CEID

I learned about the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness (CEID) from my 8-year-old daughter, who spent the fall visiting the school with her 3rd grade class. I was so impressed when I realized she was learning a lot of sign language, and was curious to learn more. So when I heard that CEID was hosting an informational open house one Saturday, my daughter and I, along with Lori, headed over for a visit.

CEID is a beautiful little school. Located just across the Bay in a sunny pocket of Berkeley, CEID teaches communication skills to children who are deaf or who have profound hearing loss, as well as to their families. Early intervention—within the first five years—is crucial in maximizing the communication potential of hearing-impaired children, and gives them a foundation that can set them up successfully for the rest of their lives.

CEID is pretty holistic in that it provides a mix of services, from the Outpatient Newborn Hearing Screenings to parent and child classes that enhance communication and sign language skills. If you have a minute, take a look at their site and see the work they do; you might also want to check out the link to their donation page and the link to their wish list.

Nan, the beautiful service dog and helper, at CEID with a few of the kids.

Nan, the beautiful service dog and helper, at CEID with a few of the kids.

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Here are some photos I took of our recent visit (our second one; my lucky daughter got to take the morning off from school to revisit this bright little spot in the world!). We had a great time and fell in love with the staff and the kids. That pretty yellow lab is Nan, a service dog/staff member at CEID and a recent graduate of Canine Companions for Independence (another organization we LOVE!).

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ScholarMatch

The crew at ScholarMatch.

The crew at ScholarMatch.

Last week Lori and I visited 826 Valencia, which is one of our favorite organizations. The brainchild of writer and philanthropist Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia is a nonprofit writing program devoted to supporting the creative and expository writing skills of children age 6 to 18. Driven by the belief that writing skills are paramount to a child’s future success, 826 Valencia provides kids with one-on-one writing support. It also works with teachers to help them inspire their students to write. (To say that Dave Eggers is one of Isabel’s favorite people would be a gross understatement.)

Although best known for its writing programs for younger kids, 826 Valencia also offers Bay Area students help with college application and financial aid essays. It also awards a limited number of college scholarships. The problem, however, is that the need for scholarships among high-achieving but under-funded kids is far greater than the supply. Frustrated at seeing so many qualified kids unable to attend college due to a lack of financial aid, Dave launched an offshoot program in 2010 called ScholarMatch. Dedicated to helping kids attend college by connecting students with donors, ScholarMatch uses the power of the Internet to link individuals interested in investing in the academic future of promising students with high-achieving kids in need of financial support. The organization also offers free college support services both during the application process (including help filling out all those pesky forms) and after, when students are figuring which college to attend.

I like to think of ScholarMatch and the 826 Valencia college prep programs as offering an alternative to high school counselors—except these counselors aren’t burnt out and aren’t having an illicit affair with the P.E. teacher while suggesting you become an airline hostess. (Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with becoming a flight attendant!)

[Side note: The P.E. teacher and the counselor did eventually end up together and are seemingly very happy.]

Since 2010, ScholarMatch has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and helped many students and parents navigate the difficult college application waters. Thanks to its evolving program, a great staff and a stable of trained volunteers, ScholarMatch has some pretty impressive statistics:

•   60.5 percent of ScholarMatch students live in a family whose annual income is less than $25,000.

•   93 percent of ScholarMatch students will be the first in their family to attend college.

•   79 percent of ScholarMatch students attend four-year institutions.

•   100 percent of the students overcome incredible challenges and are dedicated to pursuing higher education.

ScholarMatch is currently limited to college-bound students living in the Bay Area, but the organization plans to expand the program nationally in the future.

We try not to get all teary eyed when visiting sites we support but we couldn’t help it this time around. ScholarMatch is doing really great work, and if you’d like to help out, here is the donation page. You can also learn more about 826 Valencia at here.

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Finally, About

I’ve had a lot of questions lately about how the blog got started, so I decided to update the About page. Here’s what I wrote:

I love this photo of Isabel and me. The picture just to the right is a group shot (from left, Elizabeth, Lori, me and Juliette) taken at the Center for Reproductive Rights inaugural gala in 2012. Just below is a photo I snapped of Isabel and the photographer Mary Ellen Mark. I took it when I was in New York City with them and it’s one of my favorites. I admire both women so much. Finally, that card at bottom right is Isabel’s press ID from 1969!

 

About

My Invented Isabel is the official Isabel Allende blog. Other (unofficial) blogs about Isabel exist, but rest assured I actually KNOW her and she sort of approves of what I write. I say sort of because sometimes I am not sure what she is saying when she yells at me in Spanish…

I have been told I have the best job in the world, and I admit I am very lucky. As I mentioned on the main page, Isabel asked me to write this blog for her. I work with Isabel at her foundation and get to help out on occasional research missions. As a result, it isn’t hard to write observations on Isabel’s life and extended family, especially since I am very fond of all of them and have access to the tribe’s inner workings.

So, after taking over a blog supposedly written by her (it wasn’t) and coming up with a name—savvy fans will recognize that My Invented Isabel is a play on the title of Isabel’s memoir My Invented Country—I signed a several-hundred-page non-disclosure agreement and quickly set out to expose Isabel and the family…Wait, that isn’t right. The truth is, I really do adore everyone and the blog, albeit voyeuristic, is just a small glimpse into Isabel’s world. Basically, I was just in the right place at the right time. Isabel decided she needed a blog and just happened to look over at me. Had Olivia, one of Isabel’s dogs, or the UPS driver (of whom we are all very fond) been sitting there, it’s likely one of them would have gotten the job. (In my defense, Olivia does NOT have thumbs and the UPS driver doesn’t stay long enough at the office to really get a sense of the color and culture.)

Speaking of color and culture, in addition to stories and insights about Isabel, I like to use the blog to talk about the organizations the Isabel Allende Foundation supports, especially after Lori (Isabel’s daughter-in law, who runs the foundation) and I have had a chance to visit them to see firsthand the amazing work they do. I also like to relay the stories Isabel tells—the ones that make us all laugh and leave the office happy just about every day—stories about a bar of soap’s mistaken identity or Dulce’s frequent attempts at suicide.  (Dulce, whose full name is Dulcinea, is Isabel’s other dog.) Whenever Isabel sits down with us, we are guaranteed a tale so wild and unpredictable we can only assume it is fiction—though we are never sure either way.   

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, Isabel’s Facebook page (which now has over 1 million “Likes”!) or her Twitter account, you already know that Isabel is a whirlwind of energy. I have described her as a “ferret on Cocoa Puffs” and I stand by that. Her tours are grueling and her writing is equally consuming. There are days when she is locked away in her writing tower for 10 hours at a time. Occasionally I slip some crackers under the door on a thin silver tray and when I go back to check there are only a few crumbs and a note that says something to the effect of “Put on a skirt!” or “Why is your hair so flat today?” That’s just Isabel’s way of letting me know that she is alive and fine and writing. 

I should also mention that I am a very spoiled blogger. I have my own editor! Her name is Lauren Cuthbert. Without Lauren, nothing would be in proper linear order, none of my facts would be accurate and as for my spelling…well, it’s generally atrocious! (I tried to spell that “atroshus”—yes, as a joke—but Lauren wouldn’t let me keep it.) I also rely on various amazing people who translate the blog into Spanish. Two of our most valued and frequently used translators are Gabriela and Adriana, who deserve kudos for working so quickly and efficiently. So you can see I get a lot of help—a lot of ideas from the crew here, and technical support as well, I am indeed very spoiled.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. One downside to having an editor is that editors tend to be bossy. As one of those bossy editors, Lauren insists that I mention here that My Invented Isabel once got a nod from the New York Times. She also wants me to mention that one time when I was at a book signing with Isabel, one of her fans asked me if I was the author of My Invented Isabel. When I admitted I was, she explained she was a fan of the blog and had always wondered if I was real. She was so happy to meet me! It was my fifteen minutes–okay, thirty seconds! 

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There’s No Free Dog

UPDATE:

I got so many emails and calls I thought I would post this just to let everyone know Dulcinea is just fine!

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Isabel having tea with Dulce.

 


Little Dulcinea already sees a specialist for her skin condition, she required a delicate surgery to fix her eye, Isabel had to hire a personal trainer to curb her…well, her erratic behavior, and let’s not forget the time she ate a pound of dark chocolate and had to have her stomach pumped. Since I found Dulce at a rescue service in Berkeley and convinced Isabel to adopt her, I don’t even want to think about how much the little pip has cost. Let’s just say that when I was washing her on Sunday in preparation for Isabel’s return from New York and Chile, and suddenly noticed something horribly wrong with her paw, I didn’t hesitate to take her to the animal ER in San Rafael. The poor little thing’s toenail had come clean off the quick and she was in a lot of pain. The timing was horrible; I felt really bad for Dulce, as well as for Isabel, who came home to find her little lamb with a bandaged paw and wearing a cone.

At a follow-up appointment recently, the vet said to Isabel, “There’s no free dog, Isabel!” That’s the truth!

Here is Dulce looking pitiful and Olivia reminding me that I still need to feed her lunch, even if her (forced) sister is in distress:

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Poor Dulce, all bandaged and in the dreaded cone.

Olivia

Olivia giving me her “I WANT LUNCH NOW!” face….

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More from the RIPPER Book Tour

Sorry about this! With all the Ripper giveaways I seemed to have forgotten to post this blog…better late than never:

Lori wrote me every day from the three-week tour, which was pretty amazing given how busy she and Isabel were. As the tour wound down, Lori began sending more photos than words—clearly everyone is pretty exhausted!

Here is a sampling of Lori’s adventures with Isabel.

Sarah, 

Miami has not only been 75 degrees warmer than just about everywhere else we have been, but the crowds have been huge and the reception just as warm.

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First day we went straight from the airport to FUSION TV for an interview with Jorge Ramos. Besides having gorgeous blue eyes that matched his sapphire-colored shirt, he was extremely kind and sweet to Isabel. As was his entire staff. He and Isabel had a wonderful interview at the new FUSION TV building, which Isabel thought felt like a futuristic spaceship. Gorgeous new digs for them.

Jorge took a “selfie” of them for his Facebook page. Very cute. 

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Willie joined us here, and not a moment too soon. Isabel was really ready for a hug.

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Andres Oppenheimer taped an hour-long show this morning at the hotel and it was lively, thoughtful and funny. There’s a whole 7-minute section on sex and love. Stay tuned. 

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Then there was the Miami Dade College event hosted by Books & Books, the brainchild of Mitch Kaplan, who is also the co-founder of the Miami Book Fair International. What a sweet man! He couldn’t have been kinder and more generous with his time, expertise and charm. And boy, was his team top-notch! A thousand people showed up for a venue that was set up to accommodate 800 but in seconds they somehow managed to get everyone seated. Well…seated for a very short time, that is, since Isabel got a standing ovation as she entered the room. She hadn’t even opened her mouth yet. The problem is, I think all this acclaim is going to her head. She now expects me to do the same every time she comes into the room. That’s going to get old soon but, fortunately, there’s only a week or so left of the tour.

StandingO

Debra Dean, a writer Isabel adores, was present, too, and so supportive. But truth be told, Willie was the highlight of the event. A large percentage of the woman in the room had Isabel’s book signed FIRST by Willie, and then by Isabel. Every time I glanced over from the signing table, Willie was surrounded by a bevy of gorgeous, tanned women. It kind of pissed Isabel off but I think she’s over it. : )

WithDDMiami

On to 7 degree weather in Denver…

Adios amigos,

Lori

We made it to Denver!

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The Denver event, beautifully organized by the Tattered Cover Book Store, was lovely and the audience very warm and receptive.

A few highlights from the night:

We were thrilled to see Hannah Whitaker, the daughter of a woman who is fighting AGAINST a campaign to ban of The House of the Spirits at a North Carolina high school. Someone in the audience actually asked a question about the banning of Isabel’s books, which gave Isabel an opportunity not only to thank Hannah and her husband, Cassidy Greif, for coming, but also to talk about Hannah’s heroic mom. And about censorship!

HannaCassid

A mother and her young son got up to ask a question and it turns out that the mother absolutely adored Isabel and had named her son, Alexander, after the main character in her children’s trilogy. The woman had also named her daughter, Ana Isabel, after…you guessed it, Isabel. The kids came bearing gifts and hugs.

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Another woman showed Isabel a treasured possession of hers: a book that Isabel had signed in 1991 for the woman’s mother. Isabel is indeed beloved. There’s no arguing with that!

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On to Portland!

Lori

P.S. If you didn’t catch Isabel on her tour, listen to her here on KQED Forum with Michael Krasny.

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Book Giveaway – Closed

The book giveaway is now closed. We will announce the winners early next week. May thanks for participating.

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Win a dedicated copy of RIPPER or another one of Isabel’s books!

To participate, “like” Isabel’s Facebook page (if you haven’t already done so) and then click on the RIPPER excerpt to discover the last name of a certain Brazilian painter. Next, replace the word painter in the email address below with the answer and email us your name, mailing address and the title of whichever of Isabel’s books you’d like (and in what language):

painter-ripper@isabelallende.com

We will randomly select 5 winners from the first 1,000 correct answers submitted. Only one email per person will be considered.

If you don’t have Facebook or you can’t read the excerpt, you can still participate, read the RIPPER excerpt here and follow the instructions above.

Good luck!

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Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day! We love Eve Ensler today, and everyday!

Have a look at this recent Rise 4 Justice post about Isabel.

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Dear North Carolina,

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If I were a student at a North Carolina high school— well, I’m too darn old but never mind—I would be dying to get my hands on a copy of The House of the Spirits just to see what all the fuss is about! I mean, if you want to get kids reading, tell them they can’t and see what happens. I sure hope that’s how things play out for the kids in the honors English class at Watauga High School in Boone, North Carolina, where a group of parents tried to ban Isabel’s book from the curriculum. (So far, thank goodness, they have been unsuccessful. Last fall the county board of education voted unanimously to uphold its use in the classroom but there’s another hearing on the subject in a couple of weeks.)

Intellectual freedom and students’ rights aside, book banning is just a bad idea. Joseph Bathanti, poet laureate of North Carolina, agrees, and sent a letter in support of the book to the board of education. Here are a few choice paragraphs from that letter:

Isabel Allende’s novel The House of Spirits is quite simply a magnificent piece of literature – because of its inimitable use of language, imagery, sweeping narrative, vision, its fundamental belief in the sacrosanctity of love and family, its belief that the human spirit in inextinguishable, and because it takes head-on and clear-eyed what William Faulkner called “the human heart in conflict with itself.” Books, like The House of Spirits, are also magnificent precisely because they wrestle with difficult topics – which have been cited as reasons to discontinue it in the curriculum. The House of Spirits transforms, through language, through the art of its author – in this case one of the world’s acknowledged masters – what is ugly into beautiful acts of survival, everlasting love and even spirituality. 

As a culture, we habitually discuss the safety of our children. Nothing is more important. As a teacher, I take very seriously the safety of my students inside and outside the classroom – as seriously as I take the safety and well being of my own beloved children. Prohibiting access to life-enhancing texts like The House of Spirits impinges, in a sense, on their safety. Our students’ intellectual safety is crucial not only to their lives, but to Watauga County, to the great state of North Carolina, and well beyond. We must keep them safe by permitting them – under the guidance of expert teachers and citizens like Mrs. Whitaker – democratic access to literature like The House of Spirits.

Well said, Mr Bathanti, and big kudos to Mary Kent Whitaker for teaching The House of Spirits. Let’s hope she gets to keep on teaching books of her choice. Alternative books are available to students, so a ban of one book seems to me like you’re just asking for more attention. Maybe the parents at the school really just want more people to know about The House of the Spirits? Here’s an article with more on this story.

P.S. Here you go kids, a link just for you with an excerpt from The House of the Spirits. Also have a look at this article from High Country Press, sales of the book are soaring!

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Letters From the Road

Occasionally Lori and Isabel send me great stories from the road. They really know how to make me jealous. In the following posts from Boston and Columbus, Lori romanticizes the journey and Isabel tells it like it is:

From Lori:

Boston Event: It was a fabulous event. Totally sold out the 600 seats in the church. All the books sold out before the event even started. People waited in a line to get in that ran down the block and around the corner in the truly freezing cold. Trust me when I say I can’t think of a single soul I would have waited to see in that cold tonight. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

They loved Isabel before she even began but they gave her a standing ovation after her talk. She, as usual, had the audience roaring with laughter, choked up with tears and mesmerized by her stories. 

A special treat was that a couple of the children of dear friends—Aristotelis (Juliette’s son) and Lyla (Jennie’s daughter)—showed up. It was wonderful to see familiar faces in the crowd.

Isabel with the kids from home.

Isabel with the kids from home.

Thurber House Event: Despite the absolutely insane cold weather, the Thurber House Event was completely filled plus the overflow room was filled to capacity and there was a waiting list that could not be accommodated. So that’s about 470 + 88 more people in 6 degree weather to hear Isabel talk. And believe me she did not let them down. 

I sat next to a young woman named Laura. See photo below. I made her tell her story twice because I was sure I heard it wrong.
She lives in Michigan (not Ohio) and has been begging her mom to visit from the Dominican Republic for 5 years. Her mom has said no for various reasons, especially not wanting to come in winter. So Laura went ahead and bought tickets to Isabel’s event, told her mother and her mother booked tickets to Michigan immediately. They drove 5 HOURS from Michigan to see Isabel stayed overnight in a hotel and then 5 hours drive back to Michigan early the next day. They both agreed it was all worth it. 
OK, so maybe we have to rethink how we treat Isabel at home. you know. We’re always suggesting she stay home and write instead of coming in the office and boss us around. Maybe we have to give her a little more respect. I’m just saying….
Anyway it was an incredible night. So engaged, heaps of good questions and audience participation and of course a lot of applause. 
xoLori
Here she is, on a riser…Isabel is ummmm, short...

Here she is, on a riser…Isabel is ummmm, short…

Isabel signing a wee Chilean flag for a fan.

Isabel signing a wee Chilean flag for a fan.

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Here she is, with her pretty flag!

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This whole group took a bus from Rhode Island and waited to the bitter end to have a photo with Isabel.

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One of our winners! Your book is on the way!

Laura and her Mom all the way from the Dominican Republic!

Laura and her Mom all the way from the Dominican Republic!

From Isabel:

We are traveling in the worst possible winter in the Northeast and Midwest. 

From the plane we see the land below. It looks like Siberia in a Solzhenitsyn novel. Planes delayed and cancelled, people patiently waiting, streets empty or with stalled traffic. I can’t wear my high heals and with fur boots I look like a short Inuit, but nobody else looks any better. 

Lori has been placing the treasure hunt posts.  She is a trooper. She goes out there in the ice and wind to stick the posts for our loyal Facebook followers to play the hunting game. Amazingly, some of them looked for the posts in spite of the freezing weather and when they find it they are ecstatic. All that enthusiasm just for a damn book! 

We are doing great and keeping ourselves warm and healthy. The book tour is going splendidly thanks to Nico, Chandra and Sarah at home, and Jane Beirn, my lovely publicist in New York.  It takes a village.  

Lori is a savvy traveler, incredibly efficient. Everybody loves her except when she brings out her Brooklyn accent, which fortunately is not very often. I, on the other hand, have no sense of direction, can’t remember in which city we are or let alone what is my room number. Also, I seem to make risky choices regarding food.  Lori eats raw carrots, assorted overcooked vegetables and green tea. I end up with truffled fries, duck confit tacos, poached eggs with mussels, and a drink called mini beer, which consists of some sweet Spanish liqueur with spicy herbs, vanilla and citrus, topped with a dollop of heavy cream. I have gained several pounds and my hair is falling out.

Love,

Isabel 

P.S. No disrespect intended. We love the Inuit people. They are amazing.

BONUS: here is a photo of Isabel, Robert and David Montgomery from the Washington Post! Robert is my brother-in-law!

IsabelwRob

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Isabel’s tour so far: Madrid

Isabel is on tour right now so the office is a little more quiet, but just a little! Lori has been sending photos along the way and it looks like such fun. The photo with the kids has this funny story from Lori: It was a school group and one of the kids asked if she was going to write more children’s books. And Isabel said, no, she doesn’t like kids much. Then she realized there were two whole classrooms of kids there!
Isabel has a way of making friends with young people.
Isabel with her new "friends"

Isabel with her new “friends”

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Adorable as always.

Isabel with her agent Carmen Balcells

Isabel with her agent Carmen Balcells

Lori on the left with the interviewer Pepa Fernandez, Isabel and Nuria Tey.

Lori on the left with the interviewer Pepa Fernandez, Isabel and Nuria Tey.

Isabel meets the press!

Isabel meets the press!

Isabel and the bloggers from Spain!

Isabel and the bloggers from Spain!

PS. If you want a chance to win a copy of Ripper (USA only and english) follow this link and good luck!  The contest ends February 7th.
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