Judy Blume likes the Solomons!

I think this might be the greatest compliment I've ever received on my book. A week ago, Judy Blume sent me a private message through Twitter telling me she liked my book. I was so shocked I shouted out loud. My fourteen year old, who read all the Fudge books, was even impressed (very hard to impress a 14 year old). And because it was a private message, I eventually filed it away.

Today, my friend (and label mate) Olivia Clare posted an article from the New York Times. Judy Blume recommending my book (along with Sarah Gerard and Jami Attenberg--amazing company!). You can read it here

Judy Blume is a seminal writer for me. Absolutely no one meant more to me as a lonely only child.  She was realer than real. She was a friend. 

 

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The Common at Nuyorican

This might have been my favorite reading so far. I read with Honor Moore, Mensah Demary, and Cortney Lamar Charleston and it was at the Nuyorican! A place I used to go when I was in my twenties and listen to Poetry slams. You can see the issue and read my story in The Common here. They have a brand new website, so check it out.

My friend Job Christenson came and I was delighted as always to see him. He was a college roommate in Ann Arbor in a big Victorian house. Living in the house there was me, a guy who became my boyfriend for a while, three lesbians and two gay guys. Job was a musical theater major and he was the biggest talent University of Michigan had. He left school a semester early after he got into Cats on Broadway and moved to NYC. My boyfriend and I had moved to Santa Fe, and broken up. Job called me from Times Square and told me I had to get to NYC asap, that he had a two bedroom, and he'd rent one of them to me. I got a job at Henry Holt (where I was a TERRIBLE editorial assistant. If you are an unhappy and/or terrible editorial assistant somewhere out there--life gets better, I promise!) and the rest is memories and history. Some of which I'll be visiting in my second book, which takes place partly in NYC in the year 1999....

Thanks so much, Job, and to Kate Schmier, Sandra Hong, Jonathan Segol and my amazing agent, Duvall, for coming out. Thank you Jennifer Acker for being such a bright literary light, accepting my story, asking me to read and creating such a lovely community. I always have a good time at Common events.

And, reading gets easier each time I do it. This time I didn't even have to sip my tiny flask of whiskey.

(And I bought this great tote!)

Review from Jewish Book Council

Just found this very kind review from the Jewish Book Council. I love the photo that accompanies the review! One arm points towards parking and the other to the "kolbo!" The "everything here" store.

 

About a week ago I received a friend request from an academic in Kentucky with an Israeli sounding name. I checked his bio and he had lived on a kibbutz and worked as a bovine inseminator. I was having dinner with friends and I could feel my heartbeat quicken. I know that I might not have got everything right in this book, but I tried hard and I had numerous people read it, vet the Hebrew and the particulars. Still, I was nervous about publishing this book.

I know a lot of smart people, good readers who are either Israeli, or half Israeli, or have spent enough time in Israel to speak Hebrew (and Arabic) and while I thought the book would appeal even to Americans who'd never been there, and had no connection to Judaism OR Israel, it was those fluent in Israel that I worried most about. 

A few moments later a message popped up: 

"Your novel is stunning and both a close friend and I who are former kibbutzniks are impressed by how well you portray that and all the other immersive settings in your story. I wish you great success with it!"

He went on to write: "The "dugri" nature of your writing, the acerbic candor and unsparing portrayal of a deeply scarred national psyche--and the resultant chaos it produces in individuals. The sharp contrast between two different societies--and the disparate ways that people thrive or fail to thrive in each. You accomplish that so sharply and meaningfully! And again, the language itself delivers real verisimilitude. I have read many, many books written about Israel over the decades and been turned off because it is so easy to get things wrong--I had precisely the opposite reaction with yours. And in terms of tone you sometimes reminded me of Orly Castel-Bloom, another writer I admire, but mostly it's impressive how much of a singular voice you really achieve in that work."

His comments meant so much to me. Thank you, Ranen Omer-Sherman! Hope you get to NYC and we can have coffee and talk kibbutz life!

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is an amazing poet. I had the amazing honor of reading with her in Cold Spring last year. Read My Brother My Wound here. The quote below is from an interview she did in Creative Independent. Read it here.

Camping and hiking

 

When I was a kid, we used to travel from Detroit, up through Canada and back down into New England nearly every summer. We camped in small leaky backpacking tents and drove either a Chevette, a Dodge Omni, or later a minivan. We'd spend nearly a week hiking the Appalachian trail, specifically the Presidential Range and it was grueling. We hiked 4-8 miles a day. Sometimes it rained, or hailed. The wind was fierce. I absolutely loathed it, until we'd reach the hut where we would stay the night. The huts were pure magic. This is me somewhere along the journey. Circa 1982 or so.

Themes

I don't think I could ever consciously write a book with a theme in mind, but it occurred to me after I'd finished the SOLOMONS book that the theme had been given to me long before I'd started writing it. It was a conversation with my thesis advisor and mentor David Hollander, and he said this: Desire always exceeds the object, quoting Lacan. 

I saw him a few months ago and I had him write it down. 

tiny book trailer

So my friends Michael and Hillary Glass and I made a book trailer (link here). Michael had worked at ted talks since its inception and now works for Susan Cain's company Quiet Revolution, so I knew we'd be in good hands. We pulled together a few other folks, including Ken Cain, Nick Danger, Abi Keene and my dear high school friend and now neighbor Ophira Edut from Astrotwins. We drank a lot of wine, wore our best jewel tones and talked book, philosophy, love and family. I hope you like it!!

Launch night

Last night was a magical night. People came and they were lovely and supportive and I couldn't ask for a better team at Grove (my dream publisher), the amazing Katie Raissian and Justina Batchelor, and my dear agent, Duvall Osteen at my absolute dream lit agency, Aragi. Thank you also to Corner Bookstore who made such a beautiful window display, and were kind and supportive and helpful. 

Sending so much appreciation and love to all that came out and all that sent me messages of support and nice things about the book. 

What do you do on pub day?

My friend Lauren Acampora asked me what I did yesterday on my pub day. I went to a big Korean spa and had one of those super intense body scrubs. A ritual of mine for new beginnings. Then to the city where I attended David Levinson's launch for his novel Tell Me How This Ends Well at one of my favorite book stores, McNally Jackson. The questions were lively and the audience engaged and then wandered around the store and bought a David Lodge book on writing (which I'm regretting) and Colum McCann's book Letters to a Young Writer, which I nearly finished last night. I got hooked reading his Don't Be a Dick article in Lit Hub and decided I needed the whole book. This, along with the aforementioned The War of Art, might be my two favorite writing books. 

So the book is launched and I'm ready to start writing again. Finally! The night before last I stayed up too late working on off shoots of What to Do About the Solomons. I was happy just to be writing again. There are so many things to do just before a book is published, and writing new material is definitely not one of them, sadly. But when I'd first met with my editors at Grove I told them there was still a lot more to say about the Solomons, but for a while, I put them aside. I wrote an entire new novel about entirely new characters in an entirely different setting--Detroit. A lithuanian auto plant worker, his daughter living in New York, and his southern inner city public school teacher wife. That book is nearly complete, or at least, put on the side for now. I started a third.....

But Carolyn keeps speaking to me. And Marc keeps speaking to me. And Guy Gever has a couple of things to say....