Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I'm working in my San Francisco office today--otherwise known as Cafe Flore. My co-workers here are a little zany, but I've never worked in a place with such good coffee.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Entertainment Options

Disappear Fear is playing in Maryland during the time we’ll be in the area. The first time I ever saw Disappear Fear was at the 9:30 club in Washington D.C. when I was there for a march in 1993, so there’s a certain symmetry.

Monday, September 28, 2009

More Trip Planning

Now that we’ve got plane tickets, a rental car, and beds all lined up, we can start planning fun stuff in D.C. First up: International Spy Museum tickets.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Next Trip

People like to ask me where I’m going next, but for a while, I didn’t have an answer. Now I do: Pipi and I are headed to Washington, D.C. in October. We’re timing the trip to coincide with the National Equality March. (I’m not under any illusions about marches changing anyone’s mind; I just still have some yelling to do.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Submission Creep

I entered another contest, the Solas Awards. This one is sponsored by Travelers’ Tales, a local publisher of travel essay anthologies. The deadline was today, so in typical style, I just made it. We’ll find out about this one on March 1, 2010.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Submission Accomplished

I entered an article in the writing contest. On principle (because author identities are supposed to be kept from the judges) I probably shouldn’t say which piece I picked. I will say that it’s an article with a lede I’ve always liked, and that it’s the only article on this particular topic the judges are likely to receive. We’ll see if these things count for anything on February 20, 2010.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Writing Contest

I gleaned another interesting tidbit from last night’s Left Coast Writers group meeting: I learned that I’m not quite too late to enter this year’s Bay Area Travel Writers contest. And neither are you. Most BATW events and contests are closed to non-members like me, but this one’s open to any writer. Details here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Art of Failure

I just got back from seeing Ayelet Waldman speak to a writers’ group that I am a part of. She spoke very candidly on the subject of failure, which made me feel good, and not just in that schadenfreude way.

She talked about twice having to throw away novels in which she’d invested a year each. That really put things in perspective. I’ve definitely had pieces not work, but never anything I’d put that much time into.

More interesting was a story about a novel that she thought was pretty good, although she’d gotten negative feedback from everyone she’d showed it to. I’d always thought that writers needed to maintain a strong faith in their own work, and not let criticism lead to self-censorship. But in this case, Waldman went to a two-week workshop and allowed herself that time—and only that time—to entertain the idea that she was focusing on the wrong part of her story, and that she ought to re-work the novel.

Once she started down this path, the new novel just poured out of her at the rate of 8,000 words a day (1,000 daily words is pretty typical for a writer whose book is going well). She finished a strong draft of it during the workshop, and got it published soon after. (I forget which novel this was—I’ve never actually read any of her work.)

The moral, as I see it, is that when things are going badly, you don’t always know it. But when it’s going well, it just feels right.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A Chill on a Warm Day

More distressing than the skinned knees was the fact that when I got back to my car, there was a police car parked in front of a house nearby. As I was getting into my car, another police car pulled up, and as I was driving away, a third was coming toward me, followed by a fire truck. (Morbidly curious, I drove by the house again more than three hours later, and there was still a cruiser and a police van parked on the street.)

The most distressing detail of all is that as I was approaching my car, I became aware that I could just hear a sort of a screeching sound. It was probably just a bird in the distance, but it’s not out of the question that it was shrieking from inside the house.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Good Walk Spoiled

So far Trestle Glen, to my surprise, isn’t agreeing with me. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, but I seem to have quite literally gotten off on the wrong foot. At least I think that’s what happened. All I know is that one minute I was walking along a crumbly section of sidewalk, and the next I was on my hands and knees—mostly knees—trying to look like I meant to do that.

I wasn’t seriously hurt. I just needed some Neosporin when I got home. I may have just turned 39, but I have the knees—or at least the Band-Aids--of an eight-year-old.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Putting it All Together

One of my many documented navigational problems is that I often know where I am, but have no idea how to get to another neighborhood without going back to my house first. Anything that can help me get oriented can only be good.

Since moving, I’ve covered all of the Laurel and Dimond Districts, as well as Glenview. Now I’m in Trestle Glen, working my way toward the Grand Lake/Lakeshore neighborhood. It’s interesting to see how these areas knit together and segue into one another. Pipi and I once got so lost in Trestle Glen that we weren’t sure we’d ever get back to the affordable part of Oakland. (And we were driving.) I think I understand how to escape now.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Life

Things have more or less returned to normal here after our trip. One by one we have picked up our old routines, which for me include my Oakland walking project.

When I started this trek, I began walking west from my apartment. When I’d covered all that ground, I started exploring east of where I lived. Then Pipi and I moved to a house several exits east of where I’d been walking, so I switched directions and started going west again, trying to fill in the neighborhoods in between the old and new places.

If this sounds confusing, welcome to my directionally challenged life.