The Rooms Are Filled

Happy Publication Day!

  • Today, at long last, about three years after I started writing, is publication day for The Rooms Are Filled. The book is available everywhere books are sold, like here and here and hereIf you’re game, please share this news with your friends, family, and book clubs today. There are some easy sharing buttons below.
  • Here’s an inside peek into the life of this writer on pub morning: I’ve just dropped my children off at school, I’ve poured a cup of coffee and am considering a shower, and then I shall figure out how and whether I can add photos to my newsletter emails. Then, I will pick my children up.
  • I also have the first chapter of the book up on JukePop Serials — you know, the old-fashioned way of publishing. If you’re interested in reading a bit before you buy, click HERE.
  • *TONIGHT*: Google Hangout at 7pm Central. It’s online, so grab a drink, put on your pajamas, turn on your computer, and join us! My two friends will be interviewing me live. We’ll chat about the book, writing it as an at-home mom, and publishing. Please click HERE for details.
  • I am getting wonderful feedback about the book (and not just from people who love me). Feedback like this:

“The only other book I remember reading in 2 days was The Poisonwood Bible. I’m generally distractible, but I couldn’t put this down.”

“It was as good as any of the books I’ve read recently — and I mostly only read books on the top seller lists because I never know where to look for recommendations. In other words, there could be room on those shelves for you. It stayed with me long after putting it down and I can’t wait to read your next one.”

“A painful read but one anyone who has ever been on the outside can relate to. Beautiful.”

I wrote a book I’m proud of, and I’m enjoying the ride. Thanks for being a part of it.

Jessica

PSOn to Minneapolis! See where else I’m headed HERE. And let me know if you have friends there I should invite!

The-Rooms-are-Filled

Hope to Meet You

I put off writing a blog for a long time. It seemed everyone and their mother had one–what could I add? But I really wanted to write one. I love personal essays. I love the everyday stories of everyday people.

And everyone was telling me that if I was writing a book, I needed to get myself online. Have a “presence” and whatnot. But I didn’t want to start a blog unless it was me. So I thought and thought about it. It seems simple now, but it was about a year before I had the idea to make this blog what it is today–a place to share stories in an effort to better understand ourselves and one another. The simplest is usually the answer.

So I started True STORIES., established the almighty platform. But all of you readers here mean so much more to me than any step in a marketing plan. You are my refuge, my grounding, my reminder of why I write–not only these essays but even my novel. When the book world gets scary, as it often does, I come back here.

In fact, I consider this such a refuge that I sometimes forget to fill you in on the book side of my life. So I’d like to invite you to some of the events that have already been planned, in hopes that some of you might be able to come and we can meet. I’ve pasted them below. If none of those work for you, my friends will be hosting a Google Hangout on the evening my book is published–April 22, 7pm Central. Here’s a link to the event description:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cusan0odiq84c484h03aop8f620

My friends and hosts even created a questionnaire so you can ask me questions that I’ll answer that night.  It’s super easy to fill out and submit, I’d love for you to be part of the conversation:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1iY1X8BDBku71iINuJEPv9C6gcmyNzuqYzr4F81YtSDI/viewform

Other upcoming events:

April 16 — Arlington Heights, Illinois.  Official Book Launch! Barnes & Noble, 13 W. Rand Road. 7-9pm. This event is free and open to the public.

April 22 — Online. Google Hangout, 7pm Central.

May 1 — Palatine, Illinois.  Palatine High School’s Writers Day. For students and faculty of Palatine High School.

May 2 — Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Reading & signing. Magers & Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Ave. 7-9pm. This event is free and open to the public.

May 12 — Denver, Colorado.  Reading & signing. Tattered Cover, Historic LoDo, 1628 16th Street. 7:30pm. This event is free and open to the public.

May 21 — St. Joseph, Michigan.  Reading & signing. Forever Books, 312 State Street. 7pm. This event is free and open to the public.

May 28 — Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Women’s Speaker Series, Lynden Sculpture Garden. 7-9pm . Tickets include an autographed copy of The Rooms Are Filled, refreshments, and admission to the sculpture garden. Register online now.

That’s what I’ve got so far, possibly more to come. If you’d like to stay updated on future events and publications, please sign up for my newsletter. My Facebook Author page doesn’t reach everyone who has “liked” it, so a newsletter is the best way I can figure to get you information. As long as I remember to send it. 🙂

Publication: What’s Most Important

It’s getting close to publication day and I realize this is the first and last time I’ll ever have the “first book” experience. I’m trying to savor it, to step back and see this for what it is: an amazing moment and the accomplishment of something that’s been in my bones for a long, long time.

This lead-up to publication hasn’t all been easy, though. I got a bit frazzled for awhile there, and I wrote the following post that’s over at She Writes today: One Month from Publication and I’ve Figured Out What’s Important. I hope you’ll check it out to see what I’ve learned these last few weeks. I think it applies to any big goal, writer or not. And if that doesn’t tempt you, there’s the promise of gravy. You’ll see.

Thanks!

Quiet Literature

Over a year and a half ago, I went to my first writers conference. I had a pretty good second-ish draft of my novel in hand, though I’d recently decided to self-publish. (It will now be published by She Writes Press in 2014.) Still, I wanted to learn more about the industry and get some agent feedback on my first pages.

The two agents assigned to my group of ten writers were young, probably ten years younger than I was. I don’t tell you their age–about mid-20s–to be condescending. But I think it might help explain their know-it-all attitude. I didn’t fully recognize the attitude at the time; though I’d been writing for many years, I was new to the publishing industry and had a lot to learn. They did know it all, as far as I was concerned.

But now I’ve had time to digest my conference experience, learn more about publishing, and reflect on my own trajectory from thinking I know everything (oh, say, ten years ago) to realizing how little I know. As age increases, so does the ability to admit ignorance.

One of the agents in particular looked very young, though she masked it with dark red lipstick and a sweeping up-do. After the first two pages of my manuscript were read aloud, she turned to me and said, “This has the risk of being too quiet. You don’t want to be too quiet.”

“Oh,” I think I said, though I had no idea what she meant. I could guess, but it was the first I’d ever heard the word used to describe literature.

“It’s also a bit…M.F.A.,” she continued.

“Oh,” I said again. Then, sheepishly: “I have an M.F.A.”

Photo: Dorothea Lange

Photos: Dorothea Lange

She nodded with pursed lips, as though I’d just provided her all the information she needed. I already knew that some people thought earning a Master of Fine Arts was a waste of time and often produced people who could write beautiful sentences but couldn’t put together a compelling story. I’d just never had someone say it to my face.

I tell you all this because, since then, I’ve had time to think about “quiet.” That sheepish attitude I had? Oh, it’s all gone.

To the detractors of this type of literature, quiet is boring. It means there are no steamy love scenes, no vampires, no plot lines screaming in your face, telling you, the reader, all you need to know. To the agent, quiet meant, “No Sale.”

Photo: Dorothea Lange

And it’s true, quiet is harder to sell. A lot of people read books to escape into un-reality. There is an important role in that type of literature.

But I am in love with quiet. Quiet literature assumes the reader is intelligent and thoughtful, able to read between the lines, between the gestures, and peek into the spaces between the words—to understand the words that aren’t there, and why. The quiet reader doesn’t need to be told everything.

Quiet literature reflects humankind without much fanfare. It tells the everyday stories of everyday people, seeking the profound in the mundane. Quiet literature finds glory—I find glory—in the moments that make up real life. There is meaning in the way a child eats a green apple with her front teeth or that a shopkeeper wraps a piece of thread around his finger until it hurts.

My favorite part about writing quiet literature is figuring out how to get a point across—through a scene or a phrase or a piece of dialogue that is, or isn’t, there—in the imgressimplest way. What wince, what glance at the door, what touch of the wrist, will be the bit the reader needs to understand?

To me, quiet literature is the Dorothea Lange photography of the book world. It reflects reality, the living–us.

These days, if you Google “quiet literature,” you’ll find articles on Alice Munro. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature last week.

Why, I haven’t read her since my M.F.A. days.

Va – LIT – zik

Not only did my vacation screw with my half-marathon training, but I left my blogging schedule somewhere in Wisconsin. For anyone out there who cares, apologies. I’d like to get back on schedule, though to tell you the truth, it’s hard to make mental space for 1. all the preparation that goes along with publishing, 2. writing a second novel, and 3. finding people to interview for my Monday Morning Meetings. Oh, and 4. my children. Forgot my children (again). I have ideas–there are always stories. It’s just that I have a sort of end-of-summer energy level.

Luckily, BookMarks, a site I enjoy, has provided me with an almost ready-made post. She nominated me for the Liebster blogging award (thanks very much, Karen Mesa!) and that stipulates that I answer some questions and list a few facts about me, which I’ll do here:

1. My last name is pronounced Va-LIT-zik. It’s Czech.

1a. It took me one year to change my name after I married. I didn’t like the thought of taking my husband’s name but my maiden name, Null, was pretty boring. As a lover of words, this was important.

2. I think running full marathons is less than intelligent.

3. My daughter has two middle names after her two maternal great-grandmothers: June and Edith.

4. My son is currently trying to convince me that we should buy a farm.

5. We might buy a farm.

Questions:

  • Favourite place you’ve visited?  Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland.  Or Belize. Charleston, SC, is good, too. Yellowstone….
  • What’s your dream job? Writer
  • One place in the world you’d love to move to? Maybe Sullivan’s Island, SC. Or somewhere near Yellowstone.
  • Favourite Book? To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Favourite Movie? Bull Durham. Or Fried Green Tomatoes. Or Dances With Wolves.
  • Best Memory? Incredibly hard question. In the children category: hearing my son’s first cry when the doctor pulled him out during an emergency c-section
  • What’s the most delicious thing you can cook? Um…….
  • Sunrise or Sunset? Sunset (mostly because I’ve never seen a sunrise)
  • Something you’ve crossed off your bucket list? Write a novel
  • Favourite Childhood Book/Story? Anne of Green Gables
  • Blog you visit (almost) everyday? Seth Godin or Kristen Lamb or Momastery (My Blogroll, to the right of this post, lists the blogs I read regularly.)

In other news, all’s well that ends well:

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Big-Girl Bed