I’ve been tagged in the #WIPBlogTour

It’s so nice to be able to accept my invitation to join the #WIPBlogTour from my writer friend Jane Rosenberg LaForge (@JaneRLaForge), author of An Unsuitable Princess. Most invitations ask so much more of me, like the invitations to send money to UCLA, where I did time some years back, or the invitations to buy my child a 16-week tutoring session at 10 percent off thousands of dollars. (If I act now.)

I do have a few works in progress, though I think of progress in a very Zen way, as in it’s sort of happening but also requires that I just close my eyes seriously for a lengthy amount of time, and try to focus on nothing at all. It’s really helpful to be Zen about it instead of metaphorically hitting your head against the wall (or actually doing so).
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’ve completed my third novel, *Your Actual Life May Vary, at long last (and several times, too). It’s a darkly comic look at suburbia, at finding the perfect community here in the Golden State, one that’s homey and welcoming and familiar, even though no one you actually know lives there. My characters encounter eerie theme parks, toxins, big-box stores, some ugly California history, child stealing, and new communities built on land that basically tends to give way. I like to think of it as Little Children meets Little Miss Sunshine, with a neon moment or two of The Simpsons thrown in. *Your Actual Life May Vary is in search of its forever home with an independent publisher, after having repelled a ridiculously large number of NY editors, but (I like to think) in a really good way.

Next up: The Girl in the ’67 Beetle returns me to the lighter, funnier, no-head-injuries-required days of my first two novels (Life a la Mode and Latte Lessons), and follows a writer/illustrator charged with updating Goldilocks for the next generation while facing a choice-of-three situation of her own: you know, one person of interest is too old, one is too young, and one is “just right.” But just right isn’t necessarily what the new Goldilocks wants right now. Because basically, who needs another silly Goldilocks story? No one, unless this Goldi’s working on the something serious like the Goldilocks Planet paradigm: the search for an ideal planet identical to ours, one that’s just right. And maybe a Nobel or two. It’s Geek Goldi, and it’s about time.

After that I’m going to work on Gesundheit, a novel about a hapless allergist who discovers a cure for allergies but finds himself up against drug companies large and small, and an ex medical partner/wife, who doesn’t want him to succeed. He’ll also become the new guru of the West, or at least of Berkeley, where his practice is. A guru for the sneezy and runny-eyed. No co-pay required.

I’m happy to nominate three more writers to blog their works in progress at #WIPBlogTour: Jill Yesko, @Jillyesko, author of the gritty-grimy Baltimore-set Murder in the Dog Park and God Spelled Backward; Rich Klin, @RIJAKL, author of Something to Say: Thoughts on Art and Politics in America (with photographs by Lily Prince); and @RickMumma, whose latest novel, Fire Answers Fire, is a sharp mystery available for your e-reader.

Wanderlust 2014: My blogpost for Prana.com.

Wanderlust 2014: A Festival for All of Your Senses

By Linda Lenhoff

     The word for this year’s Wanderlust Festival? Thunderous. If you were there, you know what I mean, given the roar of applause after classes, speakers and performers; and of course, the roar of the skies. So yes, on the first day, Thursday, I got caught in a huge downpour accompanied by thunder, lightning, and doughnut-hole-size hail, which actually hurts a little in a way that I suspect regular doughnut holes wouldn’t, were they to land all over your shoulders.

Downpour 2

But it was Wanderlust: It was all part of the magic. From hiding in a clothing-seller’s booth to being directed to take shelter under the parking garage, because the weather report called for lightning (Get out now! we were commanded from an official-looking guy running through hail), to dodging the rainstorm as I ran (with many others) to take cover in my car, it was all fun, magical, invigorating. And there was a rainbow, as you might expect.
     Also thunderous, in case you missed it, was Garth Stevenson on the stand-up double bass. Look him up on You-Tube and iTunes. Stevenson played in the little pavilion just out front of Starbucks, and treated us to his innovative music, including a three-part song that reinvented the singing of whales. A composer and film scorer, Stevenson had taken his 150-year-old double-bass to Antarctica to create music for a film. On his website (garthstevenson.com), Stevenson discusses how he reinterpreted the music of whales: “I spent a few weeks prior to the trip learning to adapt whale calls on my bass by playing along with Roger [Payne]’s Songs of the Humpback Whales, recording the same way I used to play along with jazz albums. One evening, in the middle of a four-day open sea crossing between South Georgia and Antarctica, I gave a concert at sunset on the bow of our ship. I was improvising and creating layers with my loop pedal then started imitating Garth Stevensonwhale calls on the bass. A few minutes later twelve sei whales came and swam next to our vessel!”

     The piece also imagined the sound of a large iceberg, and it was mesmerizing, as were the two or three other works he played for us. Stevenson also led hikes and classes with his double bass, which you have to catch if the opportunity arises at next year’s Wanderlust. Check out his album, Flying. Critics compare his sound to Brian Eno, Sigur Rós, and David Sylvian. I was a little surprised that he didn’t have CDs to sell us, only a little sign we could take a picture of to remember the title, but the sublime music was one of the highlights of the fest for me, and for the others who sat or stood or danced, taking in some very cool sounds. Let’s hope for thoroughly sunny skies next year, so we can all go along on one of his hikes and hear the double bass high in the mountains.
     And just a repeat mention from last year, but if you haven’t tried a So Delicious chocolate-covered nondairy ice-cream bar, I beg you again to do so. Try to enjoy it slowly because it’s really something and deserves your complete attention, and I should say, meditation.
     Speaking of, the meditation classes were wild and varied this year. I got to attend the Gong Meditation, and I was pretty nervous about this. What exactly would we be asked to do, and how large a gong are we talking about? Large enough to work wonders, it turns out. It seems the gong blocks out your thinking, your dwelling on your problems, your monkey thoughts, your nagging to-do list. Our instructor, Gurushabd, said we had to work to get to the gong part of the meditation, and he took us through about 40 minutes of meditative exercises, including one that was semi-aerobic, involving fast arm movements repeated and repeated and repeated (something like 11 minutes’ worth), till you got your rhythm (and really tired arms, just as you’d think). Following this he showed us a meditation that involved sitting normally, legs crossed, placing your left palm down on your leg and covering that hand with your right. It blocks thoughts and lets you meditate. It really honestly does. I can’t explain it, but I’m delighted to know about it. But go for the gong. If you see the class next year, it’s worth any amount of arm exercising to get to the gong part, I promise.
     Maybe the hardest part of Wanderlust (besides dodging those hail balls, although there’s kind of a rhythm to that, too) is appreciating it all. As Molly Dahl told us in her meditation class: Slow Down. You’ve heard it before (and know you need to hear it again, often). Slow down, establish a meditative practice every day. To do this, she advised you take that time when you’re waiting in line at the store. You know you get impatient, and you know that’s your time to breathe, deeply. We all know this. We just don’t all do this. So the next time you’re at [pick one: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Best Buy, the USPS] really do it. Catch yourself at the end of the day, and breathe the day in, Dahl says. When you see the traffic signal turn red, Dahl says, rejoice having the chance to stop. Tell your brain it’s a good thing, and breathe.

Quiet Place

      Because it’s your day. It’s your festival, sudden thunder strikes and all. How great to be in Squaw Valley, breathing in the mountain air, listening to the enveloping sounds of the double bass, eating ice cream and kefir and those fake gluten-free chicken strips (really tasty). I’m sorry if you missed it, but there’s always next year, and the other Wanderlust festivals around the country. The festivities don’t end with the setting sun, but I’ll let you discover nighttime Wanderlust yourself. I’m not sure if what happens at Wanderlust stays at Wanderlust, but I hope not, as I need to put on some of the double bass whale songs, since I’m not likely to find a gong easily on iTunes. Or can I?