Mr. Wendal

My husband, being of the Beatles generation, always wins the who-had-the-best-high-school-music fight hands down. But recently we came across this song from my generation in an episode of In Living Color and I knew I finally had him challenged.


Science Diet 2

This weekend I turned on C-SPAN for a little holiday viewing and found an awesome program of lady science writers. (Merry Christmas to me!)

Molly Caldwell Crosby (Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries) and Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) were on a panel at the
Texas Book Festival discussing their books and writing habits. (Skloot's book is on Ars Hermeneutica's 2010 list of top-rated reads, as well as most of this year's bestsellers lists.)

Sadly, I don't think I read one science book all year, which not only prompted me to interview Jeff but to also deem 2011 my year of math & science.

If you'd like to suggest some titles, please do! I'm already building my list.

WMNF Evening News Special

The extended versions of the author interviews I've been working so diligently on all year are finally airing tonight on the WMNF Evening News between 6 - 7 p.m. (or in the archives at

The program includes Big Citizen Alan Khazei, Factory Girls' Leslie T. Chang, and young adult author Walter Dean Myers.

I also did a round up of Eckerd College's Plight & Promise of Africa, their 2010 initiative on the continent's struggles and successes, which includes the work of fellow WMNF reporters Joshua Holton, who covered a photo exhibit of the suffering in Congo, and Tom Baur, who spoke with humanitarians John Prendergast and Elie Wiesel. My bit on Dave Eggers and Gabriel Bol Deng is in the mix as well.

Late last week I realized that I failed (big) to interview any science writers. So I googled around trying to find someone science-y willing chat with during Christmas week, and I stumbled across Dr. Jeff Shaumeyer.

A former physicist, Jeff started Ars Hermeneutica to encourage science literacy. And part of his effort to increase Americans knowledge (and love) of science is the Science Reading Challenge, now in its fourth year.

The Science Book Challenge 2011 requires only three (or 3.14) books throughout the entire year. I figure that's the least I can do, so I'll keep you posted on my progress.


Counting Your Blessings (and Christmas Cards)

Among the many grown-up tasks I've been unsuccessful at getting a jumpstart on in my ever-increasing years is sending out holiday cards. As one of the few remaining letter writers left in this country, it's not a total stretch for me so I'm not sure why it's such a challenge.

I sure love getting them (even if I feel guilty and undeserving). They come from new friends, old friends, my husband's colleagues, my own mother, and unexpected and far away places.

But I guess that's the spirit of Christmas - giving love without expectation.

As the clock ticks closer, I found myself at the Hallmark store downtown this afternoon poring over pretty cards and imagining what I'd write in them. Despite my anti-consumer bent, I purchased a few and sent them right off.

'Tis the season to not hide your love away.


Big Citizenship

Today while waiting in line at my local non-governmental shipping store, I eavesdropped on customers inquiring on the price of sending numerous 150 lb. packages to Haiti.

I got a little misty-eyed (Who knew I had so much in common with John Boehner?!) when they said they were working with college kids to send toiletries to the cholera-ravaged country.

Now those are some big citizens.

("And the kicker," chimed in the lone employee behind the counter, "is that I'm from Haiti!")

I've always been at a loss as to how I can be of help in the world (specifically in my new hometown of Tampa), which was why I was drawn to Alan Khazei's book
Big Citizenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America.

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Alan for the WMNF News. The 3-minute segment will most likely air tonight, and an extended version will air next Monday evening as part of my author interview special.

Alan, a huge believer in national service, co-founded City Year in the late 80's, which became the model for AmeriCorps. He later helped save AmeriCorps when it was threatened by political shenanigans. Again, another teary-eyed moment for me since I served in AmeriCorps during the 2005-2006 school year as a second grade reading tutor as part of Hillsborough Reads.

But not to worry, I didn't cry over the air. Not that there's
anything wrong with that.


It's Not a Small World After All

Less than 20 years ago just a few (relatively speaking) people thought about where the stuff they bought came from, mostly because of political reasons. I was introduced to the Boycott Made in China movement in the early '00's when I lived in protest-ready Seattle.

Still, I was on the fence with this issue. The Chinese people, like anyone, were happy to have jobs to bring them out of poverty. But I'd also heard about terrible working conditions and 12 year-olds making iPods.

However I was becoming more and more annoyed by American's belief that cheaper is better. Until recently it seemed that the majority of Americans didn't care about who made what, that is, until our own country started doing badly.

But the main reason I couldn't take a stance was because it was hard for me to see a real face on the issue. (Though my own personal solution was to shop less and almost exclusively at thrift stores.)

A few more details were filled in for me when I came across Leslie T. Chang's Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. The author chronicles the lives of two young Chinese women who traded in their rural youths for the excitement of the unknown in huge, anonymous factory cities on the southern coast of China. The book weaves the migrants' stories together with Chang's own Chinese family background.

I interviewed Leslie last week as part of my author interview special that will air on the WMNF Evening News on Monday, December 27th from 6-7 p.m. You can listen to an excerpt of the interview that played on last night's newscast.

My conclusion is that globalization is tricky, especially when it seems as if the success of one country is based on the downfall of another. But this is where education is key, and learning as much as possible makes the clean up of whatever mess we're in easier on us all.


WWNKD? (or Blame It on My Bleeding Heart)

I remember not liking to eat alone in my 20's, but taking myself out to lunch on a work day has become one of my favorite things about being alive (and employed).

I like the feeling of being a regular, counting the servers & owners among my friends. I also cherish the break from work that I spend noshing, scribbling, or just plain being.

After months of my weekly joyful lunching, Saturday was the first time I completely broke down upon returning to work to see a man who obviously was going without the basic necessities on a regular basis.

This was not a completely unanticipated event. I frequently walk around downtown and pass by plenty of people who panhandle; on every corner of every major (and minor) thoroughfare in this town, there stands a sad-eyed soul in a neon vest asking for help or money.

At the library, my coworkers and I know the names of many of these folks, we know their taste in movies, books, and music. We know which shelters they stay at, we know their names and faces when we see them out on the streets after the sun goes down and the library closes, when we get to go home.

During lunch on that particular Saturday, I had been thinking about a book I'm reading, Not on Our Watch. Lots of the photos in the book were taken by Nick Kristof, who writes about poverty, globalization and human rights for the NYT. I wondered how really hard core do-gooders can see this stuff (and much worse) day after day and still get through their days/lives without drugs/drink/breaking down.

Also fueling my tear ducts was an earlier conversation with co-worker/friend Emi, about how much we want to use our skills and ambition and energy to do good, but just can't seem to come up with exactly how or what we should do.

I don't think it's naive to care about others, but I'm getting increasingly frustrated because this is a case where action, not thoughts, counts most.


Things to Do in Tampa When You're Not Dead

Tampa lost one of its finest do-gooders this week, and Ronny & I one of our closest friends. This post is for Tommy, who came late to loving live music in Tampa. But better late than never?

Music abounds in Tampa in December so it's easy to celebrate the season or just being alive. Hope to see you out there.

On Friday, Diana Jones is playing 88.5's Live Music Showcase. You can catch Diana on Sunday, December 5th at 3 p.m at the UU Dome, with Linda Fackeldey opening.

Austin-based musician Andrew Hardin will play a live set on WMNF at 9 a.m on Saturday morning. Get up close to Andrew & his music (and 20-30 or so of your new best friends) the following day at a Lunazoot house concert at 3 p.m. in north Tampa.

On Saturday evening join Tasmanian-turned-Nashville, Tennessean songwriter Audrey Auld at Gram's Place. Another intimate venue not to be missed. (It'll also be my 32nd birthday party. Thanks in advance to my mom for bringing a pineapple upside down cake.)

Also happening Saturday night is Jobsite Theater's annual fundraiser,
Jobsite Rocks! VII at New World Brewery in Ybor. Music by The Vodkanauts, Pale Orchestra, and ex-Famous Monsters of Filmland. The show starts at 9 p.m.

And these are just the handful of shows that came to my email inbox, so I know there's a ton more out there that you can find via the traditional routes: TBO, TBT, Reax, CL, WMNF. (What else did I miss?)

Get out there and find something to do!

P.S. If you love (or hate) the Deep South and Molly Ringwald, go read Ernessa T. Carter's 32 Candles. It's a classic dysfunctional family drama with a twisted love story and lots of humor.

Photo above of Ronny, me and Tommy after Tommy married us on 3/28/09


Third Annual Yart Sale

Yart Sale = art/yard sale to raise funds for Tampa's Artists and Writers Group.

Browse, buy, and eat this Saturday from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Grown Man Studios in Seminole Heights. (6412 Central Ave., Tampa).


Conscious Consumption

Yogani Studios is hosting its 2nd Annual Conscious Consumption on December 5th from 2 - 4 p.m. It's a clothing & accessories swap with the an awesome mantra:
"I don't want it but somebody will."
There will also be a screening of the must-see video The Story of Stuff. Admission is a non-perishable food item or jar of peanut butter for a local food bank. Left over items will be donated to Metropolitan Ministries.


Let's Go Downtown

Coming soon to downtown Tampa: if you forget to bring change, you can still park on the street! The old meters are coming out and space markers will go up.

The markers will have your space number, then you'll have to find a solar-powered payment stations where you can use cash or credit/debit.

I also like the new recycling and garbage cans.

Also new to downtown is the signage at the old Performing Arts Center. Now it's unmistakably the Straz (over the shoulder of my friendly co-worker Dabel).


Socially Responsible Holiday Shopping

Even though I really love giving and getting presents, the material worth of gifts has ceased to be important to me.

This was burned into me one year in college, by a friend who told me that the poem I wrote for her wasn't a good enough present, and despite being a penniless student I should have at least shelled out for a $5 gift.

But when your pockets are empty, $5 is worth more to you than a trinket that will inevitably be thrown away with this season's gift wrapping. Of course she and I are no longer friends.

So this year my friend Emi and I have decided to collaborate on how to spend your holiday dollars wisely (and locally and morally).

See each of our suggestions below. Mine were inspired in part by being underemployed: we simply do not have a lot of dough to spend this year. But my husband and I are also on a mission to shed our home of the stuff we've acquired throughout our lives that only take up space and collect dust.

Dawn's Gifting Ideas:

* Donate to your favorite non-profit or public media organization. The work they do is priceless, but they need help keeping their lights on just like the rest of us. (We love WMNF, WUSF, YES! Magazine, The Nation, Sea Shepherd, and more.)

* Buy a present for a child in need. Contact your closest YMCA or public school for more info.

* Spread your wealth by re-gifting! You probably have some great books, shoes, art, and other stuff that have lost its sentimental value or your changing tastes, but are still too good to throw away.

* Be crafty! Use your talents to make something. I love reading to my friends's kids via Youtube or an easy-to-make iMovie dvd.

* Eat, Drink, Be Merry! Buy gift certificates at the Tampa Theatre, or mix & match fancy beers at Vintage Wine Cellars. Catch dinner and some music at Ella's or the New World Brewery.

Emi's Gifting Ideas:

* Started by National Geographic to make sure that the most money gets back to local artisans world wide.They have an amazing selection of gifts that give you an artist biography so you know exactly who made your gift.

* Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite ways to give back for the holidays. You are providing a shoe box filled with small gifts and essentials to a child in need across the globe. It is very affordable to do and makes a huge difference in their lives.

* Everything on Etsy must either be hand-made, "up-cycled" from it's original state, or vintage. This ensures that your gift is unique and most likely one of a kind, all while supporting independent artists.

This set of Star Wars coasters and record album bowl makes the perfect gift for a movie/music lover. It is made from a recycled album and you are sure to not find it in stores.

Emi also proposes a challenge to you hard-core shoppers:
Instead of giving money to socially irresponsible corporations, why not shop local, or only from retailers that are making an effort to make a difference?

Be a Good Person = Be a Good Driver

Four years ago when I was a Tampa newbie, I wrote about our town's bad driving on Sticks of Fire. The situation has only gotten worse, as demonstrated by the slew of recent cyclist deaths.

Because of the careless driving I've seen in just the past six months, I no longer go on green for fear of red light runners. I look both ways when crossing a one-way street, and before I leave the house I ask myself if this trip is absolutely necessary. You know, worth being rear-ended or worse.

However it became standard practice in Tampa to eat, text, chat, sew, read, and more while driving, it has got to stop with you.

Accidents happen, but crashes don't have to. Last month I wasn't as careful as I should have been and changed lanes too quickly. I cut off a car that was in a blind spot but practically beside me. Thank goodness that driver was paying attention and prevented us from colliding.

These days when you see a driver swerving out of their lane for a few seconds, it's almost guaranteed they're texting. Every time I'm sitting at a red light I watch the passing cars to see how many drivers are looking down for 3-4+ seconds as they text. It's too many to count. I can forgive ignorance, but this is plain stupidity.

I know we all lead very, very busy lives but no message is so important that it's worth killing or maiming another living soul. For one, I can't believe it's not yet illegal. But it's even harder for me to believe that I know good people who drive and txt and are unaware or unconcerned about how dangerous their behavior is to themselves and the people around them.


The Economics of Helping Others

One of the most disempowering things for me as a do-gooder is having the drive to help but lacking the knowledge to do it effectively. To combat my ignorance (and give me a much-needed shot of inspiration) I'm currently reading Alan Khazei's Big Citizenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America.

The book got me thinking about how much I don't know about helping people, despite the fact that I've been doing it all my life. I'm proud that much of what I've done has been helpful and hands-on (tutoring, media training, reporting, outreach, nursing home companion), but I haven't established any program that keeps on giving once I've moved onto my next thing. Nor have I ever come across a cause that has stolen my attention from all my other causes. As Lloyd Dobler said in Say Anything, "I am looking for a dare to be great situation."

Another thing I've been doing all my life is ignoring math, which is especially sad to me because now I know what I don't know: how to make my best ideas financially workable and raise the needed funds. Both are essential in the economics of giving. But I'm continuing to read and learn, with the hope that I'll carve a place for myself in the world where it's not easy to make a living helping others.

On that note, the Economist recently had an article on trusting charities. Seems to be a good place to start.


Tampa Bay Writers Events

Moving here from Seattle, one of the most literate cities in the country, was quite a change (to say the least). Five and a half years later, I still crave the bookstores and interaction with writers and authors that is so easily found back in that gray, drizzly town.

I'll take Florida's sunshine any day, so the good news is that I'm digging up more and more writerly things to do around here. (The next thing on Tampa's much-needed list is Seattle's public transit system.)

Currently, the Tampa Jewish Book Festival is happening, with author events through the next week.

I've also heard about two upcoming writer's workshops.

Writing from Within with Nyssa Hangar (a great local poet who was a part of the 2008 Danny Pearl Music Days event I helped organize).
When: November 13 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Cost: $90
Where: Visit for more info
Contact: 813-416-3069

Advanced Memoir Writing Workshop with Margo Hammond (of WMNF's Book Babes),
When: November 23rd from 10:30-2:00.
Cost: $45
Where: Angel Tea Room

7301 First Avenue S, St. Petersburg

To RSVP, call Suzanne Butler at 727-345-1873

Let me know if you know of more? Happy writing!


Knowing Who Your Friends Are

A few weeks ago at Skipper's while chatting up a friend, I glanced a passing stranger and whispered, "Ooh, that's one of my Facebook friends!"

My friend, a non-Facebooker, asked: "How do you know him?"

"I have no idea. But his face is so familiar to me from his photos."

I am one of those people who has no idea who hundreds of my Facebook friends are. As a media person, it was bound to happen, but some days I don't feel great about it. For the most part, as lovely and like-minded as my FBF's might be (having found each other through groups like WMNF, Veterans for Peace, and Jim Hightower), they are not friends I can call up on a Tuesday morning when I'm stuck sick in bed, bored out of my mind and in need of chatting.

And though it's been said that social networking and the internet are making us less sociable, I continue to believe these tools have the opposite effect.

For example, at work the other day, my relatively new co-worker and friend (and FB friend) Emily excitedly told me we have a couple of FBF's in common, including Mirko Soko, whom she knows of through her boyfriend James. She quickly relayed the story of how James met Mirko online when he bought his extra Wilco ticket. They ended up going to see the show together.

FB keeps us in touch: my former AmeriCorps team members Rosalinda and Amber earlier this year

In Mirko's (truncated) words:
Then we found each other here on FB and somewhat kept in touch. Then one night late I saw an update from him that he was gonna pick up a set of sofas (later found out he got them through freecycle) anyways he needed some help and I was available so I helped him out so that's pretty much the story. He seems like a good guy. It's funny 'cos I realize that I'm perhaps friendlier online that I'm in person sometimes ;)

"How do you know him?" Emily asked me.

"Uh, I don't know. I don't think I've ever met him before."

I sent Mirko a message on FB to confirm that we indeed have not ever met. He agreed, though noted perhaps we've seen each other in passing at the radio station or at a show. He seems like someone I should be friends with.

Me and Ronny with our traveling troubadour FB friend Ramsay Midwood


Be the Change

To paraphrase Gandhi, if you wanna see change, you've got to make it happen.

My latest story is on the health benefits of volunteering. I interviewed two great volunteers, Ms. Ligon and Ms. Hunziker, who serve their church and school, respectively. But they weren't the only folks I chatted up.

There was also a 40-something from the
Junior League of Tampa, a 20-something at the Grace House in Clearwater, and two retirees giving their open days to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Moffitt Cancer Center. Yet I had space for just 700 words, which is never enough to give the whole story.

I could fill a book with all the joys and trials and tribulations of volunteering that
I've witnessed.

There are so many worthy organizations out there that need your help,
and not just during the holidays (as noted in the profile I did last year of Metropolitan Ministries).

Helping others often requires you to step outside of your comfort zone and into the world as it really is: a place with so much suffering buried beneath the thin, superficial skin of pop culture and material possessions.

Consider giving a little time and hands-on effort to someone in need in your community.


Junior League of Tampa

Though I'm not big on consumerism, I do love buying presents for the people I love. I look forward to blogging this November & December about local charitable organizations holding holiday fundraisers to benefit excellent causes.

This weekend check out the Junior League of Tampa's 7th Annual Holiday Gift Market where 100% of the proceeds go to women and children in need in Tampa Bay. The Junior League is a great organization for women of all ages wanting to better their communities, and this is their biggest fundraiser of the year.

Where: Florida State Fairgrounds – Entertainment Hall
4800 US Highway 301 N, Tampa, FL 33610

When: Friday, November 5, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday, November 6, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
Sunday, November 7, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Admission: $5


Key West: Restoring Insanity

While Jon Stewart prepares to Restore Sanity in the U.S., down here in Key West (it's a whole 'nother country) we're busy riding the wave of insanity.



Hello fellow writers!

November is National Novel Writing Month! 50,000 words or 175 pages. I admit that, as someone who inhales non-fiction, I've probably only read 2.5 novels in 2010. But I'm determined to make 2011 the year of my novel, and NaNoWriMo is a great way to get started.

So I'll be brain storming away the next few days, developing a recent idea that has made me so curious that I have to write it out to see what happens by writing it down.

Will you join me and the rest of the NaNoWriMo'ers? If you're not into online-only interaction, check out some of Novermber's novel writing events offered by the Hillsborough County Public Library.

Oh, and you don't have to be a writer to participate. You just need the desire and a little dedication. Ready?!