It seems like I've been writing ever since I can remember.  It started with poetry when I was about five years old. I was holding the hand of my wonderful cousin Rachel, a New York school teacher who was visiting our family in Houston. As we walked down the street, I saw a little tree toad about the size of my thumbnail and stopped to watch its tiny spring-loaded hops.  All these years later, I can still hear cousin Rachel’s voice,  tantalizing as the buttery puddles on top of hot toast. 

“Would you like to make up a poem about the little frog?” she asked.  
“I don’t know how,” I replied. 

And, ever so patiently, Rachel helped me create my first poem.”  It rhymed. And I can still remember almost all the words. But, unless you are five, too, it probably wouldn’t delight you nearly as much as it did me. 

I began filling my school notebooks with poems, then came journals, and eventually a small unpublished volume.  Most of my poems wound up on personalized birthday and mother's day cards, and an occasional publication in a poetry magazine.

My first published book began as a letter to my two sons as they were leaving the home nest.  Realizing that I had never clearly explained their ethnic and spiritual backgrounds, I told them the story of my family's escape from the pogroms of Eastern Europe, their long and arduous journey to America, and the challenges of making a new life in a new country.  The story wound up published by Bantam as The Soup Has Many Eyes: From Shtetl to Chicago - One Family's Journey Through History.  Despite some encouraging reviews, the memoir had little forward thrust. Intended as an immigrant story of hardships and triumphs, and who we are because of those who have come before us, and as an inspirational journey of the spirit, the story languished in the bookstores categorized under biographies “Axelrood,” collecting dust. 

Three novels and ten years later, with the economy in the dumps and debut novelists as popular with agents and publishers as a case of stomach flu, a brave and tenacious agent not only agreed to read my book via email, but responded to say that she liked my writing and the story I was telling, but would only agree to read it again if I made major changes.  That took nearly another year--they really were major changes--and true to her word she read it again.  This time there were fewer changes needed, but it required another trip to the drawing board.

So. . .four years and seven or eight draft later (it’s not good for mental sanity to keep count after a certain point), The Healer of Fox Hollow began to make the rounds.  Six more months of anxiously checking my morning email to read mostly "rave rejections" that usually ended with an encouraging/discouraging comment like, "She's a lovely writer, but we just can't take a chance on a debut novel at this time."

You can imagine my delight when, after months of silence, my agent’s phone message began, "There's a new small publishing house that wants to publish your book."  And so, it's happening.  Because it’s a little press, the best hope for promotion will be buzz by those who find resonance in the pages of the story, and book clubs who find it worthy of discussion. (I’m glad to participate with book groups.)  

That’s my hope—that all sorts of folks from all sorts of places, with all sorts of ideas find a portal into the home we all share. A place where we can share the deepest part of ourselves beneath all the differences that divide us— a place where we are all trying to survive and thrive and find meaning and purpose. So if you are in a book club, or are a parent (mother, father, single parent) a healer, a faith group, spiritual seeker, wounded war vet, nature lover, lover of regions and culture, a teacher, someone who helps special needs kids, someone who has special needs, someone grappling with despair, someone who knows love or yearns to love, may the story of The Healer of Fox Hollow help shine the way, each to each other. 

If you are a writer, keep the faith! If you are a reader, thank you.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  (Leonard Cohen) 

Joann