The Life of a Book

Happy “Paperback Birthday” to ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  The hard cover version has had a wonderful year, and I wish its paperback little sister even more success!

Turning “soft” is part of the natural life-cycle of a book, but it is only a small portion of its Life.  We all have favorite stories that have wormed their way into our hearts, and influence our daily lives through conversation, quotes, or contemplations.  How an audience reacts to a story, and what they take from it and keep for themselves, is something no author can predict.

Pardon today’s reblog, then, about one small moment in the Life of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, after it left the author’s desk.  We write stories for many reasons, but in the end, we hope that someone will read them and connect to what we’ve written.  I hope this particular copy reached its intended audience!  Read on, Macduff:

Book Bravo: One For the Murphys

POSTED ON MAY 17, 2012 BY 

 

We’ve all been there.  You can tell the moment you answer the door that this person is there to sell you something.  Usually magazines.  Sometimes new windows.  Or the deal of a lifetime on a lawn care system.  Almost always, I’m pretty militant about sending them on their way.  I don’t even open the door, just shout a hearty, “NOT INTERESTED, THANK YOU!” and watch them fumble with their pamphlets as I move back into the safety of my house.
But today was different.  For one thing, I was outside, weeding.  Nowhere to hide.  For another thing, the woman who approached me (for the record, yes – she was selling magazines) started with her life story instead of her sales pitch.  Or maybe that was her sales pitch.  Who knows.  But whatever it was, today was different.

“I never thought I’d be going door to door,” she told me, after introducing herself.  She said she was in a job training program through a nationwide organization (that much, I later confirmed, was legit).
“I’m working hard to finish this program and prove to the state that I am stable enough to get my kids back.”  Uh-huh, okay, what are you selling, and how much is it going to cost me? Still, there was something in her eyes.  She looked so tired.  I stood up, brushed off my knees, and moved toward her.  Maybe her story was real, maybe not.  Without a door to shut between us, I figured the least I could do was make eye contact with her.

Then she seemed to deviate from her script.  She told me she had recently been hospitalized after being beaten by her long-time boyfriend.  She kicks herself for not listening to her 12-year-old daughter who begged her to leave him.  And she was working hard to get her life in order so that she could get her kids out of the foster care system, where they’d been ever since the beating.

This is where the hairs on my arms and neck stood up.  Sadly, I know this is not an uncommon story. However, the particular familiarity of it was freaking me out.  I felt like one of the characters in Lynda Mulally Hunt’s newly published One For the Murphys (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books) was standing in my driveway and talking to me.
Here is an overview of the story (From Barnes and Noble, One For the Murphys):
“A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family’s love.  Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong—until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.”

So yeah, my hair stood on end.  The book moved me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it’s story and message.  In the story, Carley learns that you can lean on good people to help you in a bad situation.  Something about the similarity between Mullaly Hunt’s tale and the one this woman was sharing with me made me listen to her, instead of brushing her off.  Maybe I’m a schmuck.  But just in case, when I went inside for my checkbook, I also picked up a signed copy of the book I had gotten at a recent Wellesley Books event.  I gave it to the woman, and wrote her daughter’s name inside.  When I explained the premise of the book, the woman said she couldn’t imagine how her daughter would feel reading it, knowing she is not alone.

        Then she said, “I wish I had had a book like this, when I was young.  My brothers went to Gramma’s, but I was too little, and went to foster care.”  How would her life have been different if she’d had Gilly Hopkins (from Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins) as a childhood companion?
        So maybe I’m a shmuck.  Or maybe there is a little girl out there who is hurting, scared, and confused, and will be able to read One for the Murphys and know she is not alone, and that good, caring people do exist, and sometimes they are all you need to get by.
        Well done to Lynda Mulally Hunt for the perfectly paced writing in this fantastic novel.  The characters are real, flawed, and quirky, just like you and me.  I highly recommend this book for girls age 9-13, or anyone who loves a good hero story.  You will be enlightened and enriched.

Poem In Your Pocket Day

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Head’s up!   Thursday, April 18th, 2013 is Poem In Your Pocket day!  Originally started by the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education,  in partnership with the Office of the Mayor, PIYPD was launched in 2002 as part of the city’s National Poetry Month Celebration.  Then, in 2008, the Academy of American Poets got involved to make the day a national event.  

Each year on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people are encouraged to select a poem they love, then make copies of it to share with co-workers, students, family members, strangers…anyone!  

I first head about PIYPD from a friend, who works as the director of recreation in a small town in CT.  Several years ago, a couple of young women came in to the town offices, and handed out poems that were “small enough to fit in your pocket.”  My friend chatted with them and thanked them for the poem.  After they left, she looked down to see that the poem they had given her was written by my brother-in-law, the poet Jason Tandon.  Small world, small poems, big fun!  

I hope you’ll consider finding (or writing!) your own poem to share this year.

Here’s a nice pocket-size poem by Jason Tandon, from his upcoming collection Quality of Life ( Black Lawrence Press, May, 2013):  Your Voice.

I’m planning on handing out copies of one of my favorite poems to people I see walking their dogs on April 18th.  Here is a lovely audio of Garrison Keillor reading Jason Tandon’s :  Cleaning Up After the Dog.

And because my inner writer sometimes plays around with poetry, here’s one from me:  

Aisle 12 

Under the fluorescent din

I scan the bags for a salty, crunchy escape

You trap me to tell me that their pretzels are better, and

I shouldn’t get the ones you are stocking, because

Screw them,

Screw them.

You lean in to tell me

What was 3% is now .75, and who is supposed to live on that?

I don’t know what that means,

But I know disgruntled when it grunts.

I picture you at home that evening,

Honey I really stuck it to them today

So pleased that you got some lady in yoga pants to buy the other brand.

And as you’re gloating

That same lady is whetting her salt-puckered pretzel lips

With a nice Cabernet,

Because all I wanted was a snack.