Thursday, July 30, 2015

Notes For July 30th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On July 30th, 1818, the legendary English writer
Emily Brontë was born in West Yorkshire, England. Her sisters Charlotte (author of the classic novel Jane Eyre) and Anne were also poets and novelists. Her brother Patrick Branwell Brontë was a poet and painter.

Their father was a poor Irish clergyman, but he did have an impressive collection of classic literature.
Emily and her siblings educated themselves by reading all of his books. As children, they created imaginary worlds and filled notebooks with stories about them.

Emily attended Miss Patchett's Ladies Academy at Law Hill School near Halifax, then later, a private school in Brussels.
When her sister Charlotte discovered her own talent as a poet, they decided to collaborate on a book of poetry, along with sister Anne.

Due to the prejudice against women writers in the Victorian era, the Brontë sisters, like other female authors, published their poetry under male pseudonyms. Emily took the name Ellis Bell, Charlotte became Currer Bell, and Anne's nom de guerre was Acton Bell.

Their first book, published in 1846, was titled
Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The following year, Emily Brontë published her classic novel, Wuthering Heights, as Ellis Bell.

Originally published in two volumes, (Anne Brontë later wrote a third volume
called Agnes Grey) Wuthering Heights is considered one of the greatest Gothic novels of all time.

It told the unforgettable story of the intensely passionate, yet ultimately doomed love affair between childhood sweethearts Heathcliff and Catherine, soul mates who are ultimately separated by cruelty and snobbery, their unresolved emotions threatening to destroy them.

When it was first published, Wuthering Heights received mixed reviews due to its stark and brutal depictions of mental and physical cruelty. It has since been recognized as one of the all-time classics of English literature.

Unfortunately, Emily Brontë would never write another novel. After her brother died of tuberculosis, Emily contracted the disease herself, a result of a cold she caught during his funeral. She died in December of 1848, at the age of thirty. Her sister Anne died of tuberculosis the following year.

After Emily Brontë's death, her sister Charlotte edited her two volumes of Wuthering Heights into a standalone novel, and republished it under Emily's real name. Charlotte also died young of tuberculosis, or so her death certificate stated.

Some biographers have claimed that she actually died from either typhus or dehydration, as well as malnutrition from excessive vomiting brought on by severe morning sickness.

Although Emily Brontë's life was tragically cut short, her literary legacy lives on. Wuthering Heights continues to inspire readers to this day, and has been adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television.

Quote Of The Day

"Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves." - Emily Brontë

Vanguard Vide

Today's video features a complete reading of Emily Brontë's classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Notes For July 29th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On July 29th, 1965, the famous Korean-American writer Chang-Rae Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea. When he was three years old, Lee's father moved the family to the United States so he could finish his training and become a psychiatrist. The family moved first to Pittsburgh, then to New York.

As a young Korean-American boy, Chang-Rae Lee struggled to learn English. His parents only spoke to him and his older sister Eunei in Korean, so they could learn to speak English without a Korean accent. In his mind, Chang-Rae found himself trapped between two very different languages.

He didn't speak at all when he entered kindergarten, but by the time he was ten years old, he had become fluent in both languages and served as a translator for his mother, who had even more difficulty learning English.

Chang-Rae Lee's experiences as the son of Korean immigrants would shape his future writing career. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, an exclusive East Coast prep school, then went to Yale. Instead of following the path of most children of Korean immigrants and study medicine or law, Lee majored in English. During college, he began writing fiction.

After graduating, he became an equities analyst for
Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, a Wall Street investment bank, while writing part-time. He found his job unfulfilling, so, taking a cue from his old friend and prep school roommate, novelist Brooks Hansen, he quit to become a writer.

Lee's unpublished early novel,
Agnew Belittlehead, won him a scholarship and entrance to the creative writing program at the University of Oregon. After graduating in 1993, he was hired as an assistant writing professor by the University. That same year, he married his wife, Michelle Branca. She bore him two daughters.

In 1995, Chang-Rae Lee's first novel, Native Speaker, was published. In Lee's offbeat tale, Henry Park is a young Korean-American man who suffers from identity issues, alienation, and an inability to grieve for his seven-year-old son, who was accidentally killed by his white playmates in a freak mishap. The novel opens with Park's wife, who is also white, leaving him.

In an intriguing twist, Henry Park works as an operative for a shadowy detective agency whose clients hire it to dig up dirt on people. His psychological problems begin to affect his job, so he seeks therapy. Henry suffers from alienation because he was unable to fit in with either his parents' Korean culture or mainstream American culture.

As he struggles to find himself, he asks his employers for a second chance and is assigned to infiltrate the campaign of John Kwang, a popular Korean-American politician and candidate for mayor of New York City - a task made difficult by the fact that Kwang reminds Henry of his father.

Native Speaker earned Chang-Rae Lee both the prestigious PEN / Hemingway Award and the distinction of being the first Korean-American novelist ever published by a major American press. His second novel, A Gesture Life, also dealt with identity and immigrant issues.

The novel, which won Lee the Asian American Literary Award, told the story of Doc Hata, a Korean who served in the Japanese Army during World War II. As a child, he had been adopted by a wealthy Japanese couple.

While serving as a soldier, Hata meets and falls in love with a Korean woman, who, like over 200,000 others, was forced to become a "comfort woman" for Japanese soldiers.
After the war, Hata moves to America. A successful businessman, he fits in with his neighbors, but he is unable to connect emotionally with anyone.

He suffers from an identity crisis and is always at odds with his rebellious, mixed-race adopted daughter, Sunny. He adopted her when she was seven. Now a pregnant teenager, Hata forces her to have an abortion, hoping to save her from the failure that his life has become.

Lee's fourth novel, The Surrendered, published in 2010, a gut wrenching antiwar novel, follows three war ravaged characters.

June Han is a young girl who loses her family during the Korean War. Hector Brennan is the psychologically damaged American soldier who brought June to an orphanage, and Sylvie Tanner, the wife of the orphanage's minster, as a young girl witnessed the murder of her parents at the hands of Japanese soldiers in Manchuria.

Chang-Rae Lee's most recent novel, On Such a Full Sea, was published in January of this year. It's a work of dystopic, post apocalyptic science fiction set in a future America where there are only two classes of people: the extremely rich ruling class and the extremely poor working class.

With China so polluted that it's become uninhabitable, a large population of Chinese refugees now lives in America, where, like other working class people, they reside in formerly abandoned cities which have been turned into self-contained labor colonies.

The main character is Fan, a petite young Chinese woman who, like other other members of her class, works to produce food for the elite. She's a fish tank diver. When her boyfriend disappears, Fan embarks on a surreal, philosophical, and poetic quest to find him.

Chang-Rae Lee still teaches creative writing.

Quote Of The Day

"The truth, finally, is who can tell it." - Chang-Rae Lee

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Chang-Rae Lee discussing his latest novel, On Such a Full Sea. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Notes For July 28th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On July 28th, 1932, the famous American children's book writer Natalie Babbitt was born. She was born Natalie Zane in Dayton, Ohio, but the family moved around frequently. Growing up during the Great Depression, Natalie enjoyed reading fairy tales, folklore, and books about mythology.

When she discovered an illustrated copy of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Natalie determined to become a children's book illustrator when she grew up.

Her mother, an amateur landscape and portrait painter, encouraged her. She gave Natalie art lessons and made sure she always had enough paper, colored pencils, and paints.

Natalie Babbitt studied art at the Laurel School for Girls in Cleveland and at Smith College. After graduation, she married Samuel Babbitt and bore him three children. She spent the next ten years as a stay-at-home mom.

When her husband became the president of Kirkland College in New York, she performed all the duties of a college president's wife, including attending various functions.

In the late 1960s, Natalie and her husband collaborated on a children's book called The Forty-Ninth Magician. Samuel wrote the story and Natalie drew the illustrations. The book, published in 1966, was successful.

Unfortunately, Samuel's work left him little time to write, so further books were out of the question. Natalie's sister asked her to illustrate a comic novel she'd written, but that panned out due to her constant rewrites, which required Natalie to keep drawing new pictures.

Frustrated, Natalie Babbitt decided to write her own books. Her first solo effort, Dick Foote and the Shark, was published in 1967. With her enchanting fairy tales, she made a name for herself as one of the best children's writers of all time.

She also has a gift for humor and satire. In 1974, Natalie published The Devil's Storybook, a collection of humorous Saki-esque short stories featuring the Devil as the main character.

The Devil's Storybook has nothing to do with religion. Instead, it presents the Devil as a comic character. As Jean Stafford, book critic for the New Yorker magazine, noted:

"This Devil is not dire; he is a scheming practical joker and comes to earth often when he is restless, to play tricks on clergymen, goodwives, poets, and pretty girls."

Natalie Babbitt's ferocious wit, combined with her hilarious illustrations, made
The Devil's Storybook a favorite of both children and adults. In 1987, Babbitt published a sequel, The Devil's Other Storybook.

Natalie Babbitt is, of course, best known for her fairy tales and fantasy stories. In 1975, she published Tuck Everlasting, a novel that most of her fans (including me) consider to be her best work.

Set in 1881, the novel tells the story of Winnie Foster, a bored and lonely ten-year-old girl stifled by her wealthy, overprotective parents. She escapes from them by exploring the forest near her home.

One day, she finds a mysterious family, the Tucks, (mother Mae Tuck, her husband, and their two sons) living in the middle of the woods.
The Tucks have a secret, which Winnie discovers: they are immortal - the result of drinking water from a hidden, magical spring.

Winnie befriends the Tuck family and promises to keep their secret. She grows close to their younger son, 17-year-old Jesse Tuck, and thinks that it must be wonderful to live forever.

She ultimately realizes that immortality is more of a curse than a gift. The Tucks live a lonely, isolated existence, trying to prevent their secret from being revealed, for then everyone would want to be immortal, and the world would become a terrible place.

When Mae Tuck kills a man to save Winnie, she's sent to prison, but Winnie helps her escape. The Tucks flee, taking their secret with them - except for some magic spring water which Jesse Tuck gave to Winnie. Will she drink it when she turns seventeen so she can marry him and live forever?

Tuck Everlasting was adapted twice as a feature film, first in 1981 - a rarely seen, independently made gem that really captured the essence of Natalie Babbitt's novel - then again in 2002.

The 2002 version was a Disney film - a horrible adaptation that turned Babbitt's great novel into a sappy teen romance - despite the fact that Winnie Foster is only ten years old in the book. The movie was panned by critics and film goers alike.

In 1977, Natalie Babbitt published The Eyes of the Amaryllis, a haunting tale of the supernatural. It's summertime, and 11-year-old Geneva "Jenny" Reade has been sent to stay with her grandmother for a while.

The old woman has broken her leg, and needs help while she recovers. Jenny's grandmother believes that her husband, who went missing at sea thirty years ago, will soon send her a sign of his love.

Jenny doesn't believe her - until she meets the ghost of a drowned man named Seward. Seward is tasked with returning to the sea anything of value that may wash up on shore.

When Jenny finds an object of value that washed up, her grandmother believes that it's a sign from her husband. But Seward warns them that the sea wants it back - and will take it back by force if necessary.

The Eyes of the Amaryllis was adapted as a feature film in 1982 - an excellent, independently made film that wonderfully adapts Natalie Babbitt's novel to the screen.

It featured a memorable performance by 11-year-old Martha Byrne as Jenny Reade. A year later, she would star in the science fiction classic,
Anna to the Infinite Power - another indie gem.

Natalie Babbitt has written seventeen children's books. Her latest, The Moon Over High Street, was published in 2011. In addition to writing, she also serves as a board member of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance.

Quote Of The Day

"Don't be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don't have to live forever, you just have to live." - Natalie Babbitt

Vanguard Video

Today's video features the complete, rare 1981 feature film adaptation of Natalie Babbitt's classic novel, Tuck Everlasting. Enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2015

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

William Bartlett

My July column is up at in the ‘Word from Dad,’ feature. This month, it's “Coyote Aria,” and also available in print in KC Parent magazine.

Aaron Troye-White

 The first story I ever submitted to the fiction group, "A Thousand Paper Cranes" will appear in an upcoming issue of The Tampa Review (either issue 51 or 52). 

By my count, that'll be in a year or so. The accepted draft preceded the group's work shopping, but I'd still like to thank all who helped with develop the story further. 

Eric Petersen

My review of the novel Supersymmetry by David Walton has been published by the Internet Review of Books.

Wayne Scheer

My comic flash, “The Future Mrs,” has been accepted for the August issue of the new print and online versions of A Long Story Short. This story was written in the Practice group just a couple weeks ago.

Jody Ewing

Execs from the Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) and the Des Moines Register contacted me, and they wanted to discuss the INA partnering with Iowa Cold Cases for a new weekly, ongoing series about Iowa's unsolved homicides, with the Register premiering the launch with several stories and an interactive map.

Each weekly piece will run simultaneously in all participating daily papers statewide. The weeklies who chose to participate will run the features on their regular weekday schedule.

I'll be providing contact info and what case details I have to the respective papers, and each story (written by a staff writer from that city's paper) will link back to the victim's page on the Iowa Cold Cases website.

The series launches today, July 26, but several of the stories are already online. There's an interview with me here and an interactive map of the state's cases here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Notes For July 24th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On July 24th, 1802, the legendary French writer Alexandre Dumas was born in the village of Villers-Cotterets, Aisne, France. He was half-black like his father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a top general in Napoleon's army.

When he publicly criticized Napoleon's military leadership, the emperor accused him of sedition. Thomas-Alexandre resigned from the army in disgust, and the ensuing scandal ruined the Dumas family.

Alexandre Dumas' father died of stomach cancer when he was three years old. His mother, Marie-Louise, couldn't provide him with much of an education, but Dumas loved books and read every one he could get his hands on.

That and his mother's stories of his brave father's adventures as a soldier planted the seeds of his future writing career. He dreamed of heroes and high adventure.

When Dumas was 20 years old, he moved to Paris, where he was employed at the Palais Royal in the office of Louis-Phillipe, the Duc D'Orleans and the future and last king of France.

While working in Paris, Dumas began his literary career, writing articles for magazines and co-writing plays for the theater. In 1829, King Henry III and His Court - his first solo play - was produced and became a great success, as did his second play, Christine.

After writing more successful plays, Dumas turned his attention to novels, as the newspapers and literary magazines of the day offered a lucrative market for serialized novels.

In 1838, Dumas' first novel La Capitaine Paul - a novelization of one of his plays - was published. The success of the book led Dumas to create a studio of sorts dedicated to producing short stories and serial novels, where he worked with assistants and other collaborators.

Dumas continued writing nonfiction, and from 1839 to 1841, he compiled an eight-volume collection of essays about famous crimes and criminals in European history called Celebrated Crimes.

During this time, Dumas married actress Marguerite-Josephine Ferrand, known by her stage name, Ida Ferrier. Though he loved Ida, Dumas was a notorious womanizer.

He would father at least four illegitimate children, one of whom, Alexandre Dumas Jr., would become a fine novelist and playwright himself.

In 1844, Dumas published The Three Musketeers - the first in a three-book trilogy, The D'Artagnan Romances. A fourth book, The Son Of Porthos, aka The Death Of Aramis, was published 13 years after Dumas' death; though it bore his name, it was written by Paul Mahalin.

In Dumas' classic swashbuckler, a young man named D'Artagnan sets out to join the King's Musketeers. He meets three of them - Athos, Porthos, and Aramis - and ends up being challenged to a duel by each man.

Just as D'Artagnan's duel with Athos is about to begin, the guards of the evil Cardinal Richelieu arrive and threaten to arrest all the men for dueling. Using his skill as a swordsman, D'Artagnan helps the three Musketeers defeat the guards.

The impressed Musketeers befriend D'Artagnan and offer to take him under their wing. Soon, D'Artagnan runs afoul of the vengeful Cardinal and his beautiful but deadly spy, Milady de Winter.

The Three Musketeers was followed by two more novels - Twenty Years After (1845) and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, aka Ten Years Later (1847). It be adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television.

From 1845-46, Alexandre Dumas published, in serial format, what is considered to be his greatest novel, The Count Of Monte Cristo, an epic novel of adventure, betrayal, hope, vengeance, and forgiveness.

It told the story of Edmond Dantes, an honest and loyal man framed for treason by group of conspirators including a romantic rival and a corrupt prosecutor.

Sentenced to life imprisonment, Dantes is befriended by fellow prisoner Abbe Feria - a priest and sage. He becomes Edmond's friend, father figure, and teacher. They work on a plan to tunnel out of prison.

Fourteen years later, Dantes finally escapes from prison. Before he died, the ailing Abbe gave Dantes a map to a treasure he buried on Monte Cristo, an island off the coast of Milan. Dantes finds the treasure.

Now a wealthy man, Dantes buys the island and re-invents himself as a mysterious aristocrat known as the Count of Monte Cristo. He returns to France, where he finds that his former fiancee Mercedes married one of the men who framed him.

Dantes conceives and executes an elaborate plan of vengeance against the conspirators responsible for his imprisonment, then questions the value of his revenge when it threatens to destroy the son of the woman he still loves.

Even though the success of Alexandre Dumas' plays and novels brought him wealth, he spent money lavishly, and his mansion, the Chateau de Monte Cristo, was always filled with friends and hangers-on looking to take advantage of his generosity.

Often broke and in debt, he continued to write more great novels, including another classic swashbuckler, Robin Hood (1863), Dumas' retelling of the story of the legendary outlaw Earl of Huntingdon, his Merry Men, and his love, Maid Marian.

Alexandre Dumas died in 1870 at the age of 68.

Quote Of The Day

"How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it." - Alexandre Dumas

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel, The Three Musketeers. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Notes For July 23rd, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On July 23rd, 1888, the legendary American mystery writer Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois. When he was seven years old, Chandler's Irish mother moved the family to England after they were abandoned by his father, a civil engineer and drunkard.

In England, Chandler's uncle, an affluent lawyer, supported the family. Chandler received his education first at a local school in Upper Norwood, then at Dulwich College, London - the same public college where P.G. Wodehouse and C.S. Forester learned to write.

After graduation, instead of attending university, Chandler traveled throughout Europe, spending time in Paris and Munich. He became a naturalized British citizen so he could take a civil examination, where he would receive the third highest grade ever earned.

Chandler then took an Admiralty job which lasted just over a year. He began his writing career as a poet, and published his first poem during this time. Chandler came to dislike the civil service.

Over his family's objections, he quit and became a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was unsuccessful as a journalist, but did publish some reviews and continued writing poetry.

With a loan from his uncle, Chandler returned to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles, where he earned a meager living doing menial jobs, including stringing tennis rackets and picking fruit.

Finally, he took a correspondence course in bookkeeping, which he completed ahead of schedule. It enabled him to find decent, steady employment. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Chandler enlisted in the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force).

In France, he fought in the trenches with the Gordon Highlanders, an infantry regiment in the British Army. By the end of the war, he was undergoing training to be a pilot for the RAF. After the war ended, Chandler returned to Los Angeles. He soon fell in love with Cissy Pascal, a married woman 18 years his senior.

Cissy ended her marriage in an amicable divorce, but Chandler's mother didn't approve of their relationship and would not allow them to marry. He had to support both women financially for the next four years. Chandler's mother died in September of 1923. Five months later, in February of 1924, he married Cissy.

By 1932, Raymond Chandler had become a highly paid vice president for the Dabney Oil syndicate. It would only last a year, as his battles with alcoholism and depression took their toll and resulted in his firing. But he got his life back together and decided to try making a living as a writer.

He taught himself how to write pulp fiction, and in 1933, his first short story, Blackmailers Don't Shoot, appeared in Black Mask magazine. For the next several years, he wrote and published stories regularly in pulp fiction magazines.

In 1939, Raymond Chandler's first novel, The Big Sleep, was published. It became a huge success, and introduced the world to Chandler's most famous recurring character - a hard-boiled detective by the name of Philip Marlowe. He was quite different than most gumshoes.

Marlowe was intelligent (college educated) and complex, tough as nails yet sentimental at times, and somewhat fluent in Spanish. He had few friends and a passion for both classical music and the game of chess. If he suspected that a prospective client's job was unethical, he would refuse to take the case.

Chandler's writing style was hard-boiled, fast paced, and filled with clever and lyrical metaphors:
The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips. This distinctive style would be referred to as "Chandleresque."

In The Big Sleep, (the title is a euphemism for death) Philip Marlowe is hired by elderly, wheelchair-bound millionaire General Sternwood. The case seems simple enough: Marlowe must track down a blackmailer who claims that he's owed gambling debts accrued by Sternwood's unstable daughter, Carmen.

Marlowe soon realizes that nothing about the case is as it seems; people surrounding Carmen and the blackmailer start turning up dead, and Marlowe becomes ensnared in a grim and sordid web of murder, madness, and the illegal stag film business.

In 1946, The Big Sleep would be adapted as a feature film starring Humphrey Bogart. Though the novel had to be sanitized considerably for the screen as per Production Code requirements, the film is still considered one of the all time great movies, and rightfully so.

Before the film was made, Chandler's success as a novelist earned him a job as a Hollywood screenwriter. In 1944, he and Billy Wilder wrote the screenplay for the suspense film classic Double Indemnity - an adaptation of James M. Cain's novel.

In 1946, he wrote an original screenplay for a noir thriller called The Blue Dahlia, which starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. In 1951, Chandler co-wrote the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock classic Strangers On A Train - an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel whose story Chandler found implausible.

Raymond Chandler continued to write more classic Philip Marlowe novels, including Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Lady In The Lake (1943) and The Long Goodbye (1954), which won him an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1955.

After he completed The Long Goodbye, Chandler's wife Cissy died following a long illness. Her death shattered him, and he plunged into a new battle with his old demons, drink and depression. He attempted suicide in 1955. After recovering in England, Chandler returned to California. He died three years later at the age of 70 from heart and kidney failure.

Quote Of The Day

"I have a sense of exile from thought, a nostalgia of the quiet room and balanced mind. I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write has to belong to me, has to be written alone and in silence, with no one looking over my shoulder, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn't have to be great writing, it doesn't even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine." - Raymond Chandler

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a BBC documentary on Raymond Chandler and his iconic detective called The Simple Art of Philip Marlowe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Notes For July 22nd, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On July 22nd, 1936, the famous American writer Tom Robbins was born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Both his grandfathers were Southern Baptist preachers. The family moved to Virginia in 1947.

At the age of 16, Robbins studied journalism at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, but he dropped out of college when his fraternity expelled him for disciplinary problems.

In 1954, Robbins was drafted into the military. He enlisted in the Air Force and served a two year tour of duty in Korea as a meteorologist. After his discharge, he returned to civilian life, settling in Richmond, Virginia. He became part of the local art scene and hung out with his fellow painters.

In 1957, Robbins enrolled in art school at Richmond Professional Institute, now known as Virginia Commonwealth University. While there, he became the editor of the campus newspaper and worked as a copy editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper.

After art school, Tom Robbins spent a year hitchhiking his way around the country. He settled in New York City and became a poet. In 1961, he moved to San Francisco, then a year later, he moved to Seattle to get a Master's degree at the University Of Washington's School of Far Eastern Studies.

Over the next five years, Robbins worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, first as a sports reporter, then as an arts reviewer. In 1966, he wrote a column for Seattle Magazine and hosted a radio show on KRAB-FM, a non-commercial station in Seattle.

The following year, Robbins went to a concert by legendary rock band The Doors, which was a life changing experience for him and a major factor in his decision to move to La Conner, Washington, and write his first book.

Tom Robbins' first novel, Another Roadside Attraction, was published in 1971. It introduced his trademark writing style - a non-linear narrative filled with offbeat humor and scathing satire.

It told the story of John Paul Ziller and his wife Amanda - a hippie guru - who open a combination hot dog stand and zoo called Captain Kendrick's Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve.

Other weird characters in the novel are a baboon named Mon Cul, a well educated fellow called Marx Marvelous, and L. Westminster "Plucky" Purcell, a football great and part time drug dealer.

Plucky accidentally uncovers a secret order of monks who work as assassins for the Vatican. He also uncovers a shocking secret dating back to the beginning of Christianity.

Robbins' next novel, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (1976) featured a main character, Sissy Henshaw, who was born with an unusual birth defect - enormously large thumbs, which she uses to hitchhike around the country. In her travels, Sissy meets and becomes a model for the Countess, a lesbian feminine hygiene product tycoon.

The Countess introduces Sissy to her future husband, a Mohawk Indian named Julian Gitche. Sissy also meets sexually open cowgirl Bonanza Jellybean, and an escapee from a U.S. government Japanese internment camp with the erroneous nickname "The Chink."

In 1993, director Gus Van Sant - a friend of Tom Robbins - adapted Even Cowgirls Get The Blues as a feature film starring Uma Thurman as Sissy Henshaw, John Hurt as the Countess, Rain Phoenix as Bonanza Jellybean, Keanu Reeves as Julian Gitche, and Pat Morita as The Chink.

Tom Robbins has written ten novels so far, including memorable works such as Still Life with Woodpecker (1980) and Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas (1994). His latest novel, B is for Beer, was published in April of 2009.

B is for Beer is classic Robbins. Dubbed "a children's book for grown-ups" and "a grown-up book for children," it's presented in the form of a children's novel. It tells the story of six-year-old Gracie Perkel, who is fascinated by beer, her dad's favorite beverage, which she describes as "the stuff that's yellow and looks like pee-pee."

Gracie turns to her favorite uncle, beer-guzzling hippie Uncle Moe, for help. He leads her on a quest to find out all there is to know about beer, then leaves her in the lurch, running off with a woman - a podiatrist he's fallen in love with.

Undaunted, Gracie drinks her first beer, throws up, passes out, and is visited by the Beer Fairy, who teaches her all about the history and production of beer. In a recent interview, Tom Robbins claimed that he wrote B is for Beer as a satirical ode to the brewed beverage:

Kids are constantly exposed to beer. It's everywhere, yet, aside from wagging a warning finger and growling - true enough as it goes - "beer is for grownups," how many parents actually engage their youngsters on the subject? As a topic for detailed family discussion, it's generally as taboo as sex.

As for his next novel, Robbins says, "I've decided to take advantage of outsourcing. My next novel will be written by a couple of guys in Bangalore."

Quote Of The Day

"There is a similarity between juggling and composing on the typewriter. The trick is, when you spill something, make it look like a part of the act." - Tom Robbins

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Tom Robbins reading from and discussing his most recent novel, B is for Beer. Enjoy!

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