A new year brings a review of the past year in numerous ways: toasting absent friends and family with present friends and family at dinner on Christmas and New Year’s days and vying for attention as everyone tells of the year’s adventures and disasters; reading all those Christmas letters that describe the milestones in the lives of the letter writer (or more often the milestones reached by their children and grandchildren and rarely themselves); musing over old photo albums on a rainy day; and in my case telling anyone who will listen or pretend to listen about the best books I have read. Our holiday time was a success with 50% of our children and two-fifths of our grandchildren here with us, and no memorable fallings-out. Now it’s back to same old, same old, until for us it is once again time to return to Australia for a few months for more same old, same old, and after that perhaps a trip to the mainland of the US of A, where we haven’t been for over ten years. Hawaii we have been to a few times since then, but not back to some of our favorite places—New Orleans, Boston. In “our” Christmas letter to our friends, written as usual by John, he scattered his usual irony about between the odd truth. One of his throw-aways this year was, for some reason, taken as fact by many of our mates who would normally not be fooled.
“And we have had a good time this year, and made plans for the future: we are off to live in a small Turkish village by the sea, where Jenni will write novels and I will help people onto boats. The only problems with the house we have chosen are the spiral staircase and the well, but we’ll soon get those sorted.”
Just for the record, this was news to me too, and I think it unlikely to be true!
Our daughter who may have inherited some of her father's irony genes, sent us her first "New Year" letter titled The Kereru New Years Rave:
An on-grid newsletter from the Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
My same old, same old life for the past few months and for many months into the future has and will consist of the numerous tasks that I am discovering goes into the marketing of a new novel, even a teensy weeny one like mine, especially in the US. Articles to write, including Psychology Today posts, book bloggers questions to answer—trying to be fascinating and funny and poignant and all those things without telling fibs (they then hopefully write fabulous blog posts for their massively successful blogs), social networking to keep up with (a mostly sadly failed task but still enormously time-consuming), and on and on and on. It is actually fun mostly, but a bit hard when the sun is blazing down and the sea inviting me in just two minutes walk away. Fortunately I have a most wonderful US publicist who keeps me going and thinks stuff out for me. She has sent out 75 ARCs (Advanced review copies) to potential reviewers, not to mention another 175 e-books of the ARC to approved reviewers requesting it, and keeps me up to speed on what I should be doing. And the book isn't even coming out until May
And there are lots of exciting moments; checking Netgalley and Goodreads to see how many “likes” my cover has got since yesterday, and if there are more pre-publication reviews up, hopefully with lots of stars, and opening an e-mail from a famous author who has generously read my book and truly seems to love it and has written a generous endorsement. Just to “skite” a bit, here are the latest, from two of my favourite authors:
“This is a quietly majestic book, taking on quests for identity, for connection, for love, for self - always with dignity and with an impressive breadth of understanding. Like the turtles whose lives and habits are tracked in these pages, the characters at the heart of A DROP IN THE OCEAN move gently but with enormous consequence. Here is a book to lose oneself in - and then share, enthusiastically, right away.” — Robin Black, bestselling author of Life Drawing and Crash Course: 52 Essays From Where Writing and Life Collide.
"A novel about turtles, the fragility of life, and the complexity of love, A Drop in the Ocean will transport you to remote islands with its lyrical natural imagery. This is a story to savor, discuss, and share.”
—Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son
I reviewed The Perfect Son in my Sept 2015 newsletter, and I have Robin Black’s Life Drawing on my list to review here soon. These authors didn’t know me from ye olde bar of soap before they got my e-mail asking them if they’d stop their own even more full-on lives and read my book and then hopefully write something, and I am truly humbled by the generosity of so many authors, from NY Times best selling ones right down to newbies like me. And here are the closing sentences of the very first librarian review I received via the “Netgalley” site. When my publicist e-mailed it to me she headed her e-mail “If I were on the island with you I would be squealing and running over with a bottle of wine to celebrate :-)”
"I fell in love with the island and with Tom myself, but those turtles. Oh, those turtles, I wanted to quit my day job and head to Australia to do everything I could to protect those magnificent, wise creatures.”
—For the Love of Books
And as a reward for all this activity, I have myself become a Netgalley reviewer. What this means is that I get to browse thousands of new books that will be published over the next six months, and if I want to read and review one, I request it! If my request is accepted (and it is not always) I can then download the uncorrected proof book (ARC!) to my Kindle and read it, months before the hardcover comes out. Oh, bliss! (Or, as our Aussie mate Derek from Marlin Cove would say “How good is that!”) In the last two weeks I have read and reviewed books yet to be published by Helen Simonson (author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand); Jacquelyn Mitchard (author of Oprah’s first bookclub choice and another of my own book endorsers); and Anna Quindlen (whose earlier memoir I review below). My reviews of their books are also on Goodreads. I am now reading Helen Dunmore’s new book, with one by Chris Cleave impatiently waiting in line.
It is becoming difficult to recall what I did when I was merely an academic.
If you haven’t read anything by American author, journalist, and opinion columnist, Anna Quindlen, give yourself a treat. Her New York Times column, Public and Private, won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. She began her journalism career in 1974 as a reporter for the New York Post. She has written many nonfiction books and eight novels, and Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bestseller. Here’s one of her quotes that will give you a clue as to why I love her writing so much: I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
By Anna Quindlen
Anna Quindlen is one of my absolute favourite authors, and her novel One True Thing gave me cause for more tears than any other novel I can remember reading! This was, in some measure, because that story, in many ways, paralleled my own teenage years, and in her memoir, where she looks back at her very full life from the age of 60, I found many more reminders of my own life. And this in spite of our very different cultures; she in the US and me in New Zealand. That is her great talent; to write in a way that allows so many different, yet similar people relate to her and her experiences. She is warm, funny, thought-provoking and the sort of writer that makes me think I could sit down in her kitchen (smelling of newly baked bread, probably) and begin chatting, without thinking twice about what a celebrated author she is. (PS: Her new novel, out April 2016, Miller’s Valley has that same déjà vu effect on me.)
Article of Possible Interest
My most recent Psychology Today post seems to have struck a chord and has had a serious number of views (it’s all in the headline) “Listen Up Women! Super Strong Legs Make Super Strong Brains” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201601/listen-women-super-strong-legs-make-super-strong-brains)
So as I head to the beach for a leg strengthening 'run' I'll say cheerio (if you are old enough you may recall that jolly expression from your childhood) for another month with thanks for your support. Do feel free to carry on conning some more mates or enemies into subscribing to my e-newsletter (and later buying my novel(s)!) http://www.jenniogden.com/newsletter.htm