For Lovers of Books + Writing

Even if Leah and I had not been friends since the world was young, I would still want you to know about the amazing resource she has created with her writing partner, Caroline. The Mandala Writers Circle started a few years ago as a blog with book reviews and writing encouragements. They have just launched an ambitious and impressive – and gorgeous! – reimagining of the site. And everyone I’ve encountered here in WordPressVille would enjoy and profit from a visit to the new-and-improved Mandala Writers Circle. It can’t be described; you must experience it. So why are you still here? Go!

Here’s a screenshot of (and a clickable link to) the MWC Home page. Click around. Kick the tires. Click on the Blog link at the top to scroll through recent posts. I think you’re almost certain to find a review of a book you didn’t know you needed to read. Or an exploration of writing challenges and successes. Take a peak behind the curtain to see how these two do it, and others as well.



It’s nice when someone else does all the work for your good and interesting blog post! 😉

The End (so far)



[071] Traveler’s Bookcase

It was the last day of my friend Lisë’s visit to Los Angeles.

“I’m at Natalie’s store. Can you come meet us?” (They had met on a foodie/bookie press junket to Trinidad.)

Sure. She texted the navigational info:

Traveler’s Bookcase. 8375 West Third Street.
Betw Kings / Orlando. Parking in rear.

I was there in 15 minutes. And we spent the next hour chatting with the delightful Natalie Compagno, owner of this wonderful bookstore, and her colleague Victoria (who seems to be able to put her hands on any title in the store without a moment’s hesitation).

travelersbookcase.logoIf you love to travel… or love to read about adventures in far-flung locales… or learn about the cuisines of different cultures… or you need a nice gift for a reader… or party favors for your book club… or a globe (and if you don’t have a globe, you need a globe)… or all sorts of reading paraphernalia… or maybe you enjoy the occasional evening-with-the-author… or you want to send a card that isn’t sold in every other card-selling-venue… or you’re just in the neighborhood (close by Beverly Center) and you are craving 15 minutes of soothing book-bound peace and quiet… then Traveler’s Bookcase is a destination you need to discover!

I was recalling my love of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, and suddenly Natalie was putting a volume in my hands. Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr. The author is the great-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher, and I quickly scanned the dust jacket notes:

Provence1970Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, six iconic culinary figures, including Julia Child, James Beard, and M.F.K. Fisher, found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate and talked late into the night about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery…

Sold. And added to the queue on my nightstand, along with Armistead Maupin’s final novel in the Tales of the City series, The Days of Anna Madrigal – which I cannot bring myself to begin because I’m not ready for the whole Tales saga to end!… Two books by my greener-than-thou friend Fritzie von Jessen: I Killed A Penguin, An Ecological Memoir and Tough Plants In A Fragile Land: Saving Our Planet, One Garden At A Time… and News From Outer Space, a slim volume of poetry by another bizarrely talented friend, Christina Quinn. Pretty soon, I’m going to need a bigger nightstand.

Small, independent bookstores are gems in the urban landscape. Each one an improbable oasis, a place to slow down, maybe sit down, and hold something in your hand that will not blink, ring, vibrate or beep at you. Books, after all, are natural teleportation devices. They take us out of our landscapes, out of our heads, out of our ordinary everyday routines. They take us someplace… else. And travel bookstores take us everywhere else!

So here’s to the happy collision I had yesterday with Traveler’s Bookcase and Natalie. If you’re in LA, treat yourself to lunch or a snack at Joan’s On Third or Magnolia Bakery, and then meander over to this awesome bookstore. You’ll be hooked, too.

Day 071 #100happydays

[041] The Art of the Interview

Last month, I wrote about a terrific evening at the LA Central Library with Armistead Maupin, author of the Tales of the City novels. This morning, I started clicking around the internets and lucked upon an interview with A.M. whilst in Days of AM.coverLondon on the book tour for the last of the Tales series: The Days of Anna Madrigal.

I have to say, this is the most satisfying interview with A.M. that I’ve ever read, heard or seen. Christopher Bryant – editor of Polari Magazine – honored the author, and the audience, with a warm appreciation of and familiarity with Maupin’s creation: the characters, settings, stories and the 40-year sweep of history that is the backdrop to these Tales. All the while avoiding the temptation to make the conversation self-referential, in any way. If you’re ever tempted to interview an author, a quick review of Mr Bryant’s insightful methods and style will serve you well.

And I’m so glad to have discovered Polari Magazine, whose mission is “Exploring art & culture from a uniquely queer Polar-magazine-300x143perspective”. (I give it 500 bonus points, right off the bat, just for using the word queer instead of the clinical and ubiquitous lgbt. I know, I know. It’s inclusive and that’s important, but… God save the queens from being boiled in that alphabet soup!)

So, here’s the link to Christopher Bryant’s brilliant Polari interview with Armistead Maupin. Enjoy! 

And while you’re Chris.PansyDivision.Polarithere, look around. You never know what you’ll find. Ferinstance… Just as I was about to click on to the next bright, shiny object… something caught my eye over in the Polari sidebar. Oh look! – there’s Chris Freeman from Pansy Division. Chris is now a-rockin’ and a-rollin’ in LA with my friend Gizmo (née Brian Welch) in bands paying tribute to the GO-GOs (the Gay-Gays) and AC/DC (GayC/DC). When I saw Polari spotlighting Pansy Division as part of LGBT History Month, I almost broke a nail forwarding the link on to Gizmo for Chris. We queers can be mean. 🙂  To quote Martha Bach, the scary old matriarch in the film Arthur: Don’t fuck with us. We’re ruthless people! (And yes, I’m talking to you, GOP.)