Hollis Giammatteo 2017-09-07T04:48:43+00:00

Project Description

I was born in 1948 in Philadelphia, PA, where I lived with my mother for two months. She left, and then for the next 9 months, I received interim care. Then I got adopted. This beginning posited the arbitrary as central, and predisposed me to existential ponderings – how does one grow an identity; what can be built from loss; how does one go about the task of making meaning? In 1972, after education (a B.A. in Fine Arts with a minor in theater; an M.A. in English), I ended up in Philly once again, where, with a friend, I started a theater, The Wilma Theater, whose mission was to showcase the work of experimental dance and theater companies; miraculously it still thrives. I moved west in ’79, or fled, really, hungry for all it promised – big nature: mountains, sea and sky. I’ve called Seattle home since 1979. I have published in a variety of magazines: “Prairie Schooner,” “The North American Review,” “Ms.”, “Calyx,” “Vogue,” “Women’s Sports and Fitness,” and a handful of others. I was granted an N.E.A., awarded a residency at the Cottages at Hedgebrook, received a PEN/Jerard Award, honoring “a distinguished nonfiction work-in-progress for an emerging woman writer” for On the Line: Memoir of a Peace Walk (1988). I continue striving to emerge. I went fishing with Peter Matthiessen, while attending the pilot program of the Environmental Writing Institute/University of Montana, where I lost my sunglasses. I was never not writing, it seemed, and although the forms varied, the themes did not, committed as I remained to self-exploration, and those existential ponderings. I wrote for the delight in language, of course, but also to celebrate the world and how I saw it. I’ve taught writing over the years, believing it to be as much a journey of integration as it is art. I have taken breaks from this otherwise consistent activity to study the worlds of plants, and to make gardens, and to shake up my anthropocentricity, and get a dog.

about THE SHELF LIFE OF ASHES

A literary memoir about the perils – comic and poignant – of aging. At fifty, when I began it, I could not fathom this happening to me, but because we are inculcated with a tremendous significance of this age –fifty – it seemed urgent to cultivate an understanding in the bones. So I got a job working with the elderly. I assumed that among my wards I’d find someone who was managing to age well. Alas, not. All did it poorly – wrapped in bitterness, fragility, dementia. Meanwhile, my mother had begun to call me hourly, it seemed, from PA, , where she

believed herself to be dying. I was, she importuned, to come “home,” and help. This I would “do” for half a dozen times over a year and a half – fly from Seattle to PA. Not wanting the final flavor of our years to be one of remorse for having done nothing, I stepped up, and got to work on our signature issues: Mother’s intransigent Christian Science Mother’s accompanying hypochondria Daughter’s troublesome tendencies – Buddhism, homosexuality, art Not to mention adoption One more thing. It took fifteen years to do this, to turn fifty – to inhabit it, to make it more than a concept. Call me thorough. Call me radically slow to bloom. Thus, into the narrative, I have dropped commentaries, reflections on how I understood – or didn’t – the challenges before me. They cast a more mature gaze back over the stories chosen to illustrate aging’s perils. The narrator emerges, hopefully, enriched by compassion.

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