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July 13, 2016

To Sarah Brick, with gratitude


I’m having a ridiculous amount of fun going through the copy-edits for Mitzi Bytes, which came back to me last week. The feedback is incredible, so insightful, detailed, and nobody has ever read this book so well or carefully before. Sometimes it’s a little mortifying to have it all laid out, just how much you’ve got wrong—but then the gratitude that there’s someone who’s catching all that. But for me there is also the pleasure of reading the book all over again, and reading it at this point in the editorial process, which is the closest I’ll ever come to reading it as a reader instead of its writer. And doing so is reminding me of where it all came from, the little seeds that were planted.

In the years between my daughters’ births, I wrote 40,000 words of a novel, which I don’t think I ever finished. It was a novel about a family in a moment of crisis, each chapter from a different family member. One chapter was “If Life Gave Me Lemons,” which was the only bit that was ever published, and that chapter was very different and disconnected from the rest of the book. Mostly. Except for the part where my character comments that she’s been leaving anonymous mean-spirited emails on her cousin’s mommyblog. That cousin was a sister in the story’s central family, and an unhappy new mother. She was kind of autobiographical, which made the comment that “she was too mean-spirited to be sympathetic” a little insulting when it came back accompanying a rejection I’d received upon sending a chapter to a literary magazine. The novel itself was lacking focus, which is part of the reason I never finished it. Skimming through it the other day, I realized it wasn’t altogether terrible—but then I would appreciate it if we bothered to ask a bit more than that from our books.

The idea of the anonymous blog commenter stayed with me though, even after the novel was abandoned. I thought about it a lot, and this idea morphed into the premise for Mitzi Bytes: forthright blogger begins to question her project and fear for her sanity once she discovers a reader with nefarious intentions. My protagonist, Sarah Lundy, doesn’t share so many qualities with the character she was born from, although they do share a name. I didn’t realize this until I was looking through the old story the other night. It turns out that I am really a bit crap a naming characters, which I am trying to get better at. Reading Duana Taha’s book made me realize that a character with an interesting name inherently has something interesting about her because hers is the name she lives with, and so in the project I am currently working on, I have made an effort to name my characters with more originality. I.e. not call them all Sarah, I mean, although I didn’t even name Sarah from Mitzi Bytes—my daughter Harriet did. This was back when she also named everything Sarah, and in fact had a whole fleet of imaginary dogs called just that. So that’s just how bad my character naming is.

I like that they share a name though, Sarah Lundy and Sarah Brick from the old book. Even accidentally. And I am grateful too to Sarah Brick and her overt unsympatheticness and her hastily sketched, poorly drawn lines, and the failed literary project that she was a part of. Because Sarah Brick proof that nothing is ever really a waste of time. That even if work doesn’t get us to the finish line, it can also be useful in getting us to the place where we can finally begin.

9 thoughts on “To Sarah Brick, with gratitude”

  1. Margrit says:

    I love this post so much, Kerry! The hopefulness, the openness, the sharing the light near the end of the tunnel.
    I also love how everything links–motherhood and its ecstatic frustrations, writing, kid’s play, editing–and builds and morphs into this (very much awaited) book. And probably so much more beyond it, too.

    Thank you!

    1. Kerry says:

      I hope you like it, Margrit! So excited for you to read it. xo

  2. Jocelyn says:

    Wonderful. I feel the excitement and inspiration vibrating off your words. xo.

    1. Kerry says:

      Thank you!!

  3. Vani says:

    Hi Kerry I came across your blog in the UFT Alumni Magazine feature and I don’t know if you remember but we were in the same residence for first year (Annesley Hall). Anyways I am so happy that you have become a published author, it’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl but I didn’t go the Liberal Arts route unfortunately. I resonate with you as I, too, have two little girls ( ages 7 & 3) and can relate to the angst and joy that you write about in your blog. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Kerry says:

      I remember you, Vani! Thank you for your message! Wonderful to hear from you. And oh, 7 & 3 is a pretty nice mix, isn’t it? Although sometimes too too crazy. All the best to you.

      1. Vani says:

        I must ask this quick question…how to you find the time to write while balancing mommy hood in the summer months especially? One of my goals this year was to finally delve into that novel I have been meaning to write for the past twenty years but since he kids have been on break its been from one disaster to the other with me just crashing on the couch at the end of the day with no inclination to write…or even read

      2. Kerry says:

        A lot of people get up early and write before the sunrise and the kids’ rise, but waking up early is not my thing. This summer I’ve set a goal of writing 1000 words a day, and I’ve made my children part of the project. We’re home all day together and for 2hrs or so during the day, they watch a movie or play by themselves, and they’ve got snacks and drinks and I just sit down in a space away from them and get it done. Writing a book is like taking a walk—one foot (or word) in front of the other, and just go go go. This is what works for me. And when I meet my goal, it’s a success for all of us. I’m grateful for their support, and I also like how they get to feel they’ve had a part in my success.

  4. Vani says:

    Thank you. I actually did just that yesterday…put on a movie and sat with them. I actually got 500 words done. You are right. Our successes are theirs as well. Best of luck

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