We Bought A Camper Van

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 9:01 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kyle’s dream has come true. We bought a camper van.


It’s a 1996 Roadtrek Popular 170. Here’s the inside:



It has a toilet, shower, fridge, and two beds. Pretty good for a van-sized RV.

We went to Knapp’s Castle, the ruins of a mansion in the Santa Ynez Mountains.




It burned down in 1940.

An opera singer used to live there.

Essay In The Washington Post

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 8:18 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I wrote an essay for The Washington Post! It’s about how becoming a mother has made me a better writer. A sample:

Throughout my pregnancy, I weathered comments about how difficult writing would soon become, all while obsessing about how I would juggle caring for a baby and finding time to write.

I shouldn’t have worried. In the five years since my son’s birth, I’ve written two novels, won grants and residencies and broken into many national publications. Before becoming a mother, it took me 10 years to write a novel. I never won grants or residencies pre-birth, because I rarely applied for them and, despite my skills and experience, I was intimidated to approach national magazines. Now I don’t have time for any of that angst because the babysitter is leaving in an hour.

Read I thought having a baby would hurt my career. I was wrong.

Learn To Write From The Movies: Kill Your Darlings

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 8:12 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I have a new Learn To Write From The Movies up at Barrelhouse. It’s about Kill Your Darlings, a movie about Allen Ginsberg starring Daniel Radcliffe. A sample:

Lesson 4: Do Weird 1940s Drugs.

Naturally, Burroughs suggests they do drugs. He’s William S. Burroughs. But it’s the 1940s, so drugs are limited and strange. They settle on Benzedrine, which Hollywood studios forced Judy Garland take when she was a child. It contains amphetamine. They take it by squeezing a white substance that looks like butt medication into coffee.

It turns out that Benzedrine is productive to art. In a creative frenzy, the men rip up Burrough’s books and tape them to the wall. When I imagined the invention of the cut-up technique before, I didn’t picture it happening in a cracked-out meth den. Who knew?

Read the rest here.

Cabin In Mt Tamalpais

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:56 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A couple of weeks, friends invited us to spend the night in a cabin in Mt Tamalpais. Can you believe the view off the balcony?


We had a great time: lots of hiking, board games, listening to people playing music, and seriously, check out this view.



And at night:


And in the morning:



Poetry Foundation: Bohemian Tragedy

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 8:17 am on Monday, March 19, 2018


I wrote an essay for the Poetry Foundation on the poet George Sterling and the Carmel artist colony. It’s a crazy story about artistic utopia, California Bohemians, scandals, affairs, and a suicide pact. Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and HL Mencken were all involved.

Read the essay here.

Disneyland, Othello, and Hikes

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 8:11 am on Monday, March 19, 2018

Here are some things we’ve been doing lately:



Even though I’ve lived in California all my life, I’ve never been to Disneyland. So we took Gideon down there, and had a great time.


They do what they do well.



This is my favorite time of year to be outdoors in California. Everything is green and cool, the birds are super active, and there are yellow flowers everywhere. So I’ve been going on a lot of hikes.

I was excited to discover a new hike near my home that I didn’t know about. It was eight miles uphill, but I hardly noticed because it had gorgeous views of vineyards and forests the whole way. And then we were on top of a mountain!


Othello In Ashland

As I mentioned before on here, I’m making my way through all of Shakespeare. So for Valentine’s Day, Kyle and I went to Ashland and saw Othello at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


It was a good production.

Learn to Write from the Movies: Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 7:27 am on Monday, March 19, 2018


Check out Learn to Write from the Movies: Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story. Here’s a sample:

Lesson 3: Don’t Bother To Write Until A Creepy Ghost Appears To You In A Dream.

Good news. You don’t have to sit at a keyboard struggling to write every day. In fact, you don’t have to write at all. If you’re meant to be an author, the story will come to you. In Rowling’s case, it appears as a scary Harry Potter ghost child who glares at her while lightning flashes in the background. I thought she was going to scream, but it turns out it was inspiration.

Read The Rest Here.

2017 Was A Dumb Year, Hello 2018!

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 10:05 am on Tuesday, January 2, 2018

While everyone was moaning about 2016, personally it was a great year for me. But 2017 was pretty dumb. Just before Christmas, Kyle’s grandmother Ruth passed away. We just came back from her funeral in Kentucky. For much of the fall, most of California was on fire, including my own beloved Sonoma County. It looked like the fire might come into Petaluma, where I live, but luckily that didn’t happen. Still, lots of people lost their homes or were otherwise affected by the fires. And other dumb stuff happened too. My dad was sick with various illnesses, many things I tried to do failed, and Kyle had work strife that, while eventually resolved, was stressful. Finally, my friend’s cat Peja died, which doesn’t sound like much, but she was a special cat.


Lots of good things happened too. For one thing, I signed with a literary agency.


And I wrote a number of articles that I’m proud of. Some of these include:

Tight Wires Between Us: On “Difficulties of a Bridegroom” by Ted Hughes in LA Review of Books.

Why Aren’t There More Women Working in Audio? in The Atlantic.

Hollywood Loved Sammy Davis Jr Until He Dated a White Movie Star in The Smithsonian.

How Beatrix Potter Invented Character Merchandising in The Smithsonian.

Bountiful Beach Buffet: Fresh Seaweed Is Making Waves Among Foragers for NPR.

Murmur, a short story in Every Day Fiction.

I was also interviewed by CNN and on XRAY In The Morning in Portland, Oregon. This week there’s a Q&A with me on The Navi Review.

Gideon turned five this year and started kindergarten. Kyle, as I said, switched jobs and is now CSO at Purism. He also published a book, Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks: Server Security from TLS to Tor.


For travel, I went to the snow in Tahoe, which was lovely.


And Sequoia National Park, which was astounding.


And Germany and Austria, which was one of the best trips I’ve taken. I blogged about it.

Part 1: Germany
Part 2: Castles
Part 3: Salzburg
Part 4: Hallstatt

Lots of other things happened. I went wine tasting and saw Laura Marling and Martha Wainwright perform at different points and sailed a blow-up boat in the river and went out to fancy dinners and generally had a nice life. I grew a big garden.



Check out this bread I made. It looks just like bread.


I’m looking forward to 2018 being better. I’m being optimistic. I’m going to read a lot of Shakespeare and paint insects and probably go to Greece. I’ll try to write my best work yet. Our country will … not suck so much … ? Well anyway, we’re going to Disneyland on Thursday, so that’s not a bad way to start the year.

Happy New Year!

I Was Interviewed By CNN

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 9:36 am on Tuesday, January 2, 2018


I forgot to post this on here! I wonder what else I’ve forgotten.

Back in August, I was Interviewed By CNN about Donald Trump. They wanted my opinion because of my article on Vice about How Reality TV Made Donald Trump President. Check it out!

Learn To Write From The Movies: Genius

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 7:52 am on Friday, December 22, 2017


It’s the next installment of my Barrelhouse column, Learn To Write From the Movies. This time it’s about the movie Genius.

Genius is a 2016 movie about Thomas Wolfe, who wrote Look Homeward, Angel, and his editor, Maxwell Perkins. The movie is about the time Perkins, played by Colin Firth, edited Wolfe’s 11,000-page novel for him and it became a bestseller. Wolfe is played by Jude Law, who’s doing the same Southern accent he did in Cold Mountain and also the same accent that Foghorn Leghorn does in Looney Tunes. At one point, he says, “Damn,” and it sounds like “Dah-yham.” I tried to find out if Wolfe talked like Foghorn Leghorn, but the closest I could find was a recording of Wolfe’s mother, who had a slight Southern drawl. I’ll give Jude Law the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he knows something I don’t.

Read The Rest Here.

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