Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Feeding the Dragon

January 14, 2012

A writer's life.

January 2012

2012 is the year of the dragon, and an apt symbol for something I just experienced.

After a few days of holiday festivities, I turned back to “Notes from a Food Oasis.” When I opened the file, it hissed at me. I tried to read my work over the last two years, and it growled. I tried to recall the organization of the book and it reached out a claw and scratched me across the cheek. Ouch!

What was this all about? Works in progress don’t like to be neglected. They expect to be praised and petted, fed a little writer’s blood every day. As the sports writer Red Smith said, “Writing is easy – just sit down and open a vein.”

Nevertheless, I thought I was friends with my dragon. I thought we had an understanding: It would resist my efforts to a certain extent, then release a tiny bit of control to me – a paragraph, a chapter titled, a topic finding its proper place among the other topics.

In return, I would pet it and praise it some more, feed it a little more blood. I might even publicly admit to having a relationship with a book in progress, a book about food on Bainbridge Island.

But my dragon felt betrayed. I had neglected it for eight to ten days to wrap gifts, attend parties, and enjoy our son home from California. I had exchanged phone calls with my sisters, and even baked a cake and a pumpkin pie!

Writing cannot be neglected, or it quickly reverts to the wild. I know a writer who works every day of the year except Christmas and his birthday. Surely and steadily, he has written about thirty books.

You can’t let your writing languish, although at this stage, my book is substantial enough that it shouldn’t go feral that quickly. You would think. But I learned, ignore your writing project and it might just slash you across the cheek.

I hear growling. Back to work.
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Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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