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thedrifter
01-28-06, 12:58 PM
Author to share 'power of place'
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Saturday, January 28, 2006.

LANCASTER - Deanne Stillman will share her insights about "the power of place" in writing nonfiction at the Antelope Valley Writers meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12, in the Cedar Centre Art Gallery, 44857 Cedar Ave.

The power of place refers to the role of landscape in narrative as well as in the lives of my characters, Stillman said.

"For me, as I always say, the desert is my beat. A place of wide-open space and endless promise, the great American desert has shaped our dreams and our lives. As Wallace Stegner once said, 'the American community is an overnight camp.'

"Since day one in this country, people have moved West to start over. What happens once they are in the Promised Land is another story. How has the desert shaped their lives? What has it promised? What has it denied? And who are the people - who are we as a nation - who look to wide open space for salvation?

"As I see it, geography determines everything. Those are some of the concepts I'll be talking about, and will draw on the works of other writers as well."

Stillman's nonfiction work, "Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave," was published by William Morrow. The conclusion of a 10-year journey, the book explores the brutal murders of two young girls in a Southern California military town by a Marine shortly after the Gulf War.

With the desert as a main character, Stillman traces the family histories of the murder victims back for generations, in one case to the Donner Party and in the other to a shack in the Philippines, and then on to the inevitable and fatal arrival of each family in the Mojave.

Her focus is the world of rootless kids who live in the shadows of a giant military base on the edge of the modern American frontier.

She first wrote about the murders in Los Angeles magazine in 1996; her article won a Maggie Award for best news story of that year. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson called Stillman's book "a strange and brilliant story by an important American writer."

"Twentynine Palms" was a Los Angeles Times best seller and was named one of the "best books of 2001" by the L.A. Times Book Review. It has been added to some college courses on literary nonfiction.

Stillman is writing "Horse Latitudes: Last Stand for the Wild Horse in the American West" for Houghton Mifflin. It is a narrative nonfiction history of the wild horse in the West, including an account of the ongoing battles to wipe it out.

"Joshua Tree: Desolation Tango," about Joshua Tree National Park, will be published in the fall by the University of Arizona Press as part of its desert series.

Stillman is working on a book about the high desert north of Los Angeles for Angel City Press, with photographs by Mark LaMonica. In addition, her writing is widely published and anthologized.

Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, most recently in "The Great Mojave Manhunt," about the murder of Lake Los Angeles Deputy Steve Sorensen by Donald Kueck; The New York Times; the Los Angeles Times; GQ; The Nation; Mademoiselle and Los Angeles magazine, for both of which she formerly was a contributing editor; Tin House; The Boston Globe; and Slate.com, among others.

She also is a former columnist for The Village Voice ("A Girl's Guide to Sports") and Buzz magazine ("Eldorado").

The meeting is open to the public. For details, call Bonnie Stone, (661) 951-8646.

Ellie