Doomsplaining, bleh

30 January 2010 | 14 Comments

Last night I had a Dark Night of the Soul about all the work I have to do: currently so much of it that I am not able to do things that are also work but do not make money quite so immediately, like, you know: writing; reading other people’s books (which is part of my job as well as my pleasure); reading other people’s screenplays (ditto); watching a DVD without also watching the clock. I ordered pizza last night because I couldn’t face cooking a whole meal; in fact, I entertained brief notions of dumping all our skillets into the ravine and forcing my sweetie to live on Thai takeout and baked potatoes and tuna sandwiches forever and ever and ever, or at least until our personal Fairy Godmother Chef comes along.

But all the skillets would be washed out to sea and… well, rust and leach heavy metals and poison the little baby fishes or something, so I guess that plan is out. I am not that self-absorbed quite yet, although one of the effects of fatigue is that I become more persuaded of my own Special Snowflakeness with every passing minute. Because of course no one else in the whole big world/long spread of human history has ever had too much to do before! No one’s evah been as tired as me! Me me me me me…

I am really boring. I think I will stop now and suck it up and do some work and bring some structure to my life that allows me to Get Things Done as opposed to Freak the Fuck Out and Lie Around All Night Feeling Special and Doomed.

For reasons I don’t quite understand, this post by Justine Larbalestier about mansplaining and whitesplaining really cheered me up. It was actually reading this post that made me get over myself today. I have no idea why, but thanks, Justine. I think I will stop doomsplaining to myself and instead recall my extreme great good fortune in a) having work, b) being happy, c) being ALIVE.

And now I am going to go make another cup of tea and get on with it. I wish all you other busy, alive people a very good day. You are truly special, you know, in the non-Snowflake way, and I look forward to being back among you.

Small Beer Press will reprint Solitaire

25 January 2010 | 10 Comments

I am happy-dancing thrilled that Small Beer Press will publish a reprint edition of Solitaire early next year.

Those who know Small Beer will understand why I’m so happy: Gavin Grant and Kelly Link have built a wonderful, writer-friendly business, a high-powered critical reputation, and a list of books for readers of all ages and persuasions whose common connection is a love of story. I’ve known them for a long time (sf isn’t a very big club, really), and have long wanted a chance to work with them. I’m honored by their support of Solitaire (which, for those who know the SB imprints, is coming out as a Small Beer book, not a Peapod Classic).

Want to know more? Check out Small Beer on Facebook and their most excellent blog.

So: a new edition, a new cover, and a new phase of life for Solitaire. I’m delighted. Tonight I’ll drink a large beer to Small Beer (grin): for now, I think I’ll go have another cup of tea.

Enjoy your day.

Fuddy duddy

23 January 2010 | 13 Comments

After careful consideration and thoughtful analysis, I have scarifyingly concluded that I am becoming a fuddy duddy writer.

I am at home all the time. It’s where I work as well as live, but, ya know, I’m just always here. I dislike shoes a great deal and so, when at home, I wear socks and slippers. Like an Old Person. I wear my glasses on a string around my neck because I need them to see close but not far, so they go on and off, on and off, all day long.

I also wear a really old cardigan that I’ve had forever. It’s so old that it is worn through on one shoulder, and because I have no sewing skills whatsoever, I have repaired the hole with a safety pin. It’s a charming fashion statement, really hip. Also, the cardigan is currently missing a button that came off a couple of weeks ago when I was loading dishes into the dishwasher, and one of the buttons snagged on a cup hook and blammo, there you go, button overboard. The button currently lives on my monitor stand, where it regards me mournfully, as if to say When will I be loved? When will I reunite with my button brothers and sisters? Given my sewing skills, the answer is Long time, button dude.

I wear this cardigan every single day that I am working, because I like to be warm. Except sometimes I have to put it in the laundry, like a kid with her blankie, and then I am twitchy until it is dry and I can wear it again.

Fom my father I seem to have inherited the Get Up Early gene, and I am currently working hard on this and that, so these days I fade early and well, just want to go to bed. Like a fuddy duddy old person. I talk back to the television. I drink endless cups of tea while I write. I like my space tidy and my bed made. I eat oatmeal. My god, I just willingly watched educational TV with my sweetie last night. Where is the young person who stayed up until three a.m. reading and then went, owl-eyed but reasonably coherent, to classes the next day? Where is the woman who could drink six rum-and-tonics or two bottles of cheap wine in a night and live to tell the tale? Where is the bundle of energy who drove eight hundred miles in a day by herself, singing to U2 and smoking Parliament cigarettes and eating Burger King all the way?

Ah, well, I know where she is. She’s in the same place as the young person who was so often anxious on a daily basis because every situation was new. She’s with the woman who wouldn’t speak her mind because someone might not like it. She doesn’t drive a car across country anymore: instead she drives her mind into territory a lot farther than any odometer can measure. She tugs her cardigan into place, and then she plugs into her Radio Paradise or her Citysounds web radio or just cranks up Crystal Method on iTunes, and lives the life she has made for herself. In her slippers. With better wine and fine company and an inner life that never stops, not even in her sleep.

Time trip

15 January 2010 | 9 Comments

My first real job was working for my parents in the New Orleans Shrimp House, the restaurant they created and ran in Tampa in the early 70’s. We converted an old house a couple blocks away from Tampa Bay into a little jewel of a place: white paint everywhere with black trim, three small and intimate dining rooms with wrought-iron chairs that my mom upholstered in burgundy or moss-green, mismatched fine china and silver that we found a flea markets. It was one of the very few places east of New Orleans you could get genuine Creole cuisine.

After my folks got out of the restaurant business, the property was taken over by Kojak’s House of Ribs, which is still there after all these years.


It doesn’t really look the same anymore, but you can at least get a notion of the setting, and imagine nearly 40 years ago. There was mostly grass and trees on either side of our narrow lot, and it was fenced all the way along. Patrons parked behind the building and then walked slowly in the heat up to the front veranda with the little wine bar at the end, where they could enjoy a champagne cocktail or a cassis cocktail or a glass of crisp chablis. Inside were tables for two by the fireplace in the Parlor, where Richard and John provided impeccable service and made everyone feel like they were the only people in the room; or tables for four in the Gallery, filled with vibrant local artwork and served by Danny who I’m sure was a street clown or a rock star in another life, and charmed everyone; or larger tables with benches in the Garden Room, which had two walls of windows that looked out into the back of the property at the old sleepy trees dripping in Spanish moss, and inside held a terrarium on every table and a plant in every corner, where Gary kept everyone laughing so hard they sometimes snorted cayenne pepper through their nose. That just seemed to make them laugh harder.

The restaurant was very hard on my folks. They both had full-time jobs and a child, and this was something they did — with their own hands and very little money — on top of it all. It was demanding and brutal sometimes. And it was also a beautiful thing. People came from all over the South to eat there, and even from New York City (which made us blink, you can bet). They spent their money on shrimp and champagne, they laughed under the dark blue Southern sky at midnight, and they felt special. Our restaurant made a lot of people feel like the world was a good place while they were there.

My parents and those I worked with know that I’m romanticizing, of course. But we’re all a long way from the hard reality of the place, and the enormous strain it put on all of us, and I hope no one minds that I remember it today from my child’s perspective as a kind of magic: my parents took an empty house and made it into something no one else had ever imagined. I had no idea people could… just do that. It was a great lesson for me that people make things happen. Money helps, but money doesn’t make magic. We do that.

My dad sent me this photo from early 1973. I’m filling bowls with spiced fruit, our standard appetizer. I’m wearing my “go out later and fill everyone’s water glass” dress. I am 12 years old. I am helping my parents run our restaurant, and I am happy.

Kelley 1973 crop

And here’s the full image. Please note the small kitchen in which our small incomparable crew laughed, fought, sang, cursed, and cooked 150 multi-course meals a night. Notice our state-of-the-art order management system (clothespins on a wire over the stove); our extensive wet-cooking area (the standard double-sink where I cleaned 50 pounds of shrimp a night); and of course the newest model dishwasher (that would be me).

photo by Larry Eskridge

Enjoy your day.

(Brief) reading and reminder about class

11 January 2010 | Comments Off

Just a reminder that there are still some spaces left in the class I’m teaching at Seattle’s Hugo House January 27 through March 3. The class is called “The Whole Story” and explores the essential building blocks of good fiction — structure, point of view, plotting, character development, description and dialogue.

Hugo House is hosting a teacher reading on Tuesday, January 19, to give teachers a chance to share our work and talk about our classes. Each reading is brief — 7 minutes or so — and if you’re interested in Hugo House, it’s a great way to learn more about the variety of classes and teachers you can find there.

Mark Tiedemann

8 January 2010 | 1 Comment

We’ve known our friend Mark Tiedemann since Clarion 1988. He’s a writer, but that’s not what we’re talking about today. Mark is also a photographer. He took our wedding photos, and he took this in 1992:

n and k, 1992
Nicola and Kelley, 1992 by Mark Tiedemann
Mark shows his work, and shares it privately — but now I’m delighted to say that his virtual studio doors are open and you’re all invited. Please go take a look at his fabulous black & white and color work.

Mark’s been a part of some of our most treasured memories, and helped us preserve them too. Friendship and talent: two great gifts (*hugs friend Mark through the internet*). If you have a photographer friend, go hug them too. Because the best pictures tell stories that get right to the heart of things.

Enjoy your day. I hope there is beauty in it.

mark tiedemann morning forest
Morning Forest by Mark Tiedemann
mark tiedemann morning over wetlands
Morning Over Wetlands by Mark Tiedemann

The view from here

4 January 2010 | 1 Comment

Happy new year. I for one am deeply relieved to see the back of 2009, and am feeling many good things about 2010 — excited, determined, engaged, and something that’s about… hmm, about being lined up inside. About moving towards myself instead of away.

Personal perspective is a good thing. But sometimes I like to get a little bit outside myself. And so here’s a look at life from a place that’s a little bigger than me. Or maybe it’s not: maybe being human is the possibility of being as vast and beautiful inside ourselves as the infinite space where we live.

Enjoy your day, your month, your year, and thanks for being here.