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Posts Tagged ‘Montclair’

book club girlWhen Book Club Girl, a site “dedicated to sharing great books, news and tips with book club girls everywhere,” asked me to write a guest post, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about.  For over a decade I’ve belonged to a wonderful group of book lovers in Montclair, NJ, where I live, and several years ago I became part of very different reading group of writers in New York.  As I write in the post, “My two book clubs serve entirely different purposes.  The Montclair group provides a way to stay in touch with a circle of friends and read current books … And the writers’ group is equivalent to a welders’ convention – a place to exchange ideas about our trade.”  And they’re equally useful to me as a writer and reader.  You can read the rest of the post here.

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four-way stopBaristanet, a “hyperlocal” citizen-journalism blog in northern New Jersey run by veteran journalists Debbie Galant and Liz George, featured a piece this week on the original inspiration for Bird in Hand, which used to be called Four Way Stop.

Here’s the story — part of it, anyway — of the title change:

When my husband and I moved to Montclair after years of living on the Upper West Side, one of our first purchases was a minivan.  I hadn’t driven in years, much less an unwieldy, seven-seat bus, and I was filled with anxiety.  Traffic can be fast and unforgiving; caught in the maze of unfamiliar roads, I was constantly losing my bearings.  My children’s lives were in my hands – my white-knuckled hands, that is, gripping the steering wheel.

This quiet terror propelled me into writing my new novel, which was called, until recently, Four Way Stop.  Four-way stops had always struck me as quaint, something you might find out in farm country, but I began to see them all over the place in New Jersey.  (In fact, Montclair recently installed them near many schools.)  As traffic situations go, they strike me as oddly ambiguous: they require not only manners and mutual respect to work as they must, but a basic knowledge of the rules.  What happens when someone doesn’t understand – or follow – the rules?

In my novel the central character, Alison, gets into an accident at a four-way stop in which a child dies.  This accident changes the (interconnected) lives of four people.  Somewhere along the way I realized that I was writing this book as a way of exploring my deepest fears around this subject – and that those fears were too close. I put the manuscript in a drawer and only came back to it after several years, when my children were older and my worries had subsided. (For one thing, I’d become a fairly competent driver.) And I broadened the scope of the novel: the accident became a catalyst for the larger story rather than the story itself.  As the book took shape, I replaced the title with one that better fit the emerging story: Bird in Hand.  I’d come to terms with the four-way stop.  It was time to move on.

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