Monday, May 2, 2011
I have really been looking forward to this Monday's Excerpt - I have expanded to an interview and an excerpt because the piece I am presenting is from Amazon's new Amazon Singles selections. The author, Consuelo Saah Baehr has graciously offered to talk about Thinner Thighs in Thirty Years (I love that title!) and the Amazon Singles program itself. So, without further ado, the interview:
Karen: Welcome to Fiction for Dessert, Consuelo! Thank you for participating in this interview and sharing your work with us today.
Consuelo: I’m happy to be here talking about Thinner Thighs...
Karen: I’ve read your monologue, Thinner Thighs in Thirty Years, and absolutely loved it. Can you give my readers a short synopsis of the story and how you came to write it?
Consuelo: I wrote this monologue to keep from going crazy in a bad way. Any mother is crazy in a good way but the displacement of divorce was overwhelming. After fussing over the lives of five people for twenty years, I was suddenly sitting alone in a strange (albeit beautiful) little village puzzling over how I got there. If emotions and memory didn’t interfere, it would have been ideal. I finally had the peace and quiet to write my novels. But my mind didn’t cooperate. In desperation, I tried to capture the random thoughts that raced through my head on any given day. With a little shaping, the result was Thinner Thighs In Thirty Years. Writing the monologue showed me a way out of my despair because the thoughts were hopeful and humorous. When a Tony Award winning director offered to stage the monologue, I knew I had made sense and would be okay.
Karen: This particular story was published by the Kindle Singles program with Amazon – what is that exactly?
Consuelo: I got started as a writer with Op-Ed essays in The New York Times. I’ve always loved the essay form and when I heard about Kindle Singles: a platform that publishes short pieces that develop an idea to a certain length, I inquired about the program and asked how to submit. My friend Sandra, a prolific writer said: why do you want to submit anything? Isn’t that what we are getting away from? I said: I still enjoy being humiliated so I’m going to submit my short monologue.
Karen: What was the submission process like and once accepted, did you work with an editor?
Consuelo: The submission process was simple. They request that you publish on the Amazon Kindle Platform first. I sent a file of the monologue and the ASIN # and within a few days an editor e-mailed requesting a doc file of the piece. Shortly after that they accepted, asked for a few changes, reformatted and sent me the finished file to upload.
Karen: The cover is stunning – do you mind me asking who the artist was?
Consuelo: I was extremely lucky. I found the image on a photo site and gave it to my middle child to fashion into a cover. He altered the original to accommodate the lettering.
Karen: I admire your writing style – you are very skilled and have a wonderfully dry sense of humor. I look forward to reading more of your work. Do you have any projects in the work at the moment?
Consuelo: Thank you. I write the way I talk. I’m glad you think it’s dry and humorous.
As of now, I’m working on a crime novel (I use the word “crime” loosely) titled: Tough As Nails. I’ve posted a few chapters on the Sample Sunday offerings on Twitter.
Karen: Would you be willing to share an excerpt from Thinner Thighs in Thirty Years?
Consuelo: Thinner Thighs is written in short segments. The opening segment sets the tone and that is the excerpt I will share.
(music) If I had to choose just one day, to live my whole life through. It would be the day my darling – the day that I met you.....
In twenty years of marriage, I cooked seven thousand evening meals. It was probably more but I’m ashamed to say how many. Every evening he would look in the kitchen and ask: Do I have time to change before dinner?
You have time to build the freeking Panama Canal. We could skip dinner. You’re the only one who cares about three square meals a day.
What was that?
Nothing. I gave him one chance each night to experience irony. After that I shut up and cooked.
There’s this book, Love, Loss and What I Wore. I don’t remember what I wore for love but it stuns me to remember what I wore for loss. The day I read my father’s will, I burned everything I was wearing - jeans - one of the kid’s souvenir tee shirts. It’s hard to intentionally burn clothing. Matches won’t do it. I had to use lighter fluid. It took a lot of poking.
Mom, have you seen my Bon Jovi tee shirt?
The day I applied to be an airline stewardess, I wore a pink drop-waist dress. It had a huge bow right above my ass. I weighed about thirteen pounds then but how could a dress like that do anyone any good?
When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon I was wearing lilac baby doll pajamas. Whenever I wore those pajamas, I wanted Sister Francisca to see me.
Today I'm driving to Riverhead for my divorce. I bought this divorce dress. Divorce underwear. It's ecru. Something borrowed, something ecru. I'm on PROZAC!
I sound very lah di dah but I can tell you I'm in a cold sweat of remembrance: lost friends - lost love – not doing right and now coping with the consequences. The bottom line? I know without doubt I couldn't have done things any other way.
I'm shocked I can even drive on the Long Island Expressway. Driving and cooking didn't come easy. Cooking was something Sister Mary Joseph did at my old boarding school with a charred wooden spoon. As for driving! I needed a shrink just to enter an expressway. Even dumb people know how to drive, I said. I should, too.
Should? screamed the shrink. I should do this. I should do that. That's the land of shouldhood. And shouldhood leads to shithood – putting yourself down for not doing it. Just drive.
Now I drive with a tape blasting my favorite song: Take Stuff From Work. Take stuff from work. Take a case of White Out. They won't miss it and you might need it some day. Take stuff from work!
There's a hitchhiker on the road. A laid off postal worker going to murder his boss? If I picked him up and he killed me, my husband would get everything as the surviving spouse. At the eleventh hour! It wouldn't occur to him for three weeks that he got everything. It would occur to me in a second and a half. Oh, my God, I get it all!!! Oh, he died.
I park at a meter across from the divorce building – a fake Victorian house. How long does a divorce take? Should I add a quarter for crying time? I don't want a divorce and a ticket!
In New York State a divorce requires something called ‘Just Cause.’ The ‘Just Cause’ the lawyer has randomly picked for us is called: Constructive Abandonment. Oh! Is it like tough love? These two men are going to leave me deep in the woods with a bottle of Evian and a Bic lighter to teach me self-reliance?
Constructive Abandonment is legal language. I will paraphrase the essence of the boilerplate clause. The plaintiff (me) begs the defendant: You've got to have sex with me. It's the law! The defendant answers: When pigs fly, and hell freezes over. Please, Sister Francisca, anybody - just shoot me now!
I read the first paragraph and sign. He sees the word ‘conjugal’, signs faster. “That's it,” says the lawyer. “Now it goes to the judge.” Why do judges get to decide everything?
Karen: I just love that excerpt! Thank you again for stopping by today and sharing with us, Consuelo!
Consuelo: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to think about all of this. I had to really think and that is always good.
Consuelo Saah Baehr was born in El Salvador to French/Palestinian parents. At age five she joined her father and five uncles in Washington, D.C. where they ran the prestigious boutique department store, Jean Matou, a favorite of Bess Truman and Jackie Kennedy. Convent boarding schools came next and George Washington University. After college she began writing advertising copy for the Macy Corp. Marriage and three children followed and the writing was silent until a stunning Op-Ed piece in The New York Times brought a flurry of offers from book publishers. The result was the personal memoir, Report From The Heart (Simon & Schuster). Four novels followed: Best Friends (Delacorte/Dell); Nothing To Lose (Putnam's); Daughters (Delacorte/Dell) and 100 Open Houses soon to be a Kindle original.
Daughters, a historical family saga set in pre-war Jerusalem, has been translated into 15 languages. It was published as a Kindle book in late August. Visit Consuelo at her blog Set This Writer Free.
More books by Consuelo Saah Baehr: