Tuesday, October 28, 2008

BWC 17: The Condor meets Bart Simpson

This year I'm fortunate to help organize the 17th annual Baltimore Writers' Conference, a daylong gathering where writers who have published and writers who haven't drift around like bees in a garden of words, cross pollinating every which way. This is how amazing the conference can be: We've got the author of Six Days of the Condor, and a novelist who spent four years writing scripts for The Simpsons, and a short story writer who has won two of the major awards given solely to short story collections.

I'm eager to hear Bruce Jacobs, who wrote Race Manners and Race Manners for the 21st Century. In his book, first published in the 1990s, he described ways in which race can be discussed with candor and generosity of spirit. I've heard him speak before, and he's smart and kind. Another highlight will be sitting next to Lia Purpura as we run a panel about creative nonfiction. Lia is a poet and essayist, and she comes at creative nonfiction as a lyricist. As a nonfiction writer with a journalism background, I love reading and listening to the nonfiction writers who approach the genre from a lyrical, poetic stance. The workmanlike moth astonished by the butterfly, that sort of thing.

The whole shebang starts early in the morning on Saturday, Nov. 8, at Towson University. Be you moth or butterfly or bee, if you'd care to register, visit the BWC Web site.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Apple for Mr. Hall!

If you read House of Good Hope, you remember Joshua Hall, the young man (pictured right, from his senior high school yearbook) who grew up to live out his promise to live in Hartford and help the city by any means necessary. Joshua, a smart, passionate young man, became Mr. Hall, a smart, passionate social studies teacher at Weaver High School. He's been doing great work at the school, and his efforts are being rewarded by the good women of Iota Phi Lamba sorority, who will honor Joshua at their annual "Apple for the Teacher" award luncheon on November 15 at the Chowder Pot restaurant on Hartford's Brainard Road. Joshua will be among eight teachers recognized for contributions that have been significant to "educating children and making schools better."

You can read more about Joshua since his appearance in House of Good Hope here.

I've seen Joshua at work in the classroom. He is disciplined in his mission to teach students important lessons about America and life. He's a role model in the best sense, and I'm delighted that he is being recognized for his good work.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"It's Really Odd Being the Minister's Wife."

My students tittered. Some shook their heads as if no words could explain how weird the world is. I’d just told them that I’m an ordained minister and that I was off for a weekend to officiate at a wedding in Montana. Their looks said, “You’re making this up, right?”

I was not. I explained how a friend had asked me to officiate at her Montana wedding; all I’d need, she said, is ordination, which I could get via the Universal Life Church and its Web site, and like water to wine I’d be legal to solemnize the union of Courtney Lowery and Jacob Cowgill. Once I agreed, Courtney made jokes about me being a fake minister, called me “Reverend” and “Rev.” But I knew she was serious, too, and that my responsibility was to be sincere.

The idea of me as Man of God flustered me. I am not devotedly religious. At best, I can be described as a lapsed Roman Catholic. As a teacher, I hesitate to preach so as not to seem too much the scold. As a writer, I explore sin and human failing more than virtue and piousness. Moreover, my heart beats in a medieval, superstitious way. I’ve read Dante, and as a former altar boy who once served the Papists, I understand fully the punishment priests said awaits the blasphemer, the price of worshipping outside the doctrines that accompanied my baptism. When I joked with students about my trepidations, a nice fellow from the back row, with a broad face and an Irish last name, made it clear he understood, too. He said:

“You are so going to Hell.”

Maybe. But first I had plane tickets to Montana.

Courtney and Jacob chose for their wedding a lovely Montana site: an old ranch, with a red-board and stone barn (see picture), half a mile from fenced off black hills of coal and sky-high smoke stacks. Nothing says Montana quite like rural Romanticism mixed with rapacious industry.

Much of my work as minister had already happened, which was to help Courtney and Jacob write and edit the ceremony. We’d met, we’d talked, we’d even discussed how much God to include. Courtney and Jacob aren’t atheists, but their beliefs are perhaps as vague and ill-defined as my own. But, yes, they wanted God. So I took their ideas to my laptop and spent more than a few mornings mulling over marriage, Montana, and the love Courtney and Jacob shared. What I’d written comprised the bulk of the ceremony.

The wedding spot was a little plot of land by Prickly Pear Creek, south of the state capital at Helena, where cottonwoods broke up the sunlight into jewels that alighted on people’s faces. The wedding day started cloudy, but miraculously(!) the clouds gave way just as Courtney began her bridal march, her farmer father alongside in crisp blue jeans, bolo tie and Western vest, an image even more iconic than Clint Eastwood’s cowboys, because Clyde Lowery is the real deal. He walked with his daughter, and she came to Jacob in sunlight, and in sunlight they made their union. Many guests – my wife, Sheri, among them -- filled more than a dozen rows, and I nearly shouted the words so I could be heard in back. Because I shouted, because I concentrated to recite the words correctly and in the right order, I felt less an agent of something numinous than I did an emcee, a movie’s director, an enforcer of decorum and solemnity, whose role was to make certain people stood where they must stand, that the rings were safe, that players knew their roles. Soon, when the ceremony ended, I would become a bureaucrat, gathering the signatures of witnesses to make legal the license.

How I felt, of course, didn’t matter. I had to trust that the love and grace I had known when writing the ceremony still existed in the words, that the words I’d chosen and ordered carried their own spiritual heft, and that Courtney and Jacob, if no one else, would feel their power. I wanted them to have that gift. I hoped they would.

Here is the gift they gave me.

They had written their own vows, which I hadn’t read. They memorized their words, and spoke them, not profaning the words and sentiments by lifting their voices. They spoke clearly, beautifully. Jacob started, and when Courtney cried to hear him it was all I could do to stand in witness. Courtney’s words followed, and as Jacob teared up, so did I. What thing in any church could be more holy. Few guests could hear as Courtney and Jacob spoke, but I hope they felt, as I did, all the grace of love and joy and patience that radiated from the man and woman we’d gathered to celebrate.

That moment cleared away all doubts and confusions about my performing the role of reverend. If now I stand accused in the eyes of any true believer of a blasphemy, let it be so. If by being an accomplice to such joy, I have sinned, I am the happiest of sinners.

At the reception, we ate in the barn from bounty raised by Jacob at the farm where he works. Sheri and I square danced following the directions of a retired school teacher who had taught Courtney in elementary school. We talked with old friends, and with new ones, but mostly we wandered about, a little off balance. Sheri had said to me the night before, at the rehearsal dinner, “It’s odd being the minister’s wife,” and this from a woman who has known Courtney as well and as long as I have. What Sheri meant was that we were participating in a wedding in a way we never had, and that it was strange to be unaligned with family, not to be old college pals in the wedding party, nor casual friends who show for the ceremony, sit in the back, offer congratulations, eat and leave. We -- or I -- had played a necessary and important role, but also stood strangely outside the life of the wedding. Sensing this, we left early each night, quietly stepping into the backround, leaving the hardcore revelry to others, which seems to me the final kindness and final burden of all our solemn celebrants.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mark Twain might laugh, bitterly ..

at the news that his house, long an icon in Hartford, is in dire financial trouble and in danger of shutting its doors. Or maybe he wouldn't. It's hard to say, because Twain was such a complicated fellow. He loved the his Victorian Gingerbread Tiffany-filled house with its trick doors and solarium and children's wing where his daughters played. But he also was the keenest American observer of our own human follies and hubris. He nearly bankrupted himself in that house, and he'd appreciate the parallel irony that the house has almost bankrupted other people who love it. The Twain House management apparently overreached a bit in a grand plan to modernize the grounds, adding a lovely gallery and cafeteria and shop, among other things like administrative offices. Read it about it in this article from the New York Times.

Still, Hartford needs the house, and American literary culture needs the house, and if the administrators overreached they did so for the right reasons. That's why authors from throughout the region are gathering this coming week for a reading in support of the house. Please, if you are nearby, go. If you are not and can afford to send a little money, do that, too. Twain was, according to Hemingway, the first true American writer. He was the first writer to put the American vernacular to artistic use in the novel. Let's not wait around for the Federal Reserve to bail out the house and preserve Twain's legacy. Because it won't. It's up to us.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ralph Nader, Wally Lamb and Moi

House of Good Hope is a finalist for the Connecticut Book Awards in the Biography and Memoir category. Other finalists are Ralph Nader's memoir about growing up Winsted, Connecticut, and a collection of essays written by women in prison edited by Wally Lamb. I won't be able to attend the awards ceremony to hang out with the likes of Stewart O'Nan, a finalist for his rich gem of a novel Last Night at the Lobster, but I'm missing the ceremony for the very best of reasons. Friends Courtney Lowery and Jacob Cowgill are getting married in Montana, and I've been granted the privilege of officiating at their ceremony and pronouncing them husband and wife.

But if any of y'all would like to go to the Connecticut Book Awards or reception to follow, the good news is you can! Here's the info you need:

When? Sept. 21, 2 p.m.
Where? The atrium of the Hartford Public Library on Main Street in downtown Hartford
How much? FREE!
Free? Really? Well, the awards ceremony is. A reception and book signing to follow is $40. Get tickets by calling 860.695.6320 by September 15.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Truck No. 3915

Today I finished after two months -- yes, two months -- I finished reading Don DeLillo's book Underworld, which is a tremendous book, a really great American novel, a category of book that is good to have because though there will never be a single great American novel there are many, and because we have the category we can name them and include Roth's American Pastoral and Melville's Moby Dick and Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and Morrison's Song of Solomon and others I'm forgetting. Underworld is a great book, but what matters today is that as I read the last pages, I heard a roar outside and a clang and there were the City of Baltimore sanitation workers in their orange Tees, one driving and two riding, house by house emptying the cans we'd left out for them all up and down Sefton Ave. They rode Truck No. 3915 and they picked up the garbage that all of us had placed in bags and tied off at the tops and placed the bags in the rubber barrels that we call cans, a holdover from when there were trash cans made of metal, and the men in orange Tees took those bags and threw them all together into the back of a truck with the bags from other streets. Those bags held torn credit card slips and used condoms and weeds pulled out from between rose bushes and DVDs that didn't work anymore, and warrantees for items that didn't work anymore and love letters and religious bulletins from Methodist churches and Catholic churches but not Unitarian churches because those bulletins are placed in the recycling and this was the garbage I'm talking about here, this was our lives and that's why reading Underworld has been a very good thing, and why, even though it seems a coincidence, it is worth mentioning that as I finished the book the City of Baltimore sanitation workers cruised our street, loud and shouting, as if at a party, to take our lives, our histories, away.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

High Five in Nonfiction

Want to know my favorite nonfiction books? Want to know why I like 'em?

Check out the summer issue of JMWW, an exciting online literary journal published out of Baltimore by a writer who also happens to be a grad of Towson University's Professional Writing Program. Many thanks to Jen Michalski for running the site and inviting my contribution.

Featured books:
Hiroshima; The Heartless Stone; The Way to Rainy Mountain; The Year of Magical Thinking; Brothers and Keepers.


Fire up above

Something odd about hiking a mountain in the morning, then watching it burn in the evening. That's what happened a few days ago here in Missoula to many, many people, including me. For us, it was a hike Sheri and I took with friends Dave and Grace Kreulen, in from Michigan. We started to the south and east, in a place called Crazy Canyon, then walked until he we were on the front of Mount Sentinel, a grass-covered slope that sits and watches over the city of Missoula. We crossed the front of the mountain along a fire road to the famous white-washed, concrete M, and hiked down from there. All in all, about 2 1/2 hours to log 6 miles and some change.

While walking the fire road, I mentioned to our guests that in a few weeks people wouldn't be hiking Mount Sentinel anymore. Likely the city will close the mountain, I said, because the fire danger will be too high. These grasses dry out, and if you're up here when they're on fire it can be pretty spooky.

We parted for the afternoon, our friends back to their camper and us to our home. They arrived again for dinner around 7 p.m., and I met them at the door.

"The mountain's on fire!" said they.

And it was. We watched with binoculars as fire raced across the mountain, and sometimes just sat there and burned, as a helicopter flew over head dropping water, as men in yellow shirts dug trenches to stop that flames' advance, as the flame itself stopped when it reached the road we had hiked. A few acres less than 400 when it was done.

I wish I could say what strikes me about hiking a mountain, commenting on it burning, then watching it burn. I'm not sure, exactly. What I do know is that I'm disturbed by more than the coincidence of the events. The hike/burn/watch has something to do with the power we all had when we were children, the ability to imagine something, watch it happen, and then feel responsibility for it. "I wish Barry would break a bone" and then he does and you yourself broke the bone! Magical thinking. When the mountain burned, in a strange way, I felt suddenly tapped into a larger universe, even if I didn't understand it, even if I didn't believe in it. It existed despite me, and that's a little scary, a little exhilarating.

Read more about it at New West, my favorite Rocky Mountain news source.

And the war of 1812 was fought when?

And also, what group of people were kept from coming to the United States by the Chinese Exclusionary Act?

Toughies, yes? The title question is a joke. The opener to this blog entry is a joke, too, but only in the "sad facts of life" category. To wit:

A young friend reported yesterday about a history class he's taking in summer school. A debilitating sickness knocked him out of school last semester, and he needs to get American history credits that he'd dropped.

Turns out the summer history class is less about America's past than it is about passing. The course is self taught along these lines:

1. Read a chapter
2. Complete fill-in-the-blank exercises (while looking at the chapter for the answers)
3. In class, receive a study sheet with those same fill-in-the-blanks and the correct answers (in case you couldn't find them yourself); take a half hour to review
4. Take a sheet of notes as you study the correct fill-in-the-blank answers.
5. Take the test.

This is worse than memorization. And to believe it will fulfill credits in high school American history in any school district in America is a travesty. Moreover, the test itself is my newest "sad fact of life." You might ask, What was the first question on the very first test?

What group of people were kept from coming to the United States by the Chinese Exclusionary Act?

My young friend wrote the question on a separate sheet of paper so he wouldn't forget it. He's smart enough to know that this question, given its context, has more to teach him than the answer.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A P.T. Barnum moment

Self-promotion here, folks. Dan D'Ambrosio of the Hartford Advocate published a story this week about HOUSE OF GOOD HOPE. Read it here.

Full disclosure: Dan was a graduate student in journalism while I taught at the University of Montana's School of Journalism, and I worked as a reader on his thesis committee. I'm pleased with the job he's done as a journalist, and I'm especially thrilled that at least one person I helped educate regarding journalism (and Dan didn't need a lot of help) ended up reporting from my hometown, doing the good work necessary so Connecticut residents better understand their capital city, its successes and failures, its people and their lives.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

Once, in a small idyllic town in the Rocky Mountains, I built a mini-mountain of Coca-Cola cans in the office where I worked. The Co’ Cola mountain, three cans high, filled a book shelf. Once the mountain grew too large, I’d collapse the cans, then bag them for recycling. You like Coke? students often asked, ironically, and the answer, of course, was that I did. I drank two or more cans a day. Sucked in those high-fructose-corn-syrup calories as if without them the sky would go gray, the hems of my pants would unravel, my spine would curve under every one of life’s burdens.

Hyperbolic, sure, but as a child I learned to love Coca-Cola. Via marketing, I was weaned on the idea that to give the world a Coke was to give the world peace. That famous ad campaign inspired an impressionable altar boy with a tendency toward sentimental utopian ideals. And even if as an adult I no longer believed in or even yearned for utopias, or thought much about the relationship between Coca-Cola and world peace, I was already hooked on the good feelings I got from inside that little twelve ounce can.

Sparkles. Taste. Caffeine. Harmony. Sugar. Peace.

Meanwhile, a few students on campus at the University of Montana were arguing – with gusto – that the university’s administration ought to abandon an exclusive contract that made Coca-Cola UM’s go-to soft-drink provider. The reason? Intimations that Coca-Cola had something to do with the violent repression (possibly including murder) of union organizers in Colombia. At the time, I was teaching a course in which we explored Colombia’s recent and doleful history, and I could find nothing that showed a direct link between my drinking Coke and the deaths of Colombian union workers. In fact, much of what the students had to say seemed fuzzy, loose with facts. Moreover, Colombia is a complicated country; there is blood-guilt to be shared among all who tote guns, be they leftist guerillas or rightwing paramilitaries or government forces funded in part by the United States under Clinton or Bush. In truth, my responsibility for Colombian violence has more to do with my taxes than my Coca-Cola habit.

But I gave up Coke eventually, for health reasons. High fructose corn syrup, the primary sweetener in Coke, is like long-term poison for diabetics, and given that diabetes runs in my family, and that I have blood-sugar problems already, it seemed wise to abandon Coca-Cola. So I did. About that same time, Coca-Cola came out with a new product, Coke Zero, which has no sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no nothing. I think, basically, that it tastes like watered down Coke. My red castle of cans became a black castle of cans.

But now I’ve been reading about the Chinese government’s response to protests in and about occupied Tibet, how the Chinese recently tried to trade weapons with Robert Mugabe’s violent and illegitimate government in Zimbabwe. And I know how China has generally worked to support the government in Sudan, which continues to allow the genocide of people in Darfur. And the Chinese government is about to stage the Olympic games. And Coca-Cola is the top sponsor of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

I’m troubled by these connections. At the same time, I’m impressed by the protest of a Japanese manufacturer of iron shots, who will not allow his work to be used in the shot put event at these Olympics. It is a small protest, really, his, but a worthwhile one.

Coca-Cola argues in an op-ed piece published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that its role in sponsoring the Olympics is legitimate, that the Olympics ought to be immune from politics, that we all ought to take a chill pill and stop worrying about people dying or being unjustly imprisoned until after the games. Coca-Cola argues that we ought to stop worrying about its role as a sponsor for these Olympics and concentrate on the company’s good works intended to make the world a better place, to bring that perfect harmony a bunch of baby boomers on a hilltop sang about in 1971, and which a six-year-old boy listened to, believing.

But if I still believe in the hope of perfect harmony, of friendship, my course is clear. I’m not buying Coca-Cola’s arguments, and I’m not buying Coke Zero. Mine is a small protest, one that means far less than that of the Japanese manufacturer of shot puts. I’ve no illusions that one person’s boycott of Coca-Cola products changes anything. But I’m going ahead with it anyway.

I think, as the song says, it’s what the world wants today.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Today is for Ryan

Today is the birthday of my nephew, Ryan. Ryan is nine-years old. He's a good guy. His dog, Dylan, thinks so, and so does his Aunt Sheri. Aunt Sheri is taller than Ryan. So is the dog Dylan. Dylan is a Great Dane like Scooby Doo. He is also as brave as Scooby Doo, which is to say he is not very brave. Ryan's other dog is Jordan, who is smaller and older and mostly deaf, though sometimes Jordan seems to be faking being deaf to get out of having to do things around the house. Like, when Ryan's mom tells Jordan to help her out by vacuuming the living room, Jordan pretends to be deaf so he can keep watching Jimmy Neutron. When you get old, you get smart in these ways.

Ryan is getting smarter every day. He reads a lot, and he likes reading. He spells very well and nose that correkt speling madders. He studies Tae Kwan Do and is becoming a super hero. You can tell from the picture that he is a super hero, a force for good. In the picture, he is the one without the skull face. Ryan is better looking than the skull-faced man, but so is Dylan the Great Dane. Ryan is a super hero and also a guitar hero, but not as much a guitar hero as his Dad who can beat Slash. Rock on, Dad!

Because Ryan is my favorite nephew, I thought the world should know about him, so I put this up on the Internet. Now, Ryan is no longer a secret. Everyone knows.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Heart behind "The Heartless Stone": April 16, 6:30 p.m.

A few months back I received an e-mail with the subject line "hello michael" that began "There is no way in hell you would ever remember this ..."

You might expect an e-mail beginning that way to contain a blackmail threat. This one didn't. Instead, it took me back to a winter evening in Tucson, Arizona twenty-something years ago and a high school basketball game (I imagine Bubba Martin was playing; a helluva guard). At the time I was an aspiring sports reporter, a little older than Tom Zoellner who was also an aspiring sports reporter. The newspaper where I worked had assigned us to the same game so I could show Tom the basics.

All this time later, Tom had found me via an entry on the books page of NewWest.net and thought he'd give me a hello.

Turns out we'd both gone on to newspaper reporting careers and then took up writing. We'd even both lived a while in Missoula, Montana, Now he was in New York City; I'm in Baltimore.

Moreover, he's done great work. His 2006 book ""The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire", won plaudits from reviewers around the country. I'm in the midst of it, stunned by the reporting and writing. It's a compelling book that Zoellner reported from ten countries including three in Africa. That same year "An Ordinary Man," was released, which is the autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina, the heroic hotel manager depicted in Hotel Rwanda, a book co-authored by Zoellner.

Wednesday, April 16, Tom will read from "The Heartless Stone" here in Baltimore at Towson University as part of our English Department Reading Series. The first page turns around 6:30 p.m., in the Towson Room of the Cook Library. I'm thrilled to see Tom again and eager to hear him read. We have no plans to cover any high school sports.

Bookish Baltimore: April 19, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Such a Saturday! April 19 in this, the Cruelest Month, there's a little kindness -- and it's free!

The fun begins early at the dowtown branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library with City Lit Festival V. I'm sure to be there at 1 p.m. for the panel featuring Dan Fesperman, Laura Lippman and Manil Suri.

The last time I attended a 510 reading at the Minas Gallery, I feared the second-story floorboards would give way, there was such a crowd. Maybe we'll get lucky and bring down the building on April 19, when I'll be reading alongside novelists Maud Casey and Michael Kimball (think of them as the heavyweights; I'm the undercard).

The 510 Readings start at 5 p.m., 815 W. 36th Street in Baltimore. I'll read a short story that first appeared in the Missouri Review's summer 2006 issue, featured to the right.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'll order oysters and cancel the ersters ...

I haven’t blogged for a while now since the wyf moved back to Baltimore. Not that I’m blaming her. I’m not blaming her. But the classes I’m teaching this semester have kept me busy, and the wyf and I have had some excitement to deal with, which excitement is known to the general public as Ikea.

Ikea. I-K-E-A. That is correct.

And with that transition we come to The Baltimore Bee, a spelling adventure for kids grades 3-to-8, cosponsored by my employer, Towson University, along with a tutoring program called Educate Online and the charitable foundation set up by a player with the Baltimore Ravens named Daniel Wilcox.

I volunteered to be a judge, not knowing what that would mean. I figured I’d listen to words spelled and say “yes, correct,” or “no, incorrect.” Turns out I was going to pronounce words. As the wyf will tell you, I don’t always pronounce words correctly. In childhood I read the word “invalid” and thought it was pronounced “in VAL id” as in “not valid.” My tongue has been tied ever since. So imagine my terror when asked to pronounce words for a spelling bee. I know how these things go. Volunteers do the work, irate parents do the complaining. I prepared for the worst.

And indeed, I apparently screwed up. Mispronounced chutney. Mine was not quite Chooo-tney but not ch-uh-tney either. Something in-between. The innocent left to spell the word took the two Os option. A player with the Baltimore Ravens rang a bell that meant “wrong” and said, “That spelling is incorrect.”

A teacher challenged my mistake during our lunch break, but too late for the kid. The rules say mispronunciations must be challenged before the next round begins.

Every time I woke up the night following the Bee, I thought of chutney. The dog kicks its legs, I awake, and I think: chutney. The wyf tells me I snore, I think: chutney. Some kids stop their car at 2:30 a.m. on the street outside so a girl can get out of the backseat and puke on the pavement, I think chutney.

Imagine how this would go over in Stalin’s Russia. You mispronounce chutney at the Spelling Bee and Little Josef misses the word and suddenly you, Comrade Pronouncer, are off to the Gulag. In Baltimore, the kid might be the son of an Avon Barksdale type from “The Wire” fame. The next day some guys in black SUVs park in front of the house. Some nice pictures of you end up in a file folder at the homicide division of Baltimore's finest.

More likely, I just created a reason for the kid to never like Towson University. He’ll grow up to attend Frostburg State because Towson is careless enough to hire English professors who can’t pronounce chutney.

This sort of thing creates a powerful memory in a boy. My pinewood racer was leading the Cub Scout derby until it hit a seam in the track and bounced off course. No car racing in that lane won the pinewood derby that night at my elementary school in Glastonbury, Connecticut. No, the scout leaders told me, we couldn’t redo the race. No, we couldn’t take into account the bad lane. Go, little Cub Scout, and follow the law of the pack.

Which law says: sometimes you get the guy who mispronounces chutney.

And he apologizes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Baltimore writers Michael Kimball and Jen Michalski have put together a reading series in the city called 5ive:ten readings. The series is dedicated solely to fiction (a novel idea, pardon the pun). Out of town, I missed the first episode, but I plan to make the rest, every third Saturday of the month at 5 p.m. in the Minas Gallery, 815 W. 36th Street. I'm fortunate to be reading in the series on April 19, joining all-stars Michael Kimball and Maud Casey. All evenings are supposed to last about an hour, so you'll get quick bites of fiction ... No recitations of War And Peace here.

If you're in Charm City, check out the series. And if you're in D.C. or Philly or points between, make the drive.