Monday, April 30, 2007

Too personal...or not personal enough?

I have a friend who thinks I'm being a bit too personal about my writing woes. This friend thinks I should zip it, and just write away. And if I'm dealing with any obstacles, to just keep them to myself. This friend also doesn't think I should go out to a cafe to work. He/she thinks I should just stay home and buckle down.

So tell me, does it make you uncomfortable when I, or any other writers with blogs, talk about what they're dealing with, whether it be procrastination, writers block, or not being able to write at home? Seriously, i want to know.


The LA Times Festival of Books was stellar, as usual. My friend Allison and I decided we liked the humor panels best. The panelists on the one I moderated (Allison Burnett, Merrill Markoe, Pamela Ribon and Amy Wallen) were hilarious. The other two humor panels we went to were great, too. Allison and Amy are going to come on the show in July, methinks.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Leaving home.... write. Well, to work on fiction. I've done it sporadically over the years, but finally realized I had to do it like a job. So I went out and bought a new battery for my iBook, one that lasts almost four hours.

It works like this: I drop my son at school and go to a cafe. One morning it was Kean, the next Starbucks near UC-Irvine. I work on the revision of Starletta's Kitchen for two hours and then I leave. I vow not to check email, although my original intention was to work at cafes that are not wireless. But now the world seems to be wireless and it's difficult to find a place that isn't. Maybe the beach, or a park. But I want to work at a table. Monday through Friday, unless something comes up that I have to take care of, this is what I plan to do.

At home it's too difficult to not get distracted. And as Dennis Palumbo has said, email is death to writers.


Today is the first day of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. I'm moderating a panel this a.m. on fiction and humor. So many great panels. I believe BookTV will be broadcasting some. Anyone going?

The ASJA conference in NYC last weekend was stellar. Great panels there, too. (They're for sale at


I like what Melissa Bank said at the panel on Voice at the ASJA conference. She said she has a drawing of a rhinoceros being airlifted and it reminds her that writing is difficult.

What techniques do y'all use to get writing done?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The ASJA Annual Writers Conference

Are any of you going? I'm leaving on Thursday for the three day affair in New York City. I love New York. My father grew up in Harlem, then the Upper East Side (he was from Sicily, but took a ship to NY as a teen and never looked back). In the 11th grade, we bussed up to the city from my Pennsylvania hamlet and went to Times Square and Radio City Music Hall. One New Year's Eve when I was 17, I went to Times Square. A man grabbed me and kissed me. Yuck.

Such a people watching city. Great food. Great shops. Personality.

Mostly, I'll be at the conference, which I'm co-chairing. Great panels. Great people. Friends I haven't seen since last year this time. But we also plan to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Little Italy.

And next week, as you know if you've been reading this blog for a while, is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I'm moderating a panel on humor and fiction on Saturday morning. Another great event for writers and for readers.

Writers conferences and retreats and talks and panels are food for writers. I always come away with inspiration or new ideas or new contacts and new friends. In the summer of '92, I went to Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, one of the best West Coast conferences for literary writers. I met one of my idols there: Clarence Major. Of course, me being me, I didn't introduce myself until my last night there; he so intimidated me. Later, when I had a show, he came on my show and after that, our interview was published in a book about him.

Beginning in June, for those in Southern California, we're starting a speaking series called Novel Voices. I started yet another blog where I'll be posting info as we get it (

If you know of any stellar events for writers, wherever you are, post them here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut died

He influenced so many writers. I love these Vonnegut quotes:

"Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be."

"Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."

"Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae."

"Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops."

"Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia."

"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."

"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center."

"People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God."

His books--Slaughterhouse-Five, Sirens of Titan, Player Piano and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater--affected me. I was in college, becoming a writer.

We should have memorial services for Vonnegut all over. Read his work aloud. Remember.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Dolor de cabeza

When I have a migraine, which seems to be more often lately, there's little I want to do. Cooking is hard. I can read okay, but it's hard to concentrate on writing most anything at all, except for e-mails. So I apologize for being remiss and not posting.

My librarian said she's been to the ER three times with migraines. Mine have never been that bad, fortunately.

I also had a student who rarely made class this last session because of migraines. The best she could do was get to work. I feel for her.

Today I took Excedrin Extra Strength and the migraine is at bay. It's there, lurking, like a parking meter cop, waiting to swoop down at the first chance it gets. I even said a prayer to St. Jude, the saint of lost causes.

I cannot think of one man who gets migraines. They seem to be a female thing.

What do you do for migraines?