Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kaye Gibbons ...

Yesterday, I met the most amazing woman.

My cousin Patty is a director of marketing for Harcourt Publishing in New York and was in town for a reading at Barbara's Bookstore in Oak Park.

Kaye Gibbons is the author on tour. I had the privilege of meeting her. (Patty is amazing, too. But I already knew her last night. Kaye was unknown to me.)

She is a wonderfully accomplished writer with legions of fans and many award-winning books to her name.

Whenever I'm around a "real" writer, I feel inadequate calling myself the same. I am a writer, true. I'm not as accomplished as "known" authors, but that doesn't inherently lessen my talent. They're just further along the writing spectrum than I am, right?

I hope so.

But Kaye is so terrifically real, so engaging, so "unfiltered," as Patty put it. If you've ever gone to a book reading for anyone of note, you may have gotten the feeling that their schtick was just that: rehearsed anecdotes, carefully chosen, spoken again and again, city after city.

Not so with Kaye. She interrupted her own reading with observations and confessions. ("I'm very menopausal," she said. "I can feel the hot flash coming on. This sweater was a bad idea. I once very nearly climbed in the ice chest at a service station.") She is a wisp of a woman, reminding me of Kyra Sedgwick. Her jacket photo is beautiful. As she was reading, she seemed to see it for the first time. And she seemed startled. "This is an elegant woman," she said. Clearly, the woman at the podium did not feel elegant, her spring-green sweater's sleeves pushed up past her elbows, her hair twisted up and held off her neck thanks to a fan who offered her a hair clip, her lipstick-rouged lips an abrupt line on an otherwise fair face.

There was a terrific turnout for a Tuesday night in January. She had the entire crowd laughing, even Patty, who clearly was hearing the rants and raves for the first time this tour. Every night with Kaye promises to be different, I guess.

In the SUV on the way back to The Drake, we talked about screenplays. Kaye has a screenwriter friend who was just paid an obscene amount of money for six days' work. " 'Just do it', he tells me," she said. " 'Write a romantic comedy,' " she scoffed. "How about a romantic tragedy?"

We talked about how difficult it is to tell an entire story through dialogue. She piped up with a line that was simply brilliant in its absurdity, which I told her she must include in a work of hers someday. I won't reveal it here, partly because it belongs to her, and partly because I can't remember it perfectly, and I won't do her the injustice of a paraphrase.

She inspired me, even as she drank too many Diet Cokes and puffed away.

But what's a writer without a vice?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A writer without a vice is an unemployed hack. As to "just doing it." Just remember Anon a few posts back gave you that advice first. Give credit where it's due.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well, then, it's good that I'm employed.

7:31 AM  

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