Refund by Karen E. Bender: A Book Review

I just finished reading Refund, a collection of short stories written by author Karen E. Bender and published by Counterpoint Press. All of the stories center around the question of money in a post 9/11 economy for characters who are used to being able to make a living. With an eye that is beyond observant and almost prescient, Ms. Bender reveals exactly what is at stake when people’s livelihoods are threatened. Her characters scramble for dignity, survival, and a sense of selfhood while the systems that are supposed to sustain them crumble away. For me, reading this collection of stories was an…

A Great Yes: Brackish Vol. 2

I sat on a shiny orange bedspread in one of the cheapest motels in Santa Cruz and sent a poetry submission to the publisher and editor whose opinion I cared about most in the world.  This wasn’t a piece sent with the armored professionalism  of most of my literary submissions. This was a flinging of my work at the feet of someone I deeply admired, and who just happened to be sitting on an identical faux-Southwestern style bedspread in the room on the other side of the wall. Evan Hartzell is a Los Angeles-based artist and musician who publishes the art and literary…

You Write What’s Real: The Secret Lives of Young Adults

Last December I visited an English class at a continuation high school. The students had read and discussed  my YA novel HOW TO BE MANLY  (Giant Squid Books) and the plan was for me to give a talk and answer their questions. I came bearing a big pink box of donuts (if you read the book you’ll know why). As I put a donut on every desk, one girl jumped from her seat, unable to wait for my presentation to begin to share her thoughts. “I like you,” she said. “Because you write what’s real.”  Her classmates nodded in agreement, glad that she broke…