Monday, January 26, 2009

Girls and Posses and Novelistas

Originally posted on Friday, November 24, 2006 .

Okay, I'm going to whine again. I was in a car, on the way to the airport. I'd just been a panelist at the Southern Festival of Books in Memphis—which was an absolutely fabulous experience, by the way. I made four terrific new friends, had a great time doing the panel with Robert Dalby who is not only funny and charming, he is one of the nicest people I've ever met. He's having a huge success with his book, Waltzing At the Piggly Wiggly which just goes to show that Karma exists. I also got to spend some time with a dear friend who lives in Oxford Mississsippi and is one of the brightest, most creative women I know. So overall, the trip was a huge success, and I loved it, but I'm not talking about that part now. This is the whining part.

So, I was in the car going to the airport. There were two other novelistas in the backseat on the same mission. One of them I recognized from the previous day when we had driven in from the airport together. They were chatting, so I turned around until I had reached Maximum Neck Twist, and introduced myself in the general direction of the two voices, since I couldn't see their faces over the front seat headrests. I waited for someone to dodge around the obstacles and offer a handshake or a name in return. I got a brief, totally disinterested Oh hi, and the twosome resumed their conversation. They managed to convey – as only girls can, I don't give a damn what age they are —that I was intruding, and being really pushy about it. Like I said, I couldn't see what was going on back there, but I just knew eyes were rolling. And Some People Just Don't Know When They're Not Wanted looks were being exchanged. The reason I was so sure was, at that point my own girl history had kicked in and I was once again on the playground of Woodbridge Elementary School, and Carole Costello had just announced to her posse that I was to be shunned on the totally false grounds that I had cooties. It was a mark of my total lack of female battle skills back then that I attempted to counter the libel by promising a letter from my mommy. It is a mark of my continued lack of said skills that I risked permanent neck dislocation and tried for another ten minutes to join the car coffee klatch. Unseen behind my upholstered barrier, I listened and nodded as the twosome – both professors of creative writing I gathered— yukked it up in the backseat.

The problem was, when I met Professor A on the previous day —I'll call them Professors A and B since I want to rise above petty name calling—I made the mistake of admitting that I have a show business background, that I'm not sure you can teach creativity in a school setting where you have to give out grades, and I figure if people don't have a good time reading my books I've failed. These women, I gathered, from my listening post in the front seat, write "literature." I think I heard about a plot including a couple of dead babies. I know I heard that they feel it is a mark of their success if they get bad reviews.

None of which explains or justifies the fact that I knew one of them was going to be going home to New York on my flight and I spent the entire waiting time in the airport with my nose buried in a really bad magazine so I wouldn't have to make eye contact with her. Carol Costello lives within me. I will never, ever lose her.

The flip side to that is, my women friends are also my rocks. Nimet and Melissa who are not pet people will listen for hours while I weep over the loss of one of our dogs or cats. My friend Ellen, who was my teacher on the very first book I wrote, will still talk me through writer's block, stalled plots and the massive attacks of self doubt which I refer to as the devil voices. We have an enormous power, we women. I want to write more about that later.

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