Monthly Archives: December 2011

Don’t ask, don’t tell

Note: there will be no post next Friday, 12/30.  Check back 1/6/12. Happy New Year! The question comes up at parties, over dinner with new friends, next to a chatty traveler on an airplane. The inevitable ice-breaker— What do you do?—has made me want to say “Taxidermy” or “marine research,” to make up an alternate identity and avoid the question that always follows when I say that I write.  Write about what? I once made the mistake, at a luncheon of academic types, of saying “childhood” and “loss.”  I cringe now, remembering.  Not that fiction can’t be about big themes, … Continue reading

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The Space Between

Last weekend, I went on silent retreat, as I have for the past eight Decembers, at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, California. I mark the season of Advent—the four weeks leading up to Christmas—by fleeing shops and noise and email, by going inward, for a few days or an entire week.  Silence, of course, can have the effect of turning up the volume in our minds, of escalating the chatter of anxiety or doubts or second guessing—which explains, in part, why so few of us choose it on a daily basis.  If we get quiet, what might happen?  When I … Continue reading

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Why I Teach

Last Monday, at the second-to-last meeting of my Writing Skills Workshop class at UC Berkeley Extension, one of the students said, “I don’t even want to think about saying good-bye to everyone.”  Her large, expressive eyes opened even wider, and she shook her head.  “It’s been so … intimate.” Another student had just asked where to go for feedback after the class ends. “We’ll get to that next week,” I said, as I always set aside time during a final class session to talk about finding a writing community, sustaining a writing practice, and other ways to keep going. But … Continue reading

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Read Anything Good Lately?

I own many books. I have piles of magazines going back I don’t want to say how many months. Reading material covers every surface in every room I live in.  I belong to the Mechanics’ Institute, whose wonderful library has a terrific Fiction selection, and every time I visit the second floor, I pick up a hardcover or two. So why, when asked who my favorite authors are or what I’ve enjoyed reading lately, do I draw a blank? Oh, I can come up the usual suspects.  I wrote my senior thesis on Nathaniel Hawthorne and – yes, it’s true … Continue reading

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