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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

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It Explains the Webbed Feet

"Mom, are you an otter?"

My four-year-old has a delightful speech impediment (it used to be called speaking like a four-year-old) that makes him sound like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. Shortly after he started preschool in the fall, he started asking me about my marine mammalian secret identity. It took me a few weeks to figure it out.

"An author!"

We were both elated, like Helen Keller and her tutor, having at last spelled water.

"Yes! An OTTER! Are you an OTTER?"

I realized then that I had told his teacher I was writer. "Yes, I guess, kind of," I said. I didn't feel like it. "Author" is a word I associate with literary festival program bios, library posters, and my father. I hadn't called him that in years, but I suddenly remembered that was the word I used whenever we were asked in class to say what it was our fathers were.

Not that everyone didn't already know. "Kyran's father is an author," teachers and classmates were quick to point out to anyone new on the scene. Depending on my age, I reacted with varying parts self-consciousness and pride. Dad's books were what made my family special, at least in the esteem of the outside world.

Special is nice when you are eight, less so when you are thirteen. But even in the trench of my eye-rolling-est, cringey-est, adolescent self-loathing, I knew I wouldn't trade it in for anything. I loved to pick up one of my father's books and see something from our life written there, in a poem or a dedication. It taught me how common and close is beauty, art and meaning. To see it everywhere, and anywhere. What is heaven like? I'll tell you. It is very near.

I remember the first time I put "writer" on a form with any degree of certainty. I remember when I began to answer "I'm a writer" at cocktail parties and parent-teacher conferences without feeling six years old and playing make-believe with my Daddy's typewriter. I am a writer. But an author? That seemed like a stretch.

I guess I am going to have to start believing it. Because according to this, I'm going to be one.

(The original publicity blurb, flattering though it was, has been the source of much family merriment since it said I had a "gimlet eye." Neither of us knew what that meant, but Patrick thought "giblet" worked much better.)

To make a long story short, my agent sent out a few chapters of the memoir I'd started work on in the fall, and had put on hold while a magazine article took over my life from November to January. It went out on a Wednesday afternoon. That Friday morning, I was trying to decide whether or not it would be appropriate to change out of my pajamas before taking a potentially life-altering phone call (I decided it was).

I haven't been sure how to tell people, or how much people want to hear. A message on Facebook and a couple of phone calls covered my close friends and 500 of my nearest relatives. There has been so much happening lately, so fast, I can barely keep up. And I'm a little worried that the OMG!!!s are getting tiresome for some of you, no matter how deeply you've sympathized with our struggles along the way.

So, here I stand before you, with Daddy's horn-rimmed glasses slipping off my face and his corduroy jacket hanging down to my ankles, shyly trying on the words:

I'm an otter.

If you would like to know a little more, Geoff has very kindly helped me break the news back home, and asked a lot of the nitty gritty questions in this very sweet piece. As you were.



Blogger amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay said...

such good news! Celebrate. I am buying you a drink when I see ya next. ottertinis at blogher? cheers!!!

8:55 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Better than "I am a Walrus."

This news is so very cool, but I don't think any of your readers are that surprised, since we all are familiar with your talent. Apparently, we already saw the writing on the blog.

Now, most importantly, will your online friends at least get a 10% discount at Barnes and Noble?

9:13 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I didn't expect anything less, your "writing" is wonderful!

9:27 PM  
Blogger nicole said...

Bravo on your book deal.

10:01 PM  
Blogger paper napkin said...

Yippee, can't wait to read it!

10:18 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...


Congrats on being a real otter! I am inspired by your writing, and can't wait for your book.

Gahh, my word is U nagg. What is THAT supposed to mean?

11:18 PM  
Blogger Jennifer H said...

I remember the first time the word writer felt like it fit. I was on a flight to England with my friend/mentor. At "occupation," I stopped and looked at her with a question. She said one word, firm and without hesitation. "Writer." (She's my strongest champion.) I haven't hesitated since.

But otter? Someday.

I wonder how many generations of authors your family will see? The idea of that number growing over the decades must be lovely to consider.

You should enjoy and indulge every impulse to OMG, at will. Every single one.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Rowena said...

Congratulations on becoming an otter.

9:06 AM  
Blogger nicole said...

Bravo! Just read the PubWeekly blurb and Geoff's article. So very excited... and inspired. See you tonight...xo!

11:13 AM  
Blogger KarinaByrne said...

Maybe the baby just has talks like a Newfoundlander instead of an Arkansan?

Uncle Joe was out around the bay, visiting high schools and talking to students about MUN. The principal said he might find a lot of Arts students speaking up, because it was "Otter Week." And Joe thought, wouldn't studying otters appeal more to biology students?

Sure enough, it was the school's "Author Week."

Soon, you will be the subject of some Corner Brook, Gander or St. John's high school's "Otter Week."

11:52 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Congratulations! "Pittman Preempted" sounds so official. I guess that's because it is!

12:31 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Congratulations! Your ability to remain humble throughout this is impressive. You have so much talent. The words you choose always leave me going. Shit. I wish I could do that.

The interview with Geoff was great and it's a beautiful photo of you. I'm sincerely excited for you. After your memoir, do some fiction. Please.

2:06 PM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

An Otter is a wonderful animal. Very clever and playful,also quite beautiful. It suits you. Give up the owl as your totem adopt the otter.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

Congratulations, and hurrah! I am a faithful reader, but an infrequent commenter. I want to tell you that I am always inspired by your writing, whether its about "dirty bums" as you said in the article linked, or something far loftier. I can't wait to read the book!

8:08 AM  
Blogger Patty said...

Warm congratluations from a faithful reader of your blog. The word "blog" seems like not quite the right word for your writing here, as your work has a distinct literary *and* personal tone that I don't find in many blogs at all. Very unique, very moving.
How wonderful for you and your family. You and your husband have set your own compass and followed your bliss in the most deeply challenging but rewarding way possible. I look forward to reading this book and future books.

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to find the right word to describe how your writing feels to me. I thought of calming. But that wasn't quite enough. Then I thought of serene - suggests a spiritual calm. Thank you for your insight. I think often about what a friend said to me. Ten percent of life is life itself, and the other 90 percent is how you react to that 10 percent.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why I love you.

9:05 PM  
Blogger island sweet said...

this is your voice kyran. we're all so excited!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Angella said...

This is all sorts of awesome. You deserve it all, beautiful friend.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Jeanette said...

Congratulations from Flatrock. I read your blog a lot but more from lurker than contributor. After finishing one of your posts, I never feel there are words, even in response, that can match the posting.

Your words fill my head and inspire me, make me laugh, and sometimes bring me to tears. The sign of a good 'otter'. :)

4:01 PM  
Blogger How to Party with an Infant said...

congratulations! It's hard to sell a book these days so yours must be wonderful!! Embrace your otterness.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Schmutzie said...


10:15 PM  

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