‘The Ways of Fiction Are Devious Indeed’

Sands Hall, a playwright and daughter of author Oakley Hall, digs into the work of Wallace Stegner — specifically his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Angle of Repose, which is based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote. “[W]e often fold in the real with the invented,” writes Hall, but when does inspiration become plagiarism?

Yet in the end, it wasn’t that Stegner copied so much, verbatim, that incensed me. Nor that, in creating the Wards, he followed so precisely—for 523 of the novel’s 569 pages—the trajectory of the Footes’ lives. It was that, in the process, he altered Mary’s character. Susan emerges as a griping, entitled, discontented 1950s housewife, nothing like the adventurous, deeply intelligent, resilient woman on whom she was modeled.

Stegner didn’t physically assault Mary Foote, but he abused her—her life, her writing, and, as it turned out, her reputation. And he got away with it because he was a man. A privileged, white, older man. Would he have used the journal and letters of a male writer in this way?

Author: Sands Hall
Source: Alta
Published: Apr 4, 2022
Length: 19 minutes (4,757 words)

The Gentrification of Consciousness

“San Francisco’s Mission district has become synonymous with well-paid tech workers displacing non-white longtime residents. It’s now the setting for a new battle, as the coming psychedelic-industrial complex threatens to strip hallucinogenic drugs of their historical and religious significance.”

Source: Alta
Published: Jan 4, 2022
Length: 21 minutes (5,279 words)

The Accident on the Pacific Crest Trail

“There are as many dangers on the Pacific Crest Trail as there are breathtaking views. One young man began the 2,650-mile hike with dreams of wild adventure and personal transformation. He never made it home.”

Source: Alta
Published: Jan 18, 2021
Length: 19 minutes (4,762 words)

Last Call for Gumshoes

“For nearly 50 years, a tight-knit group of San Francisco private eyes—intellectual, swashbuckling, anti-authority lefties—practiced their craft in the pursuit of truth and, hopefully, justice.”

Source: Alta
Published: Sep 29, 2020
Length: 22 minutes (5,722 words)

The Forgotten Babies

There are too many ways for children to die. While one writer investigated the murder of an eight-year-old, the story returned her to her own past

Source: Alta
Published: Apr 6, 2020
Length: 12 minutes (3,027 words)

The Night Charlie Parker Soared in South Central L.A.

Despite fire, gentrification, and time erasing Los Angeles’ rich jazz history, stories help protect it. One historic event occurred in 1947, when the saxophonist genius named Bird jammed after-hours at Jack’s Basket Room, rejuvinated from a six month sober stay at Camarillo State Hospital. Some say it was Bird’s greatest performance. We’ll have to believe them. It wasn’t recorded.

Source: Alta
Published: Aug 5, 2019
Length: 10 minutes (2,673 words)