Man at the Fire

We shared a birthday, my father and I, July twenty-fifth (1933 and 1959 respectively), and often celebrated with a trip to the Oregon coast. Just the two of us. We’d drive out from Portland on a Friday evening after dad finished work and spend a weekend. “We’re a couple of bums. That’s what we are,” dad would say. We slept in the roomy ’65 Chrysler and lived on cheese, saltines, apples, plums and summer sausage—the kind of food you can slice with a pocketknife and eat with your hands.

On one of these ‘bumming it’ weekends in July 1969 we had built a driftwood fire on a deserted beach near Manzanita, then strolled out toward the surf and south until our fire was no more than a distant star. When a night fog rolled in with the incoming tide, we were all but blind and turned back north hoping we would eventually see the light from our fire and find our way to the gravel road where our car waited.  Continue reading

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looking for a summer writing conference?

the stanza

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Are you in the  market for a summer writing conference? The good people at Writers@Work have told me they still have some space.

I attended this conference two years ago and had a wonderful time–met fellow poets, learned a lot, watched the moon rise over the Wasatch. It’s a small conference where you actually have a chance to talk to the faculty and writers in residence.

This year’s generative workshop faculty are Tarfia Faizullah (poetry), Peter Ho Davies (fiction), and Kerry Howley (non-fiction).

If you’re interested, you’ll find more information here.

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The Invisible Salman Rushdie

One could argue the death threat Salman Rushdie received from Ayatollah Khomeini for writing The Satanic Verses ranks among the worst rejections in literary history. Fueled by Khomeini’s fatwa, or edict, Rushdie’s enemies not only banned and burned his book, they wanted to kill him for writing it, called on the wide world of Muslim believers to do the righteous deed, would-be assassins blowing themselves to bits, fellow Muslims pipe-bombing bookstores and killing other Muslims for not hating Rushdie enough. Protests, often violent, broke out in Paris, New York, Oslo, and in India, Pakistan, Germany, Thailand, the Netherlands, Kashmir, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sweden, Australia, and England. The Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, Hitoshi Igarashi, was murdered in an elevator, stabbed repeatedly in the face and arms. Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator, was attacked, kicked and stabbed, but survived. Rushdie’s Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, took three bullets, yet lived. Rushdie, forced into hiding and invisibility—from February 14, 1989 to March 27, 2002—found himself at the center of a global controversy about what it means, and what it costs, to speak freely.  Continue reading

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Ninety-six Hours in Toronto, June 2003

Toronto nightNot so brief introductory confession and apology

I keep travel notebooks, always have—writing more in three or four days than I write in six months at home. Being in motion lights me up. I have notebooks for Hong Kong, New Orleans, Vancouver BC, Mexico City, San Francisco, Taipei, Seattle, Chicago, Salzburg, New York City, Paris, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Barcelona, Washington DC, Geneva, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Orlando, Rome, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Portland, and others. It’s not only the big cities that grip me, I also take compulsive notes in places like Jerome, Idaho, or Alamogordo, New Mexico—it’s like a disease, I know. This may sound like a lot of travel, but the truth is, most of it is business travel—short trips spent mostly in trade show exhibits or conference rooms, staying in homogenous hotels, waiting in airports, riding in taxis. I’m no seasoned global (or even domestic) traveler, not by a stretch. This is ordinary travel, outstripped ten-fold by a young sales executive or event planner.

Still, the notes pile up.  Continue reading

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Writers at Work

2014 Writers@Work ConferenceAs a board member of Writers@Work, I have the good fortune to work with writers both famous and unknown almost every day. Then five days each spring about seventy of us gather high in the canyon at Alta Lodge, Utah, and hone our craft, make new friends, share meals, read each other’s work, meet with editors and publishers, and literally explore new worlds together. These are always among the best days of the year. The 2014 Writers@Work Conference (June 4-8) promises to be one of best gatherings yet.  Continue reading

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Back to the Middle of It

Colin in choirMy son Colin has made such incredible progress in recent years. He’s in fifth grade, singing in a choir, playing piano, riding around on roller blades, speaking and singing in church, filling up journals with poems and songs, drawing, dancing, making more and more friends every day. It’s hard to believe how different his world was just a few years back. It serves well to look back to the middle of it–to see what progress looks like.  Continue reading

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At the Hop

Conga line danceThis winter Colin came up with the idea of a Valentines party for his friends at school—girls and boys. Maura, always game for a party, helped him cut out handmade invitations in the shape of 45 RPM records. When the day came, they checked out CDs of fifties music from the library, decorated the walls of the living room with more cardboard 45’s. Maura’s friends joined in to make French fries, hot dogs, and milkshakes. The kids arrived: boys in jeans and t-shirts and slicked-back hair; girls in skirts, bobby socks, hair in high ponytails.  Continue reading

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