Notable Essay In The Best American Essays 2019

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 12:13 pm on Monday, November 11, 2019

I was delighted to discover that my essay, Bohemian Tragedy: The rise, fall, and afterlife of George Sterling’s California arts colony was a Notable in The Best American Essays 2019.


The essay originally appeared in the Poetry Foundation. You can read it here.

Story On Front Page Of The Washington Post!

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 7:56 am on Saturday, November 9, 2019


Last week, the Kincade Fire tore through Sonoma County, where I live, and 200,000 people were evacuated. My town of Petaluma became the first stop for evacuees. I interviewed some of the evacuees for The Washington Post. Hearing their stories was a moving experience, and I’m still in shocked that this keeps happening to my beloved home.

Then the story was on the front page of The Washington Post! Wow! I didn’t expect that at all. Heather Kelly and Scott Wilson also worked on the story.

Here’s the article in full. Give it a read!

I Was On A Podcast About Jack London

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 11:46 am on Friday, October 25, 2019


Speaking of Alta, I was also on their podcast talking about my article on Jack London.

Listen here!

(The above picture makes me laugh.)

Article: Drowning of a Town

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 11:41 am on Friday, October 25, 2019


I got my new copy of Alta and am thrilled with the layout of my article on Dorothea Lange. In the 1950s, Monticello in Napa was turned into a lake and reservoir. Lange, who took iconic photos of the Dust Bowl, documented the human and environmental toll of Drowning A Town.


It looks like a juicy issue, which book reviews, fiction, poetry, and articles about hummingbirds, professional poker, and a movie museum. Pick up a copy if you get a chance.

Washington Post Article: Summer In Antarctica

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 3:00 pm on Thursday, October 24, 2019


For The Washington Post’s KidsPost section, I wrote about summer in Antarctica, lost penguins, and mummified seals. Excerpt:

Bergstrom frequently sees mummified seals in the valleys, as the cold, dry atmosphere preserves their bodies. Carbon dating reveals that some of the mummies are thousands of years old.

“They’re all over the place, too,” Bergstrom says. “They’re up on the glaciers, and we don’t know how they got up there or why they got up there.”

Read the rest here.

Essay: Natural Woman For Poetry Foundation

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 2:48 pm on Thursday, October 24, 2019


For Poetry Foundation, I wrote about Anne Brigman, one of the first women photographers, probably the first to photograph herself in the nude. A fascinating person whose unique worldview was also captured in her poetry.

On June 8, 1913, the San Francisco Call asked Brigman—by then a local celebrity—when she would divorce her husband, with whom she hadn’t lived for three years. Her reply was that she saw no need for divorce. She had “absolute freedom” and felt “unhampered now that I have no fear.” She continued:

Fear is the great chain which binds women and prevents their development, and fear is the one apparently big thing which has no real foundation in life. Cast fear out of the lives of women and they can and will take their place […] as the absolute equal of man.

Brigman enjoyed the bohemian life of a “New Woman,” a 19th-century term coined by the English novelist Charles Reade to describe an independent woman. She was a successful artist living by herself in Oakland, with thriving plants, a dozen birds, and a little dog named Rory. An active member of the Bay Area’s burgeoning art scene, Brigman was friends with author Jack London, artist William Keith, and poet Charles Keeler. “To her friends, poets and artists and patrons she keeps open house, and Rory barks welcome,” reported the San Francisco Call.

Read the rest here.

Article: What Anne Sexton Taught Me About Self-Promotion

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 7:51 am on Tuesday, August 6, 2019


I have an essay up on LitHub! It’s about Anne Sexton’s networking skills, social anxiety, and the time I hid behind a column at a writing conference.

Check out What Anne Sexton Taught Me About Self-Promotion

Article: Paleoartists In Washington Post

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 6:12 am on Tuesday, August 6, 2019


I wrote about paleoartists for The Washington Post. Excerpt:

Most people know what a Tyrannosaurus rex looked like. Its snarling teeth, slashing tail and tiny arms make it one of the most recognizable dinosaurs that roamed the planet. Yet if it weren’t for paleoartists, the T. rex would be just another fossilized skeleton in museums.

Check out What did dinosaurs look like? Paleoartists enliven what would be only bones.

Article: The First and Last Lives of Jack London

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 3:43 pm on Thursday, April 25, 2019


For the fabulous new magazine The Journal of Alta California, I wrote about the mysterious fire that took down Jack London’s mansion in California wine country. Here’s an excerpt of the article:

In 1898, Jack London was trapped in an Alaskan cabin while, outside, winter froze everything to icy stillness. “Nothing stirred,” he wrote later. “The Yukon slept under a coat of ice three feet thick.” London, then 22, had come to Alaska to make his fortune in the gold rush, but all he’d found was a small amount of dust worth $4.50. A diet of bacon, beans, and bread had given him scurvy. His gums bled, his joints ached, and his teeth were loose. London decided that, if he lived, he would no longer try to rise above poverty through physical labor. Instead, he would become a writer. So he carved into the cabin wall the words “Jack London Miner Author Jan 27, 1898.”

In the 1960s, that bit of graffiti helped verify the cabin, and it was divided in two. Half of the cabin remains in the Klondike, and the rest was moved to Jack London Square on the Oakland waterfront, where London grew up. The day I visited the Oakland cabin, the farmers market was going on, and smoke from cooking sausages wafted through the air. The cabin stands in the center of the square, surrounded by palm trees. Drought-resistant grasses cover the living roof like fur—something London, a pioneer in sustainable agriculture, might have appreciated.

Read The First and Last Lives of Jack London.

I’ll also be speaking about Jack London on May 19th in Book Passage in Corte Madera with Jack London scholar Iris Jamahl. I hope you can come!

Essay In Slate: Spotting Liars in YouTube Clips

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 3:32 pm on Thursday, April 25, 2019


For Slate, I wrote an essay about how I waste time by spotting liars in clips on YouTube.

It all started with a click on a YouTube talk by former CIA Officer Susan Carnicero. As I watched, riveted, Carnicero went over how to tell whether someone is lying. When asked a question, she explained, a person’s behavior will betray their dishonesty within five seconds. They shake their heads no when making a positive statement or nod yes when denying something. They get angry or display inappropriate levels of concern. They repeat questions or avoid direct answers. They smirk or avert their gaze. Taken alone, these behaviors may indicate other emotions, like anxiety or shyness, but if two or more appear—a cluster, Carnicero called it—then you may have a liar on your hands.

“When you finish this 45 minutes with me, you’re going to know just enough to be dangerous,” Carnicero said. She was right. I gleefully applied my newfound knowledge to dozens of online clips of politicians, murder suspects, and celebrities.

Red The Rest Here.

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