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LOS ANGELES--In this age of Kindle and iPad and e-books, I write by hand, on little notepads, in my car.
I have written in my car since I was 22 and working on my first novel. Then, the car was a broken-down pale-green Fiat. I sat in the driver's seat while my then-husband worked on it in our gravel driveway, yelling at me to pump the brakes or start the engine. Now I write in my 2009 Honda CRV while waiting in the high school parking lot for my youngest, or even at the curb in front of my house--the way Raymond Carver used to--before I go inside.
I like looking up at the tree over me.
After seven novels, I lately have started giving away my books--real books, printed on paper that has been sewn and bound. It's not because no one wants to buy them but rather because so many young people still want to hold them, pass them around, write in them, and see their own names on the first page. And they often can't afford to buy books, much less imagine owning an e-reader. In the last two years, I've handed out 1,000 free copies of "Highwire Moon" and 500 copies of "Take One Candle Light a Room."
It all started in 2009, when I was invited to Antelope Valley College by a poet-activist who is a former student, Nicelle Davis, and she mentioned how many students couldn't afford to buy textbooks. I suggested rather offhandedly that we use my honorarium to buy paperbacks to give to the students. More than 100 people came; we had 100 books to give away. I wrote each person's name in the front, and a small note, and I was astonished at how many of them cried and told me this was the first novel they'd ever owned. These were 18-year-olds, and also 35-year-olds, and some of them had me add their mother's name, or their children's, in case they never got another novel.