Oh hi, it’s me blogging. My fingers feel wobbly and all of the voices in my head are talking at once. When the noise gets this loud, there’s only one thing I can do to make myself feel better. Write. It’s been this way as long as I can remember, starting with my Ramona Quimby journal in third grade. So here I am.
And there I was, during the height of the pandemic, writing my sixth novel in my garage while my brother and mother helped with home schooling the dudes. I knew the book was going to be meta, I needed to process the me before the loss of my husband in 2017 and then my father in 2019 and then the world as we knew it in 2020, but I was scared. And what do I do when I’m scared and I have a book to write? I write around the fear instead of burrowing into the center of it. Needless to say, my first draft sucked. But then again, they always do. That’s part of the process.
My book was originally called “The Book Tour”, and was intended to be a peek behind the curtain of life as a working author; the struggle between being so grateful that what you love is what you do for a living and then barely making a living. No one talks about that. It’s as if as authors we’re all terrified, including me, that if we complain, we’re out. And I don’t want to be out! I truly am so grateful to be a published author. It’s a lifelong dream fulfilled. But as a single parent, I worry. Who wouldn’t?
My editor and agent read my first draft and came back to me with the same note. I love the idea but this is not a novel about a book tour. Not really. This is a novel about a widow who happens to be an author who happens to be on a book tour.
Oh, I said to them. And then to myself: shit.
Out when the erroneous details; the mind-numbingly dull road trip; the even more mind-numbingly dull conversations about Covid and in I went to the heart of my fear.
Who cares? said one voice in my head as I wrote about my grief. Who do you think you are? chided another as I dug into my memories of the me before me. This isn’t a novel, where’s the missing child or the boiled rabbit or the shocking twist? screamed a third. But I wrote on.
So much of the protagonist in Fun Widow is me. So much of my family and friends and sons are in these pages too. But the plot is fictional. Maybe that makes The Fun Widow’s Book Tour a kind of upside down Alice in Wonderland version of historical fiction? Or maybe it’s just a raw account of finding one’s way back to oneself after they’ve been blown apart by grief. That’s what I hope I’ve written at least.
What it also is is my attempt to preserve my husband and father forever in time, the only way I know how: through words. What a gift it is that I got to do that. They were alive for me still, as I blended fact and fiction through my own lens and that, for me, is all there is. Writing them back to life helped bring me back to life, which is meta in its highest form if you ask me.
What the book is also is a love letter to friendship. Mia, my protagonist, is held up by her three closest friends – selflessly and endlessly. And as she tries to repay them for all that they’ve done, she realizes that repayment in terms of true friendship is not a commodity; it’s not something that can be bought or sold. It’s in the listening; the seeing; the encouragement and the laughter.
Which brings me to the phrase “fun widow.” I worried when we decided to go for it and retitle the book that readers would take the “fun” literally. That they would envision a widow trying to get her groove back while drinking cosmos or something equally horrifying. The “fun” is ironic of course. There is nothing fun about grief. It takes a good long while to laugh again after you’ve been knocked sideways. Oh, but when you finally do! It’s triumphant. To know that each breath could be your last; that you could be here in the morning and gone by the afternoon and laughing anyway? That’s the stuff.
So now comes the awkward part: promoting my book when the book is more or less about me which is exactly what happens in Fun Widow – it’s a metaxplosion of worlds. Yes, I just made that word up. It’s months away yet – it won’t be published until March 14, 2023, but in a world of goofy hashtags, I know I’ve struck gold with #funwidow. You’ll be seeing it a lot from me and I invite you to use it too – not just in the hopes of putting my sons through college with a bestselling book although that would be nice – but when you’re feeling low and forcing yourself to get on with the show anyway.
Not just because you have to, but because a small piece of you wants to. Because you know that the people who love you, both here and not here, would want that for you. Because you want that for you.
Thanks for reading.