Annie Proulx, “A Year of Birds” (Harper’s Magazine, 2010)

And now self will introduce an essay on Travel Writing.  She ponders this genre much lately because she has undertaken to teach a class on Travel Writing.  Would that she could persuade UCLA Extension to have her teach something new, like Travel Writing.  In the meantime, this workshop/class on Travel Writing that self is gearing up to teach will be taught elsewhere.  Likely, Mendocino.  Which is up a very winding coast road called US Highway 1.  But self will not get into it.  Because she’s just finished writing a short story, which is very futuristic, and she hopes she can sell it before “Snowpiercer” appears in the local cine-plex, because the plot of that movie and self’s story are virtually the same, even though self wrote her story last year, before she had even heard about a science fiction thriller set in a dystopian universe which is not The Hunger Games and stars Chris Evans.  The reason self tells dear blog readers about her story is because US Highway 1 plays a very, very, very important role in it.  And, as usual, self has gotten completely side-tracked.

Okey dokey, back to Travel Writing.

Best American Travel Writing 2011, edited by Sloane Crossley, has an essay Annie Proulx wrote for Harper‘s.

From the Introduction by Sloane Crosley, self learns that “A Year of Birds” is about how Proulx spent a summer (a summer is not a year, dear series editor) “meticulously documenting Wyoming eagle nests.” Crosley writes:  “. . .  you really have to be as grossly talented as Annie Proulx to write thirteen thousand words on birds –  and birds only.” (No, Crosley. You just have to have a lot of time on your hands and a conviction that whatever you choose to write about will be read. Because, after all, YOU ARE ANNIE PROULX)

Well, it’s been years since self read Annie Proulx, so why not give “A Year of Birds” a shot?


Paragraph 2 of the Proulx essay begins:  “The house at Bird Cloud took two years to build.”

A few sentences further on:  “The ravens raised families every year and then went somewhere else for the summer to hunt once the young began flying.”

Next page:  “Bird Cloud is 640 acres, a square mile of riparian shrubs and cottonwood, some wetland areas during June high water, sage flats, and a lot of weedy, over-grazed pasture.”

And self is just raving jealous!  Not that Proulx flaunts it or anything, but if she happens to own 640 acres, that means she earned enough from her eight books to pay for the land.

And now self is reminded that her own little patch of earth is in dire need of attention.  At the very least, she should trouble to re-fill the bird feeders.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

2014 Mendocino Writers Conference, July 31 – Aug. 2

The Mendocino Writers Conference starts Thursday, July 31 and runs to Saturday, Aug. 2 at College of the Redwoods in Mendocino.

The conference is now in its 25th year, which is pretty amazing.

Kudos to the Mendocino Art Center folks, who work so tirelessly to Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz in PANK No. 7

This is an excerpt from Cristin’s poem, “After Reading Your Poem About Hawaii,”  which was in PANK No. 7.  I bought four back copies of PANK from their Book Fair table at the last AWP, in Seattle, and am only now, four months later, finally settling down to read them!

I really liked Cristin’s poem — a lot!

Poems are phone calls you can eavesdrop on.
When you are a poet, poems are everywhere.
I still read your poetry. Sometimes I think
I still see me in there.

But other times I know that’s not the truth.
The truth is that we both know where we are,
and it’s not next to each other anymore.
So what am I to make of this poem?

Where you are the you I am speaking to,
when in real life we are not speaking at all.
Ring ring, my brain says. Or maybe, it can
just be my poem waving to your poem.

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and her work has been published in Conduit, Rattle, Barrelhouse, La Petite Zine, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, among others.  For more information, visit

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

A Poem About Dentists on EUNOIA REVIEW

Self has a dentist appointment, later today.  She is not at all looking forward to the prospect.

This morning, she checks in on Eunoia Review and what does she see?

A poem about dentists.

How’s that for synchronicity, dear blog readers?

Here’s the first half:


by Katherine La Mantia

The dentist showed me
the x-rays where the
radiation lit up my teeth
like strings of lights at Christmas.
can you imagine how
marie curie glowed
And she pointed with
her pen tap-tapping
on my molar
or bicuspid, I don’t know.
the metal rings shrill
hammer on enamel

She showed me where
she would put metal brackets
and metal wires
and how she would

What a beautiful name.  The poet has.  Katherine La Mantia.

Katherine La Mantia is an undergraduate at the University of Georgia.

Stay tuned.

On Secrets/ On Witchcraft

A few weeks ago, self announced that Café Irreal would be publishing her story “The Secret Room” on Aug. 1.

But when she wandered over to Café Irreal today, she saw that in fact, her story was already live, and had been live since May.

Here’s the link, dear blog readers.  Read, review.  Self adores feedback.

*     *    *     *

Here’s something else she encountered today.

While browsing through the British Museum blog, she stumbled upon an article on Witchcraft.

And here self found an answer to a question which has often nagged at her:  Why are witches usually women?

The piece makes clear that accusations of witchcraft were always personal, as evidenced by the fact that people most often brought up charges of accusation against people they knew well — i.e., their neighbors.  And the fact that many of the accused were old women, or widows, or orphaned women, or stepdaughters, makes very clear that the targets were “the most dependent members of the community.” The ones, in other words, who were least likely to fight back or defend themselves.

These female dependents (the preferred pool for witches) were the ones “whose names figure most frequently on the lists of people in receipt of poor relief, and they were the ones most likely to be caught up in the situation of begging for help and not getting it.”

Being perceived as powerless and being perceived as a threat — such a curious contradiction.  In both instances, these two have more in common with perception and have precious little to do with reality.

Which is what led self to write a very curious short story called “Toad.”  Which she will begin sending out shortly.

She finished it while sitting at a coffee shop on Lower Mount Street in Dublin.  Quite close, in fact, to Ballsbridge, where her B & B was.

OMG.  Witches.  Toads.  Lower Mounts.  Ballsbridge.  Self’s brain was filled with medieval imagery, almost the whole time she was in Ireland.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Guest Blogging

Self is the July 2014 guest blogger on Cecilia Brainard’s Travels (and More) with Cecilia Brainard.

She’s never been a guest blogger before, so she was a tad nervous.

But it turns out, all she had to do was send Cecilia a few pieces, a picture, and a bio.  Whew!

Here’s the link to Cecilia’s blog.  The two stories Cecilia posted are “All the Missing” (first published in Phoebe) and “For Sarah Balabagan, OFW.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

K. M. Kaung’s BLACK RICE: Further Reading

So intense this year has been.  Self is just now picking up the threads of the various novels/novellas she began to read as long as a year ago.

Here’s an excerpt from Kyi May Kaung’s novella Black Rice.

She was a storyteller too, my mother, just like Uncle Kong and Aunt Anouk.  So I always knew that after her tenth failure at the Dufferin Hospital, she was so sad, she turned her face towards the wall, wishing she were dead, tears streaming from her eyes.  Even the jokes of my inebriated father, already tipsy at the afternoon visiting hour, could not make her smile.  Her tenth pregnancy had not ended in a miscarriage but in a live birth.  To keep the pregnancy, she lay in bed almost all the eight months, hardly moving.  On the advice of her doctor, she gave up sex with her husband.  She was so proud of carrying to term and of having a live birth.  And it was a boy, too, she told me.  She said his eyes and nose, and ears that stuck out, were just like mine.  Just like my father’s ears.

Kyi “has been writing fiction since she was a teenager in Rangoon, Burma, and her play Shaman was praised by Edward Albee.  She has won a Fulbright fellowship, a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Award, the William Carlos Williams Award of the Academy of American Poets, and was a Pew Finalist in Fiction twice.  K. M. Kaung’s fiction has appeared in the Wild River Review, the Northern Virginia Review, the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, and  in Himal Southasia.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

TREMORS: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers

The week before self left for the UK, she attended a reading in Keplers in Menlo Park, featuring contributors to Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers, which was edited by Anita Amirrezvani and Persis Karim.

Self finally got around to starting it today.  The Introductions quotes various contributors’ views on their Iranian heritage.  Here are three:

Sholeh Wolpé:  “I knew I was suffocating.  I do and did understand the sudden madness that takes hold of young girls in societies where women, grossly oppressed, pour kerosene on themselves and strike a match.  It is the madness of desperation. If all doors are shut in your face, if you have not even a single unbarred window to look out from, then death seems like the only salvation . . . “

Mehdi Tavana writes “about Iranians not only because I am one, but because our history is an epic tragedy, and I am attracted by sweeping narratives.  Iran’s story is one of espionage, loss, betrayal, religious celebration, glorious celebration, bloody revolution, and tragic love that ‘dares not speak its name.’  Because I was raised in this country, I have the audacity to write stories and send them into the world and expect that people will read them.  It is self-indulgent and it is bold.  But what can I say?”

Shideh Etaat:  “I spent most of my childhood embarrassed about my culture, and now as a writer I spend most of my energy trying to understand it.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


It’s almost here!  The latest volume (# 9) in the Philippine Speculative Fiction series.

The editors of the latest volume are Andrew Drilon and Charles Tan.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

  • Blood of Iron by Christian Renz Torres
  • Panopticon by Victor Ocampo
  • A Cha-cha with Insanity by Vida Cruz
  • Only Dogs Piss Here by Michael Aaron Gomez
  • Last Race by Jenny Ortuoste
  • Oscar’s Marvelous Transformation by Kat del Rosario
  • Stations of the Apostate by Alexander M. Osias
  • Sikat by William Robert Yasi
  • Deliver Us by Eliza Victoria
  • Miracles Under a Concrete Sky by Franz Johann de la Merced
  • The Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso by Kate Osias
  • The Woodsman by Cedric Tan
  • And These Were the Names of the Vanished by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
  • Anthropomorpha by Crystal Koo
  • Sofia by Marianne Villanueva
  • Transcripts From the Investigation on the Life and Death of Alastor de Roja by Vincent Michael Simbulan
  • TG2416 from Mars by Nikki Alfar
  • Scissor Tongue by Elyss Punsalan
  • Cogito by AJ Elicaño

This is the official website.

Sweetness/ Fan Fiction/ Café Irreal

Self is reading something based on a fairy tale.  It’s really sweet, Hunger Games AU, based on the tale “East of the Sun & West of the Moon.”

Peeta whisks Katniss away from her house in District 12, in a broad heavy sleigh, and they arrive in a house at the edge of a lake.  It’s enchanted, like all good houses should be.

It’s really clever, how elements of the fairy tale are woven in, such as in this description:

“. . .   it isn’t the ancient palace from my dream, with its high stone walls and dusty rooms, filled with silence and nameless fears.  I didn’t ride here on the back of a white bear . . . “

The two are tended by Avoxes, which is another thing that fits in with the sense of unreality.

*     *     *     *

On August 1, a fable of self’s is going live on Café Irreal.  It’ll be her second story in the magazine.  Her first, which appeared a few years ago, was a flash fiction called “Appetites.”

Here’s an excerpt from the story soon to be posted, called “The Secret Room”:

One day, during a fox hunt, her husband fell from his horse and broke a leg.  His squires carried him into the castle.  A monk came with healing herbs and made a poultice.  A surgeon set the bone.  But in spite of everyone’s best efforts, the King continued to scream with pain.  For days everyone in the castle was frozen by the sound of his shrieks.

There you go.  Even when writing fables, self always heads straight for “dark.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.



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