Are you staring at a screen too much?


1. Have you ever forgotten to brush your teeth because you woke up and got right to it?
2. Have you ever realized your sex life was suffering because you spent too much time on FB and other social networking sites?
3. Have you ever been annoyed with someone who claims you’ve lost touch with them because you are perfectly willing to hit “Like” on stuff they post on FB and that’s communication, right?
4. Have you ever realized that you’ve gotten used to watching family and friends updates on FB and you prefer that to actually meeting up with them?
5. Have you ever spent a weekend when you could be hiking, sailing, clubbing, getting laid, writing, dreaming, painting, etc just staring at a screen and woken up Monday morning to realize the weekend is gone?
6. Do you tell people that they aren’t well informed and by that you mean they don’t know what’s trending on Twitter?
7. Do you keep your phone next to you at all times?
8. Do you never turn your phone off?
9. Have you ever answered your phone at an intimate moment?
10. Do you have the phone with you when you are hanging out with your loved ones? Hint here, when you are actually with your family, you have everyone important to you in the room, you should be able to shut the thing off.
11. Do you have to warn your FB “friends” when you are going offline for a while?
12. Do have a panic attack when you don’t have access to your computer?
13. Would it kill you to have no access to your computer for twenty-four hours?
14. Do you pay money to have access to the internet when you are flying?
15. Do you find yourself scouring airports for places that you can plug in your computer even if you don’t have anything you have to do and could be getting a drink or reading a book?
16. Do you think of the internet as your main source of information?
17. Is it more fun to stare at a screen than to go outside and walk around, take a run, go to the park, take the dog for a walk, go out with friends, go to a bookstore—if you can find one–?
18. Do you need your phone to look things up to get through a simple conversation or can you just admit that you don’t know Jimmy Hendrix’ first album?
19. Are you lost without your phone and laptop?
20. Are you lost?
Unplugging is a good thing. Reading is a good thing. Missing a day at the screen is great especially if you actually do something. The screen is passive entertainment. Try for some active entertainment. Being someone’s friend means being in their presence. It means picking up the phone and hearing their voice. It means caring about their life in bigger chunks that the scraps we post to FB. You cannot raise a child unless you are present. You cannot know someone unless you are present. Be present in your life. It’s the only one you have.

Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 3:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Do Book Covers Matter? Do Fancy Panties Matter?

For those of you who want to read about fancy panties! Look at my blog on Huff Post!


Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Should we be international spies?, The Counselor

ghillsflowers 001

Do not believe Rotten Tomatoes. This movie is stylish, elegant and scary; it’s what great film making should be. Exquisitely filmed and acted, each scene beautifully done. When I think of movies that I could watch lots of times, say, when I’m home working, I could just put that movie on and have a good time watching them, I think of Ladykillers, Burn After Reading, Fisher King, Stranger than Fiction etc. Or possibly Sexy Beast or Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. This movie, The Counselor isn’t a movie you need to see over and over. You won’t ever forget this movie. The scenes will be etched forever on your irises.

You will remember this movie. You won’t understand everything that is happening. You won’t be able to follow everything in it; you won’t know what’s happening all the time. But what you don’t know will unravel around you and if you’re smart, you’ll get that this is a good movie. I generally like smart movies. I understood the movie Eyes Wide Shut which most Americans seemed to hate. It was about the idea that Americans are obsessed with monogamy and that fantasizing outside that paradigm is verboten and yet we all do it, we just don’t know what do about it. We don’t have a proper avenue for confession.

Cormac McCarthy does not understand women, nor do I think he even likes them, but Ridley Scott has made a good film based on the book which is somewhat less misogynistic than some of his other books.

I leave Friday for New Mexico to read at Bookworks, and then I fly to Seattle on Saturday where I meet with Kim Dower and we do a reading at Elliot Bay. On Sunday, I fly through Iceland to London where I meet with Mark. I told Mark that our meeting in London and flying in from different cities is super cool and it makes us like international spies. Mark said, Well, yeah but without the spying.
Details! Really, these are details. We could spy. I pointed out that out to him but he seemed to think that we had to have an idea about who we would be spying on or for. I guess that most spies have little spying goals which we don’t have. We like people watching though.

We stay in a cheaper part of London called Sussex Gardens. We started off there many years ago when we first started going to London and we kept going because I like getting up early and running or walking around Hyde Park. Sometimes early in the morning, they exercise the queen’s horses. She has a considerable stable, some really beautiful horses.

The only good food we have in London is Indian or Malaysian food. I’m not a fan of British pub food, but of course, the beer is nice. I plan to have a beer in London and celebrate the book fair and Red Hen selling the foreign rights to our books.

Maybe we should publish some books on international spies. I hear spying books are very popular.

Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

April Fools Day

pismo3 016

My next reading is Friday night in New Mexico. I am staying with my friend Darlene and doing a reading at Bookworks.

One of the first times I was in New Mexico, I went with my son Steve. Because of the song, “Albuquerque,” by Weird Al we needed to stay at the Holiday Inn and we needed to eat donuts. We had a good time at the Holiday Inn and even swam in the pool and in the morning we went shopping for glazed donuts. Steve and I have had some good times travelling. He usually forgot his underwear, socks, and toothbrush and could arrive almost anywhere with nothing but the clothes on his back and a guitar. We had some good times and this summer we are all going to meet up in Hawaii.

Kate Gale, The Goldilocks Zone
Start: 04/04/2014 7:00 pm
Goldilocks Zone explores the inventions of bridges, condoms, fireworks, and glass weaved into the stories of creative people teetering on the brink of disaster. But those lives are also immersed in light, love, joy, and madness, all the elements of a rich and wild inventive life.
Welcome to Kate Gale’s world. There are glass houses, a glass orchestra, sex on the roof.
“Kate Gale knows her Bible and plays whatever music she wants on that musical instrument–but her musica is always fresh, and it achieves wisdom.”–Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa
“The clipped jumpy rhythm of these poems with their sudden bursts of syntax prove repeatedly that Kate 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
Kate Gale is the managing editor and a member of the board of directors for Red Hen Press. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska. Kate is author and editor of several books, including Mating Season and Fishers of Men, and her work has been published in a variety of literary journals.

Published in: on April 1, 2014 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rest, the play, South Coast Rep, directed by Samuel D. Hunter.

yo 029

This is simply a wonderful play. Lynn Milgrim is the star of the show and she is ridiculously talented. Her acting just holds you. It’s mesmerizing. The story happens in an old folks home in Idaho. It’s a play about the way we drift through our life in small circles until we feel the walls closing in on us. It’s about the end of life, and about prayer and about what wishing won’t get you. My favorite line when this one’s guy’s questioning whether he can go to church, “Well, I don’t know. I believe in Evolution and I think gay people are just wonderful.” (not an exact quote) but that sums up the play. I want to have my cake and eat it. Rest is well worth seeing; it has a dark core and a huge heart.

The reading yesterday went well. Kim Dower came to hear me read which meant a lot. She comes to a lot of Red Hen readings and that makes me a big fan of Kim. When a writer comes to Red Hen readings that makes me know that that person is a player, someone who wants to be booked for Red Hen readings and continue to be a Red Hen author. Kim is a player, no doubt about it.

I leave on Friday for New Mexico where I will meet with Susan Gardner who is the editor of Red Mountain Press which is publishing Echo Light in September. I am reading at Bookworks in Albuquerque and then to Elliot Bay in Seattle to read with Kim Dower. Then to London for the London Book Fair. Which will involve a lot of work and hopefully a little bit of fun. I like London. It feels like New York, only bigger, the excitement thicker and older and more complicated just as New York feels like a grander older version of Los Angeles. L.A. feels so lightweight compared to London. Like everything that happened here is ephemeral.

I want to think that the light in Los Angeles is thick and golden and weighted but in actuality, light disappears. In London, there are just filaments of light coming in through the dark thick air. Last time we were there, we went to Keats’ house. I would never have found it, but I needed to see it so Mark figured out where it was and we went. I sat under the tree where allegedly he wrote “Ode to a Nightingale,” and the mist fell down around me. There was a light purple heather growing in the garden and a little bench which I tried out as well.

I did not write my own epic poems at Keats’ house, but I thought about poetry and the possibility of being epic which seemed close there like the damp air on my fingertips, I could almost feel it, and taste it. I could almost close my eyes and see greatness under my eyelids.

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

What story are you inside of?


And how do you get out?

Sometimes you hear someone talking about how their life isn’t really working out and you realize that they don’t know what story they are inside of. That’s why superhero and comic movies are so much fun. You get to realize that plot and story really matter. Are you the hero? Are you one of the guys with the red shirts in Star Trek? Those guys in the red shirts end up dead. As a writer, remember what story you are trapping your character in and think about whether they need a way out.

Big stories: The story of the boy and his father. The story of drama. Big drama.

The story of the two sons, one is loved, one is hated.

The story of the two daughters their father did not want.

The story of the man and the woman and the young girl who is taking that man away. You might want a different story, but if you are inside a story where you have taken a husband away from his adult wife and you are a child, that is a story. And there is no happy ending.

Your wife is supporting you and you are at home living off your spouse. That’s a story. Also not a happy one.

You are waiting for a man to come along and solve your problems. That’s an old story.

These are all big stories.

The ones which really annoy me:

1. The woman waiting for a man to solve her problems or save her or give her sex or in any way make her life perfect.
2. The girl who is waiting for her life to happen.
3. The person who is basically waiting for money to “happen.”
4. The younger woman/older man thing. Super annoying. Usually you have a younger woman who doesn’t want to have to work. She wants to latch onto an older man so that someone will make her dreams come true and buy her stuff. She pushes the wife aside and takes what she wants. It’s an old story, but I’m not sure it’s a good story.
5. Deciding the parents aren’t worth being in contact with. Seriously? What makes you so much better than your parents?
6. Praying for your life to be better.
7. Spending all your time waiting and/or reading romance novels.
8. Waiting for the end of the world, the Rapture.
9. Any world in which your primary world is waiting for something to happen instead of making something happen.
10. Waiting for love instead of making love happen.

Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rest at the South Coast Rep

hh 002 My daughter and I have always looked alike.

I am seeing a play called Rest tonight at the South Coast Rep.

“A retirement home in northern Idaho is shutting down. Only three patients remain—and one of them is lost. Gerald, 91 and suffering from dementia, has wandered off, leaving his wife Etta and her friend Tom. Remaining staff includes a new 20-year-old cook and two longtime employees, women suddenly faced with a crisis of their own. In the midst of a record-breaking blizzard, the search for Gerald takes an unexpected turn—as the others find themselves powerless in the face of an uncertain future. A tender and heartbreakingly funny new work by the playwright who has risen like a meteor on the theatrical scene—author of last season’s play The Whale.”

My friend Michael Roth did the music and he and I are working on an opera together called Ravi’s Dream. It’s always good to see him, like me, he travels a lot and is always working on multiple projects.!theatre/c17d0

We/Mark picked hundreds of oranges today off the tree and Mark is going to make it into habanero marmalade. I question whether a person really needs that much but he likes to give it away.

Tomorrow is the reading at Skylight Books. Some people rehearse their readings before they dive in. But I don’t like to. I like to arrive into the feeling of the reading and then plan what I’m going to read. If there is too much planning in advance that might ruin the mood.

But, since I am doing three readings this week—Skylight Books, Collected Works in New Mexico and then Elliot Bay in Seattle, I am pretty sure that I’ll have a set down. I always like it when poets read certain poems over and over. I like it when Eloise reads the Ohio poem that ends, “You are the world.” And her sestina about the dog show. I like Brendan’s poem where he goes to the map of the world and I like Doug reading the poem about Costco selling Black dolls with monkeys because the poem is so good and the way Doug performs it feels like entering some wild space. I like Eric Morago’s poem about his grandmother and Nicelle’s poem about Jesus and John Lennon. All of these poems I have heard more than once and I wait for them.

The worst things you can do at a poetry reading include:
1. Reading too long—that is the very worst. If you think it’s going to be twenty minutes and it’s thirty, that’s bad.
2. Being bored, restless or looking scared.
3. Losing your place and deciding up there about your poems at length.
None of these things is going to happen tomorrow.

Here is an odd thing about living in Los Angeles. Just now, I’m sitting here writing and Mark is in the kitchen making the tea and slicing oranges in the pear light of afternoon and we’re listening to music in Spanish and I hear a noise at the door. I know it’s the wind. Because no one ever comes to your door in Los Angeles unless they were invited in advance. You don’t get in your car and drive miles and miles unless you know the person is going to be expecting you so we hardly ever visit each other at all.

Published in: on March 29, 2014 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

How old are you? How old do you feel?

hh 001

My friend Kelly and I are about the same age and our daughters are within two weeks of each other. We went for a walk this morning. We realize that we are older than we feel. Kelly looks like she’s in her thirties and she and her family, like ours are all active and energetic. They’re going to Australia as a family to see their daughter who is studying in New Zealand.

I remember what it felt like to be twenty. What does it feel like to be fifty?
1. I can’t drink as much. There is no doubt when I was in my twenties and thirties I could do shots like a pro and get up in the morning and go back to work. Now, if I drink too much, I start to feel like I’ve been run over by a truck and running is miserable.
2. I have to plan for things more. I miss waking up and saying, I think I’ll drive to Mexico today. I’ll be back in a few days and then taking off across Arizona, driving down, parking on the beach and then the whole weekend would rock out. Now, I have to make plans.
3. I’m much smarter now. I’m not kidding. I made a lot of stupid mistakes that I don’t make now.
4. I feel differently about friends. When I was younger, I liked everybody, I just wanted someone to go dancing with, to hang out with. Now, I want to be around people who challenge me but also people I get along with. I don’t want to hang with people who I have to point things out to like, Wow, that’s racist. We had this guy at the house. He used the “N word.” I had to say if he used it again, I was kicking him out. I don’t want to do that. I’m too tired. I realize there are lots of assholes in the world, but I want friends who are cool people.
5. I don’t like wasting my time doing stupid things. If I’m say at a reading, and a bunch of people just want to go and shout at each other in a bar for a few hours afterward, I know that I will spend a lot of money, have a headache the next day, not remember anything that was said, not remember who was there and wish I were home watching a movie with my honey and eating strawberries. I know that sounds like I’m not very adventurous, I do go out with friends and have fun but I don’t need to just go out for the sake of it.
6. I like celebrations. My birthday is in April and my friend Susie and I have plans that include having Mark doing the driving to a Mexican place we like and then us doing the drinking and Mark doing the paying. I want to go to karaoke afterward and dress up super skanky and show everyone in the bar how well I can sing. Maybe Nicelle will go. Mark is always good with squiring three women. On Sunday, for my book launch reading at Skylight, I plan to really get crazy and wear a ridiculously short skirt which I hope Nicelle will instantly post on Facebook.
7. I love my family and friends and I know those relationships matter.
8. I’m not worried so much about what people think of me. In my twenties I thought, What if they don’t like me? Now I think, I wonder if I’ll like them?
9. I believe in the wisdom of Slaughterhouse Five: Focus on the good parts of your life.
10. There are things I haven’t done in my life that I wanted to do, I know I can still get my game on.

Published in: on March 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Should money flow toward the writer?

ll 207

Yes, money should flow toward the writer, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. Money should flow toward the dancer, the actor, the dog trainer, the mime, the auto mechanic. In fact, why stop at money flowing? I want money to grow on trees, appear (just like in Paul Auster novels!) mysteriously in the trunk of my car or in my freezer. I checked my trunk and freezer regularly after reading Auster, but so far, no luck. I like to revisit this subject because it’s always coming up on list serves as writers come back to the dream of money. I like this dream, like the dream of God being a candy machine. It sounds good in theory. But God may have given us a brain so we can make our own candy.

But, you say, I read the famous Neil Gaiman post and he says money should flow toward the writer!

“I read a sad case today of a young writer who had had her story rewritten into illiteracy by a so-called publisher, who then abused her in email when she wrote to complain. She wasn’t getting paid for her story — instead she was actually buying copies of the anthology to show people that she had sold a story. And I thought, it is time to remind the world, and to enlighten young writers, about…
Yog’s Law:
Money flows towards the writer.

That’s all. All writers should remember it.

When a commercial publisher contracts a book, it will pay an advance against royalties to the writer. Money flows towards the writer.

Literary agents make their living by charging a commission of between 10 and 20% on the sales that they make on behalf of their clients, the writers. When advances and royalties are paid by a publisher the agent’s percentage is filtered off in the direction of the writer’s agent but the bulk of the money still flows towards the writer.

If a publisher ever asks for any sort of financial contribution from a writer, they’re trying to divert money away from the writer, in direct contravention of Yog’s Law.

If an agent ever asks for up-front fees, regardless of what they call them (reading fees, administration costs, processing fees, or retainers), then they are trying to divert money away from the writer, in direct contravention of Yog’s Law…

Money flows toward the writer.
No, that doesn’t mean that the author should get paper and ink for free, or that he won’t pay for postage. It does mean that when someone comes along and says, “Sure, kid, you can be a Published Author! It’ll only cost you $300!” the writer will know that something’s wrong. A fee is a fee is a fee, whether they call it a reading fee, a marketing fee, a promotion fee, or a cheese-and-crackers fee.
Is this perfect? No. Scammers have come up with some elaborate ways to avoid activating it. But it’s still a good and useful tool, and will save a lot of grief. Any time an agent or publisher asks for money, the answer should be “No!”

First of all, if you are Neil Gaiman, lucky you, yes, money will flow toward you the writer. And yes! Writers are often taken advantage of in all sorts of ways. So sure, if your agent or publisher asks you for money, that’s not cool.

But, that ignores the fact that you, the writer are not Neil Gaiman. And as such, let’s talk about money and writing which are almost never in the same sentence outside the world of big writers.

1. While you are learning your craft, you should plan on paying someone to teach you. You pay therapists, coaches, karate teachers, and yoga masters. If you want to learn your craft, you need to go to have a teacher/mentor.
2. Once you have something worth publishing, you are going to send it out into the marketplace, and that will cost some money. I would suggest that you send out some of them to awards listed in Poets and Writers and some to magazines that require reading fees. Here’s the example I always give: My aunt Hildy is a famous dog person. She has prize winning dogs, and she also judges dog shows, but for many years, she went around to dog shows and paid her fees. She paid to enter, for the groomers, for the trainers to help her. She paid her dues. When you write a check/pay online to a literary magazine or press, you are supporting the world in which you live. You are keeping your world afloat. And that’s a good thing.
3. Some of you will say that you don’t have enough money to send out anything. Then get a job. That is how people make money. They get jobs. I know that makes me sound like a Republican, and I’m not a Republican so I don’t want to sound like one, but seriously, when I hear writers complain that not enough money is flowing to them, I think –making money as a writer is a long shot, most writers don’t make much, but there are ways of making sure you have enough money to live on and it’s called working. And if you live in a part of the country where there is no work, if possible, move to a part of the country where there is work. Mexicans are willing to cross deserts, rivers and borders to find work. Can’t you just move to another state?
4. And then decide what you want to invest in your writing life. People invest in their yoga life, their karate life, their soccer mom life. Your writing life is worth it. You might budget $40/month or $100/month, but send your work out there and quit complaining.
5. The most important thing in writing is NOT money, it’s having fun playing with language and story, so if you get caught up in money, you’ll miss the best part. Think of how sad it would be to focus on money your whole marriage and miss that you are having the great experience of messing around in the water with this one amiable, crazy person who is willing to put up with you. That’s how I see marriage. A whole lot of wild.

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 7:28 am  Comments (1)  

What a publisher/editor wants to hear.

kkk 006

1. I write well.
2. I’m willing to edit my work.
3. I’d like to be a lifelong conversation with someone I can learn from.
4. I’m aware that I have a lot to learn.
5. I am committed to selling my book and being an advocate for this press in the world.
6. I like this press and I respect how hard you work.
7. I’m not just writing one book, this is my life.
8. I am willing to spend money to travel, to promote the book.
9. I’m willing to go anywhere and to be charming when I get there.
10. I feel grateful to have ideas and be able to write them and to be talking with you.

What we often get instead:

1. I’m cool? Don’t you think so?
2. I need to make money as a writer; you can make that happen for me.
3. You are going to make my dreams come true.
4. Here is a list of what you can do for me.
5. Here is a list of the ways in which I am cool.
6. I have read all the books that are important.
7. I know everything that’s important to know about writing/publishing.
8. My work doesn’t need any editing; I did that already.
9. You are going to be so glad you published me.
10. You are going to make a lot of money off me.

For some reason those last two strike me as the funniest. Why am I going to be glad I published you? Really? The fact is that YOU are going to be glad I published you. The last one is really a laugh riot. Publishing isn’t an industry where anyone makes a lot of money. In my case, we are a non profit, so no, we’re not going to make a lot of money and my life is not going to change at all as a result of publishing you. But even at the Big Five level, I don’t see any of the editors buying an island as a result of publishing a book. Twilight maybe. Harry Potter? Sure, but most books are not changing anyone’s lifestyle.

I think that writers could do themselves a favor by going into the whole relationship with the right attitude and that attitude is to understand that

1. It’s a privilege to have anyone read your work.
2. It’s a huge privilege to have anyone be willing to foster your work.
3. Being edited is a privilege.
4. Publication is a privilege.
5. It isn’t all about you.
6. When you do get something published, work at marketing and promotion.
7. Plan on selling the books yourself. You must advocate for your work.
8. Work with whoever is doing publicity at the press.
9. Do not act like you know more than these people, you don’t.
10. But then, this is good advice for all of us—act and live with grace.

Published in: on March 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm  Comments (3)  

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,265 other followers