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I never thought I’d contribute to the vast canon of writers-on-writing essays, but here is one, called ‘There is No Handbook for This’ that I wrote about second-career writers (like me) for The Millions. What I meant to say, and hope it somehow came across is that, every one of us took a different path to get here, and all are singular and legitimate. No matter what our method, and what our level of success, we all spend our day the same way: in imperfect solitude, battling doubt, swatting away the distractions that gallop across our consciousness. A lot of the time, it is anything but pleasant. Always, it is my choice to be doing this.

I am writing because I want to. My work originates in the shadowy recesses of the mind and even in the most parched or fallow times, it is still the land of plenty. There is success, failure and everything in between. But mostly there is the labor, the constant lassoing of thoughts into sentences. It would be difficult if it weren’t actually so simple. Or maybe, it’s the other way around.

Chocolat Toast at Cazenave

Chocolat Toast at Cazenave

I have two new essays on Roads and Kingdoms . One, about a sweet diversion in France. A second, about the barstools of memory in Marrakech.

Champagne, gin, marjoram and memories.

Champagne, gin, marjoram and memories.

Nostalgia

At eighteen, I was aware that such a woman existed.  I had seen pictures, hair loose and swingy or clipped in a hasty chignon.  And the shoes—strappy slides, with a heel.  But I met her in the flesh one July afternoon at her hillside villa in Nice.  She was a Persian beauty in her 40’s named Shirin, and in the summer of 1979 she was my hostess on the Cote d’Azur.

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Unknown

This is some of the most fun I’ve ever had: an essay written and inspired by objects hidden in my own library. Wisely, I asked my friend and neighbor Kate Uhry to take the photos. A story on travel, memory and books and how they all come together in a bookmark, for Tin House.

Hemingway, Dubai, 1990

Hemingway, Dubai, 1990