Sometimes on the days when I work Harper and I have a girls’ night dinner. I put Ollie to bed and then Harper and I eat dinner together, complete with a candle, and ice waters for toasting. She’s a pretty good date, at least until she has a tantrum about hair-brushing. So anyway, tonight she asked me what I wrote about at the coffee shop (she is the only one who ever asks me this, by the way) and I was explaining a post I wrote about Martha Gellhorn’s favorite getaways.
Me: “She loved to travel all over the world, and then she’d write about it. So I wrote about some of her favorite place to go. She was a very cool lady who had lots of adventures.”
Harper: “…and children?”
Me: “Well actually no.”
Harper: “Oh, that’s good.”
Harper: “I’m worried if she had lots of children they would grab her glasses. Did she wear glasses?”
Me: “No, I don’t think so.”
Harper: “Oh, ok. Well I’m still glad she didn’t have children because then I’m worried they might try to come with on all her adventures and think they were writers too.”
“…asked if sitting in my room writing all the time didn’t feel like prison. I said you bet, what a writer needs.” -Martha Gellhorn, writing to Peggy Schutze, preacher’s wife, mother of 4, and creator of the most awesome picture books ever custom-made for me in my whole life.
A few years ago I found myself procrastinating novel-writing and preparing for my first baby to be born (!!) by obsessing over Martha Gellhorn, the feisty novelist and journalist who was once married to Ernest Hemingway and, more importantly, had a correspondence with my grandmother. The result of this obsession was an essay that I sent around to a resounding “huh.” But now TV’s getting involved, and Nicole Kidman, who is for some reason always playing my literary heroines, portrays Gellhorn in Hemingway & Gellhorn. (Between this and Girls, I’m convinced there is a world-wide conspiracy to make me feel bad about not having HBO.) And now I’m so happy that the essay, “A Goofy State of Mind: My Grandmother’s Letters With Martha Gellhorn,” is up at The Millions, and that Gellhorn is finally — as a prescient coworker of mine suggested years ago — having her moment. Not to mention my grandmother, a true writer and an imaginative, excitable, dreamy, bicycle-riding, fabulous-hat-collecting, typewriter-clacking space-case eccentric waaaaaay before Zooey Deschanel made it a brand.
So anyway, for a peek into the letters between a globe-trotting war correspondent and the “mouse in her own mind”, and for evidence that I once actually wrote things that were carefully thought-out or at least expansively researched, please visit The Millions.