My March update: Tucson bound for Under The Stars, plus George Saunders and the cough without end

Thanks for taking a look a this. I’m just starting to pack my bags for the Tucson Festival of Books next weekend — my first one ever (thank you very much, Roberta and Dennis, for making this happen). I’m proud to be a featured author at the bookfest, speaking solo about Under The Stars at 10 a.m. March 12 at the Integrated Learning Center, Room 130, on the University of Arizona campus. I will try if possible to scare up some doughnuts for at least some of you but please don’t hold me to that — I just don’t know Tucson very well, having been there only once, in a great big rumbling RV, which I used to explore the Desert Museum, the stunning Saguaro National Park, which I visited during a rare snowstorm, and a few other remote areas including the Gilbert Rey Campground, where I once welcomed the new year with a bunch of other shivering revelers, all of us hunched beneath the cactus while someone played Elvis Costello’s “Armed Forces” on an old record player. Anyway, I will also be appearing the same day (March 12) on a panel called “Celebrating Our Great Outdoors” at the “National Parks Experience” room that same Sunday, March 12, starting at 230 p.m.. I will appear with Mark Woods, author of Lassoing The Sun. Eager for your restaurant recommendations for Tucson — somewhere other than Poca Cosa because the timing won’t work out for that one. I’m thinking chimichangas would be nice, or maybe a Sonoran hot dog, or a place that serves both of those things, in one fusion dish. Then again, some of the breweries look pretty appealing too. It is going to be a hard decision for me.

A couple of other things. I had a great time talking with George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo (and many brilliant short stories and nonfiction pieces.) We had a really free ranging conversation — I think you’ll enjoy it. This interview is going to appear in an upcoming issue of Catamaran, the literary magazine that employs me as contributing editor, and I am also working on the staff of Catamaran to spin this into a podcast based on our phone talk.

I have a cough that won’t seem to go away — and I’ve had it for three weeks since exploring (unwisely?) the beautiful Yosemite National Park in winter with my family, an adventure that involved lots of snow shoeing, hushed meadows and some sloppy sledding. Hoping I can kick this ridiculous cough before Tucson happens. Drinking lots of ginger tea with honey, and trying to give up or at least postpone most of my bad habits in the meantime.

Thank you for your messages, by the way. To my surprise, I’m even getting some queries recently about The Cactus Eaters. Some of your questions are so specific. Forgive my foggy memory, if you can. I wrote that one a while ago, and now, when people ask me questions about it, all I can think of is my three-year adventure in New York City, where I wrote or rewrote most of it. (I took an early, initial stab at this book while holed away at the Capitola Book Cafe.) A lot of my fellow students, in the same program, would read installments of The Cactus Eaters in bars, in libraries, in cafes. In fact, sometimes their marked-up, commented-on drafts of my chapters would be returned to me with their pages curled from spilled beer and ketchup.  I always tried to leave these readers with some sort of cliffhanger in each installment. In some cases, I was trying to shock or provoke particular students, while making them laugh over their brews and their plates of garlic fries. It’s quite a thing to write a book in a sort of hothouse environment, and show it to a small group of friends and colleagues, workshoppers and family members and then, suddenly, see it released unto the wider world.

By the way, I always return emails about my books (unless they are really nasty. That happens every once in a long while, although most people have figured out that there are better and easier venues to vent their spleen.) Every once in a while, I will send a fan email to an author I admire, and it’s amazing, how rarely I hear back from them. Seems like bad form to me.

Anyway, thank you for reading this. I’ve been doing a lot of new writing. Who knows when I will bring it out? It’s kind of nice to horde things for a while. Take care, and stay warm out there.



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