New York Times and USA Today Bestselling novelist, screenwriter, editor, namer, critic, movie addict and chocoholic
Friday, June 4, 2010
Guest Blog from Jennifer Rosner, author of If A Tree Falls
Jennifer Rosner wrote an extraordinary memoir about being the mother of two deaf children, but it's really more than that. It's truly a novel about what it means to be heard, how deafness is passed on through history and the controversy around sign language and cochlear implants. I was so knocked out by Rosner's book that I asked her if she'd write a guest blog, and she agreed. Many thanks, Jennifer.
Nearly every day, for the five years it took me to write If A Tree Falls, I marveled at the idea that I was writing a memoir.Not only were my childhood memories few and far between(none prior to the age of ten), but I was a trained philosopher, meaning my only exposure to writing was of the most torturous, academic variety. I certainly wasn’t a “creative writer.”Yet, from the moment this project began until its completion, with my book now appearing on bookstore shelves, the words expressing the emotional heart of my memories flowed with relative ease.Perhaps it was their time.Or perhaps, becoming a mother just changes everything.
I started writing If A Tree Falls shortly after my daughter, Sophia, was born and diagnosed as deaf.My first attempt to grapple in words with her deafness, and with the many decisions we faced in raising her, was a watershed event for me.The expression of my tangle of worries, fears, and (did I dare?) hopes, left me exhausted yet energized and relieved. Nothing like when I finished a philosophy paper! In the course of the next few years, my husband and I had another deaf daughter, and I discovered deafness in my family tree (previously unknown to me) traveling back to the 1800s in Eastern Europe.
In time, I came to recognize that I’d lived with deafness all my life -in the metaphorical sense, the sense in which I’d felt unheard as a child.And I started to see that my daughters’ literal deafness was a signpost to me, to check whether I myself was equipped to hear.My initial thought that I needed to work through my daughters’ deafness was turned on its head.The crucial project was to work through any deafness in myself, so that I could be in a position to listen to and hear my daughters.
This is what I think writing is all about – finding one’s barest truths, whether by circling back, spiraling up and down, or (for the lucky ones) following a linear path.My quest took me, circuitously, on an imaginative journey into my ancestry, where I learned of lines of connection that could sustain me through an honest reckoning with my childhood and my capacity for mothering.
Of course, I had to contend with my daughters’ deafness too, but that was by comparison the easy part, as they thrived with hearing technology and took to singing rounds (in tune, no less) as I drove to the copy shop to pick up the latest draft of my memoir project.Oh, and as I called to resign from my philosophy job!
I had found my avocation: creative writing.Aside from listening (really listening) to my girls, it’s what I longed to do.
Stay tuned, THIS OTHER LIFE has sold to Algonquin, my beloved publisher and I am busy writing it now. My 11th novel CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD is an Indie Next Pick. IS THIS TOMORROW was an May Indie Pick. I'm also the New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, a Costco "Pennie's Pick." a NAIBA bestseller and on the Best Books of 2011 List from San Francisco Chronicle, Providence Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Bookmarks Magazine. I'm the recipient of a New York Foundation of the Arts Grant in Fiction. I was a 2013 finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and a finalist in the Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellowship, four of my novels were optioned for screen, and I talked my way into writing the script for two of them. My essay, HIgh Infidelity, has been optioned for film. I'm a book critic for The San Francisco Chronicle and People Magazine. I teach novel writing for UCLA Extension Writers' Program, and Stanford online, do private fiction editing, and I am a professional namer! I live with my husband, writer/editor Jeff Tamarkin and we beam with pride about our son, an actor/filmmaker in college. Visit me at http://www.carolineleavitt.com.