Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Making it Real with help from Jane Porter

About the time I was fully committing my mental self to being an author, I read She’s Gone Country by Jane Porter. Life has its serendipitous moments, I’d picked her book up at the local library around the same time I published a blog confessing my love for country music.
I was immediately hooked by the book and Ms. Porters writing style, so I took five minutes off from reading and requested that any and all of her other books get shipped to the local library, which turned out to be about five miles from where Ms. Porter lived at the time. Within a month I had read three or four of her other works. The two that stood out the most were Odd Mom Out and Mrs. Perfect.

The blurb from Mrs. Perfect on Amazon: As a young California girl growing up in a blue collar neighborhood, Taylor Young dreamed of being popular, beautiful, and acquiring a wardrobe to die for. Not to mention marrying a handsome, successful man and living happily ever after in a gorgeous house with three wonderful children. Now, at 36, Taylor has reached the pinnacle of her dreams, but is it all about to unravel? As the new school year approaches, Taylor prepares herself for playing the perfect alpha mom: organizing class activities, fund-raising, and chairing the school auction. But the horror! Her archrival, bohemian mom Marta Zinsser, is named Head Room Mom of Taylor's daughter's fifth grade class. As tensions rise at committee meetings and school activities, the two rivals seem to be destined for a final confrontation. But as Taylor plans her next move, she is floored by a more serious blow at home-her husband has been secretly unemployed for the past six months. With her posh lifestyle crumbling, Taylor struggles to maintain her alpha image-but could Marta, who cares little about appearances, be her only true friend?

Ironically at the time I was the PTA President at my children’s elementary school. My life, outside of trying to write my first novel, was all about volunteering at the school and supporting my children's endeavors. I would like to say that this book was just a caricature of life for a stay-at-home mom, and while I didn’t really identify with most aspects of Taylor’s life, I had experienced people like her, and understood my own desire to be the perfect mom and successful volunteer. Which really scared me! I needed a Marta in my life.

So I moved onto Odd Mom Out, because if I couldn’t have her in real life, I wanted at least the fictional version.

The blurb for Odd Mom Out by Publishers Weekly: Marta Zinsser has made her nine-year-old daughter Eva, conceived through sperm donation, her whole world. The two move from Manhattan to a wealthy Seattle suburb, where Marta plans to run a successful advertising agency from home and be close to her ailing mother. Soon however, Marta's bohemian ways stick out like a sore thumb among the impeccably groomed housewives of Bellevue. Pressured by a tenderly and believably drawn Eva to be a real mom, Marta signs up for school chaperoning and committee duties, with near-disastrous results. And when Marta falls for a handsome billionaire, she must decide whether to refocus her lone wolf self-image enough to allow a man to enter the picture. The alpha moms Marta detests are cartoonish, catty villains, and self helpese creeps into the plot gaps. But Marta is an intriguing heroine: she values freedom and toughness, but her jeans and combat boots mask vulnerability, heartbreak and fear of change.

This book was an epiphany for me. I’ve written about my tumultuous past in previous blogs, so with any luck, you already know that I’ve bounced around the world and country, changed professions a time or two, and have a relatively interesting life. When I read this book, I honestly felt like you could have stuck my name in instead of Marta. Or at least you could have, if I hadn’t met MacGyver.

In my late twenties, when all hell was breaking loose and I was studying Landscape Architecture, I honestly thought I was going to grow old on my own. I studied very hard to become the best LA that I could be, because I was quite certain that financially I was on my own and that the center of my world would be my work and the community of this profession. Having gone through a very torturous relationship, I pushed a connected relationship and children to the farthest recesses of my brain.

I was having these “Whoa!” moments while reading Jane Porter’s work. How had I gone from being Marta to becoming Taylor? Clearly all of us are a jumble of personality profiles. Some we throw away as we get older, thinking, “My grunge days are behind me,” or “I was never meant to wear a chignon and pearls.” (If you’re curious, since I started writing daily, my standard uniform is top to bottom fleece.)

After reading Easy on the Eyes, I found out that Jane Porter was going to be at a book signing nearby. I was very frustrated when I realized I couldn’t make it, so I got very brave and sent an email to her. No, I didn’t stalk her! I found her contact information on her website and sent an email gushing my praise of her work, she very kindly responded.

My mind was blown. I was absolutely touched that she would take the time to respond to my email. After that, I began emailing various authors whose work had grabbed me – Marian Keyes, Margaret Atwood, and Peter Mayle to name a few. Not because I wanted to be a groupie. There was something about the interaction, the  knowledge that these authors were approachable human-beings that made my dream of being an author feel tangible.

Now, five or six years later, I still feel all twitter pated when one of my favorite authors, comedians, artists, and musicians comments on a tweet I’ve posted. I know that I stand on the outer fringes, but I thank all of you on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, and all other social media platforms, who take the time to be real people, sharing your experience and knowledge with me and all other newbies.

For more information on the lovely Jane Porter, go to her website: http://www.janeporter.com.

Thanks for reading.