Friday, May 31, 2013

Mining Words from Local Authors

Louisville Public Library

951 Spruce Street
Louisville, Colorado

Sunday June 2nd and June 23rd
1:30 - 4:30pm

Do you have an interest in publishing a book? Want to support our talented local authors? Meet Colorado residents who have recently published their books. The authors will have an opportunity to share their tales of writing, publishing their books, or share the stories that led them to becoming authors. The featured books will be available for purchase from the authors.

Authors for June 2nd
Janet Fogg, Fogg in the Cockpit and Soliloquy
Shannon Baker, Tainted Mountain
Drusilla Tieben, Discover the Life You Want to Live
Richard Evans, Alaskan Dawn
William Martino, Spirit Touch the Masteries in Meditation
Karen Leh, Dream of an Inland Sea

Authors for June 23rd
Tim Catalano, Running the Edge: Discover Secrets to Better Running and a Better Life
Howie C. Wolf, M.D., I Really Didn't Want to Become a Doctor
Dr. Debby Hamilton, Preventing Autism & ADHD: Controlling Risk
Factors Before, During, and After Pregnancy
Daniel Rirdan, The Blueprint: Averting the Global Collapse
Leanette Tarpley, The Changing: An Extraterrestrial Encounter
Donna Remmert, The Littlest Big Kid, The Jitterbug Girl, and Head Over Heels

Please join us!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I started traveling long before I began writing about ethnic foods.  I've been lucky to have flown to many countries around the world.  80% of my trip memories are of delicious and occasionally not-so-laudable cuisines.

In Asia:

Beijing had the most exotic food I’ve ever eaten—scorpions. But the scariest was their black tofu, maybe processed with lead. But they also have the most amazing tourist sites: The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Hutong, where a whole neighborhood shares one outhouse and the soup is boiled over sidewalks--their kitchens.

The best vegetarian offerings were in Taipei, Taiwan like mung bean milkshakes, fried stinky tofu with pickled cabbage, and durian that was NOT stinky. It’s also the most polite and considerate city I’ve ever visited; ask strangers how to get to Taipei 101, where there’s a food court to die for, and they’ll walk you there.

The best shellfish?  Step aside wine mussels in Nice and garlic mayo-doused mussels in Paris. It's the grilled foot-long prawns in Singapore. By the way, Singapore feels like the safest place on earth, but no gum allowed, and the island is so small, there isn’t much to do besides eat—which I suppose is not all bad.

Best snails were stir-fried in a little fishing town in China, near Hangzhou, but I had to first get over walking through the restaurant’s door and maneuvering around a sweaty man beating a three-foot-long fish to death.

Best dumplings were in Shanghai, made with special crab; it seemed likely that the chefs had to suck at the shell to get the small amount of meat out of the palm-sized crustaceans. It’s a specialty of a multi-story restaurant. The farther up you go, the cheaper the menu. Fine with me, my legs are strong.

The best spare rib soup is in Wuhan. The city suffers hot monsoons, but it’s only half a day from the Three Gorges Dam, convenient for me because I was able to study the dam for a screenplay I was writing with Janet Fogg (AKA Folio).  The script is set beside those giant controversial turbines.

In the West:

Venice had the best pasta—gnocchi. It’s also the most relaxing and romantic city I’ve ever visited.

The best snack was the conch fritters in St. Thomas—but also the least welcoming locals.

The best sauces and worst steaks were in Paris as well as the most aloof servers (I lived there and spoke French, but still!). Paris has an endless list of things to do, more than any city I’ve explored. I don’t judge the French by the Parisians; those in the countryside are very friendly and know a thing or two about food also.

Milan had the best appetizer I’ve ever eaten—stuffed squash blossoms. But Milan also has my least favorite shopping since I have little interest in fashion or spending that kind of money.

Germans had the cleanest hotels with the most welcoming, gracious and efficient staff. But they also served up my overall least favorite meals. I don’t like dark beer or endless sausages and kraut. The only memorable thing I ate was a liver meatball soup, which I promptly made once I returned home.

The best fish I've had was poached bass in Cannes. They also have the best film festival but I’ve never been there at that time of the year, though I'd love to go there with one of my screenplays someday!

French fries are best in Belgium, doused in one of a dozen flavors of homemade mayo, a habit I still have. The barges are worth the money, but you may question yourself if you pay to climb their giant molecule.

Switzerland had awesome fried beef fondue with homemade mayo. Mayo is sounding like a theme, isn't it?

Like a trite traveler, in London I favored the amazing Indian food. Austria, Wiener schnitzel.

Mazatlan had the best tortilla soup with generous chunks of avocado. But before you get to the restaurant, you must buy many little boxes of Chiclets from the sad little kids along the sidewalk.

The best gelato was in Rome, but I didn’t like having to pay more for it if I sat down rather than take it to go. Gelato is not my all time favorite dessert. My favorites are here in my own back yard. Best cake, a tie between the chef’s special order cheese cake at the Lake Valley Golf Course and Whole Foods’ flourless chocolate decadence cake.

Now that I’ve flown back to the U.S. with my list, the best fruit falling off the trees were in Maui--guavas. But I couldn’t live on an island so small with little to do beyond hiking, beaching, and eating icky Loco Moco (rice, hamburger, egg, blopped with gravy).

I’m sure I’m forgetting many wonderful foods from my travels but I’m hungry and have to go plan dinner.

What are your favorite travel foods?  Please tell the Inkster.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Nits About Restaurants and What I Love in a Restaurant

Right now, with an agent interested in selling my cookbook, Cooking in Leaves, I have food on the brain.  I don't always want to cook; I love eating out.  There are certain things that turn me off about some restaurants, though.  And there are things that make a restaurant one to return to.  Here's my list.  I'd love to hear yours.

My Restaurant Nits
**No reservations allowed
**Food I can make better
**Overcooked seared tuna
**Places closed between lunch hour and dinner
**Servers who kneel at the table
**Servers who push courses too fast
**Long, awkward waits for service or courses
**Expensive dishes that try but fail to be stacked art
**Tough or tasteless steak
**Sweet sauces on my meat
**Fusion of dissimilar cuisines for the sake of unique
**Ice tea from a soda dispenser
**Sticky tables
**Trendy food, like throwing a fried egg on everything
**Too cold
**Too dark to read the menu
**Fancy names for simple foods
**Desserts and appetizers that cost more than the main dish
**Barbeque sauce cooked onto my meat (I'd like to offer a shout-out here.  I’m from K.C. Missouri, and Rib House is the only place I’ve found in the Denver metro area that does it right…offering choices of BBQ sauce to later put—or not put--over pit-cooked ribs)

 What I Love in a Restaurant:
 **Ethnic restaurants as authentic as street food.  
**Hole-in-the-walls with dependable food and owners that get to know you.
**If casual seafood, paper towels on the tables and wood floors with shell discards.
**Free samples of wine.
**Ethnic faces in ethnic restaurants.
**Clean and elegant bathrooms.
**Exotic, unctuous offerings like innards (a wimpy companion will have to stomach it).
**Small portion offerings with reasonable prices so I can try several things.
**Food I’ve never had--unless it’s dog, rat, cat, or human.   
**My tacky indulgence—all-you-can-eat steamed crab (straight up, no butter).
**If casual, electrical outlets with internet enabled outside of peak hours.  It may be a chain but they welcome surfers and writers like me.
**Abundant lemon wedges for my tea.
**Would love but never get—passion fruit.
**Both olive oil and butter on the table for bread.
**Every kind of sweetener on the table from raw sugar and stevia to saccharine and Splenda, honey... offerings for all tastes.

What bugs you?
What do you think makes for a great restaurant? 
-- your food obsessed Inkpot

Monday, May 20, 2013


My story Easy was performed Thursday by Stories on Stage at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. I was thrilled they chose my flash fiction story as one of the pieces to be read. Stories on Stage had Alison Watrous and Cajardo Lindsey, two amazing actors, perform a dozen stories of love disasters. Each flash tale evoked strong response from the crowd: gasps, sighs and laughter. With wooden floors, exposed brick, and sparse contemporary exhibits, the restored old warehouse surprisingly provided just the right acoustics.

It was a good crowd, despite their warning that the beautiful sunny evening might keep some away. I was flanked by two great friends, Julie Kaewert and Yvonne Iden. At the end I had the pleasure of talking with other writers like Page Lambert and Gail Storey, Abbe Stutsman (Stories on Stage executive Director), museum personnel, and the actors.

When Mr. Lindsey asked me how I felt about the way he’d read my piece. I told him that he’d done it exactly as I’d heard it in my head --- a very high compliment. What a night! What a program.  Thanks to the BMoCA and Stories on Stage (, which allows you to live others’ lives briefly so you can bring that richness into your own.

----  Inky

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spin, or no spin? (How many books have you written?)

There are no silly questions, right? Well, maybe a few. Such as, “How much do you weigh?” Or, “Are you going to eat that?” But when I consider questions a writer is asked by folks who don’t understand how long it takes to write a book, edit a book, sell a book (hopefully), market a book, and then start all over again, my head spins around รก la Linda Blair. (Don’t worry, that typically only happens when I’m alone and sitting in front of my monitor.)

Anyway, should we really be totally honest when responding to questions such as, “How many books have you written?” Or, “Is this your first?”

It has to be confusing if I say, “I’ve written five or maybe it’s six if you count the entire overhaul of my third, when I completely changed the genre but if you throw in partials, it might be nine or ten, anyway, I finished writing my first book over twenty years ago, and at some point before I finally sold my third manuscript, I realized how poorly written the first and second ones were, even though I love those stories and characters and back then thought one of them, or both (!) might be a best seller as for the next, well, you do know about my second book, it came out in 2011 and I’m trying to get an editor or agent interested in a novel I co-wrote two years ago, but so far no luck in the meantime I’m pubbing a collection of five short stories, and that ebook should be out in a few months then I’m going to focus on the SF manuscript that’s nearly 50% complete or maybe another non-fiction I have two of those started wait, I have to change what I said earlier about how many I’ve written, I forgot to count those plus I do have three screenplays I co-wrote do they count and I also have a cool YA screenplay that I’d like to get back to, but I’m a fairly slow writer, so it might be a while.”


There goes my head. Around and around she goes.

Instead of being completely honest, is it fair to simply offer a smile, along with a business card? Perhaps accompanied by, “Publishing is a terribly slow process, but I do have a small collection of short stories coming out soon.”

Then again, perhaps I should learn to embrace the spin cycle!

~ Folio

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brazen versus Narcissistic Writing

Upon hearing that her controversial genital art would be denied an audience, CU Student, Clarissa Peppers said, “I don’t feel that, as an artist, I’m responsible for the reaction of the viewers.”  The writer/editor in me cringed.  Have we gone that far down Narcissism Road that we creative types can essentially say, “bite me” to our audiences?
Well, of course we can—first amendment and all.  But are we now so self absorbed that we care nothing for those who we are supposed to be addressing if not entertaining?  What was Clarissa’s haughty defiance all about?  Was she thumbing her nose at the free market that simply wasn’t interested in studying her sculpted vaginas?  Or was she pushing against virtually nonexistent 21st century boundaries?  Like a self absorbed child testing limits, maybe she was throwing all her p.c. energy into a temper tantrum—hey I’m here!  It’s me!  Don’t look away!  Pay attention to me!  Me me me!
Some popular writers do it, too.  Self conscious prose, show-off dialogue, unnaturally manufactured plots, social messages that slap us in the face. Some are so cocky in their communication they insult.  We’ve become a nation of narcissists. And authors aren’t immune to the effects. 
When it comes to writing, it’s hard to determine the line between grandiosity and healthy rebellion.  We writers have historically been recognized as drivers of new ideas, even if a little off-tilt.  Brazen writing stands out.  Sometimes it is extremely visceral.  The Happy Hooker by Xaviara Hollander, is tell-all sexually explicit, meant to shock--especially the scene with the dog.  Some are violently brazen like Hugh Howey’s I, Zombie which comes with a warning: “This book contains foul language and fouler descriptions of life as a zombie. It will offend most anyone, so proceed with caution or not at all.” Even children’s books like Captain Underpants capitalize on crude.  One might call such books brash, impudent, shameless.  But why not call them bold?
I’m reading Gone Girl and can’t help but feel riveted, even though it seems audacious, chichi, and smug.  Gillian Flynn’s style is self-important, her characters smart ass.  They manage to scorn and insult.  BUT what Gone Girl doesn’t do is disregard the reader.  In fact, I think it may be its unexpected defiance that holds my attention. 

”The woman was… beyond the scope of everyday ugly: tiny round eyes set tight as buttons, a long twist of a nose, skin spackled with tiny bumps, long lank hair the color of a dust bunny.  I have an affinity for ugly women.  I was raised by a trio of women who were hard on the eyes…”

Normally this wouldn’t be a character with whom I’d want to take a 400-page journey.  In fact, I’ve set popular, lyrical books down because of shameless characters, like Ha Jin’s tacit approval of adultery, Waiting. I’m not a prude, but I also want my heroes to have some scruples, at the very least redemption after they hurt others. 
Gone Girl is different.  It stomps over taboos, but it has brilliance about it, a brilliance I haven’t encountered since Tinkers, by Paul Harding.  His is another one that is brazen in its own way.  We float along with nice enough characters, but they aren’t memorable.  What makes Tinkers genius is Harding’s willingness to boldly defy the rules we learn in craft books. His poetic voice is a rebellion but not an insult. 
I believe, unlike Ms. Peppers, Harding and Flynn do care about the reaction of their audiences.  They are brazen but they are generous to their readers.  When I teach narrative voice I emphasize courageous writing.  I suggest writers be unabashed but that they not belittle their readers.  I think we have a responsibility to our audiences. 
Do you?     
---from the Inkpot