Going Home Again

So, it turns out that it’s really Dee’s Boutique and Books. (Reference yesterday’s post, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) That’s what the hand-painted sign over the store entrance says.

Alongside new and used books, Carol Dee sells hand-knit sweaters from the Wind Rivers and funky “popcorn” shirts that are 9 inches long on the shelf and magically expand on the body. $24.95 and comes with a cardboard popcorn box.

I met in the afternoon with the Evanston Social Club — ladies who meet every-other Friday afternoon since 1930. Many of them went to grade-school together. Carol is a newcomer to town, having arrived only 30 years ago. Sometimes they play bridge; sometimes they have guests. I arrived as they finished their business meeting, making plans to visit one of their group who’s growing oddly reclusive. I read to them my grandmother’s story, Appliances, and we talked about my writing and my day job. I felt like I was having tea with my grandmother’s friends, gently grilled about my life choices.

Having a couple of hours to kill before the evening signing, I drove down to the riverwalk and sat in the parking area to enjoy the sun and read. Lots of snow over in Evanston. They have a kind of lodge there and a natural skating pond. A guy scooted around it, scuffling up snow with his feet. I couldn’t tell if he had skates on or not. He studied my car, as if he though he might have to trudge up and rent me skates, so I drove around to the other side and parked in the “clearly not interested in the skating pond” area to the back. Two other cars drove by as I sat. Both times, the driver and passenger hung out the windows as they curved past me, staring intently.

David says it’s the small town thing: suspicious of my county 5 plates and why they don’t know me, sitting in their park.

God bless ’em though, they have a Starbucks. Which was good, since I felt in need of reviving. A couple of Utah twenty-somethings stopped in, too, ski and camping gear strapped to their car. They stopped and asked me about the Kindle I was reading. Not from thereabouts either.

The six o’clock reading, signing and free spaghetti dinner was a bust. Nobody came. This was Carol’s third signing that no one came to. Including the guy from the town (whose name she didn’t recall) who had published his first sci fi book. “You’d think he’d have at least some friends,” she said.

Actually, there were six of us: Carol and her husband, along with Tammy, the seamstress who is sharing Carol’s space while she gets her business back on its feet, Tammy’s husband and his brother, who wore a Vietnam vet’s hat and spoke little. Actually, both Tammy’s husband and his brother wore ball caps until partway through our spaghetti dinner, when Tammy’s husband remarked that he heard his father’s voice telling them to take their hats off while they ate. The brother, too, obediently tucked his hat in his lap.

They — Tammy’s three-person family — are living with a friend right now. She told me she’d like to buy my book, but can’t afford to. I wanted to give her one from the box in the trunk of my car, but didn’t want to in front of Carol. She’d had a good alterations business in Evanston until the three of them decided to head out to Oregon, lured by their status as a state with the third-lowest unemployment rating. But people there were mean to them. None of the shops would let her put flyers in their windows or cards on the counter. No work was to be had for Tammy’s husband. It wasn’t clear if the brother tried for work also — but he shook his head in sad solidarity. They began to run out of money and came back to Evanston, where you find the nicest people in the world.

I might send her some things to alter for me.

Genre Schizophrenia

I’m beginning to feel a bit between worlds, as a writer.

Today I head to Evanston, at the behest of Carol Dee at Dee’s Bookstore (& Boutique). I’m meeting with some kind of ladies group at 2 o’clock, to read from and discuss Wyo Trucks. Then there’s a spaghetti dinner at 6, to encourage more folks to come visit with me. You now know pretty much everything I do. The funny thing is, Carol emailed me about this gig a couple of months ago — when I’d initially emailed her back in 2004, when the book came out. I’d contacted most of the Wyoming bookstores and visited many of them for various events. She was going through old emails and found my note. And here we are today.

When the Evanston newspaper called to interview me yesterday, the reporter was surprised that this isn’t a new book. I told her I didn’t know why now. But that the Georgia Review published a review of it in 2006. Things move slowly after publication sometimes, too. I’m expecting Oprah to call in 2012.

It’s funny to me, because I’m doing less and less for Wyo Trucks these days, which is natural, since the book is now five years old. I’ve been doing fiction since, cloistered away writing novels. Then less-cloistered trying to sell at least the first one. Worse, I’m writing genre-fiction — whether you consider it romance or sci-fi/fantasy, so I’m feeling like a bit of a pariah from my erstwhile literary community. I used to be on the university’s Creative Writing MFA email list, but have been dropped. Sometimes I was invited to speak to university classes on writing, but no longer. A lot of this is because people have moved on and times change. But some is also because I’m no longer really investing in the literary nonfiction world. It’s not where the lion’s share of my attention is focused. Instead of hanging with the MFA types, I’ve been going to meetings of the Colorado Romance Writers, the Romance Writers of America national convention, and interacting online with the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal writers.

So, this feels like a distraction, doing this today. And more than a little schizophrenic. Which surprises me, since I made a deliberate decision to publish my speculative fiction under the same name as my essays, believing that all my writing is really of one piece. Clearly I see a split, since my website poses the fundamental dichotomy up front.

Apparently it’s up to me to hold the pieces together.