A book party is truly the best part of the whole business, and I am grateful to my friend Amy Rubinoff for throwing one for The Playgroup, and to Radnor Patch for covering it.
For one thing, it’s the rare occasion when a writer has physical evidence of an audience. But for me, it’s a bit like This is Your Life, too. As one of my characters, Laurie (not me but like me, a writer) says,
“…writing is not living. It’s a half-life spent behind a closed
office door waiting for wisdom, counting on time to eventually yield
In other words, my friends and family are my real life. When I look around a room full of these people, I can account for my life–and the ten years between novels! Among these guests will be the Bryn Mawr classmates who intimidated me in the best of ways, helping me to shape a meaningful life. Ruth Koeppel, midwife to my novel, My Life As a Girl. The mothers who (as the book’s dedication says) “were home when I needed them”—and their children, grown from toddlers to teenagers.
There will be the teachers and volunteers who’ve helped me raise my daughters by giving their time and expertise to our community. The colleagues who’ve been with me in the trenches in elementary school classrooms as part of the Young Writers Day program, who’ve made literature come alive for high school students in the summer Writing for College program, who’ve made English House at Bryn Mawr College a friendlier place for creative writing.
There will be writers whose work I admire, several of whom generously helped me shape The Playgroup or risked their reputations by “blurbing” this book: Beth Kephart, Cynthia Reeves, Antonya Nelson and Robin Black.
There will be my husband, Chris Mills, and daughters Alison and Catherine Mosier-Mills, who make my life whole.
This novella has gone through so many incarnations as I tried to gain perspective on my experience as a mother. Now I’m thrilled to have it be published as part of the Gemma Open Door series to promote adult literacy. The series started up in the UK, with authors including Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby, launched on the idea (I’m quoting our publisher, Patricia O’Hare) that “the best writers would help encourage people who struggle to read, or people for whom English is not their first language and, as we are discovering, the adult reluctant reader. The books will be used to inspire reading, instill confidence (hence the short chapters and wide margins) and build vocabulary as well. No dumbed-down or patronizing dickandjane stuff for reluctant readers, but the very best writing to entice.”
Because reading is central to my writing life, I’m especially happy to make a contribution to the Delaware County Literacy Council, whose director, Madeline Bialecki, will party with us.
When my editor, Brian Bouldrey, called me to ask if I would contribute to the series, I offered The Playgroup with the idea that one potential group of “reluctant readers” might be the sleep-deprived mothers I knew and once was. Women who—like the mothers in my real-life playgroup and in the fictional The Playgroup—need and seek diversion and philosophical discussion, even while they only have time or attention for Parents magazine.
When you read The Playgroup, you’ll see that it is short, has a straightforward narrative, and has been combed through for clarity. But the story is the same one my supportive and long-suffering friends remember, my attempt to provide an answer to the question I often encountered while I had one foot in each of the working mom and stay-at- home mom worlds: “What do those women do all day?”
For a preview, check out Sam Gridley’s take on The Playgroup.