Oct 26, 2009


It WAS a dark and stormy night. But I’m not going to say that.

It was a Chicago night in late October. The cold rain made the roads slick and slowed everyone down. It was getting dark around five-thirty already and the menacing clouds made the sky even darker.

We were on a mission. The destination: the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. The tools we had: a 1989 Dodge Caravan with a broken transmission. The countown: 57 minutes and counting. We were determined to see Sherman Alexie.

Sherman Alexie, one of our great Native American writers, has a remarkable biography. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation near Spokane, Washington. Learned to read by age three and had read The Grapes of Wrath by age five. He received a PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction for his collection of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, published in 1993. Since then, he’s been writing brilliant works of both fiction and nonfiction, inspiring Native Americans and the rest of us to work for our dreams. To not be afraid to dream.

"If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing." — Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

"Imagination is the politics of dreams; imagination turns every word into a bottle rocket. . . . Imagine every day is Independence Day and save us from traveling the river changed; save us from hitchhiking the long road home. Imagine an escape. Imagine that your own shadow on the wall is a perfect door. Imagine a song stronger than penicillin. Imagine a spring with water that mends broken bones. Imagine a drum which wraps itself around your heart. Imagine a story that puts wood in the fireplace." — Sherman Alexie (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven)

So now you understand why we would fight traffic to get downtown during rush hour. As anyone who lives in Chicago knows, getting from A to B can be quite an adventure. Having a car sometimes makes the travel easier. Sometimes not.

David picked me up from work at five sharp and we hit the road. Traffic was crawling along slowly, but the reading and interview didn’t begin until six so I thought we had plenty of time.
It took us almost an hour to get downtown and onto Michigan avenue, where we sat in traffic for ten minutes before turning off to find a parking lot. We found parking fairly easy for $10. It was six o’clock so we walked fast, huddling until my big clear umbrella.

The Harold Washington Library is huge and beautiful. We found the doors and made our way to where it looked like people were collecting. We were then told that the room was filled to capacity and they weren’t letting anyone else in to see Sherman Alexie.

Heartbroken, we wondered what to do. The “man in charge” told us that we could come back in an hour for the book signing. So we decided to get a cheap meal at the Dairy Queen and come back. Sometimes there’s nothing like greasy fries and soft serve ice cream to mend the heart.

We walked back to the library, chilled and damp by the time we reached our destination. We wandered a bit, trying to find the exclusive room. We followed the flow of traffic going in the opposite direction and found ourselves in a large, theater-like auditorium. I was amazed that this room had been filled to capacity. I spotted several groups of teenagers and students. We stood in a weaving line, leading up to the front where Sherman Alexie was sitting at a small table. We could see him smiling and taking pictures with his fans.

Apparently, everyone had been given a ticket with a number on it so that you had to get in line in numerical order. It took us about fifteen confusing minutes to figure this out. We didn’t have a number because we hadn’t been able to get in. We were accosted by librarians for not standing in the right order and I was afraid that they might call security. Worried that we were making a scene, I was about to abort the mission. David held fast though and, overhearing our predicament, a teenager gave us his number.

When we finally reached the front, I shook Mr. Alexie’s hand and told him what a pleasure it was to meet him. He was charming and funny even after a recorded hour-long interview and signing books for half an hour. We told him our story and he said he was sorry we were “outted.” He then wrote, “Sorry you were outted” and his signature in my copy of Reservation Blues.

I walked away on clouds. I had just met and spoken with a man of greatness. Maybe some of it rubbed off on me.

Oct 17, 2009

Literary Update

Tis the beginning of the holiday season and winter is already nipping at our noses. I wanted to take a moment to share some wonderful news with you.

The first official reading of Cast the First Stone was a brilliant success. Thanks to all of you that were able to come. (You can read all about it here.) The next event may be at The Book Cellar in November. Details will be announced as soon as they are finalized.

On my ever active blog on Open Salon, I interviewed author J. Adams Oaks, blogged about the idea of Princess Leia being a feminist icon, and wrote a humorous post about my experience with H1N1 as a pharmacy tech. I was interviewed about my take on feminism here. CTFS was reviewed by Ashley’s Bookshelf and by Open Salon’s Stim. (A huge thank you to both of them!)

Very soon I expect to be downshifting from promoting CTFS to finding an agent/publisher for my second book, Invisible Elephants. I have almost completed the second rewrite and I believe will to ready to send out by February. This is a very nervous-racking process for me, so I will definitely appreciate all of the emotional support I can get.

As the holiday season approaches, don’t forget to check out the CTFS shop and the DeRosaArt shop. There are some wonderful gift ideas there.

Thank you again for all of your support. I couldn’t do this without you.

Oct 8, 2009

Princess Leia, Feminist Icon?

As I’ve alluded to in earlier posts, I didn’t have many female role models while I was growing up. Feminism was a bad word in our home. Women were expected to be supportive to their husbands, good mothers, and take care of the home. Wives were told by God to obey their husbands. My dad was most definitely the head of the household. To him, feminism was a weapon of the devil to destroy families and marriages. This was actually a common view among American Christians in the 1980’s.

“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” -- Pat Robertson

(Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Can you imagine anyone saying that? Out loud? The whole sentence is absurd.)

My father was very strict about what kind of secular influences we were exposed to, but he loved science fiction. Star Wars: A New Hope was the first movie I remember watching. I was in awe of the visuals of outer space, the music that stirred my sense of adventure, and the lead heroine, an intelligent, passionate, and courageous woman, who didn’t take orders from anyone.

When I saw Princess Leia’s courage in the face of Darth Vader, I was in awe. Every single time I watched it, which was about once a year. I identified with this woman who was struggling for freedom in an oppressive environment. She stood up to her father (obviously, she didn’t know Vader was her father, but still…) and refused to betray her beliefs. She wasn’t afraid of anything. Princess Leia wasn’t the normal damsel in distress. She wasn’t just a beautiful woman. She had tenacity and grit. At the climax of the movie, I was a little disappointed that she stayed behind while the men went out in their fighters to destroy the Death Star. I vowed to never be the one to stay behind. I wanted to be right in the middle of the action.

I was one of the nerds that went to see all three original films when they came out in the theater again in the 90’s. I was one of the nerds that was crushed by Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It didn’t have the same raw energy, the wonderful characters, and the sense of awe that the original three films contained.

Later, I learned more about Carrie Fisher, the woman who has had to live in the shadow of her most famous role. Carrie Fisher is bipolar and—for those of you who aren’t familiar with this mental condition (I don’t like calling it an illness)—being bipolar is a very difficult challenge to overcome. I describe it as being emotionally acute. Being bipolar is a daily struggle and it makes relationships even more difficult to maintain. Her marriage with her soul mate, Paul Simon, ended after several years and her second husband (with whom she had a daughter) left her and came out of the closet.

Carrie Fisher never gave up though. In the years since her iconic performance as Princess Leia, she wrote several best-selling books, fiction and nonfiction, and has had cameo roles in film and TV. Carrie Fisher has a brilliant sense of humor and received an Emmy nomination for her cameo in the second season of 30 Rock. Currently, she is performing in the one-woman Broadway show Wishful Drinking, which is based on her best selling novel.*

I know that for many, Princess Leia is a sex symbol. The unattainable and perfect woman. For me, Princess Leia is my feminist icon. She was my first (and pretty much only) female role model for feminism until Lois Lane. (Yes, I realize that they’re both fictional characters.) In a male-dominated universe, she stood out as a force to be reckoned with. Tough, smart, and outspoken, she typified everything that I wanted to be.