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illustration by Tomoko Kuwahara authors who, with no one else to talk to, heaped upon one another the stories they had come to tell non-existent fans. One woman told me all about her book of morning meditations, and her mission, with her husband, to bring the Lord to prisoners. Then I was blindsided by a juicy authoress who gushed about how she and her husband co-wrote kids’ books and cookbooks and inspirational romances and antique books, as if writing were as easy as crapping after a big bowl of chiliyou’re never sure what form it will take, but something will pop out if you just sit still for a minute. \(I eavesdropped while this woman’s husband told another author the secret method he and his wife used to collaborate: “She adds the sensory details and makes sure there’s no redundancy. She Another woman approached me as she, her husband, and their grandson entered the room weighted down with books they wouldn’t sell, either. “My husband didn’t know he was an author, but the Lord inspired him,” she confided, describing his daily home dialysis and how it’s different than at the clinic and how the fluid she deals with isn’t blood but “looks more like N liquid.” When another author pressed upon me some cheesy opening poem from his book, I couldn’t take it anymore. I smiled and nodded. Inwardly I became a total snot, telling myself I am so much better than these people and asking myself where I went wrong. I didn’t like this about myself, that my inner judge had come thrashing to the surface, but by then I was beyond worn out from so many miles driven, so many books unsold, and so many other people’s stories heaped on me like too much gravy on a chicken fried steak. But wait. Can you ever really have too much gravy? I mean, aside from the fact I’ve never eaten a chicken-fried steak, I have to admit in the end that all we have are our stories. Of course we want to tell them. Of course we hope others will listen. Spike Gillespie is an Austin writer. Her latest book, Quilty as Charged: Undercover in the Material World, about contemporary quilting, will be released in the fall by University of Texas Press. She’s planning a tour to visit every single quilt maker in Americaall 27 million of ’em. JUNE 29, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31