It’s My Open Heart on the Page and Simon & Schuster Just Bought It
Dear Friend –
If it’s okay, I’d like to start easy and make mint tea in fat, ceramic mugs and bring them to the living room. The news is all still a bit new and I’m gonna spill but I'm nervous. I’ve got this big, leather couch and it’s uber-comfy, I promise. Okay. Here we go. One month ago I danced a giddy, wild little dance in my saffron kitchen. Just seconds before, I'd gotten an email. It was the kind of email that changes your life. Like winning the lottery. Or, getting a new lung if you need one. Or, finding your beloved hound dog that's been lost in the outback for a year and has scrapped his way back from the wilderness to come home to you. So, in that moment...after the email...part of me kind of exploded.
Whoa, mom (insert preteen shock and awe, here)!
My daughter, Jonquille stared back and forth between me and the computer.
I’ve never seen you like … Are you okay? Did you … wait...did you sell the book?!?
And yes, yes, holy mother of God, Mary, and the Buddha, the email is from my book agent and I've sold my book. I hugged my girl and did what no preteen ever wants to watch her mom do in the light of day: I howled. I might have whooped. I can't really remember. But here's the thing: I've spent the last six years loving on, sweating over, writing and rewriting a book and an editor at Simon & Schuster loves it. Our Zoom call (for which I was casually dressed but had fretted over every possible shirt and jewelry combo in an effort to look effortlessly hip) was like two girlfriends meeting for the first time. We were professional, I'll have you know, but by the end we were grinning like maniacs and YES was painted all over the walls. Insert dance with glitter raining down from an endless, bubbling well. This is the dream I’ve had since I was little but never had the confidence to chase. Until now.
How’s your tea?
Okay yes, we’re pretending but I love this kind of pretending. This is where we make something together. I’m of the belief that imagination helps us connect to our deepest selves. It also helps us connect to one another. Like me to you.
And right now, it’s giving us tea, which I love.
There's Huckleberry honey in the kitchen if you need it.
I imagine you want to know how I wrote the memoir. (Oh yes!! Did I mention that? ??? It's a memoir - something I couldn't have imagined wanting to write in my wildest dreams. Cough. Yeah. Hello Dirty Laundry.) Let's start there.
I’ve been a writer since I was little, but I never EVER wanted to write a memoir. I could hide out in fiction and poetry, but a memoir? That’s like—Step right up folks. See there? That's the Fukushima marriage. The one that started with an earthquake and then went tsunami and nuclear meltdown. And right here? This is the little boy with wide-set, ice blue eyes that changed their lives forever! And right here in the bathroom? Pills, my friends. The kind that would emanate an evil glow if this was a horror flick. They figure BIG in the story. And listen to this - ABC World News makes a cameo. No joke! We can't promise Diane Sawyer but Diane Sawyer's people were there: the producer; the leggy correspondent- it's all true!
I started writing the book in 2014, after separating from my husband. I had a LOT to say.
We all left the house we'd all lived in for four years and I moved myself and my two little ones (Jonquille who was four; Cassius who was five). The three of us crammed into a single bedroom in the house of some beautiful friends of mine. We had lucked into a tiny, little nest, but since I'd lost my magazine editing job in the Recession smackdown of 2009, I was unemployed. I had no job prospects (supporting two kiddos on a freelancer's income felt just - cruel. And hungry.). I felt crushed and embarrassed and terrified, but I had to take the fork out of my big, fat pity cake and figure out how I was going to rebuild my life.
Here’s the secret thing that really mattered—the thing that I knew would make it all somehow work--I felt FREE. And feeling FREE, paddling my own canoe, even if it meant we were buying milk and crackers on disount, was EVERYTHING.
So, what did I do? I sent out resumes and I started working on the memoir. I networked like a fiend and I worked the memoir. I took the littles to the zoo and Cassius, who has Down Syndrome and Autism (also part of the book), howled at the Howler monkeys. And then I worked on the memoir. I did not date. Oh no. I did not run wild to Mexico to get away from it all, delightful as that sounded. I ran a Kickstarter to keep the kids and I afloat and whoa nelly. It funded; I wept. And then I worked on the memoir. A year later I had what I call my “job job,” and I had a first draft. Glory.
And now it’s 2021. COVID is still coughing but I have a book deal.
And I still have my job job. It’s a good and beautiful thing to be able to buy milk and shoes without breaking out into a cold sweat. The kids and I have moved out of the lovely lavender and butter room in my friends’ house. The memoir has been loved on and rewritten at least twelve times (I kid not. I am not a kidder), and now, Simon & Schuster loves the book that is everything beautiful I have to offer.
It will be out in the world in the Summer of 2022. How lucky am I?
And the part that will require another cup of tea or a glass of good, red wine (let's just say yes, there, shall we?) is me gathering the courage to answer with deep honesty the next question you'll ask:
What's the book about?
I'm SO working on this and it's hard. This memoir is the most vulnerable thing I've ever written. For now, I'll give you the elevator pitch. It's the line you try to squeak out before you go from one floor to the next in an elevator, because those shiny metal doors will open and whomever has asked walks out to either forget about the book entirely or think about it for the rest of the day:
Blood Orange Night (my working title) is a memoir about insomnia, prescription pills and the unbridled love for a little boy with Down Syndrome.
Like I said - vulnerability a go-go. My heart on a dish with flowers and me barely holding myself up in the chair.
There you have it.
Let's meet here again. There will be more soon.
I'll unpack that elevator bit. Promise.