I JUST GOT BACK from a walk that perfectly captured this cold, wet spring we’ve been having, and I keep thinking about these lines from one of my favorite Robert Frost poems (Two Tramps in Mud Time):
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
And a wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
It feels like we’ve had way more “middle of March” than “middle of May” moments in this spring so far! If the daffodils, tulips, and my star magnolia weren’t blooming, I’d be starting to doubt my sanity.
OK, I’ve had my rant about the weather, so I can settle down now. 🙂
As amazing as it seems, it’s been almost a year since The Walled Garden came out. One of the greatest and most unexpected pleasures of my publication journey has been meeting with book clubs to talk about the novel. The sincere and affectionate interest in the story and the characters of Lucy, Sam, Sir Edmund, Rajiv, and Mrs. Beakins (and even HAC!) that I’ve felt from readers has truly warmed my heart. And, interestingly, there’s only one question I’ve been asked more than once!
My friend Melody asked me recently about meeting with book groups to talk about The Walled Garden, and when I told her how much I’d enjoyed the experience, she was surprised. Didn’t I feel like I was on the spot? she asked (a good question coming from a fellow introvert). And the strange thing was, I had to say that I didn’t! I always feel a little flustered when I talk a lot, but it was so deeply enjoyable, and I felt so much goodwill from the people I was with, that I was able to move past it.
I started my book club journey last October with a very friendly group at my sister-in-law Robin’s home. It was so fun hearing what people liked in the novel and what they wondered or had questions about. And there was delicious tea party food as well!
Then a lovely family of booklovers scattered across the country contacted me through my website, and I zoomed into their monthly meeting of the Benda Book Club (the BBC) in November and got to hear their impressions of The Walled Garden. They welcomed me so kindly—they’d even created matching garden-themed Zoom backgrounds with the novel’s cover, which, of course, totally charmed me—and we had a wonderful discussion about the book.
In January, I went to my friend Caroline’s book group and met another lovely, lively group of readers and wonderful, deep-thinking women at a delicious and beautiful lunch hosted by her friend Tina. The instant welcome and camaraderie I felt there was incredibly heartwarming.
I’ve concluded that people—especially readers—like writers! They’re interested in the process of writing, the characters, where ideas come from, how long it takes, and the whole process of publication. I don’t know why that should surprise me but it does. It’s another proof, I think, that there’s really nothing like in-person human connection. And for a writer, after toiling in solitude for months (years) writing, it is pure pleasure to meet and talk to people who have actually read this thing you spent so long creating. Maybe, most uplifting of all is the knowledge that people still READ.
I’m very much looking forward to my meeting next month with the 24th Avenue Book Group in Portland, Oregon.
And I would just like to say that I’m willing to come to your book club in person pretty much anywhere in Washington, Oregon or Idaho. If you live elsewhere in the United States, I’m available by Zoom. There is no charge, and it would be my absolute pleasure, so please don’t hesitate to contact me!
And the only question I’ve been asked more than once at book club meetings is: Are any of the characters in The Walled Garden based on real people?
The short answer is no. One of the things I love most about fiction is that I don’t have to write about anyone I actually know! Elizabeth Blackspear is very loosely based on the writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West, but of course, she isn’t someone I’ve met personally. (Sadly.)
Lastly, in celebration of The Walled Garden’s first anniversary, I wanted you to be the first to know that you can snag my ebook for just 99 cents @newinbooks and @bargainbooksy from April 21-May 1! It will also be available for 99 cents as a BookBub featured deal from April 29-May 3 on all ebook platforms—Amazon, Nook, Apple, Google Play, and Kobo. So, please tell your friends, and feel free to order early and often!
And a huge thank you again to everyone in these lovely book clubs for reading and supporting me and The Walled Garden!
Photo 1: Mark Maass
Photo 2: Sandi Benda
Photo 3: Caroline Quinn