My beau gave me a beautiful hydrangea plant for Easter. It arrived in full bloom with five orb-like blossoms made up of small, powder blue flowers. Because New England spring weather is so changeable, I haven’t yet planted it outside. Instead, the hardy little plant has been residing indoors, doing its best impersonation of a house plant.
Unfortunately for the hydrangea, I have a poor track record with houseplants. I’m becoming more responsible, but over the years I have been guilty of fatal neglect when it comes to regular watering. You wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to remember to water something once a week, but …
A few days ago, I noticed that my poor hydrangea was looking very sad. Its beautiful blooms had wilted and crumpled in an alarming way. I felt especially guilty since my beau happened to be there to witness the result of my carelessness. I whisked the poor plant to the kitchen sink and gave it a generous drink before intentionally diverting my beau’s attention elsewhere.
Miraculously, only a short time later, the blue flowers had completely recovered. Just a simple drink of water, and they had been fully revived. They looked as healthy and lush as ever they had. I showed the rescued plant to my beau who wasn’t as surprised as I was by its ability to come back from the brink of death. Instead, he only commented, “It wants to be a bush. Once you get it outside, you’ll be amazed at how fast it’ll grow.”
I tell you all this because the experience reminded me of how resilient our writing lives are, even in the face of adversity or neglect. Even if you’ve ignored your writing for a while and it seems to be wilting away to nothing, giving it the smallest bit of attention can bring it right back to life. And, like my hydrangea, once you give it the space it needs, you’ll be amazed at how it grows.
What I’m Reading:
There is a particular anxiety attached to reading a book written by a friend. Even if you have admired your friend’s writing in the past, the worst-case-scenario part of your brain spontaneously conjures scenes in which you desperately try to find something nice to say about said friend’s work even though you really didn’t enjoy it. Awkward.
Luckily for me, although I am as prone to such nightmarish daydreams as the next person, no such sticky situation has materialized in real life. Apparently, all my friends are brilliant and talented writers. (Phew!)
This week, I’m delighted to share with you the debut novel of my friend YiShun Lai. If you’ve been here a while, you may recall that I shared YiShun’s story Next of Kin last fall. This spring, Shade Mountain Press released her first novel, Not a Self-Help Book – The Misadventures of Marty Wu. From the Goodreads description:
Marty Wu, compulsive reader of advice manuals, would love to come across as a poised young advertising professional. Instead she trips over her own feet and blurts out inappropriate comments. The bulk of her brain matter, she decides, consists of gerbils “spinning madly in alternating directions.” Marty hopes to someday open a boutique costume shop, but it’s hard to keep focused on her dream. First comes a spectacular career meltdown that sends her ricocheting between the stress of New York and the warmth of supportive relatives in Taiwan. Then she faces one domestic drama after another, with a formidable mother who’s impossible to please, an annoyingly successful and well- adjusted brother, and surprising family secrets that pop up just when she doesn’t want to deal with them.
I fell in love with Marty on page one. She is immediately both very real and very endearing. She is delightfully imperfect, but her imperfection never feels contrived. All the pieces fit. I know people like Marty. You know people like Marty. Though she is decades younger than I am, and much of who she is has to do with the dysfunctional relationship she has with her mother (my mom and I are best friends), I found her completely relatable.
Her story unfolds as a series of diary entries, which she pens in an attempt to cope with everything that’s happening in her life. (I won’t give any spoilers, but there’s a LOT happening.) As someone who has journaled since the age of seven, I found Lai’s “dear diary” voice is spot on. Marty’s on-page ramblings and rantings are honest, transparent, sometimes slightly self-indulgent, often incredulous, and – at all the right points in the story – illuminating. She doesn’t pull any punches. I was also impressed with the way Lai wove the narrative (including dialog) into an epistolary style novel without ever jarring me out of the story.
Not a Self-Help Book is a funny, irreverent, heartfelt story of one woman’s journey to discover what she really wants, who she is, and how she can best navigate the treacherous waters of her relationship with her mother. It’s a story about holding onto dreams, making mistakes, and what happens when we discover that things are not exactly as they seem.
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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
It was school vacation week this week, plus I had a pretty full plate with client work, SO … I didn’t read nearly as many blog posts as usual, but I do have a few to share.
- Want to Write a Novel? Here’s How to Get Started by @aliventures
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- How to Build an Audience for Your Novel by Fauzia Burke
- A rather bold prediction by @monicabyrne13
- Creating Easy Branded Images for Your Blog & Social Media by @kikimojo via @JaneFriedman
- Build An Author Business w/@HelenSedwick via @thecreativepenn
- The audience and the outcome by @pjrvs
THE WRITING LIFE
- Essential Tax Deductions for Writers by @BillFerriss
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to remembering to tend to your writing life so that it can flourish and grow in new and unexpected directions.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.