Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wilbur's Christmas Hangover

Okay, we have one spoiled doggy here. We took him up to Buffalo for a not-white Christmas with Hubby's family. I don't know if it was the lack of snow that got the dog depressed, or the fact that his hip hurts, which may be arthritis and may be something else, but all he wanted to do was sleep on Grandma's bed. Which he's not allowed to do, but we left on a day trip to Toronto, and the dog took liberties.

Here's a piece of Toronto, by the way, shot near the very diverse Kensington Market. I had never been there before and I absolutely loved it. Hubby says we can move there if another Bush gets elected in '08. Then we got caught in a bad traffic jam and we started to rethink that plan.

Christmas was quiet, except the present part, which got the dog wound up. I tried to tell him that Christmas was about the baby Jesus but he didn't get it. He likes opening gifts, ripping the paper. I wish we had video, it's pretty funny. Here he is in the joyful aftermath.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The New Smokelong Quarterly is Live

Matt Bell did a great job guest editing this issue. I'm so stoked to be in the company of these rock stars. If you haven't discovered Nadine Darling yet, discover her. There are several contributions from the Michigan/Hobart posse, and even one from Stephen Elliott, who I want to believe is a distant relation of mine, one of the talented ones.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Interview in Until Monday--718 in the House!

Hi folks, sorry I haven't been posting much lately. I've been busy reading (Tennessee Williams), writing (fiction), and prepping for the holidays.

The incomparable poet and memoirist Cheryl Burke interviewed me for this interesting publication, Until Monday. It's a Brooklyn guide and more. Check it out! I'm gonna bookmark this site. They have good tips on places off the beaten path where I can go off my diet. Plus profiles on my fellow boroughites, and cool event info.

Hope you are staying sane, dry, and warm. My thoughts go out to my family in the Pacific Northwest, who have been unreachable in the power outage. I trust they are okay, they are hardy, smart, and are probably hunkering down to wait it out.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Me With Comedians? I'll Give My Best Shot

I'm reading at PVC next Thursday, come on down! I've decided to leave the ukulele home and do straight poetry. I miss that. Stoked to be reading with friends Gloria and Hal. Thanks, Cheryl, for booking me!

Cheryl B. Presents:
December 7th, 8PM
Galapagos Arts Space
70 North 6th Street, Brooklyn
L Train to Bedford Ave.

About the Show:PVC is neither an ordinary poetry slam nor a stand-up comedy show. The Poetry Vs. Comedy Variety Show is a battle of wits and rhymes where the stanzas and the stand-up collide. The show is monthly at Galapagos Arts Space in Williamsburg (70 N. 6th St). Produced by writer and literary series curator Cheryl B., PVC boasts a line-up of venerable poets and rising star comedians.

EMCEE: Carolyn Castiglia (Caroline's)


Joe Dixon (NYC Comedian)
Lang Fisher (VH1's Best Night Ever Podcast)
Jenny Rubin (Oh My God)

Anne Elliott (Pindeldyboz)
Gloria (Kanipchen-fit)
Hal Sirowitz (NPR, MTV, PBS)

The Goddess Perlman (TLC, MTV, Metro Channel)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Sadly, our little Junior-girl has left us. We haven't found a body, but we haven't seen her since early October. So, we're facing facts. The odds are not with her, poor thing.

Junior came to us as a tiny, barely-weaned kitten in the summer of 2004. We named her Junior, thinking she was a boy. She made it through the winter, and come spring, we trapped her and got her neutered along with the rest of our little colony. We tried from the beginning to tame her, but only got her to allow petting while she was eating. Chances are very slim that she has found a human family, since her level of trust is quite low. There is a possibility she found another wild colony to live with--perhaps one of the two black-and-white colonies in our immediate vicinity--maybe even with her own blood relatives. We have no idea who her parents are, for sure. (Her cross-eyes do indicate that Angus might be her father. Though I've always thought of Angus as a gay cat, you never know.)

Urban feral cats rarely move outside a one-block radius. Experts advise never to try to move them, they will only seek their original home, risking life and limb to get there. It is much more likely that she got trapped somewhere (they can live for three weeks without water or food, I'm told), poisoned (possibly intentionally), hit by a car, or died of an illness.

Natural attrition is the goal of TNR, but it's still sad to see them disappear. Godspeed, little Junior, wherever you are.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

For the Love of the Loose Cannon

I was biased going into Jim Tomlinson's short story collection, THINGS KEPT, THINGS LEFT BEHIND. Glad to report it met my high expectations.

The collection has eleven character-driven stories, most set in rural Kentucky. One of the book's characters, an old man on his deathbed, tells his nurse: "My son's a writer...he can imagine anything, make it up from nothing, and care like it was real." A good characterization of Tomlinson's work. Care is evident on every page--care for language, care for people, and not just fictional characters, but the very real aspects of ourselves that they represent.

What struck me most is Tomlinson's real sense of loose-cannon personalities: the stubborn elderly mother, the brother prone to violence, the businessman who suddenly drops everything, the young idealist who burns his draft card. The cranky, the war-broken, the adulterous--and the people who live with them--these are Tomlinson's cast, each portrayed with empathy and grace. The grace comes, I believe, from his precision. The prose is economical, but not sparse. The diction is regional, but never parody. Exasperation is always a product of familiarity, which goes hand in hand with love.

This juxtaposition of gentle telling with not-gentle characters is the key to the success of these stories. Tomlinson loves these characters the way flawed people love themselves, the way family members quarrel and reconcile. They are not rural eccentrics designed to entertain the rest of us with their novelty. They are essential beings, whose choices carry gravity.

This love of character is what makes realist fiction satisfying for me, when it is done well. I don't need neat endings or dramatic "arcs" or all that crap that short story people fetishize. What I need is to know that people are loved, even the difficult ones. And Tomlinson is one writer who understands why and how this love is a craft issue.

Catching Up

Sorry, I haven't been posting. Believe it or not, it's because I've been writing. I know, blogging is writing, but it ain't the same thing. I've been working on my new novel, and just finished draft one of section one! So, I'm five chapters / 20,000 words / 71 pages in. Feels like a real commitment.

As promised, here is a brief history of our holiday cards. (I even got Hubby's permission to post them here.) Usually they have messages like "Peace on Earth." Apologize for the dust on the scanner.

Here's 2002, our first year in the new old house. Opie is in my arms, and fat Boo is in hubby's. Wilbur is very excited.

Here's 2003, when I think we had a freak snowstorm in November. It was cruel not to let Wilbur out in the snow. He loves snow, and besides, he got all dressed up.

Here's 2004, the peak of our household count. You can see Angus, in front of Opie, is missing half of his ass. When we brought him in he basically had to have a full body shave because of abscess. He's all better now! Also pictured is Egypt, who was a holiday guest. There's catnip in the bowls, in case you want the secret.

And finally, 2005. It's a bittersweet picture, because Opie is in the urn on the table. Still, Angus is hard not to laugh at. He grew up on the streets and does not like to wear "outfits."

We're working on 2006 now. Nothing good yet, but we still have time. In the meantime, I got this cute shot of our newest family member, Ava:

And this one can be Willie's album cover. When he becomes a folksinger.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Toy or Tool? Or Both?

Confession time, I have a new bourgeois toy. Sweet Hubby got me a new camera for my 40th. I'm just starting to figure out what it can do. I'm starting with portraiture. Above is Queen Egypt Holwerda-Williams, who visits us for about a month every year while her folks go to Holland. And boy, is she in charge.

The new camera lets me capture motion. Here's Ava trying to decide which food bowl is better.

I'm still getting the hang of it. The lens gets some good color. Here's our little crosseyed Angus.

What I like is now I have more control, I just need to learn how to use it. I can manual focus, and turn the flash off, to get natural light. Like the gorgeous brown eyes of Wilbur, now free of that green crap I used to get whenever he looked in the lens.

So first project is to make a good Christmas card. We've done family portraits for the past three years. Maybe I'll try to digitize them and share our little history, with its changing personae.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dia De Los Muertos

My mother had the good sense of humor to die on November 2nd, Day of the Dead. So I take the day to remember her, and as the years pass, the memories change. The first few years I had vivid memories of her last days in the hospital, the details of the room, the crowd of people gathered, bonding with each other over our shared love of the woman in the bed.

This year, without any forcing, my memories are of her as a vibrant not-sick person. She was a proj-aholic too. She put muslin banners on our kitchen walls in Seattle, to pin up our art projects for proud display. She was a constant cheerleader for the creative lives of the family members--my father's music, my writing and plastic arts, my brother's theater. And she was wildly creative herself.

For her, creativity was her way of playing, reconnecting with her own innocence, fostering mental health. If she had aspirations to become a professional artist, she didn't push them. For her, it was the joy of the project itself. Knitting, of course, she usually had a sweater or afghan in the works. Drawing--she was a gifted cartoonist, too. Gardening--her roses were incredible. And music. She played organ, and was one of those musicologists who could identify a composer by hearing just a few bars. She had her favorites, particularly "Mr. Brahms," as she called him. She sang, for pleasure, in the car and while working in the kitchen, and in choirs. She was an alto, like me.

She was also messy, like me. Hurricane Jane was one of her nicknames. She used to say, "if you want creative children, you have to be tolerant of messes." One of her mottoes. Another: "if you want to be an artist, you need to learn a trade." So I can credit her with a few things--my messy studio, my tolerance of day-job compromises, my ability to make a living but not forget the art, my intense craving for creative endeavors of all kinds.

She was a lover of cats. We couldn't have cats in the house because of allergies, but she became best friends with an outdoor cat when we lived in California, who stuck with her through her illness. During some of the rough spots, she would lie on the couch with a towel across her chest, and Tillie, a big white fluffball, would be allowed inside to sleep on top of her. Tillie was a good kitty, she knew not to wander the house. She knew what her friend Jane needed. Maybe Tillie needed it too.

Cats symbolized something for Mom. A certain independence, a kind of childlike devilishness. Cats are very busy creatures. They also like a good hug every now and then. Mom was the same way.

I miss her terribly. Her legacy is obvious, it's all around me, the knitting book next to my elbow, the graph paper and pens under my laptop right now, the stack of papers behind that, and the joy I find in all these things. So if I can't have her nearby, I can at least know her ideas have shaped my life for the better. The things she taught me are among the things that keep me sane.

Thanks, Mom, I'm turning out like you and it's not so bad. I wish you could meet my beautiful husband, and my family of four-legged furry ones. I tell them about you, every chance I get.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Night, Let's Dance!

My esteemed Russian colleague reminds me that her people really know how to dance. She shared with me these videos, which I'll share with you.

Here's how the pros do it:

And not to be outdone, here's how average citizens do it:

Let's roll back the rug and join 'em! Wilbur, start the barking now!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ringnuts and Nuts Mourn Russell

I learned today on Carol Novack's blog of Anna Russell's passing.

I think there's a lesson in her journey. From the NY Times:

Ms. Russell gave a number of explanations for why her ambitions changed from being a serious singer to being a serious satirist. Ms. Russell said that one factor was that when she was 16, bones in her face were broken by a hockey stick: “That ruined my acoustic.”“I had no range, no color,” she said, “But I could sing loud. And it grew louder and louder and awfuller and awfuller.”

The result was one of the funniest, most unique voices in history. I adore her version of Wagner's "Ring."

I need to learn how to turn moments of disappointment--clashes between ambition/expectation and the realities of my given talents--into something pure and real. But how? What is the THING I have to offer the world? How am I nutty and unique? Today, I have no idea.

What about you? What is your unique thing? How has accident shaped it? When did the river reroute, and did you follow the new route, or fight to get back on course?

Monday, October 23, 2006

My Untamed Thoughts Accumulate Like Laundry

I think I’m suffering from Blog Procrastination. It’s what happens when I have way too many things to talk about and next thing you know the list is a mile long. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading, in a chaotic burst.

My friend Pia is down in New Orleans being a Swiss journalist and bilingual blogger. She’s been getting firsthand stuff since Katrina (flew down from NY with her cameraperson a week after the storm, been there on and off since) and her followup has proven quite interesting—a cross between a European view of this distinct American culture and a humanitarian view on the current money flow problems. Check her out! And don’t skip the video from Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.

My other journalist friend Rob moonlights from his financial-journalist job on his blog, The Luna Park Gazette. He’s been exploring his Brooklyn roots, and talking about his Dad’s recent move to a rehab facility following a stroke. The facility is in Coney Island , and in typical Rob gallows-humor, he remarks, “the Stillwell Avenue station is the end of the line, literally, for several trains. Walking into this facility, it’s hard not to think of the word ‘terminal.’” Check out his post to find out what movie is playing in the patient lounge…thanks Rob, for making me cry at the office…it’s really bittersweet stuff.

I’ve been grooving on the Craftzine Blog too. Lots of daily posts, enabling the proj-aholic. Ach! This should be blocked from my machine. It’s like crack.

Speaking of craft, not crack, have you seen the new Gee’s Bend Quilt postage stamps?

Gorgeous! I can’t stop looking at my new stamps. Or these quilts. To me, these people are like rock stars. They are giving me ideas. Just what I need, more ideas.

I got a radio tip for you fellow podcast junkies: It’s an awesome podcast directory, through which I found the Writer’s Voice series. Listen to the session in which Spencer Overton talks about his book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression, and Francine Prose talks about Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them. I can’t wait to read the Francine Prose book. I may even have to buy the hardcover.

And also on the literary front, Tin House #29 is a must-buy. Not only does it have a cover and several graphic pages by Lynda Barry (plus an interview with same, in which she talks about selling her work on Ebay), it has superheroes dug out of the mothballs, drawn by younger versions of lit-heroes Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Chris Offutt, et al. This is a full-color dream of an issue.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"The Holocaust Kid"--Staged Reading

One of my mentors, Sonia Pilcer, wrote a linked short story collection called The Holocaust Kid, then adapted it into a play. I'm going to the Friday night performance. See you there?

Here's from my Amazon review of the book:

In a world where there seems to be a code of rules about how the Holocaust should be discussed, Sonia Pilcer dares to dissect the rules themselves, from a very personal vantage point, in The Holocaust Kid. This collection of stories centers around Zosha, a very American young woman whose parents are survivors. The weight of the Holocaust and the necessity of remembrance is an everpresent burden to Zosha, for whom these "memories" are important but also surreal, dependent on the multitude of stories shared among her parents and their friends. Survivor's guilt is passed down to the second generation, in an adulterated, confusing form that leaves Zosha simulaneously alienated and obsessed with the residue of the war.

Friday, October 13 @ 8:30 pm
Saturday, October 14th @ 3:30 pm

The Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 West 52nd Street (between 10th & 11th Aves)
call 212-247-4982 for reservations
Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Seth Kanor,
Nancy Rothman & Edgar Weinstock
directed by
Susan Willerman

Octoberfest 2006!
suggested donation $10/5

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And I Thought I Was a Proj-Aholic.

On a tip from Make Magazine, I went to a Swap-o-Rama on Sunday, held at Third Ward in Williamsburg. Here's how it worked: you bring a bag of clothes you don't want and $10. People sort the stuff onto tables, and you wander around and take as much as you can carry. During breaks from the digging, you can have a cocktail, talk to a stylist, or learn how to make your own maxipads.

They had lots of workshops, like tee shirt redesign, silkscreen, applique, and my personal favorite, re-knitting. Look, they have samples of re-knit tee shirt, denim, and even plastic grocery bags.

I scored a zebra striped raincoat and some red snake-patterned pants. And, I got a free copy of the new Craft magazine, which has cool articles about knitting with telephone poles and embroidiering your skateboard, among other things. Craft has a whole slew of photos of the Swap-o-Rama here at flickr.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pics from my Trip to Beautiful

I went to visit my family out West. (I'm from there, though I've lived in NYC longer than anywhere else.) My first stop was Snoqualmie, Washington, where my folks live, in the foothills of the North Cascades. My brother flew up from Los Angeles and the two of us went on a hike to Wallace Falls. He took the above pic of me, under the evergreen canopy, sheltered from both rain and light.

I'll leave the family out of the pictures, since I haven't asked their permission. I keep forgetting to do that. But I did see a few things other than family. Like a whole lot of coffee kiosks. This is a phenomenon we don't have out East. We don't have windmills that serve cappuccino in the middle of nowhere.

In Brooklyn, we don't have mountain mist:

Or its cool byproducts, like moss-covered trees:

We got to sit and watch a herd of about 60 Roosevelt Elk, outside North Bend, Washington, where they used to film Twin Peaks. (Obviously, I didn't get too close to the big guys.)

And I got some gardening tips from my talented stepmom. Check out her chard!

I had a blast from the past, driving past this "Wayside Chapel," about the size of a big doghouse, which I used to love when I was little. It shrank a LOT.

Then my bro and I flew down to LA for the weekend. We went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, where they had a beautiful exhibition of portraits of Soviet space dogs. Highly recommended! Plus, the tea is free!

I had a day alone in LA, so I bought tee shirts at my favorite thrift store in Culver City, strolled the beach a little, and went to LACMA for the very-cool Breaking the Mode show. 1980's fashion was so wild! Issey Miyake is such a brain! He's is the one who inspired me to go to fashion school, where I got jaded fast and transferred to the sculpture department. But this show made me remember what I used to love so much about sewing. Maybe I'll dig out the old machine.

And I got to hike Runyon Canyon with my bro, his excellent wife, and many cute dogs I don't know.

The dogs were grabbing slivers of shade, gulping water, and panting like crazy. Me, I wish I brought my sunglasses. Here I am with the Hollywood sign sticking out of my forehead.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Countdown to Forty

In the last remaining hours of my thirties, I am doing irresponsible things like blogging at work. Please forgive me, work. I am still a tender young thing. I am also wearing pink striped socks, which are totally inappropriate.

Tomorrow I'll be crossing the line. Me and my birthday-mate Sherman Alexie. Happy birthday, Sherman, and have a great reading tonight at the New Yorker fest! I won't be there, I was too slow to get tickets.

This weekend I celebrate by eating french toast at the diner, then going to the movies, probably The Science of Sleep. And hugging my incredible Brooklyn family. Especially that cute guy I married.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

One More Thing. Sit!

Before I go, rock out with me to this Cardigans song. Cute animal alert.

I'm Off to the West Coast

I probably won't post for at least a week. I'm off to Seattle and Los Angeles for an overdue visit with my family, plus a couple college pals. I look forward to walking some REAL hills. These gentle slopes of Brooklyn don't quite cut it for this western girl. My brother is even talking about a real hike, to Wallace Falls in the Cascade mountains. If I attempt it, I promise pics for you all.

In the meantime, enjoy wildman poet Todd Colby's brand new blog, Glee Farm.

Or spoil the surprise of Project Runway's big 4 finalist collections, pic links are at Project Rungay. Nice threads! Okay, I admit it. This craftaholic is obsessed with that show. Problem-solving, oddball characters, and needlework. What more could you ask for?

See you all in a week.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sharing the Mic with Some of My Favorites

Hey! You Tri-Staters, come on down to Sutra next Saturday and hear me read some actual poetry, with like line breaks and everything.

I'm so stoked to be reading with these people.

PH: (212) 677 9477

REGIE CABICO-Regie has appeared on MTV's Def Poetry Jam, PBS's In the Life, and in over 30 anthologies.

ANNE ELLIOTT:-Anne is a fiction writer/poet/ ukulelist/ feral cat tamer, and author of the reknowned

BOB HOLMAN- Recently dubbed a member of the "Poetry Pantheon" by N.Y Times Magazine. Holman has been crowned "Poetry Czar" (Village Voice), "Dean of the Scene" (Seventeen), and this generation's Ezra Pound(San Francisco Poetry Flash).

SAPPHIRE- Sapphire's books include American Dreams, Black Wings & Blind Angels, and Push; NEA chairman John Frohnmayer was fired when he defended her work.

JACKIE SHEELER- Recently featured in the New York Times, poet laureate of Riker's Island, Jackie has two books and one CD out, is the talk in Talk Engine, and has hosted a weekly reading for the last seven years at Pink PonyWest.

LARISSA SHMAILO-Larissa has a CD, The No-Net World, and teaches the class Publish, Perform, or Perish!

HAL SIROWITZ- Hal is former Poet Laureate of Queens, reads Brooklyn work.

ANGELO VERGA- Angelo is a poet, teacher, editor, curator of literary events, five collections of poetry, currently engaged in "deep research" for a book of love poems.

MC CHOCOLATE WATERS- Chocolate is a pioneer performance artist, director of Eggplant Publications and bon vivant.

And for more info on other SPIRIT OF HOWL events, click here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

An Interview With Fiber Artist Angus Barr

Angus Barr rests in the middle of his latest perfomance/installation, "Diner."

AE: Angus, I've been following your work for the past year or so, and I am especially curious about the titling. What is the significance of "Diner?"

AB: Sure. The title, like all my titles, is a reference to the timeframe of the work. My benefactors left me with the materials for the duration of a trip to the diner for breakfast. So I usually have a small time period in which to execute a work, but this time I had a good two hours.

AE: Many call your major work of last year, "Ten Minutes," a tour de force.

AB: Well, I was in better shape back then. My benefactors left me with three balls of blue acrylic yarn and they went into the basement for ten minutes.

AE: I saw the result. You managed to unroll three balls and wrap them around chairs, up over tables, and into three rooms.

AB: Yes, my experience in dance and the martial arts was instrumental in that work. I've taken a much more cerebral approach with "Diner," however, plus, I'm working with an assistant, which is an adjustment.

AE: How so?

AB: Well, she's a little green. Enthusiastic, but I'm not used to the verbal interplay. But we'll get there. It's a new process, far less impromptu and improvisational, but due to the larger time frame, we were able to put some care into the placement of the material. I consider this one a drawing, where the other works were more performances.

AE: What are some of the other new aspects of "Diner?" It does feel like a departure.

AB: I'm working with rag strips for the first time. So instead of one long, continuous line, it's a collection of shorter ones. Metered lengths, like bars of music. It's much harder to harness the material, and to draw the eye into neighboring rooms.

AE: Do you consider yourself a formalist? Who are your influences?

AB: Well, there is the obvious draw from Andy Goldsworthy, who was a huge influence on me in my earlier days: his respect for found materials and for the investigative experience. But he has a level of patience that I haven't learned yet. Also, Eva Hesse, from a formal point of view, her sence of gravity and materials. And I've learned a lot from Cy Twombly and his sense of drawing and mark making, the mark as "signature," like handwriting. I also consider myself an American artist, hence the use of traditional craft materials. Yarn, used in the making of afghans (which I enjoy), and now the rag strips, which are traditionally used for woven or braided rugs (which are great to curl up on as well). I have a great respect for artists who work in the tradition of American crafts, such as story-quilt maker Faith Ringgold. They display a resourcefulness and a respect for the past that I find moving. But maybe because my memory is shot, for me it's more about the present. Improvisational play, in the moment. I find inspiration in jazz music too, Miles Davis, Coltrane, whoever my benefactors have on the stereo, I suppose.

AE: I noticed you used the rag strips to frame the Adidas in the center of the work. Do you consider this a nod to pop art, and the presence of brand names in the American psyche?

AB: I don't really think about brand names. I'm a cat, remember. Maybe when it comes to kibble, but I don't follow shoes.

AE: Of course. Which leads me to another question: it's no secret that you spent several years as a homeless feral on the mean streets of Brooklyn, and have experience in gang warfare. I know you've put that life behind you, but do you find any residue of it creeping into your work?

AB: It's hard not to draw that conclusion, though honestly I'm not sure. My homies on the street were graffitists, and their main medium was urine. The problem with olifactory art is that it's limited to a four-legged audience. So getting civilized, and having human benefactors, that's necessitated exploring new materials. Plus, after my mysterious surgery two years ago, my pee is not what it used to be.

AE: Well, thank you Angus for taking the time to talk to us.

AB: My pleasure. Say, is there any food in that bowl?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Shall We Loaf, While Loafers Blog?

I didn't get into Bread Loaf this year. Maybe I shouldn't have sent a 2700 word story that uses the word "fuck" 48 times. I mean, 2% of the story was the word "fuck." What was I thinking?

But hey, if I had gotten in, I wouldn't have had the mindblowing experience I did at Lynda Barry's class. (Her educational sidekick says, "Blow your mind...with your own mind!") So I have no regrets. And thanks to the blogosphere, I can get the Bread Loaf experience once removed, without sleep deprivation or mosquito bites.

So, here they are:

Mary Akers is a regular Bread Loaf staffer, who gives not only an inside scoop, but also very detailed accounts of the craft classes. Ursula Hegi sounds like an awesome instructor!

Cliff Garstang is returning to the conference as well, and finds that he can relax a bit more as a result, no longer compelled to do every social event. Sounds like he has found some good insight on a story that he has been struggling with.

Laila Lalami was a waiter last year, and now with a successful book under her belt, is a fellow. She taught a craft class on cross-cultural narrative, has been fighting back big mosquitoes, and is enjoying time away from the computer.

Katrina Denza is there for the first time, and has gained inspiration to work on her novel.

And poets have their moment in the blog spotlight too, thanks to the poetry foundation, who has recruited several dispatchers, starting with the head waiter, who has a new appreciation of the feather boa.

Hey, and if that's not enough, you can read The Crumb, the daily newsletter.

Stone Mosaic by My Old Classmate Leslie Samuels

Wouldn't you love this for your bathroom wall? My friend Leslie designed and built it. We studied performance art together in the MFA program at UC San Diego. Boy, I remember some wild spectacles put on by her and other friends, both in San Diego and here in NYC. I got to be in several of a carnival barker, or a flying angel (hanging by bungie cord--it was FUN!), or a Vestal Virgin.

Like all of us, Leslie has continued to play with materials and images, even if performance is a less frequent endeavor. I turned to writing (and craftaholism), and she turned to stonework. Her years of experimentation with jobsite scraps is really paying off; she definitely knows her way around it, cutting complex curves, veiny leaves, making tabletops, foyer floors, bathroom walls, backsplashes. Check out her new website, my description does them no justice. What a life, on the top of a mountain in North Carolina!

Do you need a new fireplace? Swimming pool? She's available for hire, and might even bring her big, cute Newfoundland to work with her. Or, smaller pieces can be shipped for your local handyperson to install. Sorry, I have no pics of the dog.

It's so fun, watching talented people evolve.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Glitter Folk!

Guys, check out Mr. Solo. I can't stop singing along to his his songs "Genius" and "Industree." Such verve! Such a voice! What haunting eyes! Move over Gary Glitter and David Bowie, there's a new sheriff in town, and he's wearing a big, beatiful cape.

Recommendations on "PK Lit?"

I started Allan Gurganus' PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS this morning, and I'm kicking myself, thinking, why didn't I pick up this book before? I just happened across it, appropriately, in the fabulous book section of Housing Works Thrift Shop on the Upper West Side. Glad I grabbed it. Anyway, one of the characters is an artist-PK (Preacher's Kid) like me, and it's an interesting, sensitive, funny portrayal through the eyes of his less-Lutheran friend. The book opens with the PK dying of AIDS at St. Vincents Hospital, asking his caretaker-friend to clear all the sex toys from his apartment before the parents show up for a final visit. Poignant, funny--dildoes stacked like "cord wood" in the broom closet--I can't wait to read on.

What does being a preacher's kid do to one's identity? This is one of the themes I'm playing with in my new novel project. And in life, I suppose, though I have other identity "themes" there too. My broom closet is way more boring, but I still identify with the character's impulse to "clean up," even when that seems like a silly notion.

So now I'm brainstorming, trying to think of other works of literature with preacher's kid characters or authors. Any suggestions? I have the complete oevre of James Baldwin on the shelf, and most of Tennessee Williams and Darcey Steinke. Also have Marilynne Robinson's GILEAD on my to-be-read stack. Any others you have enjoyed?

Oh, How I Love My Writer's Group

I just got back from write club, where as usual, I learned a lot. You incredible women! You keep me honest! You read deeply! You write deeply! It's a joy and an inspiration to read your work! And I feel fiercely protective of your work, like I do about my friends' children. You midwives! We all know it's hard, and we're in it together, breathing our Lamaze breaths as the raw, bloody stuff hits the page! We cradle it, clear away the mucus and gunk and gush over the beautiful living thing! Oh, how exciting it will be when the world gets to meet your material!

Thank you!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Proj Rock! Mudpies, The Grownup Kind.

Have you ever made hypertufa? It's equal parts peat moss, cement, and sand. Add some water and you have some wonderful mud. You can make just about anything out of it...planters, water features, etc. It's porous, so it grows algae and moss nicely, depending on where you put it.

I'm making stepping stones. The molds are rings of cardboard. I line them with garbage bags, which gives them a smooth finish. Ideally, you have a level place to do it, but I don't. It's a crapshoot. Mostly I like mixing the cement.

I put rocks inside them. Hopefully they'll look cool when the cement dries. This is my first experiment with rocks, so I'm not getting too fancy with the design. These are used lava rocks from the barbecue, plus a couple I stole from the beach.

You dump the mud in, then slap it with the tool to get out the bubbles. It looks like jiggling fat! And check it, the two stones together look like a butt!

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Visit from Mad Max!

We just had a wonderful visitor, Max the Cat! He and his person were passing through Brooklyn on the way home to Maine.

Max has had surgery near his spine and so stuff below the waist doesn't work so good. But he gets around just fine, especially when food is involved. You should have seen our feral cats react to the prospect of a paraplegic feline. Like the way young children react to the disabled--what the hell is that!? Plus, he does send off that anger vibe. Though he is softening in his old age.

Only one serious squabble, when Max came near Wilbur the Dog's food. Willie did like he does with dogs: the growl, then the bigger growl, then the full-on attack. Poor Max shit his pants. Only he wasn't wearing any.

Here's Max set up in the passenger seat on his way home. He loves to go for a ride. But you better let him choose the tunes.

A New Era in Security Theatre

Is flying naked the only thing left? I have to thank blogger and securitologist Phil Libin for introducting me to the term "security theatre." It's that that weird post-9/11 paradox where taking visible security measures actually compromises security. Face it: check points of all kinds give us a false sense of safety (that is, if you're not from a "questionable" demographic), and create exactly the kind of human bottlenecks terrorists love. And recent allegedly-thwarted events have launched a new wave of it.

Will hairstyles change now that we can't travel with gel? Will the airlines have enough water to hydrate the passengers? What kind of air rage will ensue when we are denied our own choices for inflight entertainment (ipods, laptops, or even books and pencils), and have to watch the stupid censored movies?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for thwarting terrorist plots. I saw and breathed some awful stuff downtown 5 years ago, and I do consider myself lucky to be here. But in my opinion, the only effective security measures are invisible ones. Which have their own ethical quagmires. And what thwarts terrorist attacks is not metal detectors, it's plain old espionage, efficient sharing of intelligence, and being awake enough to identify a serious threat. In other words, real intelligence, the kind you have between your ears.

Here are a couple funny archive posts from Phil's blog, Vastly Important Notes. In one, he analyzes the security theatre at a Jamaican airport. And in another, he introduces Mr. Driver's License.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mark Pritchard's Interviews--I've Joined the Party

If you haven't discovered Mark Pritchard's WAYWO (What Are You Working On?) interviews, check them out. He's just added me to the corral of hard-working writers. While you're at it, look at his blog. Thanks, Mark!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More Views on Lynda Barry's Class, and Pics

Well, I'm back in the thick of work and trying to be "present" while I attempt to solve database problems. In the past, I went for "focus," or "concentration," but I like the new name better. I prefer to write graceful, simple code, but it doesn't always come out that way, and I have to pepper it with goofy notes, in case I "get hit by the bus," in my colleague's words. And in my art life, I like to write graceful, simple prose too, but that doesn't happen either. So, my new goal is to practice. And occasionally, the grace comes. And I'm writing "comments" around my fiction too, because there are plenty of buses out there to be hit by. (Knock wood here. The underside of the table is best.)

Other bloggers have weighed in on the Lynda Barry class experience. Virginia, one of the friends I went up there with, found herself in tears one day, and recounted, “I can feel my critical, judging self dissolving, and I’m afraid it may be what holds me together.” Boy, can I identify. And Summer, who I didn't recognize until after I was back home (hey! I read her blog!), found the Lynda Barry teacher-persona discombobulating, after having a relationship with her work for so many years. I can identify with that too.

There were probably other bloggers in the class. If I find them, I'll link to them.

Okay, photos. It was a week of non-editing, but be grateful that I stuck my editor mind back on for posting photos, cuz I shot a lot of em. If you click on the photo, you can see it bigger.

This is the lake at 6 AM.

This is me after my Gilligan experience in the hammock.

Here's the trapeze rigging they had in the middle of campus. It was Arts Week, and ordinary citizens were there learning to fly.

On Thursday night, we got to see some of this flying. Plus a mindblowing Mongolian contortionist, and...

Puppets!! Courtesy of the concurrent puppet workshop. They joyfully pranced through our Thursday nite vegetarian dinner.

I loved this one. A big guy in a tie, with a red briefcase that said "Dream Job." God, if only.

On Wednesday, I took a field trip into Woodstock with my friends Marcia and Virginia. We found a house decorated with tile...

Marcia, an appreciator and collector of visionary art, was determined to find the maker. No luck.

In Woodstock, we happened upon this grave. He did what he could for the master. I was touched.

Then we went to another visionary art site, Opus 40. Stone quarried and arranged onsite, a single sculpture spanning 40 years. My inner sculptor was jealous. It was a lesson in stick-to-it-iveness.

This greeter at Opus 40 was way more friendly than the human greeter, who chided us for not understanding they were closed. Their signage was inadequate.

A sampling of the veggies we ate daily. These were primarily there for us to contemplate, I think. I never did figure out how they kept the cute rabbits from eating it all. This was where I saw turbaned Kundalini yogis practicing their breathing every morning. Gorgeous swiss chard, cabbage, and sunflowers.

And finally, I did find some kitty love at Omega. I don't know if I find them or they find me. This one was friendly, and a good hunter. Probably an illegal companion for one of the 250 staff members. (Who were beautiful, earnest, and very fun to talk to as well.)

I wonder how Black Kitty deals with the adorable groundhogs, who are not shy, but still, I did not get to photograph. I'll never forget a fat little Punxsutawney Phil peeking into the yoga pavilion one morning while we all were engaged in asana. We humans must look very weird to them.