Writer, With Kids





Recently the writer, Cari Luna, invited me to participate in her blog, Writer, With Kids.  Luna is the author of the highly readable novel, The Revolution of Everyday, from Tin House Books.  You can read my Oregonian review of her highly readable novel here. Below is an excerpt from the interview. 

How has parenthood changed the work itself, if at all?

Before children, I never felt the joy/fear mix so fully. The awe and wonder of holding your baby, along with this suddenly deep deep connection you have with your partner as you two share the intimate knowledge and appreciation of this new little being. Parenthood blew open the doors of my heart.

In relation to my writing, being a mother made me more compassionate, empathetic, and open. It made me understand how important it is for a writer to have great affection for her characters, no matter how much they screw up, no matter how much you might not want to eat dinner with them, you have to recognize and honor their complexity, their ability to surprise you. (Think teenagers here!) No judging.

Read the full interview!




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Goodbye to My Hometown Bookseller


Though I no longer live in Santa Cruz, the news that a beloved bookstore will be closing at the end of February, hit me hard. I visited Capitola Book Cafe as a young women who dreamed of someday writing a novel. I discovered writers that inspired me, browsed the cookbook section planning dinner parties, dreamed of great trips in the travel section. One of my first writing groups ever met in the attic. I drank coffee, ate scones and wrote stories in the cafe. When my children were small we would stop in after   preschool to have a cookie and read Kevin Henkes books. Later, I brought them to the midnight release parties for Harry Potter. My husband went to his first author reading at The Capitola Book Cafe.  He saw Ann Packer read from her book, The Dive From Clausen's Pier, and he made the gaff of asking, incredulous, "How could you end it book that way?" offering up a huge spoiler. Ms. Packer told him, graciously, "Some people may not have read the book."  And my poor husband was so mortified.  She and the staff and the other readers made him feel fine.  It was a gracious moment at the book cafe.  Oh, and the authors I heard…Sherman Alexie whose voiced boomed over the explosions seeping through the walls of the adjacent movie theatre, Adrienne Rich, Andre Dubus III, so many I cannot recount. Then the cafe was kind to invite me to read at the store at the launch of my book. It was truly a homecoming for me.  My 7th grade English teacher, my first Creative Writing teacher, family and friends were all there.  What a generous and supportive community. I feel very lucky to have had the book cafe as a feature in my life in Santa Cruz. I will miss them terribly.


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I feel bad about my blog.  I haven’t visited for months.  Not because I forget, au contraire, I think about it often.  It’s like a neglected plant that I keep forgetting to water.  It just sits there in the corner, all droopy and accusatory.  Yet like the potting soil, my mind goes dry whenever I think about the blog (usually at a stop light or right before I fall asleep). Nothing seems postworthy... 

And then our family had this cruddy holiday season—uncovered lies, nasty outbursts, a latke grease fire, cathartic weeping, crashing on a neighbors couch, interspersed with good food, lovely homemade gifts, apologies, friends, the small kindness of coffee served in bed—really it was like the worst holiday movie ever, all the heartbreaking scenes from “The Family Stone” and “Home for the Holidays” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” with tiny bits of slapstick, humor, and harmony.  If it’s any indication of how ready we were to say adieu to the season, our Christmas tree was naked and abandoned on the curb by 9:00 am the day after Christmas.  We’re a volatile bunch with exposed nerve endings and not afraid say how we feel. Of course, in the end we're all fine.  We hang together in the same inelegant way burlap holds together, big chunky gaps, itchy and sometimes ugly, but überfunctional. We exhaust and forgive and love one another. 

The emotional exhaustion of the season left me reeling and recognizing that all I can do is shift is my outlook.  Expectations always get me in trouble.   And so, my New Year’s Resolution:  find joy anywhere it pops up.  Hence my #onegoodthing project.  Everyday on facebook I’ll post the apex moment of my day.  And then on Sundays, I’ll post the week’s good moments here. Voila!  A blog post and a happy outlook.   Any readers that care to, please post your good thing, I’d love to know about it. 


1 January: gorgeous day at the Oregon coast: expansive horizon, the light, the company.


2 January: received TWO rejections today: they said: the piece succeeded on its own terms, especially strong closing paragraph, lovely essay, near miss, lacked a narrative hook, nice (this one feels particularly damning!), keep sending. Trying to upset my paradigm and see these rejections as an open invitation to dig deeper and submit again.


3 January: "Just a pimple, a minor irritation, end of story," said the Oncologist.

4 January: Songbirds! In Portland, in January.

Wishing you all #onegoodthing each and every day.  Happy New Year.


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I recently had a delightful exchange with Cortnee Howard over at the Best Damn: Getting Your Literary Life website.  I'm always grateful to engage with readers and Cortnee asked some terrific questions.  Check it out.  



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What I Read On My Summer Vacation

I love visiting book groups.  I've been lucky this summer and have had the opportunity to visit a handful, to sit in the company of engaged readers, sip a glass of wine, or cup of tea, and talk about what we're reading.  One of the questions I'm often asked (besides the favorite question: how much, if any, of SHOUT is autobiographical!) is what am I reading.  So, here's a list of books I've loved and been lucky to review so far this year, along with links to the complete reviews as well as links to purchase from Indie Bound (click the image for purchase).  Enjoy.



SOMEONE, by Alice McDermott

A new novel by Alice McDermott is an event. SOMEONE is her first book in seven long years.    When my advance copy arrived, I placed it on my coffee table and lovingly glanced at it for a couple of days before I sat down with a cup of coffee and went inside. For that is what reading a novel by Alice McDermott does, it brings you inside a complex, beautiful and fully realized world. A world foreign from your own and yet, you find yourself thinking, again and again, yes I have felt that loneliness, I have felt that joy.  The world of "Someone" is 1930s Brooklyn, a middle class, Irish Catholic neighborhood where boisterous street stickball games are umpired by blind Billy Corrigan (he was "gassed in the war"), where girls gossip on front stoops, fathers emerge from the subway at day's end with the paper folded beneath their arms, and young women -- office workers -- stroll home in their spring coats, sunlight angles low down the street, soft and forgiving over everyone. It's a humble neighborhood of hollering, hosiery and haberdashery. It's Marie's neighborhood, the ordinary woman at the center of SOMEONE (click through to read full review)



THE LOWLAND, by Jhumpa Lahiri

THE LOWLAND, Jhumpa Lahiris expansive and intimate new novel explores the complex story of the Mitra family.  Loyalty and betrayal, lies and forgiveness, filial responsibility and abandonment, the choices and sacrifices we make to find our way in the world are beautifully wrought in this novel.  Subhash and Udayan are inseparable brothers. The bright lights of their parents lives, the boys grow up in Calcutta in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It is not until they attend different universities that their paths begin to divide.  Udayan, the more passionate and incendiary, is gradually drawn into the Naxalite Movementa militant communist organization that strives to ameliorate the desperate poverty of the peasant class through acts of extreme violence.  Subhash, the dutiful and cautious older brother, chooses to leave Calcutta and continue his studies in the United States. (link to come, not online yet!)



THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, by Claire Messud

Nora Eldridge is full of good girl rage. For most of her life she has been a reliable and loving daughter, a trusted friend, a favorite third-grade teacher, and an on-again off-again artist. Dutiful has been her modus operandi. At the start of THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, Claire Messud's seething new novel, Nora is on the verge of a pedestrian midlife, having drinks with friends, thumbing through the Garnet Hill catalog, writing lesson plans, dabbling with her "shoebox art," fastidious, miniscule dioramas of artist's rooms.  (click through to read full review)





"You wonder about me. I wonder about you." So begins and ends A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING,  Ruth Ozeki's rich and engaging new novel. Two women on different continents have written these words, one in a diary and one in a letter. One of the writers is Nao (pronounced now), a depressed 16-year-old with a voice both funny and heartbreaking. The other is Ruth, a blocked, middle-aged novelist. Both reach across oceans and time, hoping to connect and yet never knowing if their words reach another person. (click through to read full review)


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