Alta Essay: Searching for Mary Austin

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 8:14 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021

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For Alta Magazine, I wrote the essay Searching for Mary Austin: Life for the author of The Land of Little Rain was as hard as the inhospitable region she wrote about. Excerpt:

Right before the coronavirus quarantine, I went to the Owens Valley to learn more about Mary Austin. The Land of Little Rain, Austin’s 1903 book about the California desert, is an environmental classic rivaling the work of naturalists like John Muir. But today the essay collection, and Austin, are largely forgotten, and I found myself wondering why.

Austin was prolific, producing 34 books and more than 200 shorter works. She believed she possessed genius-level talent, but her literary legacy, as biographer Esther Lanigan Stineman puts it, “would have disappointed the writer who finally yearned for an enduring reputation as a social novelist.” Genius or not, Austin was ahead of her time when it came to feminism, racial equality, and environmentalism. The Land of Little Rain was her first and most successful book, important in its recognition of the striking austerity of the Owens Valley and the Mojave Desert. While Austin was writing it, her circumstances were as inhospitable as the environment around her. Trapped in poverty and a loveless marriage, she was geographically and spiritually isolated as she juggled caring for her disabled daughter and working full-time as a writer and teacher. She remembered that period as “long dull months of living interspersed between the few fruitful occasions when I actually came into contact with the land.” So here I was, going in early spring to that same land to see if I could better understand this complicated writer.

Read the rest here.

Alta Live With Carol Edgarian

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 8:02 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021

Recently I spoke with Carol Edgarian about her novel Vera for Alta Live. You can watch here:

And if you like that, I also spoke with Carol again on What’s The Story? (Scroll down to find her name.)

Watch My Keynote!

Filed under: Joy's Work,RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM — Administrator at 7:39 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021

Here is my keynote for the Southern California Writers’ Conference! I tell the publishing story of my novel, Right Back Where We Started From, and lessons I learned along the way.

Keynote Speech At Southern California Writers’ Conference

Filed under: Joy's Work,RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM — Administrator at 8:01 am on Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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This Sunday, Valentine’s Day, I’m giving a keynote speech at the Southern California Writers’ Conference. It’ll be streaming on Zoom, for free. Tune in and listen at 4:30 PM (PST) on February 14th.

I’ll be telling the crazy story of Right Back Where I Started From, and how it was waylaid from publication in 2013 because of hurricanes and a school shooting. It should be fun. I hope you can make it.

LINK TO THE TALK
Meeting ID: 930 4826 0655
Passcode: 449387

This link will be live a little bit before the talk.

In the meantime, here’s more information about Southern California Writers’ Conference.

There are still slots open for all three days, including virtual keynote speeches from thriller-writer Dennis K. Crosby and Isla Morley, whose novel The Last Blue is about the blue-skinned people of Kentucky. Plus lots of craft workshops on everything from writing car chases to infusing micro-tension in your story to writing a memoir. Fun!

RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM COVER REVEAL

Filed under: Joy's Work,RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM — Administrator at 1:09 pm on Monday, November 9, 2020

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The book cover of RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM is here!

Coming May 4, 2021!

PREORDER:

INDIEBOUND * AMAZON * BARNES AND NOBLE * BOOKS-A-MILLION * HUDSON * TARGET * WALMART
AUDIBLE

PRAISE:

In Right Back Where We Started From Joy Lanzendorfer has crafted a terrific first novel, one brimming with energy, wit, and emotional resonance. Sandra Sanborn is a wonderful character, very much alive on the page. The novel captures, vividly, some of the crazier times in California’s crazy history. Highly recommended!

Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others

Joy Lazendorfer’s thrill of a novel, Right Back Where We Started From, tells the story of an engaging young woman, eager to be discovered in 1930s Hollywood. But as she looks to the future, a letter from a man who claims to be her father, pulls her to the unknown past. This is a novel of California dreaming, from the Gold Rush to the Hollywood Hills. Lazendorfer writes with charm, style and great energy.

Ellen Sussman, New York Times bestselling author of four novels, A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons and On a Night Like This.

From the California Gold Rush to the to the San Francisco earthquake, through the Great Depression and World War II, Joy Lanzendorfer artfully weaves a beautifully textured saga. Yearnings, secrets, and shame shape the lives of three generations of American women as they dare to question the rigid societal expectations that confine them to proscribed roles and stifle ambition. Gripping prose and complex and memorable characters make this shining debut novel a pleasure to read.

Liza Nash Taylor, author of Etiquette for Runaways and the forthcoming In All Good Faith.

SUMMARY:

If misfortune hadn’t gotten in the way, Sandra Sanborn would be where she belongs—among the rich and the privileged instead of standing outside a Hollywood studio wearing a sandwich board in hopes of someone discovering her. It’s tough breaking into movies during the Great Depression, but Sandra knows that she’s destined for greatness. After all, her grandmother Vira crossed the country during the Gold Rush and established the Sanborns as one of San Francisco’s prominent families, and her mother Mabel grew up in a lavish mansion and married a wealthy rancher. Success, Sandra feels, is in her blood. All she needs is a chance to prove it.

In between failed auditions, Sandra receives a letter from a man claiming to be her real father, which calls into question everything she believes about her family history—and herself. As she tries to climb the social ladder, family secrets lurk in the background, pulling her back down. Until Sandra confronts the truth about how Vira and Mabel gained and lost their fortunes, she’ll always end up right back where she started from.

Right Back Where We Started From is a sweeping, multigenerational work of fiction that explores the lust for ambition that entered into the American consciousness during the Gold Rush and how it affected our nation’s ideas of success, failure, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s a meticulously layered saga—at once historically rich, romantic, and suspenseful—about three determined and completely unforgettable women.

***

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Article: Greedy Women In LitHub

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 1:05 pm on Monday, November 9, 2020

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I have a new article on LitHub, On the 19th-Century Food Writer Who Embraced Gluttony As a Virtue.

It’s about how I read The Diary of a Greedy Woman by Elizabeth Robins Pennell, which I loved… until I didn’t.

Notable In Best American Essays 2020

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 12:58 pm on Monday, November 9, 2020

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Hey! I have a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2020.

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Read The First and Last Lives of Jack London.

Article: Searching for Mary Austin in Alta

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 12:35 pm on Monday, November 9, 2020

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I have a new article in Alta on Mary Austin, the author of The Land of Little Rain, published in 1903. I went to the Owen’s Valley to trace Austin’s route through the area and found out some juicy things–a hidden child, unhappy marriage, hallucinations of angels helping her writer her work. She was a fascinating lady.

What’s The Story? Radio/Podcast!

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 1:52 pm on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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I’m now hosting a radio show on 95.9 The Krush called What’s the Story?

Every Tuesday at 9 a.m. I’ll be recommending a new book to read.

And if you miss it, there’s also a podcast.

What?! Yes! Click the link to listen.

Article: Humboldt Grown

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 1:46 pm on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

For Alta, I wrote about growing up in Humboldt County, and the changing nature of the marijuana industry. Excerpt:

In 2019, my hometown, Arcata, in Humboldt County, California, removed the statue of President William McKinley that had stood in the central plaza since 1906. Arcata has long been an ultraliberal hippie haven, and the eight-and-a-half-foot bronze sculpture had presided over many a drum circle. I’ve seen bras hanging from McKinley’s hand and traffic cones on his head like a dunce cap. More than once, he has been covered by political banners demanding justice.

The vote to take down the statue was part of a nationwide trend to dismantle monuments of controversial figures. It was sent to Canton, Ohio, where the president is buried.

McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901, ran on a campaign to establish U.S. colonies, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and parts of Hawaii. Today his expansionist policies are viewed as racist toward indigenous people. I agree with that, but the removal of the statue doesn’t have the same symbolic power as, say, taking down monuments to Confederate soldiers in the South. McKinley never even visited Arcata. The statue was a sentimental tribute to a recently murdered president. As the years passed, its presence spoke more to Humboldt’s unique nature, as there’s a slight absurdity to an almost-forgotten president standing in the middle of a town full of bead stores and cannabis startups. The statue’s removal felt like losing part of Arcata’s personality, and I wasn’t sure what would be replacing it. It seemed like a tipping point of change that had been building since I left 20 years ago and was now showing itself in concrete ways. I wanted to know what that looked like.

Last summer, I went to Arcata to see the plaza without the statue.

Read it here.

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