Abigail Thomas is one of the most inspiring women I have ever known. This mother of four children and the grandmother of twelve is the author of many books including her most recent work, Thinking About Memoir.
Abigail has taught me many things. As some of you may know, she is the person who introduced me to the 20 word love story. She helped me to find an honesty within my writing, helped me to see when I was hiding among my words so that hiding could be an option instead of the sole condition I chose when writing. In speaking with Abigail and reading her incredible works, I have learned that life exists in moments and the beauty of those moments lives in the details. The way a house looks when it is lit up at night, the small things that can make a kitchen feel like the heart of a home, a certain smell...Abigail is skilled at using these details to paint a picture of a full life.
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas was selected as one of the Best Books of 2006 by the LA Times and the Washington Post.
I am not only a better writer because of her, I am a better person. She helped me to write through my nightmares after losing someone I loved deeply on 9/11, she helped me to find enough clarity to walk away from a poisonous relationship and she reminded me how the joy that can be found in simple moments shared with loved ones. For her heart, her humor and her ability to share her unique vision of the world, I am eternally grateful.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce Abigail Thomas :)
TST: What is the very first thing you remember writing? (This can be something from childhood if you like. Just an early memory of something you wrote and loved.)
AT: The first thing I wrote was about a brook, but I don’t remember anything about it, except that it was written with a number 2 pencil and my mother kept if for years. The second was something called “I am a loaf of bread” done as an assignment for school. I remember imagining the harvesting process as tickling the narrator, and that my last sentence was as I was about to be eaten and contained the word "goodbye".
TST: What is your favorite writing exercise?
AT: My favorite assignment changes all the time. These days it is to write down six things you don’t remember, (and it has to be “I don’t remember…” not “I forget…”) followed by six things you do remember. I gave it first at a workshop in Manchester VT, and found that the six things they did remember were often related to the six things they didn’t. Somehow, writing what you don’t remember tends to conjure up what you do remember about what you don’t remember. Very interesting. As for an example, one woman listed a bunch of things she didn't remember and they were all about her mother. Then the first thing she wrote of what she did remember was, "I remember the shape of my mother's hands." It made me burst into tears.
TST: Which book was the most challenging to write or were they all challenging in their own way? Why?
AT: The one I’m writing now is the most challenging. I guess it always is. This one is coming out in the same odd form that Safekeeping did, and I don’t know if it’s going to work, it’s just I can’t seem to do it differently. Whatever the newest thing is is the most challenging, always, except for A Three Dog Life, which I wrote as it was happening, and since I didn’t try to hurry it up, since I didn’t feel as if it was a book, exactly, but more a way of trying to make sense of something that made no sense, the writing wasn’t a challenge. The living was a challenge.
TST: How do you feel when you are done with a book and you let it go out into the world?
AT: How do I feel when it’s out in the world? Well, it’s out of my control and past my protection, so mostly I just wish it well. Now and then I get asked how I feel about people knowing so much about me, as if I might now regret having been so open, but what they don’t seem to understand is that I did the telling. That makes all the difference.
TST: Whose work do you admire? Who are your inspirations?
AT: So many people whose work I love. William Maxwell, for his spare language. I read a lot of poets to get me going. Sometimes Frank O’Hara, sometimes WB Yeats, sometimes Robert Frost. I’ve taken to reciting “some say the world will end in fire/some say in ice” to myself which comforts me, although it is far from comforting.
TST: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do?
AT: Write, and keep writing. I’m doing it, or trying to anyway.
TST: What helps you to get through stressful situations?
AT: Stressful situations? Talking to my closest friend, talking to my kids, taking naps. Smoking. Having a beer. Writing my way out of whatever it is.
TST: Who is your favorite all-time character?
AT: I don’t have a favorite all-time character. Probably a failing on my part. Let me think. Hmmm.
TST: What’s your favorite movie or book?
AT: Favorite book? So Long, See You Tomorrow. Favorite movie? Ghostbusters. That’s today. Tomorrow I don’t know. Ghostbusters tends to cheer me up if I’m in a foul mood. Who ya gonna call?
TST: What’s your biggest insecurity or toughest thing you face as an artist? How do you work to overcome it?
AT: I’m proud of the form or formlessness of Safekeeping. I’m glad I stuck with it despite rejections. I really had no choice, since it came out the way it came out, I couldn’t write it differently. But it freed me up to write the way my memory works. In spurts, in moments.
TST: You knit, is that right? What do you love about it? What is one thing you made that you are proud of?
AT: Knitting? Well, I made a lot of pretty blankets. I love the mindlessness of knitting. I can’t follow patterns so there’s not thinking or counting involved. The mind goes off its leash while your hands are busy.
TST: What are you most proud of professionally? Personally?
AT: What I'm most proud of personally? It's my family
TST: If you could have a meal named after you in a restaurant, what would it be and what would the name of it be?
AT: A meal? Oh my god. Some kind of sundae I think. If I name a sundae after myself it has to be the kind that nobody thinks about getting fat while or after they eat it. But it will be very fattening. I have a habit of pouring heavy cream on ice cream. God, it's so good. It makes a little sort of glace and under that is thick yummy cream.
The "It's really very good for you" sundae.
TST: Do you have any guilty pleasures? (For instance, mine is eating M&M’s…oh I love them)
AT: Guilty pleasures? Aren’t all pleasures guilty pleasures?
TST: If you had a personal theme song what would it be?
AT: Personal theme song. Maybe Hey Jude.
Abigail, you are an inspiration to me and to many who know you. Your works, your ability to be brave and share your story invites others to find their voice and share it as well. Please don't ever stop writing, sharing or being YOU!
For more information about Abigail Thomas, please visit http://www.abigailthomas.net/index.html For a truly great read, check out http://www.abigailthomas.net/abigail-thomas-getting-started.html