Thursday, March 24, 2011

BOOK LUST interview with Nancy Pearl now live online and airing locally

Renown librarian and author Nancy Pearl interview with Brenda on BOOK LUST

WATCH online or on Seattle Channel 21 3.24-28

Nancy Pearl's far-ranging and insightful interview focuses not only on my new memoir, but also on all of my work, including the New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," Duck and Cover, Becoming the Enemy, my creative non-fiction books, such as Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals, and my new Young Adult novel-in-progress.

As every reader, who hasn't been living under a rock for the past decade knows, Nancy Pearl is the Uber-librarian, named by Library Journal as "Librarian of the Year for 2011." Well-deserved praise:

ljx110101webPearl1(Original Import)
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images


Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images
"No one other than Nancy Pearl has so convinced Americans that libraries, books, and reading are critical to our communities. Her passionate advocacy has done that nationwide for thousands of individual readers and library workers in the trenches at the local level. She has spread book lust via broadcasts to the nation on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and from local radio and TV outlets and through her blog posts and tweets."

Nancy has done for all readers what J.K. Rowling did for children -- engaged and delighted and directed us to rediscover the life-saving magic of books. In Pearl's own introduction to her bestselling Book Lust, she writes:

"I spent most of my childhood and early adolescence at the public library. The librarians at the Parkman Branch Library found me books that revealed worlds beyond what I saw and experienced every day. . . I was transported when I read them."

In our interview, Nancy and I talk about how books enriched our childhoods and were hand-held portals to other worlds we could explore with the power of imagination. She cites Space Cadet as a childhood influence she read while eating her lunch under the table at the library. I credit Wrinkle in Time as my early inspiration.

I confess I was a little nervous about this televised interview, preferring the acoustic intimacy of NPR interviews. 

Writers are usually most comfortable in our studios, not in public. As one of my author friends quips, "I have the perfect face for radio!"

We writers are introverts, not used to the glare of television lights, the camera angles, the stillness of sitting, trying to keep our hands from flying around as they do at the keyboard.

When I do radio interviews I can hook up my headset and pace around my apartment in my bathrobe, gesticulating to the cats, my only visible audience. There is the illusion that it is just a friendly phone chat and that thousands are not really listening in.

But the camera is the EYE of the public and there is no escape. So I was scrambling to find the perfect interview outfit -- "authorial but not stodgy, comfortable but not uncool."

The minute Nancy engaged me with her generous curiosity, I felt completely relaxed and heard. Not just seen by a camera, but understood by an Ideal Reader who invites authors to talk about how it really is to write books, to live them, and to courageously birth them into the world. A world that may or may not welcome them. 

Somehow it doesn't matter, because Nancy Pearl is reading your book. All seems right with the writer's world.

Now, when I write I can imagine Nancy Pearl reading along with me -- encouraging, completely "getting it," and most of all asking the ultimate question every writer longs to hear: "What happens next?" or "What did you really mean?"

One of the great pleasures for me in interviews that are not reduced to sound bites, is being able to thank those who have championed and guided my work. In this interview, I tell stories about my mentors, including my first writing teacher, the novelist Diane Johnson, whose many novels include Le Divorce, Le Mariage, and the most recent, Lulu in Marrakech

Diane took me under her capable wings when I was 18 at the University of California, Davis, and she is still inspiring me with her writing and her criticism. Here's a link to her latest New York Review of books essay:

Then there is the late Fiction Editor at The New Yorker magazine, Rachel Mackenzie, to whom all of my work is, in a way, dedicated. In 1978, she discovered and edited my first novel, River of Light. I write about meeting her when I worked at The New Yorker in the new memoir and her influence still runs deep. Here is an author photo of Rachel from her ground-breaking book on heart surgery Risk:

Continuing in my "Let Us Now Praise Famous Women" mode, I could never have written this new memoir without the mentoring of my beloved literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann, to whom the book is dedicated. She and her husband, Steve Schwartz, gave me sanctuary in their New York City apartment when I began the East Coast book tour and Sarah Jane even accompanied me on the L.A. and San Francisco lags of the tour. I cannot imagine a better guide in the wilderness of writing.

Sarah Jane Freymann (top), Jessica Shinsheimer, Katherine Sands, and Steve Schwarts
Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

Sarah Jane, along with my esteemed and clear-sighted DaCapo editor, Merloyd Lawrence, who published my new memoir under her own imprint, were the guiding lights of I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth. Even though I'm at work on a novel now, I still write Merloyd several times a week, seeking her counsel, her wisdom, her wit. And I hope we can work together again on another book.

I wish I could return to Sarah Jane and Merloyd Lawrence a universe of financial and literary rewards for all they offered my writing -- at least here I can tell stories about them that might help other authors and readers.

I hope you enjoy the Book Lust interview and share it with other readers and friends. And thanks again to Nancy Pearl who gave me the opportunity to talk about writing as if my life depended upon it. Which it does!

P.S. For those of you who are local, here is the Seattle Channel schedule:

Book Lust with Nancy Pearl featuring Brenda Peterson
Brenda Peterson, whose newest book is I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth, discusses how her childhood upbringing has influenced her novels and memoirs.
Upcoming Broadcast Times:
  Friday, March 25, 2011 2:30 a.m.
  Friday, March 25, 2011 4:30 p.m.
  Friday, March 25, 2011 8:30 p.m.
  Saturday, March 26, 2011 12:00 a.m.
  Saturday, March 26, 2011 1:00 p.m.
  Saturday, March 26, 2011 8:00 p.m.
  Sunday, March 27, 2011 4:30 a.m.
  Sunday, March 27, 2011 10:30 p.m.
  Monday, March 28, 2011 1:00 a.m.

Past Broadcasts:
  Thursday, March 24, 2011 10:30 p.m.
Book Lust with Nancy Pearl featuring Brenda Peterson
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Confessions of an APPLEholic: From Addiction to Sobriety

Dear Readers, Here is my continuing series on the tsunami and its effect on all our lives, even a world away. They predict a plume of radiation from the nuclear reactors will hit California today. As Chief Sealth, the Squamish Indian elder from whom Seattle takes its name, said: "All things are connected."

Wave of Destruction

Photograph by Mainichi Shimbun, Reuters
A tsunami wave crashes over a street in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture, in northeastern Japan on March 11.
Published March 15, 201

NASA satellite imagery 

Confessions of an APPLEholic: From Addiction to Sobriety

The day the tsunami struck Japan, Apple launched its tsunami-seller, the iPad2. My calendar for 3.11.11 -- the date of the massive 9.0 earthquake -- was steady:
1. Write
2. Teach
3. 5 p.m.: Stand in line for iPad2
When the first iPad was unleashed, like Harry Potter's magical wand, but for adults -- I stood in line for three hours to buy the shiny portal for my parents. The hype around the iPad2 this spring is almost unbearable. And, like a true APPLEaholic, I was driven by "the hunger." After all, it was Eve who first ate that apple promising the Tree of Knowledge.
I count myself among the disciples to Steve Job's elegant technology, his sleek, design style born of his calligraphy training, his artistry and eloquence that make Microsoft geeks look like dunderheads -- or worse, drones. Self-employed, I'd endured decades of Microsoft's disdainful tech support.
Now I'm a slave to the pampering of Apple Care; I'm drunk at the Genius Bar where I can cozy up to an amiable expert as we confess our astonishment at all things Apple. The continuing education of Apple classes calls me like a church service or revival meeting.
In fact, as my Apple addiction grew I embraced the iPhone, graced my writing desk with a stylish iMac, and streamed Apple TV. That's why I found myself standing in an endless line of other devotees for the first iPad. A magical creation that changes the world, according to Apple ads. Kind of like a tsunami.
Is there any cosmic coincidence that the iPad2 hit the world the same date as a tsunami? Watching the heartbreaking images of cities falling, whole towns swept out to sea, and people standing in lines desperately searching for their loved ones, I felt suddenly very sober. Amidst such a disaster, how could I go mindlessly stand in line for something that doesn't even work long without electricity? Like Japan.
All those bright, shiny lights blink out. Tall Tokyo buildings eclipsed by a quaking earth. An island world drowning. And the real, awesome power is not technology but water. Long before the discovery of electricity, the ancients understood that water equals power. This equation predated our hydro-electric dams. What happens to power when we mistake it for our own creation and forget the water source from which we borrow, upon which we run our technologies? What happens when our 10-hour batteries die and our smart phones black out?
These thoughts swirled as I watched the tsunami overwhelm Japan. While Japan collapsed into chaos and nuclear reactors exploded, I watched the radioactive rise of sales for Apple's iPad2. Stores nationwide sold out. Now the lines form at ungodly hours as we addicts wait for the hope of a "blind shipment" that may or may not bring us the iPad2.
Like all the newly sober, I self-righteously judged all those APPLEaholics craving their next technological hit. The ridiculously manipulative iPad2 launch (or dribble) with no pre-orders and handy pick-up in stores, consumers strung-out in daily lines - all this caused me to Doubt my faith in Apple. Like all doubt or detox, I began to look within.
Even with the world upside down, why did I and minions still lust after iPad2? Perhaps it's as familiar as a need to escape into an alternate universe because our own world is so unstable. We could fall into the earth's cracks, drown in a tsunami, be swept up in some revolution, or lose our pensions in a collapsing economy. Why not the quick getaway of a magic universe we can hold in our hands? Click. Control. Multi-task.
It took a tsunami to trigger in me this technology sobriety. I find myself wondering: What within us is illuminated when we only light up a screen, a hand-held device, and not our own souls? What do we leave behind when we escape into alternate realities that have nothing to do with the nature upon which our lives depend?
I've just heard a rumor from another APPLEaholic. This techno-wizard says the shortage of iPad2s is due to the lack of a crucial electronic part -- made in Japan. So perhaps there is an eerie connection between this tsunami and the Apple iPad2.
"We have to wait for Japanese factories to rebuild," he says, "and meanwhile, there'll be a worldwide rationing of iPad2s."
Now, when I feel the urge to call my Apple store and ask if they have received another shipment of iPad2 and hear the familiar, "Sold out, don't know when in stock. Just come and stand in line again, starting at 5 a.m." - I slam down the phone.
I remind myself that Lao Tzu says truly wise people are "the light that does not shine." That there is nothing artificial or falsely bright about true power, just as there is a world of difference between neon and starlight. Even if I can see the constellation patterns on my iPad when I hold it up to the heavens.
I tell myself I am in recovery. Like technology-driven Japan. I call my tech-support sponsor and we exchange the tried-and-true oral formulas that all add up to this: You have enough. Our resources are limited -- like the iPad2s. Don't eat the Apple!
Brenda Peterson is the author of 16 books, including the recent memoir I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth, which The Christian Science Monitor named among the "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books of2010.