I’d like to change the world. Our world needs to be changed. How about you?
I love flowers. Especially roses, orchids, and hydrangeas. Amongst my favorite flowers I favor certain colors–white orchids and hydrangeas, and roses in all colors except red. Which is strange because I love red. Of roses, I prefer palest pink and sunset orange.
Last week I asked my husband to buy roses. We don’t enjoy fresh flowers in our home nearly often enough. I can’t remember which day my husband bought the roses. I think it was Tuesday. The day of the election. That seems about right.
The twelve roses were red. I didn’t want red roses. I was looking forward to roses in palest pink. My husband claims the store only had red roses. I’m not sure I believe him. I think he messed up and he didn’t want trouble.
I don’t know why a dozen roses is right now making me think of the twelve apostles. And Jesus. Jesus discredited. Scorned. Betrayed. Crucified. I think it’s nothing to do with the roses.
I haven’t hurt this hard in a long time. Not since three years ago when I lost four family members over eleven months. I feel too deeply. I’ve always been that way. It’s a gift and a curse. These nights when I can’t sleep, when my heart is racing, when I struggle to breathe, I swear I can feel the fear and the pain of all those millions of others the nation over who are also hurting right now and it’s almost too much to bear.
So much coming at us. What to believe? What to do? My heart beating out a message like morse code, cutting through everything else. Spread love. Stand up to hate. Open the hearts that have closed like a steel gauntlet. I don’t feel strong. Or together. I feel worn down and coming apart. So I’ll have to start slow and tiny. But I will begin and I will persist. As an adult, I’ve always tried to be kind. But I’ve never been kind on a mission. Until now. I’m going to do good, every chance I get, every way I can.
Over this past week, the roses dried, and darkened, and withered. Just as I was throwing them into the compost, I noticed not all the flowers had bowed their heads to death. Who’s to say why these six outlived the other half dozen? How they turned ever more beautiful in their decay? Beautiful and noble. Or is that just me? Maybe I’m seeing in them what I want to see in myself. In each and every one of us.
I’ve lived in San Francisco for over twenty years and I’ve never been to Los Gatos! That will be fixed this Friday when I travel to the 2016 Los Gatos – Listowel Writers’ Festival.
I’m giving a free talk at the Los Gatos Library on Sat., Oct. 8 at 2 pm on my love of reading and why we should all be at it (kinda the same re sex for us adults, I suppose).
On Sun. at 10 am at Village House of Books, I’m reading FOR THE FIRST TIME from a galley of The Weight of Him (also free).
I’m taking Claire McGowan’s crime workshop on Sunday afternoon because I LOVE mysteries and I think it’s about time I wrote one. Crime workshop details here:
I’m excited. I’m nervous. About all of it. If you can, PLEASE JOIN ME. There will be more wine.
The heart and soul of Irish culture comes to the Bay Area with the debut of the Los Gatos-Listowel Writers’ Week. Listowel is not only the sister city of Los Gatos, but also home to one of Ireland’s most established, influential and internationally acclaimed literary festivals. The inaugural US program—featuring over 15 Irish writers and poets traveling from Ireland to join their local counterparts—will consist of over 40 events designed to bring together writers and audiences in the historic town of Los Gatos over the course of four days and nights, October 6-9, 2016.
Irish writers participating include Mike McCormack, shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book of the Year; Hugo Hamilton, Irish-German author and award-winning playwright; and women crime writers Louise Phillips, Niamh O’Connor and Claire McGowan. The four-day event includes a year-end tribute to Ireland’s uprising of 1916; tributes to Dermot Healy, Flann O’Brien and Lucia Joyce, and readings from local Irish writers Emer Martin and Ethel Rohan. With more than 30 invited writers—and even a politician or two—everyone is invited to join this lively contingent for the first annual literary festival.
October 6-9, 2016; program and tickets available at writersweeklosgatos.com
“We are very proud to showcase Ireland’s top contemporary literature and welcome our local writing community to our very first annual Los Gatos Listowel festival,” says Festival Co-Founder and Director, Catherine Barry.
In addition to the authors, journalists, poets and others who will participate in the festival, Los Gatos Mayor Barbara Spector, Irish Consul General Phillip Grant, and Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts & Heritage, Irish Parliament, 2011-2014 and co-founder of Los Gatos Listowel Writers’ Week will also be in attendance to foster community and welcome audiences.
The exciting array of events will feature poets, novelists, short story essayists, artists, filmmakers and playwrights who will read, teach, discuss and perform. Adding education and fun to the children’s program, there will be free Irish dancing classes and youth poetry workshops.
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland has sent a message of support which includes, “Perhaps now, more than ever before, do we need this power of words and thought to help us re-integrate ourselves, our culture, our forms of life.”
Some Festival Highlights:
• Mike McCormack, short-listed for Irish Book of the Year 2016 and winner of the Rooney Prize for Literature for his recent novel Solar Bones.
• Hugo Hamilton, award-winning novelist, and Order of Merit by Germany recipient for The Speckled People, his unique memoir on growing up in a German-Irish family in Ireland.
• Irish Women Crime Writers, Louise Phillips, Niamh O’Connor and Claire McGowan join a panel reading and discussing the new wave of young Irish women crime writers .
• Opening night introduces the “Pat O’Laughlin Contribution to Literature” award, named for former trial attorney, passionate writer, and mayor of Los Gatos who passed away in 2008 .
• Rose Doyle, Dublin writer and journalist, whose new book Heroes of Jadotville is the story of Irish soldiers in the Congo. A film version of this story will be released by Netflix in the Fall .
• Rich Moran, President of Menlo College and credited as creator of “Business Bullet” books.
• Jane Clarke, a multi-award winning poet who won the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award.
• Frank Shouldice, investigative journalist and playwright whose book Grandpa The Sniper about his grandfather’s role in the 1916 rebellion has received accolades in Ireland this year .
• James Walsh, former San Jose State University history professor on Irish-American Senator James Phelan and the story of Villa Montalvo .
• The Farrell Brothers of Tile Media present their docudrama on the 1916 Easter Rising , and discuss their collected “Stories of 1916.”
• Joseph McBride, author and professor of Cinema at SF State, explores the blend of comedy and tragedy in the films of John Ford, including Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, written in Los Gatos . Joseph also reads from his recent book, The Broken Places: A Memoir.
• Erica Goss, 2013-16 Poet Laureate of Los Gatos conducts Youth Poetry workshop.
• Emer Martin, artist and author launches new children’s book and exhibits new paintings.
• Ethel Rohan, Irish-born, San Francisco based short story writer and author of the upcoming novel The Weight of Him.
• Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, Tramp Press founders support Ireland’s literary talent in traditional and new ways.
• Matthew Spangler, Playwright, Director and Professor of San Jose State University.
• Cara Black, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 14 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series joins Irish crime writer Louise Phillips along with a detective from Ireland and one from the San Francisco Police Department.
• David Brundage: Professor of History at UC Santa Cruz .
• Local historian Peggy Conaway, along with former mayor Sandy Decker, and “Lost Gatos” app developer, Alan Feinberg .
• Special art exhibit at Gallery 24, featuring Irish artists Bridget Ryan and Emer Martin.
Speaking about the festival, co-founder Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts & Heritage, Irish Parliament from 2011 through 2014 notes, “This has huge potential going forward. This festival has a stellar lineup and it makes sense to celebrate the greatness of Irish literature in a town twinned with Listowel where the internationally acclaimed Writers’ Week is held annually.”
Complete schedule can be found here: writersweeklosgatos.com
Twitter: @lglistowel, #irishwriterslosgatos; #losgatoslistowel
Visit us on Facebook
What: Los Gatos – Listowel Writer’s Week
When: October 6-9, 2016
Where: The Los Gatos Library, Friends of the Library, Hotel Los Gatos, Village House of Books, NUMU, C.B. Hannegan’s, Adult and Youth Recreation Centers, Town Hall Chambers, Gallery 24, Los Gatos Lodge
About Los Gatos-Listowel Writer’s Week
The festival was founded by Dubliner Catherine Barry of local non-profit Irish Culture Bay Area, and Listowel’s Jimmy Deenihan, Irish Parliament Minister 2011-2014. “Folks might be surprised to learn what contemporary Ireland has to offer. As we bring our great literary brand to a California town rich with cultural appreciation, we believe this festival will grow to become a signature Bay Area event. The support and encouragement of the community is already making this a reality,” says Barry.
LGLWF is a project of non-profit organization, Irish Culture Bay Area, a community events website presenting a comprehensive guide to Irish culture around the Bay Area.
St. Martin’s Press are giving away 30 galley copies of my first novel, The Weight of Him, on Goodreads. The novel publishes on February 14, 2017. That seems like a long way away. It is and it isn’t.
‘Valentine’s Day?’ someone said. ‘Is that a funny date for your book to come out?’ No, it’s not. It’s perfect. It’s the day out of 365 days marked for love. Much of my novel is about the great need for self-love.
Go take your chances at winning a copy of The Weight of Him here. Go love yourself, too.
I just had my author photo taken for my novel. I have an irrational almost-fear/total discomfort with the camera. I carry my tension and anxiety in my jaw and in photos my mouth looks weird and my expression looks stern.
The photos were taken at home, which helped, and those taken in my kitchen seemed at-a-glance to be the best. I love to cook and entertain so maybe that has something to do with why I seem the most at ease and like myself in those photos. I think, though, it has more to do with what I was thinking about during those particular photos. I was thinking about how I dedicated my first novel to my dad. Not just my dad. I dedicated the book to Nathaniel J. Bergman which was the pen name my dad (Ned McDonnell) dreamed up for the books he would someday write.
My dad never did write those books. He never wrote much of anything. While he lay dying, I promised him I would finish the novel I was working on, I would make it the best I could, and I would dedicate it to him and his dream. I told him, I’ll do it for both of us.
I am thrilled and grateful to have won the inaugural Joe Plumeri Fellowship for my forthcoming first novel, The Weight of Him. The fellowship is in memory of Joe Plumeri’s son, Christian, and is awarded to writers pursuing a book project at the broad intersection of food and health, either a work of fiction or creative nonfiction.
The fellowship – a writing residency for the month of June, 2016 – carries a stipend of $5,000. The Wellstone Center is surrounded by a grove of redwoods and four stunning acres, a few miles from the Pacific Ocean and near Santa Cruz, California. I will spend June in the Zen Suite with a balcony overlooking forests and mountains and, in the distance, Monterey Bay.
At Wellstone, I will complete the final edits on my first novel, The Weight of Him, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press on February 14, 2017. Set in a contemporary Irish village, The Weight of Him tells the story of Billy Brennan. At four hundred pounds, Billy can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food’s colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. How it comforts, pleasure and sates. Makes him feel like a giant. Makes everything better.
At least food did all that until the day Billy’s beloved son Michael takes his own life. In the wake of his son’s tragic death, Billy determines to make a difference and to stop suicide. But it is only when Billy confronts the truth of his suffering–pain and grief that go back long before his son’s death–that he, his family and the lives of countless others will be truly changed.
My novel fits the Joe Plumeri Fellowship because it is not only about the intersection of food and health, it is also a story about family, fatherhood, loss, addiction, body issues, the rejection of the self, and more. Ultimately, The Weight of Him is a call for self-love. I believe in the healing and transformative power of telling our stories. I believe we can make a difference, word by word.