Six Tips on Writing Inspired by My Farmers Market

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Ask questions about the sugar content of the small-batch pies numbered like lithographs that have been made by the nice man in the bodice-pleated gingham apron, whose information sheet says he made the crust with organically grown rye ground into flour, using extra-virgin Tuscan olive oil as “fat” and hand-churned butter from free-grazing cows whose astrological signs are compatible. She will have gotten there very early and have tastes different from yours (or do goths buy fiddlehead ferns?). If there’s one-upmanship conversation among these bizarrely attired people, they’re chefs, not yet in their ubiquitous red patent-leather clogs and puffy pants. Otherwise, as a writer, rethink it. His celery looks like something you could climb if you needed to get leaves out of the gutters (a final reference to my husband who, unlike Trump, is not always pleased when I refer to him). Lincoln Perry


By now, we’ve all expressed appropriate outrage about being advised to “write what you know.” At the farmers market, farmers are also growing what they don’t know. “See if you can get those things, the ones, you know, with the … ” (fingers squiggle the air in a Cy Twombly way). Lesson: Handing out a business card is fine, as long as you’re already sure the other person actually likes you. “Do you mean those— ” “No, not those, the, they’re sort of big bulbs, they have … ” He means kohlrabi. He has a rather ordinary name, but in no other way is he ordinary. My dictionary icon gives me access to the information that Cleome means “a different plant.” Lesson: write or grow things with which you’re unfamiliar. You may pick up a few helpful hints no person who isn’t on drugs would ever come up with. Lesson: not just snobbery, but reverse snobbery, exists in the arts. Think for a moment of the plight of the painter—for example, my husband. “Clemony!” last week’s vendor told me, handing over three   stalks of Cleome. Read her Art of Fiction interview   here.  
Ann Beattie is the author, most recently, of   The Accomplished Guest. Until Lettuce Man’s business card faded into invisibility on the fridge, I often looked at Bill’s name with great respect, in anticipation of the next market, wondering what new miracles he’d manage. Goth jewelry, however interesting, does not properly belong at the farmers market, but as you browse silver skulls with genuine acorn eyes, do ask what she buys at the market. Go home, keep quiet, and cook happily. Lesson: human beings struggle to find the right words, whether they’re visual artists or writers, or maybe dancers who rise up on their, you know, pink things, their ballet slippers, so they can stand on tippy-toes like this, Whooooops!” (Last word was the lesson.)
My favorite farmer is Lettuce Man. She’d probably conflated the flower with Lemony Snicket. Lesson: it’s better to have an agent. Lesson: you don’t have to be part of the Trump administration to tell bizarre, grandiose lies. Again, you might get cooking tips, or at least some good stories. Lesson: if you don’t bring up your galleys, she probably won’t bring up the manuscript she’s working on. “I’ll try, but they’ll probably have cut off the whalebone corset things,” I say, knowing that he wants to do a painting of kohlrabi, not eat it. Notice the number of really oddly dressed people milling around the truck bed with its lowered hatch, displaying heirloom tomatoes your grandmother would definitely have passed up (a brown tomato flecked yellow?), and microgreens.