The Sweater

I came to Charlottesville for the VA Festival of the Book and enjoyed my day out, eating excellent foods from distinctive cooking traditions and haunting yarn shops. Yesterday I listened to three writers in two panels discuss their work and how it comes together, and it was good info. My panel is this morning, talking about Appalachia as stereotype and reality in economics, foster care, and history.

IMG_3588But I have been these last ten weeks in Fayetteville, West Virginia, a town with a different ethos. This is what I wore in Fayetteville quite a bit, and people would stop me and say, “I love that t-shirt, and your sweater is beautiful. Did you make it yourself?” I saw one woman cross the street to come talk to me, and the first thing she did was fondle my sweater.

Here in Charlottesville, the city of wealth, people are not lame or demeaning. Don’t get that idea. But they look at my sweater and avoid making eye contact. The night I pulled into the hotel at 11:30 pm, lugging my worldly goods in a laundry basket (didn’t have any luggage with me at the writing residency) the desk clerk said, “May I help you?” When I said “Welch,” she looked at me for a moment, then blinked.

“Oh, you have a reservation.” And her fingers flew. So it was only a second there that she wondered why this road-haggard woman with the dandelion fluff hair and the fuzzy sweater carrying a laundry basket was standing at the counter.

Friday, I went out with my sweater to see the world, Charlottesville style. On the Pedestrian Mall (socks $25, earrings $30) people glanced at my sweater and looked away again. I know what they were thinking, “Gee, I wish I had a sweater that pretty.”


Stephen King’s Basement?

crime scene 003Stephen King says that writers have trap doors in their minds, and most ideas occur above them. Below the door is a basement full of sludge, hiding alligators; the secret of good horror and crime writing is to keep the gators fed, or they will break out and take over, and the world will become a real mess.

Imagine what went through my mind last night, then, when I arrived home to find these scenes in my little basement writing nook.

crime scene 010While Jack and I had a “yeah, we’re famous” three-day fun run through book festivals (Thank you, VA Festival of the Book, Clifton Forge, and Mountain Empire Community College!) the bookshop was left in the capable and devious hands of a few friends. Witness their creative touches. I may have to make that “Shining” salute my new FB profile pic.

And Bob enjoyed investigating the “blood.”

crime scene 012

The Russell Crowe poster references his unfortunate soul-searching solo at the edge of the bridge as Javert in Les Mis, six minutes so painful that, sitting alongside these same friends in the theatre, I heard myself yell at the screen, “For the love of God, somebody push him!”crime scene 015

(The guy can’t sing, and he’s really not convincing as someone who could ever doubt himself, either.)

So, keep the gators fed? Yeah, man. But keep your friends close–or you never know what they’ll do with a little cornstarch, some free time, and unfettered access to your basement.crime scene 016