Friday, May 3, 2013

Taking Stock

Today I interviewed my friend Janet Olshewsky for New Books in Historical Fiction. The official release date for her book, The Snake Fence (if you want to know what a snake fence is, you’ll have to read the book or listen to the interview in due course—if you cheat and Google it, you will get entirely the wrong idea), comes in midsummer. As a result, the interview won’t go live until August, and I’ll give it a proper introduction then. We decided to record in advance because she happened to be visiting the area, and it made sense to take advantage of the super-clear microphone rather than relying on remarkable, amazing, ever-wonderful but just occasionally dodgy Skype.

So yes, this post is a mini-plug for Janet’s book, which follows a young Quaker boy trying to reconcile his beliefs with the realities of Pennsylvania in 1755—on the brink of what is known here in the United States as the French and Indian War and elsewhere as the more neutral Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). But more than that, this post (as distinct from the one I plan to add in August, after NBHF assigns its permanent link) celebrates the achievements of the writers’ group that made us friends.

Because our group is approaching its fifth anniversary—next month, in fact. And all of us have either published or will have published by the end of this year. Four of the books—The Snake Fence, my Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel, Seeking Sophia, and Saving Easton—existed in some form when the group began. The Golden Lynx emerged from an old, discarded draft and completely transformed itself in response to group feedback. More books are already in the pipeline.

Now we can’t take complete credit for Janet’s journey. She left us after about fifteen months, when she moved to Florida and of necessity found other groups and other mentors to steer her along her path. We never replaced her, and we still feel a certain proprietary interest in the fate of her main character, Noble Butler, as well as several of the secondary characters in The Snake Fence. Although the remaining group members have chosen to publish through Five Directions Press, we don’t define its limits: Diana Holquist has never been a member of this writers’ group per se, although she certainly put more effort into critiquing The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel than any one go-round on this earth should demand.

In this moment of taking stock, I have to say that I feel awed by the progress we have made. No one of us could have reached this point alone. Most of us had been struggling in isolation for years to figure out what good novel writing required. And although I would be making up stories (like those centenarians who insist they owe it all to neat whisky and cigarettes) if I were to tell you what we did so that the group would click, it seems that somehow we did find a way.

So thank you, ladies, for the last five years. May we have many, many more!

And stay tuned for the release announcement for Seeking Sophia, which is in its final proof stage.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! And thank YOU. I don't think you give yourself enough credit as a writer, but I know for a fact I never would have made it this far without you, Janet and K. And I can't imagine writing anything else without the group of you cheering me on. I'm so proud of us :)


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