Winter’s A-Comin’! Part I
After a whirlwind swing through the Bay Area last spring, thanks to the incomparable Lowry and Linda McFerrin (from Proforma and Left Coast Writers respectively), James J. Patterson and wife, poet, Rose Solari, were off to The Land of the Northern Pine for some needed R&R and to get back to work on various writing projects! But First…Read on!
But First, A Toast!
First off, a quick Hi, How Are Ya, to my new pals in Marin, Corte Madeira, Sonoma, San Francisco, Pleasantville, Mont Claire, and Oakland, CA!
Mont Claire is a sweet little burgh at the foot of what we call â€œBiggar Mountain,â€ where our hero and author of That Paris Year, Joanna Biggar, and her wise and benevolent husband, Doug Hale, live in a cozy little bungalow near the top of a hill overlooking The Bay. We did eight readings from my book, Bermuda Shorts, in 16 days with highlights being the Left coast Writer’s Salon at the Book Passage in Corte Madeira, and a couple of private readings for gatherings of book lovers in Sonoma and Oakland, plus a sports reading at the Double Play sports bar in SF. Whew!
Joanna Biggar joined me for a couple of those readings and we were able to share the fact that, where once I was her writing student, I am now part of the group that has published her marvelous memoir of attending the Sorbonne in Paris with four other young women in 1962-’63. If you haven’t had a chance to read That Paris Year, please do yourself the favor, it’s a genuine delight!
Linda (Dead Love) Watanabee McFerrin’s Left Coast Writer’s Salons each month at the Book Passage are a wonderful thing. The genius behind them is the good and all-inclusive energy Linda brings to each event. SO even if most patrons haven’t heard of an author, as in my case, still fifty or more souls are willing to show up on a Monday night trusting (Linda) that they will not be disappointed. I read from â€œThe Lovesick Lake,â€ â€œGordo, God, & Gandhi,â€ plus â€œThe Conjecture Chamber.â€ The crowd was alert, on it, and really involved. I finished reading, thanked them for coming, and as the applause died down and I was preparing to stroll over to the wine table and shake a few hands, Linda stood up and said, â€œMr. Patterson will now take your questions.â€
Can I let you in on a little secret? I had never taken Q & A before.
Sure, I’ve sat in on panels and other groupthinks where I could chime in with some pithy off-color remark when delightfully innapropriate, but not one-on-one with a strange audience of brainiacs in a far away place. Trust me, after 15 years on the road 200 nights a year in a comedy duet; I know how easily things can get out of hand.
Most of the patrons at the Book Passage are writers themselves, and the rest are ardent readers and supporters of the cause, keepers of the flame. Earnest, I would call them, very earnest. SO, I was dubious. But they were friendly and sincere and before I knew it we were having a lively discussion about the three forms of prose writing in my book, Bermuda Shorts. Specifically, these three writing forms are memoir, as in â€œThe Lovesick Lake,â€ creative non-fiction as in â€œThe Conjecture Chamber,â€ and pure fiction as in the story, â€œSomething Out of Nothing.â€ As I would discover during subsequent readings followed by questions from the audience, what seemed to confound listeners most was this notion of creative non-fiction and from that, underlying preconceptions or notions of what is true. That old saw compression briefly reared its ugly head, but I think we were able to get our heads around the notion that a reader has an innate sense about what â€œrings true.â€ In other words, how much does it matter if a described event happened on a Tuesday in March, or a Thursday in November as long as there is something inherently honest in the telling?
I was also not a little surprised to hear them gasp when I suggested to those who keep journals that they should â€œnever write down anything you don’t ever want anyone to read.â€ For me, the keeping of a journal, and I’ve been doing it for thirty years, is an exercise in the exploration in the shaping and forming of ideas, not for pouring out one’s poor emotional bleatings. I save that for drunken harangues with my friends and loved ones. Lucky them. But someday, a grown up son or daughter, a grandchild, an old and dear friend, or someone you may never meet, may stumble across what you’ve written. Keep them in mind when you write things down. They will be the last person in the world who may ever fall in love with you.
I finished with a little tough love; reminding them of something the best editor I’ve ever worked with (my wife, Rose Solari) once said to me:
â€œJust because it happened to you, doesn’t make it interesting.â€
At the house salons on this journey I was cajoled into bringing my guitar. I was accompanied by Lowry McFerrin on fiddle, who was such a pro and fit in so well, with songs he had never heard before, that folks couldn’t believe we hadn’t been playing together for a long time. Old Pheromone fans might be amused to hear that I am still able to blow through some old standards, â€œIt Ain’t Easy Being Green,â€ â€œGrace In the World,â€ and a post Pheromone song that Alvis Pheromone and I collaborated on by sending cassettes (remember them?) back and forth several years ago called, â€œShorelines.â€ We also worked up a re-interpretation of an old Dylan song, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” rendering it as a sardonic, rather dirgey redux that I think worked really well. At Lowry and Linda’s house, we got out our instruments in their big echoey kitchen after the reading and added another old â€˜Mones song, â€œGulf Coast Dawnâ€ to the list. I can still hear Lowry’s weeping violin weaving in and out of the melody. It was, for me, truly memorable. Thanks Lowry, let’s do it again sometime soon!
So we sold a bunch of books, made some friends and lots of memories. (At a reading in Haight-Ashbury, the staff at The Booksmith put down what they were doing to hear Joanna and I talk about writing and publishing and damn if the front of the store wasn’t robbed of a whole shelf of books in the meantime!) But it was great to be getting up night after night again after all these years and I thank everyone for letting me dust off the old chops one more time. Rose in particular was a real champ, and helped out in more ways than I can count. I never want to go anywhere or do anything without her. And now, with her new novel soon to go to press, I can return to my favored role as her roadie, and the adventure will continue.
So we got back from the Left Coast, caught our breath and then headed north to our secret hideout in the Canadian lake country. Rose thundered through the last few chapters of her new book, and I outlined 25 new stories for my next one, working title – my next book.
There’s great news and big things brewing with Alan Squire publishing! Rose’s new book is going to take your breath away, but I’m going to let her make the big initial announcement. There are new authors to release into the world, Alan Squire Publishing dot com is about to get a dynamic new facelift, and lots of great stuff to turn us all on! SO, watch this space for upcoming developements!
But for now, a quick look back and a warm and loving thank you to Linda, and Lowry, and brother Jarred, to Freddy and Stacey Ritzenberg, and one of my great hero’s and teachers, Alan Sonneman (The Mad Painter), and especially to Joanna Biggar and Doug Hale (who, mercifully, taught me how to get along with Californians!)
Love to all,