During high school and middle school I would go to my grandmother’s house at least once a week (if not every day) and wait for my mother to get back from work, though later during that period of time I went less often. Mostly I went just to see my grandmother and help her with things around the house, and then would take the bus home. I would not have imagined that during all of those years I went over there, that sitting atop a bookshelf in the living room, covered in dust, was a second edition copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (first published in 1850). Keep reading …
POTENTIAL WANDERLANDERS …
The rumor is true … this year’s writing adventure will be our own “September Song” in Paris.
Please join us for the week of September 9-15 in one of three spacious apartments in a charming Left Bank neighborhood.
Join us for walks among the falling leaves along the Seine, for soulful sits in famous literary cafés, for sumptuous dining, for exploring Paris’s varied and magical arrondissements by Métro, bus and on foot.
Come with us for literature, both to create it through our own writing, honed during five workshops and individual one-on-one sessions, and through connecting with great writers who have lived and worked there before us and some who live and play there today. Keep reading …
Even though the semester is about to end, I’m still annoyed by the outragous prices of the textbooks and the practices of the companies that release them. Everyone that has gone to college knows that books cost a lot. But really, why should they? Keep reading …
A few weeks ago I went with Linda to read from Dead Love to a class at a multilingual middle school in San Francisco. To my surprise, even with all the blood and gore and frightening characters, the kids ate it up! Well, I shouldn’t be that surprised, kids have always loved horrifying, bloody and dangerous things. Back in the 40s and 50s there were lots of things directed toward children that included violence against people, or Keep reading …
For V-Day! Here’s an event we think everyone should attend:
Eve Ensler and Isabel Allende in conversation, for one evening only!
If you live even remotely near the Bay Area, it is well worth coming to hear these two inspiring women talk about activism, women and girls, and the power of stories.
Eve is the Tony Award-winning author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. Eve will blow you away and Isabel will get you through it. Together they will fill you with hope. Keep reading …
I was writing up blog posts for the Left Coast Writers® Valentine’s Day events and I remembered a few very interesting traditions associated with this holiday in South Korea and Japan.
When you think of Valentine’s Day you think of cards, candy, chocolate, flowers, and other various gifts given by men to women to show their affection, along with romantic evenings of one kind or another. However, in Japan and South Korea the date aspect of it is underplayed, as well as all of the other types of gifts besides the chocolate; and the men are the ones on the receiving side.
I first noticed this at about eight or nine years old while watching a Japanese anime programme called Ranma 1/2; In Japan women usually give out “giri” or “obligatory” chocolate to male classmates or colleagues. To their love or prospective loves, however, they give “honmei” or “favorite” chocolate. The “obligatory” chocolate is usually cheaper and store bought; the “favorite” chocolate is more expensive or handmade. But it’s not as though they receive nothing in return. In both South Korea and Japan White Day is celebrated on March 14th. White Day is a holiday where the men who were given chocolate on Valentine’s Day give gifts of non-chocolate candy, flowers, jewelry, or other sentimental items to the women who gave them chocolate on Valentine’s Day in a ratio of 3:1.
It is a rule that the return gift should be three times the value of the original chocolate given. Also, in South Korea they celebrate a holiday called Black Day. My Korean high school friend told me about it and I later researched further. Black Day is celebrated on the 14th of April. Those who did not receive anything on either previous holiday eat black noodles to “mourn” their singleness.
Let’s hope I’m not eating black noodles.
Alison Bing, Lonely Planet’s roving food, wine and travel writer and author of forty guidebooks, spoke at the Left Coast Writers Literary Salon last night at Book Passage. She talked about food and travel—what a magnificent combo!
Both are things I enjoy quite a bit, and can say I’ve dabbled in. I have been to Nepal, Japan, Mexico, England, Scotland, Ireland and France and have had some very interesting food experiences in all of these places.
One of the most interesting meals I have ever had the pleasure of partaking in had to have been at a small restaurant in Tokyo. I believe it was in the Shinjuku district in the northeastern part of the city that I found this place while wandering around one night looking for a bite to eat. I went in and ordered a dish with potatoes that were dyed bright red with hot pepper and covered with a delicious sauce, somewhat similar to patatas bravas, a Spanish specialty generally found in tapas bars, only these were less chunky, neater, almost meticulously cut and arranged—a distinctly Japanese twist. But what I decided to order for my main course was the really interesting dish. I got one of the best pizzas I have ever had and certainly one of the strangest: a miso pizza with eggplant. It was just like a regular pizza, except instead of tomato sauce they used a mixture of mayonnaise and red miso, the Japanese seasoning created by combining a grain or soybeans with salt and the fungus called kojikin. The pizza was creamy and delicious, and upon the server’s recommendation, I garnished it with Cholula hot sauce, which they had at the restaurant. This brought it to a level of taste I have only been able to fantasize about since then. Sadly, I do not remember the name of that little restaurant, only the distinctive tomato logo on their sign.
The best writing, just like the best food, has elements of surprise and unusual contrast. These things create interest and excitement. They are imaginative and lead to new experiences. That miso and eggplant pizza was one of the best pizza-eating experiences in my life … well except for the one with fermented soybeans(natto).
Photo Courtesy of Marianne Betterly, © Marianne Betterly
I would continually look up a bookstore that had been around for decades just to find it had recently closed its doors for the last time. Many privately owned bookstores, both iconic and small-time, have had to do just that in the last decade or so. Many of them have been shoved out of the market by large chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble or online booksellers such as Amazon. They have also been badly hurt by the recent popularity of e-books and e-readers like the Kindle. These things, along with a steady loss of interest in reading precipitated by the popularity of motion pictures and television and a lack of focus on that skill in our schools, have made so many great bookstores that people have known and loved for years go out of business. While working on this project, I have read numerous tales of people who had been going to these stores for years; it really breaks my heart to know that they are now gone forever.
I remember one person talking about how he had been going to a specific bookstore since his childhood. He would hang out there all the time and knew the people who had worked there; he even knew the cat that had lived there for years, and he used to play with it whenever he went there. But that store went bankrupt a few years ago and had to close. I kept on reading story after story like that until I was on the verge of tears; these bookstores can be such welcoming and intimate places that when they close down, it’s like a close friend has died. This has affected many places even in the Bay Area. Iconic stores like Cody’s and almost all of the Black Oak branches, and smaller more specialized stores like Mama Bears, A Different Light and Get Lost have all closed within the past ten years or so.
I urge all of you reading this to go to your favorite local bookstore and support them through these tough times. You never know, you could pass by the storefront of a bookstore you have loved for years but have not recently gone to and find that it is now nothing but an empty space.
Eat, Play, Love: Cooking and Writing from the Heart in the Lowcountry with Linda Watanabe McFerrin and the Southern Sampler Artists Colony, April 17-24, 2012
The 2012 workshop will fill up quickly, so if you if you have any interest you should let the organizers know!
The rocking chairs beckon. Can you smell the salt air? Stir, fry, mix, mold, blend, stew, bake, roast, whip, sprinkle, dip, fold—embrace old and new friends, celebrate community, and create shared stories to be embellished in time.
“Marsh-to-Plate”: Cast your net with Captain Anton. Oysters, clams, crabs, redfish and flounder anyone? Dinner will feature the catch of the day. Anton will help in the preparation, and read from the book he is writing.
The Dark and Light Side of Chocolate: Discover the magic of chocolate making with renown chocolatier, David Vagasky.
Certified Organic Produce, Fresh and Local: A personal tour of the Joseph Fields Farm, located on Johns Island, wouldn’t be complete without supper on the banks of the nearby Stono River. Alluette, owner of Alluette’s Café, will be in charge. And don’t forget live jazz and poetry under a starry sky.
Lawn Party: Brush up on your croquet game, concoct a Southern drink for the occasion, and devil some eggs. Charleston friends will join in the fun.
The Spice of Life: From delicate to tangy and sweet, Sea Island Savory Herbs, located on Johns Island, has it all. A private tour will feature innovative use of heirloom herbs in the art of cooking.
Stirring the Creative Juices with Cathleen O’Brien
- Create your very own Altered Book.
- Contribute to a Collective Workshop Cookbook
- Learn how to make fish prints with artist, Sue Wallace.
Writing Workshop with Linda Watanabe McFerrin
- Workshop 1: Starters
- Workshop 2: Word Salad
- Workshop 3: Comfort Food
- Workshop 4: Toasts, Boasts, and Roasts
- Workshop 5: Lovely Desserts
Cost of Colony Experience: Cost is $1,800 ($1,950 if paid after December 15, 2011) for a private room, and $1,600 ($1,750 if paid after December 15, 2011) for a shared room. The choice of private and separate rooms depends upon availability at time of registration.
In order to assure workshop placement please send a $500 check deposit (fully refundable before October 10th) made out to Southern Sampler Artists Colony with private or shared room preference to: Mary Brent Cantarutti, 233 Santa Margarita Drive, San Rafael, CA 94901.There will be ten workshop participants; placement will be finalized in order of receipt of deposits.
The company is everything! Charleston here we come!
Mary Brent & Martha
The absolutely amazing Book Passage Travel, Food and Photography Conference begins next week, August 11-14, in Corte Madera.
Writers from around the world will be converging for four days of workshops, panels, consultations, and outstanding presentations. I am thoroughly thrilled to be kicking off the conference with a presentation about The Life of a Travel Writer with one of my mentors from way back: the Grande Dame of travel writing, Georgia Hesse.
I had lunch with Georgia at San Francisco’s Café de la Presse. We talked about travel, then and now, over a salade frisée, a tarte provençale, and a couple of glasses of vin rouge. This prompted a host of questions from me, which Georgia has politely deigned to answer.
First, a few words about Georgia and her illustrious career:
Georgia I. Hesse claims to have been born on the 28 Ranch on Crazy Woman Creek at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. She was graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and studied political science and white wines as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Strasbourg in France. She is the founding travel editor of the San Francisco Examiner (the original Hearst-owned one, she hastens to say) and then of the joined (on Sundays) Examiner-Chronicle.
Georgia has taught travel writing for the 20 years of the Book Passage conference and has lectured at several writers’ gatherings and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. For several years she had a weekly travel-music program at the once and much-missed S.F. radio station KABL. Her articles have appeared in 20 magazines and 38 newspapers and she is the author/co-author of 14 books, several of them guides to France and California.
Georgia holds the Ordre National du Mérite from the French government and the Chevalier l’Ordre de la République from Tunisia. She has visited all 50 U.S. states and at most recent tally has crossed the Atlantic 174 times and the Pacific 98 times, by airplane and ship. She believes in Paul Theroux’s dictum, “Every step out the door can be a story. Consider San Francisco’s #30 bus.”
Q. Georgia, you were the Travel Editor for the “San Francisco Examiner” and then the”Examiner-Chronicle” at a time when travel was an elegant enterprise; what was your most extravagant journey?
A. The most extravagant in traditional terms surely was a trip back to the time of Maria Theresa and the Hapsburgs, in the glorious first half of the 19th century when Vienna replaced Paris as the center of the elegant earth. Through a wrinkle in time equivalent to that in the current movie “Midnight in Paris,” I fell into the Vienna of Biedermeier design, of gold leaf, crystal, fine porcelain and pastries…into the very night of the Opera Ball in the Staatsoper. Pomp and circumstance, glitter and dazzle, medals and uniforms, sobbing violins and the corps de ballet of the Vienna State Opera, even a few diamond tiaras. “Ah,” said an irreverent tenor, “Strauss is so much more delicious than socialism!” It was so transporting that the next year I went back and fell through that wrinkle again.
Q. On the flip side, I loved your story in “I Should Have Stayed Home.” Do you have another standout in that category? Can you tell us about it?
A. A 12-day rattle and roll across the old Soviet Union on the Trans-Siberian Express was not as dangerous as the North Pole trip but almost as uncomfortable. I had thought the forest of white birches in the David Lean movie of Boris Pasternak ‘s novel “Dr. Zhivago” seemed endless…but in reality that forest goes on for three days. Following Siberia, Finland seemed like “A Thousand and One Nights.” I was fascinated, in an international relations sense, by every day of that trek, but I’m glad I don’t have to make it again.
And then there was the long time when I didn’t know where in the world I was and it turned out to be Guadalcanal. And then… .
Q. What do you like most about travel today?
A. Most places have bathrooms and most of those are clean, unlike a tent of carpets on the Kenya-Tanzania border.
Q. What do you like least?
A. The crowds and lack of civility at airports and aboard aircraft. Add to that the endless fees and unforeseen add-on charges. I used to feel flying as a great escape. Now it’s an exercise in exhaustion, mental as well as physical.
Q. What place is currently at the top of your list of places to visit and why?
A. Libya, crazily enough; because I’ve never tramped through Leptis Magna.
Q. What advice do you have for travel writers new to the business?
A. Learn how to write and then Stop, Look, and Listen to the world as it speaks to you.
Good advice from an expert and much more to come. See you at the conference! Don’t forget, there is a special discount for Left Coast Writers®, so be sure to tell them you’re one of us.
—Linda Watanabe McFerrin, travel writer and author of Dead Love, (Stone Bridge Press, 2010)
Photo courtesy of Georgia Hesse
WANDERLAND WRITERS WORKSHOP: Wandering and Writing in Bail with Linda Watanabe McFerrin and Joanna Biggar
September 26 – October 3, 2011
There is only one spot available.
Wanderland Writers Workshops generally sell out before they are even posted, but, due to a cancellation, there is a chance to participate in this one.
You can join Linda Watanabe McFerrin and Joanna Biggar for a week of writing and adventure in a tropical paradise — BALI!
Dates: September 26th – October 3, 2011
Place: Gorgeous island-style resort with airy villa accommodations, terraces, restaurant, pool, spa and more in the mountains above Ubud, Bali’s artistic capital. Accommodations: Shared rooms in private villas
- Swimming pool
- Conference area
- Wireless broadband
- Cable TV
- Outdoor exercise facility
- Maid service for laundry
Included in price:
- Transportation to and from airport
- Eight days/seven nights accommodations
- Seven breakfasts, afternoon tea daily, two lunches, four sumptuous dinners
- Five 2-hour workshops
- Private consultation with instructors
- Time and space to write
- Welcome dinner
- Temple visit
- Monkey forest visit
- Museum tour
- Balinese dance evening
- Banquet by a local chef
- Access to local attractions
- Plenty of time to explore on shared and personal adventures
- Spa treatments
- Visits to craft studios and galleries in Ubud
- Balinese shadow puppet show
- Bird walks
- Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (October 5-9, 2011)
- Extra days at the resort, to be negotiated with owner
VERY limited space!!!! Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ART OF SOULFUL MEMOIR: WHERE YOUR OUTER LIFE MEETS YOUR INNER WORLD
A FOUR WEEK CLASS WITH ROGER HOUSDEN
Author of the Ten Poems Series and Saved By Beauty: Adventures of an American Romantic in Iran
Soulful memoir uses the raw material of your life to reveal the deeper intelligence of your life’s journey. In this class you will weave into words as truthfully as possible the ongoing thread of your lives. Please bring work you want to develop, and whether or not you have prior material, come ready to develop some during the class.
WHEN: FOUR TUESDAYS IN JULY: JULY 5, 12, 19, 26.
WHERE: 8. Eden Lane, Larkspur
COST: $180.00. $50 DEPOSIT to Roger Housden at address above.
FURTHER INFO: CALL ROGER ON 415 924 6061.
CLASS LIMITED TO EIGHT PARTICIPANTS
SOUTHERN SAMPLER ARTISTS COLONY PRESENTS:
A Writer’s Workshop
with Linda Watanabe McFerrin
April 5-12, 2011
ONE SPOT JUST OPENED UP!
Ready to wrap your tongue around the Gullah language and relish the dark, tangy sensations that feed the soul and lift the spirit? Want to discover a history like no other, a history bound in slavery, tempered in Lowcountry rice fields, and raised to glory in slow primal beats? Join us! Celebrate a side of Charleston that not all locals, much less tourists, know exists.
We’ll stay in a charming and rambling turn-of-the century home on Sullivan’s Island, only minutes from downtown Charleston and only a block away from one of South Carolina’s pristine white-sand beaches. Keep reading …
WILLIAM FAULKNER – WILLIAM WISDOM CREATIVE WRITING COMPETITION IS OPEN FOR ENTRIES
DEADLINE IS APRIL 1, 2011
The William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition opened for entries on January 1, 2011. The deadline for entries is April 1. Significant cash prizes are offered for previously unpublished work in seven categories: Novel, Novella, Novel-in-Progress,
Short Story, Essay, Poetry, and Short Story by a High School Student. Guidelines and entry forms can be found on the web site:
Prizes range from $750 for High School Short Story to $7,500 for the winning novel. Winners also receive gold medals and are the Faulkner Society’s guests for Words & Music, 2011, when awards are presented at the annual gala, Faulkner for All. If you are writer, consider entering your work. If not, please pass this information along to friends and colleagues who are writers seeking to have their work published. Past winners of the Faulkner – Wisdom Competition and been published. After reviewing guidelines, if you have questions, contact the competition staff by e-mail at Faulkhouse@aol.com.
We had a full house Monday when Byron Belitsos explored the dance of publisher and author at the Literary Salon in a talk that addressed literary matches: Made in heaven? . . . Or hell?
Belitsos, founder of Origin Press, publisher of books on practical spirituality, entertained the group with wild tales about the authors who populate his dreams and nightmares. In addition to an interesting look at some of his list, past and present, he shared his evaluation of what makes a book succeed commercially. Here’s Byron’s test. It’s easy and enlightening. You might want to note that while it applies primarily to non-fiction, fiction writers might want to consider his points as well. We’re sharing it with his compliments. Keep reading …
This time last week I was still in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I was a workshop leader and panelist at the 31st Nimrod Literary Awards Conference for Readers and Writers 2009 at the University of Tulsa. Other Faculty included Peter S. Beagle (a past LCW Presenter), Marvin Bell, Robert Olen Butler, Marie Howe, W. Scott Olsen, James Ragan, and Nimrod International Journal Editor in Chief, Francine Ringold. The judges for the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry were novelist Robert Olen Butler and poet Marie Howe. The winners were Alicia Case (fiction) and Mike Nelson (poetry).
The theme of this year’s Awards Celebration was “Words at Play,” a topic that award winning poet and Iowa’s first Poet Laureate, Marvin Bell, tackled creatively. Here’s an excerpt: Keep reading …
Roger Housden has a new book out. And as we are huge fans of his collections, we want to mention it here. It’s a new anthology of 99 poems with his commentary. It’s available in November. Perfect for the holiday season.
Keep reading …
What is it about mountains—super-high mountains—that is so attractive? Is it the challenge they represent? The excitement they provoke? The wonder they inspire? Even if it weren’t the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, rising 19,304 feet above the Great Rift Valley in northern Tanzania, would be awe striking. I remember seeing it from a distance on a long-ago trip to Africa when I was writing a story on the Lunatic Express for the San Francsico Examiner/Chronicle travel section. I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s classic The Snows of Kilimanjaro at the time. I’m crazy about mountains, but I never dreamed of climbing Kilimanjaro, so I was delighted to hear about the 2009 publication of Michel Moushabeck and partner Hiltrud Schulz’s book, Kilimanjaro: A Photographic Journey to the Roof of Africa (Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., 2009). If, like me, you are mesmerized by this particular mountain and have no immediate plans to scale it, you should get the book. Moushabeck’s pleasant, diaristic narrative and Schultz’s well-edited images make you feel as if you are along for the climb.
A few years back a dear friend, photographer Alison Wright, author of Learning to Breathe, decided to exercise the body she’d damaged in a major bus accident by climbing Kilimanjaro for her 40th birthday. She called us at a Christmas party where we, her assembled friends, were celebrating many things, one of which was her big day. “Hey, I’m calling you from the top of Kilimanjaro,” she gasped over the phone. I think we were all dazed and impressed. It was hard to imagine her summit: the slow, slow (pole, pole) climb, the altitude sickness, the way your strength is sapped and every step requires tremendous exertion, the exhilaration of making it to the top. Now, thanks to Kilimanjaro: A Photographic Journey to the Roof of Africa, I get it … in great detail, in living color. The book makes “Kili” accessible. Enjoy the climb.
Other favorite books on mountain adventures:
- Coronation Everest by James (now Jan) Morris
- Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
- The Climb of My Life by Laura Evans
- A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
The deadline for this year’s Solas Awards for Best Travel Story of the Year is just a few days away. To enter this year’s competition, go to BestTravelWriting.com and follow the instructions.
As of today, competition is light in the following categories:
* Animal Encounter
* Cruise Story
* Doing Good or the Kindness of Strangers
* Elder Travel
* Love Story
* Men’s Travel
* Travel and Healing
* Travel and Shopping
* Travel and Sports
* Young TravelerTr
All entries submitted before midnight, September 21 will be eligible. Entries submitted after that will be entered in next year’s competition.
The Solas Awards are an annual competition to find the best writing being done about the world today. The Travelers’ Tales editors will choose winners in 21 categories ranging from adventure to humor, from destination to memoir, and everything in between. The grand prize category has cash awards of $1,000, $750, and $500; all other category winners receive a certificate and a copy of the most recent edition of The Best Travel Writing or The Best Women’s Travel Writing. Plus, winners may be published in Travelers’ Tales books. Check out BestTravelWriting.com for details of the awards and more.
If you didn’t make it to the Ferry Plaza on Monday, you really missed out. Four excellent writers shared stories of Wipe Outs. One of them was Paul McHugh, who used to be the Outdoor Editor for our local S.F. paper. Now he’s freelancing and he has a book coming out early next year. Since he’s one of us, we’ll be planning a launch event, you can be sure. Also reading was Joanna Biggar, who used to write for the Washington Post and who’s taught workshops with me in Greece, Ireland and Italy. We’ll be taking a group to Costa Rica in January. Still a little room; you’ll have to let me know if you’re interested. The brilliant, very talented Natalie Galli read as well. You can read her work in Italy, A Love Story and many of the Tavelers’ Tales Best Women’s Travel collections. Elisa Sawyer was also back with a performance piece.
You know, unpleasant experiences make for great stories. Paul McHugh actually selected one of my worst adventures for his Wild Places anthology. Here’s an excerpt:
When I was a blithely disobedient little girl, my father would threaten, with a malignant air, to throw me into the Okefenokee Swamp. He could not know then, and doesn’t know to this day, I’ll bet, how thrilling a prospect that seemed. O-k-e-f-e-n-o-k-e-e. The very name was magical, and I rolled it around in my mouth with other delicious words like “Ubangi” and “Kilimanjaro.” It is, in fact, possible that my unspoken desire for that forbidden place was the secret font of all my future misbehaviors.
Years passed, and I almost forgot about the Okefenokee and about swamps, in general, until I arrived one midnight at the Valdosta airport on a then all-important corporate job. Dead beat and cranky, I sarcastically asked my cab driver what sights there were to see in Valdosta.
“Well,” he drawled, “not far from here, there’s the Okefenokee Swamp.” He said this, I think, with the same tone that my father had used on his ill-behaved daughter, but the subtlety was lost on me at the time.
I had enough sense not to insist that we drive the 120 miles west so that I could try to wander into a swamp at midnight. But a flame had been fanned on a very old fire. A new Okefenokee fever consumed me.
My journey into the Okefenokee Swamp took place a few years later. Constant companion, Lawrence, and I rented a two-person canoe and paddled out into the web of narrow channels that flow through it. The world around us was a strange mixture of the dreadful and the sublime—a place in which 700-pound alligators cruise canals in which egrets, ibis, herons, and sandhill cranes gingerly wade. Regal flags of purple iris spring from the same mud that nourishes the hair-covered, liquor-filled basins of carnivorous pitcher plants; and lilies open like celestial white crowns next to the sticky tongues of bladderworts.
“Look, Lawrence,” I’d suggested before we got going, “shouldn’t you give me a quick canoe lesson or something?”
“Oh, don’t worry,” said Lawrence, “you’ll pick it up as you go along.” His confidence must have short-circuited my prudence.
A waterway filled with poisonous snakes and carnivorous reptiles is not the best place for canoe lessons. I kept trying to focus on improving my skills, on using the oars properly, on attempting to steer, but the surroundings proved too distracting. A wandering focus, however, was deadly. The embankments on either side of us were lined with alligators dreamily soaking up sunlight. In spite of my efforts, our canoe kept heading straight for those reptiles and the snarl of cypress knees that formed a natural canoe trap.
“Listen, Lawrence,” I said my voice dripping stress. “Let’s just stay in the center of the channel, OK?”
Lawrence complied and gave a mighty oar stroke that sent us around a bend in a new course toward center where a 14-foot alligator happened to be easing its way through the waters.
“Paddle back,” Lawrence barely breathed.
Paddle back? I hadn’t even mastered paddling forward.
The alligator watched us as we tried to maneuver past, submerging like an enemy submarine until only its eyes were above water …