More about publishing

I think Natalie Ginzburg said you shouldn't try to get people to love you through your writing.  I think the same applies to teaching and probably to parenting. If you have a baby for love, you're a chump. A chump with a lifetime of anxiety in front of you.
The MFA program was great except one of my professors developed a weird crush on me and kept saying inappropriate stuff during workshops. These workshops were a mix of helpful feedback and posturing. Occasionally we had a famous guest like Paul Auster who called my writing "sweet" a comment that I have never let go of lo these 30 years. My novel was bouncing around getting great reviews in places where there were no books to buy. It also received some attention that nearly took my breath away-LA Times-"Like being locked in a closet with a whining adolescent."
 I did a bunch of readings mostly in New York and then one day I recognised that nothing was really different. I had been given some money, I had a book, it was being published in England, I was able to dedicate it to my eldest sister but otherwise, nothing was different. Harper rejected my follow-up novel and I was filled with self-pity. 
My family had a name for what I was becoming-a grievance collector. I didn't get a big enough advance, marketing dropped the ball, there weren't enough books, famous friends of my parents hadn't written blurbs. I wasn't part of the Gordon Lish brat pack, I didn't have enough pull. Wah, wah. It was disgusting and certainly reflected poorly on someone who had written one novel and had it published with so little effort.
The MFA program was changing me in a number of ways. I was finally looking at literature from a writer's perspective and that helped me understand process in a much deeper way. Also, I was surrounded by writers and finally felt less isolated and less special. Alan Ginsburg was teaching poetry and we would commute with my teacher (the non weird one) back to Manhattan, Alan recounting stories about "Jack, Gregory, Bill" and all those other beat legends. He wasn't very interested in women but he appreciated my handsome boyfriends. Also, he brought over a group of Russian survivors, writers who had been sent to the Gulag during the worst of Soviet oppression. Some of those poets had spent nearly their entire life in exile, they were poor and no one gave them book deals but they didn't whine and they kept writing.
I was sitting with a group of my students from English Comp who were mainly Haitian refugees and listening to these dissidents and I had a moment of clarity when I realized no one promised me anything if I wrote and if I continued to feel like a victim I could no longer see myself as an artist. I finished my second novel LIVING IN ARCADIA and the first chapter was published in Mademoiselle Magazine and my British publishers bought it for paperback. They paid next to nothing but they were really nice and I went over to London, met everyone, had a fun affair with the Marketing Director (now the publisher)since they put me up in his flat and generally enjoyed my status as an "author" which was something the Brits took quite seriously.


  1. Molly,

    Thanks for reminding me about Paul Auster. He and I were undergraduate classmates, though as far as I know, we never met each other. I've had him on my "must read" list for years but never did. Now I'm reading my way through his work at our public library. Lots of resonance - even though we never met, we have moved through many of the same physical and emotional spaces over the course of our lives. If not an alter ego, at least a shadow brother. I appreciate you bringing us together.



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