Well, I can’t say that there were throngs of adoring fans lining up to buy my book, but at least I can say that I didn’t puke at Lit Crawl. I survived my first public reading of my fiction, and even had some fun doing it.

The night before the event, I finished watching the movie Finding Vivian Maier. Then Derek talked me into watching Beware of Mr. Baker, a rockumentary on Ginger Baker, the drummer for Cream. The first, full of beautiful candid photographs by a woman who worked as a nanny and never had any of her photographs shown. The second, full of a man who’s had huge commercial success but nonetheless is a financial disaster, not unrelated to the fact that he’s “quit” heroin dozens of times. In other words, I movie-binged on depressing stories of artists right before my debut. Not the most auspicious timing.

As we were getting ready for the Lit Crawl, I said, “I am in no way suggesting I am going to do this, or even thinking about it. But feeling the way I do right now, and imagining having to go on stage in front of thousands of people, I can understand how they take drugs to get through.” That said, I didn’t take any drugs other than a latte beforehand.


Caught in the act of “air quotes”

When I got off the stage, I noticed my friend all teary-eyed in the front row. That made me giggle. But I couldn’t stop smiling when a few different strangers told me “That was really good.” The clincher, though, was when one guy personally connected to my story, and told me how the father in my story reminded him of his own dad. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, to know that what I write speaks to someone. And at Lit Crawl, it did.

Who needs drugs?

In my daydreams, I’m a wildly successful author on a book tour. As I read to scores of fans, they laugh and cry at the same time. The audience is friendly, smart, and fun, and I chat with them as I sign their books.

Then I wake up. I’m back at my desk, writing in solitude, or at the coffee shop, writing in solitude while surrounded by people.  Since I haven’t sold my book yet, a book tour is unlikely. But tomorrow, I will partake in Lit Crawl, the world’s largest roving literary event. The goal of Lit Crawl and its parent Litquake is to “whet a broad range of literary appetites, present the literary fare in a variety of traditional and unlikely venues, and make it vivid, real, and entertaining.”

Let’s see. We’ll be reading at City Art, a cooperative gallery, and we’ll feed a range of appetites including (but not limited to) non-fiction, children’s literature, mystery, and suspense. I’m reading from my second novel, The Reluctant Bartender. I’m  excited, nervous, and pukey all at the same time, which makes it vivid and real for me, and possibly entertaining for our audience. I’ve heard my fellow writers read, and can say they’re practiced and eloquent.

Leaping back into life isn’t limited to cliff-jumping into snow-fed lakes. It’s about doing scary things that push me further into the writer’s life. Today, I’ll practice some more. Tomorrow, I’ll meet people who love literature enough to fight crowds in San Francisco’s Mission District as they wander from gallery to bar to police station to wherever. C’mon, join the book-loving throngs and meet us there!

Two weekends ago, I saw my cousins for the first time in ages. They were visiting Dad in Daly City on a rare hot weekend, so drinking and conversation turned to beer. I told them Petaluma’s vying to become the epicenter of Northern California microbrewing and every little restaurant in town has several local beers on tap. Mostly, I was trying to ensure that their next trip is longer and includes a stay up here.

The day after they left, I texted this picture to Tony.


He texted back, “You’re making me jealous!”

I’d told him Porterluma is my favorite local beer and how we’d been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Petaluma Hills Tap Room ever since we’d first tasted Porterluma in a beer-tasting class. Now that we’ve finally made it to the tap room, I can also recommend the red tag ale and the ESB (we did tastes instead of pints to maximize variety). The shiny new bar overlooks the brewing area, so we watched the beer making instead of the TV. The owner is friendly and answered my geeky questions about harvesting yeast.

I can remember when my only question about beer was “Why do you drink that?” I also remember the first time I thought beer was good. I was about 18 and on a whitewater-rafting trip with my friend’s dad, acting as his adopted daughter for the weekend. It was sweltering hot, and I was parched.  The sodas were in a cooler on another boat. I asked for a diet coke, and someone sent one flying through the air. I caught it, but it slipped through my wet hands and sunk to the bottom of the American River. Of course, that was the last soda available.

It was 100+ degrees, and the beer was cold, wet and therefore delicious. My friend’s dad floated by in the other boat and gave me a sideways glance as I drank my beer, and I shrugged and told him there was nothing else to drink. (Bottled water hadn’t been invented yet.) For a long time after that, I thought beer was only good if it’s really hot outside. What I didn’t realize is I wasn’t drinking good beer. As I got older, I discovered beers I like even when I’m not dying of thirst. I’ve enjoyed beer while traveling and found “What’s a good local beer?” a fun question to ask.

That was only the beginning of my questions. I wanted to learn more: the difference between ales and lagers; how various styles are made; etc. Basically, I wanted to go into a pub with multiple taps and be able to choose confidently. I’d wanted to take Beer 101 for years, but didn’t find an extended ed class until we moved to Petaluma. Once a week for several weeks, we sat in a community college chem lab drinking beers of different styles, learning about brewing processes, taking notes, and enjoying beer. Best chem lab experience ever! It taught me that I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I don’t have to travel far from home to continue my education.


In my last post, I wrote: “I know life holds no guarantees, but we’re all living longer.” No guarantees? True. All living longer? False. My dear friend passed away unexpectedly last month, just as I’d begun to feel joy again after the loss of my mom. Sadness, it seems, wants to be a permanent resident in my life.

I could try to ascribe meaning to it all – how I’ll come out stronger in the end, etc. – but the world needs more trite aphorisms like California needs more drought.

Speaking of drought, this blog’s been dry lately. I blame sadness. That bastard’s been telling me that it’s shallow to write about beer-tasting classes, that it’s stupid to write about local adventures, that nobody cares what I’ve been reading. Sadness tries to convince me that it’s wrong to feel joy in the midst of mourning. But I do, and neither Mom nor Tricia would want me moping around. They’d hug me and tell me to go for a walk or a swim. Both were excited when I said I was going to swim from Alcatraz and ecstatic when I said I was writing a novel.

So cheers to them. I’ve got blog ideas and a new novel started. This weekend I’m swimming. Shove off, sadness! I’m leaping back into life.


Here I go. Leaping!






Crater Lake: shockingly cold but beautiful and fun.