I was on the phone with author Barbara Taylor Bradford on Tuesday morning. We were just having a check-in to see how things were going in quarantine. I complained about my mornings of remote learning with my five and eight-year-old children. We both agreed that as women who have worked from home for years—she 40 and me 15—not much had changed for us in that respect. But having lived through WWII, she wanted me to know that it would be OK, that things would get better, that I had to have hope. She then commented that she was excited for the end of the day because after she completed a writing chapter of her next book, she would be shopping online for some Maybelline makeup. This was her reward for a chapter complete. This was the bright little ray on her day.
It made me smile.
In my last WRITER UNBOXED article, I discussed the positive movements in the book world since the pandemic. I’ve seen many a book launch since then, and as a publicist, I’ve been part of a few. Despite all the good, I’ll admit, there are days I feel less than hopeful.
With limited distribution, cancelled tours, fewer marketing dollars, media shifts and downsizes, and possibly decreased publisher support, many authors with books launching this spring are facing a challenge.
So I queried nine authors who have recently launched or are about to launch a new book. I wanted to know, as an artist, what or who gives them hope each day? And what gives them hope for your book despite this uncertain time.
I have to say, the power of US, is so very strong.
Richard Fifield, The Small Crimes of Tiffany Templeton, March 10
My second book was launched on March 7th. Three days later, the world shut down, and I had no live audience, no venues. I need an audience. On the computer, the camera creates a distance that cannot be closed. Last year, my mother died of leukemia, and I was holding her hand at the end, just the two of us, my laptop open, because I promised her that I would finish this book. She was my best friend, and in the last six weeks, I needed her. Our relationship was stormy, until I got sober in April of 2005. I did the work to make it better, and that work began with learning how to love selflessly, to find perspective. Fifteen years ago, I began walking the dogs at Animal Control, the worst dogs, the ones considered unadoptable, damaged beyond repair. I could identify with that. They were so grateful to see me, the real me, and it broke my heart that they had no idea they were set to be euthanized. I was spared, by the grace of something bigger than me, stopped from euthanizing myself slowly. I have adopted five of those dogs, learned to grieve without numbing myself, learned to love without the fear of loss. My rescue dogs rescued me, showed me how to love, and how to be loved. In the last six weeks, they remind me I’m fortunate to have published a book, no matter the outcome. We were all saved for a reason.
Richard Fifield was born and raised in a small town in Montana, and graduated from The University of Montana and Sarah Lawrence College. He currently resides in Missoula, where he volunteers as a creative writing teacher and works with adults with intellectual disabilities. His first novel, The Flood Girls, was published in 2016, and in 2019, he created a charity anthology of memoirs from women from Montana, entitled We Leave The Flowers Where They Are, and the proceeds benefit arts advocacy programs for women in underserved and rural communities.
Erica Mather, Your Body, Your Best Friend, April 10
Hope means “to expect with confidence,” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” As this is my first book launch, I can say I didn’t really know what to expect with any confidence, but my cherished desire, held with anticipation was for the book to “do well.” By do well, I mean a few things. 1. That it would receive praise; 2. That it would have a global reach and help many people; 3. That it would sell many copies. Hard to say where any of these stand this early in the game.
An explanation of why people hope, offered by Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, says that we rely on it when the present is too difficult to bear. We differ our lives into a future moment we expect will be different, and better.
The trouble is, we can’t always rely on the future being better. All we are guaranteed is this very moment.
Because of these very teachings I’ve learned it’s best to release expectations. Then, anything can happen. What gives me hope today is all truth of the many unexpected things that are happening right now. My book was born into a difficult time, yes, but as a result, I’ve made connections with brands, authors, and yoga studios where I otherwise wouldn’t have had opportunities. For this, I’m grateful.
Erica Mather is the founder of the Adore Your Body system for overcoming body image challenges, and of The Yoga Clinic of New York City. Mather is a recognized body image expert and a Forrest Yoga lineage-holder.
Alison Hammer, You and Me and Us, April 7
Tragedy and uncertainty can bring out the worst in people—but it can also bring out the best. What gives me hope these days can best be summed up by the one and only Mr. Rogers, “Look for the helpers.” When I see acts of kindness between strangers, no matter how small, it gives me hope that we’ll all be okay.
When it comes to my book, readers give me hope. The bookstagram community is an incredible gift to the authors they support. Seeing beautiful photos and kind reviews of YOU AND ME AND US always makes me smile, and it makes me hopeful that readers will find the story. And I hope they like it!
Alison Hammer has been spinning words to tell stories since she learned how to talk. A graduate of the University of Florida and the Creative Circus in Atlanta, she lived in 9 cities before settling down in Chicago. During the day, Alison is a VP Creative Director at an advertising agency, but on nights and weekends you can find her writing upmarket women’s fiction.Her debut novel, “You and Me and Us” is out now.
Irene Kessler, Mountain of Full Moons, April 14
The dictionary’s definition of hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. But how do we look at that in these times of turmoil with little chance to do and be what we choose? Many years ago, I decided that I had little control over my life (which has been fantastic and/or horrible at times). My decision was to turn it over to God and his forces. That may sound simplistic but for me it meant finding peace and the trust that whatever happens is supposed to be and we may never know the reason. My decision was not based on religion but on the inner knowledge that I could relax and live without tension. I hope this is helpful to you
Born in New York City, Irene Kessler is a Jill of many trades. As a single mother of three, she was the Polaroid Camera Girl, sold jewelry, and held makeup parties to supplement her alimony. She moved on to sing minor roles at New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Teatro Principal in Barcelona, Spain. Irene received her master’s degree in psychology, and became an eating disorder specialist. She completed her PhD in 1997 and was in private practice for over thirty years. She was inspired to begin writing after attending a presentation by writer and teacher Joyce Sweeney. Mountain of Full Moons is her first novel. She is 85.
Jacqueline Friedland, That’s Not a Thing, April 14
Look for the Helpers. This phrase comes from a vestige of my youth: Mister Rogers. He said when you see terrible situations, you should look for the helpers, and when you find them, you’ll feel a little less afraid. As I focus on the doctors and nurses, trash collectors, grocery store workers, and all the others helping to sustain society, I also think about what I can do to help. I have been told that my recent release, That’s Not a Thing, is providing people with much-needed distraction during this time. To know that my writing has the potential to relieve people of stress, to allow them to relax and enjoy a moment, has provided me with hope that as I create new work, maybe I too can, in my own small way, be one of the helpers.
My disappointment over releasing during a pandemic has been completely turned on its head by the kindness of those in the book community. From book bloggers, podcasters, reviewers, publicists, book clubbers, and other authors, I have been astounded by the support I’ve received from those who “get it.” I’ve also connected with a group of more than fifty other authors who are releasing books during this time. We’ve formed pages on Instagram (and soon Twitter) under the handle Lockdown_Literature, where will be doing giveaways and readings. To see such an eclectic group of authors coalesce to lift each other up is the perfect elixir for the soul right now.
Camille Di Maio, The First Emma, May 5
I always wake up happy. Ok, yes, my husband calls me Pollyanna, but that’s just my personality. It’s not why I’m full of hope in the morning. It’s because of the light. We used to live in a house where trees surrounded our bedroom. They were lovely, but the space was so dark. In our current home – a very vertical townhouse, there are no obstructions. The sun beams with its friendly, blazing intensity. No matter the challenges of yesterday or the tasks of today, there is a moment in which I can just bask. Even weeks into this time of Covid, the sun almost tricks me into thinking that I’ve just woken from some strange dream. It’s enough to give me what I need to sit up and get going. Renewed. And hopeful.
I also find hope in doing puzzles and playing games with my kids. In my newest novel, The First Emma, my real-life character plays from a deck of her old German cards. The suits are acorns, leaves, hearts and bells – different than the ones we use today. She takes in many of her family members immigrating to Texas, eager for its promises, and plays with them in the common language of competition. Games are hopeful things – they elicit laughs, memories, friendly rivalry, and bonding. Someone wins, someone loses, and there is always the cry of “Next time!” Next time assures that there will be a tomorrow. That we will not be defeated. That there is a reason to hope.
My hope for The First Emma is that readers will want to fill their time with books that inspire courage and resilience. Based on the real life of a woman who had many obstacles that we will never encounter, her tenacity and spirit is the ideal remedy to lift us from this time!
Camille Di Maio is the bestselling author of five historical fiction novels. She draws from her travels to write scenes and story that envelope the reader. She loves to connect on Instagram – @camilledimaio_author and on the My Book Tribe page on Facebook.
Sherrie Leimkuhler, What’s Left Untold, May 19
I’ve always considered myself to be a realist, someone who, by definition, accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly. Yet I also maintain a generally optimistic outlook with positive expectations for each day.
But I never imagined a situation where a virus would wreak havoc on life as we know it, where I’d be launching my debut novel in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
Whenever stress, disappointment, frustration or sadness threatens to overwhelm, I hit the trails. Being in nature lifts my spirits, calms my mind and keeps me grounded. When I’m hiking or trail running, the rhythm of my feet hitting the earth brings me a sense of peace. I connect with my breath and shift my focus to the energy and beauty that surrounds me. Bright green blades of grass shoot from the ground and the wind whispers through the trees. Birds sing, flowers bloom and the stream trickles as it carves its serpentine path into the dirt. I always emerge from the trails feeling rejuvenated, my sense of purpose and hopefulness restored.
In What’s Left Untold, Anna, my main character, turns to running to find herself after becoming lost in the depths of depression and the demands of motherhood. Running empowers Anna to heal and to find hope.
During this uncertain time, it’s important to focus on things that make us feel happy and hopeful. Reading provides a specific type of contentment that comes from curling up with a good book and escaping into an imaginary world. I hope my book will find its way into the hands of readers at a time when they need to escape, to heal, to hope and to believe in better days ahead.
Sherri Leimkuhler is a multitasker extraordinaire. She has written professionally for more than twenty years but is a Jill of many trades, with experience in sales, marketing, public relations, event planning, aviation, and yoga instruction. Her health-and-fitness column, “For the Fun of Fit,” appears bi-weekly in the Carroll County Times. Sherri lives in Maryland with her husband, three daughters, and two Labrador retrievers.
Dete Meserve, The Good Stranger, May 19
Hope arrives in many forms. A woman in Ohio is sewing masks and hanging them on a ‘giving tree’ for anyone to take. A landlord in New York City cancels rent for hundreds of his tenants. A university professor in Indiana makes care packages for his students. In Atlanta, actor and director Tyler Perry paid for groceries at 44 Kroger stores. The stories are endless, shared by readers every day in countless messages and in posts on my Random Acts of Kindness page on Facebook.
They give me hope.
But the hope doesn’t end when the acts of kindness is over. Like waves on the beach, each act builds upon the one before it. During these troubling times, we are seeing, more than ever before, our connection with each other. How even the smallest action of one person affects another. Everywhere I look, people are reaching out to help, not just to their family and close friends, but also to their neighbors and complete strangers.
Every story gives me hope.
Scientists says we’re ‘wired for good’—our brains get a dopamine rush when we help others or see people being helped. I think it goes deeper than that. I think we respond with a lump in our throat or a tear in our eye when we see kindness because we know deep inside that helping others is the most important thing we can do. That’s when we are our truest, best selves.
Dete Meserve is the award-winning, bestselling author of three novels in the Kate Bradley Mystery Series: Good Sam, Perfectly Good Crime, and The Good Stranger (coming May 19, 2020) and a fourth standalone mystery/suspense novel The Space Between. Her first non-fiction book, Random Acts of Kindness, co-authored with journalist Rachel Greco was published in March 2019. Her novel, Good Sam, is now a Netflix Original Film available worldwide and starring Tiya Sircar (The Good Place). When she’s not writing, Meserve is a film and television writer and producer in Los Angeles.
Lynne Constantine, The Wife Stalker, May 19
As a writer, my natural tendency is for events to play out in my mind as a story, with a variety of possible endings. What gives me hope is that each new day is a blank page upon which I am free to write what I choose. I make a conscious effort to remind myself of what I’m thankful for and to believe that things will get better. There is a great outpouring of appreciation and love for those serving in various capacities while everyone is trying to stay safe and well. Seeing the good in others and the unselfishness of those willing to sacrifice their time and put their own health on the line, gives me hope in humanity. During this time of physical isolation, I feel like so many of us are becoming emotionally connected as we find ways to be together. Whether it’s reaching out to someone on FaceTime, planning a family Zoom, or simply smiling and waving at neighbors as we take our daily walk, there is a sense of community and togetherness in this crisis.
I write with my sister Valerie under the name Liv Constantine. Our new book, THE WIFE STALKER, is publishing on May 19th and we had a multi-state book tour planned, but of course, all of our events are now virtual. I have hope in the support of our readers and the author community, as well as in the ingenuity of our publishing team and the bookstores in adapting to the current environment that despite not being able to connect in person, our launch will be successful.
Lynne Constantine is an internationally bestselling author who writes psychological thrillers with her sister, Valerie, as Liv Constantine and conspiracy thrillers under the pen name L.C. Shaw. Lynne is a former marketing executive and has a Master’s Degree in Business from Johns Hopkins University. Her work has been translated into 27 languages and is available in over 31 countries.
I would really love to hear what gets you through the day. And, I would really love if you could support these authors. Thank you.