ROAD OUT OF WINTER is coming, and in partnership with Gramercy Books, an independent bookstore in Ohio, and with a lot of help from my community in Appalachia and friends, I’m throwing myself a book party. It’s virtual, so you can come wherever you are, and you don’t even have to dress up--though I will, and have snow, a musical performance with an original song inspired by the book (!), a Q & A, and maybe a very brief reading by me.
It’s free and all may attend. A link invite and password will be coming your way (via a special installation of this newsletter) this weekend. So check your email, including your spam folders, and I hope to see you in the snow on Tuesday!
We have been in our new home for over two weeks, so I can say we made it safely. It’s hard, even looking back a few days, to write about what happened, though I did write it (in an essay that will be coming out in The Rumpus soon).
A lot of people have asked me how to move across the country safely during a worldwide dystopia. My first advice is, don’t. My second advice is: already have written a book about it so you kind of know, even though your book is fiction and this itself is troubling.
We didn’t run into a skateboarding cult, I’m happy to report. I told my family we weren’t braking if we did, and like my favorite character, Jamey, a teenager who is just learning to drive and flies past a hitchhiker on the cold, deserted road: “We ain’t stopping for no man.”
You can have an adventure even when you can’t really leave the car, even when you can’t talk to anyone, or stop anywhere without gloves and a mask. You can see things: animals, weather. You can mark change. But then the adventure ends and you’re in a new place where you can’t talk to anyone, and no one can stop or talk to you without gloves and a mask.
Fire has been our strange, new neighbor.
I bought two big air purifiers and they run in the house day and night, moaning like ghosts. For the first time in many years, over a decade, almost two decades, I have my own office, which is the sunniest room, on the back of the house, where every now and then my son even forgets about me, working. I know I will write a new book here.
I’ve already started, though it’s hard-going. I write during my son’s morning class Zoom. I’ve had to wear an earplug in my one good ear to tune out the sounds of his teacher, the sounds of my anxiety over my child being happy and okay and safe, which is very loud indeed.
Friends warned me that being on the brink of having a debut novel published is a rough, strange time. Grieving your project, which is now out in the world, grieving what happens or what could have happened, which is totally out of your control, at the whims of people with money and power and influence, which you don’t have.
Sounds like something else I know.
If I could choose not to have a book coming out at this exact time in history, I would. I read some advice about first novels, which said you should plan something happy about a month after your book’s release, to give you something else to look forward to.
I’m not sure what that something else could be now. A new plant for the backyard? Somewhere safe to go that isn’t impassable by wildfires or floods or snow, or infected by virus, or overrun?
Or maybe I need to plan a trip into a new world, a world of my own making. Maybe, in a month’s time, I need to be deep in the new story I am telling myself, no longer a tourist in a story of a river and a lost child. A story of rot and humidity and flood walls and secrets and friends. A story far away from here, and both far and close at the same time from the last story I wrote.
Both far and very close to me, as, in the new book I am starting, the main character has my disability, partial deafness. I think this may be the hardest thing I have ever written. After the last one.
Every day is the new hardest day. But every morning we keep rising.
I don’t know anyone who is sleeping well. Valerian was one the first herbs I was exposed to, in a tea, which is very common, but you can also take a few dropperfuls of a tincture, made from the root. Take it immediately before you want to go to bed, because it usually puts me right out—or more commonly, I finally take it in the middle of the night after I’ve been tossing and turning for hours.
In some stories and legends, valerian flowers are thrown where people have been fighting to get them to stop. Hanging at a window, it can stop evil from entering or lightning from striking—both of which we need to stop right now. It’s also going to feature a lot in my new book project, it turns out—but more on that later.