen to men. Women talk to create connective tissue between them, we exchange stories, we create threaded reasons to be part of each others’ lives. What men mostly do when they talk at you in public is they try to establish how important they are. And if they’re so much more important than we are, then we are not connected at all. We’re other.

We have to do a better job of moving toward real communication. Men need to listen. Think before you speak. Why are you saying this? Is this a way of establishing dominance or creating a connection? Must you dominate? Casual sexism is still sexism. In a future world, more men will want to live with women as equals, one hopes.

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why did we invent God?

mm 002

Why did we invent God?
Because humans were lonely in the universe.
Because we wanted to know what happens when we die.
Because the smartest people wanted to have a way to control the other members of the tribe.

It was an amazing Thanksgiving, great family time. Great food. I love our family.

And we saw Interstellar today which we very much liked. We liked the science and dream of it. Of course it was too long, all the big film makers begin to make films that are too long, Peter Jackson maybe more than most. Jackson is in the extreme. But this movie takes science and big and life issues.

The movie takes on big ideas: Is there a God? Spoiler alert. The answer is no. We do it all ourselves. We have to figure it all our ourselves, the questions and the answers. We need no god.

More big ideas in this movie that you may or may not agree with:

Love. That strange thing that ties us to each other. Love that tangled web we weave is what matters more than anything.

The biggest love of all is the love that parents have for their kids, or at least it should be.

I like that idea but it’s not always true. I think that once you have kids you should love them, once you have kids, they should be the big love, once you have kids you should not marry something who your kids don’t get along with. If you walk away from your kids, you’re going to be unhappy for the rest of your life. But some people do, they walk away from their children and never look back.

So this movie is idealistic in some ways. We might like the idea that love is big, that love for your children is the biggest, and that we don’t need God. But that’s so rarely true. Big love does make for a big movie. Let’s race through time with our arms open.

Published in: on November 28, 2014 at 7:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and the kids are going to be with us. What’s the perfect Thanksgiving without having your kids? May there be champagne. May there be great love because we all need more of it. I am grateful for my children for being wonderful and for loving me. I am grateful for a few good friends, for trees and sky, for times when I don’t have anything that I have to do. May there be more of them. Tonight we start with the pies. Tomorrow morning I’ll go for a run before I start cooking. Don’t know how far just so I get going on the running.

Books worth reading:
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Patter by Douglas Kearney
Lila by Marilyn Robinson
Hum by Jamaal May
The New Testament by Jericho Brown

Articles worth reading:
Blackness as the Second Person by Claudia Rankine


When a Child Kills


Gang Rape at UVA


Ursula K. LeGuin’s speech


Evidence of Things Unsaid


Published in: on November 26, 2014 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Great reading with Shelly Savren and Maxine Hong Kingston!

kitty 078

Now that this book tour has ended, I am going to finish this book/books and get going on my running, Pilates and some serious Mark/Kate party time. I like feeling the very edges of my life spilling over the edge like the old maps where you could sail to the end of the world and over the edge there be dragons, serpents, all kinds of big slimy creatures and the dark. That’s where I like to go, down over the edge into the dark thinking place.

I’m planning some writing retreats in 2015, some friend time, writing time, dream time, and time with my kids. Mark and I are going to have some crazy great time. I want to drink champagne and run on the beach, and all that stuff. I’m going to run like a maniac, and do Pilates like a maniac. Maybe not a maniac.

But the book tour was roaring fun. Because people like the Goldilocks Zone and it’s fun to read from. And the Echo Light book is good. Reading last night with Ron Kortge and Bill Trowbridge was amazing. They were so much fun.

Now I want to buy a Christmas tree and have the kids decorate it the day after Thanksgiving. When they were little, the bottom half of the tree was decorated and the cats would sabotage those ornaments and there would be glass shards all over the floor and they would keep putting up more for the cats to pull down.

They were crazy kids and they made Mark crazy. Especially Steve. Steve would get into trouble at school and once even kicked a kid at the playground who was being mean to his sister. “Why’d you do that?” “He had it coming,” Steve said.

My ex and I were trouble makers. We had it coming, these crazy kids. But Mark had been a good kid, he didn’t know what hit him. They’re grown up now and it’s still a lot of fun. Mark and I like adventures. Here’s to holidays, writing, beaches, champagne, and having fun times with our kids.

Published in: on November 24, 2014 at 10:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Book Tour ending with a splash



There will be more book events in spring. Austin, Charlottesville, Boston, conferences in Boston, Mendocino, Ghost Ranch, but nothing like this. 2015 will seem like a sabbatical year after 2014. And yet, it’s been glorious. Hanging in different cities with my home girls: Terri Grimm, Karen Shoemaker, Darlene Chandler Bassett, Mary Johnson, Jen Kohan, Peggy Shumaker, Nicelle Davis, Cynthia Hogue, my daughter and daughter-in-law, Tobi and Molly, it’s been glorious connecting with so many writers and the big readings with Gregory Orr, Ursula LeGuin and Maxine Hong Kingston are really fun too and make me feel like I can pretend I’m a bigwig too. Speaking of wigs, if I wore a big wig, could I be a bigwig? That’s one of those phrases you never have to ask for the origin. You know it. A big wig was someone with a big wig.

If I am ever important to people outside my familia, I’ll walk down 5th avenue and I’ll sing out loud. But until then, I’m content knowing that we’ll all be hanging together for Thanksgiving a mash of stories, language, joy, great food and wine. Also tequila.

All my friends who have made this book tour magical, thank you! Karen and Terri you rock! Dave Mainelli for setting up this event in Omaha, Chad for the event in Wayne. Peggy for making Arizona fun. Cynthia! you rock. Darlene for everything. Mary, you held my hand.

And Mark! I’m coming home Monday!

Published in: on November 22, 2014 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  



I can’t wait. Tobi and Stephen haven’t both been here for Thanksgiving for three years and this year, they will be here and Jared for Thanksgiving and for Christmas we’ll have Jared and Kelly, Tobi and Molly, and Stephen so we are going to have a great time. Our family is crazy fun to be around. Movies, food, wine, tequila, pies, turkey, stories, magic.

But for Thanksgiving, here is what I am looking forward to:
Hanging with the family.
Four whole days that I don’t have to drive anywhere.
The food.
Molly’s dad Mark and Jared and Stephen playing music and jamming.
Running every morning.
Getting caught up on sleep.
Finishing my book.
Going to see Interstellar and Mark says we are going to Fury as well.

The dinner plans:
Lime/garlic soup
Stuffed pasillas
Squash and sweet potatoes
Green rice
Cranberries—both kinds
Orange cranberry relish
Tortillas and rolls
For dessert
Pumpkin, pecan and cherry pies

My favorite parts:
Turkey drumsticks

In case you haven’t planned your Thanksgiving yet, remember this. It’s your meal. You should just make whatever you like eating. We like turkey and some of our family members are ridiculous about stuffing, but we try to make whatever we all like.

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why Southwest Airlines is way better than Frontier, why American sucks

hawaii7 010

  1. The peanuts. It seems small but they give you peanuts.
  2. The other free snacks they give you like cheese crackers, cookies or Chex Mix. (I prefer the Jet Blue chips and Southwest needs a red chips.)
  3. The free soda, juice etc.
  4. They are nice to you!
  5. They let you bring 2 bags for free.

Why Frontier sucks.

  1. The Frontier staff go to a little kick-the-customer’s ass training and it shows. They like to snap at you like they’re a German shepherd and you’re a Frisbee. It’s downright uncomfortable.  However, there are no flight attendants and airline staff as well trained in ass kicking as American Airlines.  Their training isn’t the customer is always right. It’s more like F@# the customer.  You knew better than to fly with us in the first place. We don’t like our customers and people know that so if you chose to fly American, that’s your personal problem, clearly you have issues with masochism and they have problems with sadism so there you are a match made in the skies.  A German shepherd with a Frisbee is nothing.  American Airlines staff laugh at such amateurish notions.  They up the ante.  “Do I  get a hotel to stay in?” I asked an American Airline attendant in DFW after they stranded me there.  She pulled out a blanket and tossed it at me. I caught it before it hit my face. “Take a blanket,” she said.  Vouchers are unknown to them. But back to Frontier.  They’re no slouch in the rude department. Last week when I was flying them, I was taking only my laptop and purse to Colorado.  You know my motto, “Do I look fantastic in this dress now? Yes?  Pretty sure I’m going to look fantastic in it again tomorrow morning.”  The lady at Frontier was trying to argue with me that she was going to charge me to check the laptop because it wouldn’t fit on the plane.  Seriously?
  2. The only free thing on a Frontier flight is the water. They charge you for TV which is free on Virgin, Jet Blue and Delta, so the TV is useless.  They charge you for crackers, cookies, peanuts and every ounce of luggage.
  3. Rumor is they are thinking of charging for each block of toilet paper. Can’t you see some lady hustling down to buy four squares for her husband who forgot his wallet?  It makes me laugh to think about it.  Avoid Frontier and American Airlines.  That’s my advice.
  4. The nice domestic airlines are Jet Blue and Virgin followed by Delta and Southwest.
  5. The nice international airlines ? I love British and Singapore and Lufthansa. I hear good things about Quantas.  Next time I’m going Down Under, I’m going to try it.  Iceland and New Zealand have nice airlines too.  Mark did not enjoy the Russian airlines.  He complained that the food was inedible and the lights and television didn’t work.  Plus, he had to stop off in the Ukraine for 17 hours.  Hey, I had to layover in Istanbul.  But Turkish Airlines is really nice. The little Irish airline Aer Lingus serves a lot of booze.  Lufthansa too.  Americans don’t drink as much as they used to. Maybe they’re all smoking weed.  Hopefully not the captain on this flight though.  Fly safely, my friend.

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,326 other followers