Honored to be joining the nonfiction faculty at Catamaran Literary Conference in July

I’m proud to announce that I will be at the Catamaran Literary Conference July 26-30, leading a workshop group each morning (9:30 a.m. – 12:30p.m.) with up to 12 writers. Each participant will submit up to twenty pages of creative nonfiction writing for review by the workshop group. The writing should be creative in nature and may be part of a larger work or a stand-alone piece. The workshop meets four mornings (Mon.-Thurs.) and each participant will learn methods for revising their own work and will receive focused feedback from the group on their craft. This class will also serve as an ideas-generating machine for writers, encouraging a strong sense of play, improvisation and experimentation to foster in-the-moment creativity. Looking forward to meeting you and delving into your work!

Return of the Ideas Generator class at Catamaran Literary Reader

To all my writing friends — this February I am expanding my Ideas Generator class at the Tannery Art Center in Santa Cruz, with all new prompts to bring out the memoirs, novels and short stories that I know are hiding somewhere deep in the La Brea Tar Pits of your mind. Last time around, we had a lot of fun with a world-building improv activity, a “street haunting” inspired by the work of Virginia Woolf, a Victor Hugo-inspired art and writing activity, and many other adventures. In February, four four weekly sessions on Tuesday evenings, I will be back with all new prompts, visuals and ideas for your enjoyment. This class is strictly generative, with a focus on mutual support and the free-flowing exchange of ideas. Registration info here. See new Tweets

My “Transgressive” new writing class in Santa Cruz

hello, everyone. I am teaching a brand-new class at the historic and spooky Tannery Arts complex in Santa Cruz (Wednesday evenings, October 30 through November 20) in which I use improvisation, close reading, intensive writing activities and a “night haunting” to help you conjure new ideas for writing projects and squash your writers’ block. Since the first class takes place the day before Halloween, I would not object in any way if you showed up in costume. In fact, there is a sordid rumor that I will teach the first class while wearing a vampire bat costume. Here is the link with all the info and registration directions

On bloodymindedness

Here is an essay I published some years back in Poets & Writers about a poet and professor whose tough-minded ideas about writing and publishing helped get me through a rough patch of writing. He told me about the value of pressing onward, and developing “sheer bloody-mindedness.” Hoping to see Professor Connor when I go back to Wesleyan for reunion next month.

“Caution: Trail In Poor Condition” — vintage grimy photo from my Pacific Crest Trail days

I just found this vintage, water and sun-damaged picture taken of me on the Pacific Crest Trail. The lettering on the sign is almost illegible, but it says CAUTION: TRAIL IN POOR CONDITION. You can’t tell from the photo but the sign itself is in horrible condition. Though it looks like I am posing with my arms around the warning sign, I’m actually holding it up. When I came across it, the thing was lying on the ground. Anyway, I thought this was worth posting because I just realized that my first effort, The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind And Almost Found Myself on The Pacific Crest Trail, came out 10 years ago. Unless my memory is letting me down, I believe this photo was taken on the trail a few miles north of Tehachapi, on the same stretch of the trail where I stupidly dumped out my water…


Binging on books. Currently reading lots of them in tandem because I am indecisive. I keep adding to the list — New American Stories, and Gork The Teenage Dragon (hilarious; there is some loose-synapse creativity that almost made me drive off the I-5) Eat The Document by Dana Spiotta, for starters. Just got through a good, creepy oldie by Graham Greene called This Gun For Hire. Working on new things but it’s taking forever. Thanks for your messages to me, sent to my email account. I appreciate your measured encouragement. Meanwhile, I’ve put together a brief compendium of some recent freelance pieces.  I almost forgot to mention that I’ve been invited to be a panelist at an AWP panel up in Portland, focusing on travel writing, so please stop by and say hello if you are going. My only other news — I am working on a homemade costume. I am sick of…

Beer crawling for the San Francisco Chronicle

Helping my wife ‘research’ her acclaimed ice-cream history book Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America, forced me to consume a dozen gallons of straight-up butterfat and almost turned me into a blob in the process. Researching this piece for the San Francisco Chronicle finished the job.  Now, my blobdom is complete. As you’ll see, I’ve included some recommendations in this new story.  Strange — I’ve pretty much stopped drinking beer (and every other kind of alcoholic drink) since this story came out. I’ve just lost a taste for it, at least for the time being. Maybe familiarity really does breed contempt. Anyway, I hope you like this.

Remembering Sheila Ettinger (1938-2018): an appreciation

“Cupertino is the world headquarters of Apple Computer. For a few years, Sheila Ettinger lived directly across the street from the main headquarters of Apple, which, as you know, designed the iPhone. If she had wanted to do so, and if she could have gotten past security, Sheila could have stepped out of her apartment and arrived at Steve Jobs’s office in about ten minutes. But Sheila was no fan of the iPhone. She could not have cared less about gadgets. In spite of the fact that she lived so close to Apple, she had this little flip-phone, and, to be honest, I could never figure out how to use it. Her phone was a little bit awkward.  In the Stanford hospital, when people would call her up, and that old phone would ring and ring, she would tell me, “Please, Dan, get that for me,” but I couldn’t even…

A fond appreciation of Sheila

I just wanted to send my love and prayers out to Sheila Ettinger, who is the biggest (or perhaps the only)  fan of this website. She checks it religiously every morning, and looks at the Twitter feed at the bottom of the page. Sheila has given so much in her life, so it pains me to report that she has been facing some very serious health troubles lately. I want to take the time to thank Sheila for her love and support, her hilarity and brilliance, her storytelling prowess and her friendship. Who will leave comments on my website except for spammers, trolls, and bots??? Sheila, my family and I wish there were millions more like you. It is very sad for all of us that you are a one-off.