On Joy, and Sorrow, and the Tears that Bind Them

On Monday, Tara talked about watching readers react to her book. There is a great deal of joy in having our work read. It is exciting, and a little scary, to know that our books will touch people’s lives. That maybe the words we put on the page will leave readers a little different from who they were before they read the book. The knowledge that my art would remain hidden and untouched if I didn’t seek publication is what drove me to work toward this goal, so of course, reaching readers has been the prize my eye has been on for years.

But as I write this, my last blog post as an unpublished author, I find myself thinking less about those who will become part of this journey in the coming months and years, and more about the people who have been with me along the way, and those who no longer are.

When I joined the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, it was with a selfish goal of getting published. It was a move I made for my career and my writing. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Erin Murphy, but I admit I had dollar signs in my eyes as I signed the contract.

There’s nothing as supportive of a community of EMUs. Even if some of us are chickens. L to R: J. Anderson Coats, Mike Jung, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, L.B. Schulman, Cynthia Levinson, and Jeannie Mobley.

I had no idea of the community that would become mine. Of the friends and colleagues, peers and mentors that would become a part of my life because of my agency. It is not only a community that gives writing support, but lends a hand to each other when times are rough, whether it is a flooded house, a death in the family, a sick child, a financial crisis. It includes people who cook plum dumplings and blueberry pies for a person,  because they can (Thanks again, Tara and Tam!) It is a community that laughs together, cries together, eats chocolate together, and sometimes even forms bands and sings together.

Gwen used this as her online avatar. The sketch came originally from Ruth McNally Barshaw, who drew Gwen at an EMLA retreat in 2010.

This community lost one of its cherished members a month ago, when Gwen McIntosh passed away. If you didn’t know Gwen, go back through our blog and you will find her icon there, “liking” almost every post that we have posted, and commenting on many as well. That’s the kind of person Gwen was–supportive, warm, funny. Not one to let you get too full of yourself, but also one to make sure every moment was celebrated! In short, even though Gwen hadn’t met many of us in person, she was a true friend none the less.

Gwen’s death was a surprise to all of us. She hadn’t been sick. She wasn’t elderly. She had plans, dreams, and goals for the future. Among those unfinished dreams, was the dream to publish a novel. Even as she held that dream in her heart, she cheered for those of us who were achieving it.

And so, as I move closer to the publication of my first book, a book about dreams and wishes, and hopes that can be either crushed or fulfilled, I find myself reflecting less on where I am going, and more on where I have been. Life deals us so many things, both glorious and heartbreaking.  If I cry when my book is released, it will be out of joy for those brought to me by this journey, and grief for those I have lost along the way. Out of gratitude for what I have accomplished, and sorrow for what others have not. Out of acknowledgement of how simultaneously momentous and insignificant the moment really is, in the grand scheme of life.

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21 Comments

Filed under Celebrations, Colleagues, Writing and Life

21 responses to “On Joy, and Sorrow, and the Tears that Bind Them

  1. Laurie Thompson

    Absolutely beautiful, Jeannie, and oh, so true. Thank you!

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  2. Cynthia Levinson

    Jeannie, you’ve given so much to EMU’s–more than you could possibly have gotten from us. You’re a brilliant creator of books and blogs. Writers and readers owe you!

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  3. Oh, Jeannie. What a beautifully-written and extremely wise post. Kind of like a novel I know. 🙂 Really, is it any wonder that KATERINA is receiving such accolades already?

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  4. :::applauding::: That last line put a knot in my throat. You’re exactly right. Getting my first book published turned my life into a Cinderella story, and yet I don’t automatically think of it among the biggest moments in my life. It’s an achievement and it took skill but so much of the success was out of my control: getting the perfect agent, the timing, the best editor for the book, the right publicity. . . Anyway, I know Gwen would have been one of your loudest cheerleaders as KATERINA hits stores.
    I’m going to work Gwen and Missy into the book in progress now.
    And – btw – 3 cheers for Lynda’s awesome hat, celebrating all of the EMLA books. ❤

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    • I’m glad the last line spoke to you, Ruth. I feel very strongly that it is both momentous and yet insignificant right now, but I also know how paradoxical that sounds. So I’m glad it isn’t just that I am crazy.

      And yes, Lynda’s hat is SOOO awesome. I kind of hate that she had that great hat, because otherwise, I’m sure my chicken hat would have won the contest!

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  5. Just beautiful. (I forgive you for making me cry into my coffee.) Lifting a glass to you, to Gwen, and to your “last blog post as an unpublished author”–how amazing is that?? Congratulations, my friend.

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  6. swpulley

    Well said, Jeannie, and most appropriate.

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    • Thanks, Steve. I could certainly say much of what I said here about my agency about the CHPercolator group as well, even though I don’t get much time to be in that group these days. What is it about writers that makes them so good at being supportive communities? I feel so blessed by the people I have in my life from writing.

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      • swpulley

        I share your thoughts, Jeannie. Last night, Esther DeTally gave a reading of excerpts from her book, “Without a Net: A Sojourn In Russia,” and several writers were on hand for that special treat, including four of us from CHPercolator. We practically jumped for joy to see one another.

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  7. Jeanne, this post is so you–honest and true. What a lovely tribute to Gwen.

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  8. Oh Jeannie, the fullness of this post is overwhelming. Achingly beautiful and true. Thank you…for so many things…

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  9. This would probably be a really tacky time to point out it is blueberry season again, wouldn’t it? 🙂

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  10. As you so often do, you’ve shared a post that was both lovely and poignant. It had me tearing up with so much that struck home. As I near all the excitement of publication, there’s a bittersweetness about it since my closest girlfriend won’t be here to share it. I don’t take one bit of this process or the people I love for granted.

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  11. I feel that too, Jeanne. I didn’t want to drag the post out too long, but another pain mixed with the pleasure is that one of my long time crit partners moved to Chicago on Aug. 2. She’s been part of this journey since before I ever signed with Erin, and now she’s left, just 26 days short of publication! 😦

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  12. My sympathies to you. Gwen is celebrating with you, I’m sure. Congrats!!

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  13. Jeannie–thanks so much for posting this. Just lovely. And so thought-provoking as well.

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