Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave/Patty Chang Anker: Reflections

Friday, June 21, 2013

Photo Caption: National Book Awards, 1998, Reading at the New School. Left to right: Patty Chang Anker, my publicist; Amy Rennert, my agent; me with bangs; Louise Brockett, WW Norton publicist; Alane Salierno Mason, my editor.

My friends, gather round and listen well. I have a prediction to make:

{Patty Chang Anker is set to become America's next sweetheart.}

Yes, that's her, up there, on one of the most sacred nights of my publishing life—another century, another me. That's Patty as publicist, a UPenn graduate, before she was a mom. That's Patty before she, to use her word, changed. Let her explain:
Maybe it was forty and realizing that it wasn't just days but decades slipping by in the same worn paths that somehow grew narrower with each foray. Maybe it was the sense among friends that as we got older we were becoming more like ourselves, but not in a good way. I love you, but didn't we have the same conversation last week? Maybe it was the hypocrisy of stuffing my children into snowsuits and shin guards and helmets and sending them out into the fray while I cheered from a bench. Maybe it was a combination of all that and a last-gasp, premenopausal burst of hormones.

Whatever it was, after a lifetime of living nowhere near the edge, I had had enough. I started diving in.
Literally, Patty dove in. To the local pool. To de-cluttering her home. To public speaking. To biking. To surfing a frigid lake in winter. She went from supporting books to writing her own. And what a wonderful—and helpful—book it is. Endearing came to mind several times. Funny. Companionable. Sincere.

Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave (Riverhead, October 2013) is precisely what its title promises, which is to say a journey away from fear and toward joy. It's Patty taking on the Greek Chorus that has both ransacked and italicized her thoughts. One part of her brain is telling her she can't swim. One part is leaving her on the sidelines. One part is encouraging her to talk out of both sides of her mouth as she cheers her two children toward things she has never done herself.

And then, hidden at first, more bold and ballsy in time, are all those other parts of her brain that say, Timidity is for the birds. Life is to be lived.

Patty introduces us to a world of helpful souls as she soldiers on—the expert de-clutterer, the teachers who believe, the friends who encourage her to swim, the toastmasters and psychologists and one writer/surfer dude. She made me smile time and again, not just because I know Patty—have known her for years now, have watched her evolve, have chuckled at her blog and her Facebook posts—but because every darned thing she writes is so quintessential in its own right that I know there'll be tens of thousands, no doubt more, smiling with her soon.

Patty has worked for a long time to become this more whole version of herself, and she has worked a long time to become this author. In a few short months, she's going to have so many friends/admirers/dudes in her life that she won't know what to do. I picture her, rock starish, being lifted up by hands and hearts set free, above a sea of lights.


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