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January Book Events

Bring a friend and join me for a book discussion about Jimmy and Me, A Sister’s Memoir. This is a relatable family story that will particularly appeal to parents, siblings, teachers, and caregivers of special needs children. Hope to see you!

Thursday, January 11 at 7:00pm
Tewksbury Public Library
300 Chandler St., Tewksbury, MA

Saturday, January 20 at 6:00pm
I AM Books
189 North St., Boston
(across from the Paul Revere House)

Favorite Books of 2017

Here’s a list of memorable books I read this year. Maybe you’ll enjoy one or two.

Fiction

Mercury by Margot Livesey – if you love horses and family drama
The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink – if you appreciate art and intrigue
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline – if you appreciate art and the Maine coast
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – if you’re patient and like quirky characters

If you’re wondering what really happened and who’s involved:
The Dinner
by Herman Koch
The Couple Next Door by Shari LaPena
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

South of Broad by Pat Conroy – for fans of Conroy, his characters, and Charleston
The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve – one of Shreve’s better novels with a strong female protagonist
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford – historical fiction set among 1909 Seattle World’s Fair
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman – endearing story about unlikely relationships

Nonfiction

Rosemary by Kate Clifford Larson – eye-opening story about the hidden Kennedy daughter
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – growing up poor in the Rust Belt
Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone – if you relate to the loving and demonstrative Italian way of life

What book do you recommend?

Journey of a Memoir

Post-it notes, color markers, index cards, notebooks, flip charts, Excel spreadsheets. I used all of them and more to write a book. What started out as an essay in a one-day seminar eight years ago grew into a memoir.

I read lots of memoirs, studied books at Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores, and on my own shelves.

I called my sisters to verify family facts. “Do you remember . . . ?” and “When did we . . . ?”

I bought easel-size paper and wallpapered my writing room. I moved a rainbow of 3×3 sticky notes up, down, and across.

I asked people to read the first page and clunky, raw versions that I thought were complete. How embarrassing!

I was over-eager, and prematurely sent out query letters thinking I could land an agent. Who wouldn’t want to represent me? I had a unique story, didn’t I?

Then I met Chris who said, “You have to deliver the goods. Dig deeper.”

So I took his sage advice and sat on the floor of my writing room to make myself physically uncomfortable. I spit out pages of difficult scenes or “islands of memoir,” suggested by William Zinsser in Writing About Your Life.

I spread pages in neat columns on the floor, stood up, noticed themes and color-coded them.

I laid pages on the kitchen island for another view. Then I took scissors and cut up paragraphs to rearrange them.

Back at the computer, I deleted sections large and small and moved them into a file titled “Lost pieces of manuscript.”

I’d wake in the middle of the night and think of a better word to use in a specific sentence. I’d reach for a notepad on the nightstand and scribble words before losing the thought.

I met with Kathy who would critique sections and pose question after question. She patiently took my calls that were filled with self-doubt and she nudged me forward.

I eliminated chapter titles and felt immediate freedom.

I secluded myself in the rotunda of my local library where not even a bottle of water is allowed.

I asked Mary and Bridget and Martha to read the manuscript and met with each of them for feedback.

And all the while, I asked, “Why am I doing this?”

One voice said, “No one cares. This is junk.”

Yet another voice whispered, “Keep going, Joyce.”

I read it and read it and read it, with a pencil in one hand and sticky page markers in the other, until I got so tired of my own story.

I put the manuscript away and didn’t touch it for months at a time. I told myself it was marinating.

I dabbed peppermint essential oil on the back of my neck to stimulate creativity.

I wandered museums, lit candles, listened to classical music, and drank herbal tea hoping for inspiration.

I stared out the window – a lot.

I diverted my attention by watering houseplants and shopping on Amazon.

I meditated.

I took a lot of walks.

Then one day last November I talked to my friend Tina and told her I was stuck.

“You’re not stuck. You’re done,” she said.

Those five words catapulted me forward. I gave myself a deadline to self-publish and kept driving to it. I hired a graphic designer and a copy editor. I proofed the manuscript multiple times before approving it for publication.

Did I really need all those writing methods and stationery supplies? I don’t know but they got me to where I am now: a published author.

Toes Up Time

A yoga friend told me she reads Musing Off the Mat while waiting for her son at appointments and school functions.

“It’s funny, charming, and calming, three things greatly needed in current times!” she says.

Another friend told me that her boyfriend likes reading the short personal essays in the bathtub because it helps him relax.

I’m humbled and honored by these comments. My goal with this book was to provide readers with a diversion from their hectic days. Read it from beginning to end or simply fan through the pages and select a short essay to free you from worry or routine. You’ll laugh, nod in agreement, and maybe even shed a tear.

Whether you’re waiting in the pick-up line, soaking in the tub after a hard day’s work, or just having toes up time, my stories will take you away for a few moments. Order your copy on Amazon. Buy one for a friend, too!