Thoughts on Literature, Food, Faith and the Subversive Power of Living Small

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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel
In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
Fools Crow by James Welch
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

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Spelling for a Cure

There's a woman in town who has cancer. Since she's your basic writer/musician/storyteller, and since she lives in the good old USA where if you don't work for a big corporation you're hosed, she has no health insurance. And now she has cancer. So what did the good citizens of Livingston do?

Had a spelling bee.

A spelling bee that put the local writers on the spot. So at seven o'clock last night, there they were: Elwood Reid, Tim Cahill, Thomas Goltz, Diane Smith, Alston Chase, Jim Liska, and a bunch of other people who I don't know yet because I haven't been in town very long (which I'm assuming is also why I wasn't also put in the spelling hot seat). "Kristie the Wordsmith" and local singer and bartender Mike Devine (who looks like he could be in ZZ Topp) were the judges, and our very own Scott McMillion was the MC. They used the official spelling bee rules, and so one by one, all these writers got up and took their shot at words like "tetrahedron" and "lieutenant" and "calliope". It was great fun, with much bad behavior and drinking and some very fine spelling. There was a calcutta, and silent auction and dancing afterwards and Deb Corbett, who the benefit was for, was well enough to sing with the band ... and she's good. So we all threw our tens and twenties at the problem, knowing it probably isn't enough, and knowing that it isn't going to solve the larger problem of living in a heartless nation that is perfectly willing to let people die from diseases we know how to treat because it's more important to have a for profit health care system, a system in which a few get rich at the expense of people who are sick, because of course profit is more important than not letting people die, so some people volunteered to spell, and the rest of us came, and threw our little tens and twenties at the problem because really, what else can we do?

Now, although I'm glad I didn't have to spell in public, I must admit a tiny part of me was ... not jealous exactly, but feeling that my tiny career was perhaps a bit more tiny than I'd like it to be. Not that the phone call I got a couple of weeks ago from my editor's assistant informing me, in the nicest way possible, that my book is going out of print and how many copies of the paperback would I like to buy, had anything to do with this. Nor did seeing Elwood up there, who is about my age, and who has published three novels, and a book of short stories and who writes screenplays and magazine articles, have anything to do with this creeping sense that perhaps I'm, well, slacking. And then this morning, in the SF Chronicle, there's Jane Smiley saying that for this book she limited herself to one page a day, seven days a week, instead of her usual two or three pages (seven days a week).

And so I pulled up my writing log this morning (yes, I keep a log. It's the only way to stay honest about these things), and gee, look at that, I haven't worked on my book since ... I'm ashamed to say ... April 22, which is over two weeks ago. No wonder I don't have three novels out. Shit. Time to get back to work. I'm determined to have a draft of the whole thing by the end of the year, and although blogging, and gardening, and obsessing over paint colors for the inside of my house (and dreaming of how beautiful my dark-pink-and-bright-white office is going to be) and going to dinner parties with potential suitors, and going to spelling bees, and training the dogs, and working my pesky-but-lucrative day job are all worthwhile activities, my real job here is to write this book. Whether anyone wants to read it is another story, but it's my job to write it. So, if I'm not blogging as often, think good thoughts for me, send good wishes that I'm here in my little front room producing actual scenes and pages and characters who are alive and living through interesting dilemmas.

posted by Charlotte at 5/04/2003 01:06:00 PM


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