|Image by Clive Hicks-Jenkins in my Thaliad|
(dual hc/pb, Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
Is it because I am a woman and lack literary testosterone that I have no fever to elbow aside other writers in some imaginary race? Is it because I am a busy woman who is on the tail end of raising three children? Certainly the post makes writing novels sound like a boy's game. Is it because I live in a remote place, and as a Southerner practically hibernate in the winter, so that I lack concern for being visible? (No, I'm not going out until the snows melt! Or at least until child no. 3's next wrestling meet. Brr. It's later today.) Is it because I began my writing life as a poet in a time when poetry book publication was limited, and so didn't expect a book immediately? Perhaps all novelists should be forced to start out in a landscape where publication is difficult, the snows are long, and the place obscure. It might calm them down a little.
It occurs to me that I live the most ordinary life possible. People in my little Yankee village know me as my husband's wife, my children's mother, or as Marly--most of them don't even know my writing surname, my birth name. They're more likely to ask me the date when my husband gets back from Kyrgyzstan (and if it's a man I'm talking to, he may say I'm the best wife in the world because my husband is off adventuring in Kyrgyzstan) or how my children are doing than to ask me what I'm writing. My friends who are painters and writers in the area and some others do know, of course, and we get together and talk about art and books and children and travels and so on.
Oh, there are articles in the local paper, but few people make the connection. My audience and my events tend to be elsewhere, though I do readings or talks for the village library or school and visit the occasional local book club from time to time. My closest non-village readings were in the nearest large town until the bookstore there decided that having readings "wasn't fair" to some others who couldn't bring in sufficient audience and dropped the series. So now most of my book activity is at a good distance from home.
I like this life; it's helpful being a member of a community and involved in various group activities. By the lights of those Tim Parks talks about in his essay, that leaves me out of the winner's circle. "It's a competition," he says of them. Luckily I aspire to something else entirely . . . and so am not downcast.