May 24, 2006

STRAWBERRY MAFIA
Spring saw three of my favourite feisty femmes triumph over the literary world.

First Jenn Shreve stomped all over some heavy contenders in a Seed Magazine sci-fi competition. "The story is about a woman who sends her husbands remains into space orbit and then must deal with the personal and philosophical ramifications of that act," she explains.

"Space Junk" appears in the June/July issue. Latecomers may be able to catch some podcast excitement at her website.

Then Breakup Babe migrated from the blogosphere to the bookshelf with Rebecca Agiewich's debut novel. She read from this roman a clef at Elliot Bay Bookstore, introducing featured friends (and gently ribbing those who demanded a character upgrade in print). Then we all drank too many martinis, which is how every book launch should end, really.

Finally, the Strawberry Mafia painted the town red.

***

Allow me to explain.

I am, for all intents and purposes, from Skagit Valley in northwest Washington State. Now a chichi haven for artisanal cheesemakers, the landscape of my youth was all about gunracks and pickup trucks and boys with names like Bubba, who would, on good days, share their BB guns and throwing knives.

(Yes, yes, just ignore Tom Robbins and Tobias Wolff for a minute. And Edward R. Murrow too. We're not complete rednecks ... just mostly. Or rather, we're very erudite rednecks.)

I ran the hell away from the valley. Far, far away for a long time. After a decade, I had a few pangs of homesickness somewhere in central Turkey. My marriage imploded ... and slowly the scent of saltwater and cedars teased my dreams.

So I moved home. Or as close as I could bear: Seattle.

Was I ever broke. Broke and too stubborn to accept help.

***

For eight days, I worked as a promotional model for Cingular Wireless. The marketing company made me wear a snow-colored satin warm-up suit. The XS shirt hung to mid-thigh. I looked like the world's whitest gangsta-wannabee; Eminem was cafe au lait in comparison.

No matter. My job was to demo the New! Exciting! Camera Phone! Mainly to stinking drunk people at ballgames or in sports bars or randomly crossing the 7-11 parking lot opposite the Puyallup State Fair.

I staggered home after each 12-hour shift (we'd inevitably get lost in Enumclaw – now famous for that horse-buggery fatality – adding insult to injury). Ghoulish, I haunted the computer, pounding out story pitches. Eight days of promotional purgatory was enough. I knew I was no David Sedaris, able to both survive and spin months of Santa Elf badness into a bestseller...

***

On my last commute, a crazy woman started ranting on the bus. Crocodile tears. A shape-shifting tale of woe, refreshed and revised at each stop.

I did the unthinkable: turned and voluntarily started a conversation with my neighbour.

"Are you buying this?"

"Hell no," the woman replied. "But I'm a journalist. We're all cynical."

***

Thus I discovered Diane Mapes. Not only were we both travel writers, but we both attended Burlington-Edison High School and had all the same pea-silage, teased-bang social twitches.

Soon we discovered other media bods that had escaped the gravitational pull of the Longhorn Saloon. No matter how polished the veneer, we all have a hint of pioneer bawdiness, a touch of rural melancholy...

The Strawberry Mafia.

***

Long story short? Ms Mapes published a book too. How to Date in a Post-Dating World does not, to my knowledge, contain advice on cow-tipping or driving down mountains drunk – the pastimes of valley youth. But, hey, that makes it all the more accessible, right? Because jokes about Smitty's Worm Barn really don't play to a larger audience...

Anyway, I'm damn proud of the dame. And Jenn and Rebecca too.

2 comments:

  1. Your book is next ... What a lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks doll! I'm not sure the Rome Adventure Guide is an adequate follow-up to all this relationship insightfulness, but I'll try!

    ReplyDelete