Originally published at Substack: 2/23/2021
Hello people of the internets — just a little note to say that I’m finally writing again, I’m even sending things out — anyone who knows me knows that one reason my so-called writing career never really went anywhere, is that I am a giant chicken about sending things out. For too long, it was just too hard.
Writing was the thing I’d always done in secret — ever since my Aunt Lynn gave me a little locking diary the summer I was 8, the summer our funny, adored, 2 year old brother was dying of cancer, the summer I forbade anyone EVER to mention that possibility. Our parents were splitting up too. It was not a good time, and fierce superstitious little creature that I was, I refused to talk about it. I refused even to talk about talking about it. So Lynn invented the Secret Friend, who sometimes hid tiny presents for us around the house. The Secret Friend left me a locking diary, and Lynn told me no one could ever read what I wrote in there. That it was secret. And personal. And safe.
And so for years I was that kid, the one in the corner, either curled up behind the living room curtains or outside up in a tree, with my nose in a book or my pencil in a notebook. My notebooks saw me through a lot.
I wasn’t listened to well as a child, and I was projected on a lot, by both parents. My inner life felt like something precious that I had to guard carefully (except from Patrick. I could tell him anything.) All those years of workshop just felt like more people telling me what to think, how to be, what to say. I liked the academic parts of grad school for the most part, but not workshop so much.
And so, publication was weirdly upsetting. My novel that had been mine, was out there in the world. It wasn’t that people had opinions about the book. That would have been fine. A lot of people hated my “unlikeable” mother character, which I found sort of sad because I loved her in all her brittleness and wild intuition, and which made me happy because it meant I’d written the character I meant to write. That was all fine. What I found weird and upsetting was that people had opinions about me because of the book. The very first question at my very first reading was “So, have you had any tragedies in your own life?” I remember looking at Patrick standing at the back of the room, in a sort of panic, terrified I’d start laughing hysterically. What business is it of yours lady?
And this was all before the internet.
But anyhow, I’m starting to pull these essay chapters I’ve been working on for so long into pieces that can be sent out. I gave myself a goal of one submission per month. I’m applying for fellowships even. Residencies are … trickier. I’d love the excuse to shut out everything else and just work for a bit, but I don’t want to leave home. I have animals and the garden and well, Himself and I, while we don’t share a house we’ve also never gone longer than a week away from one another. We like each other. And I get nervous about everything disappearing if I go away. So I’m not really applying for residencies, even though they’re the kinds of thing that can help a girl get an agent again.
Oy. That part. All of it. I have to start over from scratch and I never liked any of the business part of writing. The selling end. Self-marketing. Readings were okay, but mostly sad — three people off the street. It was a first novel, I didn’t expect anything more. I’m bad at book parties — I hid in the mezzanine at the only one I went to in San Francisco, alarmed by the dudes in porkpie hats, alarmed that I was supposed to go down and schmooze with them. The parties we used to have here, back before the keystone writer dudes all died were fun though. Out on Nina and Elwood’s back porch in the Paradise Valley, packs of half-naked children shrieking and running through the adults holding plates of food and glasses of wine. Those were great, mostly because no one talked much about writing. Gossip about writers, sure, but not much shop talk about actual writing.
But I made a little resolution, so I’m going to keep sending out missives that are longer than a tweet, and we’ll see where they land. Not being glued to CNN and Twitter all day wondering if the government is falling has been a relief. Just being normal-angry at the Democrats has been a relief. There’s enough work to pay the bills, and the light is starting to come back. It’ll be time to plant the tomato starts soon. I might try some early broccoli seeds this weekend. The carnations I started from seed a year ago are about to bloom — we’ll see if the black ones are really black. Maybe I’ll try propagating from cuttings. And the apple scions I ordered should be arriving. Experiments in fruit tree grafting are on the horizon.
And I have another essay to pull together. There’s a March 1st deadline I’m shooting for. It’ll be messier than I’d like, but I’m sending it out anyway …