A Month Late and a Dollar Short
I missed sending out a November newsletter for a pretty good, and easily explainable, reason—I was under intense deadline to turn in my new novel, Twelve Miles from Mercy. It takes place on an island in Maine. Anyway I turned it in, yay, and am now back in the land of the living, instead of the land of my characters, and the digitally connected again.
Hi, everyone! I missed you.
PS: That's me this summer in Maine.
The dollar short part is a little harder to explain
My husband and I have gone about marriage and family life with one precept in mind: to spend as much time as possible together. We really enjoy each other, just talking, laughing, life, and the kids only added to that joy when they came along. They’re a wise, funny, insightful duo!
So Josh and I structured our careers to work from home. And many of you know that when my first novel came out, we rented out our house and hit the road, car-schooling the kids in the backseat as we criss-crossed the country on what Shelf Awareness would come to call the world’s longest book tour.
These choices came with a few downsides, mostly in the financial sphere, which was okay. Our starter house (that's it over there, in Morristown, New Jersey) turned out to be home for nineteen years—who cared if we slept in a nook off the living room that didn't have a door? I’ve never been the jewelry type, and a trip to the best bookstore in Oklahoma City is as good as a vacation to the tropics for me—and arguably more eye-opening for the kids to get to see their country.
Making it as a writer is tough. Always has been, always will be. The blockbuster authors of today didn’t get there right away. They took multiple books to break out—as many as eleven—and that kind of career requires time that writers are often deprived of these days. One of the things I love about my new publisher is that they remember the lessons of this biz, and know that a runway is required for success.
In May I’ll be with the Atlanta Writers teaching a workshop on exactly this topic—breaking out in a world that kills the career of many a writer.
Will the choices my husband and I made turn out to be the right ones? Will we be able to give our kids what they need when what they need isn’t only us, talking to them and loving them from the front seat of the car or that night’s Airbnb, but also big ticket items—not the latest snazzy phone, but, say, college?
That question requires time to answer just as a career as an author takes time to build. The waning of a year prompts such questions—and doubts. Am I doing it right, this thing called life? Should I have made different choices? Will I get where I’m going as a writer?
In the Spotlight
We interrupt this seasonal musing to bring you this issue’s Spotlight, from Joan Lipinsky Cochran. May all my Spotlight authors find paths to writerly success!
I wrote the thesis for my MFA with Dan Wakefield, a memoirist who warned me against showing anything remotely autobiographical to relatives. Ignoring him, I sent my father the first draft of my book.
When my dad passed away a few weeks later, my sister told me he was upset with how I portrayed him in the novel. I felt awful. Truth be told, I’d assigned some of his quirkier characteristics to an old gangster named Tootsie.
Uncomfortable with my father’s reaction, I set the book aside for three years. When I pulled it out in 2017, I found myself crying and laughing at the memories it evoked. This August, The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter came out. And I’m beyond gratified when readers tell me how much they love Tootsie, who is every bit as cantankerous and funny as my old man.
Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day
By the way, the kids are why I founded a Day to celebrate children and bookstores nine years ago. This year, thanks to ongoing publicity from the brilliant team of JKS Communications, was the biggest TYCBD yet with over 900 bookstores and coverage by Shelf Awareness, the Washington Post, and multiple independent booksellers associations.
A new year now looms—and I celebrate my birthday around the same time, which delivers a double punch. Of cake, and good times, but also reasons to wrestle with all that has come before and where I should be going from here.
I can’t sign off with a clear answer, much less a to-do for anybody else. But maybe that is the lesson right there. None of us really knows the best way to proceed or how it will all turn out. All we can do is share the road we’re on, walk as much of it together as possible, and be good friends to each other along the way.
Love from the Hills of Wedeskyull & the best of the holiday season to you and yours,