Optimistic 2: 2016 WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge # 4

From Krista on The Daily Post:

To stay optimistic at -30 degrees, I try to imagine spring in full detail: tiny perfect oak leaves sprouting, bird radio increasing in volume, water lapping on red granite as the ice rots and recedes . . .

So, here are three more examples of Optimistic:

David is about to slay Goliath. Self would say that’s being VERY optimistic.


Michelangelo’s David: Saw it for the first time, November 2015. (Look at the tracery of veins on the man’s ARMS, OMG you can almost feel them!)

Sign sprouting above self’s head. Indicates the direction she is headed.

Florence was a trip that called on self’s low supply of OPTIMISM and increased it 10-fold (Yes, dear blog readers, it IS possible to begin a trip with low energy and end it with energy to the nth power)


Florence, November 2015: Niece and self, armed with 3-day museum pass, are determined to hit all of Florence’s 64 museums, in 3 days. Nuts!

Finally, Csilla Toldy hosted self in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland, July 2015. Csilla is a poet, novelist, and documentary filmmaker. We first met at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, 2014. She has written a novel and a collection of poetry, as well as filmed a documentary on the celebration of Bloomsday (June 14) in Dublin and Hungary.


Csilla Toldy went over the Green Wall when she was just 18. Here we are celebrating in her current home, Rostrevor, Northern Ireland, July 2015.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Self’s Very Own Wolf Story

One cold February night, Gabe’s wife began to howl.

He thought of a movie he’d seen a long time ago, a movie about a boy who turned into a wolf. The boy-animal became furtive, but fierce. In his wife’s eyes, now, were an animal intensity.

“Invention of the Monsters”: From Aimee Nezhukumatatathil’s AT THE DRIVE-IN VOLCANO

An excerpt from “Invention of the Monsters”

by Aimee Nezhukumatatathil

When a Yemeni bride complains
of sharp pains on her scalp, her hairdresser
insists it is only the hairpin holding
the braided black wedding wig in place.

Jealous Sister finally admits sneaking
a scorpion under the whorl of egg-stiffened
braids, loops of red ribbon, gold seadbeads,
How beautiful, this body — exquisite

More From BANSHEE Literary Journal

Self attended the launch of this magazine in Cork, September 2015, at the Cork International Short Story Festival:


by Annie Wiles

(an excerpt)

When we grow up
we’re going to rule the world.

After all, girls rule.

All the best artists start out like this.

Right? All the best people start out
as waitresses: are told they’ll never

make it. Although, strangely
this seems to be missing

from Madeleine Albright’s biography.

Annie Wiles is a recent graduate of the Creative Writing Program at Trinity. Since graduating, she has been teaching and working on a sailboat in the Pacific.

Stay tuned.

“The Bockety Woman” from Banshee: A Literary Journal

“I know it’s bad but I keep wanting things.”

“Come live with us they said. Come be a person. Crawl out of the story of the martyr. No she said.”

— from Deirdre Sullivan’s short story, “The Bockety Woman,” in Banshee Literary Journal, Issue # 1

  • Deirdre Sullivan is a writer from Galway. She has written three YA novels in the Primrose Leary Series. Her work has been shortlisted for the CBI Award and the European Prize for Literature.

Short Stories, Plays, Process: An Interview With Playwright Penny Jackson

Penny and self have been friends for a long, long, long time. Since before either of us were even married.

Self remembers having Penny over to her little one-bedroom in Menlo Park. She met Thomas, Penny’s then-boyfriend, soon-to-be-husband.

We were in the Stanford Creative Writing Program together. Penny lived in the City. She hitched rides to the writing workshops with Jeffrey Eugenides and his dog. They split on the gas.

In recent years, Penny has been writing plays at a terrific rate. Her most recent production was during last fall’s Solo Festival in New York City.

Self wrangled an interview out of Penny. No mean feat, as Penny is terrifically busy. Here are some of her answers to self’s questions:

What attracts you to playwriting as a form as opposed to, say, writing a novel or a short story? What was the first genre you started writing?

I first began writing stories when I was in college (Barnard). I am very comfortable with writing in short forms, and I have adapted three of my plays from three stories, All Alices, Louise in Charlestown, and Before, which have worked very well onstage. Although I wrote a novel, Becoming the Butlers (published by Bantam when Penny was a 20-something), I find writing a novel to be more challenging. Keeping track of the plot and characters over a length of time is difficult. Perhaps I like playwriting now because each scene is like a short story to me, with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s not to say I won’t return to novel writing. I still love fiction writing, and unlike playwriting, you have a sense of control you have to somewhat relinquish when you hand your play over to your director and actors.

Are there conditions that need to be present before you feel you can write your best?

Absolute quiet and no distractions. I joined The Writers Room, which provides a haven for writers. I wish sometimes that the Internet did not exist. When I was at MacDowell, there was no Internet, and I could really focus.

What keeps you writing?

The world. I am inspired all the time by the news and what I see in the city and hear from my friends. I write to be able to understand the complexities, the unfairness, and also the joys of life. If I didn’t write, I think I would go a bit crazy. I hear the same sentiment from actors: if they don’t act, they can’t handle the world. Right now I’m sick about the gun violence in our country, and writing about the issue really helped me with my sadness and disgust at our politicians.

What is the biggest difference between playwriting now and playwriting when you were just starting out? Does it get easier? Why or why not?

Playwriting is becoming somewhat easier. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with several brilliant directors, actors, and dramaturges. I understand the form better now. What is not easier is finding a theatre to produce your plays if you are a female writer who is not a recent Yale graduate. Ageism and sexism very much exist in theatres, when I began and still today.

Do you experiment with form and/or dialogue? Who or what inspires you?

Because I’m trained in fiction writing, which is character-based, I always begin with people. An old lady drinking in a decrepit Irish bar. Two teenage girls talking to a mysterious older man at Starbucks. A drag queen waiting for his show in Las Vegas and having to talk to his daughter about marriage.

I love dialogue. I write down snippets of dialogue I overhear in the streets of New York City all the time. And if you follow me on Facebook, you can frequently read about remarkable conversations with New York cab drivers.

In your opinion, what is the best play ever written?

I am a huge Eugene O’Neill fanatic, so I will say Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Family secrets and family guilt and pure poetic language. But of course, King Lear is top of the canon. King Lear howling about his dead daughter still takes my breath away.

Which playwright has taught you the most about your craft?

Rogelio Martinez is a wonderful playwright who has taught me so many important aspects about playwriting. I also love the Lark Development Center which gives you the space and time to try out new works in a safe environment.

Did you have a mentor? Do you think playwrights need one?

Yes, having a mentor is important. So many women directors have been my mentors: Joan Kane, Gloria Kadigan, and Shira-Lee Shalit are three tremendously talented women artists who inspire and instruct me. Writing is a very lonely business. You need a cheerleader!

What’s the worst thing about being a playwright?

That it’s just too damn expensive to produce a play in America. Unlike Europe, we don’t have government funding for theatre. The costs are astronomical. As a female playwright, I face other challenges. Walk down Broadway or The West End. Do you see any female playwrights on the marquee? My organization, The League of Professional Theatre Women, is working so hard for gender equality in theatre, but it’s a very long, frustrating, and seemingly endless battle.



Naomi Shihab Nye: First Saturday, Mendocino 2016


Mendocino, 9 January 2016

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you
Before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

— Naomi Shihab Nye

Teaching at the Mendocino Art Center, Jan/Feb 2016

Self is pretty psyched. Aside from a class for UCLA Extension Writers Program (starts Feb. 10), she is back in Mendocino to teach two writing workshops for the Mendocino Art Center this winter (Scroll down for Contact/Registration Information):

The first, January 22 – 24, is:

Journeys: Exploring Inward While Traveling Outward

Grounding in the world — it’s what the best travel writers have. This grounding can be honed. At the same time that travel brings a sense of discovery, and satisfies a deep human need to explore, to learn, to know, and to test oneself, the travel writer needs head space to make sense of the new sensations/sights/sounds — to create, out of all the different new experiences, a coherence. A theme.

Whether the focus is landscape or character, the participant will learn how to utilize specific techniques (like judicious use of juxtaposition) to re-create a travel experience. We’ll stay away from the all-too-easy tendency to exoticize different cultures. We’ll examine the responsibilities of witnessing and of sharing basic human truths.

Experience. Memory. Process.

Bring it on!

2nd Workshop:

One Story, Six Ways

Feb. 6 -7

Begin with an image. Begin with a song. Begin with a memory.

Learn to write that thing, six different ways.

That’s it! Could anything be more straightforward?

We’ll try different strategies: everything from writing flash (500 words or less) to episodic narrative (broken down into scenes) to dramatic monologue to help YOU decide what the best way to tell your story is. There’ll be lots of sharing, so be prepared to give (as well as receive) peer feedback.

Thanks to Karen Bowers and the Mendocino Art Center for having self back to teach!

Sign up here or call for information: (800) 653-3328, xt. 10

In Life, There Are Always MORE CIRCLES

Self is still posting on this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, the first Photo Challenge of 2016:



Calyx Press, based in Corvallis, OR, published self’s first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila. The editors are self’s second family.


Santa Monica Wharf, after the Cirque du Soleil Show


Ripe Figs, Backyard: Self has three fig trees.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Preparing for the New Year

An excerpt from Song Lyric # 43 by 12th century Chinese poet Li Qingzhao:

I’ve heard spring is still lovely at Twin Streams,
I’d like to go boating in a light skiff there
But fear the tiny grasshopper boats they have
Would not carry
Such a quantity of sorrow.

A book by Stanford Professor of Sinology Ronald Egan, The Burden of Female Talent: The Poet Li Qingzhao and Her History in China (Harvard Asia Center, 2013), analyzes her legacy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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