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I'm on vacation in the Smoky Mountains today. Please welcome guest author Gayle Forman.
Gayle Forman is a bestselling, award-winning author of young adult novels. Leave Me is her first novel for adults, and tells the story of Maribeth Klein, a harried working mother who is so busy she doesn't even realize she's having a heart attack. When her recovery seems to inconvenience her family, Maribeth packs a bag and leaves everyone, a decision that ultimately ends up guiding her to where she belongs.
Gayle's novel If I Stay won the 2009 NAIBA Book of the Year Award and was a 2010 Indie Choice Honor Award winner. The film adaptation of If I Stay was released in 2014. She has visited more than forty countries and wrote a nonfiction book about her travels titled You Can't Get There from Here: A Year on the Fringes of a Shrinking World. Forman lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two daughters.
Take it away Gayle...
Three years ago, and nearly forty years after I took my first lesson, I learned to swim. I was in upstate New York watching both of my daughters, in the course of a few weeks, transform from splash monkeys who could get around, to graceful swimmers with balletic strokes. Though I had been technically swimming for most of my life, I couldn't do that. And I wanted to.
I asked the lifeguard who was teaching my kids if she might give me lessons, too. Which was how at age 43, I found myself waist-deep in lake water, clutching a kickboard, and starting from scratch.
It took about a month of lessons for everything--the kicking, rotary breathing, arm strokes, and timing--to finally click. When it did, I was elated. Suddenly, swimming felt as natural as breathing. So much less strenuous than the gasping strokes I had performed all these years under the label of "swimming."
It turned out, the reason swimming had been so hard was that I'd been doing it wrong.
The older I get, the more this seems like a handy metaphor for life. To be sure, there is plenty that is just hard, no matter how we frame it. But there are other things that are difficult because we make them so. It's not always so easy to distinguish which is which. I know this. And so does Maribeth Klein, the main character of my new novel (and my first one starring adults) Leave Me.
There are certain undeniable difficulties in Maribeth's life. She struggles to balance the demands of her job with her family (four-year-old twins no less) even before she has a heart attack and bypass surgery; after, it becomes nearly impossible. Which is why she runs away to Pittsburgh, where, among other experiences, Maribeth learns to swim, with a patient teacher and a kickboard much the way I did.
After coming back from that first summer at the lake, I took up swimming at my local Y. This was very much on my mind as I began to write Leave Me so I taught Maribeth to swim. Not just because it would be good for her heart, but because she, like me, like so many women, was making things harder for herself than she needed to, both in the water and out. She heaped expectations on herself, judged herself critically and viewed accepting help as a sign of vulnerability (which it is) and weakness (which it's not). It took running away, and learning to swim, for her to realize that.
Three years later, I'm still swimming (last week, I went on a mile-long distance swim with one of my daughters in the same lake we both learned in). And while I know that I still make aspects of my life harder than need be, swimming is a daily reminder that I don't have to.
Email and say hello: GayleFormaninfo@gmail.com
Tell a story, win some cash, buy some new shoes or a fishing pole, impress your friends and family. Sound like fun? It could happen to you, but first you need to enter my annual Write a DearReader Contest. You don't need to be a writer to enter. The contest is for writing fun. To read last year's winning entries and information about the rules and deadline, go to: http://www.dearreader.com/contest2016/index.html
* Congratulations to the winners of Fashion is Freedom by Guest Author Tala Raassi: Afsaneh S., Sharon B., and Pat H.
Thanks for reading with me. It's so good to read with friends.
* This month's Penguin Classics book is PERCHANCE TO DREAM: Selected Stories, by Charles Beaumont. Start reading now and don't forget to enter the drawing for your chance to win a Penguin tote bag: http://www.supportlibrary.com/bc/v.cfm?L=drclassqqxqZ1AFE3FA745F&c=CLASSICS