All My Favorite Things
I’ve actually never been published by them before, not even reviewed. I don’t write a lot of short fiction anymore so I don’t have a lot to submit in that way, but every book I wrote was diligently submitted for excerpt. I think every writer has a secret little checklist in their heart, and that was definitely on my list. A thing I desired. And it only took eight books, kids! (And a change of genre.)
Not everything needs to be a lesson. Sometimes it’s just that nice things happen. But I think we can say that sometimes things just take time and it’s worth it to keep trying. I guess those are good lessons. In a way they may be the most important things we need to know as creative people.
I hope you are having a nice holiday season. It’s been quiet over here, and I’ve spent a lot of time taking long walks by myself or hiding in my house, trying not to get sick before book tour.
On Christmas Day, we rounded the corner and ran into this guy. I was stupidly excited. I had no choice but to let Sid meet him.
But I’m currently healthy and I’d like to keep it that way. I leave for tour in nine days.
My first appearance is at the Key West Literary Seminar. It’s been a good long while since I sat on a stage and chatted with another writer. I hope I don’t screw it up with my extreme giddiness.
One of my panels is with Deesha Philyaw so I decided to re-read The Secret Lives of Church Ladies this week. The first time I read it I breezed through it. That book received a National Book Award nomination – I needed to see what it was all about. I wanted to see what she was doing and how she was doing it. Oh it’s sharp and funny and the dialogue’s great and all these emotions are true, I thought. I see it, I got it. That’s a good book.
But on this second read I’ve been taking my time with the stories. Every morning with my coffee, and sometimes in the afternoon, in the sunshine, out back. The holiday season is always when I get my best and most thoughtful reading done. This time I found all these funny lines I missed the first read. This time new layers emerged. This time I cried at a few endings.
“Peach Cobbler” is my favorite story in the collection. (There’s a great take on it here.) It feels like the story that will be taught ten years from now, the one that people will reference to each other and nod and know, and probably already do now, I’m just catching up on it.
The story contains all my favorite things to write about, think about: food, sex, and fucked-up families. They’re all connected to desire and hunger. Every day we experience hunger; that’s just an incredible place to start with a character. What they’re hungry for. (What are you hungry for?) No one is completely satisfied. We all desire something we don’t have, or maybe we desire it on behalf of someone else, or maybe for the world in general. But every day we wake up and we have a want. How that want is fulfilled may not be how we expect it. Or sometimes it may not be fulfilled at all.
I always try to think about that and write from there. Those three things: food (delicious but also sometimes terrible), sex (hot but also really not hot), and family (love but also anger or also the absence of) are all I need to contemplate to start a story.
I am grateful I had the time to re-read this book. That there was enough space in my life that I could hear the music of it this second time. I’m leaving the comments open to everyone if you want to talk about what your favorite re-reads are.
Hope you are all feeling safe and quiet and calm.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to Creative Response and Vera Institute.