Family Reconnects After 61 Years

Nancy Bartley’s Article in the Seattle Times 4/29/12 (He’s a ‘nobody’ no longer) struck a chord. Though his commitment was in 1951, the same period when my parents were on the staff of the Sonoma State Home, so many of the details were familar.

Jerry Wooliver was a little boy in high-top baby shoes when he was taken from his mother and siblings and sent to a state institution. He never saw his family again, but for 61 years they lived on in hazy memories.

60 Minutes did a story in 2009 (A Dark Chapter in Medical History) about the commitment of Mark Dal Molin to the Sonoma State Hospital in 1961. So often these actions were taken for the best of intentions, but the toll on the families was harsh, and for some there was terrible guilt. Mr. Dal Molin felt his wife and daughters were being consumed by Mark’s care, but they were shocked by his action. The family split as a result. One of the most poignant things I saw there was a small carousel another family donated to the institution, with a brass plaque on the neck of the white horse reserving it for their son.

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Book Launched! Passage of the Kissing People is a Go!

The book launch party for my novel 74th Street Productions threw 4/25 was beyond my wildest dreams. I hoped for 50 people to show up at Razzi’s Pizza(high fives to them). They gave us their newly renovated basement, and we needed every inch of it. It was a dismal night, rain blowing sideways, and a major road construction project in the street out front, but at 7:00 people started pouring in.

We had over 120 people there, packed elbow to elbow, even out in the hallway, all there for a tale of love, betrayal and family language. I tried something new for me, a slide show with a few sound effects. I got the idea from Mary Gleysteen, long time ace bookseller at. When I was working on Naked at the PodiumI interviewed her for the section on bookstore presentations, and asked her for her thoughts. She said, “I wish novelists could do a slide show, or something with some visual aspect.” So I did. As the book is set in 2 eras, 1953 and 1997 I used slides and sounds to indicate the change in the eras–an old Western Electric phone vs a Motorola SmarTec cell, with the sound of the ring tones was one.

Another new thing, I asked everyone there who had a blog, a Facebook page, or Twitter account to post something about the book and the event. I have no idea how social media really works, but I’m trying to plunge into it. Looking out over that crowd convinced me that no man on earth goes better friended than I.


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Book Launch Tonight

Tonight is the launch party for my novel Passage of the Kissing People. (More info about the book, including the first chapter, is available elsewhere on this web site.) Family language played a huge role in the development of the story, because it is based on my family history, and particularly the years 1952-53 when we were beginning to create our own family language. My sister and I were 5 and 7 then, that age where you pick up words at school or from books or movies and try to fit them into your world. For years I told stories about that time and place (and the Sonoma Vallley and the Sonoma State Home were places that made an imprint on a kid’s mind) but with this book I was able to find a way to use those stories in a larger cause. My wife always told me to make the book non-fiction, because it is so much easier to sell than fiction, but I didn’t have a narrative thread. That had to come from the fiction side of my brain. I’ve been steaming around with my hair on fire trying to get everything ready. Now there’s nothing left but the Big Show. Further bulletins will be issued as developments warrant.

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Eat Your Words

The Seattle Edible Book Festival was held last Saturday, March 30. Contestants entered food with literary motifs. Why this endeavor turns so easily to puns I will leave to the reader’s judgement, but rest assured, it does. From The Seattle Times:

Saturday’s annual Seattle Edible Book Festival was a pun-lover’s potluck, in which competitors were asked to represent a favorite book through food. Hence, entries included “Anne of Green Bagels” and a “Communist Can of Pesto.” “Challah-ver’s Twist” featured a golden-brown loaf of challah accompanied by a speech bubble that read, “Please, sir. I want some more.” A large russet potato wielding an asparagus staff and a crown made of a red pepper lorded over a plate of French fries in “Lord of the Fries.”

I cannot resist a well turned pun. Growing up in a family that played with words at the dinner table, I was warped from an early age. Childhood jokes and puns from those dinner-times long ago helped to set certain patterns in my head about what is funny. The informal, spontaneous games families play together form a part of the ritual glue that holds them together.

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Silly Movie Summaries

My favorite entry in Paul de Barros’ silly movie summaries (Seattle Times March 25 2012) was the very last:

Summary: A blank email, except for a subject line that said “The Artist” (a silent film). Film: “The Artist” — Helen Rodgers

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