Kate Flora here, reporting in from my annual escape to San Francisco. That’s right. The city by the bay. From the windows of our rented apartment, we can watch the incredible nightly light show on the Bay Bridge. Several times a day, I have to pick my head up from my work because a flock of squawking green parrots flies past. I’m here to escape from winter in New England, but I’m still writing, turning my back to the view. And I’m here to shake things up.
If I don’t leave town, see old friends, and walk the hills, it is far too easy to maintain my old pattern. And it’s a very dull pattern indeed. I have my coffee and go to my desk. I rarely leave the house. And I’m normally quite content. But shaking things up is good for writers, and it is quite a shake up to spend time in San Francisco.
It begins at the airport in Boston. The waiting area is crowded with money people and research people headed to SF for a BioTech conference. Their world is small, and people have worked together at different stages in their careers. There are powerful women in elegant garb. There are tough female CEOs and CFOs in cowgirl boots. There are abstracted guys in jeans, dedicated researchers hot on the trail of a discovery that may take many more years in the lab to realize. People with ideas that can change lives.
In San Francisco, updates about what friends are doing take place in great restaurants over delicious food. At Le Mar, near the Ferry Building, we eat Peruvian food while Carl Pope, who formerly ran the Sierra Club, updates us about his latest ventures. His wife, Shahnaz Taplin-Chinoy, describes her charity, http://www.wisemuslimwomen.org, that works with an NGO in India to retrain Muslim women whose working doing traditional embroidery has been replaced by machines to do jobs that can support their families. Did I know, she asks, that one out of
eight women in the world is Muslim? I had no idea.
At another dinner with artists and journalists, I meet Peggy Northrop, an energetic magazine editor (Sunset), whose new project is http://shebooks.net/:
Shebooks is the new e-book publisher of great short stories by women, for women. We publish short memoirs, fiction, essays, and long-form journalism by some of the best writers in the United States and beyond, both well known and yet to be discovered. Each Shebook is between the length of a magazine article and a book—long enough to immerse yourself for a plane ride, or a good read before bed. Shebooks publishes the stories women want to read and write. At a length that respects their time. In a format that fits their busy lives. Short e-books for women
Last night at dinner, another friend who works with corporations and venture capitalists described a party she’s going to tonight–women in the biotech world and funding worlds here for the conference, are having their women-only get together in the Saks shoe department. Oh what this writer wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall at that!
We have only been here for a few days. We’ve walked the hills and had lunch at Rosies Cafe. We’ve wondered why the bars were full before ten on a Sunday morning (the 49ers game) and inhaled the scent of eucalyptus in The Presidio. We’ve wondered at some of the astonishing costumes people wear on the street..untied leather boots flopping below hot pants, pajama pants and cashmere sweaters, and an elderly Asian lady in a bathrobe yelling at someone outside a building at 10:30 at night.
The world is expanding in all directions. There is so much to see. Going away and meeting new people and seeing new things will let me also see new things when I am back home at my desk. Yes, in the company of these amazing people, there are many moments when my own accomplishments seem small and I momentarily wonder if I choose the right career path. But we writers have our own ways of illuminating issues and changing the world. And it is this, in part, that I will carry home with me when I bring this San Francisco energy back to my desk.
And on a completely different note, to celebrate the fact that my son Max married a lovely woman named Amber Johnson last Tuesday, here’s a wedding video (not theirs!) that will make you laugh out loud. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3E9U3GDrmI