Quips & Quotes by Gwen E Campbell on “The Disappearance of E.A.B”

Amelia died at the mental hospital; they held the funeral there and buried her there. That may well have been the best day of Anna’s life, all fourteen years of it. She insisted on looking at Amelia in the coffin and touched her face with one finger. She wanted to be absolutely sure that Amelia was dead. Wendell had given her the oddest look. Thinking back, she supposed she believed things would be different once Amelia was dead, but nothing changed. Perhaps she had thought they would change into a real father and daughter, just as once she had dreamed that Amelia would become sane, and become a mother, but nothing happened. They fell back into their old routine. The days came and went, the seasons rolled around.

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Love Letters to Authors

Notes from Alexis: The early day blogger. She is coming out of the groupie closet.

6/15/84

Dearest Lex,

Yesterday I got a Letter from Mom and in it was three pictures – two of me and one of M. when he was two or three. The two pictures of me were the ones we had gone to Yachats to get and we had failed at miserably. No letter, just the pictures, it gave me quite a start, but I feel so lucky to have them. They are the only two pictures of me throughout my childhood.

I got all fired up about our local library in Keno, even to the point of considering babysitting one day a week because I thought it was closing. I talked to B. E., the Klamath Librarian, and found it was still open, so then I talked to J. B. across the street. He publishes the Keno Star. I wanted him to run a story about it. He said it sounded like a good idea but he didn’t have time to write it, and hinted heavily that I should write something up. I wasn’t very enthused; I have never been interested in writing for newspapers.

Still I was interested in the library so I went over Thursday and met M. B. and fell in love with our little library. It isn’t nearly as grand as yours but it reminded me of all the little libraries of my life.

So I came home and wrote up an article. Dad thought it was a good idea and wanted to read it. His comment was, ‘Cute.’ So that killed it dead. I wasn’t aiming for cute.

I have been writing like a mad woman and now have a name for my life, ‘Travels in Time and Space’, known familiarly as Travels (actually became “Always Going”). I have 16 chapters written, about 40,000 words I guess, but it should end up about 20 chapters. It seems to be unrolling out in front of me like a carpet. The last three chapters have been so hard to write but I finally got them done and I’m not totally displeased.

J. B. from across the street called about something and asked about my writing. I was all enthused as usual, and then he started telling me I should send my stories out and get them published. He told me there were magazines I could read that would tell me where to send manuscripts for short stories, and I lied and said I hadn’t sent any out. I have, in fact, gotten all five of them back. I thought it was interesting that I lied to him.

For one thing I don’t really want J. involved in my writing. The nerve! Telling me as if I were a child about what I should do. It irritated me! You know the feeling. How many times have you been told what you should do about your pottery? Screech! Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me terribly that I got all five of them back. (Funny that it bothered me more to have him tell me what to do.) I think they are good and so do you, so evidently publishing them now is not the way to go.

A book of short stories is probably the way to go, and when the time is right, the stories will find their place. I cannot get myself involved in selling at this point. While I have the writing going I just have to keep at it. There will undoubtedly be plenty of time when I’m not writing to concentrate on selling. Everybody thinks selling is nothing but we know different, don’t we? I know how to write but I don’t know how to sell, and furthermore I’m not even going to learn. I never wanted to be a salesman.

I found the poem I was looking for in the funniest way. I was at the library looking for some more of Robert Graves’ poems when off to the side was a book, ‘Aspects of love’, a collection of love poems. I took it down and put it back. Love poems, indeed! I was looking for war poems. But it called to me so, I took it home and there it was. It’s by John Keats and is ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’. I have had more fun out of my search for that poem than most people have – period.

I can’t believe the kinds of luck I have with books. Just re-read Peter S. Beagle, “I See By My Outfit”. This is such a good book and if you can’t get it, I have a paperback. You also know how I feel about aging. I found a book by Phyllis Diller, ‘The Joys of Aging and How to Avoid Them’. A super funny book, and I have this one too if you want it. If you want a good laugh read it.

I have decided to write love letters to authors when I like their books. That is a complete about face for me. I have always held fan letters in contempt, until one day it dawned on me that I am going to be published, and what if I got letters and what if I don’t? I could see then that I would love to get letters. The disc jockeys used to say, “Hello is anybody out there?” and it is the same with writers. You want to know that you reached somebody.

I figure that if they get a million letters, mine will just stay on the bottom and who cares? But if they get none, or only a few, mine might matter, right? So I’ve started writing letters. I mean, if I’m going to make a career out of being a groupie, then I should be up front about it, not a closet groupie for God’s sake!

Will close and run to town but wanted to get you a letter.
Hold the good thought and you know what I mean.

Love, Mom

The Bittersweet of life, and the beginnings of a new book

Notes from Alexis: The beginning of her book “Always Going” has come to her in short stories, soon to become a full book. I am proud of her, and truly love the book!

5/21/84

Dearest Lex,

I am writing to you today because this has been such a bittersweet day that I wanted to share it with you as I felt you would enjoy it so.

First I got another story this morning and if you plan to read all of the things I have written in the past two weeks, then plan to stay for a week for todays story is the fourteenth, plus two chapters for EAB. Can you believe it! Of course you can. That has always been my modus operandi. Why change now.

As it turns out about ten of them are my life stories, so I may complete them and let them stand alone or maybe they will become a book. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing them and I’m not displeased with them. Some have caused me to feel a little blue, a little melancholy just for the remembering. Some are funny and two are painful. That’s the sweet for the day.

Now for the bitter. I discovered something about myself I had not known. Remember I told you about saying I would face my judges. Another day in court! I find these confrontations with myself so difficult. I just don’t think I understood how painful it would be to face my failings – gall and wormwood. You know, it isn’t as if I believed I am perfect, it is that I assumed my faults would be of a benign character.I certainly look back with rue on my pronouncement that I would just face my accusers and admit my guilt. I never dreamed I would be my own accuser or that I would so hate the evidence, or that I would truly have no defense. My crime? Well, it is a character defect, just a flaw and it takes a dab more explaining than is possible but I will inundate you when you come down.

A sweet: Your card came to cheer me.
A bitter: A rejection of one of my stories.
A sweet: Last October I went to a genealogy seminar and paid R.B. $40 for his book. Just this morning I thought, “I am never going to get the book or the money back. I can kiss that forty bucks goodbye. Went to post office and there it was, and it is a jewel and worth every penny.

The weather was bitter when I got up–cold and overcast. It has now turned sweet—-sunny and warm.

I think I will bake myself some carob cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I have never done that before – baked myself a birthday cake. Of course it is because I have never given it a thought. I’ve never wanted cakes and gifts or birthday parties. I had one though, a party, for my fourteenth birthday and it was all that a party could or should be. I actually had kids come with presents, that I hadn’t even invited. They said they knew I meant to invite them and just forgot. It was just the opposite of most of our fears. We always think we’ll throw a party and nobody will come.

Please, please don’t forget the pens. I am running desperately short. If I run out will I be able to write? Well, believe it or not I have been able to write under all kinds of circumstances that I believed impossible. I thought I couldn’t write on the weekend, with the stereo on, in the afternoon, when I was tired, etc. I have proved all those wrong, but I sincerely believe that those pens help.

Well, I guess that’s about all I know,

Love,
MOM

P.S. Another sweet or two: I thought up another story this afternoon and it was humorous, so it tickled my funny bone. I really did make the cupcakes and they turned out great. Dad got me a birthday present and couldn’t wait until tomorrow, and it was a big new Rand McNally Atlas like the big green one, and I was so thrilled. Now if I can only find one put out after the 1940 census I will have one for 1940, 1960, and 1980. Keep your eyes out for a big 1940 Atlas for me, OK.

Two Women Linked Across Time

Notes from Alexis: Daily life, wills, and property lines all become part of the life we create and then watch play out.

5-11-84

Dearest Lex,

How are you? Now about writing (don’t you love it!). I just can’t believe it but I have written four very nice articles this past week. They are short, 500-1000 words, and I have three of them out looking for work. I am really pleased with them. They just seemed to flow out of the pen. Also I am about half through with next to last rewrite of EAB and feel good about that too.

I was so pleased that you wrote S. and J. about your marriage plans. They made a point of telling me. When you do things like that it makes me so proud of you. An interesting side note. I was going through some of my papers the other day and came on some thoughts I had written down lo these many years, and was struck by how they reminded me of you. There was something about the phrasing, the tone that I catch in your letters sometime. I think it is more than just association, for certainly the words were different. I think it is the age. We, all of us, tend to feel much the same at the same stages in our lives. Despair, happiness, boredom, etc. and then use the same terminology. One poet’s love sonnets sound about the same as another’s. The geniuses, of course, say it better.

It gave me a great pleasure to feel the two women linked- – me at your age and you now, a kind of kinship reference point that is not exactly blood, but time. We are just the same only different.

I have made the first effort to sell all my weaving and spinning equipment and have in fact sold the picker. I will go in later today and write another letter about selling the rest. It’s funny how I have hesitated and then it was just time and right to let it all go.

Tomorrow or the next day we will go out to Ann Burns’ and get three lambs she is giving us. She owed us one lamb and said we could have a nice big lamb or three scrawny little ones so, of course, Dad wants the babies.

I have begun to give a lot of thought to wills. This comes I think with age but also because I have spent so much time with EAB and have realized the problems ‘things’ can be to heirs. You would think M.s legacy would have made it clear, but she was they, and EAB is me.

As far as money and possessions are concerned, I have all the faith in the world that it will all work out. J. at this point in his life is greedy for things. I have a hard time understanding this kind of greed for I really have never, ever been in such a state. I would get up and walk away from any of it at any time, and have done so several times, so has M. and so have you. We are level headed and know we need necessities and are forced to drag them with us, but we could have walked off with our hands in our pockets and nothing more. I am the worst of the lot with M. a close second, but you would too. Not J. at this time, his needs are shrouded in a mist.

What I need to do very badly for my own peace of mind is to get the writing and the Frameworks all situated. What I want is for them to be cared for after my death. They have no value to anyone in this family except you so I need to burden you with them. Once they have a money value then people will step forward and volunteer, and so they have to be protected when they aren’t wanted and when they are. Isn’t it pitiful? I am not sure how to go about this. It seems strange to most people to make provisions for things that have no money value but I know you feel the way I do. Please give some thought to the problem.

Well, the most peculiar thing has happened, and there are a great many implications beyond what I will set down here, and perhaps someday I’ll be able to tell those too. The facts are these: The other day I saw C. C. (Keno Realty) downtown Keno, and spoke to her and she said she had something to tell me. It seems all our fences are wrong and that we had about half an acre over on another lot that was unfenced. I couldn’t believe it and argued forcibly. Dad doesn’t make those kinds of mistakes. So we drove out and she showed me by the map, and it was true. We have paced and studied, and there it is. The mistake Dad made was to trust the original fences. Since we owned all three lots, it didn’t matter and we didn’t have the place surveyed when we moved in.

The big problem is the greenhouse, and we sweated blood until we found that it sits on this lot, Lot 2, but only just barely and just legally. What it means essentially is that the dear trees you planted run off the middle of Lot 3. All the rose hedges and lilac hedges do too. Dad plans to move all the fences as soon as he had time and energy, but plans to move the fence on the outside of Lot 1 immediately because someone has bought the lot next to J.s and has already planted trees.

Well, will close for now and will write later or talk to you whichever comes first.

Love,
Mom

Not a good “Nagee”

Notes from Alexis: Some funny lines in this one about writing and not writing. Good for a laugh.
4-22-84

Dearest Lex,

I am sitting here listening to Zamfir. I have spent the last month researching all the books about cryptology and just today decided I now know more about it than I want to know. I haven’t lost interest in Decipher, but the art or the field, or whatever, is not my bailiwick and I have decided to jump ship on research. I will however, not abandon Decipher. In fact I really feel that I am getting a grasp of the thing; working on the man’s mind. I have gone down some mighty strange byways and I think they must have been trod by him too, but abandoned for the same reasons I did. Just today I noticed a strange thing about it but it is so complicated that I have to show you as it doesn’t make good reading.

It gives me prickles down my spine to realize that folks like David Kahn are out there THINKING about Decipher. We’re walking with some heavy brains here – I mean aces, top men in the field. This is a fun thing for us to do and audacious.

A couple of notes about Dad; I was telling him how I love ballet and someday I would like to see one in Boston or New York and he said, “You aim too high.” I was dumbfounded and indignant.Then, later, I told him he should nag me to write and he said, “The trouble is you don’t make a good ‘nagee’ especially when I am the ‘nagor’.” I had to laugh and agree. I definitely don’t make a good ‘nagee’. Never have, never will.

We had breakfast on the porch and the day was so lovely I cleaned some windows, but now it is clouding up and the wind has come up. I suppose that was spring.

I have fallen in love with Richard Selzer (surgeon-writer) and he may very well be the impetus I need to get writing. I’m ashamed of myself for committing the worst sins of all-‘sloth and apathy.’ Here the man is a surgeon and teacher and writes four books in the past ten years.

I was so embarrassed I went right in and started rewriting EAB. I have the first four chapters in their next-to-last state. (Everything is in a next-to-last state until actually published- – just a little joke.) I am happy with them or if not happy, then satisfied, and if not satisfied, then through. One thing I learned from weaving was to know when a thing is through.

I threw WEBS down in disgust the other day just seconds before I drove the pen through my brain, or went out and O.D. on chocolate. And there waiting for me was EAB. Why do I have to work on several things at once?

I guess the C’s are going to have a brothers-sisters only reunion. Dad has lured me into thinking about going by bribing me with a trip to Portland. I have moved the location of one part of WEBS to Portland instead of Chicago. I am going to write about places I have actually been to, and concentrate on people I don’t know anything about – criminals and surgeons. Don’t you love it? Anyway I need to walk around that section – old-town – where we got a snack at the health food store. He says he’s wild to take a day or two off and take me there if I will go to the reunion. Sounds like a’wot of jolly good fun!

Well, I guess I’ve run out of steam, didn’t have much to begin with.

Love, Mom

Rocking along day after day

Notes from Alexis: Interesting ways of finding a books story line. Plus being 55 does tend to make one stop and look at life.

4-12-84

Dear Lex,

I haven’t been able to write this last week as I have had a problem with ‘Tangled Webs.’ I have walked all around it, and finally saw that the problem is that I know the whole story. When I saw it from what the reader knows, then I was able to resolve it. This is such a complicated plot I have to be careful not to reveal too much too soon.

I have fallen in love with Simon and Garfunkel, got their ‘Concert in Central Park’ album. Also got a couple of Gheorghe Zamfir’s records and they are so lovely that I’ll tape them for you.

Loved to hear about your cats and mice stories. I hope bus driving smooths out and becomes as natural as rain, of which we do seem to be getting our share. The earth loves it so who am I to complain? Gwen that’s who! And Gwen bitches mightily about every inconvenience! Not to mention it has been snowing off and on for the past four or five days.

The canoe is coming along nicely. We went to a fiberglass seminar and now we feel quite a bit different – not so scared. I can’t get over the lines of it, they are so lovely. I think that boat has been a Godsend for Dad. Work has just been so hard for him lately. He goes out and works on the boat and forgets all about the job.

I can almost picture your house going up. You know you guys are going to have to plan on a greenhouse so you can control the rain. Just think, we are eating lettuce and radishes out of the greenhouse. We need it to protect against the cold and you need it to protect against water, although we have had so much rain lately that we are protecting against water, too.

I really hate it when I just rock along day after day without feeling creative and with no enthusiasm. I am so used to being hyper, that being calm is more like being becalmed, lost in the doldrums. To me the daily routine is a stagnant pool, and just think, that is the condition of most of the world and they are happy as larks.

I am grateful that I don’t have to go to work, for I barely have enough energy to get up in the morning. I feel I need to lay down and rest, and yet I am not sick. Actually I feel as if I am recuperating from a long illness, and I’m getting damned tired of it. And yet I’m not depressed or even blue. There really is no way around it, I am cruising at 55. Tell that to the Indy drivers, 55 is really just standing still.

Well, it seems I have done nothing but whine and cry around. Dad says I need some spring, but I think I’ve had about all the spring I can take. What I need is some summer.

Love,
Mom

P.S. Boy are writers weird folk. I looked at the way I was feeling and realized I had a part of the story that I needed, just that kind of feeling, and went in and wrote about it. Is nothing sacred, not even pseudo—depression?

The Blue Rose, an IBM Selectric III changes life as never before!

Mouse bites

Notes from Alexis: The photo of the “Mouse bites” corners is what happens when you store letters for over 30 years!

3-29-84

Dearest Lex,

I suppose you didn’t even notice the difference in the type. Well you should have for this is on the new darling. I ended up buying the IBM Selectric III, dual pitch, self-correcting, BLUE, Model #670S for, get this, $685 (with dust cover)! It is such a fantastic machine that I can hardly stand it! It is quiet and it does all the things a machine is supposed to do like TYPE, and the correcting part beats all the memory I have seen, all to hell. What it does is correct and then sits there and waits for you to type over. Isn’t that smart! What I learned in school is that any dummy can remember but it takes ‘smart’ to think.

So here is your mother in heaven with a new darling. It will never replace a daughter but it sure helps. I’m not admitting that I talk to it, and at this point in time it is still an IT but you will know that things have deteriorated when I start referring to it as SHE.

You will be delighted with Dad’s comment when I told him about The Creative Writing Class. He said, “Whatever possessed you to write a play?” Don’t you just love it! And he sure enough is right, I have no answer.

I am still in great spirits but the flesh has fallen prey to some kind of stomach upset. However, I am so thrilled with the Blue Rose that I am sitting here typing away with half my mind looking at my interior.

Even with this lovely typewriter I seem to be making some mistakes but I suppose that is because I am writing in such haste. I am always behind or ahead of my thinking. It would be such a relief if I could compose on the typewriter but I know that I never shall. However, it is great that I love re-typing them at least.

I got a flat tire on the way to the post office Tuesday and made it on in to the garage, and had my studs taken off and road tires put back on, just in time for the next snow. I was telling Dad that I didn’t know how to change a tire, and he said it was because I was a woman, which is certainly true, but imagine his amazement when I said that it might also be because I have never had a flat. I have really led a sheltered life. The powers that be know my limitations, don’t they?

Well here I sit, heavily in debt, without a care in the world. I charged the Kirby Vacuum and the Blue Rose on Visa and now all Dad has to do is pay for them, don’t you love it? Poor man, he would love to believe that I am going to make a pile writing, but he really believes it will fall from the sky out of a plane before there is a chance in hell of me making any money from writing.

I have run out of things to say and as you have so much to read because of the other things I am sending, I will just stop for now.

Love,
Mom