Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Writer Looks Back...

For all of us who muster up the courage to put our thoughts on paper and who by some miracle get them turned into books, there is more than one moment of trepidation. First, our work goes into the hands of others--it leaves our own world, just like when our children leave our care and start to make their way without us.

I am having a little of this as my new book, My First Best Friend, is starting to be unpacked in book stores and is being put up on computer screens. When I first saw Victoria magazine come off the printing presses in the middle of the night, I could hardly breathe. Up to that point, it was in my backyard, now it was going out to the wide, wide world on its very own.

Of course, it is the heart and soul behind a creative endeavor that matters most. I have always felt that whatever I did, if I did it with the right motives and as best as I could, readers would understand if I made a misstep here and there. Will there be a comma out of place in My First Best Friend? Probably, although some very good copy editors worked to make the text "letter and punctuation" perfect, if there is such a thing. I've been in those chairs myself. No matter how sharp the pencil, perfection is near impossible. I like to think of how the Amish view the making of their quilts: They include a mistake to remind us all that only God is capable of perfection.

The perfection I do find in My First Best Friend is the pure and honest responses I got from women about this precious part of their growing up. I was asked to pick out some moments from the book--some "words of wisdom," so to speak--that summed up the more than 30 stories I had to tell. And so, I was looking back at the book and distilling something that I hadn't consciously done in the writing. Here are several that strike me now as almost having a life of their own:

What a silly thing to remember all these years, and what a blessing to have someone in your life who does.

We saw each other as a star....we each shined for the other.

The continuity in our lives...feels good. We will never be out of touch.

These times were life-altering for me.

Who else remembers?

Things small, personal, and heartfelt--the comfort of years and the blessings of friendship...for all the years.

These are just a few of the insights I have rediscovered as manuscript pages became a flesh and blood book. For those of you who have already read My First Best Friend or have your own inspiration to share, please do. You can go to the Notebook page on the official website and leave me a message, or you can share your memories here. I have discovered that despite common themes, at heart, each friendship story is like a snowflake; it is unique. Believe me, yours is, too. I hope that the book inspires you to look back and savor the glad times of childhood. Read and remember, as wise woman and Mitford author Jan Karon entreats us. While at the site, be sure to read Denise Di Novi's foreword to the book and a charming recollection of her friend, Kit. What a lovely story.


  1. While you hold your breath, dearest Nancy, I'll yell. I'm over-the-moon jazzed about this book and the small part my story had/has in it. Being a cover girl at my age--something I never expected--well, it's a genuine thrill and I'm metaphorically jumping on the bed of my life, hollering "Hey, lookit! Lookit!"

    Your gathering of these stories is a precious testament to the power of female friendships and I'm sure it's going to be a huge hit! I want to be the first one in my town to buy one!

    Love, Karen Marline (and her long-lost pal, Laurie Anne)

  2. I am so excited about this book, it is released on March 1st at the bookstore here in Reno,Nevada!-I pre-ordered a copy! Oh, the wonderful anticipation I have for any "new to me", Victoria magazines & books by any of the writers associated with Victoria magazine-but to have a brand new book to read by Nancy herself,is just the best!!--

    Marline/Karen,- you are just ever so blessed to have your "First, Best Friend story",& a picture of yourself on this book-- I would be over the moon excited too!What a wonderful treat of a lifetime & truly an honor, this must be!--xo-Valery

  3. Congratulations on your book. Seeing this is bringing me back to my first best friend, she passed quite a few years ago in her early 40's. It has given me pause to think of her and I will have to write of her on one of my blogs of when we were children. Thank you for this memory.

  4. Oh my..... I'm sooooo excited to learn that your new book is out! Congratulations!

    I loved the quotes you pulled from the book, especially the first one about 'a silly thing to remember'.

    Enjoy this special time.... we're celebrating with you, our ever-favourite Nancy!

  5. As someone who reads and rereads "Jenny Walton's Packing for a Woman's Journey," I am thrilled to have a new "Nancy" book to enjoy! Mine is on its way, and I can't wait to tuck into its pages!

  6. Reading about this book over the time I have followed your blog made me, I must admit, sad. When I look back on my years in elementary school I see no sweet friendships. My playmates bossed me about and bullied me by and large. I really thought I was on the outside looking in to the world your book captures. Then I thought of my little sister. Not quite three years younger than me, we have been the best of friends since her birth. She even gave me her very first smile. I couldn't ask for a better friend with a longer shared history and so I too look forward to reading your book!

  7. I know that your book will grace many a bookshelf and will be a meaningful gift from one friend to another, Nancy. I had such a wonderful and loving childhood, for which I am grateful, though no best, best friend until I went to college. I did have my sister, as a few others have, and plenty of playmates. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer to find a kindred spirit. The important thing is, I think, to recognize her (or him) when she arrives.

  8. I am looking forward to reading your book, Nancy, because it is written by you. Although I must admit (as some others have shared) it makes me a tad wistful and sad to think of my first best friend. Being an only child, I was so lucky to find a special friend. We truly were the best of friends and did everything together. We were in the same class in school and spent nearly every weekend together alternating houses. We planned birthday parties, future vacations, who we would marry, what our weddings would be like, and much more together. We were best friends from 1st grade through 9th. But as we got older, we went down different paths. She began to go with a very different kind of crowd. After high school graduation, we went to separate universities and soon lost touch. Although we no longer lived in the same town, around ten years ago I tried to reconnect. Sadly I found that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that her life was in complete disarray. I wrote her a few letters to try to encourage her, only to have her mother ask me not to contact her again because it disrupted the steps they were taking to try to help her. So, I have not had that blessed reconnection and reunion that some of you have. I still pray that she will be able to find peace and even happiness in her situation. And I look back on our childhood memories together with great fondness.


  9. @Christi - You ended your comment on the right note. The book has over 30 stories about first best friends. It is divided into six sections, and each section deals with a different aspect. There are bittersweet stories. Some women do lose track and never find that friend again. Some, like you at this time, are not invited back into the fabric of lives. However, it is what you meant to each other once, and what memories you hold of those days that you can continue to cherish. These times were part of your life and you have the right and privilege to remember them.

    If you could have helped your friend at her difficult time, it would have been a blessing for you both. You did what you thought was right, and maybe you did help. Her mother was doing what she thought was right. I also hope that your prayers have been answered. But do hold this--the stories in the book are not all "happy ever after." That was neither the purpose nor theme of the book. The point was to focus on that time when we did have a companion in childhood who has never left our hearts. If you read the book, I think you will find a place to put your memories and a place to rejoice in what you did have to give each other.

    It was not my first best friend, but a very good one whose life conditions made it impossible for me to continue to be in her life. It is painful, so I know how you feel. I think of her often, and all she gave me, and like you, pray for her. I had to forgive myself because I couldn't help her. Friendship does not have chains that bind us. We give what we have. If we fall short, we live on always hoping that we will pass on to others the gifts that we have to share. A part of all we have known goes forward.

    Thank you for writing. You have given me the opportunity to reveal this very important aspect of the book. NL

  10. @Penny - Someone asked me what time frame I used for "first best friend." I answered that I left it up to the woman I interviewed to determine whom she considered her first best friend. Several stories reflect just what you refer to--high school, college, and even art school. There is no special time when this
    wonderful connection happens. And some women said they felt that there was no one special person, but a group. So the book has a lot of latitude in the comfort and joy that "first best friends" bring us. NL

  11. @Surmire - I suspect those childhood bullies missed out on knowing a good and true friend. The loss is theirs. However, there are several stories in the book that prove once again, "there is no friend like a sister." In MY FIRST BEST FRIEND, I tried to cover the gamut of relationships as I interviewed dozens of women with all kinds of special stories. I think you'll find that Kathleen and Sheila and their story is very much like yours. By the way, I did have a first best friend in grammar school, but I recall a few unkind kids, too. Maybe they have their place in our lives--our understanding of how to deal with people whose motives we don't understand and don't have to believe or tolerate.

    Thank you for writing and reminding us once again that our own backyard can be a wonderful world. NL

  12. Congrats on your new book -- I look forward to reading it. As someone who's been a magazine editor as well as an author, I share many of the feelings you expressed about the release of a new publication and all the dreams/worries that go with it. Wishing you all the best!

  13. Dear Nancy,

    What a tender and thoughtful response to my comment you have given me. I consider that such a gift, and you can be assured that I will indeed read your book. I could not keep from reading it, as I know what a special work of love it was for you. Being that I was the beneficiary of your vision for Victoria, your beautifully written book Jenny Walton's Packing For a Woman's Journey, and now your blog, I wouldn't miss your newest offering. And, I will read it with those sentiments that you mentioned... so happy for those who have found those special reunions and with a real empathy for those who have tried to reconnect and had similar experiences to mine. Your words...

    "Friendship does not have chains that bind us. We give what we have. If we fall short, we live on always hoping that we will pass on to others the gifts that we have to share."

    ...are so beautiful and poignant. You are right; I am giving what I have to others now and continue praying for those who care for my my first best friend. I am encouraged.


  14. First of all, thank you for responding to my comment, Nancy. One of the many details you bring to this site that makes you appreciated so. I am loving your posts as well as the conversations that are held here.

    I was so excited to get my copy of My First Best Friend yesterday that followed me home from the bookstore and sat with me over a cup of tea in my "quiet center" and know it will hold a place on my shelves while another copy will soon find its way to my sister's hands.

    Appreciatively, Penny

  15. I must add my thanks too. I have had friends that "life conditions made it impossible for me to continue to be in her life" and have fretted over all the might-have-beens. I join Christi in her appreciation for your poignant words. I can't wait to read "My First Best Friend," and will pay special attention to Kathleen and Sheila's story!

  16. I am so enjoying reading your book, My First Best Friend. I decided to buy an extra copy and send it to my first best friend. It has been a joy to communicate with her other than our annual Christmas card and birthday card. I thought you might like to see what I wrote on my blog, www.heartsdelights.blogspot.com about my first best friend. Check out the comments too, they have been so fun to receive. Thanks for inspiring me to share and reconnect with my first best friend.