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Entries in Community Reads (9)


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.



Just got back from (thinking...) Seattle, Dallas, and Mission Viejo. Next week, I'm off to Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair. Yes, this is the same great city where books were burned by the truckload in Römerberg square, way back in 1933. Ah, life does have its little ironies, dunnit?

Here's a recap of recent travels, and travails:

Seattle, WA - Did a corporate read event at Vulcan Inc., which was an interesting change of pace. There was also a camera in the room live-casting the event to "employees in remote locations." I couldn't help but think of that scene in the movie, Contact, where Jodie Foster is pleading for research funding while billionaire industrialist S. R. Hadden watches remotely from some hidden locale. I waved. Not sure if Paul Allen saw me.

Next up was the big Bedtime Stories event for Humanities Washington, where we helped raise $115,000. I read ten pages of a new project. Everyone seemed to like it so I'm plowing forward, hoping the moral territory of the story is novel length.

Richardson, TX - Next morning I was off to Dallas for a splendid community reads event in Richardson. The turnout was amazing—1,400 people—my largest crowd ever. I guess things really are bigger in Texas. Fellow authors, Judy Kibler and Jaye Wells were there too (great to see you!) I also managed to sneak away and catch Monday Night Football in the new Cowboys Stadium. That mega HD jumbo-tron is incredible.

Mission Viejo, CA - On to California for the Mission Viejo Readers Festival—a great event in a lovely community south of LA. The best part was meeting Cindy Pon, and chatting with Cornelia Funke about time management—when to write, when to travel, and the fine art of saying, "No." I'm learning. Thanks Cornelia.


One Book, One Vote

Just found out that HOTEL is up for One Book, One Denver. Along with The Art of Racing in the Rain, by my pal Garth Stein (I absolutely love that book) and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, of which I hear splendid things.

If you're inclined to cast your vote, you can do so here.

And hey, if you hate all three books, you can give this guy a hug. He needs it.


Of small towns, and smaller airplanes

I walked in the door last night and the kids were watching The Wizard of Oz for the bazillionth time, scary flying-monkeys and all. (On a trivial note, that movie still terrifies me like Saw V never could).

Despite that creepy interlude, it was indeed, good to be home.

Yours truly, courtesy of a student in DuluthI spent part of last week in Duluth, Minnesota for a community read, including a visit to the armory where Buddy Holly played two nights before he died in that fateful plane crash, along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.

(Duluth’s favorite son, Robert Zimmerman was in the audience that night back in 1959. Rob would become Bob, changing his last name to Dylan, but you probably know that already).

Ironically, two days later I was in Flagstaff for the Northern Arizona Book Festival, where I was offered a flight over the Grand Canyon, along with fellow authors Nancy Pickard and Carol Berg. There was an unsigned life-insurance policy sitting on my desk back home, what could possibly go wrong?

Actually, the flight was quite lovely, tiny plane and all.

Though meeting poets, Christopher Lane and Michael Collier, was just as memorable. If you’re in a book group, mix in a book of poetry. (I’d be happy to recommend a few).