Strolling the cobblestoned streets of San Miguel de Allende with a friend on her first visit to Mexico, Pamela Alma Bass could scarcely remember the last time she'd been kissed. "In Mexico it seems anything is possible," she wrote of that visit in an award-winning short story. "Like no one here will know I was that dorky girl in high school with the navy blue uniform ... talking too loudly to seem cool." In a club, she meets Antonio, an aspiring cartoonist who admires her hands before taking her to another bar that is painted to look like heaven: "He pulls me down next to him on a sofa, lights a cigarette, and wraps one hand around my waist ... but I can't think about it long because then comes the kiss. I fall into that kiss like a girl falling into a meadow full of poppies."
That night, and that trip, were part of a grand transition for Bass, who will appear at Diesel (5433 College Ave., Oakland) on June 28 with several fellow contributors to The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009 and The Best Travel Writing 2009. "I completely fell in love with Mexico when I first visited. In fact, it was a life-changing kind of love," which inspired her to move to San Miguel de Allende. "What was supposed to be one year of studying Spanish and finding myself turned into three years of adventure, heartache, exploration, and eventually — after many wrong turns — discovering I wanted to become a writer. There was something about the Mexican way of viewing the world that helped give me permission to follow my outlandish and arrogant dream."
In Mexico, she also felt "millions of miles away from home and family and all of the pressures of what-you-are-supposed-to-be." A graduate of Princeton University and the Hunter School of Social Work, Bass was "supposed to be" a lot of things, to pursue life paths more stable and fruitful and less solitary than the literary one. Yet the pervasive spirit of "this small bohemian expat town in the Mexican mountains ... allowed me to take this risk. It wasn't, however, until I moved to San Francisco that I was actually able to make those dreams a reality — through taking classes and working with great teachers at the Writing Salon and Book Passage's Travel Writing Conference."
Now living in Marin County, where she has written about Mexico for the Marin Independent Journal, Bass has contributed to other anthologies including I Should Have Gone Home: Tripping Up Around the World and Hot Flashes 2: Sexy Little Stories and Poems. A mother of young twins, she blogs about this experience as well. And she's working on a novel, Tail of Frog: A Mexican Remedy for a Gringa Gurl, which might very well be autobiographical.
The book, Bass says, "follows the journey of the almost-thirty-year-old Margaret Herrick, as she flees New York City, a broken relationship, her social-work career and an overpowering family in search of the perfect man, a fulfilling career and ultimately herself. She imagines — somewhat delusionally — that she will find these things in the small artistic town in the Mexican mountains, San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel is a place where people find themselves and lose themselves; Margaret will do both."
Other writers slated to appear with Bass at Diesel include Laurie McAndish King, Diana Cohen, Y.J. Zhu, Ken Matusow, and Millicent Susens. 3 p.m. DieselBookstore.com