TEN YEARS

Today I received a heavy box in the mail, and I wondered what my kids had ordered without asking. To my surprise, the box contained Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of An Elegant Woman—such a beautiful cover and so many copies. I hadn’t felt that thrilling sensation of seeing a work of mine so composed, so ready to be read, in years. Ten years to be exact.  In January of 2010 I received a similar box containing Dear Money, my last novel. My daughter was ten and my son was six; I was younger, too. My mother didn’t yet have dementia. Dear Money was my third book in a decade. I didn’t yet have teenagers. I hold An Elegant Woman in my hand, and the past ten years come rushing in—the challenge to write the novel, the fight for time while taking care of teens and a sick mother, the slow pace of the words making their way from my brain to the page, the false start, the long revision, the clobbering self-doubt. I had a professor who described that kind of self-doubt as “your shit bird.”  “Swat it away,” he’d say. Swat and swat and swat, but the little shit bird kept landing again on my shoulder, a little bop-bag doll. Finally, somewhere along the way, with the encouragement of a patient, trusting, and believing editor, the characters took over. The book has a lot to do with stories my grandmother used to tell me about her life, her childhood, our ancestors, the way she made it from poverty in Montana to a bourgeois life in New Jersey. Across the years, I’d scribbled notes, first while she was alive and then after she was dead. I followed those notes like bread crumbs, followed them from Ohio to Montana to New York, Maine, to New Jersey—her life against the backdrop of the American landscape and the 20th century.  Word by word, I followed her lead, and now I have a book. That’s how it is done, bushwhacking, swatting away at the bird. But the view from here now is very beautiful.

A Most Astonishing Review: Thank You Stuart Mitchner and The Town Topics

Deep Down, It’s All About Writing — Martha McPhee’s Excellent Adventure

Stuart Mitchner

Click here to visit Cindy Sherman’s site

Martha McPhee’s new novel is not what it appears to be.

According to the jacket copy, Dear Money (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $25) is a “Pygmalion tale of a novelist turned bond trader …. a raucous ride to the top of the income chain.” True enough, except that when a real-life bond trader came along and “propositioned” Martha McPhee in 2004 (“If you give me 18 months, I’ll turn you into a star trader.”), she behaved like a real-life writer. She saw a story in that proposition, explored the idea, researched it, and wrote a book that in its most inspired and accomplished pages has more to do with the joy of making literary art than it does with the art of making money….

Click here to read full review of Dear Money and to understand what Cindy Sherman has to do with it.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine