Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New Website

I have a new website! Please follow my blog there from now on: Thanks!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Authorship, Parents, and ‘The James Frey Moment’

A Happier Hour with Rebecca Walker and Tracy McMillan

Rebecca Walker and Tracy McMillan sat in a cozy living room in Silver Lake Saturday afternoon and read passages from their respective books Adé: A Love Story and I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway.

Then they had the below conversation during the quarterly literary salon aptly titled Happier Hours.

Walker is the author of seven books, including Black, White & Jewish and Baby Love. Adé, her work of autobiographical fiction, is scheduled for filming, with Madonna directing.

McMillan has written for Mad Men and The United States of Tara, but her 2011 Huffington Post essay “Why You’re Not Married” went viral and led to the book Why You’re Not Married…Yet. (She’s been married three times.) Her Ted Talk on The Person You Really Need to Marry has nearly 2.5 million views, and her novel Multiple Listings is set for a March 8th release.

Friday, November 13, 2015

How to Spend Five Hours Alone with a Tired Three-Year-Old Who’s Getting over a Cold

My nephew in his train costume on Halloween. He only wore it long enough for photos. Now, in November, he won't take it off.

You pick up your nephew from his warm gingerbread house of a preschool on a Thursday afternoon.

“Chewy!” he cries.

He grips you as if you’re rescuing him from a concentration camp.

Seven hours ago, he greeted the children and teachers of this same sanctuary with “good morning,” “hi,” “good morning,” smiling and waving to the left and right as if he was on a parade route.

“Bye, Mom,” he’d said in his eye-rolling teenager voice, letting her know it would be swell if she’d leave him there already.

Now he says, “Bye bye, school. All done, school,” and runs toward the exit gate.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Personal History of Live Music in Southern California (and Beyond)

Here's a comprehensive list of all the concerts I've seen in my life, most of them in Southern California. This constitutes nearly 40 years of shows, starting when I was one month shy of three-years-old. (This doesn't include countless small venue/bar shows, of which there are too many to remember.) I made this list as a starting point for a lengthier writing project. I envision short personal essays, including photos and ticket stubs. Perhaps it will be a coffee table book, as one friend suggested. Or maybe something bigger: another full-length essay collection. I'm not sure yet. It's a mystery. That's the beauty of writing and part of the reason I don't outline. I don't know what I know until I type it. I'm looking forward to mining my memory to uncover what I remember about one of the most fundamental aspects of my life: live music. 

Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo) danced barefoot on Halloween every year and rocked for three hours every time. Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode) called out, "Good evening, Pasadena" and proceeded to put on an iconic show at The Rose Bowl. I danced with my best friend on the dugout at Dodger Stadium during The Cure and got in trouble. I wore black and white striped tights at PIL and was called "Pippi"; at that same show, someone threw a bottle at Johnny Lydon's head, and he screamed, "That's not fucking funny." The first time I saw Gwen Stefani when she was 19, I thought, "That girl's going to be famous." Bouncers dragged Courtney Love offstage kicking and screaming. Jack Black made me laugh so hard I tripped up a flight of stairs. I had mosh pit grit in my teeth during Bad Religion, and Beck played spoons on glassware at a dinner table. Vaden Todd Lewis (Toadies) said, "We didn't even want to come to Los Angeles, and you guys turned out to be the best crowd." John McCrea (Cake) made audience members do push-ups to win an orange tree and asked the winner to promise to post photos when the fruit was ripe. Fiona Apple pulled her long sleeves off and tied them around her chest; then she laughed at me when I couldn't back out of my parking spot. Backstage, Peter Murphy put his arm around me and said, "I like her," and one trip to the Chairman's Room at the Staples Center during NIN ruined me for all non-VIP experiences from now on. Finally, when I sat in the Descendents trailer and "babysat" Milo's kids while my friend interviewed the band, I thought, "It doesn't get any better than this."

For me, experiencing live music is akin to eating food, having shelter, or breathing oxygen. I won't stop going to shows until I physically can't. For now, I'll endure the middle-aged back pain, tweaked neck, sleep deprivation, and temporary tinnitus. Music keeps me young(ish) and makes me happy, and not a lot of things make me happy these days. 

Note about the list: If I haven't listed a seat number, it means the show was general admission, or I can't remember where I was sitting. In this case, I was either front row center, in the back of the bus, or somewhere in between.

Also, if the show was a festival, I only listed the bands I'm fairly certain I saw (or heard), not the entire side stage set list.

If you've been to a show with me, and you remember when and where it was, and I've gotten this wrong, let me know. Thank you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Writing Fiction: Lying, Logging the Hours, and the Controversial Prologue

An Evening with Novelists
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett invited novelists Bret Anthony Johnston, Lisa Glatt, and Aline Ohanesian to her Pen on Fire Speaker Series at the SCAPE gallery in Corona Del Mar on September 9th, where they had an intriguing conversation about the process of writing fiction.

Johnston is the author of the novel Remember Me Like This, soon to be made into a feature film. He has also written Corpus Christi: Stories and teaches at Harvard, where he is the director of creative writing. Glatt is the author of A Girl Becomes A Comma Like That and The Nakeds, and she teaches at the California State University, Long Beach. Ohanesian is the author of Orhan’s Inheritance.

Monday, July 20, 2015

So, I Wrote a Book

I printed my completed manuscript today. Wa-effing-hoo.
I found a line in my old journal that reads, “What I really want to do is get an MFA in creative writing.” I wrote this on April 25, 2000. Fifteen years ago. At the time I had spent two exhausting years getting a single subject credential to teach high school English, and I had finished student teaching and was waiting tables again, killing time before a school district hired me the next fall—the Friday before school started.

Teaching K-12 had never been on my radar, except people had always told me, “You’d make a great teacher,” but they’d always suggested teaching elementary school. I didn’t want to teach elementary school; I’m not crafty, and math isn’t my favorite subject. I had always loved books and writing, had a degree in English I didn’t know what to do with, thought I could share my love of literature with America’s youth, and had the propensity to listen to outside voices.

Monday, May 18, 2015

YES GIRL Rejected Copy

As I get closer to the end of the editing process of my essay collection, Yes Girl, I have nearly 13,000 words that I’ve saved in a separate document that I cut from the collection that I don’t want to delete for good.

Maybe I can use them later, I kid myself. I can always put the words back in, I often think.

I’m coming to terms with the 45 pages of cut material being forever consigned to the virtual trash. But, I thought some of the sentences would make for a fun, random sampling of soundbites.

So, here goes.