TO MY NEW #BEA10 FRIENDS – WRITE SOON!

Back from a whirlwind trip to the BookExpo in NYC and slowly decompressing.  It truly is mind boggling to be in the midst of thousands of new books, authors, publishers and everything related to the book world in one building.  Print books seem to be alive and well if the turnout for this event is any indication.  I missed many of the high profile events– the Duchess of York, Condoleezza Rice, Jon Stewart, John Grisham and even Barbara Streisand. I have to admit I was pretty focused on my own two author signings of REPLACEMENT CHILD. I was still in a little bit of a fog from the last week when I learned my book had won a book award from NIEA, and then I got a call from CNN.com to talk about the John Travolta and Kelly Preston news that they were expecting.  The topic of replacement child was breaking news for a little while. The CNN.com article came out the day before I left for NY.

This was my first foray into the big city as publisher and author and I was a little nervous. Did I bring enough books? Too many? Would anyone show up for my signings? Do I have time to put my new book award stickers on all the books?  So many authors and books were flying around, I wondered if anyone knew anything about my book or cared.  Luckily my biggest fan was with me for many kinds of support – my son Justin. Not only could he reach the top of my pull up poster to secure it, he could reach down into the depths of my insecurities and pull me up in the nick of time! What a kid!  His company many have been the best thing about taking the trip.

So–that said, I was surprised and excited when my books started flying off the table at my first signing.  People had looked for me! They had heard of REPLACEMENT CHILD! Some had seen my recent interview on CNN.com, and some librarians had been asked for my book by their patrons.  A few self-described replacement children also found me and shared their own stories. Wow–I was in heaven! Here’s a photo Justin took of me at the IBPA booth signing on Wednesday:

photo

Books were all gone by the time we thought to take a photo! We have to get better at this!

Later we walked around the hall scouting books and because we were both wearing our REPLACEMENT CHILD tee shirts we got more questions about the book.  One librarian stopped me to ask how she could get the book for her library because she had a request for it.

The next day was my book signing at the official Autographing area of the show.  More nerves because these people really have to choose to find you for the signing.  And there were much more well-known books and authors lined up next to me this time.  It turned out that my ‘people’ did find me.  It wasn’t an avalanche of people like the day before, but a steady stream until again my books were gone and I had put them in the hands of savvy readers, bloggers, booksellers and –ok, I’m really not sure who exactly – but more people are now reading REPLACEMENT CHILD  because of it!

Here’s a photo of that day’s signing:

AUTHOGRAPHING AREA BEA

I asked everyone who got a signed copy of REPLACEMENT CHILD to write to me here after they read the book, and I’m asking again for those who have found my website and blog. I want to hear from you!

Hope you all had a spectacular time at BEA 10!

My Brain on #LOST

I’m waking up wondering what year it is. How will I find the cabin? Do I really need to push the button? I almost expect to look in the mirror and see blood dripping from one nostril. But I am consoled to find my constant by my side. All will be well, as long as he doesn’t tell me “what I can’t do.”

I came to LOST late–what was I thinking!? My husband and I got hooked into this last season of LOST and have been trying to catch up on all five previous seasons in between watching the new episodes. No one warned us when we told friends and family who are LOST loyalists.  They probably wanted to see what would happen to us.  They are a cruel lot. I don’t think the human brain is meant to contain so many contradictions, plots, subplots, esoteric references and characters all at once.

Even the day’s headlines take on new meaning now that we are headed for the final episode of LOST.  When I read of “Candidates” in the paper, I don’t think of the primaries going on in Arkansas–I think, “who does Jacob have in mind now?” When I saw an article about physicists theorizing that the big bang should have produced a void, and not the matter that ultimately created our solar system–I think “aha! those flashes of light, the time continuum–it all makes sense!”

Of course, it makes no sense yet.  I’m sorry to say that I have no theories about what it all means. I am, if you’ll excuse the expression, LOST. Except to say it means big ratings and huge advertising dollars for this Sunday’s final LOST episode.  I can’t imagine how they can tie all this together and answer all the questions that have been spinning around in my scrambled egg brain cells for the past couple of months. But I do have a twinkle of hope that the writers will accomplish the unimaginable.  After all–I believe in writers.  I do believe, I do believe, I do believe….  I was the one clicking my heals to get home, clapping for Tinker Bell, ringing the bell for the angels to get their wings.

As a writer, I find the themes and character building techniques on LOST fascinating.  I’d like to say they inspire me to write–but that would be a lie.  What LOST has inspired in me as a writer is catatonia.  The story has blocked out my capacity to think beyond the island, the smoke monster and Sawyer’s abs.  At least until Sunday’s LOST finale where we all hope to be released from the electromagnetic field that holds us suspended.

I have to admit I have been waiting for that LOST flash-sideways that has Jack and Sawyer as lovers, with Kate as their baby love child. It could happen!

Any LOST theorists out there? HELP!

Listen Live–Radio Interview on WXCI

Meet the Author is a wonderful radio show dedicated to highlighting new books by authors in Connecticut and New York. My interview will be live at wxci.org this Thursday 5/20 at 9:30 am and again on Sunday 5/23 at 9:30 am.

Hope you enjoy it, and follow the show for other great books.

NIEA Award for Replacement Child – A Memoir

When you spend four years writing the story that you always knew you had to write, the last thing on your mind is awards. Yes, you want to know that others believe your book is good, that it is authentic and touches people, but it’s not top of mind. Writing something as personal as a memoir is like undressing in public. Why do we do it? Only another memoirist might understand that to write something so revealing there must be an underlying passion for truth.  The whole story often has craggy edges that serve to unmask character and answer a basic question–who am I in my own life story.

After saying all that, it is so very gratifying to have just been awarded a finalist award in the memoir category from the National Indie Excellence Awards.  I am in the company of some fabulous books and thrilled to be recognized.  Thanks NIEA!

Radio Interview on WMKV- Grandparenting Today

When Grandparenting Today asked me to talk about Replacement Child with them on their live radio show, I frankly wasn’t sure it was a good fit.  I was wrong! We had a wonderful discussion today on the show, talking about many aspects of the book and my story, including how to mitigate negative effects for children born after a sibling has died.

You can listen or download the MP3 audio file here.

I hope you enjoy the discussion.

On Memoir, Truth and 'Writing Well' : NPR

Excerpt: “How to Write a Memoir”

by William Zinsser

Most people embarking on a memoir are paralyzed by the size of the task. What to put in? What to leave out? Where to start? Where to stop? How to shape the story? The past looms over them in a thousand fragments, defying them to impose on it some kind of order. Because of that anxiety, many memoirs linger for years half written, or never get written at all.

What can be done?

You must make a series of reducing decisions. For example: in a family history, one big decision would be to write about only one branch of the family. Families are complex organisms, especially if you trace them back several generations. Decide to write about your mother's side of the family or your father's side, but not both. Return to the other one later and make it a separate project.

Remember that you are the protagonist in your own memoir, the tour guide. You must find a narrative trajectory for the story you want to tell and never relinquish control. This means leaving out of your memoir many people who don't need to be there. Like siblings.

****

My final reducing advice can be summed up in two words: think small. Don't rummage around in your past — or your family's past — to find episodes that you think are “important” enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it's because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life.

That turned out to be the main lesson I learned by writing a book in 2004 called Writing About Your Life. It's a memoir of my own life, but it's also a teaching book — along the way I explain the reducing and organizing decisions I made. I never felt that my memoir had to include all the important things that ever happened to me — a common temptation when old people sit down to summarize their life journey. On the contrary, many of the chapters in my book are about small episodes that were not objectively “important” but that were important to me. Because they were important to me they also struck an emotional chord with readers, touching a universal truth that was important to them.

One chapter is about serving in the army in World War II. Like most men of my generation, I recall that war as the pivotal experience of my life. But in my memoir I don't write anything about the war itself. I just tell one story about one trip I took across North Africa after our troopship landed at Casablanca. My fellow GIs and I were put on a train consisting of decrepit wooden boxcars called “forty-and-eights,” so named because they were first used by the French in World War I to transport forty men or eight horses. The words QUARANTE HOMMES OU HUIT CHEVAUX were still stenciled on them. For six days I sat in the open door of that boxcar with my feet hanging out over Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. It was the most uncomfortable ride I ever took — and the best. I couldn't believe I was in North Africa. I was the sheltered son of Northeastern wasps; nobody in my upbringing or my education had ever mentioned the Arabs. Now, suddenly, I was in a landscape where everything was new — every sight and sound and smell.

The eight months I spent in that exotic land were the start of a romance that has never cooled. They would make me a lifelong traveler to Africa and Asia and other remote cultures and would forever change how I thought about the world. Remember: Your biggest stories will often have less to do with their subject than with their significance — not what you did in a certain situation, but how that situation affected you and shaped the person you became.

As for how to actually organize your memoir, my final advice is, again, think small. Tackle your life in easily manageable chunks. Don't visualize the finished product, the grand edifice you have vowed to construct. That will only make you anxious.

Here’s what I suggest.

Go to your desk on Monday morning and write about some event that's still vivid in your memory. What you write doesn't have to be long — three pages, five pages — but it should have a beginning and an end. Put that episode in a folder and get on with your life. On Tuesday morning, do the same thing. Tuesday's episode doesn't have to be related to Monday's episode. Take whatever memory comes calling; your subconscious mind, having been put to work, will start delivering your past.

Keep this up for two months, or three months, or six months. Don't be impatient to start writing your “memoir,” the one you had in mind before you began. Then, one day, take all your entries out of their folder and spread them on the floor. (The floor is often a writer's best friend.) Read them through and see what they tell you and what patterns emerge. They will tell you what your memoir is about and what it's not about. They will tell you what's primary and what's secondary, what's interesting and what's not, what's emotional, what's important, what's funny, what's unusual, what's worth pursing and expanding. You'll begin to glimpse your story's narrative shape and the road you want to take.

Then all you have to do is put the pieces together.

From The American Scholar, Volume 75, No. 2, Spring 2006. Copyright 2006 by William Zinsser. This essay is adapted from a new chapter for the forthcoming 30th-anniversary edition of On Writing Well.

via On Memoir, Truth and ‘Writing Well’ : NPR.

#Mother's Day Was So Simple

When I was a kid, and my big sister was a little bigger kid (and before we hit our teens) we would conspire how to best celebrate Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed for Mom was always a tried and true recipe. The actual meal was never very ambitious, and we weren’t allowed to actually make coffee, so Dad had to help with that.  But, we could produce toast and cereal and pluck a pansy from the garden to dress up the tray. She was always very pleased to see us collaborate on the plan.  Then, she would up the ante and tell us that we could really make the day special by cleaning our rooms.  That seemed a low blow at the time. But as a mom myself, I know I’ve used the same ploy too.

When we got older we would take her to lunch, or a special dinner. And, when we all started living in different states, the planning got more complicated. Complicated too by the fact that my sister, Linda, and I were now mothers ourselves.

My mother always said to me that the only gift she ever wanted on Mother’s Day was to have her children near her.  Often, I couldn’t make that happen.  We lived in Connecticut and she in Florida. Lives got busy and sometimes budgets were tight.  She was always understanding, never wanting to make it difficult for me. Now that she’s gone, though, I find myself regretting every one of those Mother’s Days I wasn’t there to thank her for the legacy of love she gave me. How she taught me that real, true love is bottomless. That it accepts and gives and lifts. It’s a lesson I hope I’ve been able to pass along to my own son.  A gift from his grandma really.

He seems to have inherited my mother’s big-hearted capacity for love. I can sometimes see the glow of her in him.

“He gives the very best hugs,” my mother said of my boy. “I can feel his love just surging through me.”

Thanks to you Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day.