Thursday, October 27, 2011


"A book is the only immortality." --Rufus Choate

"I don't believe in personal immortality; the only way I expect to have some version of such a thing is through my books." --Isaac Asimov

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." --Woody Allen 

It occurs to me that somewhere, far away perhaps, a thought flutters through a mind, one scrap of paper in a confetti-like shower, a memory, a vision of me, something I did, the way I looked one time.  Across the world, another singular downpour, like a handful of rice, one grain the combination of words from a book that once struck a raw and tender chord.  Down the street, during a heated conversation in a warm house, a hand raises in the exact manner of a lost great-grandfather.  On another continent, in a café, in a church, on the crowded sidewalk where people jostle, elbow to elbow, musical notes rain over one head, an adagio that always makes the load lighter.  These scraps, rising and falling in random minds at random times, in random places:  immortality.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Precocious Kids

I’m currently reading and enjoying immensely The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  The book is written from several viewpoints, all connected in some way to a fictional out-of-print book called, well, The History of Love.  As the mystery behind the book’s history unravels, so do the stories of the narrators.  One of the voices in the book is that of a 14 or 15-year-old girl, Alma Singer, and she is what I’d call a PRECOCIOUS KID.  You know the ones in books…kids with adult-like stores of patience, a breadth of understanding, a biting sense of humor, interest in sundry and complex topics.  In other words, unlike any kids you’ve ever met.  Don’t get me wrong—my children are brilliant.  Any one who knows them knows that, right?  At times, they become interested in topics and want to expand their learning and understanding and yes, they can store certain facts.  The sheer number of EPL and MLB players and stats within recall of my three boys is amazing.  Getting them to remember to wash their hair in the shower, another matter entirely.

So as much as I like this book, at times I am slightly annoyed with Alma and her clichéd existence.  In a short reading session the other day, Alma waxed on about Jewish history, the method of determining which plants are edible in the wild and the exploratory mission wherein the ecosystem at the bottom of the ocean was discovered.  It was a Saturday, so we were rushing from one soccer game to the next and between, picking up my daughter at her Musical Theater class, where she’d be singing "9 to 5" for the hundredth time (isn’t there a more modern number they can try, I thought—but that’s another topic for another post, older people revering culture from their own era).  My two nine-year-old boys (pictured above) were in the backseat.  I was contemplating Alma and her considerable knowledge and decided to observe my own geniuses.  They were just finishing up a session of silly talk, where they pretend to be one stuffed animal or another, and I tuned in just in time to hear a thoughtful discussion about how it feels when you bite your tongue (stings for ten minutes, like a bee sting, then burns).  Once in the dance studio, they spent ten minutes punching holes in a bulletin board,

or one punched holes while the other punched the first in the arm, all the while making unintelligible noises.  I wondered where we had gone wrong, why they weren’t talking about tectonic plates under the ocean, the Warsaw ghetto or hydrogen sulfide.  Unable to resolve the matter with so much going on (and apparently, my own limited brain), I thought it best to return to my reading.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book News: Big Announcement

I'm very excited to announce that my novel, The Qualities of Wood, will be published in 2012 by HarperCollins!  I posted the book on HC's website for writers,, and earlier this year, the book was awarded a review.  The rest is a blur but somehow has led to this point.  Thanks to the community there, all the fabulous writers and readers, and to HC for taking a shot with me.  If you'd like to see the announcement in its entirety, click here.

But first...WAIT!  This is just the beginning.  To stay updated with all the latest news on the book's publication, visit my website at and sign up on the Contact page for email updates.  You can read an excerpt of the book on the site and see what others have had to say so far.  And/or, visit me on Facebook and "Like" my author page!

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hitchhiking, Part 2

Strangely enough, after writing the post about the absence of hitchhiking from our current literal and figurative landscape… three of my kids and I were driving to the baseball game of the fourth on Sunday when we passed—you guessed it—a hitchhiker.  A middle-aged woman with longish gray hair, dressed simply in shorts and a blue tank top, standing by a bus stop, perhaps hoping for a quicker way.

Me:  “There’s a hitchhiker!”
Kid (I’ll denote the combined comments of all three as "kid"):  “A what?”
Me:  “A hitchhiker.  Do you know what that is?”
Kid:  “No.”
Me:  “When you want to get a ride somewhere, you stand at the side of the road, put your thumb up like this, and hope someone will pick you up.”
Blank Stares
Me:  “Not that you’re allowed to do that.”
Kid:  “Why doesn’t she just drive?”
Me:  “Maybe she doesn’t have a car.”
Kid:  “But she was so fat.”
Me:  “What does that have to do with it?”
Kid:  “Because she’s not poor.”  (Apparently, his reference being literary:  rotund kings in fairy tales; thin, shivering, poor townsfolk dressed in rags.  Sidenote:  this is the same kid who uses the word “hobo” to refer to modern homeless.)
Me:  “Who said you have to be poor to hitchhike?  Maybe her car broke down.”
Kid:  “She should get it fixed.”
Me:  “Maybe she doesn’t have the money, or can’t get to the shop until Monday.”
Pause, little brows furrowed
Kid:  “Where does she need to go?”
Me:  “I don’t know. The grocery store?  The library?”  (Here, I admit, adding the last thing to improve their impression of her.)
Kid:  “That’s not safe.”
Me:  “Maybe not.”
Kid:  “Why doesn’t she just walk?”
Me:  “Maybe it’s far.”
Etc., etc.

I should add that all of the “Kid” portions were spoken with what I can only call a general tone of intolerance, even mild irritation.  It made me feel guilty for the sheltered life we’re obviously offering them.  Later, however, their judgmental tone softened a bit and became more curious. 

Kid:  “How often did you see hitchhikers when you were a kid?”
Me:  “I don’t know, pretty often I guess.”
Kid:  “Every day?”
Me:  “No, maybe once a week.” (Knowing I will be forced to quantify eventually.)
Kid:  “I’m going to tell all of my friends I saw a hitchhiker!” (Almost like seeing a dinosaur, or some other ancient thing from when I was young.)

In conclusion, I can only reiterate what I said before:  hitchhiking is gone, and all the romantic notions one might want to attach to it.  The kids couldn't get their minds around the fact that someone might not be able to get wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted.  Are they spoiled or practical?  I'm not sure...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Words for Autumn

Here in California, we had a wonderful rainy day yesterday.  Wonderful, because it's the time of year where some are anxious for Autumn.  If you live someplace cold, compare this feeling to how you feel in the April or May, when it's still cold but you're told it's Spring.  So I bundled up this week and worked on my new novel.  Soup for lunch, slippers on until I had to fetch the kids.  Autumn. 

This morning, I wanted to write something about the season, so I went looking for words of inspiration and well... I've found that everything about Autumn, and October, has already been said in a thousand lovely ways.  So I'll keep imagining the glorious leaf colors (because we'll have to wait a good while longer for any of that), and I'll save my words for the novel, and share these with you.

"All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."         - Thomas Wolfe

"The sweet calm sunshine of October, now
    Warms the low spot; upon its grassy mold
The purple oak-leaf falls; the birchen bough
    drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold."
     -   William Cullen Bryant

"October is nature's funeral month.  Nature glories in death more than in life.  The month of departure is more beautiful than the month of coming - October than May.  Every green thing loves to die in bright colors."     -   Henry Ward Beecher  

"O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away."
-   Robert Frost, October

Like someone who opens a door of glass
or sees his own reflection in it
when he returns from the woods
the light falls so variously here at the end of October
that nothing is whole or can be made into a whole
because the cracks are too uncertain and constantly moving.

Then you experience the miracle
of entering into yourself like a diamond
in glass, enjoying its own fragility
when the storm carries everything else away
including the memory of a freckled girlfriend
out over the bluing lake hidden behind the bare hills."
-   Henrik Nordbrandt,  The Glass Door
    Translated by Thomas Satterlee 

"Bittersweet October.  The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause
between the opposing miseries of summer and winter." 
-   Carol Bishop Hipps


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka