Stories for Airports

By Michael Fortes

Back in second grade, judy b. contributed to a class book a story about a girl who came home to find her family's home transformed into a mansion. "[T]hat may be a defining moment in my interest in writing," says judy. "But I was making up stories even before then." So started the literary journey that has led to Stories for Airports, a book of short stories ideal for rides on buses and, of course, airplanes. Along the way, judy b. (her full legal name, all in lowercase) attended Kent State University and earned a degree in American literature. She also pursued graduate studies in French translation and journalism at Kent State, preparing her for a gig at Wired News as culture editor. Currently, she is an assistant program coordinator in the Office of Graduate Outreach and Postdoctoral Affairs, part of UCSF's Graduate Division. judy b.'s writing is very descriptive ("her hair is the texture and color of straw"; "he had a slight accent, a way of saying things that could make some questions sound like statements"; etc.). It can also draw in the reader through holding back. This works most effectively in "Chakras Read," where the gender of the narrative voice is not entirely clear until near the end of the story.
Stories for Airports
"I don't ever set out explicitly to do that when writing a story," says judy of "Chakras Read," "but when a piece presents opportunities, as this one did, to say 'Surprise!' then I play along. Gladly." The rest of these little vignettes, many of which debuted at, are just as they are described on the back cover of the book - snapshots. The big difference between these stories and photographs, aside from being text rather than images, is that they tend to do what a good book or movie does - they may leave the reader wishing each one went on a bit longer. However, judy says, "I do not want the reader to walk away feeling like I just delivered a tidy package, and certainly not that I taught her or him something. I want to spark people to respond by trapping them in uncomfortable moments." Though the stories themselves are not really connected to airports, there is a loose theme of location. Many of them explicitly take place in or mention San Francisco. "San Francisco is a huge inspiration to me," she says, and it shows as one reads on: an American history PhD quarrels with his sweetheart, "a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and the veteran of several different San Francisco cafés," in "Food of the Gods"; a woman is struck by two different vehicles in a tragic accident on Nob Hill (and ends up at the UCSF Medical Center, of all places) in "Clang, Clang, Clang"; a cardboard sign belonging to a chakra reader falls onto the head of an Asian-American walking through North Beach in "Chakras Read"; then there's "Icarus of Market Street"; and so on. The location refrain could be a reflection of judy b.'s residence, just as the musicality of "Riff" could be a reflection of her being a trained jazz vocalist. Her varied and exciting life journeys, from producing and appearing on satellite radio and TV programs to teaching, serving as a tour guide and singing in jazz clubs, surely inspire her writings. But ultimately, that Stories for Airports is such a varied and exciting reading experience is a reflection of what really matters to judy. "For me, it's the journey itself," she says. "What matters is to leap, to live." Stories For Airports is available for purchase at Source: Michael Fortes

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