No More Bullets

It’s already another bad summer. If you live in my area and watch the news, you may know the story of two young men shot while driving and riding in a car. You may have seen that the passenger died. You may have seen the dead man’s father, eyes glassy with grief, looking into the camera and saying that no father should have to feel this. No father ever. There was a candlelight vigil the day after the shooting where I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house where the man died. The last thing I said to…

What I Said at the Friendship Prayer Service

It’s funny that the God Squad asked me to give today’s talk about Friendship because it’s my job at this school to teach about argument and debate. I teach my students to anticipate what the opposition is going to say, analyze their weaknesses, and crush them in debates. Not very friendly. But we have a saying in my class and that is in argument, you must first seek to understand, then to be understood. If you release yourself of the responsibility of trying to change someone else’s mind, then you are free to try to understand the other person’s point…

Whose Jersey I Was Wearing

A couple of days ago, a line of Varsity football players barreled into my classroom. I’ve been known to offer encouraging journal writing times before big game days. Friday was a huge game day. The league championship was at stake against a higher ranked team. I thought they might have been there to ask to write with me. They weren’t there to write. They were uncharacteristically quiet, this group of boys. Shuffling their enormous feet. Smiling funny. “Guess what,” one of the guys finally said. “We get to pick one teacher to be with us on the field for Friday’s game…

Song List for The Ghost Daughter

My novel The Ghost Daughter released from Coffeetown Press last month. Here’s a little about it: In 1971, a wounded young man runs with his daughter in the woods at night. As he collapses, he tells the little girl to run, and she does. Eighteen years later, in October 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake buries twenty-two-year-old Angel Kelley under a collapsed building. Her adopted mother Judith is diagnosed with cancer while her deepest secrets surface in national news. In nearby Silicon Valley, Reese Camden loses her husband in an accident that kills him and critically injures their five-year-old daughter Madison….

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Here

Catch the cool Q and A I did with the wonderful Catherine Warmerdam in the month’s issue of Sacramento Magazine. It was a fun conversation over tea on a blustery January day outside Tupelo in East Sacramento. Ever since I first moved to Sacramento, I’ve perused the pages of Sacramento Magazine looking for mention of people I knew. I usually know at least one person per issue in the society pages or within the features. I’ve always considered knowing people in Sacramento Magazine a good sign that I was connected to my community. Here’s the thing with Sacramento and me. This…

Just Say Thank You

This was me when Sue, the wonderful organizer of Sacramento Stories on Stage, first asked me to send her my work for consideration: “Oh, no.  Are you sure you really want it? I’m not that good.” My friend Valerie grabbed my arm. “When someone asks to see your work, always just say thank you.” Thanks, friend. I needed that. My first reaction to a compliment, a gift, a favor, or an offer, is some kind of waffle-mouthed “Oh no, surely you don’t mean it, I don’t want to be a bother, I couldn’t possibly accept.” Reader, it’s bullshit. I never…

Get Out

I was at a party of writers Friday night. It was a great party but one thing about most writers is that we are introverted people. We are more comfortable wandering the inner landscape than meeting new people and making conversation. One of my friends at the party admitted to me that she sometimes had to rally herself to get out. I loved it when she told me that because I am the same way. One function of being an introvert is that I often feel alone. I prefer to be alone until I start feeling lonely. Or disconnected from…