Author Wishes She Hadn't Blown Personal Tragedy On First Book

In This Section

Vol 37 Issue 21

Woman Wonders Whatever Happened To Those Rainforests She Gave $5 To Save That One Time

NORTHGATE, CO–Audra Smoller, 39, who donated $5 to the Save The Rainforests organization in 1997, was struck with curiosity Monday about the fate of her arboreal beneficiaries. "I wonder how those forests wound up making out with my five bucks," Smoller said. "I guess they were saved, because I never read anything in the paper about them getting cut down." Smoller added that, should another ecological crisis arise, concerned parties should not hesitate to approach her for assistance.

Heroic Cancer Sufferer Inspires Others To Get Cancer

SAN DIEGO–Diagnosed three months ago with terminal lymphoma, David Bradley, 46, has stood as such a stirring example of courage in the face of disease that he is inspiring others in his community to get cancer. "Seeing David and the way he's bravely battled this thing, I couldn't help but follow his lead," said neighbor Timothy Willis, injecting himself with a concentrated dose of the carcinogen trichloroethelene in an effort to contract the disease. "David understands that every day is a precious gift. Pretty soon, I'm going to realize that, too." Said Mandy Pitnick, 14, chain-smoking three unfiltered Camels: "I want to be a symbol of hope just like David."

Church Member Not The Same Since Unsuccessful Choir Tryout

PORTLAND, ME–According to parishioners at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Mary Raines, 58, has "not been the same" since her unsuccessful audition for the church choir last month. "Ever since Mary failed to make the cut, she sits in the back row for Sunday services and barely sings along," fellow parishioner Bill Genzler said. "Last weekend, she left the church bazaar an hour before it ended. That's just not like her."

Guard Yo' Grill Against Them Computa Bitchez

Yo, whassup, Gs? H-Dog in tha house. Do all y'all recall, back in tha day, tha beef between tha Accountz Reeceevable posse an' tha west-wing Tech Support krew? Them computa bitchez wuz fuckin' wit' mah flow, switchin' mah software on me an' tellin' me I can't put no desktop image on mah computa screen. Well, I called bullshit on that. I won't go into all tha detailz again, but suffice it to say I had them computa bitchez runnin' scared an' didn't have no mo' trouble wit' them. That is, until yestidday.

Human Rights And The U.S.

Recently ousted from the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the U.S. is no longer the world's human-rights leader, according to Amnesty International. What do you think?
End Of Section
  • More News
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Race Relations

Healthy Living

  • The Onion’s Guide To Gym Etiquette

    Every new year brings a surge in gym membership from new members nicknamed “resolutionists,” many of whom may be unaware that there are unspoken rules everyone must observe when working out.

Author Wishes She Hadn't Blown Personal Tragedy On First Book

SANTA FE, NM–Author Jessica Kingley expressed regret Monday that she had "pretty much used up all the hardship" from her early life in her recent first novel Bitter Root, leaving her nothing to write about for her follow-up book.

Kingley in her Santa Fe home.

"In writing Bitter Root, I drew heavily on my experiences growing up poor and neglected by my alcoholic parents in an economically depressed small town in southern Oklahoma," the 36-year-old Kingley said. "Apparently, I drew a little too heavily, because I don't have any personal trials and tribulations left for the next one."

Bitter Root, the fictional story of a young woman named Jessie Strong growing up in the desolation of an economically depressed small town in southern Oklahoma, was heralded by The Chicago Sun-Times as "a searing, painfully honest portrait of a young girl's hardscrabble adolescence on the plains."

The success of Bitter Root, which climbed to #16 on the New York Times bestseller list, netted Kingley a second-book deal with Viking Press worth a reported $450,000. Kingley said the prospect of writing a follow-up seems daunting.

"I've already used the time my dad, in a drunken rage, burned down the house," Kingley said. "I used the time my grandmother died and everyone in my family missed the funeral. I used the stuff about the summer the river dried up. I even used that corrupt police officer my cousin dated, even though I only met him once. I just don't have any more memories with that kind of dramatic heft."

During her painful years growing up in Oklahoma, "where oppressive heat bears down on chained dogs longing to run–run!–and never look back," Kingley experienced a number of other hardships firsthand. At 16, she ran away from home the night her father threatened her with a gun. At 18, she fell into a string of unhealthy relationships that led to a near-fatal bout with bulimia. At 19, she underwent the physically and emotionally wrenching experience of having an abortion.

Unfortunately, the protagonist of Bitter Root underwent every last one of these tragedies, as well.

"Jessie is a troubled spirit," Kingley said. "She's the type of person who's too strong-willed to listen to others. She's a woman who has to make her own way in this world. So, what happens after she survives her traumatic childhood and, at 20, finally leaves Oklahoma behind to create a new life for herself in New Mexico? A bunch of stuff way too boring to write about."

Kingley has already taken several unsuccessful stabs at a second novel. First, she tried writing about a young woman facing adversity growing up on the Louisiana Bayou. Discovering she knew little about Bayou culture, Kingley changed the setting of the book to an economically depressed town in Appalachia, but ultimately found she had a hard time identifying with the characters she created.

"After those false starts, I thought maybe I needed to branch out and try something totally different," Kingley said. "I started a sci-fi novel about a young woman and the hardships she faces growing up in a uranium-mining colony on a sparsely populated planet in the Andromeda Galaxy. It didn't really pan out."

Kingley also attempted, without luck, to find inspiration in her more recent struggles.

"I thought I could get at least a short story out of the time my car broke down last year," Kingley said. "The opening paragraphs about the smoking, stalled car sitting on the shoulder of the highway were pretty good, but it kind of lost momentum when I got to the part about being approved for a loan and picking out a Saturn with my friend from grad school."

The experience of trying to finish "Curls Of Smoke On A Highway" made Kingley realize her recent life may not be suitable for novelization.

"Pretty much everything after 1990 is a wash," Kingley said. "That's when I landed my writing residency at the University of New Mexico. After that came my book deal. Then I got married, and my husband and I bought a house. So, right now, my only hope is giving birth to an autistic child. I'll keep my fingers crossed."

Next Story

Onion Video

Watch More