Why oh why do I keep this stuff?

I’m not one for collecting things. I like a sparse house, and I sometimes kid Tim that my goal is to have so little “stuff” that I can pack up in four hours and be on the road in five. It will never happen, but I’ve gotten good at throwing things out. About the only place I will buy “stuff” anymore is for the yard, and I lavish on it like it’s my last child.


There are exceptions, and I have a few talismans on my bookshelf with my reference copies to remind me of things I need to not forget. There’s a string of three bells that mean nothing unless you read LOST TRUTH. A recorder I bought in Ann Arbor when I was like twelve because I wanted to be just like The Doctor and I’d already knitted the scarf. The bunny might stay . . . I’m not sure yet how deep it goes in my soul. There’s a pincushion you can’t see that reminds me I’m my mother’s daughter, and a piece of Petoskey stone my grandfather found and polished to remind me love is thicker than blood. There’s a red-bandanda GI Joe with a drink sword and wings. (Enough said about that.)

The nub of the orange pencil I used to copy edit all the Hollows books was added on a whim, but I think it’s going to be with me forever now. I bought a new pencil for The Drafter, but alas, I will never use it as that’s not how we do things in NY anymore. It’s a shame that I’m the last generation who will correct on paper, and I remember being terrified the first time I did it–writing on my manuscript. Soon, the elegant language of proofing will be dead at the hands of the “accept changes” button. Sure it’s faster, but who learns anything that way? It pains me that I will never know the intimacy of my editor’s handwriting again.

The candle, burned once and stuck to a coin, has been with me for over two decades. It was on the thank-you cake I made for Gwen (Faith) Hunter when our writing critique group got back from Atlanta and the Mystery Writer’s convention where, because of her, I met the man who later became my agent. There were five of us wannabes under her wing who went, and I made a vow that no one probably remembers that when we all got published, we’d get together and burn our candles down to nothing in celebration. I have no idea if anyone else even saved their candles.

Most of us did get published. Maybe all. I’ve fallen out of contact with the last and don’t know. Even so, I don’t know if I could bring myself to burn my green candle down to nothing now. It’s become a talisman of the stupid, frustratingly obstinate me who still thinks everything is possible when everyone says otherwise. I still feel that way, and I weep for the day I do not, but now I know how hard it is to balance on that high wire. I’ve been working there all this time not knowing the net was an illusion.

Good thing I have wings.



Filed under Drama Box

21 responses to “Why oh why do I keep this stuff?

  1. Gerry

    So, Kim, you’re something of a “Lakewalker” at heart eh? (“Sharing Knife” trilogy by Lois McMaster Bujold) I suspect you might be reluctant to “burn your tent” though!

    Me, I’m a clutter monger I’m afraid — it takes a lot to make me get rid of anything as the loft, garage and most of the rooms in the house bear witness, and although my wife moans about it occasionally I notice a lot of her stuff is conspicuous by its presence rather than its absence!

    • Gerry

      Actually “Sharing Knife” was a four book trilogy — it grew too big so Lois split it into two, then completed it with the third book of the trilogy which split again!

      Authors! The best ones have little control over what their characters insist on doing — even we lousy would-be writers who do it just for our own amusement sometimes have a job reigning the characters and their story in.

  2. Angi Eurton

    Very Nice! You do have it all in perspective don’t you. It’s nice to see in such a bittersweet way. I do grab tiny things to “keep” because I know no one else will. I have a box of those little things that one day my grandchildren will have. I can imagine them looking through it saying, “Does anyone know why Maka kept this little rock, this squished penny or this leaf?” Hopefully they will know the stories that go with those little objects that mean nothing to anyone else in this world. You are a writer, a wonderful one at that, you write stories. I’m a grandmother, I tell stories. I hope our little bit of oral tradition lives on in my grandchildren’s lives. I am their Maka and I know our families stories. I have to pass them down.

  3. Tim

    Simply stunning post My Love. I wish the people in NY who need to read and understand these words would take the time to read them and then have the courage to leave a comment. But we all know that will not happen. You are truly gifted.

    See you soon.
    Love you,

  4. Jaime

    Ah, this is yet another reason we love you! I have talismans too. Odd things, no none thinks special but me. That’s why they are special. I like things minimal. Trinkets & set arounds drive me bonkers. But sometimes there are those special knickknacks that make the cut. Both of my grandmothers had dementia/Alzheimers and One im pretty sure could have made a “Hoarders” episode. Ahh, children of The Depression. So Peri gets me in the feels alot. Ready to see how she handles this next installment.

  5. Amy

    Ah! The last two lines. I think I’m reading a sweet account of meaningful objects, and suddenly I’m crying.

  6. Your collection isn’t made up of objects, but memory hooks. Thank you for this.

  7. Jeffrey

    I first started reading your books when I was locked up and I just loved your Vampire series with jinks,lol,my mind has drawn a blank.I plan on buying each of these books and read again and again,Where I was they didn’t have several of of the series so I missed them.

  8. faithhunter

    I found my candle recently. (2 actually, 1 red and 1 green. No idea why I ended up with 2.) I keep stuff too including a crocheted horse you made for me. I don’t keep much anymore either. But some things matter. And friends are with me always anyway. Love you!

    • Gwen! You kept your candle! I thought I was the only one.
      Who needs nets when my friends give me wings, eh?
      I’ll never forget your gift of time and wisdom in this freaky job, and I could not have done it without you. All my heros get white steeds.
      Love you, too.

  9. I’m the opposite of you — a total packrat — I would have to burn my house down with everything inside but my cat, my laptop, and a very small bag of things like those you mentioned.But they are on special shelves in my room where I can always see them and reach them.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  10. Beautiful, beautiful post. This inspires me so much. I really needed this. Thanks so much.

  11. weeping… the quietness of those last 2 lines.

  12. Elizabeth

    Keep that that makes you feel

  13. Maybe you can sell your editor/publisher on iPad Pro and Pencil – all the fun of marking up a manuscript by hand, and none of the print costs… (Plus it’s just really cool and futuristic!)

  14. Ed Carson

    One of the most beautiful posts you have ever shared with us.

  15. JerryC

    Kim, you are far from being a hoarder. The stuff you are collecting is actually gaining both intrinsic value and sentimental value. The stuff I collect steadily loses both. Yet I throw little of it away. I wish I were one or two or more percentile points like you, butcalas … I don’t see myself moving in that direction. I think it might be hereditary

  16. Kelly

    i think its cool to keep some things…it helps to remind yourself off both good and bad(?) memories…and they are YOURS…which is the important thing to always remember

  17. Saz

    I think this is a great way to remember the important things… A bit like Peri and her talismans?


  18. Angie White

    Kim i am the same way! Except i have all kinds of “collections” that are nothing more than junk to some but are precious to me, just ask my mother in law who saw most of my prettys for the first time this last weekend… I even have my rachel collection (that inclued all of your books that i have read and reread even though you signed them, every last one) and now im starting a perry collection too 🙂 however my biggest collection kthat is technically mine my husbands and daughters lol) is our Doctor stuff! We are still waiting for the titillating sound of our favorite time traveling space ship so we can go have amazing adventures:D

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