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The Blacklist Era

The Blacklist Era

Despite a longstanding love of film and the darkened theatre, I had never given much thought to the Hollywood blacklist until the 1999 Oscars when the Academy gave a special award to Elia Kazan, the legendary director – and cooperating witness to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

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And To The Republic For Which She Sits

And To the Republic For Which She Sits I was part of the Hell No We Won’t Go generation, 1968 when our resistance was focused on forcing the government to end the Vietnam War. We certainly did not invent mass protest, the proverbial petition in boots, but with...

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Smudge Pots

Probably since the 1890's citrus crops in California were protected during freezes by smudge pots, little black pots with wicks that had to be individually lit in the groves. The smoke would keep the citrus trees warm, keep the crop from freezing.   On cold mornings...

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Bravo and Encore!

Bravo and Encore! Last night’s launch for the Red Wheelbarrow Writers anthology MEMORY INTO MEMOIR was the most festive occasion in my recent memory. The people, the presentation, the warmth and sheer energy pulsating around Village Books’ readers’ gallery created one...

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Honolulu, 1981: Memoir

When my Armenian grandparents emigrated in 1923 with their two little daughters, among their effects listed in the Kalpakians’ Declaration of Household Goods were a set of enameled tin dishes, blue on the bottom, white on the top. Somehow these came to me and I took...

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No Business Like Show Business……

Not to put too fine a point upon it: THE PANTOMIME LIFE OF JOSEPH GRIMALDI is  one of the best books ever written about the world of the theatre. It is, as they say, full of character and incident:  a  wonderful introduction to the ribald, sleazy, corrupt, energetic...

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Beach Reads and Other Sins

Graduate school is the incubator of snobbery, particularly in the arts. In graduate school I had professors who spoke of “lit-retch-ure” in a way that kicked sand in the face of anyone not certifiably gaga for Derrida. To indulge in a Beach Read—any work by a popular...

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A Promise Made to a Character: Educating Waverley

Behind every novel there is a story. Members of a Book Club recently approached me with questions about the story behind Educating Waverley. Educating Waverley is the result of a promise I made to its central character. In the late 90's I had a two book contract with...

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Celebrating Elvis! Graced Land is an ebook!

GRACED LAND–the novel celebrating Elvis, his life, his music, his significance–is reincarnated today, January 8th, Elvis's birthday, as an ebook! GRACED LAND first appeared with Grove Press in 1992 to rapturous reviews applauding the novel’s humor, energy and depth....

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“I’d like to thank…..”

Acknowledgments Dedications are short and sweet. Acknowledgments are long and fulsome, even tedious, but I always read them. Acknowledgments offer a glimpse into the writer’s process. Who offered advice and direction? Who granted them time or money? Who ferreted about...

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Revisiting Graceland

Revisiting Graceland “The writer needs a cupful of pain to get a thimbleful of prose. It’s the same for a musician, or a singer. That’s what we demand of our artists. They need to live like that. If they’re any good at all, they die like that.” From Graced Land, Grove...

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Cultivating the Past on Paper

The Memoir is a like those old chia pets:  water it with words and it will sprout and grow and surprise you.  Below you'll find the handout from last night's Introductory Memoir class at Village Books. If you were there, then you know how important community is, and...

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A Memoir for Memoir Month

For September 1 2015. An old memoir, but, still true.  That's the beauty of memoir.  This is the story--not of what my mother learned, but how she learned it. c.1450 words ANOTHER STORY This is not my story. I wasn’t even there. But like a stone well-worn, polished by...

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Echoes from THE MUSIC ROOM

              Not surprisingly, the idea for my novel, The Music Room came to me at a concert on a winter’s night eight years ago. Watching the young solo violinist rip majestically through Mendelssohn’s Hebrides symphony, my thoughts roamed away from the stage. I...

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In the Beginning

First of all , let me tell you that this is a beautiful book. I can say that because this is its first page. I just sat down to write it, and I feel happy, the way I feel whenever I start a new project.   My pen is full of ink, and there’s a stack of paper in front of...

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Bookshelf Biography

Bookshelf Biography Eventually the books just become part of the wallpaper. They’re there, but ignored, unread, and thus, invisible. When this house became our home, I unpacked all the books that had been stored when Bear and Brendan and I moved frequently. With a...

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Of Books and Boys

As we move deeper into Graduation Season, with all the changes that portends, a reader has asked me to post a short essay I published when my eldest son Bear, graduated from high school and went away to college. A complicated moment for a parent. Here is Of Books and...

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On Writing ‘Three Strange Angels’

I often think of the novel, any novel, really, as a small boat, initially moored to a certain well known shore, an incident, say, the writer’s own experience. As the writing process continues, that boat slips its leash and ventures out to a much broader sea, bobs...

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Also By Laura