My secondary career in baking

Some people know me only from my articles, essays, and book, but I’m still enjoying small crumbs of notoriety for  the official Banana Slug cookie I developed for UC Santa Cruz, pictured below. When I say “developed,” I am speaking only of the cookie’s shape and design, not the ingredients, the frosting or anything else. I had no say in the butter content, amount of sugar, etc. I developed the Banana Slug cookie cutter by buying a very cheap cat-shaped cookie cutter and hitting it with a hammer until it looked more or less like the Slug mascot of UCSC. Then I sent specifications and the cookie cutter to The Buttery bake shop, telling them where to place the eyes, the smiley mouth, and so on.                                           You are probably…

A Golem in Manhattan

Congratulations to my friend Helene Wecker on the publication (today!) of her first novel, The Golem and the Jinni. I just recorded a detailed Q and A with Helene, who told me all about the development, writing process and research that led to this marvelous new book. Look for that this summer (I will share the venue as soon as I have the specifics.)

Coming soon: intensive memoir workshop with author Micah Perks at UC Santa Cruz

Methods and Materials: Memoir is an intensive, advanced creative writing course in memoir writing. For students in the creative writing concentration or by permission of instructor. June 24-July 5, no class July 4, 1-5 each day, five credits. Sign up begins April 15 through UCSC summer session office. Email Micah Perks, for more info. Micah Perks is the author of a novel, short stories, and the memoir, Pagan Time, which is available in paperback, ebook and audio from Her personal essays have appeared and are forthcoming on The Rumpus, an online arts and culture magazine.

Mollusk melt: introducing the world’s first Banana Slug/Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Get a load of this! Kirstin Guinn, my co-worker here at UCSC, has designed what must be the first Banana Slug/Grilled Cheese Sandwich. No actual slugs were harmed in the making of this gooey concoction, but I’m proud to say that Kirstin used my home-made banana slug cookie cutter to stamp out these two slug sandwiches, which are lying right beside each other on the orange plate. You’ll notice that the slug in the foreground has capers for eyes, a bread body, and pepper-jack cheese dripping out of his midsection. Anyways, I asked Kirstin just now: what possessed you to make this particular sandwich? “One of the things I do as a social media manager is find weird holidays and then figure out how to celebrate them online, usually with photos as that makes everything more compelling,” she explained. “When I found out from a fellow social media manager that…

UC Santa Cruz’s boogie-woogie sea lion dances to Earth, Wind & Fire, and the Backstreet Boys

Normally I don’t upload videos but I made an exception for this one.         Next week: see what happens when they cue up a Slayer CD! Just kidding. Speaking of ‘just kidding,” this video was released on April Fool’s Day, but I can assure you that it’s real.                  

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine: I double-dare you to read this book and not think of Justin Bieber

Remember that stupid game in middle school when one of the older, snarkier kids defied you to go back home that day and not think of monkeys? Naturally enough, you went home, and you couldn’t get those monkeys out of your head for the whole day. You went to sleep dreaming of those monkeys.  It was like Jedi Mind Tricks for 12 year olds. The middle-school don’t-think-of-monkeys trick came to mind when I was reading the beautifully written, funny and highly entertaining new book, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne. Wayne, with mischief on his mind, even uses a quote attributed to Justin Bieber at the very beginning of the book. This book is remarkable because it reads as a satire but it also comes across as a convincing insider look at the celebrity culture that it (gently and not so gently) sends up. Anyhow, this book…

Catamaran Literary Reader makes waves (with new podcast link)

Here is the latest news story about our mighty magazine. I’m happy to say that a  third one is already in the works (we had our editor’s meeting out here just the other day, and it looks like we’ll have great visuals and stories for the next one, too. Little by little, I’m getting my own contribution together. Looks like I’ll interview one of my  favorite nonfiction authors but it’s not official so I’ll keep mum for now. Let’s just say he’s written a staggering number of books and I’m attempting (early in the mornings, and late in the evenings) to read ’em all. I will admit to feeling intimidated as I look at the leaning pile of fat, thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated books on my night stand … By the way, if you happen to be in town on April 4th, the magazine is holding a reading at…

Thanks to everyone who traveled far and wide for our rager of a birthday party here in Santa Cruz

It was a wild time. People slid on slides. They screamed. They yelled. They climbed a tree and swung on swings. They threw tantrums. They laughed. They drank from sippy cups. I am proud to say that the cake I thought would be terrible turned out to be pretty good. In fact, the kids chomped it down in about two minutes. Not kidding.  By the time I was able to reach in there and grab a piece for myself, nothing remained but a shriveled, dried-out, semi-frosted, charred elbow of crust. I ate it anyhow.

Stop by and say hello to Catamaran Literary Reader at AWP in Boston

Catamaran Literary Reader is out in force at this year’s AWP conference in Boston. The conference starts today, so make sure to stop by and say hello to editor in chief Catherine Segurson and managing editor (and highly talented fiction author) Elizabeth McKenzie. As you can see, there is a very impressive line-up of speakers this year at the conference. I will always have a place in my heart for AWP because I went to the one in New York some years back and had a very good time, in spite of the fact that we were supposed to have handed out advanced review copies of The Cactus Eaters and, in true classic Cactus Eaters/Murphy’s Law fashion, the printer broke down, so I ended up handing out — and signing — dozens of little postcards with my picture on it and a photo of the ARC. Anyhow, I won’t actually…