The Sun Rises where it Sets

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

We spend years writing our books. Finding the pulse of them, taking the risk of them, summoning our own courage in the daunting face of them. Say what you want. Tell your own stories about writers you may have met who seemed so sure-footed, so self-contentedly fierce, so immune to the critic: At the kernel of every writer is a bleeding, tender spot.

Yesterday this thing happened: An editor read a book that I have written and re-written at least a dozen times over the past few years. That historical novel that I sometimes reference here. This editor is the only who has read these pages as these pages (my agent, bless her, read a very early draft early last year), and while I know that the chances of being published these days are slim, and while the fate of this novel is anything but secure, I wanted, to begin with, to know if at least one other would join me in the journey this novel takes. To know if it might be as alive for another as it is for me. In the midst of preparing taxes yesterday morning, the editor's words came in. The generosity of them went straight to my own bleeding, tender spot.

I stood from my desk. I walked to my window. I cried.

Today this other thing happened: My friend Jayne Anne Phillips, who has worked for nine years on a novel she's called Lark and Termite (I've written about her in this blog, I've written about this miraculous story) received a most exquisitely glowing review in this morning's New York Times. The sort one dreams of getting one's whole writerly life long. I saw Jayne Anne's photo (she looks beautiful as ever), read the review, and did a little dance for her.

It's not always doom and gloom in publishing. Sometimes writers find readers who will live their books with them.


Unknown said...

It's good to read about good things happening to people. Send my congratulations to your friend.

PJ Hoover said...

I'm so happy you had such a wonderful experience with the email. And the review is glowing. Being able to feel joy for others is so important in this whole writing world.

Ink Mage said...

What a very moving post. It nearly made me cry (and I don't cry easily) with both the bad things and the good.

Liviania said...

Congratulations - for you friend as well. That's incredible.

Saints and Spinners said...

I'm happy for both you and your friend.

Of all the luminaries I studied in library school, Ranganathan is the one who has stuck with me. Two out of five of his Laws of Library Science resonate with me in particular:

-Every book its reader.
-Every reader his or her book.

(The other three are:
-Books are for use.
-Save the reader's time.
-The library is a growing organism.)

Amy said...

This gave me goose bumps. What a beautiful post and great story, Beth.

Vivian Mahoney said...

Oh, Beth! Here's to breathing life into beautiful words! Congratulations on the positive feedback...I can only imagine how it must make all your hard work so worth it.

And, I still am waiting for my copy of Lark and Termite. After reading this review, I'm anxious to immerse myself in the words.

Thanks for instilling hope...

Beth Kephart said...

It is a happy thing when happy things happen to friends.

And all of you here I count as friends.

Jayne Anne is also reveling in a terrific NPR review today.

Good books garner great reviews. It can happen. It's a lesson.

Sherry said...

I haven't stopped by for a visit for awhile. I look forward to catching up on the several days I've missed and returning today to read this joy-filled post was a treat. Very "happymaking" as Miss E would say.

Anna Lefler said...

I love this post! And congrats on the wonderful news - for both you and your friend.

Good news is a grand thing - so many ripples across our psychic ponds.



Em said...

Ohhh, I'm so excited for you and the new novel!

And that is high praise from Kakutani. (I'm still miffed at her early review of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows but I very much want to read Lark and Termite now. Mostly because you recommend it!) :)

Maya Ganesan said...

Congratulations to you! And your friend, of course. ;)

Becca said...

I'm so happy you had this good news about your book, this extra little shot of courage to keep you working to bring this one into the world.

And I'm happy for Jayne Ann, too, for I've read her work and enjoyed it.

Balm for those tender spots is much appreciated, isn't it?

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