Dimestore: A writer’s life

Two weeks ago, as an historic blizzard cocooned me in my house, I unwrapped a gift from a blogging friend.

I’ve never met Cheryl Calpaldo Traylor in person, but, through her blog, Giving Voice to My Astonishment, I know her to be a talented writer and a generous host of this gorgeous planet we call home.

Back in March, Cheryl wrote about spending a snowy day reading Dimestore: A Writer’s Life and I immediately ordered a copy for myself. Life and other books drew me away until, ironically, a snowy day opened up an entire afternoon for me.

I fired up my electric blanket and spent the next several hours traipsing around Grundy, Virginia with the very witty Lee Smith as my guide. In her gifted hands, Grundy tasted, smelled, looked and sounded a lot like Colver, a little Pennsylvania mining town where I made some happy childhood memories.

In Grundy, Lee, an only child, enjoyed an entire town of extended family all happy to feed her and tell her stories. In Colver, several of my great aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents all lived on one delicious street that curved down a mountain to the mine.

Beyond the book’s setting and characters, I connected to Lee Smith’s style, and lapped up her generous insights. Smith has written 13 novels, four collections of short stories, a musical and an oral history project. She’s won numerous awards and I look forward to making my way through her body of work.

I flew through Dimestore: A Writer’s Life in one afternoon Then, I went back a re-read a few favorite passages.

One, in particular, really spoke to me.

Writing is not about fame or even publication,” Smith wrote. “It’s not about exalted language, abstract themes, or the escapades of glamorous people. It is about our own real world and our own real lives and understanding what happens to us day by day, it is about playing with children and listening to old people.”


I know that crazy blizzard caused a lot of trouble. But, I was pretty grateful for the opportunity it gave me to read Dimestore: A Writer’s Life. It reminded me of book another writer friend of mine, Ann Del Ponte, once gave me called Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Good writers can be some of the most generous people I know.
Pap and Baba on their front porch in Colver
Colver isn’t the same for me anymore since these two people aren’t stationed on the porch to greet me and my family when we drive up 20 Row. But, thankfully, I do have by grandma’s recipes and a couple of my Pap’s stories to share with the next generation.
baba and me
This kitchen never changed, and the woman who reigned over it didn’t either. This is Baba and me in her Colver PA kitchen, circa 1967.


2 thoughts on “Dimestore: A writer’s life

  1. Beautiful, the way your life and hers folded together; snowstorms close us in and that opens the “real” larger world beyond our daily lives. Clay

  2. I am so happy you enjoyed reading it. I like the thought of each of us reading a book that resonated with both of us on snowy days in far-apart cities. That connection of you, me, Lee Smith; Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia. The world seems so big most of the time, but I would argue we are more connected than It may seem. Those pictures are treasures, as I’m sure the folks in them are, too. Thank you so much for your kind words about me. We are all hosts of this glorious world.

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