Summer Solstice Reading
June 14th, 2010, 7PM
Hercules, CA 94547
You’re invited to a book reading I’m having of my novel, Sundagger.net, “a mystery in another dimension”, at the brand new Hercules Library. Please come! It will be held on a bright Monday evening, one week before the actual solstice on June 21st.
What is a summer solstice? It is the longest day of the year and occurs when the earth is tilted closest to the sun.
My novel begins and ends with a solstice ceremony. The title is based on an actual phenomenon that occurs at the solstices. In Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, the sun “pierces” a spiral petroglyph carved by the Anasazi at the top of a butte. The stone slabs through which the sun shines shape the light into dagger(s). One dagger shines down the center of the spiral at the summer solstice and two flank the rim at the winter solstice.
The reading will also include drumming and Native American ceremony. It will be held in a beautiful large white room in the Hercules Library with all the latest electronic equipment one might ever need. I’ll be showing slides of the amazing and colossal Chaco Canyon ruins.
As we approach the summer solstice, our energies will be high and our intention strong. Together we will manifest ourselves. Come celebrate. Bring your drum!
When I showed my friend, Josh, Sherman Alexie’s new novel, War Dances,and explained the nationally recognized Native American author had signed his latest book for me at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show, Josh wanted to know if I asked him to endorse my book, Sundagger.net. I was amazed to realize the question never entered my mind.
Not then, not in October, 2009. But the truth is three years ago when I was finishing my novel, Sherman Alexie was the first writer I thought of to review it. I admired his work and had read it all. He is a master craftsman of language, excelling in hauntingly vulnerable, funny, appealing characters, a unique, authentic writer who takes chances. Three years I checked out his website, looking for a way to reach him but got discouraged. There was no point in contacting him I decided, indulging in self-pity. He would not be interested in a white woman writing magical stories of prehistoric mysterious indigenous tribes entangled with hi-tech netcom capitalists.
Yet here I was at the NCIBA holding my novel as I forced myself to walk over to the long table where Sherman Alexie was signing copies of War Dances. There was a lady in front of me who had been at his overflow reading in an Oakland church the night before and was telling him how much she loved it. Sherman was smiling up at her. I was enjoying her too, imagining how exciting that experience had been and how great it was to hear such positive feedback.
When it was my turn, Sherman Alexie had already opened up one of his brand new bright blue hard cover books to sign. But I was holding out my book, bent on presenting it. I blurted how Sundagger.net was a story of magic realism with a Native American theme, set in the Southwest of the ancient Anasazi and in post-9/11 Silicon Valley. I talked about my book cover, the electric digitalized shot of Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon framed by two flying silhouettes. I talked about myself. I told him how much I admired his work.
He took up his pen. “Good luck, Margaret, with your book,” he wrote. That was when I should have asked him to endorse it! But I was bemused with my own satisfaction. I’ll definitely ask Sherman Alexie for his endorsement to the prequel to Sundagger.net. I promise.
I’m outside the Pinole Library. I’ve just finished my “Event with the Author,” reading from my novel and showing slides of Chaco Canyon World Heritage Center in New Mexico. Looking at myself is humbling and yet–can you tell?–I’m proud too. Ha! Life is wonderful. Everything comes to pass. I’ve started writing my next book. I’m 25 pages into the unknown that is the prequel to Sundagger.net. My working title is Center of the World—that’s what the Anasazi must have felt. It’s where we’re all at, don’t you think?
Around Labor Day I appeared twice at California Expo State Fair Author’s Booth in Sacramento, CA. There were 38 of us writers scheduled to appear over the two-week period. I was thrilled because a year before I had been on the other side of the booth, listening to other writers talk about their books. And now I had the chance to be one of them.
The booth was in the center of the first floor of a building overflowing with enticing displays from all the California counties. It was an old barn of a warehouse in fact, without lighting, wireless access, enough electrical outlets or sound insulation. I sat with four other writers looking out long picnic tables where fairgoers devoured chocolate-covered berries, sticky cinnamon buns, thick pizza, sourdough chowder bowls and funnel cakes. Our job was to talk to people, sell our books, and read our work if we chose.
I learned from the other authors how to take charge no matter what the environment. The engaging journalist-historian and a children’s writer on either side of me wooed the crowd in different ways, using their passion for their books to fuel one-time intimate conversations. When not talking, the journalist took copious notes from an old book about Sacramento, his next history project. In a very soft voice, the children’s writer prompted passers-by to lean over the table to better hear her.
The experience of carrying on conversations with strangers about my book or any book was fascinating, if nebulous. The second time I appeared was a Thursday and a slow day for the fair. Some people stopped to look, some to talk. I met a man who worked for the National Park Service and was the planner for Chaco Canyon National Park during the 1980s. He actually got the rare chance to go to the top of Fajada Butte and see the sun dagger during the solstices. After our enthusiastic conversation about the primitive terrain into the canyon, he bought my book.
Unlike opening day when there had been no microphone, this time there was one and I was determined to read. I had signed up to appear at 3:15 PM, allotting a little over a quarter hour for my appearance. My young friend, Josh, was there to accompany me with his Native American singing and drumming. Still I felt challenged, knowing my audience was hit-or-miss, random folk milling about. Would I be able to attract their interest enough to stop and sit down on the folding chairs and be caught up in my story?
I did find an audience. There was one family of four, including children, who sat near the front. The father listened intently as I read about the Navajo and Hopi views of a vision quest. I remember a few single people sitting at the end. There was at least one couple toward the back. An intent young man near the center. Who else? My good friend, Rose, from Concord was there to support me. I felt so grateful.
I had practiced all the previous week, talking into my tape recorder, writing out an outline. But looking out at the people wandering by, only vaguely aware of me on the stage, I became distracted. Rushing past my own confusion, I started reading from Chapter 16, Vision Quest, where a group of people from a San Francisco Bay Area sweat lodge ends up in Chaco Canyon.
I held the microphone to my lips as Josh drummed four different times while the scenes changed and then finished by singing a Sundance song. His song was great. But there was so much noise in that cavernous building! So many distractions; for example, a rock climbing demonstration area was located right next to the stage.
Time flew by. From my proceeds, I wrote a check for California Sales Tax to Naida West, the Author’s Booth organizer and an outstanding novelist of California history with a Native American point of view. I won’t forget those people who talked with me, who listened to my story, and I to theirs. My spirits were high when I drove home.
Margaret Murray appearing at California State Fair,
Cal Expo, Sacramento.
August 21st, Friday, 4:00 – 10:00PM
September 3rd, Thursday, 12:00 – 5:00PM
Weird, Wild and Wacky is the theme of the 2009 California State Fair.
I’ll be there with Sundagger.net, a magic novel of the ancient Anasazi and post-9/11 Silicon Valley. Weird? Wild? Wacky? You tell me.
I’ll show slides of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, where the old and new stories collide.