Winding up in Mississippi

PAPER SON, my sixteenth book and the twelfth in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series, will be out July 2. Mississippi, however, got a special dispensation to have books early, because I went down there last week to do a book tour. Cleveland — yes, Cleveland MS — Clarksdale, Greenwood, Jackson, and Oxford. Plus a podcast for the Mississippi Book Festival, where I’ll be on a panel Aug. 17, in case you’re in Mississippi and didn’t get sick of me last week.

For those of you not in Mississippi, I thought you might like a few photos. I posted some others on my Facebook page while I was there, and you can check them out even if you’re not on Facebook.

For those of you in Mississippi and not on my mailing list, or not on my mailing list and not in Mississippi, which I do believe covers everyone unless you ARE on my mailing list, you can sign up right here on the left of this page. I promise no more than a couple of newsletters a year, and you’ll get to hear from Lydia’s mom each time.

My buddy Eric’s porch, my Mississippi Delta home.

 

Twilight, Clarksdale.

 

Sunset over the Delta.

 

Greenwood sidewalk and don’t ask me.

 

I guess the message here is, Oxford is Oxford is Oxford.

 

Winding down in Wisconsin

Here I am at the end of another Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp. This is my sixth year as writer-in-residence here and I love this gig. The writers who come are serious and work hard; my fellow  staff members are a joy to be with; the caffeine flows freely; the food is plentiful; the place is beautiful. And in the evenings there’s beer, wine, and chocolate. What’s not to love?

 

View from my window

 

Lonely bull on the neighboring farm. His cows and calves have been moved to a pasture over the hill. He keeps bellowing for them. They’ll be back next week when the near pasture’s grown in again, but meanwhile he has no one for company but a big flock of geese and some heirloom chickens. (He’s a Belted Galloway, for those of you keeping score.)

 

The front of the property is a retirement home for goats and horses. Right now two aged goats and an old pony are in residence.

 

After this week’s weather more streams than usual are flowing on the 100 acre property. Some of the new ones are in what are usually paths. This one, however, is a real stream.

 

Abortion, choice, and the cold hand of government

I’ve said this before and I’m going to keep saying it as long as I have to. The terrifying thing about abortion bans like Alabama’s is not their manifest contempt for women. It’s what this can result in three or four steps down the road.

If a woman doesn’t have the right to decide to end her pregnancy, then she doesn’t have the right to decide to continue it, either.

These laws put that decision in the hands of the state. Right now we’re in an evangelical, life-begins-at-conception phase. No one can have an abortion; that’s what these laws purport to say. But they don’t say that. They say the state, not the woman, gets to decide. And what happens when our attitude shifts, as attitudes do?

Deformed fetuses. Fetuses that’ll grow into disabled adults. Fetuses genetic testing indicates will be diseased. Maybe we should abort them, whatever the woman carrying them thinks, to save everyone the heartbreak — and cost — of their short, unproductive lives.

The sixth pregnancy of an opioid-addicted woman already on welfare. Maybe we should abort it, whatever the woman carrying it thinks, because she clearly can’t look after the kids she’s got.

Muslims.

Blacks.

Jews.

“JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US!”

They sure won’t, if they don’t get born.

China did it for decades. Every woman who already had a child had to, by law, abort any further pregnancies. Can’t happen here?

Why not?

If the state gets to decide then the state gets to decide EITHER WAY. This is not about banning abortion, not about abortion per se at all.

This is about who gets to make the choice.

 

 

 

The Adventures of Bella the Cat

After the bustle of Edgar Week, hanging with friends, going to events, watching my buddies win awards (and sometimes lose, boo-hoo) it’s back to normal life, or what passes for it around here. This morning, Bella the Cat had to go to the vet.

Nothing’s wrong; it was just her yearly appointment, which was actually scheduled for two weeks ago. However, that day, my technique must have been unsubtle. She caught on to my attempts to stuff her in the carrier, pulled off a daring escape, and sequestered herself under the bed.

So I waited two weeks, during which the carrier was in the living room with a nice dirty towel and some catnip in it. I used a cat-distraction trick, scooped her up, and slipped her into the thing head-first. I got it zipped before she could turn around.

And what a yowling was heard throughout the land! She screamed her head off from the minute I finished zipping until I picked the thing up and slung it over my shoulder.

Then, suddenly, silence. Silence all the way on the 8-block walk to the vet. She peered intently out the front screen and sniffed. She was a feral kitten, was little Bella, and maybe she was getting memory cues of her youth. I don’t know; all I know is, last time we did this the yowling never stopped until she was face-to-face with the vet.

This time, not another peep, even during the exam. When the vet was done she climbed back into the carrier with no complaints, said nothing the whole way home, and contrary to expectations, she seems to have decided I did nothing today for which I need to be held accountable.

I love New York, and

I’m walking behind a young boy, maybe four years old, and his dad. They’re holding hands and talking in Spanish, about the parking place they found and something about Mama that I didn’t get. Then the kid says, “We need ta poo.”

Dad says, switching to English, too, “You just went before we left home.”

Kid: “We need ta poo.”

Dad: “Well, I don’t, so if you don’t, then we don’t.”

Kid: “We need ta poo!”

Dad: “Okay, no problem. We’re almost at the park and they have a potty there.”

Whereupon the kid stops, pulls on his dad’s hand, points to the stuffed bear the little girl ahead on the sidewalk is carrying, and says, slowly and loudly because adults can be so dim-witted, what he’s been saying all along: “WINNIE! THE! POOH!”

I love New York.

I love New York so much I made a 2019 calendar. Get yours now while there’s a discount!

SJ Rozan 2019 Calendar

All the photos except one were taken in New York. Extra points if you spot that one.(Hint: this isn’t it.)

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers fighting against gun violence, against concentration camps for children, against climate change. To fathers not in the fight: look at your children, and ask yourselves how they’ll feel about the world you’re leaving them.

I Love New York

In NYC, when you’re doing a construction job, you post a copy of the Building Department-approved façade drawing. One of my neighbors did, and another neighbor seems to have found it boring, and thus enhanced it. I love New York.

Anthony Bourdain, RIP

Anthony Bourdain’s Twitter bio is one word: “Enthusiast.”

photo by David Scott Holloway

Many, many times I’ve found myself wishing I were living another life instead of the one I have. If you asked me, though, of all the actual people I knew or knew about, whose life would I want, there are few. At the top of that short list was Anthony Bourdain. His love of adventure, food, culture, people, and his access to them all, made me acutely conscious, as I watched “No Reservations” and later “Parts Unknown,” that I was sitting on my couch in my living room while he was Out There.

I don’t know what happened. But typically, he handled it his way, went out on his own terms. I’m so, so sorry it came to that. And I’m grateful he was here.

In his spirit I offer this week’s Food-friendly events from Eating in Translation.

Bourdain said, “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.” So let’s get out and move!

The Pizza’s Purse; or, What Exactly Do You Do at Bookcamp?

I’m out in Wisconsin (except for you people also in Wisconsin, who can read that as ‘I’m here in Wisconsin’) as the Writer in Residence at the Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp. Kind of like bootcamp for books. This is my fifth year in this gig, and I love it. Some photos herewith; but it’s not the beauty of the place that’s mostly responsible for how I feel about coming here. Though the place is beautiful. It’s a retreat center west of West Bend, in the eastern part of the state. You don’t need to know that, I just got a kick out of saying it.

This is farm country, and right now everything’s green and lush. A farm bordering the property on the west has the biggest cattle I’ve ever seen, a breed known as Belted Galloways. I’ve been told, by the way, that cattle like it when they’re sung to; I’m going to try it tomorrow and woe be unto thee who told me that if it turns out not to be true. This property is gently rolling, with a pond, lots of lilacs in bloom, trees, woods, streams, plus a chapel, comfy reading spaces, and a labyrinth to walk if you get the urge. The rooms have beds, chairs, desks, bathrooms with showers, and that’s it. No TV, no room service — in fact, no maid service. Your room’s made up when you get here, and after that it’s up to you. No fancy stuff. A dining hall for your three hots, a couple of classrooms. There’s also a spa where you can get a massage and suchlike but I’ve never seen anyone use it. Maybe when other stuff is going on, but Bookcamp week, everyone comes to work.

And that’s why I love this gig. We have breakfast together, the “campers” and the “retreaters” and the staff. Then the retreaters go off and write, and the campers come to class, where Phil Martin and I teach Beginnings, Middles, Ends, and Whateverthehellelseyouwanttoaskus. Lunch, more writing, critique sessions, talks by outside experts. We have a number of returning students, which is great, and people go from “I want to write a book… I think…” to “I’m a writer working on a book” and that’s what I love most. People taking themselves and their writing seriously. It’s what I love most about Art Workshop International in Assisi, too (for which, plug plug, there’s still time to sign up this year) but if you feel Italy’s a bridge too far and you want to do a workshop in the US, next year here would be my recommendation.

Oh, that pizza. At lunch yesterday we were for some reason discussing pizza at my table — not clear why, because we weren’t eating pizza — and a couple of people started advocating for pineapple on pizza. I was strongly in the opposition camp. Someone said I was looking at it wrong. The pizza, she said, is the crust and cheese and tomato sauce and ham. The pineapple is like an accessory, the one that makes the outfit.

“You mean, like a bracelet?” I asked skeptically.

“No, more like a purse. A really great purse. The pineapple is the pizza’s Prada purse.”

Which would be why I love writers.

Chapel wall

Pond

Water lilies just starting to bloom

Stream

Giant cattle far away

 

 

 

Where I stand

“These aren’t people. They’re animals.”
Trail of Tears.
“These aren’t people. They’re animals.”
Auschwitz.
“These aren’t people. They’re animals.”
Cambodia.
“These aren’t people. They’re animals.”
Rwanda.

If this is what my country has come to, I stand with the animals.