When Two Worlds Collide

I like a good academic discussion. I also love celebrity gossip. So imagine my complete joy last Friday when I attended a lecture on civil rights featuring Reverend Al Sharpton as the keynote speaker. The lecture was a thought provoking discussion about contemporary civil rights—what we are fighting for and the importance of unity among all special interest groups. The panelists talked about viewing civil rights as a continuing process instead of a movement that happened in the sixties. They talked about immigration laws and how Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is violating federal law when he racially profiles Mexican Americans in Arizona then parades them around in pink underwear. State Representative Krysten Sinema—a lawyer, professor and all-around impressive politician who represents Central Phoenix—talked about the importance of gay rights. RaulYzaguirre, ASU’s Director for Community Development & Civil Rights, made an interesting point when he said that we don’t have the language to talk about conquered populations like Native Americans. There were many people in the audience despite the fact that it started at 8:00 a.m. and it was nice to see and hear from progressive people who are a growing constituency here in Arizona. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder as I listened, is Reverend Al really dating Lisa Raye? That’s what the gossip blogs speculate…and he is looking slimmer these days.


My aunt who is a scientist but behaves like a writer,
the one with stacks of books between her furniture;
aunt who is alone by choice with unopened boxes
all over her home; doctor-aunt, microbiologist aunt,
the one with cookbooks from around the world;
aunt like a redwood tree; the one whose tests have come
back fine but who needs a hearing aid; the aunt who rode
her bicycle across D.C., who visits farmer's markets
and Vietnamese restaurants, who hated working for the FDA;
Depression Era Aunt, War Time Aunt, woman who
raised a son and daughter, who is closer to her son than
to her daughter; aunt who strode from wedlock laughing;
favorite aunt, the one with a single sibling left, who has buried
a mother, two sisters and one brother, whose father
was not around; aunt as traveler, as speaker of many tongues;
the one who saves me the Times Book Reviews
and hands them over in a plastic bag; my aunt who would read
a praise poem that I wrote asked on Saturday if I'd write her obituary

A Monday Quote

The writer's first affinity is not to a loyalty, a tradition, a morality, a religion, but to life itself, and to its representation in language. Nothing is taboo. The writer will go anywhere, say anything to get it said; in fact, the writer is bent on doing so. The writer is bent.

Jayne Anne Phillips, "Why She Writes" from Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction (Little Brown).

A Sad Statistic

The Time magazine article, "Detroit: The Death--and Possible Life--of a Great City" is worth reading. I was shocked to read that the city's unemployment rate is 28.9%

On Style

Style consultant Sherrie Mathieson will be at the Ralph Lauren store on Camelback and 24th in Phoenix on Saturday October 17th from 9:30am-12:30 p.m. Mathieson is promoting her book Steal This Style: Moms and Daughters Swap Wardrobe Secrets which "shows you exactly how to take the best and most appropriate ideas from the younger generation — for every occasion."

I wonder what Mathieson would say about Rihanna's swagger-jacking of Prince's style? The YBF has a hilarious photo battle between the elder musician and the young singer when both appeared at the Chanel fashion show in Paris on Monday.

Truth-Seeking, October 2009

If you’re busy, say with a job, you may not have time to do hours of investigative research of the policy issues that affect your everyday life. I know I don’t. I do, however, depend on journalists to report the facts straight on important policy issues. That’s why I’ve been bothered by recent reports about Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. The reporting sounds eerily like the buildup to the Iraq war which we know was based on false evidence.

For an alternative view of this issue check out C-Span’s interview of Scott Ritter, former UN Weapons Inspector from 1991 to 1998. You’ll remember that in 2002 Ritter was one of the few experts who questioned whether Iraq really had weapons of mass destruction as our media often reported. Last weekend, Ritter was on C-Span’s Washington Journal questioning the evidence that Iran has nuclear capabilities. Ritter talked about the difference between what he called fact-based analysis and faith based analysis. He discussed why he questions the NYTimes Sunday article about Iran having data to make a bomb. And he discredited these “quotes” often attributed to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by the U.S. press: 1) that Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust happened and 2) that Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Check it out.

I'm a Hustler Ba-bay....well, sort of

Most days I feel lazy compared to other writers that I know. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah, cojones, hustle—whatever you want to call it—to make a living as a writer, and I have not had the appetite for the hustle that I’ve seen in other people. What’s the writer’s hustle, you ask? In addition to creating work that she can publish, a writer has the following to worry about:

1) Her day job (which may include grading stacks of papers)
2) Her family life (which may include menial tasks like fixing a porch light, replacing a broken trampoline, repairing struts on her car, going to the grocery store hundreds of times each *%$!!!?% month. Ahem.)
3) Reading her work in public
4) The pursuit of writing awards
5) Attending and contributing to writing conferences and workshops
6) Applying for writing residencies and grants (so that she can actually write)
7) Submitting her work to journals, contests, agents, publishers
8) Remaining sober and happy

I’ve been timid to go at this list full tilt, but this year I’ve placed my toes in the water. For the first time, I’ve applied for grants and residencies and I’ve submitted my work (over and over) at a frequency that approaches obsessive compulsive disorder. It is a lot of work especially because the deadlines all seem to fall at the same time of the year.

For me, applying for residencies produced the most anxiety. It also caused writers block, self doubt, pity, anger, and euphoria (once I finally got through the applications). The application process forced me to examine my goals as a writer and in the end I felt a clearer sense of purpose. I also wondered why I’ve been reluctant to pursue writing residencies or other brass rings on the list. I suspect that my gender, race and regional background have played a part in my reluctance. Black Midwestern Episcopalian wives are not known to be real aggressive.

But fear of rejection is probably a bigger factor than my cultural background. No one likes to be rejected. The question we always ask is What are the judges looking for? Are they looking for writers similar to themselves? As Thirty Mile Woman wrote in her blog post about applying for residencies,
“I often wonder what chance emerging writers have at these residencies that are so shrouded in acclaim and prestige. Would they want their writers (and other artists) to be just as accomplished as they are?”
It is a good question. We’ll see.

Readings, Performances and Stuff

Saw people reading these books recently on the light rail:

At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Carmelo by Sandra Cisneros

Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
by Karen Russell (okay, that's me)

And here are a few events coming up in the Phoenix and Tucson area:

October 7: Mark Anthony Neal and Celine Parrenas Shimizu will speak about gender, race and justice from 12:30-2:30 in the Carson Ballroom, Old Main at ASU

October 8: Leslie Marmon Silko reads at the Heard Museum, Phoenix, at 7 p.m.

October 14: Kimiko Hahn reads in ASU's Memorial Union, Room 241A at 7:30 p.m., Tempe

October 15-18: "A Tribute to Donny Hathaway" a play based on poems by Ed Pavlice and performed by Black Poet Ventures at Playhouse on the Park in Phoenix.

October 16: Sherman Alexie reads at Heard Museum in Phoenix, 6 p.m.

October 16: "Fall into Poetry" reading featuring Gina Franco, Andrea Gibson, and Brian Turner at 2020 E. 4th St. in Tucson, 6 p.m.