Over the Moon

What an amazing first night!

As many times as I've seen In Mother Words, last night I felt I was seeing it for the first time.  The play is so funny and touching, and the monologues weave into each other while managing to stand alone as their own contained worlds.  The actors were brilliant, absolutely wonderful.  Everyone stood up at the end, and I felt so grateful to be part of it.  Congratulations to all the incredible playwrights!  I am honored to be in your company.

So many high points.  Here are two: Beth Henley, whom I've loved and adored since her Pulitzer Prize-winning Crimes of the Heart, one of my favorite plays and films, and the best three sisters since Three Sisters, (as you may know, I have a penchant for three-sisters stories,) told me she loved my monologue.  Yikes!  That made my night, if it hadn't been made already.  (Photo of me, Beth, and Joan Stein.)

I love Beth's monologue, Report on Motherhood--such a true, deep, constantly surprising conversation between a girl and her great-grandmother.  I'm proud to have worked with her and so many writers I admire.

Another high point: meeting Jane Kaczmarek right after the play.  She is lovely and brilliant, and it was so funny because we hugged right away--an actor and writer do sort of bond without ever seeing each other, because she's living in my words, bringing them to life, and I'm handing her a piece of my heart, waiting to see what she'll do with it.  Watching Jane perform My Almost Family I felt breathless and cried because she hit the deepest part of what I was going for--made it seem worth cherishing.

The photo above is of the cast, creators and producers, and director--the shot is white-haze from photographers' flashes.  Paparazzi, darling.  From left:  James Lecesne, Susan Rose Lafer (creator and producer,) Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Lisa Peterson (director,) Joan Stein (creator and producer, my dear friend since she produced Crazy in Love,) Jane Kaczmarek, and Amy Pietz.

The Writeaholic’s Blog “First Year Tally”

Here is a post from The Writeaholic's Blog.

Luanne discusses "the first year" of her first novel.

In the post, Aheila, the Writeaholic talks about previous posts by Luanne, and the release of her new book, The Silver Boat. Visit The Writeaholic's Blog daily for updated posts, and writing articles.

Thank you to Mike O'Gorman for filming and posting.

In Mother Words, part 1 (Photo: The Geffen Playhouse's dazzing courtyard)

It started with a phone call.  Actually, it began with love... Joan Stein called me.  She said that she and Susan Rose Lafer were putting together IN MOTHER WORDS, a show about motherhood, and would I consider telling a story about being a stepmother?

Because the request came from Joan, I didn't even hesitate.  We have been great friends for many years, since she discovered my second novel and produced CRAZY IN LOVE for TNT.  We clicked instantly, over that story of three generations of mothers and daughters, and have shared the joys and sorrows of each other's lives ever since.  The photo shows her giving an interview about IN MOTHER WORDS on NPR, and totally captures her warmth and enthusiasm.

Joan knew I love my three stepchildren and thought I might draw on experience to tell my story.  I decided to focus on M, my beautiful and amazing stepdaughter, who provides love, humor, and pathos at every turn.  A girl after my own heart.  She is a walking/talking Greek Tragedy with romantic comedy undertones.  I adore her.

I've gotten to know the lovely and dynamic Susan Rose Lafer, and to feel her deep support and belief.  She and Joan conceived of IN MOTHER WORDS and have been passionate about the project since the beginning.  Their devotion to the work has been so inspiring and heartening.  It's amazing, as a writer, to feel so backed by such great women.

Lisa Peterson, brilliant director, joined the project at the start.  Under Lisa's guidance, I wrote and shaped my monologue, MY ALMOST FAMILY.  She is kind, precise, open, and has an eagle eye for the right word, the wrong word, the necessary, the extraneous.  I have learned so much from Lisa.

I've met and worked with many of my fellow writers during workshops in New York.  We are: Leslie Ayvazian, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Lisa Ramirez, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman and Cheryl L. West.  I revere these playwrights, have attended so many of their plays.  We have true treasures, theater icons, writers of heart and soul among us.  To be part of their company is humbling.

Here's the great thrill: IN MOTHER WORDS will open at the Geffen Playhouse on February 23, 2011; previews begin on February 15.  To have written, trimmed, experimented, listened to our pieces read back to us, cut here, added there this last year or so, has been a glowing time for me: a slice of life in the theater.  Can you imagine how I've longed for that, dahling?  I moved to NYC when I was young, and Brendan Gill, drama critic of the New Yorker, became my mentor.  He taught me that going to plays, for a writer or anyone who dreamed of more, was as necessary to life as breathing.  I believe that to my bones.

We got the word just before the holidays: IN MOTHER WORDS would be opening at the Geffen Playhouse in LA in February.  When Janice Paran, our fairy godmother/dramaturg asked for character descriptions to give the theater, I knew this was really happening.

The Geffen Playhouse has special meaning to me.  I've attended many shows there and find it one of the most charmed, magical theaters in the world.   From the minute you walk through the warmly lit courtyard, you know you are entering another world.  Their productions are fantastic, and I never leave the theater without losing myself in the play's realm, left my own life for ninety stunning minutes.

I began this note with "love."  Love is all over this production.  In my own piece for M.  In all the monologues, the threads of motherhood, parenthood, new babies, old grandmothers, weave together into a tapestry of love.  More than anything, I wish my mother were alive, so I could take her opening night.  She was a writer, had a play produced in her youth, and--perhaps because of the times in which we lived--gave up her own art to raise three daughters.  So much of what I do is inspired by MY mother's words.

Please come to the Geffen and see our show.  You'll definitely laugh, and you'll probably cry, but isn't that what happens when you sit in the dark and immerse yourself in a show that reveals the truth about real, true, extraordinary, singular, ineffable, surprising, unending love?  The photo at the top of this page shows the Geffen's enchanting courtyard...how can you deny yourself an LA night of theater, beneath the twinkling lights and amongst the stars?

I haven't even told you the cast!  Click on the links to see...

(With M and her son in Connecticut)

(M at an early reading of IN MOTHER WORDS.)

(This is Part 1 because Part 2 is sure to follow...)

Paris

(Photograph by Peter Turnley, Café Ma Bourgogne, Place des Vosges, Paris, 1982) Lydie McBride occupied a café table in the Jardin du Palais Royale and thought how fine it was to be an American woman in Paris at the end of the twentieth century.

That is the first line of Secrets of Paris, a novel I wrote when I was, well, an American woman in Paris at the end of the twentieth century.  The novel was first  published by Viking in 1991 and will appear again on January 25.

(New trade paperback)

(The original hardcover jacket.)

My time in Paris was romantic, literary, adventurous, tragic, and haunting.  I wrote in a garret, the maid's room on the top floor of a Belle Epoque apartment house.  Every day I walked from the Pont de l'Alma to the Ile St. Louis, and back.

My walk took me past the Louvre, which I visited often.

I began to imagine setting a section of my novel in the museum's storerooms, where treasures hide, ghosts live, and a madwoman roams.  I was inspired by the letters of Madame de Sévigné (February 5, 1626 – April 17, 1696) Mainly I drew on my own expatriate life--being in Paris with a man I loved, wanting to live in the city forever, yet missing home so much.

Most of Madame de Sévigné's letters were written to her daughter, and their connection touched me deeply.  My mother had gotten ill while I lived on Rue Chambiges.  Being so far from her, especially during that time, was very hard.

We wrote each other countless letters, and then she came to Paris to have chemotherapy at the American Hospital in Neuilly.  Rock Hudson, dying of AIDS, was a patient at the same time.  We passed Elizabeth Taylor in the hall.  The intensity of everyone's sorrow...our family's, theirs.

Gelsey, my mother's Scottish Terrier, came to live with us.  She traveled in cars, on the Metro, the TVG, Air France, and trans-Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth II.  When I would walk Gelsey in my neighborhood--she adorable, me writer-disheveled in jeans and a bomber jacket--fashionable women shopping at Dior and Givenchy would coo and pet her while I gladly remained invisible.

I met a Filipino woman, "Kelly," working as a maid in the Eighth Arrondissement, whose great dream was to reunite with her sister living in the United States, and open a fish market together.  She had been smuggled into France from Germany by a Filipino driver of exiled Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.  The driver had many duties, including a weekly visit to the design house of Nina Ricci on Avenue Montaigne, to purchase hundreds of hand-embroidered white linen handkerchiefs which the Marcoses would use instead of tissues, at a time when millions in the Philippines suffered in poverty.

These are a few of the stories that lived with me in Paris.  The city's beauty hides secrets.

While living there my novel Angels All Over Town came out in the States.  One day i received a call from a man saying he was a Newsweek photographer and had been assigned to take my picture for the magazine--an article about first novelists.  I thought it was my friend Joe Monniger, a fellow writer living in Vienna, playing a joke on me (he would,) but the photographer gave me a number and told me to call back, and the operator answered, "Newsweek" and put me through.

Thus I met Peter Turnley, amazing, talented, award-winning, war correspondent, artist, photographer.  We spent the day touring Paris, Peter photographing me on the Champs-Élysées, at Invalides, on the Pont d'Alexandre III, on the Champs de Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower, on the banks of the Seine.

We had coffee at storied and literary Fouquet's and he told me of covering world conflicts, dodging fire, seeing war upfront.  I wondered how he'd gotten stuck taking pictures of a first novelist.  His last shot of the day--using up film--was black and white, on my balcony.  I'm squinting into the day's last light, thinking about Paris and war and Peter dodging bullets.  That's the picture (shown here) the photo editor chose.

The photo shoot made it into my novel Crazy in Love. In the movie, the photographer is played by Julian Sands.

Over the years I have viewed Peter's work with admiration.  His Wikipedia entry begins:  Peter Turnley is a photojournalist known for documenting the human condition and current events. Over the past two decades, he has traveled to eighty-five countries and covered nearly every major news event of international significance. His photographs have been featured on the cover of Newsweek more than forty times. A renowned street photographer who's lived in and photographed Paris since 1978, Turnley is one of the preeminent photographers of the daily life in Paris of his generation.

That is Peter, exactly.  How lucky I was to be photographed by him, and to become his friend.  His images capture for me the essence of Paris then and now.

On Facebook my team often holds giveaways.  This one will stand out from all others.  We'll be offering signed copies of Secrets of Paris, but also a print, for one single reader, of one of my favorite of Peter's photographs (Peter Turnley, Paris, 1991):

The black and white photograph is traditional collector museum quality archival prints on fiber paper. Each print is signed on the front and back by Peter Turnley, and signed on the back by Voja Mitrovic, world renowned master printer who has been a long time printer for Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, Rene Burri, Peter Turnley, and many others.

If you wish to be eligible to win a copy of the novel as well as the photograph, please just click this link to Facebook and "like" the page.  Among other things, we have a wonderful, supportive group.

I'll sign off with this quote.  It's from a letter by Madame de Sévigné and appears on page one of Secrets of Paris:

What I am about to communicate to you is the most astonishing thing, the most surprising, most triumphant, most baffling, most unheard of, most singular, most unbelievable, most unforeseen, biggest, tiniest, rarest, commonest, the most talked about, the most secret up to this day, the most enviable, a fact a thing of which only one example can be found in past ages, and moreover, that example is a false one; a thing nobody can believe in Paris (how could anyone believe it in Lyons?). ~From Madame de Sévigné, December 1672

Life of a Book

The Silver Boat feels very alive to me.  It's only October, and the novel won't come out until April 2011, but already it's making its way in the world. I'm always amazed at the secret, labyrinthine, enchanted life of a novel, and I thought maybe you would be, too.  First it has to be written.  That in itself is pure magic and spirit.  The initial idea lodges in my heart, I live with it for some time, and soon I find yourself looking for a pen, jotting down the first lines, the character's name, a vision of where she lives, what she sees.  Or maybe the idea is big and fully formed enough for me to go straight to the computer, open a new file, and let the story flow.

Living with the novel, listening to the characters, is more privilege and joy than work.  To wake up every morning, hit the desk and start up where I'd left off the night before, let my characters lead me deeper, is the best.  I'm never happier than when writing.

When I've written the last page, reread the draft, feel it's time to let it go, I send the manuscript to my agent and my publisher.  For many years, since my first novel, I've incorporated talismanic elements into the submission; I almost always find a card, or a postcard, that somehow illustrates the essence of my new novel.  I still remember the one I used for Crazy in Love: Winslow Homer's Summer Night, a painting of a couple dancing in moonlight on the beach.

The postcard I included with the manuscript Secrets of Paris, was a photograph of a woman writing at a Paris cafe, and actually inspired Viking to use it as the book cover.

Talismanic postcard or not, There are some tense days, waiting for a reaction.  When it comes, if it's good, I'm thrilled and ready to dig into the next phase--revision.  The first draft is a gift, and revision is really work.

Finally the novel is finished, accepted, and a new round of fun begins.  Cover sketches, proofs, choices.  Pam, my editor, had a very clear idea for The Silver Boat's cover; I remember sitting in her office when she showed it to me.  I loved its simple beauty, luminosity, and the way it drew me in to the novel.

Now the ARCs (advance reading copies) are finished, being sent into the world.  Publishing industry people will read it.  Peggy, the agent in charge of foreign rights, went to the Frankfurt Book Fair, and showed the cover to foreign publishers, and reported back that they loved it.

Tonight I'll have dinner with a woman from LA who will help publicize the novel.  I love all these moments, pre-publication, because I see how each one helps the book come to life.  Books are like the Velveteen Rabbit--they have to be read and loved for them to truly be alive.

I have a shelf of much-read and greatly-loved books--my own private Velveteen Rabbits.  Actually, The Velveteen Rabbit is one.  Honor Moore's The White Blackbird, Alice Hoffman's The Story Sisters, J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, Laurie Colwin's Happy All the Time, Ann Hood's The Red Thread, Joe Monninger's Eternal on the Water, Katherine Mosby's Twilight (published way before the other Twilight,) Rumor Godden's Little Plum, Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, James Joyce's Dubliners, Sylvia Plath's Letters Home, Gretel Ehrlich's The Solace of Open Spaces, Pam Houston's Cowboys are my Weakness, Braided Creek by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser,  and so many more: I've read and read them, loved them all, in some cases until they're threadbare.

April seems a long ways away, but I know it will come fast.  Actual publication is something else again--exciting, satisfying, and I never tire of walking into a bookstore and seeing my novel on the shelf.  But by then I'm usually deeply into a new novel, with a group of new characters, and a whole new life is underway.  Another book, another life.

Crazy in Love

An intensely moving journey through the intimate terrain of a rapturous marriage in sudden jeopardy–and follows one woman’s courageous search to find her way when everything, even her heart, seems lost...

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