Her most recent book, An American Queer, a collection of “The Amazon Trail” columns, was presented with the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in Anthology/Collection Creative Non-Fiction. This, and her award-winning fiction, including The Raid, The Swashbuckler, and Beggar of Love, can be found at:
I have been resting. A strange activity for me, but I had no choice. I was so worn out, I remember promising myself that I would never hurry again as long as I lived. The first two of six weeks I mostly slept, or lay unmoving beside my sweetheart. Awake, I read thrillers, and when those books didn’t ease my mental and emotional exhaustion, in desperation I read Ann Rule, the master of true crime.
So many people are afflicted or have died from what my sweetheart coined trump flu; so many people have died or lost their homes to the fires around us; so many people are suffering under the current administration; so many people are fighting the loss of democracy in the United States; so many people are victims of blatant and insidious racism—I feel like a sissy to have needed rest.
On July 31, I sent publisher Bold Strokes Books my new novel, Accidental Desperados. Four years in the writing, the Our Happy Hours anthology with Renee Bess tucked into those same years, and, monthly, “The Amazon Trail.” I used to be this productive and work full-time, but now?
Now I’ve lived three-quarters of a century. It makes a difference. When I mentioned this to dear indefatigable Arden Eversmeyer of the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project and Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, she said she’d never thought of her age that way. She concluded, however, that she’s lived nine-tenths of a century. Which made me think, Nah, we ain’t no sissies.
I was not in good shape. Just the thought of sitting in my writing chair made me nauseous with anxiety. I seriously talked with my sweetheart about ending “The Amazon Trail.” I’ve been writing it for over thirty-four years. But some people have told me it’s my best writing. Others, that they’d miss it.
I rested some more.
I’d told my publisher four years ago I was writing a quartet of books, a lesbian family saga. Accidental Desperados is only the second novel and after I complete the series, I want to write another Pacific Northwest book, like, but not like, Sweet Creek from 2006. I’m afraid I’ll run out of time. Or brain. Or, again, energy. At the stage of fatigue, I landed in my memory was shot. I tripped over objects as familiar as my own Asics. Some days I could only lie on my back and breathe. How would I even survive the current political turmoil, much less write a book?
Then the wildfires came, and the smoke, air quality indexes over 500. A friend just south of us was at level three, the highest evacuation level, also known as GO! Another, recently widowed, a friend had moved into her new home only a few days before she got the alert to evacuate. A third, whose health is compromised, called from the city to ask about the breathability of air on the coast. It was worse here. We won’t let King the cat out on his catio for fear of damaging his young lungs.
Like many others, I’ve pretty much been stuck inside since the advent of the trump flu and now smoke prevents me from walking my one to two miles a day. What a perfect time to write! I’ve slowly overcome my aversion to the office and writing chair by thinking of the lives lived by rural Afghans, by people of color who’ve become walking targets on the streets of America, of Native Americans slammed by the virus, of Arctic and rainforest animals displaced by profiteers. This is no time to idle.
I am privileged to be able to rest, much less write books instead of scratching a living from the land or scrambling to fill amazon.com orders ten hours a day. My long vacation has revived me. Once again I can balance on the lip of an empty canyon I’ll rush to fill with words that tell the story half-written in my mind. Six weeks ago, I might have shelved this third, standalone novel in the Rainbow Gap series. But a lot of people, with a lot more reasons to be tired, keep working.
Heck, I’m nowhere near nine-tenths of a century old.