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Entries in Community Reads (8)


My adventures at the Bay View (guilty by) Association

This is a kind of a "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" type of report, because there's good, there's bad, and there's even a coming-of-age moment for yours truly. This is about my recent visit to Bay View, Michigan, where I was honored and absolutely dee-lited that the literary powers-that-be chose Songs of Willow Frost for their Third Annual Bay View Reads selection.

I'd been to this part of Lake Michigan, namely last year, to Booktopia, and the thought of a few relaxing days away from the kids seemed like a slice of Heaven. Or heaven (lower-case), if you don't believe in Heaven (upper-case). More on that in a moment.

Peace pole in front of the church. Anyone speak Hebrew?When we arrived in Bay View we were blown away by its charm, its coziness, its Americana, and best of all, of the 440 cottages that comprise this community (Victorian vacation homes, really) we were billeted in the cottage formerly owned by Irma Rombauer who wrote The Joy of Cooking. The only bad part is that we'd feel guilty ordering pizza or mircowaving a Hot Pocket on such hallowed ground.

Then came the surprising, non-ironic, actual bad part.

We quickly learned that Jews are not allowed in Bay View. WHAT! ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?! IN THIS DAY AND AGE? Okay, calm down. It's not that bad, or that simple to understand. Don't fall for the sound bite. It's actually quite nuanced. Jewish people can rent (or as one Bay Viewer joked, "Hey, we don't mind their money,") but they can't become a member of the official resort community known as the Bay View Association.

Why? Because the Bay View Association was founded by Methodists and while the association is a non-profit organization, the vacation homes are on land leased from the association, and to purchase a home you must be approved by the association. And while fewer than half of the association members actually go to any church these days, that Christian requirement is used to keep people of other faiths, namely Jewish people, from joining. (Even though I was told that the Methodist Church itself is in favor of letting anyone join). And you thought the Hobby Lobby thing was complicated.

But...but...this is a religious institution founded 100+ years ago, they can't change! Actually, from what I can tell, this is a homeowner's association. I've given talks at churches and on the campuses of faith-based colleges and universities. They look and feel like churches. This looks and feels like a resort community. And it's lovely. And they did change their by-laws in 1959 when they removed the language forbidding non-white races from joining. So, change is possible. The members just need to vote that way. Last year's vote was split right down the middle.

So, knowing that I was about to give my big talk the next evening, I did what anyone with WiFi would have done, I Googled the heck out of this controversy. And most telling was a fifty-two page document by current and former Bay View members urging change. In it were statements like this:

No matter how tightly you wrap yourselves in the idea of freedom of religion, there is the foul odor of prejudice and racism in this position. During my interview, I was asked, “But what if more Jews wanted to join Bay View?” Implicit in this statement was the country club mentality of “we don’t want their kind among us.”

That's when I realized that by showing up, I'd accidentally stepped on flaming bag of dog-poop while wearing new shoes. I couldn't do my song and dance here because by doing so might imply tacit approval. So I talked to my publicist, my agent, and most importantly my wife who recommended that I do my thing, but use the spotlight as a teaching moment. (Um...yeah, that sounded like going into the lion's den and preaching veganism. But, hey, like with most things, she was right).

So my choices were:

1) Take my ball and go home. I could have cancelled. Packed my bags and left, which makes a certain kind of statement and would have been easy to do.

2) Dance, monkey, dance. I could have gone through with my normal event. Get check. Cash check. This actually would have been the hardest thing to do. I'm just not built that way. Some days, I wish I was. Life would be easier without a conscience.

3) Speak from the heart. And that's what I did. I turned down my speaking fee and gave a different kind of talk, one where I shared how my great-grandfather changed his last name from Chung to Ford so he could own property in Nevada. How my grandparents lived on Beacon Hill in Seattle because that was the only neighborhood in the city where a Chinese person could buy a house at the time. I talked about how my mom, who was from Arkansas, married a Chinese man in the 60s. And I talked about how the magic of this place vanished as soon as I realized the magic was only reserved for certain people. I expressed how Bay View was a wonderful community with a rich heritage and that I hoped they'd invite me back, and that if they did, I hoped I'd want to come back. It was a knee-trembling, voice-wavering, emotional speech and when I was done there was a round of thunderous applause, much to my relief.

Half of the community was thrilled that I spoke up. One woman from Louisville even gave me a "battlefield commission to Kentucky Colonel." The other half, not so much. But even a few of the angry ones still wanted me to sign their books.

I wrote "True love abides all."


Sleeping in an airport near you

Here's an update on the ol' travel schedule, including the September launch of Songs of Willow Frost and subsequent tour hither and thither.

I'll be adding a few more stops as soon as those plans are finalized (here's looking at you Great Falls, Ann Arbor).

On a related note, does anyone know how many frequent flyer miles are needed for a ride on the Space Shuttle. I must be getting close.


ABA Bookseller Cocktail Party
Grand Hyatt New York
109 East 42nd Street
New York, NY

9:00 pm -11:00 pm


Library Journal Breakfast
Random House, Louis L’Amour Room
1745 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

7:30 am - 9:30 am


Book Expo America
The Javits Center @ the RH booth (#2739)
655 W 34th St
New York, NY 1000

10:00 pm

OCA Convention
Omni Shoreham Hotel
2500 Calvert St NW
Washington, DC 20008

Willow Frost Tour


Town Hall - BOOK LAUNCH!
1119 8th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 366-3316

7:30 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Auntie's Bookstore
402 W. Main
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 838-0206

7:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Tattered Cover
2526 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80206
(303) 322-1965

7:30 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

695 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 449-5320

7:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

7812 Girard Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-0347

7:30 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Author's Live
Highland Park United Methodist Church
3300 Mockingbird Lane
Dallas, TX 75205

6:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Barnes & Noble
1601 Market Pl Dr
Great Falls, MT 59404
(406) 452-3299

5:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Sacramento Bee Book Club
Tsakopoulos Library Galleria
828 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

5:00 pm Pre-Signing
6:00 pm Talk, Q&A

307 E. Lake Street
Petoskey, MI 49770
(231) 347-118



National Writers Series
City Opera House
106 E. Front St.
Traverse City, MI 49684

7:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Anderson's Bookshop
123 W. Jefferson Ave.
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 355-2665

7:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Lake Forest Bookstore
Lovell’s of Lake Forest
915 S. Waukegan Rd.
Lake Forest, IL

11:30 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Mager's & Quinn
3038 Hennepin Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 822-4611

7:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Montana Festival of the Book
Missoula, MT
(917) 414-1578

Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Copperfield's Books
775 Village Ct
Santa Rosa, CA
(707) 578-8938

Talk, Q&A, and Signing


Powell's City of Books
1005 West Burnside
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 228-4651

7:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Metro Detroit Book & Author Society
Burton Manor 27777 Schoolcraft Road
Livonia, MI 48150
(586) 775-3533

Noon-3:30 pm
Luncheon w/authors

Book Lover's Luncheon
Greenacres Ctry Club 2170 Lawrenceville Rd
Lawrence Township, NJ 08648
(609) 896-0259

12:00-3:00 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing


A Conversation From Main Street
Landmark on Main, Jeanne Rimsky Theater
232 Main Street
Port Washington, NY 11050

7:30 pm
Talk, Q&A, and Signing

Milano Book Fair
Parco Esposizione Novegro
20090 Segrate Milano
Italy 02 7020 0505




Provo Library Family Litereary Symposium
550 North University Avenue
Provo, Utah 84601
(801) 852-6650




Pulpwood Queens
Annual Girlfriends Weekend
Jefferson, TX
(903) 665-7520



Western Kentucky Reads
Western Kentucky Community College
Paducah, KY
(270) 534-3213

7:30 pm, March 4
11:00 am, March 5

Live from Thousand Oaks

Okay, not quite live, but darn close. Here's a talk from a recent community read in California. (I come in at the 10:45 mark).

When people ask, "What do you do at one of these things? Do you just read?" Not exactly. In my mind, a perfect authorly event should be 50% entertainment, 40% education, and 10% reading. And maybe 1% extra of sparkly glitter.


Midnight special

In Skudenes. Photo courtesy of Jose Luis Zaragoza.It’s late. I’m triple-espresso awake do to some strange residual jetlag, mixed with insomnia. Not to mention tomorrow—heck this entire week, will be nothing but an indulgent, two-fisted writing binge (much needed), hence I’m afflicted with work-fever, feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve.

So what better time to catch up on recent doings, of which there have been many.

Did I mention Norway?

Yes, this trip to Northern Europe finally came to fruition and was absolutely worth the wait (and 23 hour journey each way, via Amsterdam).

Oslo was splendid and it was a pleasure meeting folks from my Norwegian publisher, Pantagruel. (Thanks Alex!)

And yes, Norway made my heart quiver with envy as I stared on the outside looking in, to a culture with universal healthcare, free college, and government-paid maternity and paternity leave (1 year for moms and 3 months for dads). All for a tax rate equivalent to what I’m paying now. Ah, America…land of the free, home of the reactionary, polarized, hyper-political obstructionist. Ah, but I digress…

Politics aside, the lucid dream of the week was the SILK Festival in Skudenes, a seaside village with a population lower than the student body of a typical Texas high school—small, but in a gorgeous location—pristine, persevered, and magical.

And the lovely people we hung out with (from the UK, Norway, Iraq, Spain, Nigeria, Vietnam) were among the most literate, interesting, and fantastically unpretentious folks we’d ever met.

It’s no coincidence that we’re planning on sending a daughter (or two) back to Norway as exchange students.

The view from the podium at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. What, no mosh pit? And before I’d even unpacked, I was off again, this time to California for the 5th Annual Thousand Oaks Reads. Previous authors included David Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer—heady company, to say the least.

The venue was enormous and the production first-class. I felt like a rock star, minus the contract clauses about no brown M&M’s in the dressing room. (There was a bottle of peach schnapps, leftover from a previous headliner, perhaps?)

So many cameras. Note to self: fix zipper and check teeth of spinach.And last, but not least, I had yet another film meeting. It’s still a long-shot, but in the search to find a proper home for my literary child, we’re getting closer and closer.