Check out my new affiliate storefront on Bookshop!

You savvy readers likely have heard of, the new online bookstore that supports independent booksellers. Not only is Bookshop an appealing alternative to Amazon, it has served as a lifeline to many shops forced to close their physical doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. I couldn’t resist joining their affiliate program for authors, so now you can enjoy browsing the Coastal Book Gal online storefront on Bookshop! Right now, the store features my book Going Coastal along with some titles I’ve extolled in past posts. I plan to add plenty of other books: those by writers I’ve interviewed, some by friends of the blog, and others I simply enjoy reading! Don’t see what you want? Search by author, title, or 13-digit ISBN number to find the perfect book. A percentage of each purchase will go to me and to independent bookstores all over the country. Not only will this incur no extra cost to you, many books are offered at a discount! It’s a win-win, and a lot of fun for anyone missing their favorite bookstore’s shelves. (I’m working on updating the “Shop with Coastal Book Gal!” sidebar, but thanks to WordPress editing glitches and my own excitement, I thought a separate post was in order! By the way, I remain a proud affiliate of Bookshop Santa Cruz, so those who prefer that shop’s website are encouraged to use my affiliate link.) As always, I’m grateful for your support! Naturally, I’d love some book recommendations from anyone inclined to comment…

ETA: Not only books! Today I stumbled onto an impressive puzzle selection in the search bar, not to mention 40-plus pages(?!) of Funko Pop vinyl figures for sale. Please explore and have fun!

Why wait for Black Friday?

If you’re anything like me, you appreciate a bargain. Also, the thought of braving Black Friday crowds makes you queasy. You’re willing to hold out for Cyber Monday, but site crashes, fleeting flash deals, and other computer complications make you dread the prospect. All the while, your shopping list lengthens, and you haven’t yet set foot in a store. I know this dilemma well, and have the solution! currently offers 10% off my book Going Coastal (and every other book you order there!) with discount code 10PercentOff at checkout. Enjoy lightning-fast shipping and the fact that you’re helping indie authors (since higher royalties come from sales directly made at the publisher site). Then sit back smugly on Black Friday eating leftovers in your bathrobe, secure in the knowledge that you’ve saved your holiday of choice with weeks to spare.

You may prefer shopping in person, I often do. Never fear! My newly updated Where To Buy The Book page lists many options, from local bookstores to megamarts offering in-store pickup. (It does not, however, include Amazon at this time, since that site’s stocking issues guarantee headaches for everyone involved. Who needs those this time of year, or indeed ever?)

Thanks, everybody! Back to your irregularly scheduled programming…


As anyone who’s read the “Santa Cruz Vinyl: Cutting A Groove” chapter of Going Coastal knows, I can’t resist anything related to records or the gadgets upon which they’re played. So, last weekend I braved the Peninsula heat to check out In The Groove: A History of Record Players at the Museum of American Heritage in downtown Palo Alto. While most of the exhibition leans toward the antique end of the spectrum, there were also some very cool-looking ’80s-era miniature record players from Japan (not to mention a couple of Fisher-Price setups that recalled my youth). I was fascinated by the wax Edison cylinders, and the fact that the blue versions held double the amount of grooves (allowing a full four minutes of listening). I also learned that colored vinyl records existed to tempt collectors as early as 1908, though red was the only tint available. The hands-on aspect was pretty fun, too. I couldn’t resist playing “Whip Crack Away” (the opening jam from my mom’s favorite comfort movie, Calamity Jane) on the jukebox, or a 45 of “You’re The One That I Want” on one of the phonographs. It’s well worth a visit! The museum grounds are beautiful, and be sure to befriend James and take his tour of the former press shop in the back. In The Groove runs through August 19th. The Museum of American Heritage is open Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 351 Homer Avenue in Palo Alto. Phone (650) 321-1004 or visit for more details.

ETA: Turns out the Calamity Jane theme’s proper title is “The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away).” Shades of You Am I’s “Rumble,” methinks…

Congratulations To Cheryl Anderson, Santa Cruz County Artist of the Year

Not only was I touched by Cheryl Anderson’s warm demeanor when I first interviewed her in 2005, I was amazed by her stamina. She was working as the choral director for four of Cabrillo College’s six chorus groups on campus, and had recently led the Cabrillo Youth Chorus through a concert tour of eastern Europe. (You can read that interview in the “Cabrillo’s Harmonic Convergence” chapter of Going Coastal.) Since then, she’s served a two-year term as the Western Division President of the American Choral Directors Association and become the music director at the Peace United Church of Santa Cruz, while entering her 28th year as Cabrillo’s Director of Choral and Vocal Studies. On June 1st, the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission will name her as Santa Cruz County’s Artist of the Year for 2018. In celebration, a free gala performance will take place at Cabrillo’s Crocker Theater from 7 to 9 p.m. The retrospective of Anderson’s favorite music will include performances from six of her choral groups. Tickets are free, but available only from the box office on the night of the show; visit the Artist of the Year website for information.

Coffee Chat interview on author D L Richardson’s blog!

Awe-inspiring literary dynamo D L Richardson graciously hosted me on her author blog this week for a fun and freewheeling Coffee Chat. We discussed many topics close to my heart, including coffee, cookies, baking secrets, and the inspiration behind Going Coastal. We even found time to dish about the music scenes in Santa Cruz County and Richardson’s home of Australia. (I’m downright touched that she provided a definitive answer to the burning AC/DC question posed here.) Check it out and enjoy!

Backstage at the Good Food Awards chocolate blind tasting!


As Hollywood occupied itself with the Emmy Awards last Sunday, San Francisco feverishly prepared for a different ceremony. Each year, the Good Food Awards honors artisanally-made American food products that exhibit high standards of taste and ethical, sustainable manufacturing practices. Chocolate committee chair Sunita de Tourreil (founder of Palo Alto’s amazing The Chocolate Garage) sought volunteer help for the weekend’s operations. So, bright and early, I headed to the Mission District’s Impact Hub coworking space, finding it transformed into a buzzing food mecca for the day.

I settled in to my duties as a chocolate bar chopper, getting up close and personal with the day’s nominees before arranging the chocolate squares onto numbered plates for the judges’ tasting flights. The chocolate itself was often patterned with logos or designs, but these had to be turned face-down so as not to reveal anything to the market-savvy judges! Likewise, we were not to show any bar packaging in personal photos to be posted (such as the one above). While the often gorgeous boxes and wraps would entice me as a consumer, they annoyed me as someone who had to get the chocolate denuded and diced in a hurry. (The worst offenders were the bars in cardboard boxes with adhesive stickers sealing them shut. They would be Christmas in September for some lucky person in a store, but not for me in a work kitchen.) Roughly 80 percent of the entries were dark chocolates, with milks, dark milks, white chocolates, and inclusion bars (that is, bars with nuts or other ingredients added) rounding out the mix. I vowed I wasn’t going to sample any wares, but naturally my resolve wore down as the day wore on. (Since I have an entire chapter devoted to the Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival in Going Coastal, I should have known myself better.) Normally I’m a dark-chocolate purist, but perhaps it was palate fatigue that had me enjoying two inclusion bars best : the Brown Butter bar from Portland, Oregon’s Creo Chocolate, and the Bananas Foster bar from Brooklyn’s Raaka. (Speaking of palate cleansing, I learned a trick that will be useful for those organizing chocolate tastings in the future. We supplied the judges with bland crackers and slices of baguette, but kind souls at the confectionery tasting table informed us that slices of jicama clear the palate more effectively. They were right. Who knew?)

Eventually, the 150 chocolates were narrowed to sixteen (as I recall) finalists. Who won, you ask? No one will know until the awards ceremony in January, since all high scorers have to be vetted for ethical production practices before the results are finalized. I’m really curious to learn who won, since I know the judging could not have been easy! It was an honor to participate (even in such a small way), and I’ll enjoy seeing what the Good Food Awards have to offer in the future.

Logos Books and Records, how I’ll miss you!

I read the news today, oh boy:

Santa Cruz’s Logos Books and Records to close

As anyone who’s walked down Pacific Avenue (or read Going Coastal‘s “Santa Cruz Vinyl: Cutting A Groove” chapter) knows, Logos is a Santa Cruz fixture. It’s 11,000 square feet of pure enchantment for any bookworm or record hound. The entry-level floor overflows with records, CDs, DVDs, cookbooks, art books, graphic novels, fiction…you get my drift. If you tire of that (not that you could), the downstairs level has floor-to-ceiling shelves laden with humor books, children’s books, sports books, poetry books, and ever so much more. In spite of the size, the shop doesn’t overwhelm me the way some large stores can. That could be because of the clearly marked aisles and posted maps. More likely, it has to do with muscle memory: I walk into the place, and immediately I feel at home.

Logos has been part of Santa Cruz since 1969. It survived 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake, so I’m in disbelief that high rents and digital downloading will outlive it. (My mother bellowed “I don’t believe you! I refuse to accept this!” when I told her the news.) I feel heartsick for the employees (especially Dave, the friendly bespectacled guy who turned me on to Lawrence Weschler’s fantastic book Boggs: A Comedy of Values), and certainly for owner John Livingston. I know that generations of county residents must feel the way I do, and I hope someone will take up the Logos mantle. Losing Logos forever would be disastrous for the city and lovers of culture everywhere.

What a crazy year it’s shaping up to be. The world is fraught with tension. Quintessential San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau will be a Toronto Maple Leaf this coming season. Now, a place that has brought great joy to so many is about to be shuttered permanently.

Logos, you’ll always be in my heart.

Benefit fund for Santa Cruz artist Robbie Schoen’s stroke recovery and rehab

Going Coastal readers will remember the book’s “One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s…Guitar?” chapter, featuring Robbie Schoen’s gorgeously clever (and fully functional) electric guitars made from found objects. Schoen is the longtime director of Santa Cruz’s Felix Kulpa Gallery, and curates the art installations at Santa Cruz County Bank locations. Whenever I’ve walked into Santa Cruz’s Museum of Art and History, I’ve spotted Schoen setting up or taking down exhibitions. In other words, it’s impossible for me to imagine the Santa Cruz art scene without Robbie Schoen. So, I was stunned to learn that Schoen is recovering from a massive stroke he suffered on February 10th at the MAH. Schoen’s Medi-Cal coverage will not be enough to cover the amount and quality of rehab that he’ll need, so his daughter Nikita has created a fundraising website. Those who are more comfortable writing checks may send them to the following address:

Robbert Schoen Rehab Fund
Santa Cruz County Bank
720 Front Street
Santa Cruz CA 95060
Attn: Mary Anne Carson

To coincide with Santa Cruz’s First Friday arts activities, a living tribute to and appreciation of Schoen will take place on March 3rd from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Felix Kulpa Gallery, 107 Elm Street in downtown Santa Cruz.

Two new Santa Cruz exhibitions featuring sculptor Coeleen Kiebert

While I equally admire all the Going Coastal interviewees, someone had to be the first person featured in the book. That honor went to Rio Del Mar-based sculptor Coeleen Kiebert. When I first interviewed her in late 2001 in advance of Open Studios, she was continuing work on her Justice series (which stemmed from her son David’s unexpected death in 1996) and helping the community deal with the events of 9/11 through her sculpture. The interview opens Going Coastal, even though the fairly intense subject matter departs in tone from much of the book. Over the years Kiebert has nurtured the artistic potential of countless students, through her guide All of a Sudden: The Creative Process and the courses she teaches at UCSC Extension and in her studio. This month, two Santa Cruz galleries honor different aspects of her career.

In downtown Santa Cruz, the Felix Kulpa Gallery emphasizes Kiebert’s impact as a teacher. The artist’s own works are featured alongside her students’ sketches and sculptural studies. Last Sunday, I visited the gallery and was fascinated by the different directions of Kiebert’s influence. I started chatting enthusiastically with gallery manager Robbie Schoen. (Schoen, by the way, has his own chapter in Going Coastal, devoted to the fantastic electric guitars he fashions from found objects. If you go to this post, you can watch Isaac Frankle play Schoen’s notorious shovel guitar.) “Coeleen also has a show at the old Wrigley Building right now,” Schoen replied. “You should check it out.”

I heeded Schoen’s advice and went to the R. Blitzer Gallery, which currently features As We See It: East & West Coast Women Artists. Curated by  Californian painter Mary Alice Copp (who is also featured), the show displays work by five women artists who happen to be longtime friends. Kiebert’s Polar Navigator sculptures whimsically play off the visually striking landscapes painted by Iceland native (and current New Jersey resident) Laufey Vilhjálmsdóttir Bustany. LaThoriel Badenhausen’s assemblages and embroideries explore women’s concerns with thought-provoking cleverness. Copp and Carol Goodman depict the places that mean most to them: northern California for Copp, Massachusetts’ Williamstown for Goodman. Not only will you experience a great exhibition if you go, you will most likely have the opportunity to talk to sculptor/gallery owner Robert Blitzer himself. (In just a few minutes with him, I learned about Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, the dueling South Pole expeditions of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, and the sculptural properties of copper welding wire.)

Both exhibitions will close in December (with Thanksgiving week affecting the galleries’ hours), so I recommend visiting soon! The Felix Kulpa Gallery is open from 12 to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at 107 Elm Street in Santa Cruz (near the back entrance of Streetlight Records). Check or phone (408) 373-2854 for details. The R. Blitzer Gallery is open from 12 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 2801 Mission Street in Santa Cruz. More details appear at, or phone (831) 458-1217 for more information.

20th Annual ArtCar Fest

The ArtCar Fest will celebrate its 20th year in the Bay Area from October 7th through 9th in downtown Oakland. The cars will line up along 23rd Street in the city’s Uptown neighborhood on Friday night, coinciding with the Oakland First Friday celebrations. Saturday marks the ArtCar Fest Bash at Oakland’s NIMBY DIY art space, including bands, cabaret acts, spoken-word artists, documentary films, and the notorious ArtCar Fest Fashion Show. (The party promises to continue through the wee hours of Sunday morning.)

The ArtCar Fest has a bonafide Santa Cruz pedigree. Co-founder Harrod Blank earned his filmmaking degree from UCSC in 1986, and has strong ties to the city. In 2007, Santa Cruz’s Museum of Art and History presented the History of the Decorated Car: Things That Roll Series exhibition. In writing several articles about the exhibition and festival (one of which appears in Going Coastal), I became transfixed by the phenomenon of the car as mobile art object. “Remember, these sculptures have to look good parked, and need to be able to go 60 miles per hour without anything falling off,” ArtCar Fest co-founder Philo Northrup explained to me in an interview. “Most artists aren’t up to this challenge, so we’re an elite bunch.”

The ArtCar Fest made its sole Santa Cruz appearance (thus far) in 2007, and it’s one of my very favorite memories of the city. Pacific Avenue dazzled with crowd-pleasing vehicles including Richard Carter and John Schroeter’s “Sashimi Tabernacle Choir,” and environmentally-friendly cars such as “For The Birds” by Marilyn Dreampeace and Shalom Compost. Abbott Square displayed that afternoon’s rendition of the ArtCar Fest Fashion Show, featuring one woman’s homage to her native Canada (a hockey stick was her scepter!), and a guy kitted out in full Evel Knievel finery. I really hope that Northrup and Blank bring the Fest back to Santa Cruz sometime soon, because it has perfect synergy with the city’s personality. In the meantime, here’s a look back before the event heads to Oakland: