I came upon this Conrad quote--reputedly in response to a bad review--while in in the Stanford Creative Writing workshop, working on what became my first published novel: High on the Energy Bridge (1980). I printed the quote and taped it on the wall above my writing desk, and referred to it often during several decades of teaching creative writing workshops. Former students may remember my admonition: praise first, then critique when we considered student work. It's much easier to respond well to criticism after praise. Writers, after all, are only human, and never more so than when their work is being considered, assessed and perhaps shredded by appraising eyes.
I was thinking about the Conrad quote after _______'s review of Cuppy and Stew appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 10th.
This morning, Friday, June 12th, I woke up to this lovely review in Book Life. https://booklife.com/my/project/cuppy-and-stew-46768
Because the review is so good, here it is in its entirety:
Creative writing professor Goodman (Twelfth and Race) merges memoir and historical fiction in this engrossing tale of love, tragedy, and perseverance. In Vancouver, during the spring of 1937, Suzanne “Anne” Kerr meets Stewart “Stew” Morgan and flirtation eventually leads to love. Stew’s wife and father refuse to let him leave his unhappy marriage, so Stew moves to South Africa with Anne to live as a couple. Their daughters, Sharon and Susan, are born there. They return to Canada in 1945 only to discover that scandal still hangs over their heads. A move to the U.S proves fortuitous, and the family thrives until the 1955 bombing of United flight 629 kills Anne and Stew, leaving Sharon and Susan at the dubious mercy of their estranged extended family.
Stew and Anne’s younger daughter—whose character is based in part on the diaries of Susan Morgan, the author’s wife—provides an engaging narrative voice for this seamless crossover of memoir and historical fiction. Descriptions of Anne and Stew’s more intimate moments are tasteful, though odd to hear about from their child’s perspective. Although the Great Depression and WWII both affect the narrative, historical events mostly fade into the background of the family’s personal struggles. Social norms of the period play a stronger influence on the story. Minor discrepancies arise during the time spent in South Africa.
An overriding sense of overcoming the odds unites the romance of part one with the more tragic circumstances of part two. Clear descriptions coupled with entertaining internal dialogue and concise, expressive characterization make the pages fly by. A marvelous narrator and eventful plot make for an entertaining and moving tale that’s sure to please readers seeking inspirational narratives about hard times in history.
Takeaway: Goodman’s unconventional blend of fact and fiction will be a hit with historical readers who like stories about overcoming adversity.
Great for fans of Edward Rohs and Judith Estrine’s Raised by the Church, Lindsey Jane Ashford’s Whisper of the Moon Moth.
On May 27th, we screwed our courage to the flying point, and traveled from SFO to our farm in Mecklenburg, making connections in Detroit. Many kudos to Delta; the plane was 40% full (Delta promised no more than 60% in Coach). Not a single passenger in a middle seat. I had a window seat, Susan had the aisle; no one sat across the aisle from her, in front or behind her. We'd scored some real N-95 masks from Santa Rosa friends who'd purchased them during the 2017 fires; Susan is wearing hers in the charming photo of us; note all the empty seats.
Delta uses Terminal One in SFO, but the TSA security checkpoint was closed in Terminal 1. We walked (inside the terminal ) to the TSA checkpoint for Terminal Two, and when we arrived, there was no one in front of us. The gate area was nearly empty; no problem finding six seats (and six feet) of space for the two of us. Kind of eerie, as perhaps 10% of terminal businesses were open. The only scary moment occurred when our first flight landed in Detroit. Despite instructions from flight crew ("Please don't stand up until the passengers in front of you have left their seats and walked forward), lots of people were waiting in the aisle to de-plane. Old habits die hard.
Today, we finished 14 days of self-quarantining. I've been taking my temperature daily and checking my blood oxygen on a pulse oximeter--my COVID security blankets. All has been well. Today I entered into several stores, doing my own shopping, wearing a mask. Natch, Satch, and celebrated by jumping in our swimming pond for the first time. Tonight, a socially distanced dinner on the lawn with two dear friends.
Oh, and there's this. The SF Chronicle ran a long review of Cuppy and Stew in their Datebook section today. Kind of mixed, and the reviewer wagged a finger at me about point-of-view--I think it's fair to say I've forgotten more about POV than the reviewer ever knew--but the review was long, my name was spelled correctly, there was a large author photo, and there were some quotable lines suitable for PR.
So all in all, a fine day. I'll say more about the review in a subsequent post.
Today is the official publication day of Cuppy and Stew: The Bombing of Flight 629, A Love Story. It's been a long time coming. Four years of research and writing the manuscript, a year of my agent marketing the manuscript, and another year of waiting for the book to come out. But there's another way of thinking about the timeline of this book. I met Susan Morgan, the person (and inspiration for the narrator) in the fall of 1976 at a sherry hour at Stanford University. We were married on May 8, 1982: 38 years. The blink of an eye.
Cuppy and Stew is now widely available on-line. During the month of May it is a Handpicked Book at www.SPDBooks.org, where it is 20% off. It's also available for order through your local bookstore, as well as on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
If you've already purchased a copy, I'd be grateful if you'd recommend it through your own social network. Word of mouth marketing is especially important this year when all live bookstore events and readings have been cancelled. I'd also be very grateful if you would post a review on Good Reads or Amazon. I've read reports that a single excellent review on Amazon can lead to the sale of 100 additional books. Is that true? I'd love to find out.
Stay safe, and keep checking this space. I hope to have some exciting news about reviews in the coming weeks.
A lot has happened since March 31st, when I began this blog. My brother was returned to a ventilator within 24 hours of being taken off it. His blood oxygen was dropping, not precipitously, but enough for concern. As far as anyone can tell--he hasn't been re-tested--he's (mostly) over COVID-19. He hasn't run a fever in many days. But perhaps because there's mucous lodged in his chest, which seems to be a common problem, he wasn't quite making it without the ventilator, so the doctors at Cornell/Weill decided to reinsert the ventilator, so as not to strain his heart and lungs.
I didn't want to post about this because so many of you had seemed so buoyed by my brother's good news, and we have all been struggling to feel good about something in this dark time. However, it seems there are quite a few patients at Cornell/Weill in my brother's situation: "over" Covid, but not able to get off the ventilator. After pondering what to do for a couple of days--these patients are at least stable in a very chaotic medical world--my brother's doctors came up with a new protocol. They performed a tracheostomy, and the ventilator is now working using that small hole rather than a breathing tube. Doctors believe there are several advantages of this new protocol. Reducing the throat swelling which results from being intubated for an extended time. Being able to reduce the patient's sedation level so that he may begin physical therapy to avoid muscular atrophy. And finally, and this is the good news, as an insurance policy. They do hope and plan to get him off the ventilator in the near future. If there's a problem, however, and he needs to go back on a ventilator, he could do so without needing to be intubated again, which, apparently, is quite grueling.
So there it is. I'd hoped to have better news to report when I first posted about this on March 31st, but we are all living in the land of the real right now, rather than in the land of Make Believe, except maybe in the White House.
In CUPPY AND STEW news, since I invited my Facebook friends to visit and Like the new EricGoodmanAuthor page, the page has received 148 Likes and now has 148 followers. Thank you all. And it seems that someone has purchased a copy from Small Press Distribution, which means there has now been one copy sold on-line! Here at Chez Goodman/Morgan, we're hoping there will be more copies sold soon.
Stay well, and be kind to your loved ones, and even people you don't like very much. I'll be back soon and will introduce a new thread. Many of you may be surprised to learn that I am the part owner of a small business in San Diego: Sky Salon. As a result I know a great deal about the plight of small business people right now, and the joys and challenges of applying for new government loan programs designed to keep people working, one slow and annoying form at a time.
Today has been a very good day. My older brother, Mike, who has been on a ventilator at Cornell/Weill in NYC for 14 days, was finally well enough to have the ventilator removed. There were times during which we all feared that this day would never come. He still has a long and difficult road to full recovery, but this is a huge first step.
Much less important, but still big news for me, is that Cuppy and Stew is now listed as available for purchase on the Small Press Distribution site. Since all sales flow through SPD (Amazon, Ingram the wholesaler, bookstores), this is an important moment, and I'm delighted it has arrived. More later! But better days ahead, especially for my beloved big bro.
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