A lot has happened since my last post on this blog. When I think of it, it’s pretty staggering.
Our seven year old daughter Harmony– who turns eight tomorrow– was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in February. She has since undergone two 12-week courses of chemotherapy, before and after surgery to remove the tumor on the roof of her mouth, along with her four upper front teeth.
That experience gave rise to the Middle-Grade novel Echo’s Sister, which I wrote from February through May. The story is from the point of view of a 12 year old girl whose little sister is diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, and while it isn’t the story of what our family and our daughters experienced, it is very much informed by what we went through. It was a new thing for me to write about something that so closely resembled my own life, but I found it to be useful as a way to process all of it.
During this time I was simultaneously receiving positive news and updates about the cover and marketing plans for Train I Ride, the first book of my contract. Seeing all of the people involved in producing a book in the Big 5 publishing world hard at work on one of my own has been fascinating and surreal.
While waiting for my editor to read and respond to Echo’s Sister I began work on a novel that my agent and I were both excited about, tentatively titled Thirty Parks, about a girl whose father takes her on a tour of all thirty major-league baseball parks in a desperate attempt at reconciliation or relationship-building. I was making good progress on it when my wife and two daughters took a week-long holiday to the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. During that time, doing no writing, going to no writer’s groups, I found myself seduced by the sense of place in the neighborhood where we stayed. Seaside town, boogie boarding and scoops of ice cream gave birth to an idea I have been working on ever since our return, called Summer and July. It’s a summer friends/summer crush story, and so far it has been making me very happy to write it. Of course my hope is that HarperCollins will exercise their option for a third book and acquire Summer and July, though that’s a long way off, and would most likely be a 2019 release date if it were to happen.
A week ago my editor informed me that she likes Echo’s Sister well enough for it to become the second book of my contract, provided I can make the editorial changes she thinks are necessary for it to become the story she hopes it can be. She is hoping I can do the story revisions in the next six weeks.
Meanwhile, I am also becoming more involved with the promotion of Train I Ride– communicating with the bookstore– Changing Hands– that will be selling at the release party in late January, along with the gallery owner, and trying to set up appearances at Barnes and Noble. Also I am hoping to make appearances at schools in the coming months. And there are things like giveaways of galley copies of Train I Ride on Goodreads to keep me busy. I am excited that Ami Polonsky, my agency sister and author of Gracefully Grayson (which my older daughter and I adored) and the forthcoming Threads, has read Train I Ride and kindly written a lovely blurb for it which will be used in promotion.
I find myself in the position of promoting book #1, editing book #2, and writing what I hope will become book #3 with HarperCollins. My agent tells me I should begin seeing the most important reviews in the next month, which are the first exterior indicator of whether my January Big 5 debut will be a success. I feel like I’ve got many more books in me, and that I am becoming a better writer every day. So here’s hoping– on the eve of Harmony’s eighth birthday– for many more years of happiness.