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Mark's Peat Blog -- Excavations from the Writing Life
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Date:2010-01-04 22:20
Subject:Happy New Year -- and I hit the road with other LAYAs, Route 66-style!

It's LAYAs! It's the YAAZ's! (though in fairness, they haven't "branded" themselves yet), and it's YAllapalooza at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

This weekend!

Did we say "this weekend," at "Changing Hands Bookstore" yet?

We did now!

See you there, O Readers!

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Date:2009-10-01 16:51
Subject:And so the fall blogging season begins....

....with an announcement about this Sunday's West Hollywood Bookfair!

The LAYAs will have a booth there, and staged readings of scenes from LAYA books all day long -- including the first ever dramatization of "Danger Boy!"

Or, at least, part of a chapter in the first book of "Danger Boy:"

Readings presented by Los Angeles Young Adult Authors (LAYAs) and Teen Readers!
Featuring Authors:
Sophomore UndercoverBen Esch – “Sophomore Undercover”

Sally Nemeth – “The Heights, the Depths and Everything in Between”
Simon BloomMichael Reisman – “Simon Bloom”

Carol Snow – “Snap”
Mark L. Williams – “Danger Boy”
Book Signing at Barnes & Noble Booth

What’s on the mind of teens? WriteGirl members read their original work in their own bold voices from the latest published WriteGirl anthology. WriteGirl is a creative writing and mentoring nonprofit for at-risk high school girls. www.writegirl.org

Fly Girl, Smith

See you there?

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Date:2009-06-26 13:51
Subject:One month, a birthday, and some passages, later -- plus, a query:

And one month, a birthday, and various passages later.. a query
so, yes, there have been lots of Tweets and Facebook updates and even, I am happy to report, a slew of pages done on on the new, non-Danger Boy, work-in-progress.

Plus a birthday, affixed with a "zero" to it, reminding one of the swiftness --along with noted passings, all amplified in our media-saturated age -- of the Journey itself.

So here's an out loud reminder -- to me (maybe to you, though you may not need it the same way I do) -- to stop, or at least slow down, and be where you are. As fully as you can. To soak it all in, before the soaking time is up.


Now that the ruminations are done, here's a surprise: Some new "Danger Boy" art!

It's done by my friend Doug Potter, for the great "lost" Danger Boy installment, "Fortune's Fool," about which, some news of a digital variety soon.

And while that news percolates and gestates, a query: I'll be teaching a class on Fantasy and Science Fiction writing this summer, in-house, at a local repository of entertainment and icon production. Animated fare, and such.

But my query is this, especially for my published pals out there who labor in these particular vineyards: How are fantasy and science fiction the same? How are they different? Where do they overlap, stay distinct, and how are these "categories" changing?

This conversation will help form the basis of the class...

Thanks, compadres!

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Date:2009-05-16 16:37
Subject:Or is that "post-irony?"

When "Zippy" is spot on, there's really no better comic strip around. Though I'm sure my son would make a case for either Penny Arcade or XKCD!

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Date:2009-05-06 12:37
Subject:Death Valley Days

No, that's not a euphemism, or even a reference to an old TV show, in this instance. But I was in Death Valley a few days back -- my first time, even as a native Californian! -- and have been in ruminative "desert  mode" since.

I was there with author Doug Rees -- of "Vampire High," and other fames -- and some friends, and a previous sculptor provided this bench, near the ghost town of Rhyolite, where Doug and I could contemplate the verities.

We also had an idea for a book thing we could do together. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Coming back to El Lay, I tacked in the opposite direction of "desert mode," and started up on Twitter (@mlondonwmz, if you wanna), which on the one hand aggregates news and views in yet more colorful ways, and on the other hand, is one more distraction from actual writing.

And yet, work still manages to continue apace on a particular post-"Danger Boy" project, about which, more if we get close to that "actually been sold" point.

As for previous books, my desert ruminations kept me from posting -- until now -- links to an interview I did about my "cold war" entry in the history collection "Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out:"

NCBLA: If you met John F. Kennedy at the "big cocktail party in the sky," as my English teacher calls it, what would you ask him?

MLW: Hmmm... Is it a 60's era cocktail party? Are members of the Rat Pack there? Is Marilyn? Are we wearing skinny ties and drinking martinis? If Sinatra's there, I might ask him if he thought supporting Nixon because he was personally mad at the Kennedys was, in retrospect, such a good idea.

As for JFK, well, the awful --yet inescapable --question would be whether he had any speculation about who authored his particular demise. I might also ask him what he thought a second term would've been like for him and whether he really was planning to disband the CIA and end the Vietnam War.

All those "what ifs" and "might have beens." In the 60's, we lived through too many of them. Which is undoubtedly part of the reason I grew up to write time travel stories -- kind of a "second chance" at history.

More at the NCBLA blog

And our final question: Does something like Zabriske Point exist in the Twitterverse?

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Date:2009-04-16 12:57
Subject:The "Danger Boy" comic that almost was (and still might be?)

From the latest Nexus Graphica. Read it and weep. Or, just get up and pour another cup of coffee afterward:

Adaptation Blues

Page 1

Panel 1

Caption: (Lettering note—our speaker is Eli Sands, our titular, and as yet unidentified "Danger Boy"): "When you're a time traveler, you don't live your life from beginning to end, like everyone else"

Art: Close on a baby, nestled in a pair of arms. Hints on the edges the frame—bits of clothing, glimpsed background—should give the barest suggestion of our current setting: Alexandria, Egypt, in the year 365

Danger Boy - Ancient Fire
Danger Boy - Ancient Fire
That script is from an adaptation I was working on for a proposed Danger Boy comic, a kind of sequel to the print series, picking up several months after the fifth book ends.

Of course, the fifth book hasn't been released yet, as my nervous publisher cites market conditions, scaling back on titles, wherever possible, as opposed to personnel (which, I guess, is a kind of strategy for helping your employees make it through, but how long can a publisher keep whittling away at its own inventory, its "merchandise," as it were?).

I was hoping to have triumphant comic news for this column, as contracts were being reviewed by self and agent and enthusiastic indie comic book company. Agent and self asked a couple questions, tweaked the contract just so, and I sent some sample pages of the script -- I'd been working ahead of the deal closing, and was excited to be writing comics again -- to the publisher, while waiting for the last of the green lights.

All the green turned red.

It wasn't my script, or "Danger Boy" in particular, but rather -- and this after a couple months of optimistic talk on indie publisher's part -- a sudden precipitous slump in said publisher's sales. Their YA -- "Young Adult" (i.e., aimed-at-teens) -- titles in particular.

They'd been doing well with some biographical projects, it turned out, but the figures were back from the comic shops, and it appeared they'd have to be canceling some existing titles, while refiguring their business strategies.

Panel 2

Caption: "Time doesn't move in only one direction"

Art: Wider—and now we see an older male face, bearded, Alexandrian—in frame with the baby, looking at her: Two bookends of life

It's hard out here for a pub. Especially if you're not Marvel, DC, or Dark Horse -- someone with an established pipeline to film production, for all that good syntax that comes with titles appearing both on theater marquees and comics shelves. Of course, whether the "single issue comics shop" model can continue to thrive in the era of the graphic novel is an open question.

Again, name brand comics will sell single issues for awhile, but for indies, the future may be in bookstores. In fact, this same indie publisher, rather than having me go straight to a "Danger Boy" graphic novel, wanted me to do three or four short "stand alone" 22 page issues -- stand alones, he told me, sell better than new series in comics shops -- and if all went well, those would be bundled into something graphic novel-y, and vended to bookstores.

comic shop
comic sales figures

Panel 3

Caption: "You do things that make no sense to anyone else—like rescuing your own mom, before you were born"

Art: Wider still, and now we see the arms holding the baby belong to THEA, age 15—daughter of Alexandria's last librarian: Dark hair falls around her shoulders; her eyes are fiercely deep and alive. Standing next to her, we see more of the man—THEON, tunic'd and robed, gray in his hair and beard. He's just been through some kind of calamity, and we see more of the evidence around and behind them: the great city of Alexandria—mostly in ruins.

We're in that brief period of time between the great quake of 365 C.E., and the massive wave that followed. There are smashed pillars, a cacophony of tumbled walls from the Library and Museum, and scattered statues of the gods in the boulevards. Featured prominently should be the severed stone head of Serapis, the snake god—we will be coming back to this image.

We also see the Harbor, in the distance. Oddly, it looks like a massive drained pool—with stranded fish and debris left in its wake.

In the b.g., near Thea and Theon is a young man—around 14—who appears to be an American—all blue jeans and T-shirts—though we can't quite tell yet...

Theon speaks to the girl:



You're telling me, child, that you are my granddaughter,

and this baby—my baby—will grow to be your mother?

Then came the sales figures on those other titles, and here we are, script started, yet now wandering, Diogenes-like, looking for --if not an honest man -- a new publishing perch.

Danger Boy - A Barnstormer's Tale On other fronts, the prose books have been recently optioned for film and/or TV translation. And while an option is a far cry from "opening at your theaters next Friday," or "new episodes Thursdays at 8," it's still a tangible first step, and one that might make an indie publisher -- one might think -- want to hang on for the long haul.

But you can't get to the long haul if the short haul falls totally apart, and one wonders what kinds of business models indie pubs are using to stay afloat at all. Well, cutting costs is one: I know that the putative DB comics deal involved little up front money, and much more on a theoretical back end, so the risk was spread around.

As for me, working on the comic, and a new (non-Danger Boy) prose project at the same time, made me realize how much comics-narrative informs my other written work. In the book I've started -- about L.A. under, shall we say, rather apocalyptic circumstances (are there any other?), I recently finished a scene where I intercut one character's inner monologue over the dialogue of two others.

In other words, the paragraphs alternated, though in a comic script, the inner monologue would be the "source" narration in the panels, commenting on the images and conversation within it.

A kind of layering that comics excel at, and which makes storytelling in that medium so much fun for the storyteller.

And perhaps that is lesson of our current hard economic times: The idea of "fun" must increasingly be decoupled from the idea of "money."

Though if storytellers are to return to the wandering bard template, and sing for their suppers, that may still leave various comics projects unfinished.

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Date:2009-04-02 22:53
Subject:Spring in Air and other tales

This is me holding a cup of mocha. The photo is courtesy of Lisa Yee -- there's a giveaway visual clue in the frame, for you literati/congnescenti -- and the java was provided by the folks over at Barnes & Noble in the L.A. -themeish outdoor shopping mall, "The Grove."

The Grove is designed to look sort of like a small village with winding streets, kind of human scaled, so you can go for a stroll. Outdoors, as it were.  Now imagine that small village festooned with the logos of various retailing corporations, and you'll get a sense of what the space is like.

It was busy, a couple Sundays back, when I was there. Signs of an economy still-holding, or of doughty consumers spitting against the prevailing winds?

I was mostly indoors, holding forth at event put together by L.A.-based fantasy author Diana Zimmerman and others, called "Faries, Fantasy and Magic at the Grove."

There were outdoor events featuring artwork from Diana's publishers, Noesis, who specialize in works illustrated by the frolickin' Froud family -- Brian, Wendy, and their son Toby. Brian Froud.

If you're a fan of elvish and fairy art, then you know Froud's stuff already -- his wife Wendy was a puppet designer for "The Dark Crystal," which used Froud designs.

I'm always reminded of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, in the 70's, when I see Froud art. Being in a place like the Print Mint, or Comics & Comix, or Northside Books, or maybe even Cody's. All those places are gone now. Sigh.

But Froud's art isn't!

A local indie bookstore had recommended me for this event, and I was happy to be included. In keeping with the day's themes, I read from the Arthur/Merlin sections of the second Danger Boy book, "Dragon Sword."

It was fun, and I apparently did much gesticulating that afternoon. There were some good questions about the Arthur's sword, "Excalibur," which I had to liken to a Jedi light-saber, in terms of devising an analogy for young reader, about not wanting such an implement to fall into the wrong hands.

Besides Lisa giving generously of her time (and bringing her clan along, to boot!), and her digital snaps, author pals Michael Reisman and Mel Gilden were there, as well.

Being in the kind of shop that literally sells one's wares does lead to "shop talk," as it turns out. And the magickally-minded assemblage who'd come to hear some bosky dell-set storytelling also had a fistful of writers to query and chat with.

Though for my part, I went more for the shores of a lake than a bosky dell.

And speaking of magical creatures, I'm still waiting to meet the Green Man. But that's another post entirely.

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Date:2009-03-09 11:44
Subject:I Suppose I Should Consider Myself Warned

From the New Yorker:

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Date:2009-03-02 18:43
Subject:Tom Tomorrow on the future of blogging...


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Date:2009-02-27 14:08
Subject:Bear Malls

well, I haven't posted a bear poem in a very long time. Here's a new one -- perhaps a kind of coda to the recent NY play production:

It was the bear
in the shopping center

that surprised me the most

not that the stores had fallen,
or that the streets were ruined

but simply,
that there were still bears like her

to be seen

I thought they drove you
to extinction,
I said

They tried,
she agreed

But they did
a better job

of doing that
to themselves

I just came to look
for a little dried salmon
and some berry jam

before the roots pop through the floor
and the river

drinks back
the courtyard

you'd best leave
'fore I get too hungry

I'd like to stay and watch
just a few more minutes

I said


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Date:2009-02-18 17:50
Subject:Nexus Graphica: The Bronx is Up and the Battery's Down

The Bronx is Up, and The Battery's Down

Batman So here I am in New York, brought east by a production of a play of mine, running in an off-off Broadway venue.

While here, I'm taking long walks around Manhattan, signing the odd Danger Boy book I find on a store shelf, and stopping in at the legendary Forbidden Planet comics store near Union Square, to, well, look at a bunch of comics all at once (when you review 'em, they sort of come in at an erratic pace, and you don't see that "array" in front of you).

Among those was the latest Batman -- number 686, for those of you keeping count -- by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert. Fairly terrific stuff where a number of rogues and survivors of the d. knight's life are gathered at a wake -- his -- and telling different stories, Rashomon-like, of how Bruce Wayne's inner self finally met his demise. There seems to be a twist to said demise -- isn't there always? -- coming up in the concluding chapter in Detective Comics, so stay tuned.

The story, as expected, was set among the shadows and alleys of "Gotham City," the real version of which I find myself in now. A few doors over, at Shakespeare & Co., I browsed through a behind-the-scenes coffee table book (well, demistasse size, perhaps) about the making of the Watchmen film, which is also set resolutely in New York. Even if it's an alternate universe NY.

I've been musing, since I've been here, about the effect of the Big Apple on the development of the comic book itself. A distinctly American artifact, the comic book, as we know it, was born here (the "here" I'm in now), even if its antecedents -- the comic strip -- can be traced originally to early 19th century Europe.

Once while reading up on the intersection of religious beliefs and environmental calamity -- it's easier to destroy what isn't considered sacred -- I came across a theory cited in an article that may have belonged originally to an anthropologist like Claude Levi-Strauss -- or was it Paul Shepard? In any case, the notion went, the reason that monotheisms were more easily hatched in the desert is that the space you see around you, the vast, austere horizons, "uncluttered" by much in the way of flora or fauna, give rise to the idea of "creation" -- everything around you -- being a single, tied-together entity....

(more of this particular "dispatch from New York" at the link...)

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Date:2009-02-15 11:59
Subject:Bleecker Street

So there I was, in a bar on Bleecker Street, about a block away from the Gene Frankel Theater. In the basement of the Frankel, my play "Grizzled Bear" was being done as part an apocalyptically-themed series of one-acts.  I was talking about the play's history, with the director, who's around the age I was when I wrote it.

That writing occurred many moons ago, as a "warning" (to myself) about the eventual possibilities of economic and  environmental collapse. It's two people in a bar in Alaska, and the decision is whether they go out and try to save the last known Grizzly Bear in the world -- as a kind of statement, a stand, against the general end of things, or do they hole up in the back room, under the covers --together -- until the whiskey and canned food run out?

I hadn't seen the play myself in years. I'd been involved with previous productions (it's been done about 3-4 times), and was even in a production myself, as a younger fellow (playing an older fellow who was written to around the age I actually am now -- or perhaps a bit younger), inevitably falling in love -- for about three weeks, when it became apparent it wouldn't work out -- with the actress playing opposite me.

Her name was Lori, and she made an indelible stamp on her role -- discovering some lines, and some moves, in that production I later incorporated into the "finished" version of the play.

She developed cancer, and passed away a couple of short years later, and I think of her whenever I think about the play. It's supposed to be about the "future" -- and yet here it was, about my "history" as well.

And of course, it's still about stuff I thought we'd better "lick" -- like climate change and species extinction -- before they became huge problems in my middle age.


I'm going back to watch the play again this evening. In a small theater, where no one's really making any money, just doing stuff because they want to, or need to, or because the art matters to them.

All the reasons you start writing -- telling stories (in whatever form) -- before the apparatus of a "profession" surrounds it.

A re-boot of my writing life? Or the way it's going to be in tougher times?

Perhaps there are second acts in American -- and other lives. We just can't guess what they'll be, when the lights come back up.


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Date:2009-02-07 13:21
Subject:Of Tricksters, Mice and Balls of Yarn

My youngest son's 4th grade class calls themselves the  "Coyotes," and they've been studying storytelling -- its origins, the way it "works" -- all year.  They've also been having Kate DiCamillo's "Tale of Despereaux" read to them in class. This is a piece I wrote for the parents' newsletter:

It's probably no accident the 4th grade group called "Coyotes" is so avidly studying the why, what and how of "stories" this year.  After all, some of the first stories devised by humans on the North American continent - a.k.a. "Turtle Island" -- involved Coyote, the priapic, self absorbed-yet-largehearted trickster figure, who helped populate the world, brought fire, inadvertantly brought death, etc.

Coyotes -- the small "c" kind -- were, and are, everywhere. North America's most successful predator, they embody the life force, and so it's no accident Native American tribes would use Coyote to explain various facets of life itself.

Our Coyotes, being in (mostly) single digit ages, are still pretty "immersed" in the day-to-dayness, the immediacy, of their own lives. They haven't grown in to that filtering system so common to putative grown-ups, where experiences are compared/contrasted to other experiences, run through the rubric of one philosophy or another to find the "meaning" in life's various moments, etc: All that stuff adults do, actually, to try and impose a narrative on their own existence.

Part of how we feel about our own lives is shaped by the stories we take in, and then tell, about ourselves: Is there, for us, a God? Is He, or She a punitive one? A forgiving one? Are we descended from addicts, journeyers, people who are innately close and effusive, or distant and unknowable?  We are embedded in our own "stories," and surrounded by them: In spiritual practices, political rhetoric, family dynamics.

So knowing how stories "work" -- what pieces make them up, and therefore, what kinds of stories you're being told -- is important. Perhaps more so  in an era where information flies at us from machines and screens everywhere, and we know more and yet -- as the novelist Walker Percy was fond of observing --simultaneously  less (in terms of our "belonging") than ever before.

So this is the year where our Coyotes -- and are they not, in their own way, tricksters who keep us honest, call our bluffs, and lead us to deeper insight? -- are learning to master "stories," and the very idea of "story" themselves.

My son tells me of the "ball of yarn" exercise in class -- where different lengths of colored yarn are being re-raveled (if I'm understanding his story correctly), between two students, each involved in telling the same tale. When a different color thread is revealed, the story must pivot -- a problem must be solved, a solution to a protagonist's jam must reveal itself, etc.

He's spent more time telling me about the mechanics of this spontaneous story creation than he has about the content of the tales themselves, but given that I'm wrestling with the start of a new book (well, okay, three different books at once, actually), I can report that yarn or no, this is how it works for grown-ups charged with creating stories for  commodification and edification by and for readers, viewers, et al: You tell, or write, to a certain point, and then -- you make up the next part! On the spot!

And so on, until the telling is done.

Which is also why, finally, that "Tale of Despereaux" is such a perfect in-class read-aloud for our Coyotes. Kate DiCamillo's book isn't so much about a mouse (though it is) as it is a book about stories, and how they work. With her constant asides to the reader, and constant breaking of the "4th wall," DiCamillo reminds us that we're reading a story, and that we -- like Despereaux -- are just as liable to have our lives changed by them.

And since we already know tricksters are in the mix, a certain flexibility with life's "yarn" changing color at a moment's notice  --knowing what events you're charge of (as "protagonist" in your own story), and which events are in charge of you -- is every bit as handy as eventually knowing the more practical, predictable things. Like, say, economics.

Oh wait. We're back to tricksters.

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Date:2009-02-04 23:11
Subject:Go East, Not-Quite-As-Young Man! (i.e., upcoming play production!)

so a play I wrote back when I was a younger fellow -- about such far-off, far out things like climate change, ecosystem and economic collapse -- is being done in New York this month as part of a festival.

Called "Grizzled Bear," it concerns two people in a Yukon Bar, trying to decide what to save when the End Seems Nigh. Perhaps their own hearts & souls, if it's not too late?

In any case, the short piece is being done as part of the "Vignettes for the Apocalypse" festival, as you can see from the picture above.  Info can be found here.

And I can be found there, too -- in NY, over Presidents' Day weekend, taking a gander at the production. My first play "on its feet" in awhile. What if I get the "playwright bug" again?

Then again, in an era of economic collapse, it could suddenly make financial sense, from a what's-to-lose? perspective!

See you in Gotham, if you're around!

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Date:2009-01-23 13:05
Subject:"Slumdog Millionaire," and New Year's greetings


Back into the warp, if not woof, of things, and starting this year's series (?) of blog postings with a link to my recent interview with director Danny Boyle,  on "Slumdog Millionaire:"

Of the sprawling, emblematic 21st century city, Boyle notes that it was “extraordinary, the contrast” with “Sunshine,’” which had to be “very specific” in its science, and the plausibility of its technology. As for India’s most densely populated megalopolis, Boyle had to put aside precision and be ready to “accept any story within it,” while he was shooting.

The story he was aiming for involves an 18 year-old orphan named Jamil, who is about to win millions of rupees on national TV. A la “Jeopardy,” Jamil is set to come back the following day for the winning question, but the intervening night proves to be both a dark (and light) one of the soul, replete with flashbacks, stories of lost loves and past tragedies, all leading inexorably, it would seem, to the fateful moment on the vid screen.

“They call it ‘The Maximum City,” Boyle says, of India’s own nickname for the former Bombay. And to try and grasp that maximum-ness, Boyle says he was there, on and off, for close to a year.

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Date:2008-11-29 12:15
Subject:post-pie pondering

A quick holiday howdy to all... While the world still unravels, and while some private sorrows (the untimely passing of a new four-legged family member, alas) find themselves in the year-end mix, it's a redolent time mostly in the good sense of "redolent." As testified to this blog entry from visiting, wine-savvy pal David Rodriguez, who just wrote up the fine fettle of Thanksgiving, itself.

Just try to stay the hell away from weekend Walmart sales, is all.

Meanwhile, a couple of links to writings that won't give either the reader -- or the writer -- an exemption on the world's woes, but may be of interest for those following either Hollywood's latest brewing labor imbroglio, and or wondering how a review of a "Joker" graphic novel can serve double-duty as post-election analysis...

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Date:2008-11-14 22:06
Subject:"Do You Think It's Time?" a.k.a. an otameal cookie for America

This was probably the most affecting email I received on election day -- it was from my dad.

Headed "Do You Think It's Time," it was less an epistle to his (middle aged) kids, and more like a blog entry -- except, of course, he doesn't blog (and whether my kids will, in favor of whatever hyper-videotext network they'll have at their disposal, remains to be seen).

He wrote it from an experience he'd had in Berkeley, my hometown, that propitious morning:

"Do you think it's time?" 

"Yes, past time" I replied to the elderly black granddad I encountered pushing a stroller this morning on College Ave., as I exited the Great Harvest Bakery with my oatmeal cookie.

As I stepped out the door he and I locked eyes and I offered the first greeting, saying "looks like it's gonna be a great day, doesn't it?"

"Do you think it's time??" he replied.

"More than. Past time, in fact" I replied, briefly relating how well the black and white soldiers got along in the newly-integrated army when I served there in the Korean War. "

You've been around long enough to know, then" he said. After a little more conversation his wife exited the bakery and we parted ways, me with a smile on my face this sunny morn following our first big rain, and he with both a smile and the hint of a tear in the corner of one eye.

Two granddads, there to witness a vastly overdue change in the weather, the direction of things. Let's hope America is wise enough to seize this moment -- since there are plenty of moments coming down the pike, ready to seize back.

Oh, and did I mention that my own epistolary style -- especially the one I use in my journalism -- was mostly gleaned watching my dad write letters, on his typewriter (!), to all his pals and relations?

I got that from him, and a certain deep fondness for oatmeal cookies, myself.

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Date:2008-10-12 20:27
Subject:The October country -- interviews and travels

So I'm heading north next week, visiting schools around the San Francisco Bay Area, culminating in a visit to the Tiburon Peninsula Children's Book Festival in -- yes! -- Tiburon, which NorCal cognoscenti know is "just across the bridge" (from an East Bay perspective!) in Marin county, a tad north of San Fran.

Here's an article about it. Normally I'd  link to the school's website, where you can get a PDF of the schedule, but that website hasn't been loading for a couple of days. (Heavy traffic?) For those of you in the area, I'll be at the Del Mar Middle School at 12:30 on the 18th... in the school library! Come by and say "hi...!"

Also, Bonnie O'Brian over at California Readers sends word I'm one of the featured interviews this month -- which means, you know, a mug shot with the link on the main interview page.

I wax answeringly to the various questions!  But thanks for the heads-up, Bonnie!



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Date:2008-10-05 21:41
Subject:Novel Writing in an Apocalyptic Time

The title's not mine, of course, but comes from the seminal essay by the late, great Walker Percy. And it's a piece
of writing I keep coming back to. One of Percy's assertions in that essay -- I have an old "analog" copy stuffed in a
file cabinet somewhere -- is that writers -- storytellers, bards -- have the role of binding people together when times
are hard.

Even if the story  that binds them is: We're all going through hard times together.

I was reminded of all this when I saw the article "A Fiscal Lesson for the Ages" in the Washington Post. It was
about how looming "Depression fear" -- and I mean in the fiscal, not the clinical sense -- is affecting children
and teens. An excerpt from the article, which begins by profiling the children of a particular D.C. mom:

Ten-year-old Kamar is so worried that another Great Depression is coming he thinks he might not have kids when
he grows up, in case he can't find a job.

Eighteen-year-old Andrew has become so stressed out about paying for college next year that he has started referring  to it as "the C-word."

And hearing about failing banks, 12-year-old Kaise wondered whether her babysitting money would disappear from her savings account. Time to talk FDIC insurance, Reddick-Morgan said.

"The only calming thing I could do was to tell her, 'You don't have over $100,000 in your bank account, so your money is fine,' " she said. "That is not a conversation I thought I would ever be having with my 12-year-old."

I was struck, reading this, about being a YA author. Generally, stories about young folk going through hard times -- of the widespread sort -- are "historical." The (first) Great Depression, WWII, Vietnam, the Civil Rights era, etc.

If a protagonist is going through "hard times" now -- and what protagonist worth her salt doesn't go through such times? -- it's more of the personal type: new school, new boyfriend, old boyfriend, nutty parents, nutty parents divorcing, etc.

"YA" as a literary conceit, didn't exist during those previous hard times. But it does now, and the question I think will be how does one write YA that is less solipsistic, less self-absorbed, and start to write stories that "signify" about what our young protagonists are feeling, and going through, right now?

It turns out, it's not just about the old or new boyfriend, or the nutty parents. Or rather, we now have reasons for mom and dad falling apart: Because they don't have a job, because the home is in default, because a globally-warmed fueled  hurricane is bearing down on the island.

And etc.

Engagement with the world, then, may no longer be consigned to "historical" YA, but in fact to the most current YA of all.

I'm pretty damn sure.

In any case, these were among the things I touched on with Francesca Lia Block last week, in a very lively and fun-to-do "conversation" at the WeHo book fest, as previously blog noted.

I asked her if she thought things were as "safe" as they were for her heroines and heroes in the early Weetzie days. If there was still, as it were, a "Grandma Fifi's cottage" providing refuge (I didn't, alas, ask it in such a succinct way).

She allowed as to how happy endings were far less guaranteed.

Which may make the storyteller's task even more critical. Once, I guess, we figure out how to grow food (again) in our backyards.

The picture of Francesca, btw, is cheerfully boosted from Lisa Yee's blog. It is, in fact, Lisa's pic -- a little yellow Peepy told me -- of the author herself loitering in the WeHo green room prior to both the public chit and chat from yrz truly.

In Lisa's blog, she allows as to how she's behind, writing about something that happened a week ago.

If I'm as current as a week behind when blogging, it seems well nigh miraculous!

Meanwhile: Onward, more soon, etc...

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Date:2008-09-27 00:11
Subject:Two Smart Lady Authors!

well, they're both authors, of course, but they each happen to be of the female persuasion, which gives
them a vantage point somewhat different than my own default settings, as it were....

And I get to talk to both of 'em! The first, in print, was my interview with Cecil Castellucci on the subject
of her new Plain Janes graphic novel, as part of the new Nexus Graphica column....

The second is celebrated "Shangri-L.A." author Francesca Lia Block, who I will be "in conversation" with at this weekend's West Hollywood Book Fair.

Sunday, specifically, at 4 in the afternoon, holding forth on things post-Weetzie and otherwise, in the Fiction Pavilion.

See you there?

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