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May 28, 2008

Lesley Kagen: Tales and Tears

Posted by carol
Today guest blogger Lesley Kagen reveals a question she's often asked by book club members about her debut novel, Whistling in the Dark, which follows the adventures of 10-year-old Sally O'Malley and her sister, Troo, during the summer of 1959. Lesley lives near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and her second novel, Land of a Hundred Wonders, will be published in July.

One of the questions I'm asked most often during book club discussions is, "What would you say is the best part about getting Whistling in the Dark published?"

Well, shortly after the book was released, I was not at all used to public speaking and book signing and this lavishing of attention, so I did what I always do when I'm feeling insecure. I joked. "Hmmm. I guess I'd have to say the best part would be the fame. Yup. I get a pretty good deal from my mechanic these days when it comes to tire rotating. And, of course, there are those wildly good looking men who throw themselves at my feet on a daily basis. And by wildly good looking men I mean feral cats. And how could I ever forget the adorable twenty-something girl who bumped into me at the supermarket, remarking that my book, set in the fifties, was an enjoyable piece of a historical fiction? 'Clean up on Aisle Three' is the last thing I remember hearing before I fainted."

Thank goodness, I'm feeling slightly more grounded these days. Comfortable enough to tell you that it's --- you. You marvelous women who gather monthly to share your love of the written word. You're the best part about getting published.

As the mother of two, wife, actress and restaurateur, I have spent many of my fifty-eight years busy. Too busy. Between work and caring for my family, there never seemed to be enough time to have lunch with a girlfriend. Do a little shopping. And until recently, I didn't realize how much I missed out on.

Curled up in nooks of great bookstores or the over-stuffed couches in your living rooms, you tell me what you think of my tale of two sisters, which somehow always seems to segue into stories about your own sisters. How much you love them! Despise them! Both! You tell me the many ways my childhood story helped you remember your own. The good parts of being a kid back then, and sometimes, even more importantly --- the not so good. Or maybe, snuffling back tears, you explain that you're reading Whistling in the Dark aloud to your oldest and dearest friend. She's too sick now to read it herself, so hand-in-hand, you strolled right out of that hospital room back to the old days. Laughing together about Toni Home Perms and fuzzy mirror dice, and by the way, whatever happened to good old what's his name?

And when our short time together draws to an end, as if your good humor and lively conversation were not enough, what do you do? You slip me a parting gift. A canvas tote bag stitched with the words Honorary Book Bag. A hand-painted wooden placard that will always remind me that Home is where your story begins. A gracious note taped to a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

Book club women --- your warmth, your devotion to one another and your willingness to let me partake in it all, well, I hope you're proud of yourselves.

You're making an old broad blubber.

No joke.

---Lesley Kagen