Today on the blog, as part of her WOW! Women-on-writing book tour, I have Caryn Mirriam Goldberg and her novel, The Divorce Girl. And one of you will be the lucky winner of this engaging novel! But first a little something something to whet your reading appetite.
About The Divorce Girl:
Meet Deborah Shapiro, a New Jersey teenage photographer whose parents’ outrageous divorce lands her in the biggest flea market in the free world, a Greek diner with immigration issues, a New York City taxi company, a radical suburban synagogue, a hippie-owned boutique, bowling alleys, beaches, and bagel shops. As her home explodes, a first love, a series of almost-mothers, and a comical collection of eccentric mentors show Deborah how to make art out of a life, and life from the wreckage of a broken home.
About Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:
Caryn is the Poet Laureate of Kansas and a long-time transformative language artist. As a poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, teacher, mentor, and facilitator she explores and celebrates how the spoken, written and sung word can help us live more meaningful and vibrant lives. She is the author of 14 books (yes, 14!), teaches at Goddard College, and facilitates Brave Voice writing and singing retreats.
Whew! I have no idea how Caryn found time to squeeze in an interview, but here we have…
Five Questions for Caryn:
- I know so many writers, myself included, who can’t find enough hours in the day to get the writing done. What’s the best advice you can give to us, to get the writing done?
If you know you have to write, then you have to make it happen, setting aside time and not intruding upon it unless there are truly extenuating circumstances. This means you plan for and then protect a time that works for them, and then you don’t break any dates with yourself. You show up for your writing just as you would show up for a job each day or when the baby cries in the middle of the night. Sometimes setting writing dates with others will help because we’re often more apt to show up for a friend than for our own calling. As far as making the time, I suggest even setting aside 20-30 minutes two or three times a week — early in the morning, late at night, or in the middle of the day, but also making sure you’ll be successful by going where you can concentrate and focus. If you live in a household full of noise and activity, go to a library. If you live in a place that’s so quiet, it’s hard to shift to creating writing, then go to a busy coffeehouse. Wear headphones if you need to (blasting loud music to seal out others, or blasting no sound but making you look like you’re unavailable) also. Another tip is to write in the same place regularly so that when you sit at that table in the tea shop or chair in the bedroom or couch on the porch, you’ll be imprinted from past writing there to write more there today.
- I read that The Divorce Girl was 17 years in the making. Was there ever a time you thought of walking away from this story? And what kept you plugging away?
I never thought of walking away because I always knew I had to write this book. There were times, however, when I wondered if I would ever get it published, especially after having literary agents who vanished on me or left the publishing industry after I worked with them extensively. What kept me going was the innate knowledge that this was a story worth telling, a healing story for me to write and for others to read — a story about breaking silences and finding new ground for miracles.
3. I think people might be surprised to know that The Divorce Girl incorporates humor. How difficult is it to weave humor in with such serious themes?
It helps that the story is set in a time and place where there’s just a lot of innate humor — from the fashions of the 1970s to how people from New Jersey talk (and no, no one says, “Joisey”) to some of the tragic-comic elements of the story. I lean toward illuminating those moments because I think telling a hard and healing story means naming what’s part of making that story hard and healing (including the funny moments). I don’t trust whole memoirs or novels about difficult topics that don’t include a full view of life’s foibles and missteps as well as real depth.
- Your protagonist is a fifteen-year-old girl but this is definitely a mature read. How do you determine the reader for The Divorce Girl?
One of the big questions every agent and publisher asked me was whether this should be for a Young Adult audience, but I always envisioned the book being both for adults and for teens (although more mature teens — ages 15-16 and up) because this is a story about surviving pain, loss and fear, and yet it’s also a story about coming of age. When people ask if this is a book they should buy for their teen, I tell them that the story does contain violence, sex and even sex ed (in what I think is one of the funniest chapters in the book), and because of who my narrator is, all she experienced is seen as she sees it. Since the main character is a photographer who is very attuned to the details around her, she narrates with an eye toward that detail.
5. So if you weren’t working with words (and honestly, that’s almost impossible to imagine!), what would you be doing?
Thanks for saying it’s hard to imagine! I think I could be immersed in music — piano or another instrument, composing, playing, practicing (and I do play and compose to some extent) or visual arts, but one thing I love about writing is that it’s half-way through the visual and the aural. Writing is very much a musical experience for me.
So there you have it–a little something something that I hope will help you with one of your writing challenges. And a BIG thank you to Caryn for stopping by and offering The Divorce Girl for a giveaway! So leave a comment (and don’t forget your name and contact info) for a chance to win.
(Or P.S., you can get your own copy!)
Sounds good! Put my name in the hat for a chance to win a copy, please.
sally, or any other name you like, at sally-apokedak with a dot and a com following. 🙂
Done, Sally! Or was it Brunhilda? Montana? Fridgerator? 🙂
Thanks for a great interview!
I’m impressed at Caryn’s persistence at sticking with a writing project for 17 years! What an inspiration! Oh, and please throw my name in the hat.
dvolkenannt (at ) charter.net
Thanks for the interview and introducing me to this book. It sounds like it needs to go on my “must-read” shelf. My originally being from NYC, I look forward to remembering the greek diners, taxis, and bagel shops.
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A former poet laureate who is now a novelist? That alone intrigued me.
Please put my name (or a gross of slips of paper, ALL with my name on them) in the hat.
This book sounds intriguing. I think you’re correct. It could be for an adult audience as well as a teenage audience, since the whole family is impacted in a divorce and the waves crash over everyone.