November 15th, 2011



Yeah, I know.  I'm over-excited.  But that's how I feel--full of exclamation points and gratitude and relief and JOY!!!!!!!!!

It's been a long haul.

I started The Freedom Maze in 1987, stuck out in the Maine woods for a year while my then-partner taught at Bates, so that I could join a children's book writing group and have someone to talk to at least once every two weeks.  It started as a light little time-travel fantasy a la Edward Eager and E. Nesbit, with Adventures and a Magic Creature and Fun Times.  But my character and her world and the world she traveled back to gradually led me into, well, a maze, that was more complex and a lot darker and more important than I'd planned.  Which is how it always is, right?

This was not an easy book to write.  I have a stack of complete drafts that stands as high as the top of my desk, all of them thick with crossings-out and arrows and rewritten sentences and notes to self and marginal questions as I realized I needed to look up One More Thing about plantation kitchens or sewing or sugar manufacture.  I cut scenes (I'll post some of them here, over the next few weeks) and moved chapters around and basically learned how to pace and layer a book that had to cover a fair amount of time and move quickly.  It was also difficult emotionally.  Sophie's a lot more like me as a child than any character I've written about, and her family is close to mine--in spirit if not in fact.  The framing story stirred up a lot of old issues for me--and helped resolve them, too, as I had to distance myself from my feelings about my mother's family in order to make art out of them.  The central story made me confront my own unconscious racism and sense of privilege and at least make a start on dealing with them.

And yet, there was a lot of joy in writing this book.  I got to meet and talk to many fine folks in Louisiana I wouldn't have met if I didn't have to ask them questions.  I got to see a lot of beautiful plantations and gardens and eat a lot of very, very good food (especially at Miss Lil's, in Jeanrette).  I got to have truly wonderful conversations with many friends of many colors about racism, conscious and unconscious, passing, magic, and respect.  I got to spend time with characters I grew to love (and be mad at) just like family.

And now the book's out in the world, dressed to impress in Kathleen Jenning's beautiful cover, its shoes shined and face clean, a new handkerchief in its pocket and a Kirkus star under its belt.  I hope it finds happiness and fulfilling work in libraries and in homes--and sends a check home from time to time.  Mostly, I hope it gets read.

Now, to the gratitude.

I've written a long and heartfelt Acknowledgments page to the individuals who have helped me with the book.  But here, in my community of peeps, I want to thank you, my LJ friends.  You've listened to me bitch and moan.  You've given me advice and references when I've asked for them.  You've given me advice about my computer when I was going spla.  You've helped me spread the word.  You've been patient when I've disappeared for weeks and months on end.  And I thank you.

Coming Soon:  A give-away contest (because I just can't let my little book go without another push, you know?) And a review of Private Lives, which we saw last week, and I really liked it and have notes and everything.  And the usual carryings-on about my WIP, which I have to get back to as soon as the excitement over FM dies down. 

Much love,

ETA the name of the actual book.  Which is The Freedom MazeThank you, Kate, for catching this.