Since I last wrote in early March about the virtual book tour I’d just completed for Finding Sisters, lots has been happening for me on the writing front. The first news is that the audiobook version of Keeping the Lights on for Ike finally came out last month! Though the initial recordings were completed in November of 2020, various complications, including a shift in personnel dealing with the project, a few technical glitches, and some general lack of communication between Amazon and Sunbury during the pandemic slowed things down, but as of June 9th, the Audible version of Keeping the Lights on for Ike, read by yours truly, is now on sale. There will also be an audiobook version of Finding Sisters, but Sunbury has now engaged a new company to coordinate their audiobooks, so it won’t be read by me (in spite of the fact that I did voiceover work back in the day when I was still occasionally working as an actor), but I’ll be sure to let everyone know when that one comes out as well.
In May and June, I spent most of my time focusing on a playwriting project that has been on my radar for many years. Weaving Penelope, written with my old friend and theatre colleague, Richard Carp, is a play exploring the mostly untold story about the wife of Odysseus, who ruled her husband’s kingdom while he was away fighting the Trojan War—and having other adventures—for 20 years. It imagines Penelope’s experiences and expands on scenes from Homer’s Odyssey. The play nods to some Greek theatre conventions, including the use of a chorus of players who narrate the story and out of which all characters—except Penelope—emerge. Richard and I had been working on the play for well over a decade, only completing it once we had both retired from teaching and academic administration. We had a very successful Zoom reading in the spring of 2021 with participants in four states, and in 2022, thanks to the sponsorship of Keizer Homegrown Theatre (KHT) who gave us a fiscal umbrella and an Oregon theatre facility to use, and the generous patronage of Ronni Lacroute (supporter of the arts extraordinaire), we scheduled two in-person workshops with directors and actors to further explore the play on its feet: one outdoors at a private residence in western Massachusetts in June and another at the KHT courtyard performance space in September. Unfortunately, in spite of all our careful rehearsal protocols and regular testing, Covid—plus a death in the family of another cast member—cancelled our showcase performance in Massachusetts. Though we weren’t able to get audience reaction to a performance, we were able to get some very valuable feedback about working with the script from the actors in the ensemble, and we are doing some minor adjustments to the script this summer, before rehearsals begin for the coming Oregon showcase.
In the middle of all this other excitement, I have been working slowly but surely on my grief memoir. I started writing it in 2017 (seven years after my husband’s sudden death but the first time I could articulate coherent thoughts about what I wanted/needed to say about that event and the effect it has had on my life), and the manuscript, called That Day, And What Came After: Finding and Losing the Love of My Life in Six Short Years, is almost ready to propose to my publisher. The narrative starts with the day Skip died, takes the reader through the first month of my widowhood, including his funeral, burial, a memorial event at our house, and my struggle to find a new path for my life, and then jumps back to the beginning of our relationship and details the life we were building together after our late-in-life marriage. In addition to the more traditional relationship narrative, I had also written several short essays about particular challenges I encountered “Along the Grieving Road” and curated some of the entries in my grief journal to share with readers. Every word of this memoir has been shared over the past several years with my wonderful women writers’ group, and they have given me some terrific advice on the text, which has now been revised several times. This spring, the big challenge for me was to find a structure for the memoir that would allow me to include all these disparate parts in a single, coherent whole. Thanks to my former employer, St. Lawrence University, and their generous research support for emeritus faculty, I was able to hire the professional editor who facilitates the writing group and already knew the work to work with me directly on structural issues. Now I’m in the process of reworking some of the shorter pieces and the journal selections and hope to finish the final manuscript before summer is over.
Though Sunbury Press has already published two of my books, they do not automatically accept new work from their authors without vetting each manuscript, so I will be going through an application process, just as I did with Keeping the Lights on for Ike and Finding Sisters. I hope to be ready to start that process in August. Keep your fingers crossed for me!