Virginia Woolf Hated Having Her Picture Taken.

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 7:37 am on Sunday, January 25, 2015

This is Virginia Woolf’s birthday. She would have been 133 years old today.

I have observed that Woolf hated having her picture taken. Allow me to demonstrate:

Screw you and your bloody camera, you bloody scalawag.

Must every outing be destroyed by one of those perverse boxes?

How can you say, try not to look bored? I put on my mother’s dress, posed for your picture, and now you want me to falsify my emotions?

Lovely. Can’t I even read without someone wanting to capture the moment?

I am smiling for the camera this time, dear. This is my natural smile.

Ah! Gah. This again? Bloody scalawag.

Happy birthday, Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf Is Giving Me A Complex

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 7:16 am on Monday, January 19, 2015

On writing characters, Virginia Woolf said:

Few catch the phantom; most have to be content with a scrap of her dress or a wisp of her hair.

This quote has been haunting me ever since I read it last week. What kind am I writing?

Read Woolf’s essay on characters here.

Article: Bearizona In Via Magazine

Filed under: Joy's Work — joy at 7:21 am on Monday, January 12, 2015

Thinking of going to the Grand Canyon this year? Then check out my most recent article in Via Magazine. It’s about nearby Bearizona, a wildlife park featuring bears, buffaloes, and other North American wildlife.

See bears up close*!

* From the safety of your car.

South Trip 2014

Filed under: Personal — joy at 10:04 am on Monday, January 5, 2015

In October, Kyle, Gideon, and I took a road trip in the Southern part of the United States. We rented a car and drove from Key West, Florida to Washington DC with a side trip to Kentucky to visit relatives. We covered 2,000 miles, nine states, four national parks, and 10 cities. We did all this with a 2 year old.

Yes, we are crazy.

Here’s a map of the route:



Hemingway’s house in Key West.

The keys are pretty.

When we visited the Everglades, this alligator appeared and started swimming right up to us. We didn’t stick around to see how close it was planning to get.

Delray Beach, Florida


We loved Savannah. It was one of the highlights of the trip.

South Carolina:

We visited Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. Gideon loved the cannons.

We also visited Charleston, South Carolina, where I had awesome barbeque. There were lots of navy guys walking around:

North Carolina:

Asheville, North Carolina was a study in contrasts. We stayed at the Inn at the Biltmore Mansion, a home built by the Vanderbilts in the early 20th Century. It was very Downton Abbey.

Asheville has a great community of working artists and lots of interesting galleries. The downton is also pretty seedy with lots of street urchins running around.

After Asheville, we went through the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains, the other highlights of the trip. I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was.

Photo bombed by an alligator.

Charlottesville, Virginia:

The main reason we stopped in Charlottesville was to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. It didn’t disappoint. I could go on and on about it, but I’ll restrain myself and just show you this awesome picture of the garden (which I didn’t even take).

Then we went to Washington DC, where I have been many times. It was rainy and cold, and it turned out that the Smithsonian had closed down all the exhibits we wanted to see. Apparently October is a very bad time to visit DC.

Ah well.

Goodbye, The South.

A Tip For Making Writing Goals And Being A Happier Writer

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 9:14 am on Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Here’s a tip for making writing goals in 2015: don’t focus on accolades and publications. Instead, focus on output.

As a writer, you have no control over what people think of your work. That means you have no control over whether an editor accepts your submission or whether a judge awards you a prize or a grant. What you do have control over is the amount you write, the amount you submit, and the quality of your work. This is what I mean by output.

For me, the switch to becoming a happy writer occurred when I began focusing on output.

Instead of saying, I will get into X publication this year, I said, I will submit to X publication Y number of times.

Instead of saying, I will win this contest, I said, I will submit my best work to this contest.

Instead of saying, I will finish my book, I said, I will work on my book X number of hours a day until it’s finished.

This attitude has made all the difference in my peace and productivity as a writer. Sometimes when you try to do something, you fail. But at least this way, I know I’m trying. I’m holding true to what I said I would do, and I’m showing up every day to do it. I’m covering my end of the bargain.

All you can do is write good work and put it in front of people. The rest is up to them.

And I’m okay with that.

Happy New Year!

2014, The Year I Read Long Books

Filed under: Personal — joy at 8:22 am on Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This year, for some reason, I took to reading long novels. Among the big books I read were Infinite Jestwhich I wrote about on here beforeIQ84 by Haruki Murakami (900+ pages), Red Moon by Benjamin Percy (530 pages), The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (770 pages), and Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1,000 pages).

Of these, I liked IQ84 the best. I liked Gone With The Wind the least.

It’s difficult to sustain a sprawling story. In every book, there were storylines or sections or characters that I felt could be cut or pared down. It made me wonder if a book ever needs to be that long. In the end, I admire a satisfying, slim poem of a book more than a sprawling saga. Elegance and simplicity in both language and story are so hard to pull off.

Note for next year: vary the length of the books you read.

Gone With The Wind surprised me by how racist it was. I first read the book when I was 11 years old, and at the time, I loved it. In fact, I still acutely remember the pleasure I got from reading the book at that age, so it feels strange to turn against it so thoroughly. But even if you give allowances for time and changing attitudes, the description of black people, and the politics it promotes (apologies for the KKK, for example; the assertion that the rape of black women was done by Union soldiers after the war and not by slaveowners) were pretty disgusting. Because of this, I’d say it was the worst book I read this year.

Books I liked included Home by Marilynne Robinson, which I keep thinking about; Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner; and the aforementioned IQ84.

I also enjoyed The Goldfinch. I like this trend where writers are looking to Charles Dickens for inspiration–although it may lead to more unnecessarily long tomes in the future.

Also, I’m almost done with Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, but I don’t think I’ll finish it by the new year. Still, I’d like to add it to the list of favorites. I just love her.


Filed under: Personal — joy at 10:52 am on Monday, December 1, 2014

What a relief it is to see rain again after this weird year of drought in California. This leaf was sitting in my garden and it was as pretty to me as if it were covered in diamonds.

Huck Finn, Ramon Quimbly, And Writers’ Houses In Mental Floss

Filed under: Joy's Work — joy at 3:55 pm on Friday, November 28, 2014

More Mental Floss pieces! Read ‘em all:

10 Facts About ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’

10 Facts About Beverly Cleary’s ‘Ramona’ Books

10 Famous Writers’ Houses Worth Visiting

LM Montgomery In Mental Floss

Filed under: Joy's Work — joy at 3:49 pm on Friday, November 28, 2014

Speaking of Anne of Green Gables, my most recent article is all about the author of Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery.

14 Facts About ‘Anne of Green Gables’ Author L.M. Montgomery

Here’s an excerpt:

6. She wrote despite a lack of support from her relatives.

Montgomery’s family considered writing to be a waste of time, especially for a woman. So she worked in secret, even going so far as to smuggle candles to her room so she could write at night. As she said in The Alpine Path: “I struggled on alone, in secrecy and silence. I never told my ambitions and efforts and failures to any one. Down, deep down, under all discouragement and rebuff, I knew I would ‘arrive’ some day.”

Click here for more.

Essay In Los Angeles Review

Filed under: Joy's Work — joy at 3:46 pm on Friday, November 28, 2014

I have an essay in the Spring 2014 issue of The Los Angeles Review. It’s called “On Shaping A Reader.”

It’s about my thoughts on directing my son Gideon’s reading, and how certain books–Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, etc–profoundly shaped who I am today.

If you want to pick up a copy, click here.

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