While some people thought Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and other non-fiction, fiction, and children’s books was hoity-toity, ostentatious, and smug, I have to say I thought she was the most honest person I had the pleasure of listening to. Well, Michael Chabon ran a very close second. They’re very different.
When Haven addressed the fake memoir issues of the publishing world, I wanted to jump up and yell “Amen Sister!” She was asked something like, “How could James Fry and Margaret B. Jones fool all those editors?” To which she answered with a brilliant flip of her hand, roll of her eye, and yes, a smug laugh, “Oh. They knew,” as she nodded her head slowly, “they all knew.”
If telling the truth makes one smug, rock on girl!
As refreshing as it was to hear her candid remarks in that first session, I was even more smitten with her second session entitled How Life as a Quaker Prepared Me for Life as a Novelist: More Than Just Sitting Still for Long Periods of Time.
She told the story of her first novel in the hands of her editor. Haven had just returned from seminary and apparently infused her book with many words her “pet-theologians” spoke. Her editor said (paraphrasing) that every time she came to a paragraph with something from one of those pet-theologians, she would send it to her mother in South Dakota. Who lived in a trailer park. And if mother didn’t understand it, Haven had to rewrite it. Haven hung her head a bit and talked softer, “She read the novel about forty-five times.”
Then she said the words that resonated in my heart, “Intelligence does not eliminate, it invites.”
That sentence might be the one that sticks with me throughout my endeavors as an author.