Saturday, October 19, 2013

The death of a writer

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to find some books. From the way they were dumped in the trash, I'm still leaning toward something catastrophic having happened to the original owner. So I tucked what I could fit on my bookshelf and re-boxed the rest for when I finally find "the house". I felt bad, but I like to think wherever they are, they'd be happy to know their library went to a good home.

Today was a nice day as NW fall days go, and I got the urge--as I do every year--to hit some garage sales. I always make a mental list before I leave home and never get around to it. Maybe I've just driven past too many junky ones or something, but it's usually just a "thought". Like maybe one day I'll go on a Rhine cruise, or drive up to Wyoming. Then I drove past a nice sign that said "Estate Sale, today only" and I made a u-turn. I've never been to an estate sale and I was curious if it really was better than a garage sale or if it was just a different way to say "lots of junk."

The street was old and battered, and the houses were old and in various stages of renovation and I was kind of iffy, because it was getting late and all I could see from the street was an enormous sleigh bed and some dressers. And once I got out--yeah, well. The "antique" (and I don't mean it nicely) loveseat with a cheap throw blanket and two frou-frou pillows fronting seven gigantic bird cages almost turned me around again. Long before I saw the rack of old coats and crap-tastic kitchen utensils I could tell some old lady had just died and her kids were selling off her things.

Then I saw a Dana.

And an ergonomic keyboard--sparkling clean and very expensive. And another, even more expensive keyboard with the little moveable components, and boxes and boxes and boxes of document holders and magazine holders, and little cups like you'd put pens in. Nice ones. Nothing cheap here. And around the corner--like I'd fallen into the writing section of Barnes and Noble--boxes and boxes and boxes of writing books, and reference books (not for my time period, although I was hoping) and just plain books, and--the writer's createspace books.

As I sorted through the boxes, I listened to the kids talk about getting rid of the birds and the cat, and how hard it'd been to move all the books, and how little everything seemed to be bringing in. And I looked at Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Steering the Craft by Ursula le Guin and thought how little these people knew the person who'd just died. This woman poured everything into her passion. The cheap coats, the ugly throw blanket and dollar store utensils were adequate, but keyboards and books were top-notch.

Including this:
My new-to-me bedside table, complete with permanently mounted (and very expensive) files bolted into the side. It's hard to tell in the picture, but these things are heavy gauge, hammered steel. They wanted forty bucks for it, but I offered ten and when they countered with thirty I pointed out the number of people who'd buy a table with attached files was probably one--and I was it. We settled on twenty and a couple of free books. It's a nice, solid wooden table and I think I got a deal. The woman asked what I was going to do with it. I said I'd probably put a printer on it, and she said they sold the printer earlier that morning.

It was bad enough finding someone's library. To walk in on people selling the remnants of a writer's driving passion like it wasn't worth saving was somehow even worse. I wondered how long the woman had to get her stories out before time took her away from her work, and hoped she did what she set out to do.

May she rest in peace.


Lisa said...

This is so sad. Did you ever find out if she'd written anything and published it? Or if there were any of her mss lying around?

The kids certainly didn't appreciate their mother's passion, and that says a lot about the relationship between them. Perhaps she poured her heart and soul into her pages and the worlds she created on paper and less into her RL world? Or maybe she took up writing late in life, when her kids were grown up and moved out, so they weren't around to see how she coped with feeling lonely?

There's a story in there somewhere.

And that's a very nice bedside table. Very functional!

Jodi Henley said...

It is, isn't it? I've been wanting one just like it for years. :) *pats the table*

Only another writer would understand how really useful it is to have more paper storage, lol!

I've been running goggle searches, but nothing so far. I'll figure out the right keywords one day. :)

Edith said...

Jodi what an amazing story! This is a ral, once-in-a-lifetime experience, a little bit sad and a little bit happy (for you) and yes, I agree, there's definitely a novel or short story hidden in there just waiting to be written! :)

David Bridger said...

I'm glad her writing life inheritance has come to the right person. :)

Jodi Henley said...

Hi Edith!

The bad thing is I saw her books in a box and didn't bother looking at her name, just her genre. I bought all the books I could afford and read Outliers last night. :)It was very sad, but the experience of turning a corner and stumbling on all those writing books was amazing. I wish I'd brought more money, :(

Hi David, I don't know how it comes across online, but...I'm glad I found the sale. I've been talking to my kids about where my stuff needs to go after I pass and since they'd had plans to dump my books too (must be a universal kid thing) I think I'm going to make sure my will states it all gets boxed up and shipped out to someone who'll give it a good home.

And I'm sorry she's gone. You can tell a lot about a person by the contents of their library. :)

Lisa said...

Oops, I missed that bit about the writer's Creatspace books. My cap goes off to her.

Jodi Henley said...

Mine too. At this point I don't even want to think about createspace, although maybe later--when I have enough material for a book with heft. Simply rustling up a regular cover and formatting is hard enough.