Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Life Support: July Literary Events in Sacramento and Beyond

with Suzanne Bruce
Vacaville Art League & Gallery
718 East Monte Vista Avenue
Vacaville, CA

Suzanne Bruce is a poet from Fairfield, CA. She has been collaborating with visual artist Janet Manalo since 2005. Their ekphrastic work will be on display through July 25th.


Jaimal Yogis
Time Tested Books
1114 21st Street
Sacramento, CA

A native of Sacramento, Jaimal Yogis is an award-winning journalist and photographer. He writes for, among other publications, San Francisco Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Chicago Tribune. His first book, Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea, recounts his adventures as a young man to Hawaii, armed with Hesse's Siddhartha and a surfboard.


Shawn Pittard & Laverne Frith
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Shawn Pittard is a Sacramento-area poet with ties to the Southwest. He holds degrees in Urban Planning, Geography and Fine Arts. His chapbook, These Rivers, is published by Rattlesnake Press.

Laverne Frith is the author of, among others, Drinking the Light and The Range of Seeing, both from Finishing Line Press. He is the co-editor of the journal Ekphrasis and has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Movie Monday: Summer Screams

As the thermometer officially hits the 100-degree mark (cue blood-curdling scream) I find myself reminiscing about summers past in Phoenix. In an asphalted and concrete-covered town where the average summer starts in March and ends in November, the only real way to survive is to hibernate in a suitably air-conditioned abode. But how to pass the time during said hibernation? My siblings and I devised a singularly brilliant plan: we created our own chills with horror movie marathons. Choosing classic films from the 70's and early 80's (they were only a dollar each at our local movie rental store), we had a welcome reprieve from the heat: a darkened room, a cold soda, and the chance to let off some steam by yelling at the screen.

Create some chills yourself with these summer-approved horror classics:

Why it's good: Stanely Kubrick, Jack Nicholson, scary twin ghosts, crazy bathtub lady, a Powerwheel--this is probably the scariest movie ever made. Especially since we were so used to seeing Shelley Duvall as the host of Fairy Tale Theater.

Why it's good: Vincent Price is a crazed, mutilated doctor who keeps the corpse of his dead wife in his basement and uses his gorgeous servant girl to kill in ways reminiscient of the Seven Plagues. Oh yeah, and he plays the organ.

Why it's good: The poster. The soundtrack. The location: Santa Cruz's boardwalk. Kiefer Sutherland is a vampire. The Coreys are vampire hunters. Diane Wiest is in it. What more could you want?

Why it's good: A prep, a party boy, a sex kitten, a virgin, and a couple of punks are lured into the Waxwork by a midget. When they step over the velvet cords, they are murdered in various, wonderful ways and become part of the permanent collection.

Why it's good: While the original Nightmare will always hold a special place in my heart (thanks to Johnny Depp), this is hands down my favorite of the franchise. A girl turns into a giant cockroach and another almost dies by sucking face.

Why it's good: An evil clown and a murderous tree, to start. Not to mention that great scene where the father's face melts off in the mirror. This movie definitely holds up well to time...it's funny as well as scary.

Why it's great: James Brolin is freaky as the progressively insane father. A soundtrack featuring a children's choir sets the perfect tone. Why is it that children's choirs are so scary?

Why it's good: Clever horror spoof that still has some scream-worthy moments. The vampire next door eats apples and lusts after the young hero's virginal girlfriend, who enlists a T.V. star to stake the bad guy.

Why it's good: Kevin Bacon. Reba McIntyre. Victor Wong (who was born in Locke, CA). Alien worms attack a small desert town from below. If my two-year-old sister loved it, you will too.

Why it's good: Gregory Peck accidentally adopts the antichrist. Oops. Damien proceeds to brainwash his nanny into killing herself during his birthday party. Peck wonders why people keep dying.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King is Dead

When he was a little boy, my brother, T., slept with a rented "Thriller" video cradled lovingly in his arms. He loved Michael that much. Though I was scared of the beginning sequence, where Michael turns into a yellow-eyed werewolf, I loved the song almost as much as he did. When we were a little older, we crouched, tense, by the VCR, waiting to hit the record button as soon as "Black or White" started. A music video, on prime time TV, in our cable-free home--it was an event, to say the least.

While T. was the real M. J. fan in our household, I must admit a twinge of saddness and nostalgia when I heard of the King of Pop's death yesterday afternoon. After all, we were the Michael Jackson generation. From the early days of "Billie Jean" and red leather to the later scandals, strange marriages, and court cases, we have never known a world without him. Even when he was a reculse, he was still there. Now he's not, and we have to negotiate that fact, fit it into our reality somehow. It's weird.

Of course, he wasn't perfect. He was, in equal measure, beloved, hated, and ridiculed...his face and his life were examined under the most powerful of microscopes, and he was always found to be lacking or wrong. And yes, he made some huge mistakes. But his artistry was undeniable, and his role in our childhood was indispensible. He will be missed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ruling Class

The Brits have decreed: that old "i before e except after c" spelling rule is to be abolished. Apparently, there are just too many exceptions for the rule to be valid. Lingustics and grammar school teachers are up in arms over the loss of the well-known mnemonic device, though some are celebrating the change. But can they really get rid of it?

The most powerful and enduring conduit for folkloric items such as this spelling rule is not your third grade teacher, or your resident linguist, but that awe-inspiring group of children just a little older than you. You know the ones: older siblings, older neighborhood kids, that one older girl in a group of younger ones. They use old sayings like "curiosity killed the cat," they pass down jumprope and hand-clap rhymes, they teach games like M.A.S.H. as well as study tips like ROYGBIV and, yes, "i before e." Then, armed with new knowledge, these children pass it to others even younger. The flow is endless.

Which is not to say that it is inviolable. I have had many arguments over the correct categories for M.A.S.H. and I have been shocked at the discovery that a girl from the Midwest was saying the "Miss Suzie" chant wrong. Things change as they are passed down. Origins are forgotten. Words are forgotten or misheard. This thing called language is like one giant, universal game of Telephone. Who knows what will come out on the other end.

This is all my way of telling those teachers, grammarians, and lingusts to chill. I'd like to say the same to the French, who hold their language so dear that any small change requires one to jump through major bureaucratic hoops..sometimes on fire. Why try to force or supress such a natural phenomenon as the changing of language? Let's just go with the flow, folks. Now, who remembers Mary Mack?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Volunteer Crops

Last year, we planted both zucchini and yellow squash plants. We ate stuffed zucchini, zucchini bread, fried zucchini dipped in ranch dressing, stir-fried yellow squash, squash and cantoloupe salad, and ratatouille, with both zucchini and yellow squash. Despite this diet, we were unable to keep up with the rapidly producing plants, and many of the fruits were abandoned to rot beneath the massive leaves.

This year, as we began working the soil and planting a new summer garden, we were delighted to find that "volunteer" squash plants had sprouted from forgotten seeds. This volunteer crop was nothing new, however. Earlier this spring, the fields surrounding our house were covered in a green swath of wheat which had not been formally planted, but which sprouted and grew from discarded seeds.

The metaphor of a volunteer crop is a good thing for a writer to understand. A bounty of writing can be culled from the random bits and pieces of stimuli and information depositing themselves in our path each day. A song, a snippet of conversation, a particularly interesting stranger...any of these can lead to a wonderful piece of writing. For instance, "Satellite," which was originally published in Cave Wall, came from a short sound bite on the radio about a satellite that had to be shot down. It eventually became an investigation of man's relation to God. Big stuff, I know. But it bloomed from such a small little thing.

As your week progresses, try to gather as many of these seeds as you can. Carry a small notebook and pen with you, or at least a few scraps of paper to jot them down. Once you've collected a few, let them germinate, then see what grows.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Golden Opportunity

California writers, this one is for you. Poets and Writers has recently announced its California Writers Exchange Award. Awarded every three years, the Exchange provides one poet and one fiction writer the chance to meet with publishers, agents, and other writers in New York City. Of course, the trip is all-expenses-paid. I wonder if that includes street pretzels?

Past winners include Elaine Beale and Dylan Landis in fiction and Alison Benis White and Larry Colker in poetry. All four have enjoyed resulting publications and regularly participate in readings and literary events.

The best part about this contest? No entry fee. This is reason to celebrate for those of us feeling that financial squeeze, or stockpiling gold bullion in preparation for our fair state's economic collapse. So feel free to enter...it won't cost you a thing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's Friday, I'm in Love


sailor sweatpants from She-Bible

star gossip from Angelenos

Mad Men's Joan Holloway

whale-spotting on a sailboat

fancy Mexican food here and here

sexy pop-up books

making a wish

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Apparently, it's all about who you know...or maybe, who you read. In a discussion about the changing face of job searches on NPR, an exec mentioned that some positions now require you to have a blog. I remember discovering this for myself as I timidly entered the vast pool of freelance writing last year. Almost every job posting asked for a "link to your blog." So what is an unemployed writer to do? Start a blog, of course.

More than six months later, Drowning the Field has definitely helped me land writing jobs. In fact, my recent photo essay about the Galapagos led to a travel writing gig for The Circumference. My Goodreads profile helped me become a book reviewer for the Sacramento Book Review and California Literary Review, and old posts about movies led to another reviewing gig for Medium Rare TV.

Will my Yelp posts lead to a similar position, where I will somehow get paid to eat and drink wine? I can only hope. In the meantime, if you haven't gotten enough of me, you can find my reviews and articles at the following sites:

1. An article on the Arizona Bronze Foundry at Shooting Gallery Magazine
2. The Charles Darwin experience at The Circumference
3. Fiction reviews at California Literary Review

Happy reading, friends.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Get Technical

This week's workshop is inspired by John McPhee's recent article in The New Yorker. In the article, he discusses the recruitment of lacrosse players for college teams, and includes a wonderful snippet of a recruiter's cryptic notes. Unfortunately, the online article cannot be read in its entirety, and the magazine copy I was reading had to stay in the waiting room, but it went a little something like this:

steady hands good
dumb hands bad
quick stick
flashy, maybe too cool

The list was like a punchy, rhythmic poem, evoking the movement of the lacrosse athletes on the field. It got me thinking about other areas of study, work, or play where a new technical type of language is required. I'm thinking about the language of mechanics, computer programmers, doctors, and scientists. There's a language for the theater, a language for boating and water sports, a language for landscapers and gardeners...just about any specialized activity has a specialized language.

So here's your challenge for this week: choose one of the above activities, or another like it with a special technical vocabulary, and incorporate that new language into your writing. It might work best if it is a language you know little about. For instance, I recently learned that there are car parts named galaxies. This discovery led to a poem about an astronomer with a lead foot. But what will you come up with? The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Not-Really-Review: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Katie tripped over the piles of dirty clothes surrounding her washing machine. Why could she never keep up with the laundry? The other women made it seem so simple: always a clean counter, a well-stocked pantry, and never, never a pile of dirty laundry just laying around. She sighed as she poured herself a drink, trying to ignore the tufts of dog hair spinning dervishes on her kitchen floor. Perfect homes. Perfect children. Perfect figures. Well, as far as she could see, perfection was not much fun! With a satisfied smile, Katie slumped into her oversized chair, clutching a book and reveling in her dusty, unorganized, and wonderfully imperfect bookshevles.

The Not-Really Book Club meets each month in Sacramento.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Movie Monday: I've Been Watching...

Viewing Partner: No one
Stars: ** 1/2
Notes: Good, but not great Kaufman film. Sam Rockwell is downright disgusting, and Julia Roberts makes an awful spy.

Viewing Partner: Still no one
Stars: ***
Notes: Another movie lampooning the movie biz, this one turns a little surreal at the end, but is still pretty funny.

Viewing Partner: Isaac
Stars: ****
Notes: Finally, Russell Crowe does some acting. Fabulous character-driven drama and a stellar stand-off at the end.

Viewing Partner: Grandma Dixie
Stars: *
Notes: When a diabetic matriarch loses her legs and falls into a coma, what does the family do? Lie, cheat, scream, and cook bad food. Blah.

Viewing Partner: George
Stars: ***
Notes: The wooden acting from Dana Andrews suffers a bit with age, but Vincent Price is perfect as a whiny, gold-digging fiancee.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Better Late Than Never

I hate being late. It hurts. It makes my stomach do a sickening fluttery thing, a feeling similar to the one I get when I ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at California Adventure. I imagine many people feel the same. I can see it in the way they tailgate me on a packed interstate, desperate to keep yet another car from cutting in front of them. Or the sound of their cars revving as they finally realize the source of the traffic is a stalled car...on the other side of the freeway.

Panic. Anxiety. Shame. What do these things look, sound, taste, or feel like to you? Maybe lateness is epitomized by the relentlessly changing numbers on your digital clock. Maybe lateness tastes like a hasty swig of burnt coffee which singes the delicate walls of your throat as it goes down. For me, lateness this morning was a neat outfit suitable for the office, completed by a pair of flip flops. Oops.

Tell me your fantastic new imagery for lateness. And T.G.I.F.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sacramento's Prudes Are Hot and Bothered

According to a recent newscast, the Sacramento Library has come under fire for circulating copies of Penthouse's newest paperback publications. Residents are furious that "porn" is available for all, including kids, to check out and read. One gentleman even went so far as to accuse the library of providing "addictive" material, since some people can become addicted to porn.

I applaud the library's stance that the books are no worse than romance novels. While I am sure the content is as erotic as you would expect a Penthouse publication to be, similar content can be found in the writings of, among others, the Marquis de Sade, Anais Nin, and Anne Rice, who has written erotic novels under the nom de plumes of A.N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling. And yes, works by all of these writers can be found at the library.

Anne Rice's books have been banned from libraries before, and in response she has said, "Censorship is foolish." I couldn't agree more, Anne.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Movie Monday: Take this Pebble from my Hand

When we were little, our mother would banish us from the living room for three television shows. Right after lunch, we took our naps while she watched I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show. And just before she prepared dinner, she would send us outside so she could watch Kung Fu.

I'd watch the end credits sometimes, and I'd wonder about the lonely-looking wanderer making his way to his next adventure. David Carradine, who passed away last week, personified the eternal student of Eastern spirituality. His quest for peace and wisdom seemed authentic because, in some ways, it was.

A prolific actor, Carradine was known for his television, commercial, and movie roles. Many he reprised, including his famous Kung Fu character, as well as his role as Frankenstein in Death Race and, most recently, his triad of appearances in Tarantino's Kill Bill trilogy. His soft voice and iconic face will be missed greatly, both by my mother and the thousands of other fans, and his mark on the entertainment world will never be forgotten.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Farm Fresh Friday

Have you ever wondered what it's like to live on a farm? To get fresh, delicious fruit each day from your own trees rather than a supermarket shelf? Then check out the premium fruit gifts at Golden State Fruit.

These baskets and boxes contain the best my region of California has to offer: perfect pears, luscious cherries, and citrus to die for. I'm talking sweet, juicy, flavorful...the kind of fruit they ate at the dawn of time. And the chocolate-covered almonds aren't bad either.

An added bonus: each luscious piece of fruit is packed by an equally luscious farm boy or maiden. You can taste the sexiness in every bite. Don't believe me? Then try one for yourself. Or send a beautiful gift to a loved one. Visit Golden State Fruit and support a great new company.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Indie Bookstore Number 1

I decided to start a new series on this blog dedicated to the great independent bookstores that I have come across. This idea is a direct descendent of Marc Fitten's Indie 100. In this blog project, Mark has promised to chronicle the indie bookstores he visits during a tour in support of his debut novel, Valeria's Last Stand. As the title suggests, he hopes to visit 100 of them.

I am a little less ambitious, but no less enthusiastic about promoting independently-owned bookstores. So here is the first of many:

What: Adobe Books and Gallery

Where: 3166 16th Street, San Francisco, CA

What I found: 
1. A perfect-condition used copy of Otherwise, the selected poems of Jane Kenyon
2. A vintage field guide to the plants and animals of the Sierra Nevada
3. A 1970's edition of Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native, with killer cover art

Why you should go: It's in the lively Mission neighborhood, on the same street as a saliva-inducing creperie. The selection is dizzying, and the only reason I didn't buy more was the fact that my bag was too small. The store is large, bright and cluttered. They host readings and gallery openings in their back room.

Want more?: Read their blog, Adobe Books Backroom Gallery.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Three Wolves, One Moon

Remember Godinger's Hammer? Well, I have another opportunity for some creative Amazon fun. Feast your eyes on the amazing Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt, which, according to Amazon reviewers, has the power to attract mass amounts of booty and good luck.
Now, you can purchase the shirt for yourself and try it out, or you can just come up with an interesting story, and add it to the mix.

When I put mine on for the first time, I heard a far-off howl and began craving filet mignon. Rare. True story.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life Support: May Literary Events in Sacramento and Beyond


Tchaka Muhammed & Dwight Sanders
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Tchaka Muhammed is a poet, educator, storyteller, and motivational speaker. Dr. Muhammed has lectured on civil rights and cultural awareness in schools across the Sacramento area.

Dwight Sanders is a young poet from the Sacramento area. In 2009, he won the Sacramento Poetry Out Loud competition.


Larry Tag
Avid Reader at the Tower
1600 Broadway
Sacramento, CA

Larry Tagg is a renowned bassist who has performed with Todd Rundgren, Heart, and Hall and Oates, among others. He teaches drama at a local Sacramento high school and is the author of The Generals of Gettysburg and The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln, his most recent publication.


Michael Pollan
Westminster Presbyterian Church
1300 N Street
Sacramento, CA
Michael Pollan is the best-selling author of nonfiction food-related books such as Botany of Desire, Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. He is a contributor to the New York Times Magazine and a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley.


Groovin' Literary Arts Reception
624 E Street
Marysville, CA

The Gallery transforms into a vintage 1970's lounge for this night of art and literature. Guests are encouraged to dust off their platform shoes and don their bellbottoms to enjoy ten regional authors, five illustrators, and a bevy of poets and writers from around the region.


Clive Matson, Q.R. Hand, & H.D. Moe
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Clive Matson grew up on an avacado farm in Southern California before joining the Bohemian movement in San Francisco. He is the author of eight books of poetry and the editor of An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind--Poets on 9/11.

Q.R. Hand is the author of the poetry collection whose really blues. Of Hand, Al Young says, "these tough, caring, wayward poems take it all and everything. Forever at play in the fields of the word, Q.R. Hand is a homegrown American original."

A "baby beat" poet, H.D. Moe is a writer, publisher, editor, philosopher, and former coordinator of the San Francisco Poetry Festival. He has published more than thirty books of poetry, including Ozone Allah, The Logic of Snowflakes, and Muse News


Deborah Madison
The Avid Reader
617 Second Street
Davis, CA

A chef, Deborah Madison was the founder of the restaurants Cafe Escalera in Santa Fe and Greens in San Francisco. In addition to authoring four cookbooks, she has collaborated with Patrick McFarlin to write What We Eat When We Eat Alone, a collection of stories and recipes.


Kathryn and Laura Hohlwein
1114 21st Street
Sacramento, CA

Kathryn Hohlwein is the author of Touchstones: Letters Between Two Women, 1953-1964 and the editor of Enter the Heart of Fire: A Collection of Mystical Poems. A literature scholar, she is the founder and president of The Readers of Homer.

Laura Hohlwein is a writer, artist, teacher, and creative director for The Readers of Homer. She is the author of two chapbooks, Reciprocal Questionaire and The Company of Space.

Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home: Art and Poetry from Native California
11793 N. Micke Grove Road
Lodi, CA

This exhibition of art and words includes 21 visual artists and 10 poets working together in collaboration to showcase the variety and importance of California's Native peoples to the state. Writers include Julian Lang,  Janice Gould, Linda Noel, and Sylvia Ross.


Julia B. Levine & Nancy Bodily
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Julia B. Levine is both a poet and a practicing psychologist in Davis, CA. Her books include Practicing for Heaven, Ask: Poems, and Ditch Tender.

Nancy Bodily is a journalist, radio personality, and Davis-area poet. Her work has recently been featured in an issue of the Banyan Review.


Dorinne Jennette
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Dorine Jennette is a former editor for Puerto Del Sol, Verse, and the Georgia Review. She currently works as a freelance editor for poetry publications and teaches a creative writing class at the Stonegate Club in Davis, CA. Her collection, Grace by Degrees, is forthcoming in 2010.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bad Movie of the Month: Part 1 of 3

Douglas Zieglar (Kel O’Neill) is developing a powerful new wireless signal which feeds on the suicides of beautiful young co-eds. When Josh (Jonathan Tucker) hacks into Zieglar’s computer, he begins a chain reaction of deaths which starts with his own suicide. Now his girlfriend, Mattie (Kristen Bell) and the computer genius Dexter (Ian Somerhalder) must find a way to stem the deadly internet signal before their entire civilization is destroyed.