Books by People I Know: “I Will Say This Exactly One Time”

I_Will_Say_This_Exactly_One_Time.jpgOn social media, D. Gilson often posts screen-shots of his conversations with a woman named “Bev.” These exchanges, always by Apple Messenger, are perfect little nuggets: Bev interrogates D. about his love life. She makes fun of her neighbors. She describes daily existence with her husband. She pretty much always ends with a zinger.

For a long time, I had no idea who Bev was, but it didn’t matter. Their daily correspondence was better than any three-panel comic strip I’ve ever read. The banter is decently funny, particularly if you know D. But it’s also revealing, off-color, and fun. It’s easy to imagine a coffee table collection of Bev’s random rants.

“Revealing, off-color, and fun” is exactly how I would describe D.’s essay collection, I Will Say This Exactly One Time. I met D. when we were both students at Chatham University. In an MFA program that caters to bookish young women, D. was an instant hit: lovable and petit, wearing thick-framed glasses and a goofy smile. He speaks with a mild folksy twang. D. can use the term “queer” in regular conversation, making the word sound rakish and worldly. He never seemed to go anywhere without a cadre of girlfriends. Anywhere D. went, the scene might break into a heated discussion about gender politics or a glitzy dance party. Meanwhile, there was the persistent rumor that D. had once competed in a rodeo.


A typical D.-Bev exchange.

These essays reflect D.’s unpredictable élan. They cover the gamut of topics, from the pleasures of walking around to the semiotics of Ke$ha. This is not comic writing; many of these vignettes are deadly serious, as D.’s family has been cursed with a string of tragedies. D. studied poetry at Chatham, and his style is pensive and lyrical. My favorite essay, and probably the most shocking, chronicles his family visit to a NASCAR race. But to me, D.’s writing is like a cross between Dale Peck and Chuck Klosterman—cerebral, pop culture-savvy, and willing to lay bare his most personal pensées. The essays are meandering in the way of late-night conversation. He may say all these things exactly one time, but here’s hoping he says a lot of other stuff, too.

You can find I Will Say This Exactly One Time on Amazon, or you can order it from your local bookstore.


Books by People I Know: “Love in Translation”

Cover_Love_in_Translation_large.jpgOn paper, Katherine Stanley Obando was my editor at The Tico Times for about a year. We developed the “magazine section,” which basically meant writing longer and more colorful stories for the weekend.

Katherine helped me create my travel column, “Pura Via,” and oversaw about 200 news stories, profiles, and features. If our relationship had meant nothing else, we at least did a ton of work together.

But Katherine and I hit it off right away: She’s a fellow New Englander, and she kept a blog about language and parenting. Like me, she was married to her dream-spouse. We had both worked extensively in education. These were qualities that made us very different from our fellow expat journalists. We weren’t really interested in “getting the story.” We were basically essayists in disguise.

Meanwhile, Katherine had moved to Costa Rica a decade earlier and met the man of her dreams – not a fellow foreigner, but a Tico chef. Whereas I ended up being a longterm tourist (two years), Katherine is embedded. Costa Rica is her home now.

I have only read chunks of Love in Translation, but I can say this with certainty: Katherine is an outstanding writer. She’s funny, she thoughtful, and she really knows Costa Rica. She is less a “travel writer” than an immersive anthropologist. She writes with a unique sensitivity: a loving mother raising her daughter in a bilingual world. Whether or not you have any interest in Costa Rica, I don’t think you’ll find a more endearing portrait of familyhood.

You can find the book on Amazon, or order it from any bookstore.

37 Years of Making Things


Today is my birthday, and I am celebrating in many ways: pancakes, a hike, an Indian buffet, and an evening with friends in one of my favorite pubs. Mostly I’m relishing a sunny Saturday in Phoenix with my wife and son.

From friends and colleagues, there is one thing I would like – to share the writing, films, and recordings I’ve made these past few years.

Compared to other creative people, I am surprisingly bashful about publicizing my work. I release an audiobook, I post on Facebook, I dispatch a few tweets, and that’s pretty much it. I’ll often send a press release to a few dozen press contacts, but that is hit-or-miss.

Birthdays are often a time for reflection, especially as one approaches middle age, and there is nothing I reflect on more than my creative endeavors. In the end, I am what I do. And nothing would make me happier than to know that people are taking a gander at the things already done.

So, for your reading, viewing, and listening pleasure, here are some diversions [while you wait for the next episode of Westworld]:

Airmail Podcast

I have loved this first foray into podcasting, and friends have been very encouraging. Humble as it is, I would like to expand this podcast into something longterm and robust.

My New Times Videos

This summer, I started producing short videos for The Phoenix New Times. As a viewer and videographer, these short, guerilla-style documentaries have become my favorite medium on the Internet. I’ve gotten to meet some truly fascinating people these past few months, and I hope to produce a lot more. (Note: One video is missing from that archive, but you can access it here).

My “Heart of the Arts” Interviews

One of the highlights of my time in Phoenix was when K-BACH’s Jane Hilton asked me to host four segments about writers on the station’s arts program, “Heart of the Arts.” I have always yearned to work for public radio, and this experience was nothing short of life-changing. Also, my guests were awesome – eloquent, thoughtful, and good-humored.

Book: The Mysterious Tongue of Dr. Vermillion

Truly, I love writing pulp fiction. If someone said, “You will make a living wage for the rest of your life, but you can only write Elizabeth Crowne mysteries and nothing else,” I would say, “Deal.” I am obsessed with these macabre little stories, and I plan to write many, many more. If you’ve never heard of this, here’s an essay that explains it. Also, the book is available as an ebook.

Audiobook: The Green Season

The Green Season is my magnum opus, the exact book I had hoped to write about my two years in Costa Rica. I am very pleased with how the audiobook turned out, especially as someone who rarely “reads” books anymore. And hey, five stars!

Audiobook: The Iron Mountain

Technically, this audiobook isn’t a masterpiece. I was still learning how to do basic recordings, and my equipment and environment were rather primitive. But once you adapt to its weaknesses, I honestly think the audiobook of The Iron Mountain is a far more fulfilling experience than the origin book – and writers I admire have spoken very highly of it, which is more praise than I could possibly have hoped for.

Documentary: The Mountain

This feature-length documentary about climbing Mt. Whitney didn’t earn much attention when it was first released. I enjoyed myself at its premiere at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, but The Mountain wasn’t nearly as successful as its thematic predecessor, The Trail. But The Mountain has been gaining popularity in recent months, with more purchases on Vimeo than ever before. The trailer alone makes me smile, every time.

Surprise! “The Woman in the Sky”

If you have read this far, here’s a happy birthday surprise: “The Woman in the Sky,” my top-secret serial podcast, is scheduled to go live on Oct. 24th (in celebration of Halloween). This Elizabeth Crowne “origin story” is one of my proudest achievements as both a fiction writer and amateur audio producer. It’s also creepy as hell.


At Last, The Book Tour


For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to go “on tour.” I loved the idea of traveling from city to city, reading from my very own book for worldly audiences. It sounded romantic. It sounded decadent. Most of all, it sounded really fun. The book tour combines my three favorite pursuits—literature, performance, and wandering around.

At long last, that dream is about to come true. The tour is short, scattered, and largely self-arranged, but I am overjoyed that it is finally happening. Below is the full schedule, which I’ll be updating regularly. If you find yourself in one of these places, and you happen to have a free evening, I’d love to run into you.

Feb. 11

Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston. I’ll be reading from The Green Season about my adventures in Central America. Very excited to read in the country’s most educated city, thanks to my good friend Karyn Polewaczyk and Trident manager Matt LaBombard. Q&A and signing to follow. Visit the event’s Facebook page for details.

Feb. 18

East End Book Exchange, Pittsburgh. I am overjoyed to return to one of my favorite bookstores in Pittsburgh (and maybe anywhere). Huge thanks to owner Lesley Rains for organizing this. Visit the event’s Facebook page for details.

Feb. 19

Arcade Comedy Theater, Pittsburgh. This most unconventional night of the tour: The No Name Players will perform my vintage radio drama, Elizabeth Crowne and the Vaudeville Conspiracy. For it, No Name has rounded up some of my favorite talents in Pittsburgh. The performance is an extension of my new short story collection, The Mysterious Tongue of Dr. Vermilion, and should be a pulpy good time. Visit the event’s Facebook page for details.

March 30 – April 2

TBA, Los Angeles. I’ll be joining an off-site reading during this year’s AWP Conference. Details coming soon!

April 18

Uptown Pubhouse, Flagstaff. I consider myself very lucky to join the Narrow Chimney Reading Series in northern Arizona. I’ll be sharing the night with prolific author Seth Muller. Visit Narrow Chimney’s Facebook page for details about this terrific ongoing series.

June 7

Arizona Humanities Council, Phoenix. In the past year, Phoenix has welcomed me with open arms. AHC runs a regular “author night,” and I will probably be its most ecstatic guest. Enormous thanks to Ellie Hutchison for setting this up. To learn more about this fantastic organization, visit the AHC website.

¡Aquí es! “The Green Season” is Now Available


Today is a very proud day: My latest book, The Green Season, is at last available. The book is a collection of essays about Costa Rica, where I happily lived and worked for nearly two years. The publisher is The Tico Times Publications Group, a brand-new wing of Central America’s most distinguished English-language newspaper. One version of the book is available in Costa Rica, and the other edition is available in the U.S., and they are both being released today. Continue reading