Wednesday, February 19, 2020

I'm asked fairly often whether I know this writer or that one. Do we meet together and discuss literature, and is there a quiet dark corner in a downtown bookstore where a ritual of absinthe mingles with old cigars, and the ghost of Hemingway appears now and then to gentle our hearts with his honest laughter?
Can I wish it were true and at the same time deny that I would take part? I miss meeting with other writers, talking books, ranting about small royalties and the paucity of true Literature in America where talent is lost in favor of thinly contrived novels crafted as a medium for gratuitous sexual scenes and social agendas.
If only I could again sit with the authors of the personally autographed books on my shelf of special collections. Shall I drop names? Shall I tell you of the time I had dinner with Clive Custler, and shared unbound manuscripts with Tony Hillerman? I've known Alice Hoffman, Lisa See, Kathleen Kent, Mary Sharratt and Michael Blake. I have spent delightful hours with Ofelia Zepeda, Jennifer Niven, Peggy Godfrey, Robert Morgan. Susan Cummings Miller and Marguerite Noble. Sandra Dallas. Luis Alberto Urrea, Ron Querry, and Sherri Szemon, Mary Doria Russell. Masha Hamilton, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Lillian Cantor and Sharon Kay Penman. David McCullough. Bonnie Marson. C. J. Box. Anne Hillerman. Jennifer Lee Carroll. Rebecca Eaton. H. W. Brands.
The chances of them remembering me are, to put it kindly, slim, but I remember them all. I remember Ofelia's story of the tortillas her mother made in the hot summer, melting over a flaming comal, and saying, the smart kids knew to leave Mama alone until she rested. Clive Custler was in the middle of raising a Civil War ship from the bottom of the ocean, surely enough material for another novel. Mary Doria Russell can tell medical tales of dying by consumption and every moment of the life of Doc Holliday. Every time I sit to ponder another story, I call them all to me and offer a sip of their favorite, whether it's herbal tea or "papa's" whiskey. I also invite C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, Truman Capote, Anna Quindlen and Anne Taylor, Bernard Cornwell and Nathaniel Philbrick, Stephen Ambrose, Samuel Clemens, and Jane Austen, Jack London and Leo Tolstoy. Every First People's storyteller, every Norseman or Highlander who knelt by a crag to spin a yarn of heroes and war, every West Indian grandmother lulling her children's children to sleep.
We need each other, we crafters of tale. To separate is to toss a coal away from the fire where it cannot feed off the flame. Surrounded with books, my writing nook quivers with sylphic spirits of those past, and memories of those still here. Come and share my writing space. There is a chair. I've made cake. Chocolate this time, although it fell a bit in the center, but the crumb is good and moist and the white vanilla frosting has a touch of almond flavor as well. Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, think of the authors before you and all the thousands of stories left untold. . . waiting for you.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Nancy, thank you for posting this. If we lived closer I'd love to sit and chat over a cup of coffee and at least one slice of cake! Thanks to Marilou I've read all but your most recent book (it's on my "next to read" list), and have shared others of yours often. Thank you for your integrity and sticking to your values in your writing. Keep 'em coming!