“Wutown” in Defenestration Magazine

Here’s an excerpt. Read the full piece in Defenestration.


I operate 01194, a white Plymouth bearing the sundial insignia of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. The steering wheel is constructed on the right, to facilitate chalking. I hang the chalking stick out the window and cruise up Fountain at 4 miles per hour, marking the left front tire of every car.

I’ll maintain this speed until La Brea, double back via Santa Monica Boulevard, then snake through my run east of Highland, returning to this spot at precisely 11:00AM. In accordance with signage, many of the vehicles will have been removed. Anything remaining is mine. I’ll issue 10-15 citations on this morning loop. Punctuality is key.

I turn onto La Brea and, right away, the vista gets bueno. I issue a 540.2 for expired registration and a 490.1 for a WHITE ZONE violation. On the next block, I spot a vehicle parked approximately 1’6” from the curb. It’s a close call. I pull over, unclip the tape measurer from my belt and kneel on the concrete. The rear right tire is 1’7” away from the curb. I slap him with a 412.1.

They’d park upside down if they could.

Visit Defenestrationmag.net for a great variety of contemporary humor writing.


The Litquake Author Interview

Alia Volz: Chaos in a Fur Coat

See Alia Sunday, October 7, at Vesuvio for “Do You Come Here Often?”: Writers at the Bar, with Alan Black, Jack Boulware, Beth Lisick, Chuck Thompson, and Missy Robac.

1. What is your favorite book?
It must be As I Lay Dying, because I’ve reread it more than any other book. It’s got rage, comedy and transcendent beauty all happening at once. That economy slays me.
2. Who is your favorite writer?
Cormac McCarthy.
3. If the answers to 1 & 2 are different, why?
They’re similar. I obviously have a yen for dark, funny, poetic novels with horses.
4. How old were you when you were first published?
Around 28.
5. What writing style do you most abhor?
I adore being a woman. But “chick lit” embarrasses me. It makes me wish I had a penis.
6. What is your favorite writing cliché?
I like the cliché about writers being drunks. It gives me an excuse. Cheers!
7. What is your favorite word?
Succotash. Or motherfucker. I can’t decide.
8. When and how do you write?
I don’t have a set routine, but my self-esteem nosedives when I don’t make creative progress. Fear of self-loathing keeps me diligent.
9. What is your greatest fear when you first turn in a manuscript?
I fret endlessly that it isn’t as good as it might be—that if I wait a bit longer, I’ll get that last zap of inspiration that knits loose ends, or floats the piece to the next level. Consequently, I’ll tinker with manuscripts for years without sending them anywhere. Honestly, I wish I was more relaxed.
10. In what era do you wish you’d been born?
I’d love to arrive in the “gay nineties” so I could ripen in the “roaring twenties.” They sound magnificent in comparison with this most recent decade: the “gloomy oughts.”
11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I’m editing a novel right now, and I’ve discovered that I overuse “low-slung sky.” Go figure. I also cuss too much.
12. Which talent would you most like to have?
I want a talent for being in two places at once. One me can roam this astonishing planet, while the other me stays home to nest and write. Of course I’d end up getting jealous of myself, which could be problematic.
13. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’m still working on it.
14. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
The Cheshire Cat: chaos in a fur coat.
15. How would you like to die?
I’d like to croak in my husband’s arms. My least favorite way to die would be away from him. Corny but true.

Sexy Litquake ‘Password’ to Prohibition

San Francisco Chronicle  –  by Louis Pitzman

Published 05:53 p.m., Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • Alia Volz participates in a Litquake event called "PASSWORD: Litquake’s Literary Speakeasy," in which Bay Area authors dress up as, and read from, Prohibition-era writers. Volz charakter is Louise Brooks. San Francisco, Cal. on Monday, July 16, 2012. Photo: Sonja Och, The Chronicle / SF
    Alia Volz participates in a Litquake event called “PASSWORD: Litquake’s Literary Speakeasy,” in which Bay Area authors dress up as, and read from, Prohibition-era writers. Volz charakter is Louise Brooks. San Francisco, Cal. on Monday, July 16, 2012. Photo: Sonja Och, The Chronicle / SF

Not all literary events are low-key, dignified affairs – especially not in San Francisco.

As Litquake brings out its slew of notable writers and the readers who love them, one event is looking to transport attendees back to a wild party in the 1920s.

At Thursday night’s “Password: A Literary Speakeasy,” a group of writers and other eccentrics will dress up and read as luminaries from the Prohibition era. The performers include Robin Ekiss as Tallulah Bankhead,Joshua Mohr as Sinclair Lewis and Alia Volz as silent film star Louise Brooks, taking on emcee duties for the night.

“The San Francisco literary culture today is vibrant and interactive and inspiring – and it’s sexy,” Volz says. “What could be sexier than Prohibition? I feel like nothing is more exciting than what’s underground.”

While San Francisco has a long history as a literary city, Volz says Litquake has revitalized the community. Since its inception in 1999, the annual event has become the largest literary festival on the West Coast.

“(Literature) is getting to a point where it’s become glamorous,” Volz says. “I think they’ve made life glamorous again for San Francisco writers and bookworms, so that we don’t have to hide in basements and home offices anymore.”

“Password” will be an especially glamorous event, with a jazz pianist and singer, and an artist sketching New Yorker-style caricatures. For her part, Volz is trying to channel some of Brooks’ unique persona.

“It’s ironic that Litquake has approached me to perform as a silent film actress,” she jokes, “because I have such a big mouth.”

But in reality, Brooks was equally outspoken, as Volz explains.

Brooks “didn’t kowtow to anybody, much to the detriment of her career,” she continues. “I think she was a true feminist in the sense that she was a completely self-identified woman. She played entirely by her own rules, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.”

And while this is a Prohibition-era event, the alcohol will be free-flowing as it once was in so many underground speakeasies. On tap: San Francisco’s own Prohibition Ale, of course.

“Password” is a party for the indoor kids who aren’t afraid to let loose once in a while. It may not actually take you back to the Roaring Twenties, but it does promise a rich, stimulating atmosphere of like-minded literature enthusiasts.

“Writing is naturally such a solitary act,” Volz notes. “For us to have an environment where writers and other intellectuals can go into public, out of the basement, and meet other people of similar interests, and seek inspiration and relate as part of a community, is a vital and precious thing.”

8 p.m. Thursday (July 19). $15-$18. Public Works, 161 Erie St., S.F. www.litquake.org.

Louis Peitzman is a freelance writer. E-mail: 96hours@sfchronicle.com Twitter:@LouisPeitzman

PASSWORD: Litquake’s Literary Speakeasy

July 19, 2012, 8:00 PM

Public Works
161 Erie Street


Public Works, 161 Erie St.
(off Mission St. between Duboce & 14th St.)
San Francisco, CA

Join us as we take you back to America’s Prohibition era with PASSWORD: Litquake’s Literary Speakeasy, featuring Prohibition-era cocktails, jazz, readings, and lots of feathers. Step up to our own Algonquin Round Table and hear excerpts of prominent historic authors from your favorite Bay Area writers, including Robin Ekiss (Tallulah Bankhead), Isaac Fitzgerald (Robert Benchley), Josh Mohr (Sinclair Lewis), Eddie Muller (Dashiell Hammett)K.M. Sohnlein (Bruce Nugent), and Sarah Fran Wisby (Dorothy Parker).

Dust off your best ostrich feathers and revel in decadence with crispy ales and flapper-friendly cocktails, jazzy stylings from pianist J. Raoul Brody and chanteuse Laurie Amat, a Thin Man movie marathon, caricaturist Laura Gilmore on demand, the finest headwear from Goorin Bros., and much more! Hosted by the inimitable Alia Volz, channeling silent-screen siren Louise Brooks. No-host bar blatantly serving the finest hooch in town!

All proceeds to benefit Litquake 2012 programming.

Six-Word Memoir

Snazzy event this Thursday night! I’m spinning a yarn about a magical batch of matzo ball soup that outlived its maker by…years. Oy.

In this live production of the extremely popular Six-Word Memoir Project, eight Bay Area Jewish personalities take to the stage to share clever, thoughtful, and humorous life stories. Participants include SF Chronicle columnist Leah GarchikLiterary Death Match host Alia Volz, Rabbi Noa Kushner, memoirist Piper Kerman, economist Russ Roberts, and writer Amy Keyishian. The evening concludes with an audience generated Six-Word Slam.

Thur July 12, 6:30 – 8:30

Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF