At my desk, working on this new novel, and wondering where it will be a year from now? Finished? In good shape? How will the story have changed, as it surely will? And wondering, too, what personal stories will fill my notebook this year..
My daughter knows I like to have little “talismans” that relate to stories as I write them. For Christmas, she gave me this photograph from Copenhagen, 1967, and a Czechoslovakian coin from 1967. One of my characters has important experiences in those places, during those years. The back of the photograph says, “Town Hall Square, Copenhagen, Denmark, 7/67. Dot Ogilvy.”
Who was Dot Ogilvy and how did she end up on eBay and then in my Christmas stocking?
So much goes into a book, yet never finds its way into the book. As Hemingway said, “If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”
From Dez’s diary, a ‘darling’ I had to cut from the final version of Cascade:
Each day I get no farther than scratched-out sketches that accumulate in the trash—balled-up sheets of valuable paper that trigger so many waves of self-doubt.
How can I be any good if I can’t even capture my own father? If my mind’s eye is already losing the precision of his features—the sharp length of his nose, the weak blue of his eyes, how then, to grasp the intangibles? The heavy grace of his stage presence? The disquieting boom of his voice? The chills he could deliver to an audience?
Sometimes I am afraid that inspiration has shrugged at me and will never return. And words—inky marks!—look paltry. They’re no better than paint. Even the date, so meager: January 24, 1934. Today. Now. Even as I complete the w, now becomes then.
Time is so slippery, it doesn’t even bother to laugh at the human desire to grasp it—it simply does nothing but pass.
When I found out that the Boston Globe had assigned the brilliant Caroline Leavitt to write the review for Cascade, I was thrilled—and relieved. You hope that the kind of person who is asked to judge your book will also be the kind of person who will ‘get’ your book. And she did.
I am doubly thrilled to be featured on her blog this week, as she asks questions about how I came to write Cascade.
Wow, so it’s publication day. WOW! Today I do an interview for Boston Public Radio, WBUR Radio Boston with Anthony Brooks, then I’m going to go do my volunteering at the Brigham so I don’t have to obsess about me, me, me.
I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive: everyone who pre-ordered the book, who will come to events, who will spread the word, and who will write nice Amazon and Goodreads reviews before the cranky, mean, crackpots do.
I feel so fortunate and grateful today. Writing a book is lonely and an act of faith, and the response I’ve had from so many of you has made me extremely happy to be a creative human being alive on this lovely and magical earth we all inhabit.
And for anyone who is doing that uncertain thing—writing a novel with no real knowledge that anyone will ever read it—let me tell you: there is NOTHING BETTER than hearing this song while you are in New York meeting your publisher. So keep at it. xxx
Coming up to my August book launch, my excitement is starting to give way to nerves. It’s funny how a year ago, when Viking bought my novel, I was thrilled. I was sincerely just happy to know that it would be bound, that it would have an ISBN number, that the Library of Congress would mark its existence.
But now, of course, I want people to read it. And to read it, they must buy it, and find it. But the reality of bookselling is that there are fewer real stores, fewer shelves, fewer chances of a new novel finding its way in front of the eyes of people who might want to read it.
I’ve told myself I’m up for the task of finding a readership. I will maintain an online presence, build an author platform, reach out to book clubs.
But sometimes life gets discouraging, as we all know. Last night I woke at 2am to the sound of my daughter’s coughing. She has CF and it’s been a lifelong up and down health issue, but one we are accustomed to and one we deal with in a positive manner. It’s always a shadow though, especially in the middle of the night, and then once awake, all I could do was consume myself with how many interesting-sounding, good-looking books are out there for sale. I imagined my book sinking into a tangle of late summer overgrowth. Finally I willed myself to stop, be positive, and go back to sleep.
This morning, the first thing I saw online was Teddy Roosevelt’s diary page on the morning of his wife’s death–so simple, so stark:
The light has gone out of my life.
I was instantly filled with gratitude for the universe that had sent what seemed like a sign: Fool, rejoice at what you have! The words that matter most are not the words in my book, not really. Didn’t I just write a post about how that book is out in the world and out of my hands?
The words that matter most are “you have your daughter, your husband, your family, your friends.” My husband and I experienced early loss: his beloved brother at 29, my father at 59, so we are perhaps extra thankful, aware that we are all so transient.
“Yes,” the universe then confirmed, “and now here is Nora Ephron’s eulogy in the New York Times for you to read and tear up at.”
I have always felt a silly but real connection to Nora because we shared a May 19 birthday. After choking up at the grief still so palpable on TR’s diary page, my eyes completely spilled over at Charles McGrath’s pitch-perfect eulogy to the woman who could make you smile and cry at once.
Nora Ephron’s writing was of a kind I admire most—the kind that touches at everything that is human and best in us. This ‘last list’ of hers is a list of ‘words that matter most.’ I hope she had pie at the end.
Nora Ephron: What I Will and Won’t Miss