SANTA CRUZ (May 2009) -- Jill Wolfson used to sit in the bleachers and imagine all the things that could go wrong as her gymnast daughter spun and flipped on the uneven parallel bars. She imagined her daughter’s hands letting go, the crashing fall to the ground. She imagined broken bones and concussions and even death.
It was those horrible parental imaginings that Santa Cruz writer Wolfson turned to as she sat down to write her third young-adult novel, “Cold Hands, Warm Heart,” which takes on the subject of illness, loss and connection through the story of a young girl’s heart transplant – a book one reader called “the ‘Juno’ of organ transplants.”
SANTA CRUZ (April 2009) -- Most of the drivers rushing over the Valencia Bridge in Aptos never even see the sign. It’s set low in the mossy concrete railing on one end of the span -- a tarnished plaque that marks the history of hard times.
The plaque, which someone had recently graffitied with chalk, commemorates the 1935 construction of the narrow, tree-shadowed bridge. The span was built with funds from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, his program to restart the economy with a flood of stimulus money for social and public works projects.
That money -- distributed for half a decade through acronym-heavy agencies like the WPA, PWA and TRAP -- changed the face of Santa Cruz, although most people might not realize it now.
By Peggy Townsend
KETCHUM, IDAHO (Feb. 2009) “You want to see something creepy?” asked bartender Helen Yang.
I had come to the smoky, low-ceilinged Casino Bar in Ketchum in search of writer Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drinking spot. But Yang, a snowboarder who arrived in this town looking for powder and stayed for 13 years, didn’t know much about the seat Hemingway reportedly favored and the offer to see something weird was more than I could refuse.
“This way,” said Yang, as she headed past two pool tables to a side door in the bar. Her voice had a husky, Lauren Bacall quality to it. She wore a short denim skirt and Ugg boots.
I followed Yang up a set of rough wooden stairs, through a locked door and into a hallway whose floor sloped like one of the ski runs on Bald Mountain a few blocks away. The wood groaned and cracked under my feet.
By Peggy Townsend
SANTA CRUZ (January 2009) -- Jayne Anne Phillips’ new novel “Lark and Termite” began 25 years ago in an alley in West Virginia.
Phillips was visiting a friend when she looked out a second-story window into an alley below and spotted a boy sitting in a 1950s aluminum lawn chair. The boy was holding a strip of blue dry cleaner bag in front of his face and blowing on it so the plastic twirled and moved in front of his eyes. Her friend told Phillips the boy would sit like that for hours.
The image burned into Phillips’ memory and became the impetus for one of the central characters in her latest book -- a boy named Termite who can neither speak nor walk but is attuned to the world in ways that go beyond normal consciousness.