Sunday, February 24, 2019

Desert Nights, Rising Stars, Bohemian Rhapsody

Epic, indeed.

This will be a sad blog.

I think I've attended four of these conferences, including the very first one. I was a presenter once. (I cannot even remember what I discussed, nor do I want to ponder this question: Have I moved down a notch?) I got an agent on another time. (I've gone rogue since then, if you know what I mean.) I still think about watching Adam Johnson dashing down thoughts on a chalkboard in a crowded room in the Piper Center upon a different occasion. But this was the first time that I was an "exhibitor."

Pushing my fiction?


Working the crowd?

You might need to be from this part of Phoenix to understand our response to WEATHER. We are not fully equipped to deal. When that rain and cold and--WAS THAT SLEET?--hit the freakin' Valley of the Sun, we natives flip out. I mean, I'll be ready for this in Portland. But Tempe?

We were sorta rained out. The front lawn of Old Main on the ASU campus was a swamp.

Jake Friedman, who ran the show, was supremely professional and accommodating--willing to shlep boxes from cars, get me an easel, set us up on the front porch, etc. I drank hot tea from the Piper kitchen. Jake, you were great. But I think the Almighty was involved. . . .

I'd be totally lying if I blamed my dismal exhibiting performance on the weather.

What then? What can I blame? There has to be something I can blame??????????


I won't succumb. I will only say this.

And now I will show you some pictures!

Check out the rain
But it's still so pretty.

I think, in all honesty, it takes a kind of brazen confidence to stick with this literary thing. It's often mistaken for ego, which is sad. It's not ego. You need to believe that you're actually good and that your work is worth sharing. How insane is that? How crazy is it to think, You Should Read My Book?

But I've experienced this "failure" before. I once had a Costco Book Signing (for Freak in 2012). It was pretty funny, and I'm sure they'll never have me back. I handed out samples. 

But back at Desert Nights . . .

 I finally got to talk about U2 with Alberto Rios! Now, if you know me, you know I'm being entirely honest here:  I FINALLY got to talk about U2 with Alberto Rios! I love U2, and I took my kids to this concert, and it was a bit of a milestone because it was my kids' first concert and probably my last since it was rather late and loud and nuts . . . but I went and there was an Alberto Rios poem cascading over the crowd in light. 

All I can say is that I seriously was not kissing butt because I REALLY wanted to tell Alberto Rios, I Saw Your Poem! So Did My Kids!

There were other fun moments . . . 

This is Kelly Houle, who went to high school with one of my best friends, Scott Hyder. She's now a famous artist! Yes, Scott, I said hi. Amazing hair.

Leah Newsom was a creative writing student of mine at Phoenix College,years ago,  and now she's  finishing her MFA . I remember her distinctly because she had quit her job and decided that it was time to bite the bullet. If she wanted to be a writer, she had to go all the way in. And she has! My guess is that we'll continue to bump into each other in the years to come. It was great to see her!

So a little about my flopping.

First, I shared a table with this marketing goddess, Kay Hartford. Like she was a pro.

More inside info . . . If you know me, you know I'm actually NOT a hustler--despite my obnoxious social media persona. I'm all writer. In person, I'm quiet.

Kay scared me. She was super nice--that's not what I'm saying. I liked her. She was a character, and I hope to see her at the Tucson Book Fest next weekend (oy!). I trusted her to watch my purse when I got coffee or went to the bathroom. She writes cozy mysteries (I'm not entirely sure what that means) and she was offering free stuff. Here's her website.

So Kay was hustling like a total pro and I was sitting there with my literary fiction after my publisher honored the preorders and then declared herself kaput, leaving me to establish BoGoDo. Oh My Dear Lord in Heaven!!!

We were the Odd Couple.

I will say this: Kay Hartford saw that rain, and got to work making the best of it.
I'm the one with the garbage bag for a tablecloth. Because I needed a tablecloth????  Jackie Cowsill, my '"promoter," saw this picture and said, "Oh, girlfriend." I suggested that it was steampunk? She said, "Not so much."

I brought a scarf the next day to use as a tablecloth. 
See, once I brought a tablecloth AND candy. For some reason, I lost my savvy. 

But the REAL flop was my reading to an audience of, um, let's-not-go-there. 

A Few Final Notes On The Conference . . . 

This is actually a photo from the October "Meet Your Literary Community" event, at which I met Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow for the first time. I did run into her again here! (No photo.) But I feel like seeing her warrants attention because I just really liked her immediately. In all honesty, it wasn't this writer-connection. Rather, we both have sadly been very much impacted by cancer. She saw the title to my memoir-in-progress, Cancer, I'll Give You One Year: A Non-Informative Guide To Breast Cancer, or Cancer, I'll Give You One Year: How To Get Your Ba-Da-Bing Boobies On The House! She introduced herself, and now I want to hug her when I see her. I'm thinking that part of the connection is that we both feel intrinsically and deeply married to our respective husbands, and it somehow emanates from our beings. Ha! How's that, Cynthia????

I read all of Jennifer Clement's AMAZING novel while sitting there. Like, I read my book. How not-pro is that?
Read this. I love it.

My husband and I watched this last night. 

Mercury was--get ready for this weird comparison--in the Joe Cocker Category. The music, the Art of It, belonged so intensely to him that his body was this conduit. He breathed it. He couldn't help it.

Finally, while I worked, my husband took my kids to see snow is Prescott. They'd NEVER seen it before.

I lamented my absence a bit. But he's a great dad.

Though he's no mom. He took them to Panda Express for lunch up there. Mom would've insisted on spinach wraps at some cute cafe. Not dad.

They had a great time.

They both threw up in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Reading Guide: And So We Die, Having First Slept by Jennifer Spiegel

  1. What is the significance of the epigraphs by John Cheever, Tim O’Brien, and Sappho?
  2. This novel was almost called Sappho, Unsaid. Why might that be? What is the Sappho motif all about?
  3. What is the significance of Miller’s words to Brett in the church in Austria? Why is her response so particular?
  4. What happens in Alaska to these people?
  5. How is the Zombie Apocalypse a metaphor for the second-half of the novel?
  6. There is a bit of discussion about competing mantras, To One’s Own Self, Be True and Die To Oneself.  Are these competing ideas? How are they expressed in the lives or beliefs of Cash and Brett?
  7. Is this novel a love story? Is it about addiction? Brain damage? Marriage? Growing up? Disillusionment? Gen X? Religion? Identity? Subjugation? Being a woman?
  8. Brett is potentially unlikeable, which is often considered a no-no in fiction. Would you agree that she is unlikeable? How did this affect your reading?
  9. Brett is often described as “hard.” What does this mean?
  10. What is your take on religion in this book? On the role of the Church? How are the characters affected or transformed? Do they experience a loss of faith? Are there implications about piety? Morality? Womanhood?
  11. Discuss the end. Is it redemptive?
  12. That cover! Why might it work with the novel?
For your book clubs!

Here's the link to the book.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Don't You Forget About Me . . .

If you know what that is a reference to, you should probably get my book into your cart and take the plunge.

Here's some book stuff . . .

My book is at Changing Hands Bookstore. Shockingly, my other two books were there too!

Odetter Bakker at my reading. A friend just sent me this shot, and I love Odette. She's in the Acknowledgments. She really doesn't know why. But I know . . .

This was a great review with major spoilers, but it was special. A 21-year-old wrote it, and her youth touched me, frankly. Plus, she liked some of my own favorite parts. SPOILERS, though. Here's the link for the full review:

I have a box of books in my car, so you can buy one from me if we run into each other! This is a stash for emergency stops at Little Libraries.

The two photos above are from a reader, and I'm loving that "paper cut in my heart" imagery.

Who is Pentok, my friend?

I'll be there! And I'm reading (free) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.!

Chhayal! My dear, uber-supportive friend who reads books! She's hosting me for a book event, which reminds me to tell you: I'LL COME TO YOUR BOOK CLUB, IN PERSON OR ON FACETIME! I'LL LEAVE EARLY OR READ A LITTLE OR TAKE QUESTIONS!

Julie took my first novel to the beach. The beach! February!!!! It's deceptively not a beach read, but she can handle it.

Bosco went down a few years ago. I loved him dearly. We recently had to put down another guy. This is our only cat  (for the moment), Story. I do have a thing for orange cats. I love this guy, but Bosco was so fabulous.

PS If you made it this far, I'll tell you some other stuff. I'll be at the Tucson Book Festival in early March. I'll be at the Associated Writing Conferences in Portland in late March. I just happily committed to a trip to the South, and I'm excited because I've never been there. More info soon. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Brave Theater: Mel in 2019

I just had the opportunity to see Fountain Hills Theater’s production of Mel Brooks’ Broadway hit, The Producers. This was a reunion of sorts, the second time around. Fountain Hills has done this one before, and they brought it back with three of the original  showstoppers, including Scott Hyder as Max Bialystock. I saw it before, and I saw it this time—because I wanted my kids to experience it. More on that later. But the show is a must-see, a brave piece of Art, racy and raunchy and timely and true. New dates have been added. Go now.

Before I get all review-ish on you, let me tell you my theatric credentials. None. I am a writer, though. Like a real one. And I saw Hamilton on tour. I see a few plays a year. I used to live in Manhattan where I frequently got discounted tickets at the TKTS box office that used to be in the World Trade Center—and I’m comforted by knowing that it was actually closed on September 11. That’s it. I am, however, and this is a biggie in connection to The Producers, a believer in the power of the Arts.

First, this is Mel Brooks. Can you believe that Mel is ninety-two? I can’t either. I think an underlying fact needs to be known as one ponders The Producers. His family—his immediate family—consisted of Jewish people from Germany and Kiev, people stung bitterly by Hitler. This is a kind of pain that never goes away. Not ever. Brooks’ musical begs a question. What does one do with the pain? It begs another question: How does one deal with the hate?

So let me suggest this, cautiously. The cliché is true, and laughter is the best medicine. This is—quite honestly—a kind of revenge. Turn Hitler into a joke. In this whip-smart script, Brooks has champions of Hitler sing rousing songs, lead actors don Swastikas, and tiny weird mustaches fill the stage. In 2019—under the shadow of anti-Semitism on streets and shootings in churches and violence in Charlottesville—it seems like Brooks might be edging pretty close to the line. I have to admit it: I got a little nervous when Bialystock and Bloom put on those armbands . . .

But I went with it. And I watched. And I listened.

Here is a triumph. Turning a madman into an absurdity.

Still, The Producers balances upon a delicate line in a #metoo-age. I would argue that good Art is subversive and risky. Good Art flirts with danger.

And, yes, I took my children. You may or may not want to do this. My kids have a writer-mom, who frequently philosophizes on Art and Its Horrors. Plus, I cuss a lot and love Jewish humor. So we dealt with it as a family.

I’m not providing a plot summary, but let me sing the praises of this fabulous cast (all of them!) and terrific production (what a set!). With Scott Hyder as Max Bialystock (the best!) and Michael C. Stewart as Leo Bloom, the audience is assured of a good time. Erin Ryan’s Ulla is adorable. Matt McDonald returns as the writer of the Nazi-loving production—and he’s still fabulous. And Roger (played by Patrick Russo) and Carmen (played by Stephan Linder) shine on stage. Oh, but I loved Bloom and his blankie (he’s reprising the role, as is Hyder).

Scott Hyder is amazing. I found his timing, humor, and presence so top-notch. At one point, he “breaks the fourth wall,” and subtly tells the audience that he knows that they’re thinking that Nathan Lane played Bialystock better. I—theatre-happy, Brooks-charged—might beg to differ. Hyder obviously gets the power of this fine piece of Art.

Fountain Hills Theater has put on a brave production.

(And here’s the link to my new book!)