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Fiction ’ Category
Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Fiction alert: I hear a new book called The Comfort of Lies is a great beach read. Told in alternating points of view, the novel reveals the darkest and most private thoughts of three very different women who are all connected to a 5-year-old girl: Tia, the birth mother; Caroline, the adopted mother; and Juliette, the wife of the birth father. The year their lives collide, the women must confront their choices while discovering sobering truths about their relationships and most importantly, themselves. Author Randy Susan Meyers explores the complications of love and collateral damage of infidelity, as well as universal themes of motherhood, identity, trust and forgiveness.
Below, Randy tells us how she writes about motherhood–the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.
“Between perfect mothers and flawed (real) moms lay murky truth: We always love our children; we don’t always love being mothers. We’re M&M’s, our shells of goodness covering malleable centers of insecurity, always seeking evidence we’re not alone.
Great books of being raised by evil parents abound; rarer are authentic stories of imperfect mothers, written without cover of apologies for the character’s negative thoughts like, She’s drunk! She’s crazy! I understand this all too well. Writer-mothers also fear judgment, and who’s less revered than bad moms? But oh, how soothing to learn one’s not alone in ambivalence. We need reminding that feelings don’t equal actions, and that angry inside thoughts (even while murmuring soothing words to a screeching infant, calming a toddler in midst of a tantrum, biting back screams while coping with surly fourteen-year-olds) don’t define us.
A million things engender inside thoughts: Our checkbook’s empty. We hate building Lego castles. Maybe we’re divorced and distracted by fantasies of sparkly sex with a new beau—or simply too exhausted from a day of working at home or outside to make a single pan of brownies for that class party.
Novels capturing these moments from the mother’s point of view saved me when my children were small. Books like I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson and Jump At The Sun by Kim McLarin. Brave writers led me through the thicket of motherhood ambivalence. Even now, with grown children, I feel the push-pull of parenthood and work. Mothering isn’t just a 24- hour job, it lasts a lifetime, and there’s always more you can give, no matter how old your children. Toni Morrison said it in Beloved: “Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that suppose to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”
I had my first daughter at 21; I don’t remember what it’s like to be an adult without children. How could I not write about mothering? Memories of revelatory books still bring comfort, but writing the core of raising children may be the toughest write of all. We’re not forgiven transgressions of motherhood. Saying everyday truths aloud—stretch marks, boredom—is difficult, but the harder truths sometimes feels impossible. How to reveal that the health, happiness, and success of our children make or break us every day and forever? Done right, motherhood begs the question, do you mind stepping aside for a lifetime? This is the truth I want to tell.”
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Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
Today, a great beach read came out in paperback–perfect for toting in your bag and leaving by the pool for someone else when you’re finished. I got hooked on Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s new novel, Forever Interrupted. It’s about what happens after your worst fear comes true. In this case, the main character, Elsie, loses her husband after she asks him to get her Fruity Pebbles. His bike ride to the store goes horribly wrong. Does she lay down and die? Yes, at first. But not for long. Check out this book, which received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and see what inspired this debut novelist to write about such a tragic subject. Taylor Jenkins Reid tells us about her new novel below:
“I started writing Forever, Interrupted out of fear.
Shortly after my husband and I got married, I found myself constantly plagued by the idea that he would die. I would start to worry if he was a few minutes late to meet me. I cried for days after seeing The Time Traveler’s Wife in the theater. Sometimes, I would lay in bed unable to sleep, worried I was about to lose the best thing that had ever happened to me. It didn’t matter that my fears were unfounded and irrational; they still haunted and paralyzed me. What if. What if. What if.
In hindsight, I can see that I was scared of being happy. I can see that my husband, and my life with him, seemed too good to be true. I understand why I was so certain that tragedy was looming, waiting for me just around the bend. I had to learn that sometimes wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling things happen to you, and the point of life isn’t to worry when they will end but to enjoy and cherish them.
But I didn’t know that then. I just knew that this feeling was inside of me, and I had to get it out. I needed an outlet for my fears, and I figured the only way to out was through.
So I started writing a book.
I created the character of Elsie Porter and within the first ten pages of the story, I killed off her new husband. I then proceeded to put every fear I had into her words. I wrote about the panic and shock that terrified me. I wrote about the loneliness and desperation that kept me up at night. I let loose on the page.
And then I found that something sort of extraordinary happened: Elsie fought back.
I would have sworn to you, as I lay in bed terrified I would lose my own husband, that when someone loses a spouse, it means their life is over. And yet, I found myself writing a book about a woman that learns to get back up.
The fact of the matter was, when I really considered what it would be like to face a loss like this, I didn’t believe it was the end of the world. In the deepest part of me, I believed in hope. I believed it was possible to be happy again.
And suddenly I realized that the book I had been writing wasn’t about fear or grief as much as it was about hope and friendship. Yes, this is a story about a woman losing her husband. But more to the point, it’s a story about how a woman puts her life back together after it happens. Elsie was stronger than I realized she was when I made her up.
And now, when I think back to the person I was when I started writing this book, I want to tell her to stop tossing and turning and get some sleep. I want to tell her that worrying gets you nowhere. The fact is, the world has a number of things in store for us and we have no idea what they are.
But we also have no idea how strong we will become.”
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Friday, June 28th, 2013
If you see these two new books at your local store, check them out. My three children gave them both a big thumbs up.
by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, illustrated by Laura Rankin
This book for preschoolers also delighted my kindergartener and twin first graders. Tiptoe Joe and his very loud friends frolic through the woods. But of course, when a bear runs with a rabbit, turkey, donkey, moose, beaver and owl, it’s difficult to stay quiet. The book has a fun rhythm and cadence, and includes beginning words that are perfect for early readers. The sweet ending makes my kids ask for this book again and again.
Giant Dance Party
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by Betsy Bird, illustrated by Brandon Dorman
Lexy loves to dance–but oh no, she doesn’t want to go to her recital. When her parents figure out she just has major stage fright, they suggest she loosen up by giving lessons. The problem is, no one shows up to take them except for a bunch of big, blue, furry giants. Boy, they need Lexy badly. With lively words, characters and pictures, this book will especially appeal to ballerinas. But it’s also great for all kids who sometimes get scared.
Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
Ariella Papa is a busy mom who has self-published two books. Most recently, she wrote a great article for XOJane about the icky men who hit on her when she traveled in her 20s. Ariella also explores these real life issues in her newest novel.
Have a novel inside of you? Consider publishing it yourself like Ariella did. Here’s how she got her e-book Momfriends and A Semester Abroad on Amazon:
“Like some exhausted lactating Rip Van Writer, I emerged from the first three years of motherhood to a whole new world in book publishing. I’d had some success with my first three novels, but then I took a break and focused on my two young children. Some people insist that you must write every single day if you want to be a writer, but having two kids means having no time. Slowly, once I got my kids on a good sleep schedule (and I stopped falling asleep by 8 p.m.), I started writing again.
I have always written about stages in women’s lives and how friendships can support and enhance those times. What struck me about my new identity as a mother was that sitting on a playground bench exposed me to “mom friends” I would never have met in the narrow confines of my own life.
I got to work on a book called Momfriends which was a humorous story celebrating the friendship between three very different women during chaotic moments in their lives. It was probably my best work to date. Unfortunately, my agent refused to read it. It didn’t have enough plot, she claimed. The suggestions she made to hook a Big Six Publisher sounded like gimmicks and not an honest portrayal of the good and bad in parenthood. The truth was that publishing houses, scared by the rise of the eBook market and their financial losses, were not taking risks.
Around me, writers I knew were trying hard to write books that didn’t suit them. Everyone hoped to find the magic formula for a book that “might sell.” But no one—not agents, not publishing companies and especially not me—could figure it out.
For a time, I refused to believe that I couldn’t sell my novel traditionally. I didn’t want to give up. Then, I started to question my choices. Maybe writing could just be something I did in another pre-kid world. Why make life harder? There was enough to do with my family and day job. In my little downtime—why not just sit on the couch and watch HBO? But tempting as this was, I couldn’t accept it. I wish I could tell you why I can’t make myself stop wanting to write, but I can’t. And…I can’t.
I remembered an Audre Lorde quote: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” For me it means to find a new way; the old way is broken. So like many other musicians, filmmakers, artists and authors before me, I went indie. I decided to e-publish. This was a shock to all who know me because I am the least tech-savvy person in the world. My computer crashes if I look at it the
wrong way. At the time, I didn’t own an e-reader and had never read a digital book.
But I wanted my story out there. So I did my research. I read just about everything I could. I got a copy editor, a cover designer, and a book formatter and set it all up.
And then I published Momfriends.
There are so many differences between independently publishing and traditionally publishing. I never see these books on a shelf in the bookstore, and any publicity or marketing comes from me. I’m not the most comfortable trying to sell my author brand, but I have no choice. There are no big budget ads or bookstore readings set up. Yet I felt more connected to this book. The choices about it are mine.
Momfriends came out over two years ago and it has sold steadily. It even picked up steam a year and a half into the release. That doesn’t usually happen in traditional publishing.
And so, I’m doing it again. I am releasing my next novel A Semester Abroad as an indie, too. In 2011, I had to explain indie publishing and sometimes e-books to people. Now almost everyone I know reads on a digital device. For those who don’t there will be a paperback. Indie publishing now includes paperback “hard copies.”
I have come to terms with the fact that I will never stumble upon these books in a
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bookstore, but I can’t be stopped. I’ve got my own tools.
A Semester Abroad, Ariella Papa, e-books, e-readers, indie publishing, Momfriends, self-publishing | Categories:
Fiction, Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice
Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
My friends are already asking me what to read on their summer vacations. The truth is, I have no idea. Unlike this time last year, there are no breakout books like Wild and Gone Girl. June looks like a slower month for book releases, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something amazing. We all just have to look a little harder (and consult the experts on these things). I checked out best-of lists from Publisher’s Weekly and The New York Times and O Magazine, and here are my faves:
Kiss Me First
PW writes: This disturbing, engrossing psychological thriller will keep you up nights as the founder of a website that discusses philosophy lures a lonely young woman into a twisted scenario involving identity takeover via social media. A wild and wicked debut novel.
The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living
Wendy Jehanara Tremayne
PW writes: Summer is a perfect time to ponder—and try—living with less. Tremayne’s whimsically illustrated back-to-the-land memoir and DIY manual, which PW called a “rollicking, inspiring tale,” convincingly advocates for a “decommodified life.” Readers will be moved to consider everything from the concept of the gift economy to recipes for homemade toothpaste and kombucha.
PW writes: Charismatic Helen Anstruther, the wry adolescent narrator of Godwin’s new novel, is left in the care of the “hopelessly effusive” Flora, a young family friend. The isolated and rambling house they share once served people recovering from tuberculosis or alcoholism. It’s 1945, Helen’s father is away on business and her mother is long dead, and the summer she spends with Flora—full of boredom, desire, and ultimately heartbreak—profoundly transforms them both. Godwin knows how to deliver rich, textured tales.
The Silver Star
O writes: Twelve-year-old “Bean” Holladay and her older sister, Liz, aren’t immediately concerned when their mother abandons them to “make some time and space for myself…to find the magic again”; she’s done this before—to chase a man, or her dream of being a singer. But when she doesn’t return after two weeks, the girls, who’ve been subsisting on a diet of chicken potpies, revert to plan B—buying bus tickets from California to their mother’s hometown in Virginia—to avoid being taken away by social services.
And the Mountains Echoed
O writes: And the Mountains Echoed opens like a thunderclap, with a fable of sacrifice told by a destitute Afghan villager to his son and daughter. What makes his sad tale even more searing is that the children are unaware their father is about to sell one of them. From this dramatic opening spins a constellation of star-crossed characters.
NYT writes: The high-concept gimmick at the heart of Ms. Sittenfeld’s new novel, “Sisterland,” is the premise of twin sisters who have strange psychic powers that enable them to foresee the future. One twin tries to suppress her ESP; like Samantha, the nose-twitching witch in “Bewitched,” she just wants to live life as an ordinary suburban housewife. The other sister cultivates her unusual gifts and becomes a professional psychic; she gains national fame when she warns that a terrible earthquake is going to hit the St. Louis area and is interviewed on the Today show. In both books Ms. Sittenfeld’s gifts for portraying the inner lives of her heroines manage to transcend the silliness and contrivance of her plots.
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NYT writes: A washed-up monkey, sex in a morgue, a severed arm at the end of a fishhook and other Carl Hiaasen capers make Bad Monkey his funniest novel in almost a decade.
And the Mountains Echoed, Bad Monkey, Carl Hiassen, Curtis Sittenfeld, Flora, Gail Godwin, Jeannette Walls, Khaled Hoseinni, Kiss Me First, Lottie Moggach, Sisterland, The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living, The Silver Star, Wendy Jehanara Tremayne | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Fiction, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Popular Books