What is Women Gone Wild about?
Women Gone Wild is about two city slickers, my partner Erin and I, who move with our two long-haired dachsunds from the San Francisco Bay Area to 160 acres in the mountains of northern Mendocino.
Why did you move to the country?
In 1998, Erin and I joined a “year to live” group with eight other women. Once a month for half a day we talked about death and dying and how to live our lives more fully. As a part of that process we all wrote “bucket lists.” Topping my list as well as Erin's was moving to the country. After we bought the land in 1999, the attacks on the World Trade Center and September 11 underscored the urgency of seizing the day.
Why did you pick Mendocino County?
We were actually hoping to find a place in Sonoma County, near Sebastopol. We lived in Novato, in Marin County, in a tract home, and we wanted more space and more quiet in a place where we could ramble freely and have a garden. Real estate prices were soaring all over the country, particularly Northern California, and everything we could afford was a mess. When two friends from my writing group said they were buying raw land in Mendocino County, Erin and I drove up to see the place in an El Niño storm. To my horror, we fell in love with the land.
Why were you horrified to fall in love with your land?
Like a lot of people who fantasize about living in the country, I had a fairytale image of what our country life would be like. Basically, in my fantasy, my new life would be exactly like my old life, just with a little more quiet and a little more space. I'd keep my job at a daily newspaper in Marin, be close to friends in San Francisco and Berkeley and still go to the theater, movies, museums and Costco whenever I wanted. The land we ended up buying was three hours from San Francisco, a mountainous tract in the middle of nowhere, six miles from Highway 101 on a dirt road. There was no way our new life could be anything like our old one.
Did you “go wild” right away?
We started with a tent, then a 12' x 20' cabin and in 2004 we built a 7000 square-foot house and moved permanently to Mendocino County. So we went “wild” in increments. Erin would have gone wild a lot sooner, but I dragged my feet.
Why did you drag your feet?
I'm sort of a nervous, fearful person. I had all sorts of fears about what moving to this Mendocino land would mean.
What were your fears? And did those fears come true?
When I have to boil it down, I'd say I was afraid of change and the unknown. Some of my specific fears were: I was afraid I'd be lonely. (I was in the beginning.) I wondered if my relationship with my partner, now my wife, was strong and stimulating enough to keep us both engaged. (We've survived, but it hasn't always been easy.) I was afraid of rattlesnakes. (Still am. Sadly, I killed quite a few in our garden with a shotgun.) I was afraid of the expense of developing raw land. (It was expensive!) I was afraid of leaving my job, one of the first and only jobs I had ever had that paid me to write. It was a lot of fun, and I had won a couple of prizes, so it was hard to leave that. (I'm glad I did.) I was afraid I would lose my close friends and would make new friends. (I did make friends, but it took time. And I haven't lost my old ones. But I don't see them nearly as often.)
What was the hardest part of going wild?
Ironically, I became a housewife, not a wild woman, when we moved to our remote parcel. Erin worked as a nurse in Ukiah and was gone from dawn to dusk, so I was in charge of the house and shopping and cooking and putting in the landscaping and the garden. She would love to have stayed home and done those things, but that didn't happen. There was so much work to do around the place that I didn't have much time to write in the beginning. Eventually I did, and I felt much better about myself. I also made friends, joining the KZYX board and meeting all sorts of wonderful, progressive people in Willits and Laytonville and beyond.
What was the best part of going wild?
Living out on our little national park has been thrilling. The privacy and silence and beauty of the mountains have lowered my blood pressure and opened my heart. Having a garden and growing much of our own food is really satisfying. I love living close to the animals, including deer, coyotes, bear, ravens and wild horses. Not having any neighbors close by, being able to walk for hours without seeing a car or a person, swimming naked in our pond, sharing our house and land with family and friends are tremendous privileges.
Was Mendocino County what you expected?
It's been great. The land is beautiful and so are the people. There are so many people interested in sustainable living, slow food, gardening, seed sharing and saving, and biodynamic farming.
What did you find in Mendocino that you didn't expect?
As I say in the book, I didn't really get when we first bought our land, the extent to which marijuana is the economic engine of the county. I had heard that, but I didn't know anybody who grew pot or I didn't think I did and I didn't see any pot. But there were several clues. First off, when we went to a couple of parties back in our camping days and we asked people what they did for a living -- which is not considered a rude question in San Francisco -- a lot of people walked away or looked at us oddly. (We were trying to figure out how we would support ourselves if we moved north, so we were curious.) If people actually answered our questions, their answers didn't seem to add up to a living as far as we could see. They taught herbal classes or were caretakers on someone's property or did some massage. Eventually we stopped asking. Another clue was that on KZYX's Trading Time show a man offered medical marijuana for free over the airwaves to anyone who had a doctor's letter prescribing it. We got the caller's number before the hosts cut him off -- you can't sell or give away anything illegal on the air -- and a week or so later he gave us some leaf for Erin's elderly mother who was suffering from intractable pain in her back. Another tipoff was when Antonia, the woman who designed our garden, informed me that she couldn't get a crew to work for her because every able-bodied person she knew in the county made too much money in the pot trade to dig ditches or build fences or plant starts for her. I was shocked. Finally, the first fall we lived on the land full-time we saw a number of people speeding around the community's dirt roads who we knew were not parcel owners and whom we had never met before. They didn't stop and speak on the road the way other neighbors did and they drove too fast. Someone told us they were probably trimmers for a local pot grow. When another neighbor was busted, we checked out his demolished grow and we knew for sure marijuana was king.
Why did you write this book?
When I would tell my friends in the Bay Area about our experiences camping on the land, they would say, “You've got to write that down.” So I did. Once we moved to the land I was so busy I didn't have the energy or time to write anything long, so I would jot down notes about things that happened on the land. These notes became Women Gone Wild.
Why did you publish this book as an e-book?
As an author, e-publishing offers complete autonomy and the potential of reaching a huge market, a worldwide market, if you can successfully get to the right audiences. That will be a big challenge for me. Also, I didn't have to go through the classical print-publishing process: get an agent who finds the right editor who wants to publish the book. E-publishing offers a direct to consumer approach. Of all the electronic formats on which Women Gone Wild is now available, I'm happiest with the iBook's Author version which is gorgeous, allows for large color pictures and is beautifully designed. My friend and neighbor Stephanie Chatten of Emerald Chasm Entertainment has done a great job getting me launched electronically.
Where are you from? What else have you written?
I was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. My first writing job was in New York, working for Harper and Row's media department producing educational media programs for schools. I moved to San Francisco when I was 30, in 1977, and freelanced there, writing my first two books, both published in 1981. One was a novel called Crush about two girls in boarding school who get a crush on each other. The other was called Marin: The Place, The People. It was a coffee table book with photographs of Marin County. In 1991, I wrote Promise Not To Tell, about a teenage boy's reaction to his discovery that his best friend is being molested by her boss. My novel Dream Lover, a lesbian romance, came out in 1997. I have freelanced for the San Francisco Chronicle and Plexus, a women's newspaper in Oakland, and was a founding member of the editorial board of The Slant, a lesbian and gay newspaper in Marin. My next book will be a collection of my short stories called Betty Loves Veronica.