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great interview with Grace Paley

September 1st, 2011

love this. (interview with the late writer Grace Paley, from the Paris Review.)

INTERVIEWER: What were you doing before you became a published writer?

GRACE PALEY: I was working part time. I was hanging out a lot. I was kind of lazy. I had my kids when I was about twenty-six, twenty-seven. I took them to the park in the afternoons. Thank God I was lazy enough to spend all that time in Washington Square Park. I say lazy but of course it was kind of exhausting running after two babies. Still, looking back I see the pleasure of it. That’s when I began to know women very well—as co-workers, really. I had a part-time job as a typist up at Columbia. In fact, when I began to write stories, I typed some up there, and some in the PTA office of P.S. 41 on Eleventh Street. If I hadn’t spent that time in the playground, I wouldn’t have written a lot of those stories. That’s pretty much how I lived. And then we had our normal family life—struggles and hard times. That takes up a lot of time, hard times. Uses up whole days.

INTERVIEWER: Could you tell the story of the publication of your first book?

PALEY: I’d written three stories, and I liked them. I showed them to my former husband, Jess Paley, and he liked them, and he showed them to a couple of friends, and they liked them, so I was feeling pretty good about them. The kids were still young at the time, and they played a lot with the neighborhood kids, so I got to know the other mothers in the neighborhood. One of them was Tibby McCormick, who had just gotten unmarried from Ken McCormick, an editor at Doubleday. She knew about these stories, and poor Ken was more or less forced into reading them—you know, The kids are over at her house all the time, you might read her stories. So he took them home and read them and he came over to see me and said, Write seven more of them and we’ll publish a book. So that’s what happened. Luck happened. He also told me that no magazine around would touch them, and he was pretty much right about that too, although two of the stories in that collection were finally taken by Accent.

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