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PHOTO OF WEEK: Our TWE Book Launch is Tonight-Oct. 7-at Book Passage

Join us for our 20 Women Changemakers
Book Launch Tonight!

WE ARE EXCITED. Tonight–Oct. 7, 2017- is the night we officially launch our 20 WOMEN CHANGEMAKERS (www.changemakersbook.com) at Book Passage, a wonderful bookstore in Corte Madera, CA. Please come and join us if you are in the San Francisco area.

Invite to Book Passage Book Party

Our panel is terrific…our radio host Stacey Gualandi will be there along with 20 WOMEN CHANGEMAKER Doniece Sandoval, the founder of LAVA MAE. Laurie McAndish King, a TWE contributor and award-winning author, will be the moderator.

Treats with an international flavor in honor of our women from around the world will be featured. Join us!

Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede Transform Africa’s Largest Urban Slum

Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede/Photo from Jessica's book Find Me Unafraid

Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede

By Laurie McAndish King (@LaurieKing)/January 12, 2016
TWITTER for Jessica and Kennedy: @hope2shine

Jessica Posner grew up a middle-class American in Denver. She hadn’t seen much of the world, and when she had an opportunity to study overseas she chose to do political theater work in Kenya. Jessica ended up living in a slum with no streets, no toilets, no running water, no electricity and no public services. Then she got malaria.

“No one believed Jessica could survive,” Kennedy Odede, her husband, says. “Every morning my friends knocked on my door and asked: Is she dead, or is she alive?”

find=me-unafraid-kennedy-odede-jessica-posnerJessica Posner and Kennedy Odede’s lives are linked by one unlikely circumstance after another. They met when Jessica was taking a junior year abroad and Kennedy was organizing street theater to raise awareness about sexual violence in his community. Kennedy lived in a Nairobi slum called Kibera, a warren of hopelessness the size of Central Park.

Jessica and Kennedy were in America together, celebrating the launch of the book they co-wrote, Find Me Unafraid — Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum. A friend had told me about their remarkable story, so I was excited to hear the couple speak at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California.

It’s hard to imagine two people more different on the surface. Jessica wears a stylish dress; her animal-print pumps have three-inch spike heels. Reserved on stage, she lets Kennedy do most of the talking.

Kennedy speaks with animation and charisma. Until a few years ago he’d had so little exposure to Western culture that he was astonished by the abundance of a school cafeteria and the luxury of hot running water.

Jessica and Kennedy tell us about the work they have done together, which sounds like a minor miracle: setting up and running a free school for girls in the slum, making clean water and medical care accessible and helping dozens of individuals start small businesses.

It hasn’t been easy. Kennedy grew up in extreme poverty, taking to the streets and using drugs when he was just 10 years old to help alleviate the pain of his situation.

“I had a job in a factory where I earned $1 for 10 hours,” Kennedy says. “I saw people getting old in their jobs. My best friend was shot and killed by the police; my sister was abused. I was sad and angry and hopeless.”


But Kennedy Odede was also resourceful, resilient and determined. He read A Testament of Hope: the Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., and was inspired to build a better future.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that,” he read in King’s book. “Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

Kennedy realized that the people of Kibera needed to solve their own problems, and he was determined to do just that.

“Where are the donors? Where is the money?” his friends asked. “You are crazy!”

“This is not a non-profit,” Kennedy responded. “This is a movement. We do not need donors to clean our streets. We do not need donors talk about issues that affect us.”

Odede was off to a strong start. He bought a twenty-cent soccer ball and started a team to give people something constructive to do. He organized neighborhood clean-ups and street theater. He raised awareness about sexual violence.

He co-founded a youth group called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) and got his fellow citizens talking about how to improve their living conditions. “I got elected mayor of Kibera,” Kennedy says, sounding a little surprised.

jessica Posner and Kennedy Odebe at Book Passage Oct. 2015/from Laurie King

Kennedy and Jessica speaking at Book Passage/10-15

Then Jessica turned up. She moved into Odede’s cramped home, reasoning that it would be hypocritical to live in comfort outside the slum while she was working with the people of Kibera. The two strategized, and decided that if they could change the realities for women and children, everything else would follow. They would open a free school for girls, starting with the youngest, the brightest and the most vulnerable children.

Jessica knew how to apply for grants in America. She had friends whose families donated money. She raised $10,000 to start, and Kennedy worked with community members to arrange a small space for the school.

It had to be free in order to reach the girls most in need, but the school wasn’t set up as a charity. The students’ parents contribute their time — five work-weeks each year — in exchange for the girls’ education. Some of the students are orphans, so friends or relatives donate time for them. Brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbors all work together to help the school and build community.

Jessica and Kennedy hired the best teachers in Kenya, and after just a year their students were speaking good English. Opportunities were opening up, and the community began to understand the value of educating girls.

Eunice Akoth’s Dream: A poem from a 5th grade student at the Kibera School for Girls

The Kibera School for Girls  is adding one grade each year; eventually it will go through 8th grade. After that, the school will try to arrange admissions to high schools, boarding schools and even college for all its graduates.

The school made even more sense when Jessica and Kennedy added a health clinic and a source of clean water. TWE first interviewed Jessica in 2010, when the clinic had just opened. Services now include primary preventive care, women’s and children’s services, HIV care and a child nutrition program.

By including holistic services so all members of the community benefitted directly, they made the school into a portal for large-scale social change.

Jessica Posner at new health center, Kenya

Jessica Posner at the new health center

New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas Kristof, who writes about human rights, women’s rights and global affairs, has helped publicize Jessica and Kennedy’s work. Now even the government wants to help. (“They want our votes,” Kennedy clarifies.)

And since they have demonstrated what is possible, Jessica and Kennedy are getting requests from young people across Kenya — and around the world — to replicate SHOFCO and the school for girls. “Young people look at me,” Kennedy says, “and see that it is possible to change. We can do it. We don’t have to wait for the government, or for big donors.”

“Standard international development is very top-down,” Jessica explains. “But this is bottom-up. Most of the funding comes from individuals. It only takes $100/month to sponsor one girl, and give her two meals a day.”

Although things are getting better, many residents of Kibera still struggle every day. The political situation has improved significantly since 2007, when Jessica and Kennedy began working together. Kenya’s government is much stronger now, but there is still no functional government in the slum, and no police protection. Poor women still have a dismal life.

Jessica Posner

Children at The Kibera School

But SHOFCO isn’t waiting around for donations. They provide computer, adult literacy and business skills classes for Kibera residents. SHOFCO’s sanitation efforts include cutting edge bio-latrines, community toilets and hygiene and sanitation education initiatives.

All this has grown from Kennedy’s initial work to create a safe, productive space for community members to gather and improve their lives. The real magic of Jessica and Kennedy’s collaboration is the local participation Kennedy inspires, combined with the outside funding prowess Jessica provides.

This approach works so well because it empowers the people of Kibera and lets them decide for themselves how best to use outside aid. Most of all, it engenders hope by demonstrating that a better life is possible.

Wedding of Jessica and Kennedy by John Moore on YouTube/6-19-12

Jessica and Kennedy took their collaboration beyond SHOFCO — they were married in June of 2012, and they will undoubtedly keep right on making things happen. As a friend said at their wedding, “It’s never going to be dull!” I have a feeling there are more miracles on the horizon.



Author Paula McLain Reimagines the Lives of Two Remarkable Women

Paula McLain; speaking at Book Passage, Aug. 2015/Photo: Pam Burke

Paula McLain at Book Passage Bookstore/8-15

by Laurie McAndish King/November 16, 2015
Photos: Pamela Burke

 “The genre is completely addictive to me. It’s almost like every step of my journey as a writer has been leading up to historical fiction. It allows me to use all my gifts as a writer — my empathy, my curiosity.”   Paula McLain

Paula McLain didn’t plan to write breathtaking historical fiction; her sights were set on poetry. She worked hard at it, earning an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan while single-parenting her toddler. She published two books of verse, a memoir about growing up in the foster-care system in California, and a contemporary novel … and then came The Paris Wife (@randomhouse). McLain hit her stride with historical fiction.

Paula McLain books/Photo: Pam Burke

That book, published in 2011, is a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and early years in 1920s Paris, told from the perspective of his wife, Hadley. Friends were raving about The Paris Wife and I knew McLain had just published a second piece of historical fiction, Circling the Sun, so I was delighted to hear her speak at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California.

Looking lean and graceful in a black jacket and lively pearl earrings, McLain radiates warmth. She talks with both hands, and her right arm clearly has a life of its own. She flips her long brown hair, enthusiastically.

Paula on Reviving Ernest Hemingway and The Paris Wife/Random House of Canada on YouTube

Before she wrote The Paris Wife, McLain says, she had a problem. “I hadn’t yet had a big idea, and I wasn’t sure how to find one. It was by fluke that I stumbled onto A Moveable Feast. I was moved to tears by the love story. When Hemingway believes his own genius … I wanted to know more. Who was she? What really happened, so that they lost each other?”

McLain read two biographies of Hadley. “I let the first fall open, and a letter from Hadley leapt off the page at me. This is my girl,” I thought. “This is my book!” McLain quit her teaching job (she was actually working three teaching jobs at the time) and borrowed some money. She wrote every day in a Starbucks in Cleveland — which, McLain points out, is the absolute farthest one can possibly get from a Parisian café.

“I had never done research before. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had never even been to Paris. It was almost as if I was channeling her, like an actress in the role of my life,” McLain remembers.

In the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, she found a treasure trove of love letters—thousands of letters that she could “follow down the rabbit hole” into Ernest and Hadley Hemingway’s exuberant life in Jazz-Age Paris. “Hadley had burned all her letters from Ernest, but he kept everything. It was like a ghost chase.”

A member of the audience asks McLain how she managed to recreate Hadley’s dialog. “How do you get into their heads? How much is fact, and how much is fiction?”

“Because it is a novel, you can say anything,” McLain explains. But due to copyright issues, she was not allowed to use any two words together that her subjects had actually written. “Getting inside her head was like an actor’s trick. I had read so many of her letters … I also love what is not being said. Really good dialog is people not saying what’s on their minds.”

The Paris Wife was told from the perspective of a relatively unknown historical figure. It included “no detectives, no porn, and no death on page three.” Yet it hit the New York Times bestseller list — and stayed there for 77 weeks.

“The genre is completely addictive to me,” she explains. “It’s almost like every step of my journey as a writer has been leading up to historical fiction. It allows me to use all my gifts as a writer—my empathy, my curiosity.”

The Paris Wife was named one of the best books of the year by People, the Chicago Tribune, NPR, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kirkus Reviews, and the Toronto Sun. It sold 1.6 million copies. And that presented a new problem.

Paula at BEA Librarians Breakfast on “Circling the Sun”/Penguin Random House-2015

It was time for a follow up. Readers were asking McLain what she was writing next. She had started novel about Marie Curie, another extraordinary and underappreciated woman, and worked on it for two and a half years. But the story was boring. “It felt like pushing a mannequin in a shopping cart,” McLain recalls.

A nudge from her brother-in-law introduced McLain to West with the Night, the memoir of history-making aviator Beryl Markham. Markham’s achievements alone might have captured McLain’s attention.

Paula McLain, Elaine Petrocelli/Book Passage 8/-15/Photo: Pam Burke

Paula with Elaine Petrocelli, owner of Book Passage/8-15

She was a daring bush pilot in 1920s Kenya; the first person to successfully hunt big game from the air; the first licensed female horse trainer in the world; one of the first people in the world to hold a commercial pilot’s license; and, in 1936, the first woman to fly the Atlantic east to west—the hard way. In McLain’s words, “Markham was a real badass.”

Then there was Markham’s personal story. She suffered incredible losses early in life, somehow managed to draw strength from them, and grew into an exceptional and fearless woman.

She lived a dramatic life as part of a circle of glamorous British and European expats and had affairs with a prince and a duke—not to mention her part in the decade-long love triangle with Danish writer Baroness Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, a charismatic hunter and pilot. “She lived like Calamity Jane and she looked like Great Garbo,” McLain observes.

But there was still more that drew McLain to Markham; the two shared surprisingly similar backgrounds. Both were abandoned at age four by their mothers and felt the loss deeply. Their mothers were both gone for 16 years, reappearing when their daughters were 20 and making the girls’ lives extremely complicated. Both McLain and Markham were married at age 34. “We share emotional DNA,” McLain says.

And finally there was Markham’s own voice, reaching out from the pages of West with the Night, and captivating McLain. “Within two paragraphs of reading West with the Night, I knew I would write about Markham,” she says. And write she did. Paula McLain’s new book, Circling the Sun, is a fictionalized account of Markham’s life, and it’s getting rave reviews.

McLain is getting rave reviews, too. Here’s what Ann Patchett says in Country Living, “Paula McLain is considered the new star of historical fiction, and for good reason. Circling the Sun … is both beautifully written and utterly engrossing.”

The audience members at Book Passage are eager to hear what McLain is up to next: Is she working on a novel? Will it be about another extraordinary woman? “Will a man ever inspire you that way?” someone asks.

“It’s these women’s lives that are capturing my imagination and magnetizing it,” McLain responds, flipping her hair back. She clearly has someone in mind, and it’s my guess that we’ll soon be treated to another lush piece of inspired historical fiction. In the meantime, I’m tucking into Circling the Sun.



Interview: Entrepreneur Jessica Jackley On Her Journey To End Global Poverty

Jessica Jackley and twin boys, author of Clay Water Brick/Photo: Jessica Jackley

Jessica Jackley and her twin boys

By Toni Piccinini/Sept. 6, 2015
Photos provided by Jessica Jackley (@jessicajackley)

I met Jessica Jackley, the author of Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least at Book Passage—known as the Bay Area’s Liveliest Bookstore—in the café before her book talk and signing. I told her I’d be the lady with the adult beverage. She responded she’d be lady with the stroller and mom in tow.

I had seen her Ted Talk, Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money–and love,  and was enchanted with her passion, her poise and her take on our perception of poverty and giving.

“Choose not to focus on the lack, the hurt, the poverty, or the brokenness that we all know exists. Choose to see potential and possibility.” Jessica Jackley 

With her baby beside her, Jessica generously offered to chat with me about Kiva, the revolutionary microlending institution she founded with her former husband, and pretty much anything else I wanted to ask her…   [Read more…]

Dr. Christine Carter on Finding Your Sweet Spot at Home and Work

Dr. Christine Carter/Photo: Blake Farrington

Dr. Christine Carter/Photo; Blake Farrington

By Laurie McAndish King (@LaurieKing)/April 16, 2015

“Every time someone would ask me how I was doing, I would always give the same answer: I am so busy. Extremely busy. Crazy busy. I wore my exhaustion like a trophy, as a sign of my strength and a mark of my character.”  Dr. Christine Carter

That was Dr. Christine Carter a few years ago. It probably sounds familiar—most of us would respond in a similar way. We are parents, partners, children, friends, employees, entrepreneurs, volunteers, committee heads, weekend warriors. And we’ve been programmed to believe that busier is better, that the busier a person is the more important, productive, and successful she is.

The Sweet Spot by Dr. Christine CarterChristine Carter doesn’t believe that any more, and she’s out to convince the rest of us that busyness does not equal importance. In fact, that’s a major theme in her book, The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and at Work. And it’s the first of three myths she busted in a talk at Dominican University’s Institute for Leadership Studies Lecture Series (in partnership with Book Passage).

Carter looks happy and healthy as she stands onstage in a slim sheath and a peppy orange jacket. But she wasn’t always that way. Back when she was into busyness—when she had a high-powered job she loved as Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and had just released her first book, Raising Happiness, and was raising her four kids and training for a marathon—Carter got sick.

She had chronic low-grade strep throat for 18 months. She contracted a kidney infection. She even had a hospital fantasy: “I wish they would just admit me so I don’t have to go to Atlanta next week.” That’s the price of busyness. Carter emphasized her point by asking us to imagine that we had spent time at a pleasant lunch with a friend or tossing a ball with the dog.

When we’re involved in enjoyable activities like those, we don’t characterize ourselves as busy, even though our time is filled. When we feel busy, it’s usually because we’re doing things that we don’t really enjoy, or that don’t engage us, or that make us feel harried.

Christine Carter’s TEDxGoldenGateED Talk/6-11-11

We call it “busyness,” but neuroscientists call it “cognitive overload”—a state in which it is difficult for a person to plan, decide, remember, think creatively, solve problems, and control emotions. Busyness is a sign that we are not functioning optimally, that we are not living up to our potential.

It is often a sign we are sacrificing our own needs for the needs of our children or our workplace. We need to dial it back in order to become our best selves, Carter explains.

What’s myth number 2? “More is better.”

We know that’s a myth, but it’s a hard one to resist. We tend to put our children into more activities, so they can get into more prestigious schools, so they can get better jobs, so they can make more money, so they can buy more stuff. Do we really want that kind of life for our children? Often, less is more. Often, we already have enough. Dial it back again.

Myth number 3? “Doing nothing is a waste of time.”

The truth is that our brains benefit tremendously from rest; when the mind wanders, the “creative insights” part of the brain turns on. Carter knows, because, as a sociologist she has studied productivity, elite performance, and well-being.

So where does that leave us? If we’re buying into those myths, we’re not living from our sweet spot—that place where we can feel ease as well as accomplishment. Carter shows us a slow-motion video of a baseball player hitting a ball perfectly—hitting the sweet spot. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. The bat doesn’t wobble. The ball flies high. The hitter has used “effortless power, not powerful effort.”

“The sweet spot is pretty fixed in athletics, but not for us humans,” Carter observes.

Fortunately, she has distilled cutting-edge scientific research into five strategies for finding the sweet spot in our own lives. “This book is me road testing all the research about elite productivity,” she says.

Working Mother Magazine–2/23/15

And here they are—Carter’s five sweet-spot strategies:

1. Single-task. The human brain is not designed to multitask, and when we try to do so it increases the chance of errors and creates a subtle, low-level fight-or-flight response. Christine tells us a story about her grandmother as an example. “My grandmother, who had a very difficult life, nevertheless lived to be 104. She loved to cook and taught me to cook. When we were cooking, if I asked a question she would put down the wooden spoon, turn, look at me, and answer my question. She was totally present.” That’s single-tasking.

2. Find the minimum effective dose of any given activity. “I had to do this in every area of my life.” Christine says. Her three-minute, do-it-every-day, better-than-nothing workout, for instance, consists of a one-minute plank, twenty push-ups, and twenty-five squats. And she looks terrific.

3. Stare into space. How will you feel? “Guilty, stuck, anxious, lazy. You’ll want to reach for your devices, read your email, check your Twitter feed. Stare into space anyway,” Carter advises. “Start small. Look at your anxiety or guilt with curiosity. Let yourself feel it. Device-checking is tremendously effective at numbing our emotions. But we don’t numb our emotions selectively. If you want to feel profound joy, you’ll also feel grief.”

Here Christine illustrates her point with short clip from the viral Louis C. K.’s “I Was in My Car One Time” video.

Team Coco–9/20/13

4. Lubricate your brain. Love, compassion, happiness, gratitude, awe, inspiration, hope, optimism—all these positive emotions have a physiological effect. They put the brakes on our fight-or-flight response, decrease stress, deepen our breathing, return our heart rate to normal, and even change our brain function. Carter shows us a short video of a child laughing, and we laugh, too. “You just did it!” she bubbles. “You just reset your nervous system!”

5. Change your mantra. When we have constant conversations about how busy we are, our brains go into overdrive. As an example of the importance of what we pay attention to, Christine shows us a video of Professor Daniel J. Simons’ “Monkey Business Illusion”:


We are what we pay attention to. Next time people ask how you are (“You must be so busy with your book launch…”) consider what you feel grateful for, Carter suggests. You could answer with something like, “I’m very focused on my book launch and I particularly love doing radio interviews.” Then you could change the subject to, “And I’m happy that it’s been so sunny.”

These strategies are hardly a spoiler for Carter’s book, which is jam packed with research-based advice on generating love and connection, shaking things up, problem-solving, fighting the right way, learning to apologize, letting go of grudges, tolerating discomfort, learning from difficulty, the importance of recess, and lots more.

Christine Carter and her Sweet Spot book at Dominican University

Christine Carter at Dominican University promoting her new book.

I love Carter’s message, but wonder whether she’s speaking to the choir, here in Northern California. We may not be aware of all the latest research, but we’ve certainly heard the takeaway. We know it’s important to slow down, to avoid multi-tasking, and to unplug when we’re not working.

As Carter closes her talk, I look around. The air is soft. Many people in the audience are hurrying out into the warm evening. More than half are checking their mobile devices—more than half!—before they even reach the auditorium door. We need you, Dr. Christine Carter. We are crazy busy, and we need you.

Listen to TWE Radio on iTunes to hear Christine Carter interviewed by Stacey Gualandi.



Author Laurie McAndish King Gets ‘Lost Kidnapped Eaten Alive!’


Author Laurie McAndish King reading at Book Passage for "Lost Kidnapped Eaten Alive"| Photo: Jim Shubin

Author Laurie McAndish King reading from Lost Kidnapped Eaten Alive! at Book Passage | Photo: Jim Shubin

By Laurie Weed/September 17, 2014

“Whatever you keep telling your friends about when you come home, that’s probably where your creative juice is…although sometimes, stories just present themselves.” Laurie McAndish King, travel writer and contributor to The Women’s Eye

A truly curious traveler is the best kind to follow, I’ve found, whether on foot or vicariously through stories and books. Never bored with the world—and thus, never boring—a curious traveler will always teach me something new.

Laurie McAndish King (@LaurieKing) is the curious type, with a scientist’s mind and a philosopher’s soul. Her first book, Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive! True Stories from a Curious Traveler, takes the reader on an unusual tour.   [Read more…]

Celebrating Kathi Kamen Goldmark’s Life and ‘Her Wild Oats’

Sam Barry and the late Kathi Kamen Goldmark-2009 |

Sam Barry and the late Kathi Kamen Goldmark at their book launch for
Write That Book Already! -2009 | Photo: Book Passage

By Laurie McAndish King/August 31, 2014


“In the end, getting Kathi’s work published was the best possible way to honor this woman who so loved books, authors, bookstores and libraries.” Sam Barry, husband of Kathi Kamen Goldmark

There was off-key group singing involved—call and response. Blues harmonica and pedal-steel guitar from two members of the Los Train Wreck band featured prominently. A harmonica-playing widower in a woman’s bright red wig sang something affectionately known as “The Slut Song.”

Noted author Amy Tan was on stage, with her dry sense of humor, a beautiful purple jacket gifted to her by a ghost, and her little dog Bobo. No doubt about it; this was the craziest fun I’ve ever had at an author event. But the author wasn’t there.

Sam Barry and author Amy Tan | Photo: Jim Shubin

Sam Barry and author Amy Tan | Photo: Jim Shubin

Kathi Kamen Goldmark succumbed to cancer in 2012 after having written, but not yet published, the novel Her Wild Oats, the story of a wise and generous young woman, a honky-tonk band on tour, and a 13-year-old genius harmonica player.

We were at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California—along with the late author’s husband Sam Barry, and her friends, writers Susanne Pari and Amy Tan—to celebrate the book’s publication. We ended up celebrating Kathi’s life. Again. I didn’t know Kathi, but she was clearly someone who inspired many celebrations.

Kathi Kamen Goldmark's book, "Her Wild Oats"Sam explains, “After the memorial a group of us were discussing how to honor Kathi’s life. We talked about dedicating one of those lovely benches in San Francisco, but this didn’t seem appropriate, as she basically never sat down. A steering wheel on the wall of a nightclub or bookstore would have been more appropriate. In the end, getting Kathi’s work published was the best possible way to honor this woman who so loved books, authors, bookstores and libraries.”

Kathi and books go back a long way. In addition to being a radio and music producer, songwriter, and musician, Kathi was an author, columnist, publishing consultant, and media escort. In the early 80s, she founded a company that worked with authors on book tours. They loved being with Kathi, whose wide circle of friends, intimate knowledge of San Francisco’s best hot spots, and effervescent personality provided entertainment for the entertainers.

Tim Cahill, adventurer, author, and founding editor of Outside magazine, remembers those early days when Kathi helped authors visiting San Francisco: “Kathy brightened the drudgery of a book tour and she was never ever shy about telling you which currently touring authors were acting badly (that is, worse than me.)”

In fact, Kathi ended up befriending so many authors that she easily convinced a dozen or so to form a band called the Rock Bottom Remainders, a “hard listening” rock ‘n’ roll group made up of best-selling authors with dubious musical abilities. Kathi founded the band intending it to be a one-night fundraiser, but her personality kept it going.

Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band (of Authors) Tell All book coverOver the course of twenty years they raised nearly two million dollars for non-profits supporting literacy programs. The group’s slogan? Over 350M books sold. Forty New York Times #1 Bestsellers. One lousy band.

Last year the Rock Bottom Remainders celebrated Kathi’s life by publishing an interactive e-book in which they shared “the behind-the-scenes, uncensored story of their two decades of friendship, love, writing, and the redemptive power of rock ‘n’ roll.”

It’s called Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All by Stephen King, Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, Amy Tan, Matt Groening, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., James McBride, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, Sam Barry, and Roger McGuinn. (McGuinn was lead singer and lead guitarist for many of The Byrds’ songs; the band did have some musical chops!) The authors are donating all their proceeds towards payment of Kathi’s medical bills—that’s the kind of loyalty she inspired.

Sam Barry wearing a red wig to honor Kathi's red hair | Photo: Jim Shubin

Sam Barry | Photo: Jim Shubin

Where did the widower in a red wig come in? That was Kathi’s husband Sam, singing her trademark song, “Older Than Him, aka The Slut Song.” The bright red wig was a tribute to Kathi’s red hair; the song’s clever lyrics provided a glimpse of Kathi’s whacky sense of humor.

And what of Amy Tan’s ghostly garb? Amy told us the story of losing one of her favorite jackets—the sultry purple one she often wears for special events (she’s wearing it in the photo below). The jacket had been missing for a long time. Amy had searched everywhere for it and was sadly resigned to the fact that she’d never see it again.

How was the jacket a sign? Well, it appeared—from nowhere, just after Amy had asked the universe for a sign from Kathi—in Amy’s closet. The jacket materialized in a rumpled ball, which was reminiscent of Kathi’s style. (Everything in Amy’s closet is always in perfect order.) Amy is wise; she knew immediately that Kathi had delivered the jacket.

Author Amy Tan (l), Elaine Petrocelli, President of Book Passage, author Susanne Pari and Sam Barry, husband of Kathi Kamen Goldmark

From Left: Author Amy Tan, Elaine Petrocelli, President of Book Passage,
author Susanne Pari and Sam Barry | Photo: Book Passage

For those of us who don’t have such direct access to Kathi, Her Wild Oats is an exuberant connection. Susanne Pari read from the first chapter, introducing the protagonist, Arizona Rosenblatt, her cheating husband-with-a-hand-gun, missing money, a bizarre threat, and an omen delivered by a singing teddy bear.

The story, like Kathi’s own life, is filled with quirky characters who touch one another in meaningful ways. Reading Her Wild Oats made me wish I’d known Kathi. She will certainly inspire many more celebrations.



By Laurie McAndish King/Aug. 31, 2014–We gathered for the launching of Her Wild Oats, but we ended up celebrating Kathy Kamen Goldmark‘s life. This beloved, creative whirlwind succumbed to…More

Essay: Elizabeth Warren Believes All We Need is a Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren at Book Passage Event/Photo: Frankie Frost

Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Book Passage-Dominican University Event 5-10-14
Photo: Frankie Frost

UPDATE 6/9/16: “I’m ready”: Elizabeth Warren explains to Rachel Maddow why she’s finally endorsing Hillary Clinton.

By Toni Piccinini/July 1, 2014
Photos Below: Courtesy Elizabeth Warren

 “I believe in us. I believe in what we can do together, in what we will do together. All we need is a fighting chance.”  Elizabeth Warren

Women of a certain age chatted and waited politely in the golden light of a late May afternoon. The line to enter Angelico Hall at Dominican University in San Rafael, California snaked down the wide steps and onto the lawn. I took an unscientific polling of the eager attendees and with certainty can report that the women outnumbered the men by at least a factor of four.

Elizaeth Warren book, A Fighting Chance

Senator Warren’s new book

Perhaps because it was the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend and tickets to hear Elizabeth Warren, the first female senator from Massachusetts, speak about her book, A Fighting Chance (Metropolitan Books), made for a lovely date with Mom. Or because we women like these kinds of things—sitting and listening to an author talk about her book.

But most likely the sold-out crowd came to hear Senator Warren because her reputation preceded her. In political speak she is surely a rising star.

I had a general, non-specific, idea of who she was. Something to do with the Obama administration, finances…I knew she had won a tight race in November 2012, and thus became the people’s unlikely outsider representative. But it’s not like she worked in a diner.

Prior to the Senate she was a Harvard Law School professor and the chief designer of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Still, the first elected office she ran for and was elected to was the senatorial seat from the storied Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She legitimately owns the “not a career politico” mantle.

I registered to vote—ferociously Democrat—in 1971, the year I turned eighteen. That was the year that the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, Sofia Coppola was born, and Coco Chanel died. It was, also, when the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was passed, which changed the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen.

Elizabeth Warren and daughter Amelia/ from "A Fighting Chance"/Courtesy: Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth and her daughter Amelia

It was a big deal to vote, a surprise gift given to me three years early. A gift that came with earnest responsibility. For forty plus years I voted in every election. That is until the last one. Fool me once, fool me twice, but fool me dozens of times? Nope. I’ve reached the age of acquired wisdom.

I know politicians say anything to get elected. Put on country clothes and practice some country talk to get that middle of the country vote. Well, I’m done with seduction. My disappointment has led me to a silent protest and a bumper sticker: Don’t Vote—It Just Encourages The ********.

But Lo and Behold, miracles do happen and here I am to testify. I am born again. Senator Warren (@SenWarren) had me at “Here’s the deal,” a get-to-the-bottom-line phrase that resonates with this country girl. She must have said it half a dozen times during her talk. This phrase—Here’s the deal—comes to her naturally because she knows what’s wrong and how to fix it. If FDR was the New Deal, Elizabeth Warren is the Real Deal.

Elizabeth Warren graduating with her daughter in tow/ from "A Fighting Chance"/Elizabeth Warren Photo

Graduating, pregnant and with daughter in tow

She strode onto the stage at 4:23 and promptly engaged the back balcony rows with “Don’t think you back there will get away with anything. There will be a quiz after the talk.” She told us about her teaching years and that she, a daughter of a maintenance man, grew up to become a United States Senator.

She grew up in an “America that was investing in its kids.” And her main concern is that she doubts the America of today can support the mobility she enjoyed because the America we love is broken.

She reminded us of our financial history particularly The Great Depression and how we (led by FDR and the Democrats) dug ourselves out of it. During those challenging years, “We didn’t know what the next great thing would be, but we figured it would need to plug in, so we improved the electrical grid.”

Elizabeth Warren hanging out her law shingle/from book "A Fighting Chance"/Photo: Elizabeth Warren

After Alex was born, hanging out her shingle and practicing law from her living room

In a conversational voice, that felt as if she were talking to us over a glass of lemonade on a covered porch, she continued to retell the facts of history. Even though Washington didn’t know where the next ingenious American invention would come from, the administration knew the product would need to go from Point A to Point B, so we improved the nation’s infrastructure.

We put people to work and we strengthened the country from the inside out. After the 1929 crash America did another important thing—got to work in Congress. Laws were passed to create and enforce strong financial rules, allocate funds for roads, bridges, and dams, and earmark monies for research. All of these pointed to securing our future and the future generations of Americans.

Elizabeth Warren with 2 small children from her book, A Fighting Chance--Photo: Elizabeth Warren from publisher

Still in braces, taking care of Amelia and baby Alex and eventually getting a job teaching law school

I know the America she comes from. I am the first of my family to go to college. I couldn’t have done that without a scholarship. My parents (my Dad an Italian immigrant) could not have built and owned their home—the quintessential American dream—without the help from a local bank and a loan that made sense.

How could this MacBook (the instrument I use to write and share my stories) exist without the inherent American opportunities and innate optimism afforded to a poor young visionary named Steve?

Senator Warren spoke for only thirty-one minutes. Her talk was focused, concise, and no-nonsense. A Fighting Chance is part memoir, part history, and part economic thesis. Her greatest fear is that as the economic divide grows in our country America will fundamentally change and that shift will fundamentally change what it means to be an American. She doesn’t believe that has to happen.

Elizabeth Warren with husband after her Senate victory

Elizabeth makes history and becomes Senator with hugs from husband Bruce.

From the last page of her book: “I believe in us. I believe in what we can do together, in what we will do together. All we need is a fighting chance.”  I believe in Senator Warren. And now I, too, have some work to do. I have some bumper stickers to recycle and a voter registration to update.

Senator Warren’s Talk at Dominican University/Courtesy Book Passage


*** About the Author: Toni Piccinini, writer, author "The Goodbye Year"Toni Piccinini’s writing path has meandered from the scholarly examination (or scary horror story) of antibiotic use in The Journal of Clinical Pathology to her personal essay “House Affair” which was a Narrative magazine Story of the Week.

Along the way she opened a San Francisco “Top 100” restaurant and published recipes and cookbook reviews in local and national newspapers, magazines and cookbooks. The Goodbye Year (Seal Press 2013) is her first book.