First things first: My flash creative nonfiction piece A Fancy Department Store in Cleveland, 1970 is up at the The Disappointed Housewife.
Here’s the beginning:
A Fancy Department Store in Cleveland, 1970
We knew we didn’t belong, my sisters and me. We knew by the way the saleslady tightened her mouth, the edges of her lipstick pulling so hard the corners cracked.
“Girls,” she clapped, and we huddled together by the winter sweaters, our worn sneakers sinking the carpet.
“I haven’t all day,” she snapped, and we followed her black-clad back, all four of us in our country shorts and homemade blouses, our mosquito-bitten legs struggling to keep up.
“Here we go.” She threw out her arms, smiled a frozen smile as she gestured around the girl’s department. We didn’t move as she brought over skirts and dresses and held them away from us, exclaiming in an uninterested voice how this color would fade my little sister’s freckles, that one mute the tint of my sun-frizzed hair. My older sister, who would grow up to be a beauty before falling suddenly, startling from grace, was completely ignored as was my second oldest sister, who stood chubby and sullen by a rack of red jumper sets. Somewhere behind us hovered our aunt who, having no children of her own, had yet to realize her error in bringing us here.
You can read the rest here.
This piece was originally much longer, and then I edited it down and edited it down, and the more I took out, the stronger it became. It’s odd how that works. There’s such a thin line between saying too much and leaving too much. It’s a difficult yet necessary balance.
My partner and I both have colds, though his is worse, poor dear. He’s been coughing and sniffling for over a week. Even the dog was sick for a day (can dogs catch colds?). Last week was the opposite. It was crazy busy. And social. I muddled through it with all the energy my introverted self could muster.
First, I was interviewed for the local weekly paper and submitted two photos to go with the piece assuming, you know, that they’d run inside, towards the back, where they usually stuff (hide?) the arts stories.
So imagine my surprise when my partnered texted me last Thursday while he was out and about town and I was home huddled in front of my laptop (as usual).
“You’re on the cover of the Press,” he texted.
“No way,” I answered.
An hour later, he plopped the paper down on the table. I almost died. There I was, in my running shorts, my legs taking up the whole bottom half of the paper. Still, it was cool to read about myself. I write a lot of profiles for various publications, and it’s very odd to be on the other end, to be the person written about, not the one doing the writing. You feel a little vulnerable, a little exposed. It’s a good lesson, and something to remember the next time I interview someone for a story.
Then I did a signing at Barnes & Noble s part of Alaska Book Week, which was fun. My work was read. I sold some books, met some people. I signed with Stan Jones and Kim Rich. My book has been out for years, so it’s pretty much old news. Kim’s recently released and it was very popular. It’s humbling to sit at a table behind a stack of your books and watch everyone flock to the next table for someone else’s book. But it was a good kind of humbling, because every book sold, regardless of the author, is a small victory. It means that one person, at least for a few hours, will put down their damn screens and immerse themselves into another world. Someday, I’m afraid, this might not be the case. Less people are reading books. The statistics are frightening. I’m not reading as many books as I used to. I probably average 70-75 a year when I used to read two to three a week. It’s just too friggin’ easy to stare at a screen or read online articles or cozy up with Netflix.
I leave for Tucson next week. I always read more while I’m down there, probably because we don’t have internet in our townhouse yet, and that frees up a lot of time. And also because I love to sit out in the sun and read, and our yard here in Alaska is shady and the mosquitoes are fierce a good part of the summer, so it’s not such an ideal place to curl up with a book.
It’s always hard to leave a place, isn’t it? Even when you know you’ll be returning. I don’t like winter, have never liked winter, I get cold easily, don’t enjoy winter sports, blah, blah, blah. Yet when I think of leaving, I am suddenly filled with nostalgia for winters past, for the beauty of the snow, the softness of my footsteps when I run trails, the landscape blanketed in white, everything feeling slower and less hurried. I think of this and I almost cry. Because it is beautiful up here in the winter, an ungodly beauty like nowhere else. And leaving is hard. But the odd thing is that once I get to Tucson, Alaska will fade from my mind, it will seem like a distant dream. And then, come spring, it will be equally hard to leave the desert. So I suppose I should think of it as a blessing, that I get to live in two places that I love so much. Not everyone is so lucky, and I don’t ever want to take it for granted.