Monday, December 29, 2014

A Little Zumba, A Little Writing...

I had such a great time speaking at The Oaks Spa over the weekend.  My memories of The Oaks date back to when I was 16 or so and my mom took me for a weekend getaway. I've written about it before. After the first lunch I escaped the premises and ran across to grab a burrito - i.e. normal food. Now, I treasure the meals there - all super duper healthy and measured out calorically. (is that a word?) They are not drool-inducing, but they are very, very good. 

I gave a talk, and conducted three writing exercises, my favorites from the various courses I teach. They yielded excellent writing samples, and unlike the college students, the spa students were anxious to read out loud. 

Speaking at the spa (there really were people there, I swear)

My mom and our new friend, Frances
When I wasn't speaking, I was dancing, yogaing, hula-hooping, zumba-ing, stretching and sleeping. Happily, I'll be back at the end of March, doing it all over again.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Follow the Paper

Once, many, many moons ago, I had a seasonal job at The Christmas Store, which used to be in the Century City mall. Today we would call it a "pop-up shop", but back then it was merely a "seasonal store." I think I was only in 9th grade when my friend Jen and I both applied for and got the job. Because I had neat handwriting, they put me on engraving duty, that is to say I personally engraved names onto ornaments with some super slim power tool. Is that even legal? The tool shook in my hand as I practiced my cursive on scraps of recycled metal. When a customer approached with his or her bauble, I'd plug in the tool and scratch out whatever name they requested, usually, but not always, to satisfied customers. In my down time, I was put on "wrapping duty", which was much less exotic and required me to wrap gifts. Boy did I suck. I always underestimated the amount of paper, and often found myself taping paper to the box and covering up my botched job with extra paper, and then a bow on top to try and hide the screw-up.  Once, upon watching me struggle, a co-worker or a boss, or maybe even Jen, said to me, "Sometimes you just need to follow the paper. It'll always tell you where to go." How zen! How reasonable! When the paper folded a certain way, I let it, instead of fighting to make it conform to my wishes. "Follow the paper" became my mantra in the store, and still is now when I find myself wrapping gifts for friends, parents, nephews, Hanukkah, Christmas, parties and the like. "Follow the paper" - isn't it a nice metaphor? 

Friday, November 14, 2014


I am having a wonderful semester at the college where I teach, with engaged and talented students. I taught a section in my Memoir class about the graphic novel. We read Persepolis and then I had them draw, in graphic novel form, a scene from one of their essays. Below: students hard at work, and a few of the end results. So impressive!

In my other course, photographer Amy Tierney joined us last week as a guest speaker and told us what it was really like choosing to live a creative life. She's so creative that she insisted we take a class picture.

Look at those cool kids!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Place Called Home

I am so happy. I have finally consolidated all my websites into one brand spankin' new one. You are just a few clicks away from seeing my new novel's book cover, reading about some upcoming writing workshops, and the like.



Monday, October 6, 2014

Oh, Hi, Ojai!

Last week I was feeling nudgy, stuck, overwhelmed and uninspired. I had so much to do, write two lectures, finish reading a book, write two midterms, edit my novel, submit my play, deal with my new website, and I couldn't find the energy to do any of it from home. I have my usual writing spots - The Writers Guild Library, various coffee shops, hotels and the like, but I knew I needed, really needed, a getaway.

That's when I decided I wanted to go to Ojai.

Ojai. Sigh.

Lovely Ojai: only an hour and a half from L.A. and yet it feels like you are on vacation far, far away.

I found a wonderful coffee shop on Yelp, got a cheap but funky hotel on a website, and crossed almost everything off my 'to do' list. I loved every second of it.

 Colorful coffee house, great coffee, too.

 I got a lot done, I swear.

 C'mon. How can you not love a hotel that provides a record player AND a Crystal Gayle record?

Took a long, long walk around the neighborhood - even found and returned a lost dog. Wish I'd taken a picture, but it all happened so'll just have to believe me.  

 Mailboxes of Ojai.

Maybe my fav used bookstore in the world - Bart's Books - located in a home and outside of the home. Just spectacular. I browsed for an hour before hitting a new coffeeshop to finish the final projects...

New coffeeshop. It was over 100 degrees that day, so I chose to sit inside with the air conditioning. I drank lots of iced coffee and tea drinks before finishing stuff and heading back to L.A.
Do you ever take staycations?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Upon Closer Inspection

When you cross the bridge over the lagoon in my neighborhood, you reach an area that, at first glance, can best be described as rich tract housing. But like with most things, upon closer inspection it is full of wonderful details.

Crossing the bridge

The neighborhood is designed on a grid, and most homes face public parks

Sure, some houses are tacky, but others are funky and classy:

Tacky or funky? You decide...
There are fun little details all over the neighborhood:

You just have to open your eyes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Curve

I find that I am often behind the curve, especially in my pop culture consumption. I caught The Sopranos years after it first aired (loved it) and still haven't seen a single episode of Orange is the New Black. I have just discovered Louis C.K. and have been binge watching these dark, brilliant, thoughtful, funny episodes at an alarming rate. Everyone was talking about him years ago, and now I finally get it.

My friend John, from college, was ahead of the curve. In 1986 he was obsessed and consumed with the Brady Bunch. He even wrote a book proposal and submitted it to a prestigious publishing company. It was rejected. Flash forward 5 years and the Brady Bunch was everywhere - books, theater shows, movies. John's only flaw was that he was ahead of the curve.

My book "Bear Witness" is finally coming out in March. This labor of love was essentially finished a few years ago but it has taken this long to find a publisher. My impatience with this project has been palpable, but now I am wondering if things are unfolding just as they should be. In the past few weeks I've learned of two other "true crime" or rather, "inspired by true crime" projects that are slated for release in the coming months: Miss Meadows, a film starring Katie Holmes and initially inspired by the Polly Klaas case, as is my book, and The Face of an Angel, starring Kate Beckinsale and inspired by the Amanda Knox case. Perhaps some things aren't ahead of or behind the curve, but simply riding the curve? I suppose only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer in the City

This ice cream represents my summer eating habits. I made the mistake of buying a tub of Trader Joe's Coffee Bean Blast ice cream, along with a package of cones and have been rewarding myself with ice cream treats on a regular basis.

Rewarding myself for what?

Well, um...

Hard yoga classes?
Books read?
Signing the contract for my forthcoming novel?

Actually, I am just reveling in the wonder that is summer.

But speaking of books read:

I'm poring through them right now because I know once school starts my extracurricular reading will come to a halt.

My sister bought me this one last year and I'm excited to start it once I finish...

...this one, from a fellow UC Davis grad and someone I coincidentally sat across from at a writing event.

Have also enjoyed the following movies and plays:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beauty by the Bay

Well, that was fun.

Had a great trip to the Bay Area, visiting Lafayette, Berkeley, SF, Petaluma, Redwood City and Menlo Park.  San Francisco was showing off with clear skies and perfect weather. I walked around like a tourist, taking pictures from every hill. Well, actually I WAS a tourist. It's been 20 years since I've lived there. SO HARD TO BELIEVE. I am in denial about the passing of time. An example of this is: when crossing the Bay Bridge, I picked through my purse for a dollar to pay the toll, completely forgetting that it was a dollar 20 years ago. It is 5 dollars now. Ooops.

It was great to see so many old friends, and new ones, too.

Twenty years ago I lived in this apartment (pic to the right) ------->
My unit was toward the back of the building, so I didn't have the Bay Windows, and also the building was grey and maroon when I lived there...
City Light Bookstore. It was so much fun browsing (and buying) in an actual bookstore. I'm so used to clicking on Amazon to purchase books, and even more frequently clicking on my Kindle to download books. Visiting City Lights and Green Apple, as well as some others, made me realize how much I miss the real bookstore community - the smell of books, the helpful advice of people... Above, my friend Amelyn poses for my pic by reading a book upside down. Book humor.

Beautiful Coit Tower.

Surprise visit with an old friend (Daniela) who happens to live in Redwood City...

Lisa's puppy: "GG". OMGG, I love this doggie. Such a cuddler. Those ears, that personality. 

Happy in the Bay Area.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

For the past month I've been battling some sort of infection - worse than a cold but not as bad as a flu. It started with a few harmless sneezes and then morphed into an incessant, noisy cough followed by a 5-day sore throat, so bad it felt like I was swallowing glass. But yesterday - ahhh - yesterday - I awoke sans throat thing, after a round of antibiotics - the miracle of modern medicine. Today I even did an errand. I am so grateful for my general - and now restored - good health. Being sick feels absolutely crummy. I'm sure I picked this up on the plane flight home from Mexico. I even remember glaring at the lady who sneezed in my face without covering her mouth. Enough about her - and enough about ill health...

Next trip on the docket is to the Bay Area. This will be an eclectic trip and will include a dear friend's daughter's bat mitzvah, a visit to Petaluma and the Polly Klaas Foundation, a trip to SF to see friends and finally a jaunt down to Redwood City to visit another friend. I am looking forward to road tripping up there with my friend Erika. With our opposite lives on opposite coasts, the 5 1/2 hour drive will be a good, solid chunk of time to reunite.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sick n' Such...

Summer is here, along with an incessant summer cold. It was all fun and games (and movies) while I was feeling down and out, but now that I'm hacking up a lung, it is off to the doctor's...

Being sick isn't so bad when you're an Amazon Prime member. I've watched a ton of movies and even made progress on The Goldfinch, which I've been reading for quite a while now.

I've always been a fan of the actress/director Sarah Polley, and enjoyed watching two of her films pictured here. I think about her works long after they've ended and just find her whole aesthetic very interesting, and very Canadian. 
Then there was this documentary... My friend John was obsessed with this news story about the woman who went the wrong way on a freeway in upstate NY killing herself, her daughter, 3 nieces and three other men in an oncoming car. It was a totally tragic story that resulted in the fact that she'd been drinking heavily and smoking pot. The movie doesn't give answers, but probes deeply into the state of denial of her family members. A disturbing but powerful film

In a moment of feeling well, I also snuck out with friends to a screening of Maleficent. It was so over-the-top in so many ways: acting, music, story, etc. Now if Sarah Polley had directed it, THAT would have been interesting. All through the movie I kept thinking that we're going to be seeing a lot of Maleficent horns come Halloween.