Monday, August 27, 2007


Last month, I challenged myself to memorize a poem. One month + one day later I've finally selected one, "Hotel Insomnia" by Charles Simic. It's an unexpected piece with a strong sense of place, and by choosing it I'm giving a nod to this country's new Poet Laureate. I was lucky enough to hear Mr. Simic read while at New York. At the risk plagiarizing, I'll reprint the first stanza here, and post subsequent ones as I memorize them.

I liked my little hole,
its window facing a brick wall.
Next door there was a piano.
A few evenings a month
a crippled old man came to play
"My Blue Heaven."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Mighty West Coast

While tilling the patchy areas of the lawn today, I got to thinking about the ways that west-coast literature is underrepresented. It's no secret that what gets published is influenced by a number of factors; it's a lot more complicated than simply printing the best stories.

To be sure, the stereotype of west-coast excess has led people to dismiss the place. The Hollywood lifestyle and those damn shows "The OC" and "The Real Housewives of Orange County" have done a good job of showing the rest of the country how vacuous southern California can be. It can lead people to believe the only stories coming out of here involve sun-kissed debauchery. Except this isn't true.

But even if it were, Jay McInerney and Bret Easton Ellis did a superb job of writing "literary," "heady" works about east-coast excess. So what gives?

(Parenthetical aside--thank God for ZYZZYVA.)

I talked about this a bit with Rick Moody while at New York. His response was that it's due to the agents and publishing houses being on the east coast. They privilege what they know.

Sadly, this seems true. I thought people read literature to discover new worlds. Maybe they just want a mirror.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gardening and Sewing

Annual flowers and lawn patch have come to excite me. I spent an hour breaking a sewing machine needle, then troubleshooting every other problem that can go wrong with a forty-year-old machine.

When did all this happen? I'm not trying to avoid any writer's block.

What I'm desperately trying to do is rewrite a story I had a one-on-one critique with at Squaw. But the backyard won't stop calling.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Travels with Louie

Louie is still perpetually scared, but dealing with new places, people, and dogs like a champ. In the past few days Louie and I have been to Bryan's lab, UCSD, the lagoon, the beach (sort of), Petco, and plenty of shopping centers. It won't be long until we're taking a cross-country road trip a la John Steinbeck.

I took him to Panera today to have lunch with a fellow Squaw participant and he did great. My friend brought her dog and the two of them got along wonderfully. It was great to talk with another struggling/burgeoning writer. And someone who's local, too! I received emails today from past workshop mates about readings in New York and the bay area. There is no writing community in San Diego.

I may be nearly done with a short story about a woman and a bird. It even has a title!

Louie gets really excited about rawhide "tortilla chips." And whenever I top a meal with salsa (which is quite often) he won't stop sniffing the plate. He has a link to Mexico by way of his former parents, so we're a real multi-cultural family. I just know he'll get along with Veronika's cat.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dark Days

Reading at Risk

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Introducing Louie

He's the newest thing in San Diego; the coolest cockapoo this side of the 5 Freeway; the cutest guy in this house (sorry, Bry); and the bees knees. He's a hepcat, except not a cat; cute to boot; and the best decision we've made since getting engaged.

His owner needed to find a good home for him and we feel so lucky to be that home. He travelled two+ hours in the car without so much as a wimper or bark. At home he hung out in the backyard for a while, then eventually came inside. He's currently resting his head on Bry's hand, so I think they're going to be best buds. In fact, I think we're all going to get along quite well.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Water Wimp

74-76-degree water + full wetsuit = a happy swimmer. The Cove was beautiful today! Garibaldi inside, but not much to see further out (except for friends trying to swim through kelp beds--hee, hee). Sadly, no leopard sharks at The Marine Room. My mom came with me and walked around LJ while I swam, taking photos and watching the crowd.

I've been thinking a lot about the "snowball" story I workshopped at Squaw and am preparing to do a big restructuring of the story to give it a story arc. Plot is usually a good thing.

A friend went on a blind date tonight through eHarmony. She is so brave!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The People in My Life

My parents arrived in town this evening after fleeing Hurricane Flossie (which my brother Brian deemed a "let down"). They'll be here through the wedding to help plan, coordinate, and keep me sane. I love you guys!

Today is my friend Joe's birthday. Happy birthday!

Patchen, I'm still doing all the positive thinking.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Head Above Water

Today I received my first piece of "fan mail" from a woman who read my story in Summerset Review. What a wonderful surprise to receive in one's email inbox.

I did the Shores swim this evening for the first time in six weeks. And yesterday, I rode the Frog bike course with a fellow entrant, then followed it up with a run. I am back!

I've finished unpacking, washed all the laundry I can, and read my backlog of mail (postal and electronic). I am officially caught up. Tomorrow I begin a new draft of the story I workshopped at Squaw.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I am home. And since I've spent nearly six weeks studying the craft of writing, I will rewrite my last statement for dramatic tension.


And I'm not going anywhere for a good long time.

Squaw Valley was incredible. A week of workshops, craft talks, and agent and editor panels, all organized by an amazing group of people who do it for all the right reasons. It really is a community of writers, in every sense of the phrase.

Friday, August 3, 2007


What an overwhelming week of movement, transitions, departures, reunions, and surprises. A week in New York with Bryan. A surprise bridal shower (graciously thrown by my future mother-in-law and attended by plenty of O'Neill women), a terrible Broadway show (thank goodness for half-price tickets), and art and science museums.

I'm off to Squaw Valley tomorrow morning. No internet access, so I'll have to save up all my Tahoe and writing adventures to recap here later.