I’m sitting the Fireside Coffee Lodge, the kitschiest coffee house in Portland. The first time I entered I thought I’d died and entered Pacific Northwest wacko-world. I like the place now. It’s cozy, and it’s good for eavesdropping and wacko-people watching. An hour back a woman insisted to the barista, a red-headed musican named Jon, that she was on a government hit list because she knew too much about our “secret” Middle Eastern oil agenda. Gotta love it.
I’m here with a writing buddy, Mysterious Mr. M, and I’m glad he roused me out of my bath-robe funk around 11:30 a.m.
The real topic of this post is the reading I went to last night: Molly Gloss. Her new novel, The Hearts of Horses, promises to be well worth reading groups everywhere. Ms. Gloss read two short passages that illustrated her humor, her horse knowledge, the ensemble cast, and the quiet love story at the heart of the novel.
Between the Wordstock literary festival (where I also saw her) and last night’s reading, she discussed two aspects of her writing life that resonated with me:
1. She lives alone now, and she’s found it hard to settle down to a writing routine. Welcome to the club!! I found it comforting that a novelist as experienced as she is struggles with how to shape her time and find her natural pattern.
2. She does not generally let characters take over her stories. I found this interesting because I’ve been thinking about this regarding my first 120 pages, especially because my friend R– had asked me about this specifically (Not a Waste, After All post). In fact, Ms. Gloss mentioned a pivotal scene in The Jump-Off Creek, her best known novel, that was a moment where the characters took over. She said if she had it to do over, she wouldn’t let that scene stand as written. Wow.
Eavesdropping again. I can’t help myself. I just overheard a 20-something ask what the difference was between a “couplet” and a “stanza.” This isn’t fodder, this is just sad. Ms. Gloss might roll off her horse to hear such a thing.