: views from the Hill

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Far Field Retreat for Writers(May 18-21, 2006) and for you'ns who remember Dinty W. Moore (the writer, not the stew, not the comic strip character)

Got a note from someone asking me to mention the Far Field Retreat for Writers.

Accompanying that note was this release:

Far Field Retreat for Writers is a four-day retreat—May 18-21—for aspiring and established writers to explore writing ideas and techniques, mingle with other writers, and write on the relaxing and beautiful campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. The sixth annual conference in 2006 includes an opening night dinner at Meadow Brook Hall followed by three more days of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Workshops, readings, and panel discussions will be presented by established writers and teachers. This year's guests include award-winning authors Lee K. Abbott and Heather Sellers in fiction, Dinty Moore in creative nonfiction, and Nancy Eimers in poetry. Poet Mary Ann Samyn is the Director of the Far Field Retreat for Writers.

The cost for all workshops, on campus housing, the included meals (breakfast from Panera Bread, two lunches and two dinners), and readings is only $450. A commuter option (minus housing only) is also available for only $400. The registration deadline is May 1, 2006. E-mail at farfield =at= oakland.edu or click on www2.oakland.edu/english/farfield/index.cfm

Dinty -- for those of you who don't know of him and for those who do, but don't know what he's up to these days -- is the author of THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, THE EMPEROR'S VIRTUAL CLOTHES, TOOTHPICK MEN: Short Stories, and THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. He edits Brevity, a magazine of creative nonfiction, and teaches writing courses at Penn State, Altoona.

back and gone again ...

We spent the last short week (W-M) in St. Louis for AAAS. (More on that, once I get re-packed, if I have time.)

We're off again tomorrow. Original plan was to return home tonight and head out tomorrow. We changed our plans a few weeks back when we went, "Ouch." We'd booked with Travelocity or some such so had to bite the extra night's lodging and the return tickets, but we'll be sane tomorrow, which we wouldn't have been if we'd arrived back tonight.

Luckily for our travels, we are not hurting for people who are willing to keep our cat company and pick up the mail while we're away.

Rather than think up something new to say about Saint Louis, here's a rev on what I told a friend in e-mail late last night, after we got in. (Sure, I checked my e-mail when I got in. Isn't that one of the first things people do when they come back from being away?)

We were in St. Louis for AAAS since last Wednesday. Being the California girl that I am, I kept thinking, wouldn't it be cool if the long-overdue New Madrid quake would hit while AAAS was in town?

But, no. It didn't.

St. Louis was St. Louis. The local AAAS folks complained that AAAS hadn't been there for the annual meeting since 1952 and that's been ...

Yeah, I said. I was born in 1952. I know =exactly= how long it's been.

St. Louis had logistics problems but boy, howdy. for a City girl, I was amazed at the number of multi-level parking garages in their downtown core. San Franciscans envy folks with parking spaces.

St. Louis also has the Arch, which is pretty darn cool.

Um. I can't think of much else I'd go back for.

They never tore down their great old buildings downtown and are in the process of rehabbing them as lofts -- condos and apartments. Good idea. Second good idea is that they put in the parking before they started to rehab the downtown, so the land they used for parking garages was dead cheap.

They have the Convention Center which is nice. They have convention hotels nearby, which is nice. They have a Starbucks and a couple places to buy your morning bagel.

Not much else downtown. There was certainly not enough good restaurant food to feed a convention of 1800 (which was a low turnout for AAAS). Kitchen K on Washington had yummy food (french-fried sweet potatoes!) but only two wait staff to handle the AAAS crowd that showed up on their doorstep Saturday night.

(Yeh, yeh. Downtown =also= has sports stadiums -- the Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play and the Edward Jones Dome where the Rams play. The Dome was host to a SuperCross event while we were there, so we had hungry SuperCross attendees competing for dining tables with hungry scientists and science writers.)

The new lofts will be wonderful, but they don't seem to be selling, perhaps because of things like, f'rex, the penthouse in one of the buildings is priced at $700K. $700K? That might be the worth of the place once the downtown center is revitalized, but right now ... no.

I'm back tonight and home tomorrow and heading out first thing Wednesday to South America and points souther for a few weeks.

We stayed at the Wyndham Mayfair, which was just across a skinny little street from the Renaissance, the convention hotel conveniently located across Washington from the Convention Center. Room charges at the Mayfair were substantially less than room charges at the Renaissance.

We had dinner in the Mayfair restaurant Wednesday night. We weren't much impressed with the food at the Mayfair. In fact, we weren't much impressed with much of the food we found between the downtown core and Laclede's Landing. Had lunch at Hannegan's. Good Reuben sandwich. Nice furnishings. Had dinner at Jake's Steaks. You know. The food's fine in St. Louis, just not terrific. Servings are healthy. Service is pretty laid back. Make that overly laid back. We survived by noshing at the evening events. Kitchen K I'd recommend, although the service there was glacial. Nice wait staff, just overburdened.

The plan for the next few weeks is to drink yerba mate with the gauchos, pet some penguins and visit the Iguaçu Falls. Our cold weather gear worked find as the temps dropped to 2 degF last week in St. Louis; we anticipate no cold weather gear problems in the Southlands.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Word Cloud chez Towse Blog

  Posted by Picasa
Snitched from Zen and Paula.

How do those folks do that? Just the thing for your writerly Valentine.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

'Lost' manuscript valued at £1m

A BBC article dated 9 Feb 2006 begins,

A "lost" science manuscript from the 1600s found in a cupboard in a house during a routine valuation is expected to fetch more than £1m at auction.

The hand-written document - penned by Dr Robert Hooke - contains the minutes of the Royal Society from 1661 to 1682, experts said.

It was found in a house in Hampshire, where it is thought to have lain hidden in a cupboard for about 50 years.


Bonham's is auctioning off the document on 28 March in London.

The Royal Society is hoping for a "white knight" to come along, buy the piece and share it.

Bill & Melinda, where are you? Wouldn't this make a nice companion piece to da Vinci's Codex Leicester?

Heard fog horns this morning. ...

as I was waking up. Closer, louder, ships' get-outta-the-way blasts warned off the smaller vessels as the ships found their way through the fog.

The fog was thick in places, non-existent in others. I would've loved to have been able to have an aerial view.

By 10 a.m., the fog had mostly burnt off, and the Bay Area was in for another sun-shiny day.

  Posted by Picasa

A "before" picture taken when I was out and about around 8 a.m.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Isabella Fallon Brittan

  Posted by Picasa

Isabella (Belle) Fallon Brittan was the daughter of Thomas Fallon (of some notoriety in San Jose, California, as well as one of that fair city's first mayors after the Bear Flag revolt) and Carmel, daughter of Martina Castro and either her second husband Michael Lodge or her first, Simon Cota. (I had always been told her father was Lodge, but several sites on the Web claim that Cota is her father.)

Martina's grandfather, Jose Joaquin Castro, brought his family to California in 1776 with the DeAnza Expedition.

Martina was an astute business woman. The Mexican government granted Martina the Soquel Rancho (1,668 acres) in 1833 and the Soquel Rancho Augmentacion (32,702 acres) in 1844. In 1850 with the California Gold Rush causing all hell to break loose for the Californianos, Martina split the Rancho into nine shares, one for her and one for each of her living children.

After Carmel and Thomas Fallon split up, Carmel moved to San Francisco with her unmarried children.

Belle married Nathaniel Jones Brittan of San Francisco and had three children: Carmelita, and the twins, Belle and Natalie.

Click on the picture above for more photos of Isabella Fallon Brittan, including one with Carmelita.

Carmelita is his nibs' paternal grandmother. Unfortunately, that land grant is long gone.

Long lost cousins appear out of the blue

picture of Towse boys
The Towse Three. c1927? Posted by Hello

Eleven months or so back, while I was clearing out the house that hasn't sold, I got distracted by family photos as I was packing and scanned some in and posted them on the blog.

My dad especially liked this one of him and his twin and their little brother back when they were the three Towse boys. Eventually there were six Towse boys, but that was years down the road.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a long lost cousin of my father's, who way back when lived next door to Danny, Donny and Sonny in a side-by-side duplex in Woburn, MA, that belonged to my greatgrandparents.

Got that family tree straight in your head? My grandfather Charlie lived in half the duplex with his family. His younger sister Lill and her family (long lost cousin being the #2 child in the family) lived in the other half of the duplex.

Seems the #1 child in long lost cousin Ray's family was his sister Dorothy AKA Dot or Dottie, whom I have heard my dad mention. A week or so ago, Dorothy's daughter Martha found my blog and the pictures of the Towses. I hadn't realized she'd left a comment at the end of January.

This is my belated "pleased to meet you."

Lessee. Dad and Dorothy are cousins. That makes Martha my second cousin and Ray and Dorothy my first cousins once removed, doesn't it? Yes, it does.

Cousin Ray, like five of his six Towse cousins, found his way out to the left coast and lives in San Francisco.

Odd world, isn't it?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Berkeley: Westmost City of the Westmost Sea by Joaquin Miller

Sorting through family memorabilia. Boxes of old, old postcards courtesy of great-great-aunt MBB. Found this postcard (with space for a one cent stamp!) produced by the Chamber of Commerce, Berkeley, California.

Herewith, for all the Berkeleyans and former Berkeleyans who might read this blog (and for those who arrive courtesy of a search engine hit for Joaquin Miller).


"Westward the course of empire takes its way." - Bishop Berkeley.

Say, what shall be said of the great Bishop's town --
      Bishop, and prophet, and poet and seer? --
Why pluck up a cedar and set her fame down
      In gold and in flower-fed atmosphere.
          City of cities in stories to be --
          Classical, scholar-built Berkeley.

Aye, write her fair story -- as fair as a star.
      As sweet as her sea-winds, as strong as her sea --
City with never a stain or a scar --
      City of deeds and of destiny:
          Sea-born and sun-bred Mecca to be --
          Matchless, magnificent Berkeley.

Update -- added picture of Miller from postcard

  Posted by Picasa
Joaquin Miller (1837-1914)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

San Francisco's Poet's Corner

Southeast corner of Filbert and Grant. Why that corner, I don't know. The official resolution declared the corner's status as of Sunday, September 22, 2002, and said the designation was to honor the contribution of poets past and present.

  Posted by Picasa

Sts Peter and Paul and the pyramid

We were outside the Clubhouse at the Joe DiMaggio Playground at 5 p.m. yesterday, waiting for the others to arrive. The sun was heading westward and throwing interesting light on the backs of the spires at Saints Peter & Paul. The TransAmerica Pyramid jagged into the sky behind them, the third piece of the triad.

  Posted by Picasa

We were there early to setup the seats and snacks for the first of four Saturday evening noir movie showings at the Clubhouse. For four Saturdays in February, the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground are showing noir movies to raise money to complete the refurbishment of the bocce ball courts.

The movie last night was THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL with Richard Basehart, Valentina Cortese, and William Lundigan.

Great story. Backgrounds included the Valentina Cortese character shopping at the New Union Grocery, AKA Speedy's (AKA Jiffy in TALES OF THE CITY), which is the little corner grocery up where Montgomery meets Union. Some hoots as the Cortese character's car's brakes fail and she skids down the hill, down impossible deadend streets that turn into other streets and a sudden sharp end, just before the Montgomery Steps, which are, well, less than a block from Speedy's, except, wait! She'd driven blocks on blocks on blocks, skidding down streets and around corners, she should've at least made it past the corner.

Fun time was had by all. We'll be told at some point how much was made. We had about seventy people spending $10/ea plus what they paid for snacks and drinks and popcorn.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Book Passage above the fold ... a Davey and Goliath story

Last week a friend from the least coast sent me an article from Publishers Weekly detailing the Davey and Goliath story unfolding up in Corte Madera.

Barnes & Noble announced on January 25th that it will be moving from Greenbrae to Corte Madera, expanding to a space three times larger than its current space, and moving in just down the street from Book Passage, one of the best independent bookstores around.

"I'm sure you've heard of this but just in case..." she said.

I hadn't heard. I checked the Chronicle to see if I'd somehow missed the kerfuffle, but no word.

I shot a note off to Jon Carroll and told him he needed to cover the story or light a fire under someone at the Chron who could. Less than half an hour later, he sent a note back. "Done!" he said.

That was Thursday. On Friday there was naught in the Chron, but my note to Carroll had been after lunch on Thursday and I was sure he'd probably spiked Friday's column long before that. No words in the Chronicle over the weekend.

Well? asked my friend.

I had to tell her that Carroll's Monday column covered geese poop at Lake Merritt.

"Oh, I see...they're waiting until the big stories die down..." she said.

Day ... by ... day ... nothing.

And then today, FINALLY above the fold in the Business section, was the start of a multipage article.

With pics.

A serious tale of survival
Book Passage is battling giant Barnes & Noble -- again

Pia Sarkar, Chronicle Staff Writer

The Citizens Concerned about Strengthening Independent Bookstores (CCSIB) has put together a very untidy Web site to garner support for Book Passage and spur local action to stop the shopping center managers from leasing the space in question to B&N. Trundle through the site. Loads of information there if you can get past the colors and fonts and CAPS.

This bit, though, should give you a feel for the uproar across the Bridge from here.

Council meeting Tuesday night. Book huggers are e-mailing concerns to the folks listed on the site. More actions are planned.

Davey killed Goliath with a stone and slingshot. There's hope yet.

GoStats gone missing

I am like totally bummed.

GoStats has gone missing.

First, the stats were gone and there was a [missing image] in lieu of my numbers here and at internet-resources.com. Now the site itself is gone, gone, gone.

I am that close to having my 200,000th visitor to the writerly swarm of links and was going to celebrate the odometer ticking over.

Here's hoping gostats comes back. If not, I'll add a different counter over the weekend and start again from zero.

UPDATE: GoStats is back and I hadn't remembered the upcoming milestone for the writerly swarm of links, obviously. It wasn't 200,000 I was waiting for, it was 400,000. The hit counter stands at 384,900 hits since Nov 1, 2001. I should hit 400,000 in another couple months.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

... --- .-.. --- -. --. Western Union STOPs

Western Union STOPs their telegraph business.

(Those money transfers ... those 'll keep rolling along. ...)

So long, it's been good to know ya.
So long, it's been good to know ya. [nod to Woody Guthrie]

So long ...

[WRITING] Folio Literary Management

Folio Literary Management's site is up and running on all cylinders -- agent bios and "what I'm looking for"s and "what I'm not looking for"s, authors repped, submission guidelines, plus a nice set of publishing resources.
  • A Step By Step Guide To Getting Published
  • Frequently Asked Questions for Agents
  • List of helpful books on writing
  • Publishing links

[WRITING] Jeff Kleinman on the non-fiction book proposal

Jeff Kleinman has put a step-by-step here's-what's-needed guide to non-fiction book proposals up on the Folio Literary Management site.

Still haven't really made any new year's resolutions

Too late?

Now I don't have to.

[WRITING] Nick Mamatas, nihilistic_kid, on getting repped by Writers House

Followed a link on Jennifer Jackson's blog -- she's an agent with Donald Maass Literary Agency -- over to nihilistic_kid and read a blog entry about Writers House and the odds of being repped by them.

Seems Writers House receives twelve thousand (12000) submissions a year, forty a day. First reader is an intern. One of the agents is in charge of the slush and also reads.

Every "unexpected" submission, even those that are addressed to individual agents, go through an intern first, and sometimes the guy too. That's why God founded Vassar. On winter break, he does it all himself.

Of those twelve thousand submissions in the slush pile, one or two writers will be offered representation.

One or two.
Twelve thousand.

Of the submissions, most fall into two groups: talented writers with nothing that makes them unique or sets them apart, and writers with lots of creativity who can't write.

It can take months to get an agreement for representation, but a rejection can be gained as soon as you want it. "Call me twenty times in twenty days, and everyone here will hear about it." If people want a quick answer, the answer is no.

So don't bug 'im, eh?

Auntie K! This one's for YOU!

Step right up and get your very own "Radical, Militant Librarian" Button

In recognition of the efforts of librarians to help raise awareness of the overreaching aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is offering librarians an opportunity to proudly proclaim their "radical" and "militant" support for intellectual freedom, privacy, and civil liberties.


Inspiration for the button's design came from documents obtained from the FBI by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request revealed a series of e-mails in which FBI agents complained about the "radical, militant librarians" while criticizing the reluctance of FBI management to use the secret warrants authorized under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Of course, in part because of the efforts of "radical militant librarians" arguing on behalf of their users' right to read freely, without government interference or surveillance, Congress voted to extend its debate on the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act.

[WRITING] Book Publishing FAQ

Lifted from Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light post on The life expectancies of books,

Cader Books' Book Publishing FAQ

Free advice on the ins and outs of publishing and agents and proposals and more. Worth far more than it costs.

8. How do I put together a good proposal?

Be clear, articulate, and to the point. You would be surprised how poorly presented, and poorly written, many proposals are. The same rules apply as with anything else in life: this is your sales presentation. Go all out to capture the buyer's interest as quickly as possible, and hold it for as long as you can. How your proposal looks, and how professionally it is presented, is critical to shaping the attitude with which your proposal will be viewed. As a general rule, you should include the followin g:

* A one-page cover letter
* An introduction that sells your idea in two pages or less. Pretend that you are writing the publisher's catalog copy for them; tell them what the book is about, what makes it unique, what the market it is for your book, and how it will be reached. T he more concrete you are, the more convincing you will be.
* A table of contents, annotated if necessary, to give an overall picture of your book.
* Sample material, enough to convince, and enough to give a sense of what they are buying.
* Information about the author--what makes you the right person to do this book.
* Marketing information and plans. How can you help sell this book, what special places and ways can it be sold, and what special ways can it be promoted.

Who or what is Cader Books? Cader Books is, among other things, a book packager.

Technically speaking, we are what the book business calls a book packager or book producer--which is essentially the book world equivalent of an independent producer in the movie business. We produce books in conjunction with other authors and institutions, and create our own original book projects, and sell those books to appropriate publishers. We provide a full range of editorial, design, and production services. Our specialty, though, is taking a good idea and giving it that great extra twist to make it into a terrific finished book.

Their list of "new books" includes
  • Bad As I Wanna Dress: The Unauthorized Dennis Rodman Paper Doll Book
  • Naughty Shakespeare by Michael Marcone (author of Brush Up Your Shakespeare)
  • The Most Important Thing I Know: Life Lessons from Colin Powell, Stephen Covey, Maya Angelu (sic) and more than 75 Other Eminent Individuals Compiled by Lorne A. Adrian
  • Stranger Danger: How to Keep Your Child Safe by Carol Sovel Cope
  • Strange Days #2: The Year in Weirdness by the Editors of Fortean Times
  • Junior Astrologer Series by Alexis Quinlan
  • Talk of Fame: Good Advice from Celebrities Edited by Jeffrey Zaslow
  • America Off-line By A.J. Jacobs
  • Brush Up Your Poetry By Michael Macrone

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An Exercise in Comparative Literature

(via Maud Newton)

An Exercise in Comparative Literature
from Tim T., writing at Intersecting Lines

For decades, the debate has been raging amongst literary scholars: "Which is better? James Joyce, or a train timetable?"

On the one hand, there are the scholars who argue that we live in an everchanging, metatextual world, and that we should be prepared to let in all types of literature to the canon. On the other hand, there are the classical scholars who think we should just stick with the train timetable.

So what's so good about James Joyce, anyway? Can it do something useful, like tell us when and where to catch a train?

In this essay, I propose to help settle this crucial philosophical debate once and for all by performing a comparative study.

A Study In Literary Quality

[...] and continues on ...

[WRITING] M.J.Rose's Backstory blog

Backstory (Where authors share the secrets, the truths, or just the illogical moments that sparked our fiction. Brought to you by M.J. Rose) has an interesting premise. The blog posts are from writers explaining the stories behind the stories they write.


John Lescroart's Backstory:
How I Came To Write THE HUNT CLUB
begins thusly.

I'm extremely fortunate in that my terrific publisher, Dutton Books, has been asking me to hand in a new book every May 1st for the past six years. The way it works is that I hand in my latest manuscript on that date, and then start thinking about what I'm going to write next, and the outline for that next book is due on September 1st. Some writers don't like that kind of regimen, but fortunately for me, it seems to work.

Don't I feel pressure coming up with a new story every year? Sure, a little bit. But honestly, I find that it's kind of nice knowing that your publisher is waiting for – and even enthusiastically anticipating – my next creative work. And it's not bad working from an outline, either, where I can develop plot points and twists in relative peace, before the crunch of deadline kicks in. That way, I can devote my actual writing time to scene construction, dialogue, and simple (!!) narrative flow. And once you've got yourself a sturdy plot, these things are what makes a book really sing.

So, in general, this is how The Hunt Club came about, too. But in another way, this book was very different, right from the beginning.

Click the link above to continue Lescroart's story. Check out the rest of the blog too.

[WRITING] Debbie Ridpath Ohi's blogs and Dealing With Rejection

Debbie Ridpath Ohi's weekly Will Write For Chocolate cartoon and column today are on dealing with rejection. As usual, she includes links to other useful sites filled with related information and tips.

In addition to the relatively-new Will Write For Chocolate, Debbie's been writing Inky Girl: a weblog for writers for the past (gasp! I just checked!) three years now. Check it out. Debbie writes about other writing-related blogs, writerly sites, more. She has a section full of pointers to writing jobs. Archives are sorted by subject and by date.

Standard disclaimer: I used to work for Debbie when she was the wunderkind who started and ran Inkspot.com, one of the best online resources for writers (now, sadly, defunct). ...But I'd read her blogs even without that connection.

Adventures with pisco sours

His nibs brought me home a bottle of pisco last night that he found at Beverages and More. (Is he sweet or wot?) He said BevMo had three varieties of pisco on the shelves -- two priced about $17 and the other about $30. He bought one of the $17 bottles because why buy the fancy kind when we were planning to like use it for a mixed citrusy drink, duh.

So ... I took out the blender. Dropped one egg white in and whisked it up. Took about eight ice cubes and put them in a plastic bag and whacked them until they were little bits, because we just don't have an ice crusher to our name.

Squeezed two lemons and poured the juice into a glass to measure.

Added the lemon juice, the ice, and twice as much pisco as lemon juice (using the glass I'd used for the lemon juice to measure) to the blender container with the whisked egg white.

Added 1T of powdered sugar. brzzzng! brzzzng!

Tasted. Whoo. Boy. Tart. Added another T of powdered sugar. brzzzng! brzzzng!

Tasted. Hoo! Still too tart. Added another 2T of powdered sugar. brzzzng! brzzzng!

Tasted. Still tart but not too tart, and I was worried that if I tried adding more sugar I'd get to the point where the whole thing tasted like a lemon drop or a Sweet Tart (not that there's anything wrong with Sweet Tarts).

Poured the result into two bar glasses and dropped some Angostura bitters on top. Who knew we had Angostura bitters in the bar cabinet behind the single malt scotch and cognac? I don't think I've ever in my life used them before. I was prepared to use nutmeg, which is what Destino uses, but was delighted to have Angostura bitters, which I think I like better.

The pisco sours tasted swell. We finished up the contents of the blender container and decided that maybe next time (February 5th is National Pisco Sour Day!) we would use only the juice of one lemon and, therefore, half as much pisco and, maybe, only 2T of powdered sugar.

Good thing pisco sours are a multi-step process (if you're making them at home) or expensive (if you're buying them at Destino). It's as dangerous to know how to make them as it is to know how to make old-fashioned almond brittle and its brethren.