“Out of the Depths” in Parabola (Winter 2023)

Delighted to see my travel / spirituality essay “Out of the Depths” in the Winter 2023 issue of Parabola: Searching for the Meaning (circ. 20,000).

From swimming in a cave with skeletons to finding faith in unexpected places.

“We used to bury our people down there, at the bottom,” said my Yucatec Maya guide as he pointed at the cave’s dark mouth, dropping underground at about a 45-degree angle. . .” More at

https://parabola.org/2022/10/30/out-of-the-dark-depths/

Travel/spirituality essay to come out in Parabola

Super excited: my travel essay “Out of the Depths of a Mayan Burial Cave,” based on a mind-opening spiritual experience in Yucatan, has been bought by Parabola (New York). Can’t wait to see in their Winter 2022/23 issue!

Parabola, also known as Parabola: The Search for Meaning, is a Manhattan-based quarterly magazine on the subjects of mythology and the world’s religious and cultural traditions.

“The iPad Wars” Published by the StoryHouse Writers’ Showcase

My parenting essay “The iPad Wars” has been picked up by the online StoryHouse Writers’ Showcase of The Preservation Foundation, a literary non-profit which has been “preserving the extraordinary stories of ‘ordinary’ people” since 1976.” It originally appeared in print in the 2018 issue of The Citadel, the literary journal published at Los Angeles City College.

As I explain in the preface to the online version:

I am a father of two teenage daughters: one just graduated high school, the other still has two more years to go. Over the last few years, I’ve been watching with amazement and trepidation their transformation from adorable kids into assertive young women, a challenging journey of growth for them, but also for my partner and me. In this story, I recount one such experience.

Take a look!

“A Mindful Pilgrimage” in ZCLA’s Water Wheel

We started in a circle, hands in gassho, chanting “mu.” The sound first vibrated throughout my skull, like an inner bell inviting me to turn inwards, and then, when shared by a group of 30, it turned into a spontaneous vibration rising up to the morning sky . . .

Continue to the article.

In April 2022, I took part in a pilgrimage walk from Zen Center Los Angeles to Dharma Vijaya, a Sri Lankan Buddhist vihara (temple), a 5-mile roundtrip hike through the heart of urban LA. What started afterwards as an individual article turned into a rich, collaborative piece in the current issue of Water Wheel, ZCLA’s quarterly, reflecting on the walk and the important lessons I learned from it.

Zen Center LA is a very dear place for me. I’ve learned so much about meditation practice and Buddhist values there and took classes there to prepare to receive jukai, a lay ordination in the Soto Zen tradition in 2016. I am continuing to learn, and every meditative practice or exercise, like this pilgrimage walk, is both a reminder to see the world as it is, and live your life accordingly.

You can view the article here. And copied below are some more pictures from the walk.

“Caps Off to You!” A Fathers’ Day feature on FamilyEquality.org

Happy Father’s Day to all parents out there!

So glad for the opportunity to share the experience of watching our first child graduate from high school – a new frontier for gay families – with Family Equality supporters. I can’t praise enough the work this organization does to protect and advance the rights of gay families in every state of this country.

This was my third article for Family Equality. My Fathers’ Day feature last year was about the blessing of parenting daughters, and the one the prior year, written for the International LGBT Family Day, described raising an intersectional gay family

Those Tactfully Confusing Euphemisms

Students in my ESL writing classes are often confused by the indirect terms we use to address sensitive issues. Here is a handout I put together for them to introduce them, in simple terms, to some out of the many euphemisms we use.

Americans teach their children: “If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.” But what do you say when you need to mention something that isn’t nice, for example, unemployment or death?

Euphemisms are special words or phrases we use to refer to sensitive subjects, for example, death, unemployment, physicial appearance, or race. Some examples of euphemisms are copied below. You can see more examples, including those concerning sex and bodily functions here (Links to an external site.).

Appearance and Behavior

  • fat => big-boned, a bit overweight, a big man, a curvy woman
  • short => petite
  • odd or weird => special
  • he lies => he doesn’t always tell the truth; has vivid imagination
  • late => running a little behind
  • pushy/aggressive => assertive
  • bossy => outspoken
  • pregnant => with child, in a family way
  • sick/ill => under the weather
  • not here => unavailable
  • rude => highly strung, inappropriate
  • teenager behaving badly => a precocious teenager

Disability

  • blind => visually impaired, can’t see very well
  • deaf => hard of hearing, can’t hear very well
  • physically disabled => differently abled
  • crazy/mad => developmentally disabled; has a mental disability
  • autistic => to be on the [autistic] spectrum
  • neurodivergent means “differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal; frequently used with reference to autistic spectrum disorders” (Oxford Dictionary)

Death

  • died => passed away
  • dead (adj.) => resting in peace / no longer with us
  • dead (adj.) relative => my late grandmother
  • euthanizing a sick, old pet => put to sleep

Finances

  • cheap (cost) => economical 
  • cheap (person who likes to save money) => frugal, thrifty
  • past-due bill => outstanding payment
  • poor => economically disadvantaged, low-income 
  • rich => wealthy, well-off
  • poor country => developing country

Unemployment

  • fired from the job => they had to let her go; the company downsized; her position was eliminated; she left the company
  • unemployed => he is between jobs; pursuing other opportunities; considering options
  • jail/prison => correctional facility
  • a low-paid job => an entry-level job

Politics

  • supporting abortion => pro-choice
  • against abortion => pro-life

5 races, as definied by the federal government

  • African American / Black
  • Native American (not OK to say American Indian)
  • Asian American
  • White = Caucasian
  • Pacific Islander – someone from the Philippines, Tonga, Samoa, Hawai’i, and so on

Ethnic marker:

  • Hispanic, Latino (m) / Latina (f) / Latinx (both m + f)

Examples:

Luis is from Mexico -> white / Hispanic

Omar is from Dominican Republic – black / Hispanic

Eva is from Poland: white / non-Hispanic

Additional terms

Chicano = Mexican American born in the US

Nationality = citizenship

Ethnicity = belonging to a certain ethnic group of people

Sometimes they are the same, but often different. For example, Sarkis is Armenian, born and raised in Syria. He has a Syrian passport. His ethnicity: Armenian; his nationality: Syrian. If he becomes a US citizen, then his ethnicity will remain Armenian, but his nationality will become American.

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Lit agent search using Publishers Marketplace

My advice piece for fellow writers on how to find and build a list of prospective literary agents landed on the front page of the California Writers Club quarterly newsletter. Click below to read it.

Founded in 1909, California Writers Club is one of the nation’s oldest professional clubs for writers. With 22 branches throughout the state offering workshops, contests, and conferences, CWC “is dedicated to educating writers of all levels and disciplines in the craft of writing and in the marketing of their work.” It’s my second time getting published in it.

Citadel submissions open until 5/31

The Citadel, a long-running literary journal in the English/ESL department of Los Angeles City College where I teach, is seeking submissions for its annual issue from the writers near and far. It’s an excellent opportunity to get published and connect to readers and other writers.

Note that there is a $10 reading fee for all submissions, except those made by LACC students. All proceeds from the reading fees go towards the printing of the magazine and LACC student writing contest prizes, and the editorial board and readers work for free.

Click on the icon below to view the submission guidelines.

At AWP22: Moderating a Panel and Reading

#AWP22 was a swirl of activities as the literary world is emerging from the downtime of the pandemic. What a difference from the last live AWP convention, March 2020 in San Antonio, the so-called #AWPocalypse of 2020 – a conference on the edge of a world shutting down, which I wrote about for the California Writing Club.

This gathering in the beautiful, historic downtown Philadelphia was pretty much back to business as usual. AWP (Association of Writers and Writers Programs) conventions do a great job putting writers together with one another, presses, agents, literary journals. I always have a hard time deciding which panel or talk to attend as so many happen at the same time.

One of my personal highlights at AWP 2022 was reading the essay “Christmas Dreidels,” excerpted from my yet-to-be-published memoir A Family, Maybe and published recently in Citadel, at the AWP Two-Year College Creative Writing Caucus offsite literary reading at Community College of Philadelphia on 3/25/22. So thankful to be part of this warm, supportive group of teaching writers.

Our panel included writers/professors from community colleges that publish literary journals. (L-R): Joe Baumann, [me], Magin LaSov Gregg, and Maria Brandt.

“Where Every Voice Matters: Community College Literary Journal Showcase” was an AWP 2022 panel I organized and moderated the morning after the reading. Together, we explored strategies to engage underrepresented writers and help them grow in the literary world, read samples of student writing from our journals, and discussed new ways to produce and publicize these publications. So many ideas; such great questions from the audience. Stay tuned for a summary of these ideas in my upcoming blog post for AWP Two-Year College Creative Writing Caucus.

And finally, a nice write-up about the conference in Publishers Weekly.

Guide for future foster/adopt parents published on #1 adoption site

Glad to share my firsthand experience and research into foster/adoption policies and history on Adoption.com, the world’s largest adoption website and adoptive parent platform. I hope it will make a useful guide for prospective foster/adoptive parents. Wish I’d known all of this going into the fost/adopt process years ago!

When considering adopting kids from foster care, prospective parents are usually concerned about childproofing their home, and completing the required classes and background checks.. . . What they might not be as well aware of is the complex legal landscape they are about to enter. This article, written by a foster/adoptive parent, presents an overview of public opinions, legal viewpoints, and legislative mandates which have shaped child welfare policies today. . .

https://adoption.com/welfare-policies-foster-to-adopt/

Writing this article provided a deeply gratifying opportunity to share my personal experience as a foster/adoptive parent. And publishing it was a tremendously helpful experience of growth for me as a writer, a culmination of 6 months of intensive collaboration with a professional online content editor. Take a look!