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2012 Readings & Workshops

March 21: Berkeley, 4:00-6:00 pm: Ashby Village reading and book talk, Jewish Family and Children's Services, Suse Moyal Center, 2484 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

May 10: Oakland, 3:30-5:00 pm: "Conversations at AgeSong," The Terrace Room, 1800 Madison, Oakland

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Literatty Discourse

I recently read from Breaking Out of Bedlam at a benefit for Hedgebrook, where I met Spring Warren, author of Turpentine and The Quarter Acre Farm. I could go on and on about her books, her blog, her farm, and her food, but why not just check it out for yourself at her website?

The email she sent me after the reading spawned a rapid-fire exchange about some of our favorite topics. Turns out we have a lot in common, in particular an avid interest in rats. In case you'd like to eavesdrop on our high-falutin literary discussion, I include a portion of it below.

The stunning illustration above, by the way, is from the sketchbook Spring kept during her recent visit to Rome. It's called a Pharaoh's mouse, but it looks like a rat to me.

SPRING Warren wrote:

Hello, Leslie!

It was a pleasure to meet you the other night. I was sorry we didn't get to talk more. As is usual at big noisy crowded events I feel a little like a marble in a pinball machine, just madly beeping and bumping - then agonizing after I spin down the hole that I didn't bump and beep at the right people at the right time in just the right way.

Good writing!


Leslie Larson wrote:

Hi, Spring.

I just had a look at your website. Had I known you were so knowledgeable in the agriculture world, I would have been dogging your steps all Thursday night. I'm an avid back yard farmer. How'd you learn all that stuff?

All best,


SPRING Warren wrote:

Avid backyard farmer? How was it we didn't sit down and talk manure? We will definitely have to get together and share tomato stories or some such thing.



Leslie Larson wrote:

Tomatoes are a sore subject right now. I have a treasure trove of rat stories—indoors, outdoors, you name it. I live in South Berkeley if you ever make it to this corner of the world.

SPRING Warren wrote:

Omigosh, rats! I was walking by the hot tub about 2 hours ago and heard gnaw crunch smacking noises. I upended the step that covers the motor housing and they shot out in all directions. I felt a little bad because they'd made such a nice place there, lots of leaves, a shredded washcloth, orange peels, even a corner with shiny stuff (art collection, no doubt). It was a total ratspa! If I were a rat, there I would be, and now homeless, what a comedown in the world. Yes, they've been nibbling tomatoes, too. AND sweetpotatoes. Good riddance, now that I think about it, nasty vermin!

And if you get to Davis, come on by, I'll put the kettle on, we'll drink tea and hate rats.

Leslie Larson wrote:

Wow, sounds like you broke up a real Shangri-la. Your description of the place makes ME want to live there.

A few months ago, I was turning over the compost when a geyser of teenage rats erupted from the middle and ran in all directions. It's nice to know the neighbors DO come out of their houses when they hear screaming.

You know, people can't get enough rat stories. We should edit a book of anecdotes. Or a coffee table book of full color photos of rat house interiors like the one you described. RATPADS!

SPRING Warren wrote:

You are a genius - We'll be rich! Start collecting stories—and pictures of Ratpads—and by this time next year, we'll have ratspas of our own.

Leslie Larson wrote:

I've been thinking a lot about the rat book and I'm wondering if RATPADS should be a chapter rather than the subject of the whole book. Other chapters might be personal experiences with rats by famous writers (do you know Toni Morrison?), profiles of particular rats, and general background on rats—though I think we should concentrate on California rats (who have vegetarian diets and hot tubs as opposed to slimy east coast rats who live in sewers, eat garbage, and hang out with cock roaches). I was awake @ 3am this morning composing the introduction in my mind.

The book will make more money than all our novels combined!

SPRING Warren wrote:

Sure, that sounds good, and maybe a chapter on famous rats like Ben, Willard, Wormtail and the rats in that Disney chef rat movie, and how famous rats differ from basic rats (narcissism).

In research for a book I'm working on I found rats ate corpse's eyeballs and livers first in the WWI trenches. Hard to see how that could be

Leslie Larson wrote:

European rats sound even worse than New York rats.

SPRING Warren wrote:

Eurotrash rats must really be bad. Hot tub repairman came by to check out the gnawing problem on our wires and left a message on the phone later that "the wire that had ordered" and he would be replacing it in a few days.

I told him there had been rats in there, but I guess he couldn't bear to even speak the word rat. Doesn't go well with the image they sell of someone bobbing around in a hot tub with a Cosmo, apparently.

Leslie Larson wrote:

The rats must have been wearing their mouse masks when the repairman was there. Anyway, hope they lay off the wires.

SPRING Warren wrote:

There is now a rat in my attic, I kid you not, that sounds like it is the size of a beagle. It sits on the heating duct and gnaws something (please god, not the electric cables) and the reverberations through the aluminum flumes makes a sound akin to chopping wood. It might have been a mistake to evict the rats from the hot tub.

I'll end there, although rats, their pads, and their relationship to our own species provide endless stories—like the time I thought there was a pink, foot-long snake hanging out of the magazine rack next to the toilet, but it was only a rat tail!

Watch for RATPADS in bookstores or, better yet, pre-order The Quarter Acre Farm, which will hit shelves March 1.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Time To Dye

In my mother's day you dyed your hair, but now you color it. I often use the wrong term, which sends my hair stylist into a furious Rumplestiltskin-like jig. At any rate, moments ago I colored my hair and am now sitting at the keyboard waiting for it to take, as my grandmother—whose color for forty years was “Saucy Brown”—would say. With my membrane-sheathed hair plastered to the top of my head, I resemble a cross between a Cupie doll and a calf so new to the world, it hasn’t yet shed its caul.

Some day I hope to be able to stroll blithely into the world in this state—to pick lettuce in the garden or walk to the mailbox on the corner—even to chat with the teenage boys who gather in front of my house every afternoon to spit and smoke pot. But I’m not there yet. Far from it. I’m housebound for the forty minutes it takes to brown up, scuttling from room to room, ducking when I pass in front of a window, freezing if I hear someone coming up the steps.

I never thought I’d color, but when I turned forty and saw a picture of myself fresh out of the shower with a suffering look on my face and long, mousy hair, I was struck by the resemblance to paintings of Christ on the cross. Christ, only older. “Gray Jesus,” I said to my girlfriend, who promised then and there that if I decided to dye, she would always do the dying. She’s been true to her word. She even reminds me. I might be grinding coffee, checking out at Walgreens, or waiting for the train. All she has to say is, “Gray Jesus,” and I know it’s time to dye.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

Off to Denver tomorrow for the Associated Writing Programs conference. I’m not speaking, reading, or contributing to a panel. Nope. I’m on a junket with my girlfriend who IS on a panel. I get a spouse discount, plus free hotel. Oh, and a free frequent flyer ticket on Southwest. Okay, I’m thrifty.

Looking forward to hanging out with all my pals from the Macondo Writing Workshop—that hotbed of talent and good-time Charlies that meets once a year in San Antonio. Excited about seeing what’s going on in the reading and writing world and being part of the swarm of writers from all over the country.

Monday, April 5, 2010

From Someone Who Knows

Readers have told me that the atmosphere of The Palisades, the nursing home where my book is set, is remarkably similar to where their relative or friend lives—right down to the people who share Cora’s table and the aides who mop the floors. Last week I got a note from a woman who actually lives there herself:

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your book. I currently live in a nursing home and the way you wrote it, it felt like you had been in my room with me! In fact, some of my aides were reading it and we took turns reading it together. I wish there were more books written like yours. Do you know of any? It sure helped passed the time away!”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Wireless

I did three live radio interviews last month. Hit the prime time on Sunday morning: 1:00 am until 2:00 am. Who’s up then? People driving home after a night on the town, insomniacs, speed freaks, shift workers? Well, it could be anyone. Pat Thurston was a great host. She was informed and enthusiastic about Bedlam. It was fun. The hour flew by.

The other two hosts—Liz St. John and Jeff Schechtman were just as engaged and engaging. They take the art of chatting to the max and convey the intimacy of a two-way conversation to an audience of unknowns. They directed the interview to both the social aspects of Bedlam—where will we spend the latter part of our lives, who will make decisions for us, what are our options?—and to the actual writing. What’s my routine, how did Cora Sledge take shape in my mind, who is my intended audience?

Reminded me again of the great reach and potential of radio.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dog Daze

Love dogs? Love coffee? Love books?

If you answer yes to at least one of these questions, check out Coffee with a Canine. The latest post features my own wonder dog Leyla.

Archives are categorized by breed so you can browse your favorites.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Follow Yours

Breaking Out of Bedlam got a five-star review in Instinct Magazine. What’s Instinct? I’d never heard of it, but the sizzling Brazilian he-man wearing nothing but a tiny bikini on the cover suggested a readership of either hungry cougars or boys of a certain persuasion. The sheerness of the briefs and what they revealed made me suspect the latter. Sure enough, inside the magazine were grooming tips, info about hip vacation spots, and plenty of celebrity gossip…for men.

I didn’t think a magazine like Instinct would review my book, much less give it five stars, much less call it “A fun—and inspiring—read that proves you’re never too old to really start living.” Wow. I had assumed that gay men would not be a targeted audience for a novel about an 82-year-old, 300 pound woman forced to live in an elder care facility. The book does have a gay character, a medical tech who’s in love with someone half his age and who befriends my protagonist. Naturally he’s done dirty, just like the heroine.

Which just goes to show you that alliances crop up in unexpected places. As the tag line on the cover of
Instinct instructs, Follow Yours.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oops, I forgot to blog. Again.

Nothing like a whacked-out back to make you turn to things you otherwise wouldn’t. Was it the 40 lb bags of Kirkland dog food? Over-zealous vacuuming? (Forgot to do that, too—for two weeks.) Or spending too much time cross-legged in my desk chair? Probably a combination. It’s depressing but a little nice to enjoy painkillers while wallowing in bed surrounded by coffee, the newspaper, books, the phone, pens, half-finished meals, and the cat.

Breaking Out of Bedlam will be on bookshelves next week. Advance copies, three boxes of them, are sitting in my living room. I have four readings, two workshops, and two radio interviews lined up in the next month. I had an anxiety dream that I had to lecture on cotton while crouching on all fours, and another that the 747 that was supposed to fly me to my reading decided to take the freeway instead of the sky.

It’s time to dream about movie deals, glowing NYT reviews, and of course Oprah. (Every writer dreams about Oprah, even the ones who deny it. Especially the ones who deny it.) Dollars signs in the eyeballs. Fantasies of home improvements, enhanced wardrobe, lavish vacations. Really, though, I’ll be happy if there are a minimum of five people at each reading, my Amazon numbers stay out of the seven figures, and no one rips me a new one in print. It's asking a lot, but it doesn't hurt to hope.