Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the still, quiet place

From: Ingrid Holthuis

On the way into work this morning I heard you being interviewed on NPR and was really impressed by what you had to say and how you interacted with the interviewer. Sad to say that I had not heard of your work before today, but now plan on reading all your books, and if I can afford it I hope to order a few of them from the book store that you mention on your web site.

Like you, I also have MS, being diagnosed with it 3 years ago. I was going through cancer treatment and the doctors had performed a MRI to see if the cancer had spread and informed me that I had MS. The MS explained some of the problems that I was having with my body, but had been ignoring.

Things have been pretty good but made the mistake of ignoring my specialist and just recently moved from cool San Francisco Bay Area to Gainesville, Florida. I hope to get back to cooler climate as soon as possible. Hope that your MS isn't progressing too quickly. I look forward to reading all your books.

One movie that I highly recommend that you see if you have not already is a Dutch film called Antonia's Line (English subtitle available, but since I know Dutch I noticed that the subtitles were not totally complete in some places). It was the winner of the 1995 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. The movie focuses on this one strong independent woman and the women in her family. The time period is shortly after World War II in Holland.

One book I also recommend is Memory Board by Jane Rule. It deals with Alzheimer's and it tenderly shows the love between the two main characters.

Thanks so much for reading my e-mail.

I love reading email, love getting questions from readers and listeners. Writing is a strange job. We spend so much time alone in a room (see this essay by Michael Ventura for more on that) that I think it would be very easy to grow a little etiolated for lack of people-light. I have watched so many writers get some success, leave their day jobs, and get weird. They lose their ability to be normal human beings; they start to both believe their own publicity and, paradoxically, become extremely insecure. This tends to lead to the inability to listen. It's very sad.

On the other hand, I sometimes resent having to interact with the world, having to communicate. I used to think all writers were the same. But then a few years ago I did a joint reading with some other Aqueduct Press authors, and in the Q&A afterwards we were asked what lay at the heart of our art. I listened in growing shock as my fellow writers talked about their ongoing conversation with culture, or politics, or academia, how they loved the cut-and-thrust, back-and-forth din of constant communication. Then it was my turn. "Uh," I said. "To write I have to go away and be silent. I have to find that still, quiet place inside and dwell there a while." Nobody said anything. Someone asked another question. The evening moved on.

Honestly, I'm not sure how writers with Big Blog Personas write good fiction. I'm doing this 'one a day til they're done' thing with Ask Nicola because I've been so horribly undisciplined that this is the only way to get my head above water. The other way, of course, would have been to simply delete everything and call it good. (I admit to doing this occasionally with general email when my inbox starts to bulge.) But that would have been breaking faith with readers. In about two weeks I'll be all caught up (yay!) and then I'll revert to answering questions as they come in, mixed with the occasional personal blog piece.

I'm sorry to hear about your MS. And getting the diagnosis while being treated for cancer--oof, I can't imagine. So why did you move to Florida? For a job? I hope you can make it back to more temperate climes soon. Mind you, less sunny latitudes have one serious disadvantage for people with MS: not enough vitamin D. If you do move back, you might like to consider taking a hefty supplement (I do 6,000 i.u. a day) of same. (If you're interested in what else I'm doing for myself, read this AN about low-dose naltrexone. But everyone's different.)

Jane Rule is a brilliant writer. Her work, Desert of the Heart, was the first time I read about lesbians with a happy ending. And so finely, finely written. I can recommend everything she's ever written. I haven't seen Antonia's Line. I've been sort of meaning to for a while but have just never got around to. But while we're talking about films, let me recommend a great website for reviews of films with lesbian content: Kissing Fingertips. Enjoy.

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