At every book store reading or book group discussion of Fill the Sky I have been blessed to attend, there are a few questions that come up every time: “How long did it take you to write the book?” “How many drafts did you have to write?” and “What is your process?” The short answers are that it took me 3 years to write Fill the Sky, that I have no abacus sophisticated enough to count the number of drafts, and that my process is still…well… in process. So I often tell this story instead… one gal’s painful experience of revision on the way to publication. This is from an essay I wrote called “The First Time My Book Was Done,” which first appeared in The Quivering Pen:
I have always been a big believer in revision, so by the time my first manuscript was done, it had been through countless iterations. I had work-shopped almost every chapter, revisited tricky scenes with my writing group, and incorporated feedback on the entire manuscript from three trusted readers. The changes along the way ran the gamut, from adding additional points of view, to removing whole pages of exposition, pretty paintings that were hard to destroy but had no impact on the characters in the room. Then I spent several months honing and polishing. And finally, I was done. That is, until I started over. Read the full post here from “Quivering Pen”
Only three days into my time in Otavalo, I began to understand that traditional Ecuadorians revere one thing above all else: Pachamama, or Mother Earth. They believe she holds all answers within the branches of her hands, her mountainous breasts, and her river veins. They touch her skin by walking with bare feet on her rounded back, and they show their gratitude to her constantly—tipping a water bottle toward the soil, mid-hike, mid-conversation, to offer her a sip of water before taking a drink themselves, or laying a crushed cocoa leaf on the ground for her before chewing their own.
The emotional connection many Ecuadorians have with the earth was brought to life for me when I met Mama Concha, a revered shaman who lives just outside Otavalo. A stout woman with a kind smile and a face the color of honey, she struck me immediately as the personification of Mother Earth—wise, nurturing and powerful. She moved with a slow shuffle, her white lace shirt tucked into a long gray skirt, her waistband lost under the hang of her bosom. Her eyes were wise and girlish at the same time, her embrace loving and fiercely strong. I trusted her immediately and wondered what I might learn in her presence.
I call this post my “tribute to independent bookstores.” I have been blessed with lots of support for the launch of my book from many corners of my life. I’d like to point out the particular support of independent bookstores. For most owners of these beloved establishments where we readers are able to enjoy browsing the shelves, holding a book in our hands, and inhaling the crisp smell of those just-cracked pages… running the store is often a labor of love, something that makes a community far richer because of the camaraderie, communication and understanding that blooms around books. Running author events is an extra dose of work that doesn’t always bear fruit. I am indebted to the bookstores who have signed up to support me during my book tour, particularly my home-town bookstore, Buttonwood Books and Toys in Cohasset, MA. I’d also like to thank the following excellent establishments:
Wellesley Books (Wellesley, MA) for the fabulous signing on Oct 25th Willow Books (Acton, MA) for supporting the Common Stories Author Series in Harvard, MA Broadway Books (Portland, OR) — reading on November 15th Boulder Bookstore (Boulder, CO)– reading on November 17th BookBar (Denver, CO)– reading on November 18th
How to describe LAUNCH DAY! So exciting to wake up and finally have my debut novel officially out into the world. First of all, seeing the book on a shelf in a real bookstore is a huge thrill (thank you to my hometown bookstore, Buttonwood Books!). The luck of the alphabet put me right below Richard Russo and directly beside Barbara Shapiro. I’ll take that positioning any day! I was actually down in NYC for the launch and was lucky enough to start my day with my oldest friend, who invited a group of lovely women to her apartment to introduce them to me and my book. What a treat to be able to sit in a living room, talk about the book, read a few passages, and have them all go home with my book in their hands! I was then treated to a wonderful event at Edelman (the PR firm) who invited a group of employees to step out of their project-mode for an hour and listen to me and Debra Copaken (also an author) discuss the process of writing a book and where creative inspiration comes from. My day ended with a tweet that the Barnes and Noble at the Prudential Center in Boston has selected Fill the Sky as their staff pick of the week. What a day. I am very grateful!
My book hasn’t technically launched yet (one week from today!) but I have already been blessed with 3 wonderful events to give the book a head start. The first was a party I threw, complete with 3 of my favorite women reading the parts of Tess, Ellie and Joline. Thank you Janet, Eve and Mary for your wonderful renditions of my favorite imaginary friends! The room was full of so much love and support, it was impossible not to feel buoyed by everyone’s well-wishes. The second was a wonderful panel at Trident Books in Boston with Lisa Duffy, Michelle Hoover and Sally Cabot Gunning. The third happened just today, a panel called “Coffee with the Authors” hosted by my beloved local bookstore, Buttonwood Books, in Cohasset. It was a thrill to read beside Louise Miller (if you haven’t yet read “The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living” you must) and Ann Hood, who I have so long admired. Her latest, “The Book That Matters Most” will strike a chord with all book lovers.
As I enter into this territory of officially releasing into the world this work of fiction that lived only in my head and my heart for so many years, I’d just like to say a heartfelt thank you to my family and all my friends who have cheered me on and made me feel like I could actually do this thing called publish a book! As Louise said this morning (she started her book at about the same age as me—let’s just say we didn’t come to this writing thing as young chickens), for anyone who has the dream of trying something creative, it’s not too late, and it’s not worth waiting any longer. Give it a try. You just might be surprised what you are capable of!
The first “message in a bottle” from the Fill the Sky book blessing was found! The bottle did not have to travel far on its journey, but seems to have landed in just the right hands. Having safely crossed the currents lorded over by hundreds of seals in Chatham, the bottle made its way from… Continue Reading
Pictured here are a few of the original Pachamama Sisters, that group of brave gals who came on my first trip to Ecuador—the journey that served as the inspiration for Fill the Sky. None of us knew exactly what we were getting into, but all of us were drawn, somehow, down to that sacred place. Inspired by… Continue Reading
This is what college roommates who have become friends for life looks like thirty years later! I was blessed on Labor Day weekend with a visit from this awesome Colorado girl. Our visits are always too short, but full of fun. While none of the characters in Fill the Sky are modeled after my actual… Continue Reading
My first-ever public reading of Fill the Sky (a full two months before launch!). What an incredible way to begin the process of sharing this story with the world. My wonderful friend Susan hosted a beautiful afternoon reading in her back yard featuring Louise Miller (who’s terrific book The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living… Continue Reading
This was a magical summer book for me — not to be confused with a “beach read” which often belies the depth and emotion of really good writing. Summer is one of those rare times when indulging in reading for hours at a time is guilt-free. As a superior rationalizer, I think of it as… Continue Reading