We’re honored to welcome Vicki Forman to The Debutante Ball. This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood recounts the drastic disabilities of Vicki’s extremely premature child and poses challenging questions about parenthood and human compassion. Publishers Weekly gave This Lovely Life, published in July, a starred review, and called it “enormously affecting.” And Kirkus wrote: “A searing tale of heartache and impressive depth of character. Forman is a warrior.” The memoir won the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference Bakeless Prize.
Vicki teaches creative writing to undergraduates at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Be sure to visit her regular blog. Thanks and welcome, Vicki.
Seas of Change
It’s fall, and for me as a writer the season had always meant productive days, drafting a new project, or revising old work. After my daughter finally entered school full time, fall immediately became a time when a new routine—so welcome after a lack of routine during the summer months—also presented me with the kind of long, unstructured hours every writer needs in order to produce. My academic colleagues without children bemoan the arrival of September, with classes and students demanding their attention, taking them away from their work. But for me the opposite has always been true: fall offers me my most prolific time.
Last fall I was deep into revisions of my first book, This Lovely Life, savoring the routine of days full of hard work: sentences to fix, characterization to improve, pacing to modulate. The kind of work I do best as the light changes and Thanksgiving approaches.
This fall my days look so different I can hardly remember what it was like to have my pen on the page. Instead of drafting new work, or revising old, I’m hard at work promoting that same book. These days, much of my day is spent reaching out, planning, connecting with readers via book clubs, interviews and Q&As.
Of course I’m profoundly grateful, since for a long while I never thought I’d find myself with such a dilemma—a book to promote—nor did I think I’d ever become a deb, or even fit into the dress. My path to publication was challenging and unorthodox. My book was turned down at many houses. I parted ways with my agent. Then I entered a contest and the book won a prize. With that prize came publication.
And with publication, a whole new job: learning how to promote a book. In fall, when my writing life is usually gearing up. I have a big fat draft of new work on my desk awaiting my attention, and yet no focused time with which to grow and tend that work. I yearn to be in bed with that draft, shaping it and finding out its inner life, teasing it into the longer piece I think it wants to be. I curse myself for not having gotten that work farther along before I had to turn so much of my attention to helping my existing book make its way into the world.
Of course, if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that the regular routines we established as writers will almost always vanish as soon as we become attached. If fall is always my most productive time, I might just have to find a way to get better as a writer in winter. If very early mornings were usually best for me, I am learning that late at night, when all the day’s details have been sorted through, could also work, if only for a while. It’s not ideal, but it is possible.
And then, there is always spring. Maybe instead of changing colors and waning light, I’ll find that new shoots and soft, dewy mornings will bring me my inspiration. A writer can only hope. –Vicki Forman