I picked up A Memoir of Friendship: The Letters between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard, and I’m completely absorbed. It’s like being on a long walk at dusk and getting to glimpse scenes through living room windows. (Um… not that I would do that.) Even better, these living rooms happen to belong to great writers.
Knowing that Carol Shields raised five kids makes me feel better about the possibility of me being a productive writer at some point in my future. These letters begin when her kids are in high school, though, which makes me wish I could ask the following questions:
1. What do you do when, in the midst of a playdate with two extra kids rampaging around your house, your publisher calls and needs to discuss something urgently? Is it wrong to lock yourself on the front porch with the phone, and hope nothing is set on fire behind you?
2. Have you ever been so absorbed in your reading that you absently nodded yes to anything your toddler asked, then watched in complete innocence while said toddler got in trouble for emptying his father’s wallet and playing with the credit cards? Only to be outed by your preschooler? (No, me neither.)
3. Have you ever been printing page proofs, thinking of possible index organization schemes, cleaning up after a play date, attempting to help a bathroom-bound toddler, and listening powerlessly as the doorbell rings at the same time?
Well, Carol, advice from your current heavenly perspective would be gratefully accepted.