Humor Piece: Grandpa Explains Why He’s Not Too Old To Drive

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 2:54 pm on Thursday, October 24, 2019


I wrote a humor piece with Marcia Simmons for The Belladonna.

The other day my grandson made the woman in the GPS British. Do I need some English lady bossing me around? I threw his phone in the harbor, told him which way was West, and left him there. How’s he going to get home, you say? Well, if he could read a map, he would know.

Read the rest here.

Essay: Natural Woman For Poetry Foundation

Filed under: Joy's Work — 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 — 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

Short Story: Double Feature In The Maine Review

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 6:19 am on Tuesday, August 6, 2019


My short story Double Feature was in a recent issue of The Maine Review. I hope it’ll make it online eventually, but in the meantime, if you see a copy, check it out.

Article: Paleoartists In Washington Post

Filed under: Joy's Work — 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.

Short Story In 2019 Best Small Fictions

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 3:49 pm on Thursday, April 25, 2019

I’m excited that my short story “Sleep Disturbance” will be included in the 2019 Best Small Fictions Anthology.

“Sleep Disturbance” was published last year in The Forge Literary Magazine. You can read it here.

Article: The First and Last Lives of Jack London

Filed under: Joy's Work — 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 — 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.

Article: Ethnic Cleansing in America’s West

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 2:22 pm on Friday, February 22, 2019


For Longreads, I uncovered a shocking part of America’s history. In the 1880s, thousands of Chinese-Americans were driven from towns up and down the West Coast. Their neighborhoods were destroyed, their belongings stolen, and their lives threatened. The first incident of anti-Chinese violence started in Eureka, near where I grew up:

… That night, the mob looted Chinatown. Teams went into the countryside to inform Chinese people living there that they too had to leave. When some 60 men fled into the forests, they were tracked down and dragged back to the dock. By morning, gallows had been erected with an effigy hanging from it. A sign read: “Any Chinese Seen on the Street After Three O’clock Today Will Be Hung to This Gallows.”

Read the article here.

The image depicting the Seattle riot against the Chinese, discussed in my article, is from here.

Article: Stephen Bishop Made Mammoth Cave the Must-See Destination It Is Today

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 2:14 pm on Friday, February 22, 2019


I have a new article up at the Smithsonian. It’s about Stephen Bishop, a slave who was also one of America’s first cave explorers. He discovered much of Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world.

… Using ropes and a flickering lantern, Bishop traversed the unknown caverns, discovering tunnels, crossing black pits, and sailing on Mammoth’s underground rivers. It was dangerous work. While today much of the cave is lit by electrical lights and cleared of rubble, Bishop faced a complex honeycomb filled with sinkholes, cracks, fissures, boulders, domes and underwater springs. A blown-out lantern meant isolation in profound darkness and silence. With no sensory impute, the threat of becoming permanently lost was very real. Yet it’s hard to overstate Bishop’s influence; some of the branches he explored weren’t found again until modern equipment was invented and the map he made by memory of the cave was used for decades.

Read the rest here.

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