A Different Kind of Call

I got a voice mail from my mom a few weeks ago—just 10 seconds long, saying “Call me when you get this.”

My heart plummeted. For a year, I’ve been getting messages like these, and they almost always mean that my mom is back in the hospital. Or, at the very least, that she took a trip to the ER and was sent home once she’d stabilized. It’s the kind of information you don’t really want to leave—or receive—in a voice mail.

But over these past couple of months, things really looked like they were taking a turn for the better. Mom had not needed any emergency hospital trips for weeks. She’d slowly weaned herself off of supplemental oxygen, and her once-enormous trach tube had been swapped for a smaller size. She was getting out and about town, and was even talking about starting to drive again. A year after a string of medical procedures had left her intubated and fighting for her life on a ventilator—half a year after she’d basically relearned how to walk after months in a hospital bed—she finally seemed to be making real progress.

That’s why I didn’t want to return her call.

I didn’t want to hear that she’d been rushed back to the hospital, unable to breathe—that recovery was, once again, slipping out of her grasp.

My fingers shook as I hit the buttons on my phone. Mom answered on the second ring, but then told me to hold on for a second. As I held, I heard coughs rack her lungs, and I knew that when she came back on the line, the first words out of her mouth were going to be “I’m in the hospital.”

But they weren’t.

“I’ve been up until two in the morning every night this week—” she started, and after a millisecond of elation (she’s not in the hospital!) my heart sank again. She can’t sleep. She’s been up coughing. She has bronchitis again, or pneumonia. But then she finished the sentence with “—reading your book.”

“And it was wonderful!” she went on brightly. “You know I’m a slow reader, but I just couldn’t stop reading the story to go to sleep. And the ending is so good, it just left me wanting more. So I just wanted to call and tell you how much I loved it.”

ALL FOUR STARS arcsSuddenly, I was the one who could hardly breathe. This wasn’t a bad-news call at all. It was a great-news call. When I had visited my parents earlier in the month, I’d left them with an advance copy of All Four Stars, my first novel. My mom had read a draft years earlier, and given how long it had taken her to get through the manuscript that time, I’d expected that it would be months before she finished this version. But she’d blasted through it in a matter of days, and was now excited to talk about the changes I’d made and how she could help recruit friends to attend the New York launch party I’m starting to plan for its release.

That release will be just a few days before my sister’s wedding, and if I had to pinpoint a day this year when my mom’s health really seemed to take a turn for the better, it was the day that Brooke got engaged. Suddenly, instead of dwelling on the struggles of this past year and discomforts of the present, Mom had a concrete reason to look forward to the future. And it seems that now that she’s read my book, there’s an extra something to look forward to.

For writers, the year before your first book comes out is filled with exciting milestones. You do final edits, see the pages get designed and laid out, see your cover, hold advance copies in your hands. But the one thing that has surprised me most about this past year is how my book has brought me closer to various members of my family. I’ve reconnected with cousins and in-laws who have middle-grade-aged kids and grandkids. I’ve come to rely on my foodie aunt more and more as both an early reader of my drafts and a final reader (she has a great eye for typos). And now I’ve gotten my mom a little more excited about the book’s launch.

As my debut year—with all of its obligations and stresses—starts to pick up steam, I’m sure that I’ll find myself at times to be in desperate need of clarity and perspective. In those moments, I’m going to try to look back to this call with my mom. To remember what kind of impact the right story, at the right time, can have on a single reader; and to remember that, no matter what reviewers or Goodreads users have to say, my book has already done a little bit of good in this world.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014, everyone.

___________________________________________
Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com, and on Twitter at @TaraDairman.

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133 Comments

Filed under ARCs, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

133 responses to “A Different Kind of Call

  1. annbedichek

    Oh my goodness, Tara, this is so beautiful. I thought I had made it through without crying, but then I stood up after reading it, and burst into tears.
    So much love to you and your mom and to that book that is going to make so many people’s days!!!

    Like

  2. Such a lovely, sweet story. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Like

  3. Christine Hayes

    What a touching post, Tara. So glad your mother’s health is improving day by day. I hope this year is a magical one for you and your family!

    Like

  4. Sniff…Oh Tara. This is such a wonderful story to share. Well told. Very well told.

    Like

  5. Rebecca B

    This is such a heartwarming story. I loved ALL FOUR STARS, and I think it will have a wonderful impact on many readers!

    Like

  6. Dee

    So glad Mom is on the mend, and I am happy to say Jay and I are on the list of recruits for the launch party! We wouldn’t miss it! I am anxiously looking forward to reading All Four Stars myself 🙂

    Like

  7. kevanjatt

    Yes, me too. I choked up as well. This is a wonderful, moving story, Tara. I can’t wait to read ALL FOUR STARS!

    Like

  8. I’ve read the ARC of ALL FOUR STARS, and I predict you are going to get some really great reviews. But I don’t think you will ever get one that can top this. And a happy, happy new and Debut year to you, Tara!

    Like

  9. What a great story. Can’t wait to read the book–it looks, er, delicious! And I totally understand that “call.” Been in the ER with my mother 3 times in the past 2 months….

    Like

  10. LOVE this post, Tara! Hooray for good reviews from the people who matter most, AND to lifted spirits all around. Having had the pleasure of reading ALL FOUR STARS, I know there will be more rave reviews to come, but this one is a treasure, for sure. Hugs to you, and to mom! 🙂

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  11. Super, super tons of congratulations. Happy 2014.

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  12. Sheila A. Donovan

    I just keep thinking of the joy you brought to your mother. She’s so proud of you. What better review could you want?

    Like

  13. What a wonderful story. So glad your mom enjoyed your book and told you about it.

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  14. This was a really touching post! Thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to read the book this summer.

    Like

  15. Pingback: Meanwhile, on my other blogs… | tara dairman

  16. Aw, teary eyed over this oh-so-sweet post. No matter how many great reviews your book garners, I’m sure your mom’s reaction will always be your favorite review.

    Like

  17. What a wonderful story! And one I can relate to, partially. Thank you so much for sharing it!

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  18. Oh, Tara! Such a sweet and powerful story. So glad your most influential reviewer is doing better. What a gift your book has given her. What could be better than bragging rights to a brilliant, sweet author daughter? Enjoy this magical ride.

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  19. This is lovely!! What a great story :O) And I’m so glad the call was better than you expected.

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  20. Kristina

    Awesome. Just awesome. (And, yes, it brought tears to my eyes, too. I’d blame pregnancy, but we both know I’m always an emotional wreck. Ha!)

    Like

  21. Your story about your mom was touching! Thank you for reminding me how meaningful a book can be. I was already looking forward to reading your book after what I’ve heard about it, and now I want to even more!

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  22. A really beautiful post, Tara! I think what all authors (or at least nice authors) hope for is to bring joy or comfort to those who read their books, and it’s doubly nice when this happens to someone we’re closest to. Very well said!

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  23. Your post brought me to tears, Tara! What a lovely testament to the power of story and of family. Can’t wait to read your book.

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  24. Tara,
    This is such a sweet post. It’s always good to be reminded of what matters most.

    Like

  25. I love this post. What a wonderful conversation to have with your mom…one that will stay with you always, I’m sure. There’s nothing quite like your mom or dad expressing pride in something you’ve accomplished.

    Like

  26. completelyinthedark

    “All Four Stars”—what a brilliant idea for a novel. Congrats! 🙂

    Like

  27. Great post. There is nothing like your mom being proud of something you’ve done, especially when that something is your book!

    Like

  28. I have gotten the phone calls which took my breath away and wished they had not happened. So I understand how you must have felt. I was teaching at college when I got a call from my son that my Grandson had cancer. But then he beat it and that call also stopped my heart. The phone can be a great instrument for good or bad.

    Like

  29. Very well written, my dear. How fortunate to have completed a novel that even your family loves. That is extra special, I would say. Congrats on your awesome accomplishment.

    Like

  30. Love love LOVE this post! I know how it feels to be so anxious about bad news that I avoid the phone. And how wonderful that your mom loved your book enough tell you how excited she was about it. I almost cried reading this (in the middle of my favorite coffee shop!). Because I myself am a writer working toward completing my first few income-producing projects, I dream of the day when I can get this sort of call from a friend or loved one. It is truly a rewarding experience to feel supported this way in any area of success, especially in light of past or impending hardships. Thanks for reminding me of that. I’ll keep pushing toward my goals in the hopes of gaining this feeling sometime soon!

    Like

  31. A very nice post….certainly conveyed feelings I’ve had many times well, at least the phone fears, since I’ve never have had a book published! Congrats. On the call, because it’s more important 🙂

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  32. rawebb48

    I stumbled onto your blog through WordPress, and I just want to say congratulations on your book’s publication!! I’m studying writing in college, and I love hearing success stories from people. This is the only post by you I’ve read, but I wish your family well with your mother’s health and your sister’s wedding. :]

    Like

  33. Tara you obviously get it when you write of ” the effect that writing can have on someone”. Writing is a beautiful thing and the transformation of thought to written word is something to behold.
    You will be aware that all things written and spoken, effect others in ways never expected. The quietest poem moving the hardest soul to tears and the loudest word being totally ignored. Every action has a reaction with words.
    I love and marvel at how the jumble of shapes that is the alphabet, can be shuffled into forms that can generate so much love, so much hate and so much hope.
    I commend you on your achievement , congratulations on getting to this point. May this be an avenue of spring sun and summer shade on your journey forward. B

    Like

  34. It is a really touching narration. I can feel how it could be when I hear a phone call like this , especially when your mum or dad is a bit far away.

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  35. It’s lovely to read something like this, think it’s a sad story and to have such a twist. Delighted to hear your mum enjoyed it!

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  36. So touching and beautiful story, Tara, I wish you all the best. Thank you for sharing, kind regards from Ellen

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  37. Today I was particularly missing my mom, who passed away from cancer 14 months ago. I have always wanted to write a book, and now even if I do, my mom will never get to read it. I guess I am a bit jealous of you. But I loved your story, it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the story.

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  38. Such an magnificent feeling to have with stories like this. It warms my heart and keeps me feeling alive. Thank you for sharing your beautiful life.

    Like

  39. Bless ❤️️ I would love to read your book!

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  40. Tara, your post is on Freshly Pressed! I saw the picture and thought, “hey, I think I’ve seen this before.” Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. All the best for you, your loved ones, and your book, going forward.

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    • Thank you, Marianne! I found out yesterday that this post had been chosen for Freshly Pressed (and was so honored!), but didn’t know they were going to splash my picture across the top of the page. Thanks for clicking through. 🙂

      Like

  41. That’s beautiful. My mum has always said she’d never want to read my books because she didn’t want to “know the filth and muck that goes through my mind”. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

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    • Well, I had to keep the filth and muck out of this one, since it’s for children. 🙂 But there was always a bit of cringing involved when family members came to see my plays! Thanks for the comment, which made me laugh out loud.

      Like

  42. Shakira B.

    Reblogged this on Naturally Me and commented:
    Here’s a great read!

    Like

  43. Happy New Year to you 🙂

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  44. Really beautiful story. And congratulations on your book!

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  45. Congrats on the novel and the release! Great post! Quite the encouragement!

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  46. Touching post! I’m really curious about your book. Congratulations!

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  47. It’s lovely. All the best! 🙂

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  48. Good luck with your writings! I bet you have many more!

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  49. I loved reading this post 🙂 congrats on your book. I am looking forward to reading it

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  50. A simple phone call, written like a short story. 🙂
    Thanks!

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  51. I’m so hooked up to your writing. Coongrats!

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  52. What a lovely kind of call to get. How wonderful for you to be able to share that moment with your mom, especially after what seems like a very trying past history of her difficult health. I could almost hear her pride on the phone in your reading your words. Congratulations on the upcoming book release!

    Like

  53. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    SOMETIMES IT BECOMES REALLY GOOD NEWS!!!!

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  54. What a great story. Good luck with your book. If your writing is anything like your blog, I am sure it will be a big sucess

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  55. “We are slaves to the things we fear” Life gives us hope because that is what it is designed to do, even if we find hope and peace in places we didn’t expect. I love your story, it has given insight to a struggle, a fear and a hope.

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  56. What a wonderful phone call from your mother. Can’t wait to read All Four Stars.

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  57. Your Story Is Beautiful I can relate.Your truly blessed.

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  58. After reading this post, I want to wish you every success with your novel and will look out for it in the summer. May your Mum regain her health and may you all enjoy the wonderful occasions you have to look forward to this year.

    Like

  59. Congratulations, you! What a touching story. May your mom’s health continue to get better and better!

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  60. shinobiswordsman

    Good luck on your book!

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  61. I think you will treasure the moment your mother told you she loved your book for a long, long time…
    I hope she has a healthy, happy 2014.

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  62. thanks for sharing – that’s just what writers do 🙂

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  63. Nothing like a new page to be turned in our lives. I’m glad that things are looking up early in the new year and pray for your prosperity!

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  64. Thanks Tara, for sharing your good news and congratulations on your book.

    Sometimes when things are hard we expect it to stay hard and miss the opportunity to enjoy the good things that await us. I’m glad your Mum had a happy surprise for you.

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  65. With each passing year, I am relishing the moments and vacation trips with my parents. My mom calls me everyday around the same time, to ask me how my day was. Anxiety hits me when I get a call at a different hour but thankfully its for some urgent cause of imporatnce to her :). Stay Blessed and may your mother’s health get better!

    Like

  66. I don’t why, but this post has that “Happy aura” on it. I’m a teen and wish that one day I can write books too. I don’t know where to start, but I guess I have to do A LOT MORE reading huh?? (I have very bad grammar, frankly, as English is my second language) I look forward for your books, (I don’t know if they are available in my country.. I wish they do) 🙂 Just consider me as another of your oversea fan 🙂

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  67. This is such a lovely and heart-warming post – I’m so pleased that it wasn’t bad news for your family and it really does show the power of positive thinking! I wish you health and happiness for 2014 x

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  68. Really very touching and a lovely read! Will wait for July 2014 to read more from your debut book 🙂

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  69. The writing made me walk down my memory lane. I lost my mother about 12 years back, she died after contracting Hepatitis B. The suffering and pain in her eyes was unbearable, at the times, I prayed for to God, that please take her away so that she doesn’t have to undergo this hell.
    All the best for your mom..

    Like

  70. Just about to publish my first novel and at the rewrite stage…one of the last milestones. Glad your book did a little bit of good. 2013 a personal disaster year, so roll on 2014! Congratulations.

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  71. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story. I hope your mother’s health continues to improve.

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  72. Lorraine

    Maybe I’ll get to read your book someday.. LOL Congratulations on your Mom’s health improvements and the book!

    Like

  73. All my best wishes to you and your mum

    Like

  74. felixlix

    Reblogged this on Felixlix's blog and commented:
    Words heal. 🙂

    Like

  75. All the best for your book!!! Can imagine your elation, nervousness. Best wishes. And for your Mom too!

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  76. Beautiful post. Congratulations on your book and best wishes as you continue forward.

    Like

  77. orthodoxchristian2

    Awesome story! Congrats on your book and your mom!

    Like

  78. Tough times make the better times something to celebrate! Enjoy this wonderful time together. Great story!

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  79. Beautiful post! Best wishes for your book and your mom. I understand the mom thing so well.

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  80. seule771

    Congratulation on the book. Title reads like someone having taken a fall. I tend to read things strangely.
    It is always nice to have the support of family. I self published and got no rave, no mentioning as it was solely for the self. I am not employed and this was a way to keep track of time. Turns out it was the worse thing that I could have ever have done to date. Ah, there is always tomorrow. I am simply saying Congrats!

    Like

  81. moorbay

    Aww this is surely a great call. I hope my writings will also reconnect me with my family members. Such inspiration.

    Like

  82. Congratulations, and this does sound like the best review you are going to get. I always think I’m okay without talking to my mom about something, but then I see my mom and end up knowing I need her wisdom.
    Good luck!

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  83. This was a wonderful, most touching story and you put in most soft, tenderly wrapping words! Thank you! Congrats on the Book! Say hello to your mother – she is the sweetest!

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  84. Oh, Tara! I loved hearing this story. I can’t wait to read “All Four Stars” and am so glad to hear your mom is doing better.

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  85. You had me at “mom” in the first line. Who can resist a heartfelt story about a loving mom? 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

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  86. This year the book, next year the pixar cartoon or the Disney movie. Your rise to well-deserved fame is only just beginning. Good luck and best wishes.

    Like

  87. Your story is very Heart Touching !! You should check out my blogs and give me feedback

    Like

  88. Pingback: The day the Internet gave me a hug | tara dairman

  89. Reblogged this on YOU Information Show and commented:
    Interesting entry.

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  90. What a wonderful post and touching story. It’s about time for me to go get a new book, maybe it’ll be this one.

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  91. wow..what a feel good lovely post.Though it’s cloudy and raining kind of depressing weather outside this post brightened my heart.My wishes to your mom….may she be in best of her health.

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  92. Congrats on the first novel. I’m working on getting my first one published too. I’m glad that your mom is doing better. It sucks when a relative is sick.

    Like

  93. It’s a super touching story. It makes me miss my mom as well.

    Like

  94. It just goes to show that we can never 100% know what the call we answer will be. Good news seems to be far and between and so when it does come it’s all the more precious. I had a short story “Weekend Wife” published in an anthology “A World of Joy” over the Christmas holidays and when I got an email from a cousin I hadn’t seen in years telling me that she loved it, it was such a wonderful feeling that I too knew there was a reason for its publication.

    To get a FREE copy of the book please go to Smashwords.com and type in “A World of Joy.”

    Congrats a thousand fold and enjoy your Mom.

    Like

  95. Fab news Tara! And good luck with your book launch 😉 sounds like 2014 is off to a great start, wishing you all the best!

    Like

  96. This is wonderful, lady! Congratulations, really!
    http://smashingsingle.wordpress.com

    Like

  97. Beautiful post–best of luck with your debut novel!

    Like

  98. Oh, Tara, this is really lovely! It brought a tear to my eye.

    Like

  99. My mother is in a similar condition, and lives quite a long distance from me. Your well written piece spoke to me in a very personal way. Thank you.

    Like

  100. What an awesome story of your mom loving your your book. I like the fact that she totally surprised you with great news. Glad she’s in good health too.

    Like

  101. Life and Other Turbulence

    Congratulations on your book! I hope your mom’s health continues to improve. Clearly, you’ve brought some additional sunshine into her life!

    Like

  102. Congrats! All the best with your book, and your mom!

    Like

  103. Such a heartwarming story. So glad that call was for the better. Congratulations on your book

    Like

  104. Pingback: Time to take the next step | EMU's Debuts

  105. tamaraellissmith

    Your post today brought me to this one, Tara, which I had never read. Oh wow. The ways our books create connections, right? But especially for you and your mom. What a glorious post. I am hoping beyond hope that your mom is doing well now… ❤

    Like

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