Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pacific Crest Trail 2011: Free Range Amelia lights out from Santa Cruz

Hoping you will have kind words and perhaps some canned cling peaches with syrup for Free Range Amelia, who is representing for Santa Cruz on the Pacific Crest Trail this year.

She's doing a full-on through hike and should be arriving in Campo soon. My impression is that Free Range Amelia can throw down quite a lot of miles per day so you'll have to keep up as best you can.

She will update this journal regularly. This blog post has been amended to remove the word "GORP." Gorp is disgusting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Drown out your annoying neighbors (and get some writing done)

I just found out about this free Web application that lets you blast white noise through your computer or iPhone.

By the way, if you're a Pacific Crest Trail hiker, you're out there hiking with an iPhone, and you want to drown out your chatty trail companions, you might want to think about this, too. Just put on those headphones and put the volume on full blast.

Living Writers series continues in Santa Cruz ... with Aimee Bender and more

O.K. That's enough about the goose for now. Here's the rest of the series. I'm staking out my parking spot; don't swoop me. Scroll down to the bottom for the full schedule. Why didn't someone tell me there was a typo in here?

(pictured: Aimee Bender)

May 5
Jessica Hagedorn

May 12
Aimee Bender

May 26
Neo Benshi, Roxi Power Hamilton, Jen Hofer and Konrad Steiner

Here is the full schedule.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Memorial service for iconic goose

I know I have been posting quite a bit about Lucy the iconic goose. Just wanted to mention that there is a memorial service at 6 p.m. today. It would feel kind of weird for me to go to such a funeral, and perhaps hypocritical [I'm eating a glazed roasted chicken for dinner this evening with all the trimmings] but I admired Lucy and will leave some kind of note if there's a visual memorial.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rest in peace, Lucy the Goose

I was saddened to hear that Lucy the Goose, a tireless and resilient Santa Cruzan, was killed over the weekend.

She was an older goose -- well into her teens, which is pretty old in the goose world. She had dirty gray feathers, a baritone voice that could carry for a half mile, and a bright-orange growth, roughly the size and shape of a walnut, over her upper beak.

I know that there is a long and embattled history surrounding Lucy, and that some local neighbors were upset about the noise and droppings, etc. Did this sentiment have something to do with her demise? News reports didn't say. According to one account, she may have been the victim of an animal attack. I suppose that's possible, though it wouldn't have been easy for a creature to get her. She was fairly well-protected behind a fence, and often slept and rested in areas that were completely surrounded with water.

One of Lucy's longtime fans told me that she used to live out near that big lagoon in Live Oak, once known for its large flock of loud, knee-pecking geese. According to one account, she was "dumped" in the harbor one day. Over the years, local publications have mentioned the controversy over Lucy's noise and messes, mostly as an excuse to fold in every pun you can think of involving "fowl" and ruffled feathers, etc.

Lucy was not perfect. For one thing, she was lazy. Her trumpet was so loud you could hold your cellphone up to it, and it would hurt your listener's ears. When she walked, she swung back and forth so much that she sometimes bowled herself over just walking up a hill. Lucy could go from retiring to aggressive and back again with little warning. Sometimes Lucy would preen for her fans, then turn her back on people or shout at them for no reason.

But she was part of the harbor landscape, and a testament to perseverance. Preferring her own company, she ate and played alone, but she was indulgent towards the people who served as her unofficial caretakers.

Even the tsunami storm could not drive her out of the channel for long.

Lucy will be missed.

I hope someone gets to the bottom of this soon.

(above: image of Lucy at full wingspan)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Djinni

Ever read a book that isn't published just yet but you have a feeling that it will be -- and that it's only a matter of time? That's what I thought when reading early drafts of Helene Wecker's novel-in-progress, The Golem and the Djinni, which has been taking shape in various cafes and BART train rides for the past few years. Helene, an East Bay resident, just found out that her radical (and masterful) reworking of the Golem legend will be coming to a bookstore near you in 2013, from HarperCollins.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A recap of Literary Orange

I just found this one online. I remember speaking briefly with the young author in between panels.

Anyhow, my brother and I are going to put our own thoughts together about the conference. We're comparing notes and should post something soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chaos, caterpillars and still life: an evening with Harry Berger

This one goes out to one reader in particular (you know who you are.) Looks interesting, doesn't it?

Great conference

Another great conference. Met many other dedicated, hard-working authors in and outside of my field. Most importantly, I was able to catch up with family and consume about 700,000 calories worth of food. Stay tuned for more detailed thoughts on this. Seems like people really enjoyed our presentation about travel and voice writing. They asked a lot of great questions. I even shot a YouTube video of sorts, though I recorded it when the coffee and gooey cookies were starting to wear off. Who knows what it is going to look like! When it was over, I went back and forth to panels all over the place, taking in other presentations. My favorite was the nonfiction panel, which was fascinating (a couple of the panelists seemed irritated at one another but that added to the drama). Ron Hansen did a great job with the opening keynote; he talked a lot about the origins of his art, attributing it to some unusual sources, including his brother, who shared an "imaginary language" that somehow turned into a seedling for Hansen's future books. He also shared some observations, courtesy of John Updike, about the beauty of the mundane. That resonated with me. More soon. .

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Southern California bound

See you all in a day and a half at Literary Orange. If you're going, get there early; I hear that it's easy to get lost on campus. My panel will speaking at 1030 a.m. sharp at the UC Irvine event center. We'll talk about voice, place and memoir (I hear that some folks who missed the last Northern California event will be there.) I'm signing books from 1130 to 1230 and then I'll stay for the whole thing.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Tobias Wolff at UC Santa Cruz: reading binges and inspiration

Tobias Wolff wishes he could say that reading Thomas Mann started him out on the road to becoming an author. He remembers reading an interview with Susan Sontag in which she talked about reading Mann and Soren Kierkegaard when she was still in grade school. Sontag even managed to meet Mann in Los Angeles when she was a teenager.

“She was very precocious,” Wolff said, dryly, during his opening remarks at the first night of UCSC'S Living Writers Series, which drew a capacity crowd to the Humanities Lecture Hall on Thurday.

Each one of us has an author like that, Wolff said. “You look back and think about who it was that made you store up extra batteries in your flashlight so you could stay up reading, and put towels under the doorway so your parents couldn’t see the light shining in the room.”

For Wolff, a creative writing professor at Stanford, that man was Albert Payson Terhune, a writer and dog breeder who surrounded himself with collies, which he described as a “tawny swarm.” Terhune found fame writing genre fiction about his dogs – with many of narratives told from the point of view of the dog.

On Thursday night, Wolff talked about the way an author can store up readings, encounters and experiences over time and how these things can make their way into a creative work years later, taking the writer by surprise.

Terhune’s books were the first “reading binge” Wolff ever went on. Though Wolff now thinks Terhune was “probably certifiable,” he found himself drawn right back to those collies with one of his latest stories, “Her Dog,” in which a man has a prolonged conversation with his dead wife’s aging dog, Victor. Together they talk about fidelity, marriage, mortality and friendship, and have a standoff with a vicious dog and its thuggish – and curiously litigious – owner. In this case, it's clear that the protagonist, John, is talking with his own conscience, and using the dog as a mirror. “I could not have written this story without Albert Payson Terhune,” Wolff said.

All those childhood reading binges finally paid off, more than five decades after the fact.

Read the full story here.

[author photo by Photo by Elena Seibert]