To the naked eye, my summer looked like this: daughters enjoying the near-daily swimming in our sweet, indulgent neighbors’ pool on the off hours when they weren’t staring into some TV or computer screen. I would sit with my laptop on my legs while they swam, the most unfun mom of all time.
There were the times when husband came home and realized we’d all been frozen in front of those screens for hours and made us all go outside, but that was way too occasional. So it looked like a lot of inactivity, I grant you that. But to me, the summer was a crazy chemistry set with several experiments going at the same time.
The first was one I’d been working on since the fall. Can I take this obsession of mine, the one about my friend-of-mobsters family member who was mayor of Newark in the 60s, and turn it into a novel? Sure I can. It actually works pretty well as a novel, and it’s coming along nicely. The story and its characters are so fun to write that as long as I set aside the time, the words come easily. I can often bust out a thousand words in the morning hours before the kids get up. They’re ridiculously late sleepers when they’re not in school, but still.
Our writing group meets every week, so throughout the summer I’ve been able to trot out my characters and get feedback on them the second – even way before – they’re fleshed out. Angela Palm, Jessica Nelson, Kate Sykes, Erika Nichols, Patrick Dodge, Neils Rheinhardt and Shelagh Shapiro have seen all my major characters as they’ve been born, sprout arms and legs and start walking around the world of my novel. That has been amazing. I don’t know what this burgeoning book would be if not for them.
Then there was this other experiment.
I needed to make money in order to buy the time I needed to write – to avoid going begging for a restaurant job during that four-month dry spell between fall and spring teaching jobs – so I tried crowdfunding. My super-simple Pubslush campaign, with a grainy video I made sitting cross-legged on the floor of my writing room and squinting into the laptop camera, worked – and it worked beautifully.
First, Steve MacQueen got up and went to work every day, making the big bucks so that we could pay our bills and I could do all this. Then 40 friends – 40 FRIENDS! – contributed to the writing, editing and production of People Who Hate America. This happened in June, and it still blows me away.
Rob Rushin was first out of the box, followed quickly by Laura Barge O’Sullivan, Tom DePlonty, Karen Barry and Lincoln Jones. Bee Round not only contributed but also gave me the idea for the Addonizio Family Italian cookbook, which we’ll be putting together this winter with Fred Addonizio (my awesome dad) over Christmas: AnneMarie Littenberg, Richard Brunck and Kim Round, Ashley McNeal, Errol Kolosine, John Lammers, Caitlin Oliver-Gans, Jessica Nelson, Michelle Dustin, Ann and Dave Morris, Mark and Jan Pudlow, Leisa Pichard, Kim MacQueen, Cho Womack and Angela Palm signed up to get in on that. They are smart. This cookbook will be good. The food that comes from it will be very tasty. And we’ll get Fred on camera for the video verson, and his awesomeness will blow all of your minds.
All those above plus Ellen Powell, Diane Roberts, Kate Sykes and Linda Hall contributed to People Who Hate America. Jenny Milchman, Diana Jones-Ellis, Barry Ray and Jeffrey Seay all chimed in early on, helping my campaign build momentum and stay strong. Kati Schardl, Judy Round, Jim Crozier, Andrea Brecheen and Erika Nichols jumped in and contributed. Ashley Ivey, Peter Biello, Jason Lewis rounded us out and brought this baby in for a landing.
So far you all have bought me a summer’s worth of writing time, not to mention several years’ worth of encouragement and love and support.
So that experiment definitely worked. Thank you all so much.