Monday, March 30, 2009

“It’s teatime and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It’s that simple.” (Anne Lamott...

...on character, Bird by Bird, p. 53). I’m listening. Mining about ten years worth of writing. Struck a few nerves in my inner calm. I call Barbara Robinette Moss (from my Iowa City writing group). I ask Barbara (author of the two memoirs Change Me Into Zeus’ Daughter and Fierce)... “Do I steer clear of topics that might upset my family? Do I consider my children, who they might one day be (or have become) reading what I’ve written, wondering what to make of their mother?”

In her sweet Southern drawl but firmly, Barbara says: “Kids care about hugs, cute shoes, a sandwich. The person you are day after day after day to them. Shelter. They don’t care what you did in 7th grade...or in college... Use the fear...Use your fears to help you write truthfully.”

Which I’m trying to do against the anxiety stirred up by having “Sheila’s Vine” come out in the anthology, Labor Pains and Birth Stories this month. Which means I’ve had to appear at a bookstore for my first official book-signing. Mary Allen (author of The Rooms of Heaven: A Story of Love, Death, Grief, and the Afterlife as well as my indispensable Iowa monastery, sauna, and midnight shopper cohort) advised me to wear comfortable shoes. She reminded me of the time I came to one of her first readings in San Francisco for The Rooms of Heaven, how she was wearing a new suit and new shoes and felt her insides didn’t match her outsides.

I took Mary’s advice and wore an old pair of beater clogs I’ve had for about ten years and managed mostly to feel like myself except for forgetting Rachel’s name—Rachel my mom friend from the bookclub I’ve had to abandon for a couple of years now in favor of writing time. Kind to a fault, she didn’t bat an eye and told me her own birth story—one of those frighteningly rapid “freight train” births for which she barely had time to make the hospital, and yes, she had to kiss her epidural goodbye.

Surrounded by savvy friends with clearer heads than mine, I’m back in the cabin with a two-story mug from Coffee Catz full of Lady Grey. All the dolls are talking at once, but that’s ok, at least until the bergamot and the caffeine kick in. Then they’ll have to take turns.

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