|The Last Block in Harlem|
In spring 2010, I went to New York to attend the big publishing convention, the Book Expo America. My publisher had set up a book signing for A Scattered Life, my debut novel, which would be released that August.
That same week, I went out to dinner with several members of the publishing team and three other AmazonEncore authors, one of whom was Christopher Herz, author of The Last Block in Harlem. We've kept in touch since then, comparing notes about our book publishing experience and the differences between living in the Midwest and the East Coast.
Just recently, I mentioned in an email that my mother was going through a health crisis. Just a mention, nothing more. The next thing I knew, a package had arrived. Christopher had sent my mom a letter and some Black and White cookies. Wasn't that unbelievably nice? Neither my mom nor I were familiar with Black and White cookies, a New York tradition. The cookies were delicious and the thought behind it was greatly appreciated.
Not too much later, I heard that Christopher was having a tough week--a death in his family occurred at the same time he and his wife were moving house. Now I had the opportunity to reciprocate with a Wisconsin tradition. I sent Christopher and his wife a Kringle.
A long time ago, we'd talked about Christopher guesting on my blog, but he was busy writing his second novel, and I was doing some other stuff and the idea got lost in the shuffle--until now.
Christopher sent me the long awaited post just yesterday, in the form of a letter to me. There's nothing conventional about Christopher, I can tell you that much. If you love the style of writing in his blog post, you'll love his fiction and should buy his book, The Last Block in Harlem. It's currently on sale, so if you're inclined to buy it, do not tarry. Also, don't wait too long.
And without further ado--I'll let Christopher take over:
I’ve been trying to write this blog post for you for over a month and each time it comes out so wrong that I crumble the piece of paper from my typewriter and toss it on my floor.
In my head, I’m always writing on a typewriter.
I keep trying to figure out a way to show how our books, though so different, have a common theme. A connection. I keep looking for that connection. As we both know, sometimes looking for a way to make it all happen is the worst way to make it all happen!
Then, magically, you sent me a Kringle in response to the Black and White cookies I sent to your mother.
Now right there – right there people from Wisconsin and People from New York are asking themselves: What’s a Kringle? What’s a Black and White cookie? Though part of the same union, we don’t know all that much about each other.
Like both of those fine pastries, the ingredients are pretty much the same. Once we eat, we can tell exactly what went into the cooking. If they are any good, love of course, is the main ingredient.
It just has to be.
I guess the same can be said for literature. Though our covers are different, each book for the most part is just words on the page. They wrap around the reader and hopefully exhaust the voice that has been rattling around in our souls looking to leap into the lives of others.
I remember when we met over a year ago. Both of our books were about to get re-released to the world. For you, A Scattered Life was going to the lead the charge of your arsenal of stories, and for me, The Last Block in Harlem was going to make Harlem accessible to all.
We drank and talked about our neighborhoods, our books, our families and our journeys. We drank some more and slipped into our regional accents and drifted into what we were really all about. I remember sitting in that hotel bar and just watching people go by with you and the rest of the writers and marketing folks. Putting stories inside of their movements and making up conversations.
Afterwards, the realization of how the same we all were was warming. It may have been the vodka tonics, but I’m pretty sure it was the connection. Over this past year, we’ve written back and forth and talked about a Wisconsin / New York exchange program – A program where people get to live inside the worlds of places they don’t know.
Sometimes I look out over the city and wonder how to make such a thing happen and then, the other day, I realized:
The program already exists. In our books. It is through literature that people can leave their blocks, their neighborhoods and their daily routines and experience the lives of others. This is why the art of story is so important.
It allows us to open a stranger’s refrigerator door and peek into what is left-over from a family meal. Or what take-out was dialed up after a long day at work.
I’m not sure why I’m constantly looking for such connections to strangers. Perhaps that’s why I write the way I do: Looking for answers from my readers. Looking for, perhaps, an invite to their family table to eat what love is being cooked up in the kitchen.
Recently, I was working on a project called #Sundaymorningstory where people from all over the world sent pictures in and I created a narrative from that. Not surprisingly, or I guess most surprisingly (whichever way you are looking at the world), Wisconsin had the most participants week to week (Australia was a close 2nd).
I’m thinking of making t-shirts that read: Everyone should live in Wisconsin once in their lives. On the back it would say: Or you’re not living!
To go further with that, we should all have the opportunity to sit on porches, stoops, windowsills, rooftops, front lawns and living rooms around the world. However, until that lighting train free of charge to take us to these spots comes into existence, the traveling source will have to be literature.
Proud to be driving some of the trains with you.