The Liquake hosted reading at the Commonwealth Club tonight fed me all sorts of fun facts. Did you know that Steinbeck's classic "The Grapes of Wrath" was banned in the 30's? Did you know that Sutro, of Sutro Tower fame was Jewish? The talk tonight, just after National Banned Book week was well timed. Oh, yes, and banned books are on people's minds since learning of S. Palin's banning of "Daddy's Roomate." But back to S.F.... Rick Wartzman and Frances Dinkelspiel were fascinating, articulate and funny (as was Ethan Rarick whose new book on the Donner Party is also intriguing). I'm a sucker for all things 'California History' and these three authors delivered delicious details of the ups and downs of the history of the California economy, politics, unions, and literacy. Another great Litquake event. And, an insider update: Warren Hellman, of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and related to Frances, has composed a bluegrass tune about their mutual relative, Isaias Hellman. Frances reports that the final mix will be up on her website shortly.
When we found ourselves unexpectedly free last night, Adam and I made a spontaneous visit to Yoshi's. We'd never heard of Hiromi but we are long time fans of Yoshi's so we plunked down our money and said hey 'it's Yoshi's - what could be bad?' Bad? It was out of this world! From the first song Adam said "She's listened to Chick Corea." Doing our research this morning, we come to learn that she went to the Berklee School of Music and she's recorded with Corea, as well as Oscar Peterson, and Ahmad Jamahl. Check her out - she's a phenom. What I liked best was her range; she could lay down a 'classic jazz' tune as well as create her own edgy fusion sound - a sound created by Miles Davis that has been filtered down to Corea and now to this next generation. What a great image to see a Japanese woman leading a jazz band - it really made me happy.
Susannah had worked on National Poetry Month, so we knew we were in good hands. Last year, according to Susannah's firm, NRGM had several hundred thousand exposures which translates into 'lots of interest!" This year the month will kick off even stronger with our newest WNBA chapter, Seattle, hosting a "Read Around the Sound" event. Mary Harris, co-owner of Parkplace Books (and WNBA/Seattle charter member) has helped to organize over a dozen independent bookstores and public libraries in the Seattle area to host NRGM events.
All of this is to say: WNBA supports authors and readers. To quote myself from our NRGM Press Release: “Reading groups are to the literary world what slow food is to our fast food nation. They encourage people to slow down and think deeply about themes, characters, and plot. They encourage discourse in a culture where most communication is by text message.”
And, we are grateful WNBA's NRGM Committee Chairperson, Jill Tardiff (of Bamboo River Associates)and to our sponsors Random House, Harper Perennial and Hyperion Books who have helped make NRGM a reality.
LitQuake is heating up. The schedule is now on-line and I'm hoping to make several of the events the week of October 4-11. This year I will be a featured reader at the "Spirituality Reading" along with Marc Lesser, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Sera Beak and others. Come to Forest Books, 3080 16th Street, 6pm, Saturday, October 11th for the LitCrawl kick-off. Afterward, head over the Parrero Wine Bar on 16th to hear a great selection of authors from the S.F. Chapter of the Women's National Book Association. Be there or be square!
Way back in the 18th Century Beethoven embarked on what he called a 'grand experiment. The experiment was the composition of the magnificent 9th Symphony. Last week, the San Francisco Symphony rendition was fresh, alive and relevant in a way most artists only dream their work being two hundred years 'post production.' But it was the text that really rang my bells. Consider these lines, penned by Friedrich von Schiller:
"All beings drink of joy/at nature's breast. All those who are good, all those who are evil/follow her rose-strewn path./She gave us kisses and vines,/a friend proven until death./The serpent is corrupt. The cherub stands before God./As joyfully as the planets fly/through heaven's magnificent spaces: Brothers follow your path/joyfully, as a hero rides toward victory.
"Be embraced, you millions!/This kiss is for the world! Brothers - a loving father must live/Above the canopy of stars."
And this? Sung by a chorus of over 100 voices. Talk about 'what the world needs now...'
When Carolina Loren read a novel about a woman who survived for three weeks by hiding in a bathroom during the Rwandan massacre she wondered why no one had heard about this powerful book. The idea for creating a cooperative marketing program for women authors began to come into focus for Loren over the next year. Now, after competing with over 2,000 other women business owners, she will launch Booksbywomenforwomen.com at the Maria Shriver Conference for Women on Oct. 21st in Long Beach. Carolina found me through her coach who urged her to align BBWFW with WNBA. Generously, Carolina has agreed to feature my book at her launch. The conference is sold out - 21,000 women will attend! My only problem with this alliance is Palin's face on the front page of the Shriver website : (
The sprites. While some might have hang ups about 4 men playing Shakespeare's fairies, I found the staging absolutely perfect. The wood sprites, or men in sheer tops and tutus, captured the spirit of Shakespeare's magic; their shaking booties just added to the mischief and fun for which the fairies were originally scripted. I had heard on the street that there was a protest about the play and assumed it was coming from conservative North Westerners who couldn't handle the switch. But I was wrong. The complaints were from the gay community who felt the sprites were stereotyped! OK. On other fronts, "The Clay Cart," the least well reviewed of the season's plays, was sexy, visually fantastic and musically lovely. A great outing all in all, especially while staying at the very lux "Ashland Creek Inn." Still, it's great to be home. There's a big, exciting fall kicking into gear that includes LitQuake, Mills College LIterary Salon and a trip to the West Hollywood Book Fair and Seattle to inaugurate the new WNBA chapter!
On July 8th I got a call from Robert Arthur, the publisher of San Francisco Bay Press. He wants to publish my new manuscript, "A Dreamer's Guide to Cities and Streams." I was, and am thrilled, of course. (And, I didn't want to post anything until we were ready to go to press. We are now.) It's been an adventure with the myriad of important details; the close editing, a new headshot which required two sessions, new bios, and of course the stress of 'letting it go.' I've been spending most of the past month working on getting some fantastic endorsements to add to the one I already had from Al Young. Lucy Lang Day, Martha Meltzer and Becky Foust all came through royally. But here's the thrilling, and unexpected result of Bob's vote of approval (besides a final mss.): a renewed energy and enthusiasm for my work. My confidence is at an all time high and I feel really motivated and juiced. I went off on my own for a few days of 'retreat' and I was blown away by the quality and quantity of work I got done. More on the retreat in my next post...
Former WBNA-SF board secretary and current member C.W. Gortner's second novel THE LAST QUEEN (Ballantine Books, $25.00) was released on July 29, 2008. THE LAST QUEEN is the passionate story of Juana of Castile, her tumultous relationship marriage into the Hapsburg Empire, her dynamic relations with her parents Ferdinand and Isabella, and her courageous fight to hold on to the throne that is rightfully hers. Publishers Weekly calls it, ". . . an enthralling story, brilliantly told." To find out more, visit: http://www.cwgortner.com Christopher held his launch party, complete with Spanish wine and cheese, at WNBA-SF's sponsoring bookstore, Bookshop West Portal. This image was painted onto the celebratory cake!