November Diablo Gazette: Veterans Day – Pets for Vets article, Book Review and Ruby Dooby Do to the Rescue

November 20, 2017

The November 2017 Diablo Gazette features my articles on ARF’s Pets for Vets program (page 16) and a sweet special needs german shepherd dog looking for his forever home in my Ruby Dooby Do to the Rescue column (page 16), as well as my BookEnds column review of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith on page 12.

http://www.diablogazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/NOV2017-GAZETTE-DIGITAL-.pdf

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Hurricane Irma Dogs, A New Rescue Doggie Column and BookEnds

October 6, 2017

I had the great experience of being at the airport to cover the story about evacuated Hurricane Irma dogs (page 3).

I’m also pleased to announce that I will have a regular column “Ruby Dooby Do to the Rescue” where one special hard to place dog in a local rescue (page 11).

Lastly, this month I chose to review Joy Fielding’s Someone is Watching” on page 12.


July BookEnds and Dog Agility Story

August 7, 2017

My review of The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll can be found on page 6 and an article on my experience competing at CPE agility nationals with my dog, Bailey, can be found on page 14.

 


Meet Tim J. Myers: Poet, Children’s Book Author and Songwriter

April 10, 2017

 

  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from the favorite book you’ve written.

I find it interesting that my favorite children’s manuscript hasn’t been published, though I’ve submitted it a number of times. Maybe this is because, as some say, artists are generally poor judges of the quality of their own work. But maybe it’s because it’s actually a very good manuscript and just needs someone to take a chance on it. In any case, it makes me think about something basic to a writer’s life. If you write only for yourself, your life as an artist will be relatively uncomplicated. But if you offer your writing to other people, you have to be ready for all the natural complications involved. If only it was as straightforward as “Write something good”! My The Great Snail Race relies on the simple humor of such slow animals in a race, the racers seeing themselves as amazingly swift. That cracks me up, and I loved developing the idea. So I keep submitting it.

  1. How important do you think it is to incorporate personal experiences in writing?

This is one of those classic bits of writer advice, isn’t it? “Write what you know.” Like a lot of such advice, it’s profound, but it doesn’t always apply. Again, things aren’t always that simple. Some of the best writing comes from people who know, for example, a certain job or field really well, and who present that in their writing in a powerful way. Richard Russo’s Straight Man is set in a college English department, and Russo clearly writes about that world from the inside; he himself taught in a similar department. This profoundly enriches the book (and is, by the way, the source of a lot of its comedy). On the other hand, a book like Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is science-fiction; it describes a trip to another planet, something Russell obviously hasn’t experienced herself. But each of these books is powerful, each is believable, and each captured me, sucked me into its world. So writing what you don’t know can work too.

On the other hand, it’s probably impossible NOT to include personal experience in some form or another. It leaches into your art whether you want it to or not. Russell, for example, left the Catholic Church at age 15, but The Sparrow is, for all its spiritual questioning, a very Catholic book.

  1. Describe your path to publication.

What continually surprises me about my path was how unconscious it was. I started writing in sixth grade (due to the encouragement of a teacher, to whom I’m deeply grateful), and pretty much kept writing from that point on. But I never thought of myself as a writer, and even through early adulthood never even considered submitting my work; publication just wasn’t part of my thinking. I feel very blessed in that obliviousness, since it allowed me to develop as an artist in a pretty “pure” way; I followed my own nose. To me, writing wasn’t different from living, any more than eating or singing or seeking romantic love were. It was as if I was an apple on a branch, ripening at no other pace but the slow pace of summer itself. In time I began to feel—again, very naturally and almost unconsciously—a desire to have readers. So I began to submit. During a trip to Hawaii I learned about two Hawaiian fish with very long names and, thoroughly charmed by those syllables, asked myself: If the humuhumunukunukuapua’a married the lauwiliwilinukunukuoioi, what would they ever name their child? That led to Let’s Call Him Lauwiliwilihumuhumunukunukunukunukuapua’aoioi!, my first book, published in 1990.

  1. How did being the oldest in a family of eleven children influence your writing?

What a wonderful question—I haven’t really thought about that before! It would seem that my writing for children was a direct result of that. I basically write for adults; I didn’t become a children’s writer till I began telling stories to my own kids. But the oldest of 11 is in something of a parental relationship to younger siblings, and that happened to me. I loved thinking about this question—it gave me one more example of how a writer is given so much simply by life itself, if he or she pays enough attention to such gifts.

  1. Poetry and children’s books seem like the require very different skills. Are there similarities in your writing process for both genres?

Interestingly, writing a poem and writing a picture book, at least, are quite similar. In each case you’re working with a lower word count, working with compression of language, and every word counts in a big way. Of course every word counts in all writing—but a novel, for example, doesn’t pressure you with the same intense focus as a shorter work usually does. I began writing as a poet, wrote almost nothing but poetry for a long time, and have three books of adult poetry out; I found that that was excellent preparation for writing picture books.

  1. And you writes songs too! How does that fit in to your writing journey?

This is a perfect question to follow #5, since the answer is a variation on that theme. Of course there are plenty of longer music formats, but I mostly write individual songs, three or four minutes long. This makes a song lyric very much like a lyric poem, and in a number of ways. Again, every word is critical, and saying a lot with a little is the name of the game. And, of course, working effectively with language rhythms is essential to both a poem and a song lyric.

There are two main differences, though. Some songs, like ballads, have very normal and predictable line rhythms in their lyrics, which are easier to write. But some melodies jump all over the place, which means the lyricist is, essentially, writing a new poetic form for each song of this kind. It can get very tricky rhythmically, and you not only have to make your lines flow naturally with the beat—you also want to them to sparkle, to forcefully pull listeners in, and then to work in all the ways good poetry does.

The other difference, though, is an astonishing advantage, and it’s a huge part of why I can’t resist songwriting. Music is to a song lyric as a score is to a movie. Whatever I’m trying to say in the lyric, if the music is right it lifts and empowers the words in a way that constantly surprises and delights me. When you get it right, music and lyrics seem to combust together, making magic. So, again, just as writing picture books goes hand in hand with writing poetry, so does songwriting.

  1. What tools do you use when you are choosing words for your poetry?

I love this question. I love it because it’s at the heart of my life as a writer, an artist of language. I choose words for all my writing with a passion and attention that come from knowing how utterly important those choices are.

The great English painter JMW Turner, like many painters, was constantly experimenting with new colors and developing his palette. As one expert says, “Pigments found within his water colours include Gamboge, Quercitron Yellow, Vermilion, various iron oxides including Ochres, Umbers and Siennas, Indian Yellow, ‘Green Lake’, Prussian Blue, Indigo, Cobalt Blue, Blue Verditer, Rose Madder, other red lake pigments possibly Carmine, Bone Black, and Mercuric Iodide (genuine scarlet).” I love the names of those colors—because a writer loves words like a painter loves colors. Part of my word choice is intellectual. But a lot of it is from the heart, and from that strange but powerful sense we all have, to whatever degree, of beauty. I don’t mean that all word choices should be “beautiful” in the usual sense, but that all must have the force that comes not only from an exact choice but also from an inspired one.

           

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Tim J. Myers. To learn more visit his website: http://www.timmyersstorysong.com/TM_Website/Homepage.html. He’s also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TimJMyers1 and Twitter @TmyersStorySong.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Rhino Poaching and a Book Review

May 6, 2016

I am happy to announce that my book review of Circling the Sun by Paula McClain is on page 7 and my article on rhino poaching appears on pages 19 and 20.


An Interview with Mir Tamim Ansary

March 20, 2016

 

 Bloggers Note: Tamim Ansary will be speaking on the topic of  Why Do We Write? at the April 9th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club.  The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees.  Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required.  RSVP to Robin at cwcrobin.gigoux@yahoo.com.

  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Games Without Rules

Games Without Rules is a narrative history of Afghanistan, the story of a hodgepodge of people trying to coalesce as a country, despite interruptions by global powers who have invaded the country five times in the last two centuries. In the standard narrative, Afghanistan is a static land filled with intractable bearded fanatics who are hard to conquer. Games Without Rules delivers a more nuanced view, the one from the inside looking out. In this version, a country that began to form at just about the same time as the United States, has an epic, tragic, and yes sometimes humorous story of its own, peopled by characters that Dickens would have been proud to invent—a story that has, however, been interrupted every 40 to 50 years by a Great Power invasion, which has—curiously enough—failed in exactly the same way every time.

2. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.

I’ve been writing all my life but in the wake of the events of 9/11, I was suddenly redefined as “an author.” Why? Because I was an articulate English-speaker from Afghanistan and because, on 9/12 I wrote an email setting forth my view of what had just happened. I sent it to about 20 of my friends, who sent it to their friends who sent it to their friends, and it went viral. It was the first viral phenomenon on the Internet. Within two days it had spread around the world and been read by tens of millions of people. I was getting phone calls from strangers in Argentina and South Africa and from people I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Within three days, I was on TV in conversation with Bill Moyer while my agent was trying to reach me by phone to tell me I should forget about the novel she was peddling for me and propose a nonfiction book instead—“anything,” she pleaded. “Just write one page. Anything!” It was the oddest thing that every happened to me—but maybe not the most “memorable”, now that I think about it, because those few months were so crowded and crazy I hardly remember a thing about them.

  1. What authors have most influenced your writing?

I really have no idea what authors have most influenced my writing (in which I dare say I’m pretty much like every author) because when I write I’m not conscious of trying to write like someone else, or even “like myself.” I’m only conscious of straining to net with words that elusive thing out there, that vague shape I see, that meaning that, goddamn it, I can’t seem to quite articulate, that story I can almost taste, almost feel, almost see but which–when I try to turn it solid with words—disperses like a school of minnows. Who’s influenced me? Damned if I know. I can tell you who I’ve liked: Yann Martell for his musings; Romain Rolland and Dostoevsky early on; Celine for Death on the Installment Plan, Michael Connolly ‘cuz he’s so solid, Michael Faber because who else could get away with writing a thousand-page novel entirely in the second person, and because I couldn’t shake The Book of Strange New Things out of my head—and there are others. Vikram Seth, especially Golden Gate. Peter Pan. I give up. There are too many.

  1. Describe your path to publication.

Long. Random. Arbitrary. Along the way it was hard to tell if I was published at each particular point. At the Scribe, a weekly newspaper in Portland, where everyone was a volunteer, no one was paid, and where I could write anything I pleased, no editor between me and my readers—was that publishing? Well, I had readers: five or six thousand people a week read what I wrote. Later, when I was a freelance writer in San Francisco, selling things like a profile of the 14-year-old girl who won the Grand Ole Opry, and the story of a drug bust for Stone Age Quarterly—did those things count? Was I published? The publication I cherished most was my first piece of fiction, “Crimes of Passion.” It was published in Prim International, a Canadian lit-mag. Did anyone read it, though? I don’t know. Later when I was a columnist for Encarta, they told me I was getting 80,000 hits each time I posted a new column. But it was a column. On the Internet. Did that count? Well, whatever. One way or another, I’ve got some fifty books out there, most of them nonfiction for children, all of which, as far as I know, are still in print.

  1. Did you find it difficult to write from a women’s point of view in your book, The Widow’s Husband?

Yes and no. I grew up among women. That’s how it was in Afghanistan. Everyone grows up among women and then the boys go out and become men. I didn’t go out and become an Afghan man, because at a crucial period in my life, my family moved to Laskhkargah, a town heavily populated with Americans, and then I moved to America. But I when I created Khadija, the widow of The Widow’s Husband, I didn’t take Western media reports as my point of departure, I started from my memories of the women in my family, the women in our village, the women I knew and knew about over there when I was growing up. I have to say, I don’t think anyone else writing fiction about Afghanistan has followed in my footsteps.

  1. Which of your books has been the most difficult book to write?

My three best-known books—West of Kabul; East of New York, Destiny Disrupted, and Games Without Rules were not hard to write at all. They just fell out. They were waiting to be written, I showed up and they seized control of my fingers and used me to get themselves into the public. The Widow’s Husband slipped right out too, but then I started editing it, and that took years. Two other books, a memoir called Road Trips and the novel Dreaming in Dari, have also taken years, and the real sign of that is: I’m not done with either of them yet.

  1. What do you think your life would look like if you hadn’t come to America in 1964?

I would have been drafted into the Afghan army just when the Communists seized power and the war started. I would have been in their army, following their orders to fight the Mujahedeen, and I doubt I would have survived. If I had not come to the United States in ’64, the chances are pretty good I’d be dead.

  1. Who is your idol?

To that extent I am a good Muslim. I have no idols.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Mir Tamim Ansary. To learn more, visit his website: www.mirtamimansary.com . Also, take a look at his blog, www.memoirpool.com , a site devoted to the art of telling the real life story.


Meet Poet Roy Mash

January 16, 2016

Bloggers Note:  Come hear Roy speak on Word Selection for Writers.Sign-in starts at 11:15am. Luncheon 12 – 12:45 pm. Speaker 1- 2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant: 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. $25 members, $30 guests Reservation required – deadline: noon, Wednesday, Feb. 10th. To reserve, contact Robin at ragig@aol.com, leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/. Add $2 transaction fee.

1). In one paragraph, can you give us an overview of Buyer’s Remorse?

Buyer’s Remorse is a celebration of the small, the overlooked, the underrated. Doggedly anti-lofty, reveling in the This-Worldly, the poems deal with the themes of the body, of mathematics and rationality, adolescence and middle-age, love and fear and death. The tone ranges from the irreverent to the wistful—the spritz of seltzer in the face of the Creature from the Black Lagoon to the lover standing in one sock. Drawing on sources from The Three Stooges to Archimedes, Lavoisier to Tweety Bird, the book represents a nail in the tire of post-modernity, a pea shooter smuggled into the High Church of Poetry. Be ready to duck.

Here’s an assortment of lines and the poems they come from:

  • I wanted to be 1932 (“The Untouchables”)
  • Sometimes I envy my bed (“Desire for Retirement”)
  • Come, spritz of seltzer in the face         (“Love of Slapstick”)
  • I pity women / with their purses / like canyons (“Wallet”)
  • Its raison d’etre is being a slob (“The Blob”)
  • Dear Marcel, (“Letter to My Penis”)
  • babushka   babussshka   ba-busssssh-ka (“The Plagiarizer of Words”)

2). Describe your most memorable moment as a poet.

I’m always suspicious of superlatives, but certainly one of my more pleasurable memories is of the

the book launch for Buyer’s Remorse at Book Passage in Corte Madera. I had sent out “Save-the-Dates” six months prior to the launch, and later covered the waterfront with e-vites. The turnout was spectacular, 90 or 100 people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years. Some close friends joined in, reading poems of mine they’d chosen. It was one of those evenings when everything clicks, topped by a standing O and clamor for an encore. Definitely a peak (if narcissistic) moment.

 3). What authors have most influenced your writing?

Pablo Neruda, especially his Odas Fundamentales (Odes to Simple Things), made a big impression early on. It gave me permission to explore subjects that are decidedly un-profound, that undermine the quasi-religious tone that pervades so much poetry, and that causes readers and audiences to tighten their shoulders and hold their breaths, as though in the presence of the holy. In my work this comes out in poems such as “Pinkie,” “Glasses,” and “Wallet”—not to mention “Letter to My Penis.”

Other writers who have affected, or rather infected, my work include Ted Kooser, Stephen Dunn, Billy Collins, Linda Pastan, Lisel Mueller, Steve Kowit, and Cole Porter. The list is far from exhaustive. What they have in common (for me) is a certain unpretentiousness combined with language play.

4).  What tools do you use when you are wordsmithing?

I start every journal reserving a few pages for words. It is a kind of jam jar where I keep words I pick up like pebbles on a seashore. When I’m reading, or even listening to people talk, I’ll sometimes fixate on a word, and save it for my collection. Often the words are idiosyncratic, but they can also be ordinary. Here are some examples culled from my current journal: wrestle, Cyrillic, guidepost, guff, amputated, compliant, stipend, hock, connive, negligee, scaffold, muggy, pumpernickel. I go to my word pages when I’m stuck on a poem, or sometimes as a way of starting a new poem. Just mixing the words often sparks ideas by mere juxtaposition

Another tool is what I call “word-riffing”. Starting with an arbitrary multisyllabic word, I spurt out as quickly as I can, words that have similar sounds, not worrying about order or length, or anything really. Here’s an example from my current journal that riffs on “astonishment”:

stone stem shant shin meant mesh mash gush shun shimmy massage punishment garnish tarnish Amish luscious eyelash nightmarish mansion extradition friction trash mustached goulash scripture

Then I go back over the list and see if anything tickles my interest. For instance, in the above list, just now I’m enjoying the phrase “luscious eyelash,” the feel of the sh sounds like liquid in the mouth, the slightly oxymoronic quality of an eyelash and its associated quality of delicateness as contrasted with the Rubenesque connotations of “luscious”.

5). Who is your idol?    

Jimmy Carter. Not for his poetry, but his life.

6).  What is the most off-the-wall metaphor you have ever composed?

Again, I shy away from superlatives, but here’s a candidate from my love poem to gangsterism, “The Untouchables”:

        I wanted to be the filed-off serial number,
        the East River,
        Winchell’s voiceover—staccato,
        like a typewriter got caught in his throat.

Strictly speaking, the typewriter line is a simile rather than a metaphor, but the image continues to tickle me. I’m not generally a fan of “frivolous surrealism” of the a-winter-wonderland-of-green-hellos type, but I love surrealism that is tethered to the world in such a way that it manages to be both wacky and accurate.

         

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Roy Mash. To learn more visit his website: www.roymash.com, or contact him directly at roy@roymash.com. You can order Buyer’s Remorse directly from his website, or order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powells.