USA Today Article: Is It Finally Time To Turn Against Workaholism?

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 11:38 am on Tuesday, June 8, 2021

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For USA Today, I wrote an article about the consequences of hustle culture and its roots in the California Gold Rush. Excerpt:

Whether it’s called hustle culture or toxic productivity, workaholism is now mainstream. For the past few years, the idea of “rise and grind 24/7″ has infected American life. People are working extreme schedules, forfeiting weekends, relationships and even sleep to attain success. It’s the newest incarnation of the American dream, the belief that if you hustle now, later you can enjoy a luxurious lifestyle and astronomical achievement. You too can become Bill Gates or Oprah, if you just work hard enough.

However, the pandemic ground much of hustle culture to a halt. For many, there was nothing to do for months but look at personal and societal problems that could no longer be covered by a busy schedule.

Read the rest here.

LitHub Essay: All in the Timing

Filed under: Joy's Work,RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM — Administrator at 11:29 am on Tuesday, June 8, 2021


For Literary Hub, I wrote an essay called All in the Timing: On Publishing a Novel Nine Years After Giving Up on It. It’s the publishing story of my novel, Right Back Where We Started From, which I finished way back in 2012.


This May, my first novel, Right Back Where We Started From, will be published nine years after I gave up and put it in a drawer. It’s not that I didn’t believe in the book, which I’d labored on for much of the aughts. While writing, I poured my fear of failure into the novel, as well as questions about success: Why does American ambition, which turns so many people into workaholics, seem both poisonous and attractive to me? Where does my constant urge to work come from? Every day I struggled with discouragement, yet I put off life events, like having a child, to write a book. I put off spending time with friends. I set aside other creative projects and spent years looking at the same story from every angle. By the time I finished the book in 2012, the emotional investment was deep.

Read the rest here.

Article: Mary Astor’s Purple Diary, Old Hollywood’s Most Infamous Sex Scandal

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 8:44 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021

mary astor

For Mental Floss, I wrote about a juicy 1930s Hollywood scandal involving Mary Astor’s Purple Diaries.

It’s one of the first Hollywood sex scandals–plus it inspired part of my novel, Right Back Where We Started From, which starts in 1930s Hollywood and has a Scarlet Diary and a controversial starlet in it.

Check out 10 Juicy Facts About Mary Astor’s Purple Diary, Old Hollywood’s Most Infamous Sex Scandal.

Article: Flight of the Condors

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 8:40 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021


Late last year, I went on a quest to see the critically endangered California Condor in the wild. I wrote about the experience for Alta.

I’ve always wanted to see a California condor in the wild. It’s on a list I keep in my head of animals I’d like to glimpse in their natural habitats, which includes, in no particular order, a male moose with full antlers, a whale, a ringtailed cat, a hedgehog, a swarm of monarch butterflies, and any kind of monkey. But the California condor stands out because it came so close to extinction. When I was a kid, there were only nine wild condors left. At that point, in 1987, they were taken into captivity, and their future looked bleak. The idea that we could lose North America’s largest flying bird—a vulture with a wingspan of almost 10 feet—struck me as tragic even then.

But we didn’t lose the condor. Thanks to conservation efforts, it has made a comeback. There are now around 300 condors in the wild, most living in Central and Southern California, with smaller populations in Arizona and Utah. I kept thinking about this throughout 2020, a year filled with environmental disasters, from wildfires to melting permafrost to a worldwide pandemic caused by a mutating virus. Even as climate change bears down and some scientists say we’re entering an era of mass extinction, the preservation of the California condor shows that we can repair some environmental damage. Not that it was easy. Despite extensive time and resources spent, the condor is still critically endangered. Lead poisoning remains a threat, and the bird’s future is far from guaranteed. So I’m not sure whether my interest comes from ecological hope or an urge to see a rare creature while I can.

Read the rest here.

Essay: Elegy For A Tree

Filed under: Joy's Work,Nonfiction — Administrator at 8:37 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021


My neighbors cut down their tree and banished all the birds from our yard. I wrote an essay about it for Entropy.

The morning after the neighbors cut down the tree, my yard was quiet. The crows that for the last 15 years had woken me every morning like an alarm clock were gone. A few days before, when the elm tree still stood in my neighbor’s yard, I sat in the predawn light drinking coffee and watching hundreds of birds fly over my house. Crows tossed about like balls in the sky, a necklace of Canada geese flowed past my vision, and songbirds jangled in the bushes. The cacophony they made was loud and wondrous and I loved it.

Now my house rang with silence, and loneliness crept over me. As I stood by the window, avoiding at the gap in the sky where the tree used to be, I could hear the crows in the redwoods several blocks away–a party that moved houses. They had no reason to come here now.

Read Elegy For A Tree

North Bay Business Journal Interview!

Filed under: Joy's Work,RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM — Administrator at 8:20 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021


So happy to have Right Back Where We Started From included in a spring literature round-up in The North Bay Business Journal!

Check out Turn the Page with New Books by Local Writers.

Alta Essay: Searching for Mary Austin

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


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


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.

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!

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