Right before Thanksgiving, my friend Laura Munson asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing online event — a way for authors/bloggers to share news about upcoming projects. Mercury was still in retrograde, but I said yes to what the universe had placed in my path anyway. Before I tell you about my writing journey, let me tell you about Laura, who blogs here. Laura is the author of the bestselling memoir This Is Not the Book You Think It Is, and one of my favorite authors. I first met her several years ago through the pages of her memoir, sitting in my home in Brooklyn reading about this amazing woman in Montana who met her own family crisis with calm and patient acceptance. When I got to the end of her story, I looked over at my nightstand and realized that the bulk of the books on her bedside table mirrored mine; I knew we were kindred spirits. Years later she came to New York on tour, and I got to hug her in person. It is an honor to be tagged by Laura to participate in this online event and if you haven’t read her memoir, please do.
So what’s my Next Big Thing?
Well, my Next Big Thing is actually a lot of next big and little things. I trained and worked as a lawyer for many years. Somewhere along the way, however, I discovered that, in addition to being a full-time mom, my other true career passion was writing. I’m crossing the finish line on a non-fiction book, but feel too close to it right now so I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself, my writing journey and where I’m headed.
Over the last decade, divorce threw me a huge curveball. And single mothering was no cakewalk either. Through it all I began to recognize that I was strong and resilient. With my youngest about to go off to college, lots of “nexts” are facing me and I’m beginning to envision a loose ten-year plan. In hindsight I realize, too, that so much of what I’ve gone through has been in preparation for what’s next – paying my writing dues, developing my writing chops (with kind and inspiring mentors like Sue Shapiro and Peter Trachtenberg), building contacts and relationships with writers and professionals in the world of divorce reform and marriage strengthening, and helping to launch the most pioneering divorce reform effort in 40 years – the Coalition for Divorce Reform. Along the way, of course, as I passed through my 40s, I also learned lots of lessons. As my meditation teacher would say “it’s all good,” though I’ll admit at times it didn’t always feel that way.
Here I am ziplining over the rain forest in Costa Rica about six years ago. During my ten-year plan I’m hoping to reconnect with that girl as often as I can!
Where will my ideas come from and what do I plan on writing about?
My ideas come from my life experiences and all the amazing people I keep meeting. Books, blogs, at least one screenplay and one play, and travel – they’re all on my list. Notes and files are underway. I took a long hiatus from my spiritual life during much of my marriage, but I’ve made my way back and it’s an essential part of my life forever. I’ve started to write about that, and I’ll be writing more. Selling the family home appears inevitable, and that process will lead me into unknown territory as well.
I want to travel to India with my good friend Sadie. Over the years, I’ve had to turn down several exciting travel invitations to places like Africa and Thailand. Provided I can get my “financial house” in order, where travel is concerned, I hope to begin to say more “yes” and less “no.”
By the way, Sadie Bridger is an amazing artist and photographer, too, and we’ve talked about collaborating. Whether it will be on a grand or a small scale, I don’t know, but I hope we will connect in that way.
Last, but not least, I will continue to write about divorce – the legal process, the recovery and the harm to families. I’ll be continuing my volunteer work with the Coalition for Divorce Reform and I predict that states will begin to pass divorce reform legislation. I have also uncovered a miraculous true-life story, this time not about me, but about marriage that I envision turning into a screenplay. I’ve been told I’m good with dialogue, and I often think in visuals, too, so hey, you never know.
All these things are in my dreams, and I am hereby officially putting the wishes out there.
What genre do you write in?
I write an occasional service piece about divorce or parenting, or a book review, but the majority of my writing falls under the category of non-fiction/memoir. If you discount all the contracts and legal briefs I’ve written in my life, mostly I’ve written about myself and my experiences.
Will your works be self-published or represented by an agency?
That’s impossible to predict, but I have a preference right now for the traditional publishing route. And I have an agent, Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency, who never ceases to inspire me with her brilliance, her guidance and her faith in me as a writer. I am so lucky she wanted to represent me. (She thinks I’ve even got some fiction in me.)
If you had a choice, what actors would you choose to play for your characters?
In the early days of my marriage, when I was a blond, people said I looked like a young Kathleen Turner. Now people tell me I resemble Maggie Gyllenhaal, and I’ll take it! It’s a toss-up who might play the other characters in my life, and there have been quite a few “characters” in my life. And, yes, you know who you are.
But the character I like to mull over most is my future husband. Because you see, as part of my ten-year plan, I am finally ready to find the man with whom I will spend the remainder of this lifetime. I’m not sure what color I’m going to wear this time.
And who might play him in the movie? Viggo Mortensen perhaps or Anthony LaPaglia. Definitely not George Clooney. He’s gorgeous, of course, but don’t you think he’s just a bit too fickle and stuck on himself? Besides, he wouldn’t want to settle down with me: I’m the right age and I believe in dessert. And then there’s Liam Neeson. When he was recently asked about dealing with the loss of his wife several years ago, he told Esquire magazine: “That’s the weird thing about grief. You can’t prepare for it….It hits you in the middle of the night.” What a class act he is because surely he’s heard what I also occasionally got early on after my loss — “get over it already.” Obviously he, too, knows that some things just take time. And you just can’t help it if it hits you in the middle of the night. You endure, you embrace it, and then you begin again the next day.
Can you compare your stories to others in your genre?
I feel strange comparing myself with so many great writers out there. I’m happier letting others do that – and honored. Here’s one link.
In general, the writers who inspire me most are those who are willing to keep reaching way down deep in their gut, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. Truth on the page is obvious, and it’s not always pretty. If you look hard enough you can usually find a small silver lining or kernel of truth even in the most painful stories. Just don’t give me a story where everything is tied up in a nice neat bow at the end and call it “non-fiction.”
I’ve already mentioned my mentors, Laura Munson, and the writers I’m passing the torch to below. There are many more that I will leave for another day, including some I hope to interview right here!
Other than that, it’s the other real-life people who have stayed or floated in and out of my life during my first half-century. The countless people I’ve met in person, by email and through my writing who have either gone through a divorce themselves or are working for divorce reform or to save marriages. I’m comforted, humbled and encouraged by all of them, even the naysayers who sometimes challenge me in blogs I’ve written for The Huffington Post, Salon, and the Daily Beast.
What else about your future plans might pique the reader’s interest?
Who’s my favorite teen idol of all time? What happened when I was seventeen that frightened me? What kind of jewelry do I like and why? What famous real life place did I visit in Pennsylvania, where I had a dream of remarrying in their garden? What’s temping like? What else have I learned about divorce? What’s the secret recipe to the one dish that my daughters and I make every Christmas without fail and who’s the famous singer and songwriter and his wife who inspired it? And what about my “sisters?” I don’t have any “real” ones, but I’ve got lots of others.
These are just little stories – blogs or magazine articles – I’d like to write, in addition to the big projects I’ve already mentioned. Send me an e-mail, stay-tuned and I’ll send you a very occasional update.
And now it is with great delight that I pass the torch, in alphabetical order, to five other writers who inspire me with their writing, their good hearts, and their courage.
Over to you girls!
Jennifer Graham is a writer and editor working, through no fault of her own, in the suburbs of Boston. The personal essay is Jennifer’s first love, and hers have been published in magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal, Runner’s World and Family Circle. Her first book, Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner, is a comedic memoir about how running, God and ice cream (not necessarily in that order) pulled her through a painful divorce and her former husband’s speedy remarriage. Jennifer is represented by Dana Newman Literary in Los Angeles, and blogs on her own website, and as “Mace” at www.saltyrunning.com, a collaborative blog about women’s running. She also writes regularly for the op-ed pages of The Boston Globe and reviews books for The Hippo in Manchester, N.H. A Southerner who tries not to say “y’all” when she’s north of Virginia, Jennifer lives a mile from the starting line of the Boston Marathon with her four children, two donkeys, two cats and a border collie. She’s still waiting for her farm to come in.
Deborah Henry attended American College in Paris and graduated cum laude from Boston University with a minor in French language and literature. She received her MFA at Fairfield University. She is an active member of The Academy of American Poets, a Board member of Cavankerry Press and a patron of the Irish Arts Center in New York. Curious about the duality of her own Jewish/Irish heritage, Henry was inspired to examine the territory of interfaith marriage and in so doing was led to the subject to the Irish Industrial School system. She has traveled to Ireland where she has done extensive research and interviews, including those with Mary Raftery (States of Fear documentary filmmaker and co-author of Suffer the Little Children) and Mike Milotte (award-winning journalist), as well as first-hand reports from the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, Mother Baby Homes, Orphanages and the Industrial Schools. Her first short story was published by The Copperfield Review, was a historical fiction finalist for Solander Magazine of The Historical Novel Society and was longlisted in the 2009/10 Fish Short Story Prize. THE WHIPPING CLUB is her first novel. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut with her husband and their three children. She is currently at work on her next book. Visit her website here.
Lori Lowe is a journalist and marriage blogger at www.MarriageGems.com. She writes research-based marriage tips to help boost satisfaction in your marriage. Her book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage provides hope for couples who have experienced challenges by providing advice from couples who didn’t just survive, but thrived after adversity. Learn from couples who have experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, separation for military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other. Each couple’s story leaves offers one important lesson to incorporate into your marriage. First Kiss to Lasting Bliss is available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at her website. Lori and her husband of 17 years live in Indianapolis with their two children. You can find Lori on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss or on Twitter @LoriLowe.
Maura Lynch lives in Manhattan, New York, and is a former film, television and publishing executive. She is writing a memoir about having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but living with the misdiagnosis of bipolar II disorder for fourteen years. She also is writing a crime fiction novel set in Queens, New York in the late 1960s. On her blog “Loudmouthkid62” Maura reviews books and posts personal essays.. (She also tweets @Loudmouthkid62.)
Suzanne Venker is the author of three books. Her third, How to Choose a Husband and Make Peace with Marriage, will be published in February. Suzanne has written extensively about politics, parenting, and the influence of feminism on American society. She is a frequent guest on HuffPoLive and an occasional contributor to National Review Online. Her articles and posts have appeared in the New York Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Parents.com, and others. She has appeared on ABC, CNN, FOX, and C-Span — as well as hundreds of radio shows throughout the country. To learn more about Suzanne and her new book, go to www.howtochooseahusband.com. Watch her on The View this coming Friday, December 7!