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In Norman’s basement


In Norman’s basement

Originally uploaded by Katharine B.

I spent last week in Provincetown, participating in a workshop on historical research and writing at the new Norman Mailer Writers Colony. We had our classes in Mailer’s house, and as you can see, we also had a few non-class-like events there. This photo illustrates the conclusion of one long dinner party — we all ended up in the basement and my new friend Jesse taught me how to punch. Any bad form on display in this photo is my fault, not his. (I was thinking it over and realized that I’ve never actually punched anything, or anyone, in my life. I took a self-defense class in college, I broke a board with my hand, but in real life I’ve been lucky enough never to have to go beyond the play-punch.) The last night we were there, the tide was so high that the bay water was slapping halfway up the deck stairs.

Anyway: Provincetown was wonderful, chilly and damp and sandy and full of older men with neatly shaved heads. The workshop was wonderful — Doug Brinkley led it, and we discussed the state of publishing (eeek), our own current projects, and many wonderful books. I was very grateful for a reason to re-read In Cold Blood.

While I was there I revised the outline for my next project, the Mt. Holyoke novel. Before going to P-town, I stopped in South Hadley and spent a week in the archive reading letters written by girls to their families in the 1890s and looking at their old photos, all dark teal with time. I found some great, strange material and only hit one major my-ideas-vs.-reality snag, which was easy to unsnarl. I’ve spent a lot of time with visiting researchers at the Ransom Center, but I’ve never been a visiting researcher before, either — kind of an odd shift.

Now I’m back in Austin. Insert obligatory moaning about the heat here. (Seriously, it was 106 today. Unacceptable, Texas!) I’m doing my best to plan my fall syllabus, dive back into dissertation work, and keep poking at the novel all at the same time. Also to watch silly movies with T. and drink my weight in Reed’s Extra Ginger Ale.

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