SLOW FIRE: Thoughts on writing and the writing life
July 24, 2012
This is another image that may be useful to people who live near Rocky Flats or in the Denver metro area.
July 19, 2012
Readers have asked me to post the chart showing the plume from the devastating 1957 fire at Rocky Flats. Two years after this fire, the surrounding area showed an increase in childhood leukemia and other cancers and health effects. Contamination from the 1969 Mother’s Day fire followed a similar path.
July 16, 2012
The May 11, 1969 “Mother’s Day” fire at Rocky Flats brought the Denver metro area to the brink of a catastrophic nuclear accident, and sent a radioactive cloud over the entire area. Residents were not warned or evacuated, and even after the fire, few people were aware of how devastating the fire was, and its long-term consequences for the Denver area. Later, tests by the DOE and independent scientists confirmed plutonium contamination as far away as 30 miles from the plant.
July 15, 2012
At Powell’s bookstore. A great crowd, with good questions. The story of Rocky Flats is not just about Colorado. It’s a story that’s happening all over the country at places like Hanford, the Savannah River site, and many more. People who live near former nuclear weapons sites, current radioactive/toxic storage sites, and nuclear power plants have the same concerns: how is the environment being affected? What does this mean for my health, and the health of my family? Can I trust the government and the private corporations who manage these sites to tell me the truth?
July 15, 2012
Tags: book tour photos
It was such a treat to read at Collected Works in Santa Fe, a long-time favorite bookstore, and afterwards go out for blue corn enchiladas and margaritas.
July 15, 2012
Great crowd, with great questions.
July 12, 2012
One of the big highlights of my book tour–and certainly one of the highlights of my life–was to be introduced by Daniel Ellsberg at my reading at Book Passage in Corte Madera (San Francisco area). Afterwards we had lunch and a lengthy talk. It was a great honor and pleasure to spend time with such an extraordinary person. Rocky Flats was a big part of Ellsberg’s life and work.
I also had the great pleasure to spend a little time with my dear friend Molly Giles, a wonderful novelist and director of the MFA program at the University of Arkansas. (She believed in my book from the very first paragraph; she is a great inspiration to me!) Andy Ross joined us, too. I first met Andy at the San Miguel de Allende writers conference, where we shared a little tequila and talked about writers and writing. Andy was owner and manager of Cody’s Books in Berkeley for almost thirty years, and now has his own literary agency.
The best thing about a book tour is connecting with readers, writers, and friends!
July 8, 2012
July 6, 2012
June 17, 2012
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This past year has brought many changes to my life: a new city, a new job, and the start of a new book. I’m thrilled to be heading up a new PhD program in Literary Nonfiction at The University of Cincinnati, and excited to be in a city with such a vibrant arts and writing community. Here’s a fun article that recently appeared in Cincinnati Magazine....read more
Recently I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the University of South Florida, where Full Body Burden was chosen for the university’s Common Reading Experience program. I met with students and faculty from many different disciplines, and concluded the day with a public reading at an art gallery. I had a great time, and I’m so pleased that the book has been chosen by more than a dozen universities around the country for their First Year Experience/Common Read...read more
I will be in New York the week of April 28, 2014 with Hibakusha Stories, an organization dedicated to educating students about the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and helping to build a world free of nuclear weapons. This is an incredible organization; I feel very honored to be a part of it. For more information, see http://hibakushastories.org/...read more
I’m thrilled to announce that Full Body Burden is now translated and being released in China. I like this cover, too — particularly the creative way they’ve done the radioactive symbol. Very exciting!...read more
I’ve just returned from a quick trip to Edinburgh and London, where I spoke at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to a very engaged audience. Not only did people have great questions about Rocky Flats and the nuclear history of the U.S., but we had a lively twitter exchange going on during and after the event, with people tuning in from all over the world. Several people asked: How could something like Rocky Flats happen in the United States? How did local populations not know what was going on? That led to a lively discussion of moral and ethical issues related to the Cold War and its lingering environmental and health effects — as well as what’s happening at Rocky Flats today and the construction of new homes on contaminated land. I was in Edinburgh just long enough to enjoy some of the local libations, and then took the train to London. After recording a podcast for Random House, I was interviewed at the BBC London studio for BBC World Service (“Toxic Childhood Beside a Nuclear Plant”). It was a great privilege to meet Pooneh Ghoddoosi, and interesting to hear reactions from readers as the story aired all over the world. I had to head home to get back in time for the fall semester, but not before catching Noel Coward’s Private Lives at the Gielgud Theatre. Love that show. Love London. Can’t wait to go back. Now, back to...read more
I’ve spent more than a year on the road, talking to school groups, universities, book clubs, environmental groups, and many others about Rocky Flats and similar sites around the United States. Audiences always have lots of questions! With the help of a graphic design wizard, we’ve created a brochure that answers many of those questions and also provides a Rocky Flats timeline. Plus: Have you ever wondered if you live close to a nuclear site? Check this map to find out. You’ll find the brochure on my website, here, where you can view or download it, or email me to receive a printed copy. I’m always thrilled to hear from readers! You can reach me at...read more
I’m thrilled and very honored to announce that Full Body Burden just won the Colorado Book Award in Nonfiction! Time was short, but we had a great trip to Aspen for the awards ceremony, and then a beautiful hike the following day up to Maroon Bells, one of the largest–and certainly most beautiful–wilderness areas in the...read more
How my life has changed since the publication of Full Body Burden (published in Chapter 16 www.chapter16.org). Full Body Burden is a book I wasn’t sure would ever get published. It’s personal. It’s controversial. Sometimes funny, often dark, it tells a hidden, secret side of American history and how that history affected the lives of individual people—that is, me—as well as my parents, my siblings, and our horses and dogs and cats. Not to mention our neighbors and everyone else living in the area. Few people knew the story and devastating legacy of the secret Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, just down the road from my family’s home near Denver. Now they know. There’s a big difference between writing a book, your head buried in research and line edits, and going out into the world and talking about it. I’m an introvert and a slow convert to social media. A little bit like Emily Dickinson, I tuck most of my writing into my desk drawer. Those things are no longer true. When Full Body Burden sold at auction to Crown, and then sold again in the U.K., my life changed. Suddenly the world wanted to hear my story. Just before the book hit the shelves, I had my first interview, an hour-long spot on the international radio show If You Love This Planet with Helen Caldicott, one of my heroes. I was so nervous my voice trembled. The interview ended, and she asked me to stay on the line. Damn, I thought. I blew it. “I have some advice for you,” she said. Her tone was almost maternal. “Yes?” I asked. “Buckle your seatbelt and take your vitamins,” she said. “Your life is about to change.” In the following months, I crisscrossed the country so many times I couldn’t keep track of time zones. The initial book tour snowballed into presentations and readings in more than twenty states, three countries, and too many cities to count. I spoke to environmental organizations, writers’ groups, schools and universities, museums and book clubs. I was invited to speak at places I had never dreamed of, places like the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian and on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. I read at my favorite bookstores—Powells, Malaprop’s, Collected Works—and the Tattered Cover in Denver, where years ago, when I was in graduate school, the owner had been kind enough to let me carry a monthly credit for my books. Barnes & Noble believed in Full Body Burden right from the start (and chose it as a finalist for the Discover Award). I learned to live out of a suitcase—truly live out of a suitcase. I started out with two big bags and lots of stuff. The suitcases wore out, and so did my back. Now I travel with a single carry-on with two sets of no-iron clothes and lots of scarves and necklaces. I take two pairs of shoes, not six—one on my feet and one in my bag. When I pack for a new trip, I just borrow a trick from a writer friend: pack a bag, take half out, and then take half out again. I gave up packing my purse with three or four novels (a long-time habit, regardless of the length of...read more
I’m back in Memphis now after weeks of being on the road. The summer humidity hasn’t set in yet, and it’s sunny and bright with a crispness in the air that reminds me of my beloved Colorado. It feels good to sit down at my desk and get back to some serious writing. I’m feeling a bit stunned that this last year has passed so quickly, and now–less than two weeks away–the paperback of Full Body Burden is coming out! I’m so excited. I love the cover. (Do you? Send me your thoughts!) It’s challenging to design a cover for a book like this, because the story is deeply personal and also so much bigger than that. It’s hard to capture the essence of the story in a single image. My travel schedule starts up again in a few weeks–and I’m thrilled to be a featured author at the literary festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August–but for now I’m hunkering down and working hard on my next book. Details to...read more
On April 16, I was very honored in Washington, DC to receive an award from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, along with fellow honorees U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, director and filmmaker Kathleen Sullivan, and environmental lawyer Diane Curran. My sister Karma was in the audience. It was an evening I will never forget. I feel very fortunate that my book is reaching so many readers and getting so much recognition in the world. Full Body Burden was chosen one of the Best Books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews, the American Library Association, and Mother Jones Magazine, and 2012 Best Book about Justice by The Atlantic. It’s a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the Colorado Book Award, and the Reading the West Book...read more