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Letter from Joyce Archives



A Letter From Joyce

Countdown to Labor Day, and new information
about The Lake Atitlan Writing Workshop 2010

July 1, 2009

Joyce's new novel, Labor Day, will be published in July, 2009.
Dear Friends,

I want you all to know, first, how excited I am that the release of my new novel, Labor Day, is just a month away now. I’m happy and proud to tell you that the book was selected by the Book Expo 2009 Librarian’s Shout and Share program as one of the seven must-read books of the summer, and that early reviews have been terrific.

Of course, the readers I care most to hear from are always the ones who receive this letter, who have come to feel, over the years, like friends. Your voices and letters and emails were much in my mind, when I wrote this book. I think it’s my best novel so far.

I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. So I’ll just tell you, Labor Day is a love story between a single mother and a man who comes into her life, and that of her thirteen year old son, over the course of a hot Labor Day weekend. The novel is told from the point of view of the son, looking back twenty years later on the five days that changed all their lives.

Turkeys outside the window of Joyce's log cabin residence at Ucross in Wyoming.I don’t think I ever had a better time writing a book, or that a story came out more effortlessly than this one. The book was written very swiftly -- I think because I wanted to find out, myself, what happened to these people, and there came a point in the telling of it where it seemed as if I was not so much writing the story as reading it, myself. I hope you find as much enjoyment reading it as I did writing it.

As I mentioned in my letter a few weeks back, I’ve recorded a short audio clip of me, reading the first chapter of Labor Day, and another of myself, talking about writing the book, and where the story came from.

I’ll add here that longtime readers of mine -- like so many of you receiving this -- are likely to understand, better than most, where some parts of this story originated. Starting with my familiarity with single parenthood, and small towns in New Hampshire, my affection for thirteen year olds and sympathy for the state of adolescence, and many years of mothering sons. Most of all, the novel speaks to my incorrigibly romantic nature.

Joyce teaches pie-making in Wyoming, and wherever else she travels.If you ever read an essay of mine called “Your Friend, Always”, you may find yourself recognizing one particular and somewhat surprising influence for this story. If you’ve ever attended one of my pie classes, you’ll hear a few familiar pieces of advice thrown in to the story. And if you’ve always wanted to attend a pie class of mine, but haven’t been able to, you’re also in luck. Because embedded in this novel is some enormously valuable information concerning crust. When the character, Frank, teaches the narrator, Henry, how to make a pie, every single thing he says concerning how to do it is what I would be telling you if you came to my kitchen for a pie lesson.

But above all, this is a story about the redemptive power of love. I was feeling optimistic when I wrote it, and despite so much clear evidence to the contrary, I still am, on that score. And of course I’d love it if you’d order the book (pre-orders at Amazon are great, and can really help my ranking there). If you’re not able to buy the book in hardback (and believe me, I can understand), I hope you’ll request it at your library. And keep an eye on my schedule of bookstore readings and events, starting with the first reading here in Northern California, at my local independent bookseller, Book Passage, on July 29. (I’ll be making a swing through New England in September too. With more events to come.) I’d love to see you at one of them, and if you come, be sure to say hello.

The Ucross Foundation fosters fresh and innovative thinking in the visual arts, literature, and music by providing residencies, work space, and uninterrupted time to individual artists, writers and composers.In other news, I am just back from a wonderfully productive month spent in Wyoming, at a writing residency near the town of Sheridan called UCross, where, under the generous sponsorshiop of the UCross foundation, I got to live in a beautiful and utterly quiet log cabin on a 20,000 acre ranch with deer and antelope and eagles all around, looking out to the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. I worked long and hard and with great happiness there, riding my fat tire bike three miles to the main lodge every night to share a meal with the other artists at UCross (a few composers, painters, filmmakers and other writers). And then rode home again, under the stars. This was the first time I’d ever spent time in the true American west, and I fell in love with the place.

I finished a new novel in Wyoming, and will hope that means you can expect another book from me next year. As with Labor Day, I wrote this one swiftly, because I was so loving the story I had to find out how things turned out.

I want to let you know that my wonderful assistant, Melissa Vincel, who works with me on my Lake Atitlan Writing Workshops, has now prepared all the information you’ll need to get started making plans for joining me and my good friend, the writer Ann Hood, along with other guest faculty, February 13-21. We’ve worked really hard to keep costs down this year, without sacrificing the great food and nonstop attention to your writing, and of course, the quality of instruction, the weather, the volcanoes, the lake, and the tranquility you can expect to find there will be as great as ever.

Joyce, on the bank of Lake Atitlan, GuatemalaOne of the questions I’m asked most about the workshop has to do with how advanced a writer you need to be, to attend my Lake Atitlan workshop. While it’s true, Ann and I have worked with numbers of published and professional writers over the years, we always welcome those who may never have written before, or not for many years. The way the workshop develops, it always seems that we all learn from the issues in each others’ work. And some of my favorite writing to emerge from these sessions often comes, surprisingly, from those who assure me they aren’t really writers. See what you think when we’re finished working with you.

Finally, I wanted to share with you a short piece I felt moved to share with you, that I wrote last week when I heard the news about Michael Jackson’s death. It concerns my son Charlie’s love of Jackson’s music, when he was very young, and my own somewhat crazy decision to bring him to see the Thriller tour a few months past his second birthday.

While we’re on the subject of other writing, I’ve got an essay in the current (July) issue of Prevention magazine, about the role of swimming in my life over the years. I’m far from an expert swimmer, but I try to swim almost every day of my life, and I’ve often found that it’s in the water I work out a lot of the problems in my life, and do some of my best thinking. Also some of my best non-thinking. If you join me at Lake Atitlan this February, of course I’ll hope we get to take in a swim or two together.

With friendship,

Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard, standing outside her log cabin writing residence at Ucross, in Wyoming.

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