Detraction Distraction: No Traction for that Faction
Just got back from Bend, Oregon. I attended the Nature of Words writing festival. I taught two workshops there, did a reading, and attended events. Faithful readers of this blog know already that if I mention famous writers, some helpful sort will tell me I am a star-whore. (I kinda dug, in a weird way, the last guy who said I was a degenerate like "Fat Elvis." Uh....YES!) But these are the people I work with when I'm not alone in a room with the writing machine. Other writers. So be advised, there were famous peeps there, my homies. Don't freak out!

One last event left on the grueling (at times) 2008 Endless Tour. Phoenix. In December. And I am done and vanish from sight until February. Hiding out!

The galleys came in for Into the Beautiful North while I was in Bend. It is quite beautiful--Geoff Shandler and the Little,Brown army have once again made a pretty package for my words. I feel like Pink Floyd must have felt, with amazing graphics making my own work seem better. I stayed up till 3:00 in the morning, re-reading it all in one go (no, Fat Elvis--it wasn't a self-ego-stroke). It was my last chance to make sure I hadn't perpetrated something on you readers that I wasn't proud of, and I am glad to say I was proud of it. It's my small quality control policy--if I can't stand it, I won't ask you to put up with it, either. We'll post the cover here soon, and you can expect the book itself in April. Then on to Hummingbird II, if I can muster the super-human strength for that little party.

Anyway, Bend: beuatiful place. I was lucky enough to go on a good brisk hike along the Fall River, into the hills, to the subterranean source of its headwaters. Walking through snow, walking along the clearest water I have seen in a long time, watching as the bed of the river wobbled and changed colors in the fall sunlight. (Some of you will recall that this is one of my personal writing rules, from Basho--writing that is as clear as the bed of a shallow river seen through clear water. Well, there it was!) Famous Writer Alert: Craig Childs, one of my pals, was at Nature of Words, and when I told him about the hike, he said, "Did you want to take off your clothes and jump in the water?" And I realized that was exactly what I wanted to do--something I am not prone to, especially if there are witnesses present. But Craig knew exactly how drunk the water and the sun and the snow and the silence and the fallen logs that had sprouted slim long gardens down their lengths made me feel.

Among the writers there were the great poet, Judith Barrington, the eternally brilliant Chuck Bowden, Pam Houston who hates fancy dinners as much as I do, poet/slam-poet Patricia Smith (we sang "Ebony and Ivory" to the crowd). The brilliant young Mexican poet, Ekiwah. Many great souls and talents. But of them all, none is greater than my beloved Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ursula is the one who found me, as a boy. She came to UCSD as a visiting writer in my senior year. She accepted the story I had written about my father's death for an anthology. (Edges, Pocket Books--if you ever find one, let me know!) She lifted me from despair and dread and launched me on Oddly, right before I left for Bend, I was rummaging through my stuff (uh, I guess a library would call it an archive). I found the actual mimeograph master I had written that story on back in college. Man, that's old. Might as well have scratched it on a slate with charcoal. But there it was, all blurry, but with the writing workshop professorial corrections still scrawled on it.

I sprung it on her at my reading, and I read the story in her honor--for the last time ever. I retired it that night forever. (If you're keeping score, it's in Six Kinds of Sky.) A fitting tribute, I thought, to the great Ursula. Like burning your guitar--what else can you offer?

Well, I guess I'll hear about this. Really, it's okay--pro or con, it's okay. I do what I do, and I have my reasons. Sometimes my reasons are as simple as a crow's--that object is shiny and I'm gonna pick it up...or it looks darned tasty and I'm gonna eat it. It has been my folly to try to share the writer's life with you over the years--good or bad, silly or profound, in success and, in the much greater in abundance, failure.

I am changing this blog for 2009, just because the world around me has changed. But I will continue being exactly who I am. I am way, way too old to change now. I have my paths through the woods, and I have my favorite places, and I go there and drop antlers every season. And then , in the not too distant furutre, I will lay my bones down there too. I am so happy that you go with me--and that I have gone with others, like Le Guin. It's a good thing. I am not going to stop.

Writing is stronger than badness.

Writing is stronger than silence.

I am stronger than dirt.

See you in Phoenix, sports fans.


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