Monday, April 30, 2007


You heard Bono talk about on American Idol. You’ve seen the logo in places like the sidebar of this blog. You’ve thought about joining up but haven’t really been compelled to actually do it. So here’s an opportunity to follow through on all those good intentions (especially if you tried to donate through the American Idol phone number or site and got busy signals on both fronts): Take the plunge. The nifty e-mails are worth it. The nifty white wristbands are worth it. The t-shirts, the ease of participation, the warm fuzzy feeling you get from doing a good deed that can literally change lives...they’re all worth it. So go ahead, help a phenomenal organization that’s hell bent on changing the world attain 100,000+ new members in one week. Join up today. Peace.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Beyond FANTASTIC: Literary Mama

I’m very pleased to be an official contributor to the dynamic Literary Mama site, which has just posted my profile of fellow novelist and blogger Patry Francis. Patry is author of The Liar’s Diary and her blog Simply Wait is one of my favorites. Patry writes from the heart and her sincerity shines through whether she’s writing fiction, poetry, or one of her insightful blog entries.

If you’re looking for a diverse collection of writings by women, Literary Mama is a site to check out. The writers whose works grace this site travel varied paths on their parenting journeys, and none of them can be called typical. I enjoy the personal essays most (especially The Girl is Mine columns by Deesha Philyaw); Literary Mama offers an extensive array of non-fiction takes on everything from caring for elderly parents while parenting children, step-parenting, and raising children with special needs to single parenting and dating, adoption, miscarriage and grief recovery, and yes, the mixed-race family experience. Archived columns have titles like “Mothering in the Ivory Tower,” “Mother Shock,” and “Mothering Abroad.” And then there’s the poetry, fiction, and opinion pieces that reveal even more about the diversity of American families today and the many creative, energetic ways mothers-who-write and writers-who-mother strive to do both extremely well.

Kudos to Literary Mama Editor-in-Chief and co-founder Amy Hudock, who also co-edited (with Andrea Buchanan, another LM co-founder) the first Literary Mama collection, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined, yet another title for my ever-growing list of anticipated reads.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Beyond FAILURE: Poor Gun Control + Poor Funding for Mental Health Services…

Equals devastation. That’s how students and staff at Virginia Tech feel right now: devastated. That’s how the families and friends of the victims feel. That’s how everyone affected by the Columbine shootings felt, too, eight years ago today. And that’s how many Americans feel as we remember so many victims: devastated once again by our government’s failure to control the proliferation and use of guns in our country and to properly treat the mentally ill.

Poor gun control needs to be fixed and Democrats dropped the ball on that front to appease voters in swing states who like to hunt. So argues a recent Salon article by Alex Koppelman, “Why Democrats dumped gun control.” All politicians with power to toughen gun control legislation share blame for the pathetic state of gun control in this country. Hopefully now they’ll cross party lines and will be supported by all voters as they finally address this issue and do more than lip service to it.

Meanwhile, “Shooting shows gaps in mental health safety net” by Reuters writer Julie Steenhuysen highlights how frustrated mental health providers feel about their inability to properly treat the mentally ill. Bottom line here: “Funding for mental health services in the United States has dropped in half over the past 25 years.” In half. That quote is from the director of Virginia Tech’s Thomas Cook Counseling Center. Dr. Steven Sharfstein, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, is also quoted in this article to this effect: The student who went on the shooting rampage was held in a mental health facility for one day and released because he wasn’t considered “imminently dangerous” and therefore no time or money was available for him to be observed so a more “in-depth and effective diagnosis” might have been achieved. “He may have been hiding a paranoid psychosis that with a few days of observation may have come out.”

A few days.

We’ve witnessed over and over again the combined impact of ineffective gun control legislation and limited funding for mental health services in this country. Unfortunately even the horrific events at Columbine failed to compel legislators to pass legislation or mental health initiatives that might have prevented this week’s massacre at Virginia Tech. We can only hope and pray and demand our political leaders step up and do what they need to do to make sure the memory of every victim of school violence will finally be honored by legislation in favor of strict gun control and in significant support of mental health programs. Maybe then we’ll be able to send our kids of all ages off to school without a second thought about their safety. Maybe then devastation will be replaced with hope.

Photo credit: Rick Wilking (Reuters)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Beyond FAREWELL: Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Beyond FINESSE: Rebecca Walker

Leave it to Rebecca Walker to shake up my day. I’d planned to write a quick post on her new book, Baby Love, and then move on to other projects but as soon as I visited her site I knew my entire day was shot. I could read and read about her and then read and read her own writings and still want to read more. I appreciate, for starters, that she identifies herself as a biracial author. This is who she is and what she’s written about in essays and articles and in her memoir, Black, White and Jewish, published in 2000. Now, though, she’s taken on the challenges of parenthood and familial relationships in Baby Love, and she’s in the midst of an extensive book tour. When an author lives and has a young family in Hawaii, the prospect of a book tour with stops on both coasts and places in between must be nothing less than daunting. In her recent blog posts and interviews, though, this particular author makes it clear she’s stepping up to a long list of challenges with humor and grace.

And the humor’s been a sweet surprise. I first read Rebecca Walker’s writing when I finally cracked open Chandra Prasad’s anthology of “short fiction on the multiracial experience,” Mixed. I’m taking my time with this book and look forward to reviewing it, but I have to admit Rebecca Walker’s introduction floored me with its vehemence:

“Speaking from experience, I can attest that a lifetime of being thought of as a traitor and misfit, a poser and malcontent, takes a toll. The pity of those who view mixed people as morbidly lost wears on the psyche. The opportunism of those who prey upon our plasticity and profit from our fifteen minutes of cultural currency is depressing. The bitterness of the race-war recruiters who shake their heads at us in disgust is demoralizing. We put on a good face, because that’s what we do, we soothe opposing factions in order to survive, but underneath it all, there’s quite a bit of something else brewing, and it ain’t pretty.”

I mean really, don’t mess. Rebecca Walker ends this introduction on an upbeat note when she calls contemplating her mixedness “like visiting an old friend, familiar, but no longer involved in the day-to-day goings on of my life.” Four years ago, though, she was still working to get to such a place. In her site’s collection of published articles and essays, I found this gem: “Pale As I Am,” published in Essence magazine in 2002. Rebecca loves and cherishes dark-skinned women like her “beautiful cherry-brown mother” and a friend, “an absolute goddess” who is “brown as mahogany.” After ruminating about her need for the sun’s browning effects on her light skin, Rebecca concludes she is learning to love what one friend calls her “multilayered fine self.” “These days I pin up pictures of striking light-skinned sisters, starting with my fierce cafe au lait grandmother, who stares back at me from the wall, daring me to doubt her stunning beauty. I cherish an image of a twentysomething Lena Horne, her hair pulled back in the early morning light. I keep adding to the collection. I know that one day soon I will feel completely at home in my natural unsunned state.”

Rebecca’s relationship with her “beautiful cherry-brown mother,” author Alice Walker, especially fascinates me since I heard Alice Walker speak in Denver about ten years ago. In the same way I could read and read Rebecca’s writings, I could sit and listen to Alice Walker for hours. During that session at the now-defunct Rocky Mountain Book Festival, Alice Walker and author Clarissa Pinkola Estés spoke about writing and womanhood and the wonders of simply existing in this world in a way that reflected not only their innate wisdom but the many layers of experiences and insights they shared. Rebecca Walker has inherited so much from her mother, including many aspects of her beauty, but it’s that innate wisdom she so eloquently imparts through her writings that compels her fans to want to know and understand her well. Rebecca and Alice Walker have been estranged for some time now. Maybe we’ll have a Momma Love book to read some day when these two wise, beautiful women of words come to terms with their own love for each other. I, for one, certainly hope so.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Beyond FACTS: Advice for Aspiring Writers has just released the print version of From Hollywood Experts and Published Authors: Words of Wisdom for Starving Artists, a collection that includes two of my essays. Available in e-format for download at only $7.99 and now in a print version (which I’m looking forward to adding to my bookshelf!) for $15.99, this book “opens with copyright information from Lincoln D. Bandlow, an attorney specializing in intellectual property law in Century City and the out-going President of the Los Angeles Copyright Society.” It also features writings by “a personal manager for Hollywood actors, a Hollywood teacher and movie extra, a Fictionwise eBook Author of the Year, an owner/co-owner of two websites listed among the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers, a retired university professor,” and other authors, including moi. Talk about diversity!

While my advice isn’t the result of years in the industry, it does reflect my experiences getting the word out (the title of one of my essays) regarding my first book to local book clubs and working fact into fiction. I love researching topics for my short stories and novels and get a kick out of incorporating favorite details into my fiction. As I continue to query agents in hopes of someday seeing my first book reprinted with a larger publisher (though Pearl Street Publishing will always remain near and dear to my heart), I’m also trying to pick up the pace of my reading—and this title is now at the top of my list. While I’m very familiar with two essays in this book, I’m looking forward to reading the rest. Enjoy!