4th Fireworks (“Shh!” Edition)

Happy 4th!

This: fire1

This splendor in this country:


Here, they viewed this:


Our 4th?




Um–Mom? What’s going on?

Visiting family, as we were in the middle of watching ‘Moana’, I cried: OMG TIME FOR FIREWORKS. And my FIL brought us here, to an eerie stretch of road bracing the Indian reservation.

And then, suddenly, this quiet flash of imagery:


I posted on FB that we were the scene in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ when they’re waiting for the spaceships to fly by. And they flew.


And it was?: Bliss.


Thank you, Soboba Indians, for the show. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know it was bigger and louder closer, but this was perfect: Surreal, remarkably different, totally unforgettable. And you gave me writing material.

Yours in memorable scenery,


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Vacationing Hypocrite (Monterey Edition)

jellyMy son and I kicked off his summer vacation with a road trip north, first stop: Monterey’s Cannery Row–breezes that had us in our hoodies within seconds of stepping out of the minivan, views of the bluey bay, an aquarium, wildlife (captive otters in the aquarium, wild otters spotted from aquarium windows overlooking the bay), a hotel on the Row, upstairs room with a door that popped open in the middle of the night (chained, luckily–when I went down to the front desk to ask them about it, they assured me doors popping open never happens and that the hotel wasn’t haunted–I did not ask if the hotel was haunted–but that’s what they offered up), traces of Steinbeck and Ed RickhotelAetts on building fronts, down alleyways leading to tidepools, tourists with bemused smiles until 11pm when the Row (surprising me, having read the novel multiple times and fashioned a certain impression) emptied of people and cars–instant night-calm as my son slept and I revised WIP’s before a fire in the grate (yes, Cannery Row was cold enough for a fire) appreciating the clammy cool vs. 100+ degrees in our broiling valley-of-home.

The only thing missing was my husband, who stayed behind to tend our ponderosa.

Our hero.

I encouraged my son to lead the way through the aquarium and he did, indoors, outside, upstairs, down into the Open Ocean exhibit where we gazed into a dimness housing swooping rays, bluefin tuna and, suddenly, from out of the water-gloom a hammerhead shark swimming straight for us. Ummm–seeing what I’m seeing? I asked my son. Wow, he murmured as the shark veered from us and swam off, returning a minute later, making tourists gasp above the chamber’shammer New Age music. Pretty amazing, my son said.

Jellies, sunfish, ever-descending grouper, rays and otters (rescues? I don’t know) and shorebirds (rescued, many rehabilitated and sent back to the beach)–but a hammerhead? My son explored other Open Ocean exhibits while I continued to watch the shark. I don’t like zoos. I do like the opportunity to appreciate/study our planet. So I’m a push-me/pull-ya zoo/aquarium-goer (although never Sea World). I hope I won’t meet a hammerhead in the real open ocean–but that doesn’t mean I relish watching from safety as one cuts endless circles around its cage. Way too Sea World-ish for me. Quite sad. Quite beautiful. Necessary? Look: A quote by Thoreau the aquarium displays boldly on a wall makes the joint as hypocritical as myself.


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Where I Discovered Poetry Last Weekend



And here:


How my family inspired me last weekend?

Via this:


And this:


And this:


What it feels like to finish a pre-mini-vacation writing goal and move to the next?



Came down with the flu upon returning from family shenanigans. However, today I’m well enough to sit up and revise w/pillows. Also watched that movie, ‘Unacknowledged’,  in throes of flu-delirium, and it gave me ideas for my other novel I’m revising. Yes! (coughing-fit/aches). Let’s share snacks and orange juice (separate glasses) on the wellness train.

Yours (in bedridden productivity, surely the hardest kind),



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Inspiration (Mother’s Day Edition)

mdayWhat inspiration looks like. Feels like. That guy, reading me his MDay card.

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Daisies uncertain how to proceed in 90 degree heat: To die or bloom?

May Day! May Day! May Day! (a few days late, but—-)

90+ degrees today, again. My Spring yard is shriveling. I thought this wouldn’t happen until next month. Silly me! When the Arctic is melting! Doh. The box turtle and the ‘keets, however, are thrilled with the weather. Their daily outdoor-time is extended well through the dinner hour and close to the kid’s bedtime. (‘Keets are gently misted throughout day–they do not overheat–turtle has several water dishes, sprinkled greens and adequate shade-cover in her outdoor habitat–do not fear–I am a diligent mini-zoo-keeper–aren’t you?)

I finished revising my MG novel, made my deadline, but have extended it in order to re-examine/tweak the climax. Keep Calm & Tweak On (but not like Miley).

May your May Day be filled with calm revision.


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Third Eye (April Edition w/Cat)

dig1Woke up at 430am, pressed on with the last 40 pages of revision, my 3rd eye drowsy, but game.

Now that I’m wide awake, overly caffeinated and the little boy is at school and the husband is off to heroic business AND THE CASE-OF-THE-LOVIES CAT HAS HIT THE CAPS LOCK WITH HIS PURRING GIRTH, gotta go.

Yours in revision and occasional fist-pumps when writing is right (even if has meant killing sentences previously known as Darlings),


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Heat Wave Revision

SB Feb 003Today’s spring temperature high is predicted as: 86F.

Which, in my sweltering valley, probably means: at least 90F. If not more.

The MG novel I’m almost finished revising (this time around) has everything to do with global warming, pollution, the (mis)use of chemicals and how humans dearly cherish and how humans mistreat our planet. So–this current revision session is not tedious.

Not at all.

Yours in timely edits,


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Coffee Kick & Go (Tremble Edition)

msIt may be poetry month in the USA, but here at PB Writes the author was up late revising her MG novel, prepping it for the agent requesting a read. This sweet, cool and sunny spring morning–after creating pancakes-secreted-with-carrot-puree for the boy, feeding the home zoo, blending the spouse’s energy drink, coffee w/coconut milk at hand–she’s back at it, ready to re-revise-revise the first quarter of the novel before moving on to the next quarter. Or she will be revising once she stops writing this post. Ha, ha! Oh, PB! You go, Girl. Er–or something like that. And maybe eat some yogurt because your fingers betray a certain caffeine-tremble. Tsk!

Here’s to a day filled with red ink and writing progress (a Trader Joe’s run, dry cleaning pickup, phonecalls to VIP-types, cat to the vet for shots, 30 mins on the treadmill–this is why PB writes at night so often). And maybe, if you have time between chapters or latest stanzas or if your muse confiscates your coffee and kicks you away from your manuscript, check in with The Dad Poet’s poetry month postings. Also, Claire has the skivvy on this year’s Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction authors.

Shhh! Time to work. Off you go now, you, you and YOU, too. Daylight’s burning!

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April Is Poetry Month (As If You Didn’t Know)



She looks as though she was caught secretly reading Yeats. Topless.

At the recent SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Day (see my SCBWI piece),  editor Pam Gruber had her workshop attendees write down a bit of world building. In honor of all those writing a poem a day this month (I am not doing that this year–focused instead on revision of my MG novel), in support and admiration of those who snap on the light in wee hours to record a line of poetry, a dream, an inspiration, something crucial to some misbehaving chapter, I’m including what I was inspired to write for the Gruber exercise.

Santa Barbara is gorging on poetry at the moment. Check out my hometown’s poets and events here. The Dad Poet always keeps up with poetry month. You’ll find lots of poems and poetry info on his site.

Hm. I can’t find the world building bit I wrote. Perhaps the cat ate it. So here’s a bit of poetry after all:

You choose a foot, a head & a vertebra,
(you think), sunblasted skin-smooth, tugged
from seawall rising above island beach
like an ambitious art installation: wall
of contemporary junk fused by sea
in all her panoramic moods, ferried
by swells, squalls, here, where you
& I are the last two on earth.

from Stranded, PB Rippey

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SCBWI-LA Writers & Illustrators Day 2017 (Links Edition)

booksI was asked by SCBWI-LA to write about my experience at the recent WID. The piece is up on the Kite Tales blog. 1, 2, 3: LINK. Such a luxury for me to discard certain hats (taxi-mama, chef of sorts, zoo-keeper, 3rd Grade Common Core Math Interpreter, foam swords fighter, Wii-U games competitor, etc.) and sit in a comfy, aesthetically pleasing theatre with my notebook and listen, absorb, learn for an entire day. Plus, as I maybe mildly emphasize in the piece, lunch was included in the program and it was Wow Delicious, served in a sunny courtyard. I had the generously mounding tuna salad croissant. I haven’t had a croissant in years. This croissant made up for all I’ve been missing. Moving on: The Day came with a mini-bookfair. The books I purchased:

  1. Wired For Story, Lisa Cron (What!!!! Like me, pre-WID, you do not have this book??? Get it get it get it!!!!)
  2. Over And Under The Snow, Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal. If you read my piece, yes, this is the picture book I mention about the subnivian zone. That’s right: THE SUBNIVIAN ZONE. Ha! Fabulous.

And now–back to work on revisions to my MG novel due to feedback I received from the WID. One of the joys of being an SCBWI member means one can attend WIDs and submit one’s work for critique by an industry agent, editor, author. The notes I received continue to inspire me to rise at 5:30a.m. and get in some work before the house erupts at 6:20a.m. and I don my (fairly sketchy) chef’s hat.

Yours in productivity and focus, focus, focus,


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Kids Poetry Night

poetrynightTuesday, February 28th, a freaky political event occurred on TV, but also Poetry Night at my son’s school. Children and parents gathered to read/share poems from books they brought to the event and books supplied by the school’s librarian. Loved hearing the kids read. Plus, there was hot chocolate, ladled out by the principal–she added GOBS of mini-marshmallows to each cup. The school librarian and my son’s 3rd grade teacher made the rounds of those attending. It was a crisp, outdoors, invigorating, end-of-February-night. With magic. I truly love this school.

Of all the poems in the book my son brought to the evening (his book of choice a gift from a novelist/friend before he was born) he chose to read a poem from Sylvia Plath’s “The Bed Book”. He read it so well. Why? Because he related to the poem’s whimsy, reality, truth when it comes to beds and how we experience our padded night-nights. Yes, poetry speaks to children (and their bookworm moms).

Love that parents support their children reading poetry aloud, encourage them to read poetry, absorb it, and, hopefully, write it, write it, write it.

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SCBWI Event Coming Up!

scbwiI am looking forward to next Saturday, 2/25/17. The Skirball is a choice location, indeed. Are you going? If so, see you there!


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Healing By Degrees (FB Edition)

“What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” —-WS, Othello 



I’m talking Snapchattish-brief degrees. My impatience won out. I weeded Facebook ‘friends’ after the election and the first peaceful march–in which I marched, peacefully, surrounded by like minds. After this weeding and marching I felt/feel: So much better. No more anxiety that the sexist/pervert I knew for two seconds in high school (and who clearly hasn’t changed much) will object, nasty-passive-aggressively, to my FB posts supporting Planned Parenthood, Gloria Steinem, belly dancers, or non-support of giraffes slaughtered for sport, fins hacked off of sharks, ivory sold for sick profit. No longer will that friend of a friend of friends (who may or may not be my actual friends) be allowed to go psycho on my timeline when I post a photo of #45 neck deep in ‘Star Trek’ Tribbles. This ‘friend’ let me know: I am sure he (ie., #45) will surround himself with people in the WH who will guide him to make good choices. Riiight. WEEDED. No longer will that former friend of a best friend accuse me of promoting a double standard when I post my adoration of Michelle Obama, a woman he despises (because he’s a mansplaining “Christian” who believes women should be saved, by him, if he deems them attractive enough). BLOCKED. No longer will I cringe when family members (who have forgotten, or never knew how to behave like family) post bits such as: LAUGHING AT THE LOSER LIBTARDS. I don’t have to  see certain posts. Why? Because: I HAVE THAT FB OPTION.



WaPo, The New Yorker, NY Times, Guardian, Atlantic, NPR Weekend Edition, Robert Reich, Rebecca Solnit, Bernie Sanders, JK Rowling, Bette Midler, Bill Moyers, 350.org, Dan Rather, Debra Messing, Kamala Harris, Minnie Driver, NRDC big-time on FB and Twitter, Dianne Feinstein, Susan Orlean, Moby, Anne Lamott, Terry Tempest Williams, Michael Moore, LikeAGirlProductions,  Peter Alexander, Pam Houston’s soothing pix, Cheryl Strayed, Asha Dornfest, Michael T. Williams (yogi-cool), anything anti-DAPL and whatever Michelle Obama has to say. I am connected to my own evolving cabinet as the fruitcake keeps on hitting the madly whirring fan.



Yours by degrees in these attention-snipped times and yours in vigilant fact-hunting and yours in escaping, here and there, the constant madness with cute animal pix,


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  1. Just. So. Simply. Timely. And simply nice.dolphinjump_animation_group_loop_large
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126962_5Have you registered for the (Los Angeles chapter) SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Day 2017? It’s happening February 25th at the Skirball Cultural Center, a venue I once frequented in order to exercise my former toddler in the  intriguingly lit Noah’s Ark exhibit. It’s a beautiful setting atop Mulholland Drive and promises to be an informative day. Check it out here: SCBWI

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On Rejection

Recently I was lucky enough to have a conversation with someone I deeply respect and I was moaning a little about rejections I’ve received lately. The person suggested I stop callxmas-bouqueting them ‘rejections’ and refer to them instead as ‘No Thank You’s’. Because unless they tell you specifically (the person continued), you have no idea why they are passing on your work, not really, so why let it get you down? REJECTION implies a kind of OMG-I’ve-been-kicked-to-the-curb message to yourself. But you’re not lying in the gutter wasting away. You’re up and running like never before. If you receive a ‘no thank you’ in your inbox, it’s just that. And if you believe the Universe, or God, or whatever deity or force you believe in, is truly taking care of you, has your back, then any ‘no thank you’ makes perfect sense. Only the best for you, the person urged. Even if you’re an atheist. Remember that.

And I said: Thank you for the advice.

And meant it.

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Brief Reverie (w/Iron)


As I was ironing my husband’s dress shirts last night: channeled a story about 3 lifelong friends who unfriend each other on Facebook due to arguments over whether certain basic inalienable rights should be basic and inalienable at all (buying organic vs. Tyson or supporting NRDC vs. Energy Transfer Partners or ‘liking’ Bill Nye The Science Guy’s FB page vs. Fox News or why the word ‘science’ complements the word ‘climate’ or the fact that the world is round, not flat), issues brought to sudden forefront due to a countrywide election resulting in the win of a fascist, obsessively tweeting dictator. THIS IS ON YOU! the one friend who did not vote for the fascist dictator shouts in text before severing friendships and removing herself from Facebook altogether with screams of rage and confusion. She proceeds to fume and worry and eventually not even listen to NPR as she raises her sweet, organic-foods-eating, people-loving 9 year old son in the new, dark regime, meticulously gathering wholesomeness fallout from a country’s shocking explosion/implosion, hoarding it in apron pockets, gifting nuggets to her family, keeping her front doorstep swept and tended and lit, in focus.

Ho, ho, ho!

Could never happen. I should switch to writing dystopian fiction.






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s24Newsflash: It’s December, 2016.

I know because the seasonal falling snow plugin is up and running on WordPress.

Tonight, we welcomed in December’s Holiday craziness with snowman carousing and a bit of tubing on Leo Politi’s old property in Elysian Park. My son, my husband and I teetered on hot chocolate sugar highs and high-fived at the top of the tubing slide. We couldn’t take a family photo in the well advertised giant inflatable snow globe because it was constantly deflating, I watched two strangers berate each other for snowball flinging crimes in the tiny snowball flinging pit–and I filmed my son dancing to contemporary music in a simulated snow flurry and I marveled at how he absolutely did not care if anyone was watching him. That’s a first for him, considering I couldn’t get him to dance with me at the last school Mother/Son dance. Maybe there’s hope for next year’s. His attitude? One to adopt as we head into a nutty time of year.

Hallelujah and happy shopping. Here we go! s16

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Turkey Day Craze

I may as well have woken up in a luxurious spa-hotel, expecting breakfast in bed, or morning tea on an ocean-view patio, sipping from real china in a froofy dressing gown, in any case a stress-free morning despite it being Thanksgiving and I was hosting, so positive was I that everything was prepped. Slide the bird in the oven, good to go, I thought, humming as I tugged on my cave girl boot slippers and pulled a knee-length sweatshirt over my head, having slept in an extra 30 minutes, bectg3aause everything was so marvelously under control, I thought, shuffling cheerily into the living room, greeting relatives and five dogs, my sweet son and my husband, who handed me a steaming mug of creamy coffee. Good morning, I sing-songed, turning on the oven, loving the sunshine, the view from the kitchen window of finches and doves sharing the feeder in the front yard. Let’s get the turkey in the oven! I said, to which my mother replied, Hun, where is your roasting pan? Why, it’s right, I said, bending down to a lower cupboard, reaching, peering, asking my husband for a flashlight, probing, Why it’s right–


I ransacked the office, laundry room, linen closet, backyard shed, the tiny crawl space of attic, my son’s closet, closeted suitcases, the recycling cupboard, the long outdoor chest we keep patio chair cushions in.

No pan.

Ten minutes later I scoured the aisles of the Albertsons a few blocks from us, discovering the last roasting pan with no rack, and the last roasting pan with a rack. I purchased them both and zoomed home, but the 25lb bird didn’t fit in either pan, even when my husband broke the rack and bent it slightly, basically just making everything worse.


My husband assured me I was in no shape to drive, so he zoomed us to Vons. No pans. No racks. We headed East, 5 miles up Tampa, hitting every red light before reaching the posh Ralphs in Porter Ranch, which had a giant aluminum roasting pan, but no racks.


But my husband insisted he could make the rack he’d broken work and with only minutes to spare for turkey-must-be-in-the-oven-time, we made it home. My husband was right: The mutilated rack worked perfectly. I stuffed the bird, draped the breast in cheesecloth soaked in butter and wine and with a final scream shoved it in the oven. Hun, my mom said, You might want to brush out the back of your hair and–take a shower.

I did, four hours later, after locating my chafing dishes, which needed washing, locating and washing the turkey platter, locating the electric knife blatg2ade holder, but not the blades themselves, locating non-electric carving knives I didn’t even know I had, washing those, pulling various dishes from the refrigerator I’d forgotten about (THE MARINATED GRILLED VEGETABLES THE SALMON FLORENTINE THE OVEN BAKED GLUTEN FREE STUFFING), and engaging in a brief, fairly aggressive game of badminton. Right before we were to eat, I quickly showered and shampooed, yanked on a dress, and, barefoot (it was mid-seventies outside), brushed my hair. I ate with a wet head. And a giant glass of chardonnay I raised for the toast, grateful for family, my badminton champion son, my hero husband, this life. Ah…Luxury.

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Dug Out

L0028072 Caricature: Moments when life is worth livingEons ago my wisdom teeth came out far easier than this morning’s Tooth #4, which my dentist described as having a curved root, meaning: curve-ball for what should have been a pretty quick procedure.

‘See?’ my dentist said. He twisted my liberated tooth in the air with tweezers as if displaying both trophy and the Elephant Man. ‘Curved!’  My mouth was stuffed with cotton to stop the bleeding. Why do dentists always ask questions of their patients when speech is impossible? I grunted something, god knows what. ‘Different is good!’ my dentist insisted as I felt saliva, or was it blood, reach my chin. ‘It wasn’t a problem,” he said, as though assuring me. “Just different.’

When I returned home, a pack of frozen peas pressed to my cheek, all I wanted was to watch Sigourney Weaver survive in ‘Alien’. But my 9 year old son was present, so I encouraged him to build Legos on the coffee table while I sprawled on the couch, pickled in Advil, and watched ‘The Durrells in Corfu’. Until, that is, my empathic, animal loving boy objected to the crude leash around the pelican young Gerald Durrell had captured. ‘You’re right,’ I agreed, hastily switching off the TV before my son’s tears could gain momentum. I rubbed his back and had him explain his latest Lego creation, aware of the gap in my mouth, thinking: I get why people want to keep their gall bladders, bottle their tonsils, stick a renegade tooth in a pretty box that lives on a bookshelf. That curved root was a challenge for my dentist AND me (as my fingers ripped the rips in the thighs of my jeans). Was me. A personal, intimate burr. Gone.

It’s okay, Love, it’s okay.

Listen: Metaphor rarely becomes me.

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For The Boids

birdsElection night: 2 friends offended. By me. Thought I was being funny with my online responses. Hah!

Now? Rampant Victors assure me Trump won’t REALLY do all he assured us he will absolutely do if elected. Trump voters in post-election denial. I say: The high school in Penn., for instance. Meanwhile in Ill, for instance. Check out UC Davis, for instance. Hate crimes all, all there to read about. No denial possible.

In times like these–in times like these (!!!)–in times like these I take a moment to gaze at my salt and pepper shakers. Because they provide an alternative to percolating blood pressure–before I, for one, move on to clear and present reality. And deal with it the best I can.

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Island Infusion

006Recently a boat deposited me on Santa Rosa Island for a few days, one of a handful of remote scapes comprising the Channel Islands National Park .

I traveled with a geologist, an art dealer and two canvas artists who brought their cameras to capture inspiration for future plein air works of art. Listening to facts about sediment and ancient orogeny, observations on tone and color as the sunlight and fast-moving clouds changed our surroundings sometimes minute to minute, I felt inspired, educated and fortunate and I missed my husband and son, wanting them to experience the wild ocean, mountains and scampering, indigenous foxes with me. And especially that tent-sleeping part. One day…

0591.  As we hiked through a forest of Torrey pines, explored (or napped on) the windy beach, tackled the climb to Bear Mountain, I often flashed on John Muir, his love for Yosemite that made him famous enough for Teddy Roosevelt to visit him there (even though Muir tried to get out of the meeting–luckily to no avail); because seeing is believing. Because clearly believing can lead to awe and respect, which can lead to a healthy desire to protect the precious and vanishing (the indigenous island fox is now back from extinction’s precipice).

2.  Constantly thankful (as when I discovered half of a gleaming abalone shell on the beach, or watched the sun rise over the silent campground) for writers like Barry Lopez, Eowyn Ivey, John McPhee and so many others graced with a talent for making landscapes live–because when seeing-to-believe isn’t an option, their works make reading-to-believe a reality.

3. So important to pack fresh blueberries and cream when camping–also fajitas and organic corn tortillas, artisanal cheeses and gourmet crackers, and lentil-carnitas stew. And coffee. Of course coffee. And whiskey. I forgot to bring the schnapps, but it wasn’t missed, so I assure you it is actually fine to cross schnapps off your camping list–but never hot chocolate. A beach towel. And, you know, drinking water is pretty vital…


4. Reminded that getting away from regular life is an opportunity for creative inspiration to zap the soul. At the top of Bear Mountain, I found a key ingredient to the novel I’m working on, discovered in the scenery and thanks to the murmurs around me. Aha! I thought. Aha…

5. Reminded that absence makes an already fondness-filled heart swell to bursting with gratitude and love and can be an antidote to writer’s block.

Not meaning to go all didactic on you. Just the urge to share after returning from a wilderness. Maybe trek to Santa Rosa if you can, before they add the proposed hotel and paved roads. Confident the artists I traveled with will help in the struggle to keep the wild in the wild (seeing is believing, seeing is believing), but–oh, Teddy! Paradise needs you, Sir. And definitely Muir, roaring down from the pines to shoo away insensitive change.


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Boo On Drugs

jackoI wrote in a frenzy from 10 a.m. to 1:00p.m., then lay down for a nap before zooming to fetch my 3rd grader from school, but my iPhone was on mute, so I didn’t hear the alarm, but I did hear, fortunately, a buzzing when my son phoned on his Gizmo to politely ask my whereabouts. I swallowed my panic and leapt out of bed telling my son to please stay in the schoolyard and I yanked on a summer dress–because it’s still summer here, in October, in this perpetually heat-swathed, dust-worsening valley of mine–and made my son an apple juice ‘sippy’ and bolted for the minivan. On driving to the school, I suddenly remembered I had signed my son up for after school services run by Coach Sammy, who leads the kids in activities, so I called my son’s gizmo (I press a button on the steering wheel, issue a command and voila–you know all about hands-free phonage in minivans, I know, but I never cease to be thrilled by it and so I point it out ad nauseum because I can’t get over the so very ‘I Robot’, futuristic-but-here-now aspect of it) and told him to take advantage of the after school services. Mom, he asked. Where ARE you? And I swallowed my panic and sing-songed about finding Coach Sammy and pressed the disconnect button on the steering wheel as I sped for the freeway and seconds later my son called me back and said Coach Sammy wouldn’t let him play because he wasn’t signed up for the after school services. So I told my son to go to the office and tell them to tell Coach Sammy that he was indeed signed up and allowed to play and he did this and called me back and now it was all just too much and he was teary. Mom, he choked out. They gave me a contract for you to sign. Fortunately I was pulling up to the school at that point, so I grabbed the apple juice and flew into the yard and quickly wrapped my arms around my son. I just wanted to play, he said, devastated, handing me the same contract I had already filled out and submitted, so I marched us into the office and asked the fearsome duo oh-so-nicely–having already let them know from previous encounters that I am one of the good moms, the reasonable moms, a mom who would, one day, bring them homemade granola to compensate for the fact that they are wounded daily by callous parents, hence their stern caution–I’m saying they will never eat out of anyone’s hand, don’t even try it, not even with homemade granola, just give them the homemade granola and run–I asked the fearsome duo why my son couldn’t play and they had no clue and they (sternly–they’ve been wounded!) suggested I speak with Coach Sammy, to which I replied–calmly, as though I’d downed a Zen pill–GREAT IDEA and off my son and I went, back into the schoolyard and we found Coach Sammy who is sweet and super tall and very athletic and, it turns out, great with kids, and after he shook hands with not just me, but my son, and after Coach Sammy assured my son that in the future he can come and play anytime, we left the school for a math tutoring session and by now my son had perked up, no tears glistened in his blue eyes, and as we walked along Ventura Blvd. to Mathnasium he was all chatty about his day and then a car zoomed by us and some kids in it shouted out their wide open windows (who has wide open windows in 90 degree October heat???): WOO SEXY MAMA and honked their  horn and when I turned to look, aghast, at the car, the driver flipped me the bird. Mom? my son asked. What was that? Were those guys being stupid jerks? And I snapped back into the world and suggested to my son that calling anyone ‘stupid jerks’ is probably not the best we can do, that calling them silly boys is probably better, because maybe they actually donate some of their time to feeding the homeless, maybe their parents recently released the silly boys from a period of intense grounding and the boys forgot their manners because they were so happy to be free on the open road, er, or free on Ventura Blvd., or something like that. I think I said something like that, I don’t even know anymore, I was so shocked that any boys would behave so inappropriately to a mom holding her son’s hand, that any boys would attempt to degrade a mom in front of her kid and of course secretly I thought the silly boys were on drugs. Because WTF. I even HOPED they were on drugs and not actually boneheads in real life–although of course being on drugs and zooming along Ventura Blvd., I would never wish anyone would do such a stupid jerk thing. I tried to remain hopeful. Because I felt rage. Hope is the thing with feathers, as we know, thanks to Emily Dickinson. I ushered my son into the tutoring place and went and sat in the minivan, recovering, unaware I’d slammed a good portion of my blue sundress in the door. What have I learned from this day?

I will never mute my cell phone again.

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Louise Penny

pennynovelWhere has Louise Penny been all my life? I was completely not swept up, but vacuumed into A Great Reckoning and have since been binge reading the Chief Inspector Gamache novels–but I have to say, so far the other books in the series (slightly–very vaguely–just a little bit, really) pale in comparison with Reckoning. I don’t think it’s wrong to read this latest novel before the others–it made me appreciate the others more.

The characters (the cast is large and deftly managed) are whole and funny and remarkably sincere and persistently philosophizing and analyzing their perceptions on human behavior, their own behavior, the nature of humanity, art, religion and murder, they are avid foodies and woods-walkers and everyone is prone to spouting lines of poetry at any moment, even the bad guys. AND there are dogs and ducks and eccentrics and cozy homes surrounding a village green centered by three soaring, significant pines. Make sure you’ve eaten a satisfying meal before reading as the author clearly appreciates good food and drink and with a wicked pen describes mouth-watering dishes. And probably you’ll want to visit Montreal, Quebec City and environs. I’ve googled Canada many times since reading the novels–side-effect from a superbly crafted world. Thank you, Louise Penny. Your novels are treasures.

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Fres-yes? (Wild Kratts Edition)

The Wild Kratts are based in Canada. In addition to their TV shows, which are broadcast all over the world, they occasionally venture over the border–mostly into eastern states and the mid-west–to entertain select child-filled crowds with their live show. The energetic brothers have educated my son on animals and fostered his empathy for wild kritters, even rattlesnakes, since he was 4 years old. My son regularly lectures his parents on facts pertaining to animals we didn’t even know existed on our planet, but do now, like the pangolin, or that desert lizard with spines on its back that act like straws, enabling it to suck up rain drops. Yeah! That lizard. Whatever it’s called.


Imagine my excitement when I discovered the Wild Kratts were bringing their show to California. Fresno, actually, located 3 and 1/2 hours from Los Angeles. A limited number of VIP meet and greet tickets were available. Last April, I whipped out my debit card with screams and snagged 3 VIP tix. Through Travelocity I booked us into a Radisson only .04 miles from the show’s venue. And, finally, after the end of 2nd grade, a summer adventure in Hawaii, the start of 3rd grade, the return of homework schedules and moving up a belt in karate, September arrived. We yanked our son out of school for an overnight and zoomed to downtown Fresno. Or, as my husband refers to that city: Fres-yes? Fres-NO!

k2Between Los Angeles and Fresno the land is pancake. Dirt devils are common and dust hangs in the sky like amber scrim. When we passed the cattle slaughtering plant, I averted my eyes and mentally sent waves of love to the doomed cows. I thought of the TV clips I’ve seen of the Wild Kratts  exploring their wildly pristine, uber-green Canadian environs. As the California countryside around us worsened due to the effects of our lingering drought and we passed abandoned/burnt out barns and crops of weeds, I wondered: Dudes–why Fresno? And, as the temperature climbed: Fres-NO! My husband grumbled. Fres-NO. Are we there yet? asked my son.


Downtown Fresno is in the process of rejuvenating/gentrifying: it’s a wreck. The buildings resemble the historic (beautifully restored) office buildings in downtown Los Angeles, somewhere around Grand and Flower Streets-ish. Tall, cornice-laden structures in desperate need of facelifts and a scrub from an industrial washcloth and environmentally approved perches for the millions of pigeons obscuring the sky.


We navigated one-way streets to the Radisson, situated across the street from a park that should be pretty, but is ringed in chainlink fencing and cement blockades. The driveway for the Radisson parallels its lobby entrance, startlingly brief before dropping into the bowels of the underground parking lot. I squeezed the minivan to the side of the driveway and panicked because I could not find my Travelocity printout with the reservation  confirmation number. I was positive I had packed it in my purse. It IS the Radisson, right? my husband asked. Oh my god, I screamed. Can we go in now? asked my son.

At the front desk, a clerk frowned at his computer and told the clerk next to him to help me and promptly disappeared through mysterious doors and I was so anxious my son have time before the show to swim in the hotel pool (whatever hotel we were booked into) I didn’t complain or take offense, but politely waited my turn instead of causing a scene that might get me thrown out of the joint. When the second clerk finally punched my name into the computer, he came up with: nothing.

I stared at him, oddly screamless, feeling my plans go to Hell. The clerk looked alarmed and said hastily: Let me just check tomorrow’s reservations. And there we were. I had booked us in a day late. You, the clerk told me, need to call Travelocity.


I fell to a lobby armchair and did so, gushing my sad tale to the person on the other end of the line, until, glancing up, I saw the desk clerk waving at me and pointing at his phone. I was talking to him. NOT Travelocity.

I called Travelocity for real this time and the woman put me on hold while she called my desk clerk. I hurried to the front desk and stood before my clerk, listening anxiously as he spoke to the woman with whom I was on hold. She put the clerk on hold, confirmed everything with me, put me on hold and reconfirmed with the clerk, hung up with him, then returned and concluded with me and then it was done. I had our keys, we were IN. I reported back to my husband. It was his turn to stare dumbly.

THIS IS THE BEST ROOM EVER! my son exclaimed. As my husband and I struggled to get the brass cart in the room, our boy whisked back the curtains. OH MY GOD! MOM–DAD–WE HAVE A BEAUTIFUL VIEW!


I love our son. He ran into the room’s bathroom and yelled: MOM, DAD–WE HAVE A SHOWER! AND HERE’S A COFFEE MAKER! Hysterical, I whispered to my husband. He was fingering the duvet with a slight frown.


“No Parking. This area is NOT for the PAWN SHOP.” Fresno!

We made it to the pool.


We hit the Radisson’s restaurant when we were all cleaned up. 40 minutes later we paid the bill having waited that long for my son’s meal,k1a a slice of pizza, which the waitress said she wouldn’t charge us for as the dough was clearly not cooked properly, covered in cold Ragu, 2 slices of pepperoni tossed on top. Raw pizza–because they were out of regular cheese pizza, so they handmade one, which they never do. Fres-WTF, my husband muttered to me. We zoomed to the theatre and I stood at will call with the mob of parents and uber-excited kids, expecting the worst as I couldn’t find the ticket order confirmation number I was sure I had packed in my purse before leaving Los Angeles. Fres-NO, my husband said pleadingly, but a miracle happened, they had our tickets and we dashed inside to buy our son a hot dog to make up for the pizza, but alas the theatre had sold out of hot dogs and workers were desperately making more popcorn for the mob. The lights flashed. We raced to our seats, food-less. My son didn’t seem to notice he was hungry, or that the theatre was stifling and that the Wild Kratts sweated buckets and worked very, very hard that night due to a few technical problems. But the show was solid and my son and every child pktmartinacking that theatre was engaged, screaming answers to animal questions, ‘helping’ the brothers solve mysteries in their interactive presentation. I turned to my husband and said: Fres-yes. And we gazed at the joy emanating from our son. We waited for a while in a stifling hallway to meet the brothers, but my son didn’t care. The brothers were so generous with their time–they engaged with our son, both of them listened to his excited tale about the rattlesnake he saw recently on a hike with his parents. The Kratts must have been exhausted after their show, but they hung in and gave us VIPer’s their all. Best night ever, Mom and Dad! our son told us. So we took him to McDonald’s because that’s all Fresno has to offer after 10pm. It was his first trip there–in all of his 8 years. He enjoyed the action toy, but I was (slightly) regretting brainwashing him about the quality of McD’s chicken nuggets. Please–just eat one nugget, I begged. In the morning, after a huge breakfast, we headed for home.  Throughout the drive our son thanked us for taking him to see his heroes. My husband and I glanced at each other. Fres-m’okay, we agreed, knowing we’d do it all again.

NOTE: The Wild Kratts added shows in Santa Barbara and Costa Mesa after I purchased the Fresno tickets, but those shows didn’t seem to offer meet and greets. So I kept Fresno. If I’m wrong about the meet and greets, don’t tell me and definitely don’t tell my husband. Fres-‘kay?















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