what are you denying yourself for what stupid reason?

How upside down does the world have to get before we right ourselves? It’s been hard and hot here in Portland and we’ve been on the streets. I know you know what’s been going on. I know you’ve been reading and consuming smart reports. Just in case, here’s a good summation. Do what you can. Be safe. Express your outrage. Keep learning. Here’s more.

There is no graceful way to pivot, so I’m just going to. I’m not an influencer. I get no cash for things I share, so take this as a true love object from me to you.  My new Patagonia baggy shorts have made me ridiculously happy! Could it be Covid-19 isolation that makes this small thing such a big deal? Because I’ve always hated my thighs I never would’ve considered shorts. (I know, yawn, who hasn’t hated some part of their body and kept it covered?) Big question, who gives a shit? Why have I denied myself the comfort and pleasure? It’s 100°! I am a slow learner. What are you denying yourself for no good reason?


Are you reading? I am, very, very slowly due to doomscrolling.  But, a book I recently plowed through? The Puppy Primer, by Patricia B McConnell and Brenda Scidmore. If you need help with play biting and house breaking (and doesn’t everyone?) The Puppy Primer has your back. The koan of the book–we humans are the ones that need to be trained in helping our pups become part of our family pack.

One of my favorite people and teachers has a new craft book, And Then Something Happened. Believe me, this is a reason to celebrate! I’ve not yet gotten my hands on a copy, but if it’s anything like her first craft book, Curious Attractions, we’re all in for a treat. Smart, accessible, kind, Debra Spark is a wonder.

If you’ve been in a creative nonfiction class with me, in all probability you’ve read the essay, “How to Make a Slave,” by Jerald Walker. Well, more good news, he’s publishing a collection with the same title. Preorder here.







Two great things are happening! Both Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference are offering online content for us. Napa will send an email every morning with content, so do sign up. (I know, it is 3 days in by the time you read this, but they may have the previous day’s posts available still.)

Bread Loaf has rebranded the 2020 conference as Dream Loaf and is offering some pretty sweet talks and readings. A few I’ll be certain to check out:

  • Stacy D’Erasmo’s talk: “After the World Ends: The Artists Response to Crisis”
  • A reading by Gloria Naylor!! (Who I’ve mentioned in this newsletter)
  • Charlie Baxter’s talk: “The Request Moment, or  ‘There’s Something I Want You to Do'”

I have new teaching and editorial pages on my website. Please click on over to find out about virtual opportunities to write & read together.

And, there are a few spots left in my Literary Arts class. Could one be yours?

Turning Life into Fiction – August 6 – Sept 3
We have a wealth of story possibilities in our lives. What is a story that’s often retold to the point of folklore in your family? What is the anecdote that you trot out over a beverage with friends? In this class we will use life as the starter for stories to which we apply our imagination, the skills in our writers’ toolbox, and the joy that comes from being in charge of how the story ends!

Finally, if you cannot wait to get going, dive in to writing a short story with Curtis Sittenfeld and the New York Times.





After the last newsletter, a reader wrote to tell me she was sad that I failed to include a recipe for her “not to make.” Haha!  Okay, so here is one you should make:

Remember I told you about Samin Nosrat’s google doc, “You’ve Followed, Now What? filled with opportunities to discover new-to-you voices in food and support BIPOC people in the food industry? Well, I signed up for a zoom class with Chef Eric Adjepong. It was fantastic! He’s super kind, smart and adept in the kitchen, inventive, kept us on track. We cooked fast! I learned some techniques. I learned some skills. I learned about the right oil to use on the grill (canola). We made a delicious Caribbean Picnic and then, my husband and I had pals over for a socially distanced meal on our deck.

Besides the pickled veggie salad rolls (so good!) and the jerk chicken (spicy and amazing), we made a punch called Sobolo-Sorrel Tea. Super thirst quenching and many possibilities to dress it up. Seriously, you should make this.

Sobolo-Sorrel Tea

  • 12 cups of water
  • 8 ounces of dried hibiscus flowers (I used Hibiscus tea, about 5 tea bags)
  • 5 ounces fresh ginger, sliced or, if you like a heavy ginger kick, smashed (about 3-5 knuckle sized pieces)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole allspice seeds (I didn’t have any)
  • ½ pineapple, chopped up w/bark and flesh (I made one version w/peaches instead, a delight)
  • 1 orange peel and juice (juice separated)
  • 2 TBS of lime juice (to taste)
  • 1 to 1½ cups of simple syrup, I used ½ cup and it was PLENTY sweet
  • Ice
  • Lime and orange slices, for garnish

1. In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, add clove, cinnamon sticks, allspice seeds. Toast, moving frequently until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

2. Add in ginger, orange peel and pineapple bark, and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add in water (peaches if using) and bring to a boil.

3. Add hibiscus leaves to the boiling water and reduce to a simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Cover pot and steep for 30-40 minutes.

4. Add in simple syrup a half cup at a time according to preference.

5. Strain tea. Add citrus juice. Chill.

6. Serve over ice. Some ideas: Serve tea mixed w/Fever Tree tonic, a squeeze of lime and a pineapple garnish. And/or add
a glug of spirits: rum or vodka or gin.

It is delicious! I plan on keeping a pitcher in my fridge. Do yourself a favor and check Chef Adjepong’s class schedule. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. I’m going to sign up for another.