Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday

We're all Catholics around here and tomorrow is the first day of Lent, which will find us on a soup diet (except for Travis; he can eat all he wants) and no more sweets (or alcohol for me and Brian). Actually, Travis is giving up candy and soda but not all desserts. Lo que sea...... tonight, we're partying! Circus animal cookies, jelly beans, Milk Duds, white chocolate, and lots of Mardi Gras beads, wooo-hooo!

The books on the mantle have changed, too. From red (for Valentine's Day) to black, for the time of contemplation and quiet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On the sun, snow and being tagged

Before I address the fact that I've been tagged, let me show you what I saw yesterday morning, our last day at Mammoth in the high Sierras. The rising sun streaked the wall of the guest room pink. Here, in Corona del Mar, architecture obscures the rising sun, oh woe.

So bleary-eyed, I pulled myself out of bed, found the camera on the nightstand, and pulled open the sliding door. The deck was icy cold. My eyes were drawn to the light on snow (the title to one of my favorite novels by Anita Shreve).

Now... about being tagged ....

Fellow ASJA member and blogger Candy Harrington (http://barrierfreetravels.com) tagged me this morning. What this means is I need to answer the questions below, or not play. Of course I'll play. Here goes:

Four Jobs in My Life
Parts runner for a Volvo dealer
Countergirl at Dunkin' Donuts
Avon lady (at 17)
Baker (first job in San Francisco)

Four Films I Could Watch Over and Over
Out of Towners (the original, with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis)
Some Like it Hot (Jack Lemmon, again)
The Odd Couple
Dead Calm
(whoops...that's five)

Four Places I Have Lived
Plainfield, Vermont
San Francisco
Altoona, Pennsylvania
Corona del Mar, California

Four TV Series I Like
I pretty much don't watch TV, but my 11-year-old son and I will watch...
The old Dick Van Dyke show
Turner Classic Movie Channel
Knitty Gritty on DIY Network
Unwrapped on the Food Network

Four Places I've Been on Vacation
Rajasthan, India
Palm Springs, CA
the outback of Maine (camping)

Four Foods I love
Hot fudge sundaes (which I stay away from but find greatly compelling)
Tofu turkey (homemade)

Four Websites I Visit Daily
asja.org (The American Society of Journalists and Authors' forum)
writingclasses.com (Gotham Writers' Workshop (online; one place I teach)
knittersreview.com/forum (knitting forum; yes...I'm obsessed!)
laobserved.com (LAObserved: Los Angeles media, news, sense of place)

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now
As I answer this question, I am at one of the four places I'd rather be (if I were home): Mammoth Lakes, CA, in the Sierras
Somewhere in Vermont where the snow grows deep
New Zealand

Four Bloggers Who Should Play
Victor Infante (http://ocvictor.livejournal.com)
Joshua Berman (http://blog.stonegrooves.net)
Anne Elliott (http://assbackwords.blogspot.com)
Bookish Wendy (http://thebookishgirl.blogspot.com)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The most important part of a writer's anatomy

Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, and wife of Michael Chabon, was on my show yesterday. At the end of my show, I usually ask my guests for advice for the writers out there.

Ayelet talked about the girls in prison that she teaches and that she asked them what was the most important part of a writer's anatomy. (What do you think it is? Before you read on, guess.... I asked my own students last night and they said, "The eyes," "the brain," "the heart." Her students gave similar answers. Yes, they are all important but that's not it.)

"Your butt!" she said. Because if your butt's not in the chair, nothins' gonna happen. No writing is going to get done.

Yep. A writer's butt reigns supreme.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day, book cover blurbs and more

Holidays are always festive around here. Brian should hold a class for men: How to do a holiday right.

From the bedroom to the living room and dining room, it's about four steps. But there were paper hearts, pink and red, strewn across the hardwood floor leading to the dining room table clotted with Valentine's Day gifts (Chet Baker CD, knitting books, journal, tank top, Jelly Belly candies) and more hearts and balloons. This is where I work, a foot away from the roses, transcribing my free writes from my Moleskine into the computer.

Travis is in holiday mode, just like his dad. A "you are the best mom" card and cut out hearts, too.

Of course after my protein smoothie I scarfed a ton of raspberry and blackberry candies. It's Valentine's Day, right?

Here's a piece from yesterday's New York Times about being careful which blurbs you wish for.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Fiction's compelling nature

My friend Allison directed me to this essay on fiction in The New York Times by Julia Glass who wrote Three Junes.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No lawyers?

Lawyers are ubiquitous, right? Not so in Frey's case. (I know, I know, I'm still writing about this. Forgive me!) It seems everyone wants to place blame on Sean McDonald or Nan Talese or James Frey. And while all of them are somewhat to blame, I suppose, the publishing house's in-house lawyer should be the one focused on, don't you think?

What about the laywer?? Prior to Pen on Fire being published, I had a long talk with Harcourt's lawyer. My book was being vetted--a writing book!

Didn't Frey's book go through a thorough vetting? So easy to place blame after the fact, isn't it?

Frey's editor wouldn't have been the one to ask all those questions. This is what lawyer's do--they ask those legal questions. Or should.

Just my humble three cents.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Oprah pregnant with Frey's baby???

Could it be? Click here for more.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Fiction or nonfiction? Who cares!

I keep going back to that Eleanor Roosevelt quote I like so well--one of my favorite quotes, really.

She said, "The reason fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature to those of us who really like to study people is that, in fiction, the author can tell the whole truth without hurting anyone--or humiliating himself--too much."

I don't get that memoir or nonfiction sells better than fiction. I read fiction for the essential truth. We all know that a lot of fiction writers embellish what happened with made up stuff. That's the fun of it. And certainly we know that memoirs--and not just Big Jim's--are replete with made up stuff. That's not so fun.

What about Hemingway's best book (in my opinion), A Moveable Feast, or Kerouac's On the Road? Are they fiction? Are they nonfiction? Who cares!

Mostly I care about the quality of writing and whether it moves me in some way--mostly whether it moves me to keep reading.

Right now I'm listening to Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed, which, by the way, is not what it seems. I really wish she had given this first book of hers a different title. So I'm lying down at my acupuncturist's this morning listening to it on CD and he comes in to check the needles and he asks what I'm listening to. I couldn't say, "Oh, it's Good in Bed. It sounds like some sort of porno dealybob. So I say, "Oh, it's a book by Jennifer Weiner. Her movie, In Her Shoes, just came out on DVD," as if this has anything to do with what I'm listening to.

Anyway, getting back to my point--I think I had a point.... Oh! Yes! It is that so much of Weiner's book seems autobiographical--the main character is an overweight woman, she's a writer in college and afterward--and I think, This must be from Weiner's life. But so much else obviously is made up, and I like that about the book, and about fiction--that you can embellish what did happen with what didn't.

This is what I love about writing fiction, too: I can tell the truth in fiction in ways I could never do in nonfiction.

I think I'm feeling a little sorry for Frey about now. He obviously had a story that entranced so very many. Would they have been less involved if he'd sold it as fiction? Wouldn't it be nice to drop categories and focus more on good stories, good writing?