Friday, July 27, 2012

The Divorce Girl Blog Tour: Guest post, giveaway and review

As part of the Women on Writing Blog Tour for this novel, we have a special guest on our blog today. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Poet Laureate of Kansas, is also the author of fourteen (14!) books. Her latest book is a contemporary YA, The Divorce Girl. She is our guest blogger for today and we welcome her to Reader Girls.

The Divorce Girl
by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg 
Format: Paperback, 374 pages
Published July 1st 2012 by Ice Cube Press
ISBN-13: 978-1888160666 
Purchase at: Amazon

Blurb: Meet Deborah Shapiro, a New Jersey teenage photographer whose parents outrageous divorce lands her in the biggest flea market in the free world, a Greek diner with immigration issues, a New York City taxi company, a radical suburban synagogue, a hippie-owned boutique, bowling alleys, beaches, and bagel shops. As her home explodes, a first love, a series of almost-mothers, and a comical collection of eccentric mentors show Deborah how to make art out of a life, and life from the wreckage of a broken home. Join Kansas poet laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg as she explores loss, grief, and bad behavior with humor and imagination. This coming of age story illuminates how a daring heart can turn a broken girl into a woman strong enough to craft a life of art, soul, and beauty.

Guest post:
How My Life Became a Book 

In writing The Divorce Girl, I wrote about my life growing up in the 'burbs in central New Jersey where nothing ever seemed to happened, and then everything happened. This book took hold when I was living through my parents' outrageously horrendous divorce: My father barricaded himself in the master bedroom, my mother moved into the playroom, and for a year, they fought face to face and through lawyers. 

As I made my way through this time, I started narrating what was happening as a way to get myself through the crying and screaming in the middle of the night, the anger filling every room in the house, and the most terrifying moments, such as my father's suicide attempts or the day my mother and siblings moved out. Writing in my journal and in my mind kept me sane through the crazy and unpredictable unfoldings each day, and it also was a way of bringing some calmness, creativity and control to my life. 

I also told myself I would write a novel about this one day, and it would be my first novel. Turns out I was right on both counts, but what I didn't count on were the decades between living this and seeing my fictionalized version of this published. 

I started writing The Divorce Girl 17 years ago, having not started when I was younger because I was: 1) Too busy writing poetry and making a living; 2) Popping out babies for a stretch of time, and being too exhausted from taking care of my three children during the blur of time they were young; and 3) Not distanced enough from my experience. Yet in the summer of 1996, the time was right, and so when all three kids were in daycare for the afternoons, I went to my basement where I sat at my husband's grandfather's huge oak desk and wrote so fast it was as if I were riding a motorcycle at 90 mph for two hours. By the time I finished each day, I felt so wind-blown and exhausted that I couldn't even make it upstairs to my bed, so I curled up on the carpet under the desk and took a short nap. When I woke in 15-20 minutes to pick up the kids, I moved like a zombie. Strangely enough, around dinner time, the depression would lift to reveal great elation and energy. This routine went on for two months until summer was over, and I had a first draft. 

What happened between that draft and this book entailed dozens of revisions, including major rewrites, disappearing characters who were too autobiographical and new characters who helped me discover other nuances of feeling and insight. I worked with three literary agents, each one for a year, and each one at first loving the book but then either leaving the publishing industry or quitting my book because it didn't fit neatly into a category in the publishing industry. Meanwhile, I moved ahead with four collections of poetry published by small presses, several anthologies and other books. 

During one of the many rejections of this novel by an agent or publisher, I had a breakthrough. I was home in my pajamas, sick with a flu, when a Fedex truck got stuck in the mud near our house while bringing me back my rejected manuscript. I called out to the driver to wait, I would call someone to pull him out, but he kept gunning the engine and spinning his wheels. "There's my writing career," I thought to myself. I realized at that moment that I didn't want to keep making the ruts deeper, but instead, find a way to get my work out into the world, so I took my writing career to therapy with me. 

My counselor helped me figure out my true motivation for getting The Divorce Girl out into the world: to share a story of surviving and thriving through making community and making art. When I told my counselor that it was painful to have not been chosen (by major publishers or hot-shot literary agents), she replied, "What if the most powerful way of being chosen is to choose yourself?" That question blew open my mind and my options for my writing career. 

Within the coming months, I contacted many small presses, found a publisher for my memoir on living through cancer, applied for and was appointed the Poet Laureate of Kansas, and started a daily (or so) blog called "Everyday Magic" on the writing life. I also pursued small presses for The Divorce Girl until I found Ice Cube Press, which had published my memoir, was ready and willing. 

Fast forward to now, and the book is out. The cover is beautiful, featuring a photo by Stephen Locke of the stars rising over a tree, which actually was in Oklahoma (which will make sense to you once you finish the book). Getting from writing in my basement to a book was very much like my life as a teenager -- nothing seemed to happen until everything happened. I imagine myself at age 17, holding a copy of this book and looking across time to see me at age 52. I would wave to her, tell it that it all worked out like it needed to, and I know that she peace she sought then is the peace I live now.

About the author: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the Poet Laureate of Kansas, and the author of 14 books, including a novel, The Divorce Girl (Ice Cube Books), a non-fiction book, Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other (Potomac Books); The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community & Coming Home to the Body (Ice Cube Books); the anthologies An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate (co-editor, Ice Cube Books) and Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems (editor, Woodley Press); and four collections of poetry. Founder of Transformative Language Arts – a master's program in social and personal transformation through the written, spoken and sung word – at Goddard College where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-writes songs, offers collaborative performances, and leads writing and singing Brave Voice retreats. She blogs at

Review: Divorce seems to be a common thing in our society now. There are many a book from the female perspective, some from the male, but I do not recall many from the real victims of families splitting up: the children. Author Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has created an unforgettable voice with Deborah, part of the brother and sister duo affected by separation in The Divorce Girl

With raw emotion, powerful imagery and the beauty of art, we see Deborah from when she is brought in front of a judge and asked which parent she wants to live with, to her new life with her father who is aloof to his teenage daughter's needs. With her camera, she takes pictures and from her viewfinder sees the world--her unhappy life--through moving images. When she takes a photography class, her teacher is able to help Deborah see that in order to live, she must embrace life fully and not behind its pressures--the pain, the hurt, the rebellious nature of her age and predicament--through her picture taking hobby. She can embrace her art, just not use it to hide behind.

Even with the author's gust post and the knowledge that she is a child of divorce, I would recommend this novel for mature YA readers since The Divorce Girl is still a work of fiction but Deborah's individual humorous and poignant outlook on her life may help others going through a similar situation to get a better grip on things. This may be fiction but the emotions and words are honest and touching. The Divorce Girl is a powerhouse debut novel for Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, a true wordsmith.
Giveaway: The author is giving away one copy of The Divorce Girl to one reader. Simply enter below. Good luck! This contest will end of Saturday, August 4th at midnight.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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