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.
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...
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Chris Colin (cc) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:12
This should work: http://dir.salon.com/mwt/feature/2000/03/10/brother/index.html
only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel. (tinymonster) Fri 14 Nov 03 12:15
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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!
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?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post 'em for you. It's that simple.)
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/
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?
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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