inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #0 of 81: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 13 Nov 03 16:43
    
The calculus of love. That's one of the section titles in "Life As We Know
It: a collection of personal essays from Salon.com," but it could be the
overall title for these portraits of love, loss, families in all their
modern configurations and, once again, love. From wrenching to affirming,
here is a group of new views of attachment and continuity that insist
on falling under the umbrella of love, with all its plusses and minuses.

Join us with some of the writers who put their lives on the page
and perhaps on the line by telling these stories, first at Salon, and
then in this new book. Please introduce yourselves, and welcome.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #1 of 81: Chris Colin (cc) Thu 13 Nov 03 23:23
    
Hello! I wrote a short little thing in the anthology about my younger
brother, and my dopey urges to shield him from life and other dangerous
things. Was an editor at Salon at the time, left over a year ago to
write a book about my former high school classmates -- which, come to
think of it, is a little like writing about your family. Maybe. Anyway,
nice to be here, and thank you for having me. I presume it's clear
I've never done this before...
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #2 of 81: Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Fri 14 Nov 03 05:08
    
Hi there, Chris and others. My piece in the anthology is called "Faith
in the Baby," and it's about my son and me-- my son being somewhat
autistic, mildly retarded, downright quirky. Even though the piece was
in Salon more than two years ago, I still get emails about it-- in
fact, one just this morning. I still write about my son and me-- our
wrangles, our hopes for his life, all the little heartbreaks--and he
allows it, as long as he gets a cut of whatever a publisher pays me.
He's a whiz at money. Since that piece came out: I'm a freelance writer
in Cleveland, so I'm always working on a range of projects. Lately,
I've been wrapped up in my book, Stalking the Divine, which is a
memoirish story of a sorta atheist (me) getting to know a group of
cloistered contemplative nuns in an old monastery in downtown
Cleveland. Will be doing readings in the Bay Area Nov 21 & 22, if
anyone's interested.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #3 of 81: Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Fri 14 Nov 03 05:10
    
The parenthetical "me" up there leads to someone else's bio. Don't
know why that happened!
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #4 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Nov 03 10:23
    
Hi!  

That's a peculiar and usually useful feature of the software here, Kristin.
If there is a person with a word as a username, enclosing that name in
parentheses makes a link to their bio.  As you can see, it can have a
strange side-effect.   Those who are reading without being logged-in get a
link to the login screen, but those who are logged in to the WELL get a
bio as provided by that person.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #5 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Nov 03 10:35
    

Chris, hi.  Miss seeing you around the Salon offices!  

Your piece was almost too short for my taste, but it underscored a 
few experiences I had with my younger sisters before I was even in 
high school.  Kids do "parent" one another, and with little chance 
to reflect on what that means or how to be responsible.  Even a family 
with two (or more) parents around is likely to have this happening.  
My youngest sister asked me, rather than my mom, where babies 
came from, for example, and freaked me out.  As a ten year old, I 
wasn't all that versed in the theory myself, and I knew kids were 
somehow not sposed to know about sex, even though my parents had kids
books about biology and reproduction in the house and probably hoped we'd
ask "age-appropriate" questions.

Your story added another layer to the sibling parenting riddle.  I think
it can go on all through life.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #6 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Nov 03 10:42
    

And Kristin, your new book sounds interesting.  Let's circle back to that
next week just before your reading.

Your piece in the book certainly is memorable.  I am not surprized that 
people are still reading it online and responding.

Have other members of your family read it?  I'm wondering about both of you,
and about some of the other writers who may be dropping by soon.  What does
it mean for others in your closest circle when you write so openly about
private matters and real people?
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #7 of 81: Chris Colin (cc) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:02
    
Thanks Gail. Yeah, I miss the Salon offices! Of course I don't
remember the hard work or the daily pressue so well -- mainly just the
jokes and the drinks...

Yeah, I think you're right about the sibling parenting thing lasting
well beyond childhood. Of course the other side of the coin is the
little brother or sister -- now full grown, to our constant surprise --
saying, Dammit, mind your own bees wax. Of course a skilled older
sibling knows how to get past a minor hurdle like this. Me, I prefer
the half-nelson.

As for writing openly about private matters and real people, I dunno,
I guess it always feels like there's a veneer of fiction over the whole
thing -- no matter how accurate it may be -- and this functions as a
buffer. It's *about* my brother and me, for example, but it isn't
really us. Or something like that.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #8 of 81: only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel. (tinymonster) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:09
    
This sounds like a really interesting article.  (And short appeals to
me and my time-crunched life, too!)  Is it still online anywhere?
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #9 of 81: Chris Colin (cc) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:12
    
This should work:
http://dir.salon.com/mwt/feature/2000/03/10/brother/index.html
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #10 of 81: only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel. (tinymonster) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:15
    
Thanks!
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #11 of 81: Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:35
    
Sure, Gail, everyone in my family read it-- plus old friends. Since
Matt was not going to read it-- he probably could if he worked at it
hard enough, but it wouldn't interest him--after all, it wasn't a piece
about a basketball star--I wanted to make sure that I wasn't using him
in a self-serving or unintentionally hurtful way. It would actually be
easy to do, in a way: he gets all kinds of strange reactions from
people, but he's mostly oblivious to them unless they're fairly
dramatic. But I want people to know him--and have some compassion for
him and others like him-- through my writing. So I like to keep writing
about him.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #12 of 81: Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:42
    
That's true, Chris, about the veneer of fiction-- or maybe of "story."
There's a certain distance  when you turn personal stuff into a story.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #13 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Nov 03 13:15
    
Kristin's story, Faith in the Baby,  is on page 197 in the book and is 
up in its original form at

    http://archive.salon.com/mwt/feature/2001/04/05/faith

I loved the range of emotions and the information you conveyed in that 
story.  I learned from it, and I was thinking of friends who are 
teachers and wondering if they'd read it while I was reading it.  

I'm glad Matt's a sports fan.  That may be an odd reaction, but it was
something I said to myself as I read the piece.  It gives him something to
share with much of the world. I hope he's doing well.  
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #14 of 81: Theresa Pinto-Sherer (theresa-ps) Fri 14 Nov 03 18:01
    
hi. i wrote the piece about my abandonment and then subsequent
adoption from korea. i've just about exploited all the family i can in
other articles for salon and so have decided to start writing more
fiction, though for me, all writing is so personal it exploits in some
way or another. i'm not really a writer, just a scientist with a
government job but when i feel like it, i call myself a freelance
writer. of course, i'll never stop writing personal essays, my favorite
form of communicating.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #15 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Nov 03 22:47
    
Welcome, Theresa.

When I read that I realized I'd seen another one by you.  The grandmother
story, the lost soul, 
at http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2002/01/07/grandmother/      Wow.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #16 of 81: Gail Williams (gail) Sat 15 Nov 03 15:22
    
How is a personal essay on the Web different from work in a book?  I'm 
curious as to whether any of your pieces were modified to go from online
to on paper, either by the initiative of the author of the editor.  I
feel that there's something more intimate about this medium.  Perhaps
that's due to the intimacy of email.  Perhaps it's the luminous screen.  
  
I'm sure there are some who feel a book is a more emotional and personal
format.  But most readers would probably agree that the same material
feels different.  Was this a concern for anybody, as a writer or as a
reader of these stories?
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #17 of 81: pooning tang; tanging the poon (viv) Sat 15 Nov 03 17:35
    

Hi, writers. Chris, I just read your brother's keeper piece and as I have,
or am blessed with, 8 familiars (6 brothers and 2 sisters) I've gone through
agonizing degrees of love and fear. I cry and laugh through them still.

I'll be reading the other pieces, but wanted to say how the title of the
anthology mocks us since there's no knowing life, there's only living it.

And, I wonder how 'kevin' received you and your essay.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #18 of 81: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sun 16 Nov 03 06:01
    
These essays must generate a lot of reader response to you as the authors.
How does that feel to you, compared to the feedback you get on print-
between-covers things you've published?
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #19 of 81: Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Sun 16 Nov 03 12:02
    
It's cool to publish online-- you get this immediate feedback that you
never get in print. And since something can live online indefinitely,
you keep getting feedback every time someone stumbles upon the piece. I
learned that "Faith in the Baby" circulated the country for a while,
one of those forwards that keep going on and on--I found this out when
a friend got it, along with another 50 people on the "to" list. Very
gratifying!
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #20 of 81: pooning tang; tanging the poon (viv) Sun 16 Nov 03 16:44
    

I've only read two of the essays now, Chris's and Theresa's Grandmother.
I don't know if all the pieces are as short, but I wonder how much whittling
you're doing to get them into the space. There's a very vivid image about
2/3 through Theresa's stoory that I cannot stop thinking about (don't want
to describe it beccasue it might be a spoiler)--the kind of show not tell
that, for me, makes it the piece that it is. How much harder is it to write
for the small space?
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #21 of 81: JBO (julianjbo) Sun 16 Nov 03 18:50
    
Hi. 
  I wrote the really sad story (p. 244) about the woman in the car
crash. It's probably the saddest story I've ever written and will
hopefully remain the saddest story I ever write. Lots of folks have
told me how sad it made them feel when they read it, but I'm not sure I
was aiming for that. Lots of folks told me how they thought it would
turn out when they were halfway through, they were always wrong, and I
certainly didn't intend for it to be a 'Survivor' story. 
  If you haven't read the story, I'll pause for a moment and then get
back to why (I think) I wrote it. I will say this, though: I never
expected how powerful a feeling it is to when people would call or
email about how deeply affected they were by it. What's wierd is that I
can't begin to put that feeling into words.
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #22 of 81: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 17 Nov 03 04:56
    
I'll go read it.

(And this reminder for readers who are not members of the Well: you can send
your questions and comments to inkwell-hosts@well.com and we'll post 'em for
you. It's that simple.)
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #23 of 81: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 17 Nov 03 08:18
    
Here's an online copy of the piece (julianjbo) is talking about:

  http://archive.salon.com/mwt/feature/2001/03/21/sierra_doe/
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #24 of 81: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 17 Nov 03 08:29
    
(julianjbo), I'm one of the people who wrote to you, saying how sad that 
piece was. I was on the bus, surrounded by my fellow commuters, and I was 
reading your story with tears streaming down my face, my nose running. 
Nobody would sit next to me. (actually, that was a bonus; it's a 2.5 hour 
commute, so it was nice to have the two-seat space all to myself!)

I've just read it again. And I cried again. But I saw more than the sadness
in the story this time. I also saw grace and tenderness and hope. 

If you were to write this again, do you think you'd put more into the
"hope" aspect of the tale? 
  
inkwell.vue.201 : Salon writers: "Life As We Know It"
permalink #25 of 81: Jennifer Sweeney (jensweeney) Mon 17 Nov 03 11:04
    
Hello Julian, and gracious readers of the essays. What a thrill to
hear (see) some discussion of the book. That was always one of the best
parts of publishing stories on Salon -- instant and intelligent
response to the work.
  

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