Brooklyn, beginning.

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“It’s all happening.” That’s what I thought this past Thursday as I sat in the funky, cozy reading space beneath WORD in Brooklyn, about to read for the first time from my first novel Not On Fire, Only Dying. I read with two tremendously talented writers who, it turns out, are also very nice people: Helen McClory and Tobias Carroll. Molly Templeton, WORD’s Events Director, made us feel welcome and appreciated.

I arrived in Brooklyn the night before and strolled the blocks surrounding my hotel, breathing in the beautiful filth, the shockingly humid air. I grew up outside New York City and can’t quite describe the longing I feel when I return. It is not my home but it IS. 20150903_184317-alt

“It’s all finally happening,” I thought, as the space filled with people who had come to hear us read. Not On Fire, Only Dying was a long time coming. Several peers published their first books as I sat on the sidelines, clutching this manuscript, believing this story deserved to be heard, that my characters Marko and Lola deserved to be known. I heard NO in every way imaginable. (Really, one day I will make a cut-up poem of my rejections. I want to count how many times “unfortunately” appears.) The encouraging rejections were the best and worst. I tucked my chin into my chest and charged forward, again and again, until I found the perfect publisher for this book. That’s how life works, I’ve come to see: It will not be rushed. Nothing makes sense except in retrospect.

As you may have heard me mention, I don’t love public speaking. But I always knew that if I was given the chance, I wouldn’t squander it. I would do right by my publisher and myself. I’d promote Not On Fire, Only Dying however I could.

(Up to a point, of course. I know there’s a thin line between enthusiastic and obnoxious. Very thin.)

Last Thursday I remembered that anticipation is the worst part. When you believe in something, when you’ve loved it for years, humble and hopeful: You’re ready. You step up, you speak up. You have fun, even. Late as it is, it’s time.

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Sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears.

Marko mix-tapeI received this old mixtape in the mail shortly after completing Not On Fire, Only Dying (my debut novel, out Sept 15). It appears to have been made by one Marko Holomek, my book’s protagonist. Marko is a chivalrous, drug-dealing ex-con and a product of my imagination. So it was weird, getting this tape. cvr

For years (yup, years) Marko lived in my head and in stacks of unpublished pages. For years he lived with me. When the book was finished, he left. I don’t know where he is now. There was no note enclosed with the tape. No return address.

Marko is easy to love, I truly believe it — as damaged and dangerous as he is. Maybe because he himself loves so easily. There is nothing he won’t risk for Lola.

Marko loved the woman he made this mix-tape for, too. She does not appear in Not On Fire, Only Dying. She was part of Marko’s life before this novel, before his twenty years in prison, before Lola. My guess is he made the tape around 1990, when he was worried about this woman’s safety and knew she didn’t love him back. I can see Marko, a young man back then, selecting each song carefully, considering the lyrics and how the music felt. I see him hunched over a dual-cassette boom box. He has a finger poised above the Pause button because pausing before hitting Stop means a less noisy transition. He has a stack of his favorite cassettes and a pack of 90 minute blanks because 60 minutes aren’t enough to say what he needs to say.

But he only finished one side. What happened? Some interruption. Marko doesn’t quit, not ever.

I like these songs, it turns out. I’ve always liked them. I guess Marko knows me well, too. He sent the tape because he knows I will continue to tell every part of his story, even now that he and I are no longer in touch.

The old cassette came unspooled en route, I’m afraid. Luckily I found another way to share with you the songs Marko chose, once, a long time ago, for a woman who did not love him:

Bye for now/Book tour (so far)


Q: When is the perfect time to take a week-long break in the woods without internet or phone?

A: Never. Not these days, when you’re expected to be reachable at all times. Not one month before your debut novel is published, while you’re in the midst of submitting it for review and scheduling readings and generally shouting from rooftops about it on a regular, excruciating basis.

Or maybe this is the perfect time. For one blissful week I’ll be in the Michigan woods celebrating the 40th and, alas, final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I will slow down, b-r-e-a-t-h-e, listen, speak, be silent—did I mention breathe? With any luck I’ll do some dancing, too, and chances are good I’ll cry the best kind of tears and recharge my strength and laugh my ass off.

On Aug 11th I’ll return renewed, refreshed, and way behind on emails. If you contact me, be patient. I will get back to you, I promise, as quickly as I can. Be kind to each other while I’m gone. Listen. Read books. Breathe! And why not take a look at the stops I have confirmed so far on my BOOK TOUR—so far I know I’ll be in Brooklyn, Knoxville, Los Angeles, Maplewood, NJ, and St. Louis! Will I see you? I hope so.

When is the perfect time to disappear and reclaim yourself before embarking on the most exhilarating, gratifying, and absolutely terrifying phase of your writing life? RIGHT NOW.

Really, when else is there?

Give it away give it away give it away now.

 

Announcing>> GOODREADS GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a signed pre-release copy of NOT ON FIRE, ONLY DYING:cvr

and some SWEET SWAG: four magnets, each printed with a different tiny passage from the book:NOFOD magnets

Don’t forget to add it to your to-read shelf. Ratings and reviews are not required but are welcome and encouraged! Thanks so much for your interest and support.

NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME THAN RIGHT NOW>>>

Not On Fire, Only Dying by Susan Rukeyser

Not On Fire, Only Dying

by Susan Rukeyser

Giveaway ends August 15, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Presenting my book trailer! And insecurities…

First things first: The trailer for Not On Fire, Only Dying was just released. Hear me read a few tiny excerpts and discuss some of the things that prompted me to write the book. Listen to my friend Naomi Hamby’s groovy, perfect music, which becomes another way of explaining this book—not the plot, but what sort of book it is. I hope you love it:

That said, if asked for a description of my current mood, I’d have to go with this:

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Time churns forward, as it does, and suddenly I find myself a little more than two months from my publication date. I’m approaching bookstores and libraries and reading series, hoping to take advantage of every opportunity to read from and discuss my work. I am especially interested in venues in New York—the City and the Hudson Valley—two locations central to this novel. I’m immersed in nostalgia for that part of the country, which I left ten years ago.

I’m sending out NOFOD for review. I’m brainstorming ideas for promotion. I’m planning trips around the country. I’m proud of this book. I can’t wait to show it to you. I want to find those readers who will connect with it, maybe strongly. I want to sell as many copies as possible for my publisher, who took a chance on me and this book. All of that, of course, but…

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…none of this comes naturally. Self-promotion makes me uncomfortable. So does praise. Like a lot of us, I’m not wild about speaking in public. It’s an entirely different skill than writing, that solitary submersion in language and your characters’ lives. It’s trying, always, to stay grateful. I won’t dishonor my past efforts by crapping out now. Still, it’s like jumping off a cliff, every day. On purpose! And I’m an earth-bound Taurus, usually the one telling you to get down from there right now before you break your neck.

I get it—this is being a writer. Returning, day after day, to labor that promises nothing. The labor of writing, revising, then submitting and hoping, absorbing rejection and discouragement. Doing it again the next day. Being a writer is doing everything necessary to make your book work, if you’re lucky enough to have it published. Even when you’d rather hide with a sympathetic, nonverbal, furry friend. A writer writes, yes, but she also tries. Every day.

I’m trying.

Blurbs and Preorders and THANK YOU.

There are times when those two measly words—thank you—are not enough to convey the depth of one’s gratitude. Like when gloriously talented writers, who also happen to be generous and supportive human beings, agree to blurb your debut novel. Each is a writer and person I admire. Each is distinctly gifted. Some are famous; some should be. You probably already love their work, or you soon will. I share their blurbs with the hope that it makes you not only more inclined to read Not On Fire, Only Dying, but their work as well. Click HERE to see the NOFOD page at Twisted Road Publications, where the blurbs are collected and you can now PREORDER MY BOOK!

(See what I mean, about those two measly words? Today they don’t even come close.)


THANK YOU:

James Ellroy —  jamesellroy.net

Brad Meltzer —  bradmeltzer.com, @bradmeltzer    

Myfanwy Collins —  myfanwycollins.com, @myfanwycollins   

Leesa Cross-Smith —  leesacrosssmith.com, @leesacrosssmith    

Amanda Miska —  tumblingtowards.tumblr.com, @akmiska

 

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NYC! Soon I will be in you.

NYC! Soon I will be in you, all too briefly. I’ll be reading with about 20 (!) other writers from Mom Egg Review in support of The Museum of Motherhood.

 

WHEN: Wed, May 6, 7-9 PM.

WHERE: Barnes & Noble – Upper West Side, 2289 Broadway at 82nd St.

WHY: Come on, you need to ask? Mothers and motherhood. Real talk. Gorgeous words. And ME!

 

It’s part of a week-long B&N Bookfair. Click HERE for more infoEven if you can’t attend the reading, you can benefit the MOM by using the special code while shopping at barnesandnoble.com.

 

I plan to read a tiny (really tiny) excerpt from my forthcoming novel Not on Fire, Only Dying. Lola is a mother who lost custody of 3 older children and now reports a newborn kidnapped. She has a long history of mental illness and self-medication, and no one’s seen or even heard of this baby, so people are suspicious and they have questions: Did Lola imagine this baby? Did she do something terrible? Even Lola herself and Marko, the man who loves her and her sole defender, aren’t sure.

 

Back in 2012, Mom Egg Review was kind enough to publish my flash nonfiction piece, Our Bloody Secrets, which addressed pregnancy loss. But as Lola says at one point: “There are lots of ways to lose a baby.”

 

Hope you can come (yes, all of you). I love and miss NYC and I’m thrilled that I’ll there, however briefly.

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Curious?

Curious about my publisher Joan Leggitt and her press, Twisted Road Publications? Then you’ll want to read this brief article from The Florida Writer, written by fellow Twisted Road author Darlyn Finch Kuhn:

⇒  The Florida Writer covers Twisted Road Publications ⇐

It’s an excellent portrait of Joan the person and publisher: savvy, supportive, selective. She seeks “literary fiction from sharp-eyed truth-tellers with a gift for creating fully-rendered characters that get under our skin and expose our deepest humanity.” Check it out..

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No big deal, but…MY BOOK HAS A COVER. *swoon*

Every step of this process, preparing my novel for its September release by Twisted Road Publications, has been an EMOTIONAL EVENT: I have a publisher! I have an ISBN! There is an author photo! There is an ARC! And now—a gorgeous, evocative, perfect cover (blurbs to be added soon.)

It’s been a lot, and quickly. I am a Taurus, and whether my bullishness is in the stars or just my DNA, I find change difficult. I know that’s true for a lot of us. The intersection of defeat and hope was where I’d hung out awhile. This was new territory, this joy. This celebration! This YES, after so much no. After the encouraging rejections that all included the word unfortunately.

I’m getting it together. I’m searching the manuscript for certain passages, starting to think about what I might read aloud. How I’ll explain Marko and this story. How I will explain my reasons for writing it, beyond “The characters insisted.”

How I will explain myself.

Ah, now we’ve returned to strange lands. I feel the bull in me huff and puff and paw the ground. Adjusting to a new reality is challenging, even when it’s a dream come true. This is, after all, everything I wished for, all that time when I was trying, failing, failing better. I am ready for this. I can’t wait to show you Not on Fire, Only Dying. I can’t wait to hear what you think. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I believe in this book, always have.

The last few months have been a trip: shock, exhilaration, gratitude, confidence, terror. All of it, all at once. This morning, however, I’m just fine. Because, no big deal, but…

MY BOOK HAS A COVER. *swoon*

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“Hey, this is me.”

Yesterday’s mail brought something beautiful: Cobalt’s Volume 3, with its robin’s egg blue cover and pretty interior design and especially its content—oh, the words in there. You want this.

It includes my creative nonfiction piece, “Believe It, She’s Tried.” It’s about the novel I wrote and almost published, the years I didn’t write at all and how the words returned. It’s about celebrating the fact that we are writing and publishing, even if we receive few rewards beyond the relief of expression. Of saying out loud, as it were: “Hey, this is me.” It’s about divorce and why I hate the movie Forrest Gump.

“Believe It, She’s Tried” and its publication will always be especially important to me. Exactly two decades after the events described, I was able to confront disappointment and mistakes and finally, finally let them go. Writing this piece effected change, I truly believe that. It shifted the air.

Very shortly after Cobalt named it a finalist, I learned that my novel Not On Fire, Only Dying had been accepted for publication with Twisted Road. Just as I’d made genuine peace with the possibility that I might never have a novel published. And it would be okay. I would be okay. I’d keep going, which is all that any of us can do. Keep going, keep writing. Stay hopeful but flexible. Dreams adapt on their way to coming true. Forgive yourself. Celebrate other writers’ success. Celebrate your own. Be grateful. Breathe. Believe it.

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