Tuesday, February 19, 2013

DESTINY, REWRITTEN: An Editorial Love Story

(I don't blog much about my authors' books while they're in-progress toward publication. In part, this is out of respect for the writing/editing/revising/ publication process: a lot can change for a story as we work on it. It's also out of respect for readersbecause I think it's mean to taunt you with tales of fantastic books you can't yet buy! Thus this series of publication-day "Editorial Love Story" posts was born: to celebrate the fact that, at long last, an author's book is out on shelves, and to offer a glimpse of each book's unique "making-of" story. I hope you'll enjoy and be inspired by this post, and that you'll soon have a chance to read this great book, or share it with a young reader that you know!)


Des·tin·y: destinÄ“/ (noun) The hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.

Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn’t even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then a seeming tragedy strikes: just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she accidentally loses the special copy of Emily Dickinson’s poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily’s understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.

In her third novel, Kathryn Fitzmaurice again weaves a richly textured and delightful story about unexpected connections, about the ways that friends can help us see ourselves for who we truly are, and about the most perfect kinds of happy endings: those that happen just on time.

That charming cover alone should sweep you into the story, but if you're the sort of person who's more interested in the words inside of a book than its cover, then I'll start by saying this: in many ways, Kathryn Fitzmaurice is my touchstone for wonderful middle grade writing. Perhaps this is, in part, because Kathryn's first book (The Year the Swallows Came Early) was also the very first manuscript I fell in love with as a newly-minted assistant editor.


Back then, I'd just moved over to the editorial side of the business after five years of working on the Marketing/Publicity side of the industry. I'd been working for my new boss, the ever-brilliant Brenda Bowen, for only a few weeks, when I took a long weekend to visit my older brother's family. On my way out the door, Brenda said to me, "You know, I'm reading a manuscript that I think might be something special, but let me get a little further to be sure. Check your email later this weekend and if I think you should read it, too, I'll send it to you for the flight home." So I dutifully checked my email from my brother's work computer later at the end of the weekend and sure enough, there was an email from Brenda with Kathryn's manuscript attached, saying that I should get to reading. Now, Dear Reader, this was in the archaic days before e-readers, when reading a manuscript meant carrying around actual printed pages. So I have a very vivid memory of printing out that manuscript on brother's utterly ancient, practically dot-matrix work printer, page by slooooow page. ("This is probably going to be a book," I bragged to my brother, a staunch environmentalist. "With all that paper? It better be," he replied.) And once I picked it up and started reading? I fell into the story, head-first, and realized there was really no "probably" about its being a book, because it was already close-to-perfect. By the time I stepped off the plane back in NYC, I knew what it like to have editorial goosebumpsthat tingle that sweeps over you and runs all the way up your arms and turns into a stupid grin, because you've discovered that you are reading something wonderful that almost no one else in the world knows about yet, and that you might be one of the lucky ones who gets to help the whole world find it. And that, my friends, is an incredible feeling. But....all of that is the story of The Year the Swallows Came Early, and of Kathryn's first book, and while it's a wonderful story, it's not really the one that belongs to today.

Fast-forward five years after those first bookish tingles and I'm honored to have moved beyond being an assistant to become one of Kathryn's editors. Over the years of working with her, I've often heard Kathryn tell the story of her grandmother, a novelist herself who inspired Kathryn greatly. And I've learned, through lovely tidbits and treats in my email and in my mailbox, that Kathryn has a poet's heart. So when it was time for her to write a new novel, I was not at all surprisedbut oh, I was delighted!to learn that she'd threaded some of the dearest things from in her own world into a brand-new story, and then filled it up with utterly wonderful characters. (And yeah, this manuscript gave me editor-tingles, too.)

I often tell people that Kathryn has a particular magic as a storyteller that is incredibly well-suited to her audience of middle grade readers. Remember that period of your life when the world first started opening up and you began to glimpse and understand and fully grasp the connections between yourself and the rest of the world in sometimes-electric, sometimes-heart-breaking, sometimes-wondrous ways? Those are the moments that Kathryn captures in her stories, and she makes them shine, building magic out of a collection of (at-first) seemingly unrelated, and sometimes-even-tragic, things. We all love to imagine the life of a writer, and so I often picture Kathryn walking beside the ocean in California with her dog Holly, thinking about all sorts of interesting things, and collecting and gently discarding ideas, much the same way one collects and discards shells and rocks and other bits of wonderment from a beachuntil at last she has gathered up an assortment that she can see connections between in a way that no one else ever has—yet. And then she gets to work turning those connections into a story, one full of meaning and charm and life.

In Swallows, Kathryn's initially-disparate handful of story elements included cooking and the Pacific Ocean and swallow migrations and the challenges of immigration and incarceration and friendship and family and disappointment and hope and love. In Destiny, Rewritten, she explores family and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and the romance novels of Danielle Steel and red rubber boots and protesting treesitters in Berkeley, CA and a lost dog and loyal friends and haiku-writing during Poetry Month and used bookstores and a military-obsessed cousin, and a very particular sort of long-awaited happy ending. Artfully, and unobtrusively, Kathryn finds a way to weave together all of those once-unrelated things, until the reader can see the links between them, and the story they've created, and perhaps even between the story and their own lives, too. But (and here's where the second part of her magic as a writer comes in) you don't realize Kathryn's the one doing all this, because her characters are so very alive, so very human, that the story belongs whole-heartedly to them. A good writer is a conduit for hope and for discovery, both in her characters, and in her readers. Kathryn and her books are exactly that. It's impossible to close one without feeling just a bit better: like you've discovered a little more clarity about being alive in the world, a little more reason and understanding about its ways, and a little more inspiration about what it means to dwell in it as a person both inspired and inspiring, a good friend, a courageous human being. A

What I am trying to saymuch less perfectly than a masterful writer like she could, I'm sure!is that my former boss used exactly the right word for Kathryn's writing all those years ago when we read her first manuscript. In a word, Kathryn's storytelling is special. And heartwarming. And magical. And lovely. And vivid. And memorable. And gentle. And oh-so-good-let's-read-it-again-shall-we?

But enough of my chatter! Want to help Kathryn celebrate her third book's debut? Buy a copy for yourself or a young reader (or anyone else you know who loves the poetry of Emily Dickinson or the romance novels of Danielle Steel) from your favorite bookseller or check it out at your library! Follow Kathryn on Twitter(@kfitzmaurice) or friend her on Facebook or take a peek at her blog. And don't forget to check out Kathryn's website, where you can download a discussion guide or watch her book trailer;

Happy publication day, dear Destiny, Rewritten and Kathryn Fitzmaurice! I'm so excited for readers to find and love this book.

6 comments:

  1. I'm so excited to read this book! It sounds just wonderful!

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  2. Thank you for the backstory - it's inspiring. Now I'll have to read the book & share it with my students.

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  3. I enjoyed your post, Molly. I've come to know Kathryn over the last year or two, and your post exactly describes her. I've loved every one of Kathryn's books, but I have to say that Destiny, Rewritten is my favorite. A big thank you to YOU, for bringing them out to the world.

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  4. The cover definitely caught my eye. The story sounds wonderful, too. I'm going to go check out her other books now. :)

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  5. Kathryn's one of the best MG authors out there! I'm very happy to have my copy safely in hand.

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  6. Late to the post, but not to the party - what a lovely tribute to Kathryn! I'm going to seek out her books asap.

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