I grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers—the kind of storytellers who would sit on the dock by the lake in the evening and claim that everything they say is THE absolute truth, like, stack-of-Bibles true. The more outlandish the story, the more it likely it was to be true. Or so they said.
Today I live in Connecticut, and spend part of every day bent over my laptop, writing and writing and writing, looking out at the willow tree and the rosebush and the rhododendron that has a nice nest of cardinals—either that, or the snowy, silent woods, the deep black of the branches iced with clumps of snow.
I’m afraid I’ve turned out pretty normal: married, children, dishes in the sink, deadlines, laundry, sleep deprivation, toothpaste cap lost, cashmere sweater in the dryer by accident. The full catastrophe, as Jack Kornfeld put it.
But the great thing about being a writer is that I get to have lots of different lives, not just this one that often feels so short and filled with choices that I already made. Sometimes other people seem to come and set up housekeeping in my head, and they tell me everything about themselves—they unpack for me all their intriguing secrets and fears and fantasies, and I sit back and close my eyes and let them talk and talk and talk while I let it all soak into my head. I argue with them, and they argue back, and a story starts to form from our talks, and for a while it feels as though I am that person and also me at the same time, in a very strange way. And it’s then that I remember the wide Florida sky and the heavy, humid air and the nighttime storytelling, the voices on the dock of the lakehouse, and I know that we never ever know what’s going to happen.
I just get to write it all down, bring it to something that’s similar to life.