Dani Shapiro
February 13, 2011

On Literary Friendships (and a contest!)

My first writer friends were the ones I met in graduate school, and to be honest, I would say we were a bit more like frenemies.  In the hothouse environment of an MFA program, the air was thick with envy and competition, even, I hate to admit it, among some of the teachers.  When I sold my first novel while still in the graduate writing program, my workshop teacher did not even mention it in class.  She never congratulated me, nor did she come to a single reading when the book came out.  (Just sayin’.)  After those years in school, I slowly made my true writer friends–the ones who are with me to this day.  The ones who I cheer on, and who cheer me on.  The ones who, in their own solitary rooms, juggling their writing lives, the delicacy of their own constitutions, their families, the beautiful, strange, out-of-step quality of their existences, are my soul-sisters and brothers.  We don’t get to see each other often.  We don’t live near one another, and our lives are full.  But when we do sit down, or write to each other, and dig deep into the truth our lives, I inevitably feel less alone.

At some point in the last year, I encountered the beautiful writer Katrina Kenison.  I knew who she was, of course.  Katrina had been the series editor of Best American Short Stories for years, and as a writer of fiction, I was aware of her.  What I hadn’t known is that she had moved with her family to rural New Hampshire, and had written a moving, elegant memoir called The Gift of an Ordinary Day.  Katrina’s memoir is a meditation on motherhood and time and nature and…well…on being human, and it had so many similarities to the work I had just published with Devotion that it took my breath away.  Our lives, our backgrounds, the stage of motherhood each of us was grappling with were quite different–but our interior lives were remarkably in sync, and reading her, I felt less alone.  I can’t count the number of times, while reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day, that my eyes stung with tears.  I don’t remember which of us reached out to the other.  It seemed that wherever I turned, there she was.  I watched the amazing YouTube video she had made for her book, which had gone wildly viral.  I wanted to know her–and then, one day, there we were.  Corresponding.  Then meeting for coffee at a cafe about an hour from my home, and near her younger son’s school.  A kinship, a friendship both on and off the page, was born.

At one of these coffee dates, Katrina brought me a galley of a book.  You’re going to love this, she told me.  The book, with a gorgeous gem of a cover that looked almost edible– two pears and an apple basking in the sunlight on a windowsill against a lush, leafy backdrop–was called and i shall find some peace there.  Of course the title instantly spoke to me.  Margaret Roach had been Editorial Director of Martha Stewart, and she had walked away from the city, from that life, that pace, and had moved full time to rural upstate New York, where she wrote about the pleasures and perils of solitude, and the quiet, contemplative life she craved.  Margaret’s life–like Katrina’s–was quite different from my own on the face of things, but as I read her eloquent, thoughtful, and yes funny memoir, I was once again struck by how much our interior lives had led us to the same desires, the same longings, the same way of seeing the world.  Though Margaret and I haven’t met in person yet, we have met on the page, and in correspondence, and my circle of kindred spirits has expanded in wonderful, unexpected ways.

And so, in the name of friendship, literary and otherwise, and of community, Katrina, Margaret and I decided that all of our blog readers should know each other, and that the circle should continue to expand.  So we’re doing a book giveaway — the first one I’ve ever done — and those who enter will be eligible to win one of six sets of all three of our books!  Here’s how it works:

To enter, comment here on this post, and on Katrina’s site and Margaret’s site as well.  Ideally, if you can leave a comment about where you encounter spirit and connection in your own life, that would be great.  But if you’re feeling shy, you can just check in and say “I want to win” or whatever else you might want to say.

Click here for the link to Katrina’s post.

Click here for the  link to Margaret’s post.

Winners will be chosen at random and the contest ends at midnight on Saturday, February 19.

To triple your chances, remember: please go on all three of our sites and leave a comment!  And when you visit Margaret and Katrina, be sure to tell them that Dani says hello.  And if what we’ve written resonates with you, please subscribe.  We’d all love to regularly hear from you!