Meg Wolitzer and Holly Goldberg Sloan

by Jennifer Blecher


Jennifer Blecher with authors Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer of TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOG FISH

Jennifer Blecher with authors Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer of TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOG FISH

I know blogs are so last decade. Today is all about Instagram, Twitter, and things that scroll and generally make me feel insecure. But I love blogs. I miss blogs. (I am a very nosey person and I would like to know everyone’s secrets, the more scandalous the better.)

When I was promoting Star Sisters, my chapter book series from the olden days, I used my blog as a way to track my progress and get some things off my chest. Recently, I’ve been feeling a fair amount of things piling up in that place where worry and anxiety reign, and I need somewhere to put them. So here we are. New middle grade novel OUT OF PLACE, new website, new blog. No promises. Nothing fancy.

Ready?

Today I had the privilege of hearing Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer speak at my daughters’s school about their middle grade novel, To Night Owl From Dog Fish. Because their school librarian is very kind and understands that my idea of a glorious day is talking about writing, with writers or readers or really anyone at all, she lets me sit in on these type of presentations. It is likely that she extends the invitation with the idea that I will sit quietly in the back and be a parent on the wall, so to speak.

And it is equally likely that my behavior will prove a disappointment.

For example, today I arrived at school ten minutes before the presentation with an armload of library books to return and who did I see sitting all alone at a child-sized library table enjoying a quiet moment to themselves? These two rockstars! With a slight tremble in my body (I shake like a leaf normally, but especially around famous authors), I walked up and introduced myself. It is also possible that I slid a fan letter that I had prepared in anticipation of such a meeting across the wooden table. Because my mama raised me right and I believe that if someone has done something nice for you - like write a book that touched your heart, you thank them. On paper. With a signature at the bottom. And then you stick the whole thing in an envelope and seal it with love.

Anyway… the idea was to confess my admiration and then leave them in peace. But, no! Both Holly and Meg wanted to talk about my book. What is it called? Who is my editor? My publisher? Could they see the cover? How was I feeling about it? “Well,” I said. “How much time do you have?” Kidding! I wasn’t nearly that cool. And they did not have much time. But they gave me every last second of it. And their kindness and encouragement was incredible.

A few minutes later they were on stage in front of a group of fifth through eighth graders. At some point, a student asked them about the experience of working together on a book. I’m going to paraphrase here, but my takeaway was that writing with a co-author was a nice change of pace. Because writing is lonely, and challenging, and it can be hard to find people other than your long-suffering spouse (I love you, Jeff) to read your work.

This was not a surprise. Ask any writer and I guarantee that they will speak for as long as you remain standing about the challenges of writing. I too find writing challenging. Every day. But I’ve made peace with this. I enjoy the challenge. I spent years at home with young children doing the mundane tasks that require so much folding and wiping and refolding, longing for a mental challenge, a creative release. What I struggle with is the not knowing part. Not knowing if what I’m writing is coming across how I hear it in my head, not knowing if I’m writing the “right” story, not knowing if I’m making “smart” decisions about what I write next.

Which, I think, is why I will always awkwardly lurk in the school hallways whenever other writers come to visit. Because when you write alone, a reminder that you’re not alone in having a head full of worries, especially from women whom you’ve admired for years, can be exactly what you need to hear to keep on writing.