You Were Saying …

Photo by Averil Dean

Photo by Averil Dean

I did my first author interview for the CALIFORNIA PROSE DIRECTORY, new writing from the Golden State, coming in April from Outpost 19.

What did I learn in said interview?  That I’m a bit gushy about how much I love living in the Golden State.  But that’s not so bad, right?

And thanks to the uber-talented Averil Dean — friend, writer, photographer — for this fantastic author photo on Carmel Beach.  Carmel Beach with my dogs: yet another favorite thing.


What’s your connection to California? Native? Recent arrival? Expat? 

Two years before I was born, my teenage mother left Missouri for California.  She stayed for 9 weeks before she got so homesick she started hitchhiking her way back to the Midwest.  A lifelong regret.  Having heard that story all my life, I was excited to head west.  In 2006, shortly after my mother died, my husband and I moved to northern California, and from the day we arrived my new mantra became, “I am never moving again.”  I am home.

What’s one of your favorite things about California?

The constant sunshine, the generosity of my neighbors, year-round blooming flowers, weather that invites me outdoors so I can walk my dogs every single day, the Santa Cruz mountains, the ocean off Carmel Beach, how open the locals are to outsiders, the environmentalists, Stanford football, farmers markets and how you can always find a fresh avocado, the fact that Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath right up the street from my house.  Oh wait –- did you say pick one thing?

What’s one of your least favorite things about California?

Property taxes.

What’s a favorite piece of writing that features California?

I’m a long-time Wallace Stegner fan, but I especially appreciate Angle of Repose now that I live here.  And don’t even get me started on my John Steinbeck addiction.

Where in California does your story/essay take place, and what made you want to write about that specific part or aspect of California?

In 2009 I was invited to spend a week at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  President Obama had only been in office a few months, and the political climate was still explosive, and I was afraid to go.  Would a liberal female from northern California be welcomed there?  What if they hated me?  What if I hated them?  Of course nothing is that simple, and “War College” is the story of what happened.  That week changed my views, and my life.

What are you working on currently?

I’m almost finished with a memoir I’ve been writing for 5 years.  It’s a story about trying to go home to Missouri after being gone for 20 years, about how we can fight or accept our history, about how we ultimately get to define what we call “family.”


What’s your favorite piece of writing about California?


17 thoughts on “You Were Saying …

    1. Teri

      Would you believe I have never finished The Grapes of Wrath? I’m such a Steinbeck nut, and I’ve read the first 1/4 or 1/2 of this book about 10 times. It’s become one of those books, like Middlemarch, that I’m going to read when I have huge blocks of hours during the day.

  1. tedstrutz

    Great photo of you and your dog by Averil, very sincere… I would love to see a photo of the über-talented Averil.

    ‘The Time of your Life’ by Saroyan and ‘The Wayward Bus’ by Steinbeck

  2. Averil Dean

    Terrific interview, Teri. You have every reason to gush about your home—who wouldn’t love it there?

    I just finished White Oleander, with its beautiful descriptions of the California desert. The wind, the heat, the poisonous flowers. . . Wonderfully evocative and a perfect setting for that story.

  3. Josephine

    less than zero.

    (this is the first book that came to mind. i’m pretty sure it says more about where i am right now emotionally vs favorite reading material. besides the fact the Bret Easton Ellis has morphed into what appears to be a complete twitter prick in his later adult life.)

    i love the story about your mom. isn’t life a beautiful loop? you following through on what she started.

    1. Teri

      And speaking of that loop, Josey, I’m also living in a neighborhood that feels suspiciously like one my grandparents lived in when I was little. The trees, the broken sidewalks, even some of the houses, and certainly the many porches. This place feels like I’ve been here all along.

  4. erikamarks

    I never knew Averil took that gorgeous shot but it makes total sense!

    I love learning more about your home–and I too love the connection it has to your mom. I firmly believe we find our home–and our hearts–in ways we never expect but that fit like gloves.

    1. Teri

      (see my response above to Josey) Yes, Averil took a few photos on the beach that day. I have one of Lea with tennis ball by her feet that’s my #1 favorite dog photo.

  5. macdougalstreetbaby

    That really is a beautiful picture. Lea makes me want to run right out and get myself a dog. I can almost feel her clean, soft fur from here.

    I really enjoyed Less Than Zero, too. Of course, I read it more than 10 years ago. Not sure if I’d like it as much now. That kind of dangerous living doesn’t appeal to me anymore.

    Congratulations on finding your home. My mother escaped Southern California to find refuge in The Village but her dream was always to live in Big Sur. One day I’d like to visit, to see what that dream looks like up close.

    1. Teri

      Well first I’m laughing about the “clean fur.” She’s clean alright, but that clean fur is all over the floor of my house! Ha!!! I swear you can sweep this morning, and tomorrow morning it’s all there again …. the shedding never ever ends.

      And Big Sur? You must come out here with your kids and drive that coastline. There is truly nothing else like it. No matter how many times I see it, I’m left in awe…

  6. jpon

    My fav piece of writing about California is still “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” which was the first essay in Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.” I lived in Long Beach for more than 20 years before moving to MI (where property taxes are like four times higher than CA, so no more complaining), and that essay so perfectly captured the myth of SoCal, it has stayed with me since.

    Excellent interview and beautiful photo, btw.

    1. Teri

      There’s nothing that says Southern California like Joan Didion. I recall one of her refrains in The Year of Magical Thinking —- she says she and John went back to their apartment the night he died and built a fire, because that’s what she’d learned growing up in Sacramento, you go home and build a fire, you draw the circle, and the circle says you’re home, you’re safe.

  7. Lyra

    “almost finished”. Two simple words that say joy and merry.
    My California favorite is Grapes of Wrath. I adore that book. A few years ago I printed off a list of Pulitzer prize winners and began working down the list with no real enthusiasm. Grapes left me with a tactile, tangible memory that only great books can leave, a fingerprint on a window.
    Merry Christmas, dear Teri.

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