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Yesterday, 3:30 AM. Left the sofa, where I had gone briefly to rest, to begin (again) client work, which became student work, which became the business of writing work, until I looked up at 10:15 or so and screamed. A brown cloud of termites had rushed through my office door and window—escapees from the new construction hole down the street. It happened in an instant, an actual instant. A storm of wings. Beth's cries for help. Clients calling in the midst. Beth pretending to be calm while the critters crawled along her computer screen.
2:30 PM. Settled in with Mr. Heater Man, who, like a physician, was delivering the final news about the new system now required for my old house. Ralph, Mr. Heater Man, is a very nice guy. Still, might as well be sending my son off to another semester of school. I, by now termite proof, smiled (more like grimaced). Wrote the check for the first third payment. Went back to work.
3:00 PM. Received news of an incredible pre-pub review that I will soon be able to share. See how nicely I am behaving? How properly? Not sharing? Yes. I am capable of the incomplete non-share. Even in my current state of sleep-deprived delirium.
5:25 PM. My friend Judy of the cabernet hair meets me for a walk around a Holiday Inn parking lot, just off the Lansdale exit. This is Judy's neighborhood. It is also partway between my home and Harleysville, where Shelly Plumb, the generous owner of Harleysville Books,
has invited me to an evening of dinner and conversation regarding Small Damages
. So Judy and I walk and talk and walk and talk, six laps or so around the ol' Inn. I love friends who do not mind the craziness of me, or the sweatiness of a walk on asphalt during a 90-degree day.
7:00 PM. In Harleysville with the aforementioned Shelly—I met her, felt like I'd always known her, perhaps I have always known her?—and some twenty others, who had kindly read Small Damages
. Outside, there was lightning and downpour. Inside, wine, pasta, dessert, books. Any writer who is ever invited to Harleysville must go. It's a bastion of independent goodness. Also? For the record? Small Damages
appears (see photo above) to be a crossover book.
10:00 PM. Home (through rain and a little hail) to more work.
2:30 AM. The aforementioned existing heater (which needs to hold on for just two more weeks) goes off on an all-cymbals clash-o-rama that probably woke President Obama. Did it wake you? It certainly woke me. Well, who goes to sleep after that?
7:00 AM. Hair like tumbleweed.
I have always had the utmost respect for the true book blogger—for all of you exceedingly generous souls who make so much time for books and the book community. I imagine that your houses are built out of bindings and glue. That your lamps stay on well into the dark. That you might wish to fly a kite or dig a hydrangea into the ground, but kindly turn pages instead.
When I started this blog six years ago, I imagined it to be a place where I would muse out loud about the world, its words, its images. I'd write about my friends and my communities. I'd provide updates on my journeys. I'd share news about books I'd somehow stumbled upon. I'd have fun.
I didn't imagine that a blog could become so pressing. That it could become more overwhelming than any job.
But indeed it has. For longer than I can remember now I've been crushed beneath the weight of requests, queries, books sent my way for blog review or blurbs. Yesterday in the space of a single half hour, five requests came in. In the morning there were two. A typical day in blog land.
The thing is: I want to make everybody happy. I want to make each day a gift. I want to read these books and write about them, but I have run out of time. Even sleeping three hours at night I'm behind. Even setting my own work to the side most days, which I have been doing forever now in an attempt to get square with the requests.
It occurs to me that I can't catch up. That as beautiful as so many of these books undoubtedly are, as deserving, I'll never be able to cover them all. Even if I never again stepped foot outside. Or did my day job. Or taught my students. Or washed my hair. Or paid my taxes.
And so, going forward, I'll have to say no to many things I wish I didn't have to say no to. And I will hope all of you understand. And I hope, too, that you will know how grateful I've been for the care you've given my own work. Certainly I'll still be covering books here—books I've bought, books I've requested, books by true dear friends. But I'll have to rearrange the piles in order to finally get clear.
In the meantime, I will always be grateful to people like Keertana, the creator of Ivy Book Bindings. She, like so many book bloggers, does this work far better than I can. Recently, for example, she found her way to Small Damages
and kindly asked me to share something of its history as well as my own recommendations for recent historical/literary reads. She has woven all that together beautifully here
. Her blog is well worth linking to.
We celebrated New Years Eve with truly beloved friends, as we now do each year. We choose a restaurant halfway between our homes, in a town called Skippack. We talk students, dance, Hollywood, art, travels, books, life as it is and was.
The bounty of friendship.
In so many ways the year now gone terrified those of us who love this country and care about the rising class of dreamers. I am vulnerable and incapable, often. I have not learned what I can do in the face of national and personal tragedies, congressional cacophony and faulty machines. I have lost my faith in the sanctity of theaters and classrooms. I have worried about weather. I have felt sickened by conversations that stopped far short of anybody actually listening.
I have wanted to make room. I have asked myself how. I have asked myself questions.
Why are we screaming so much at one another? What is the payoff of cruelty? How can we push a man into the path of an oncoming train? How can we survive the gunning down of children, of teachers, of people watching Batman? What can we do for the friend who has lost a brother far too soon? What can we say when illness happens, and when it returns, when jobs are lost, when everything is so preposterously uncertain, when the storms sweep in? When we don't know and we need to know? When there are people relying on us?
We can, I think, be kinder to one another. We can be more trustworthy. Less self-indulgent with our anger or our needs. Less quick to correct or accuse, humiliate or shame. More aware of the connections between people and things, and how easily—pushed too far, intruded upon—they're broken. We can surround ourselves with the bounty of friendship, and it is this bounty, and the love in my own family, that sustains me, that shows me how. It is this bounty that I am particularly grateful for, on this first day of this new year.
Earlier this year, Wendy Robards, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a caretaker, one of the smartest readers of books anywhere, a quilter, read an early copy of Small Damages
and began to make a quilt that captured the colors in the story. When it arrived I was astonished. Since it arrived, I have shown it to every single person who comes, sometimes I show them twice. It is symbolic, this quilt—bright, particular, personal, and made and given out of love.
Today Wendy has posted her favorite books of the year, and, Wendy being Wendy, first provides incredible reviews of a truly stellar collection, then finally names Small Damages
as her favorite read of the year.
A tree grows for you in my heart, Wendy.
Love to all of you in 2013.
So indebted on this white Saturday to Kerry Winfrey, who wrote of Small Damages on Hello Giggles,
and heartened me with her words.
Thank you. You return summer and the smell of oranges to me. I have missed both.
This photograph made its way to me and stopped me in my tracks.
It also reminded me to let you know of this special upcoming event—the book club dinner at the Harleysville Book Store, with Small Damages
appearing as the featured title. The evening event will take place on April 10, 7 o'clock, and you can register for it through the kind folks at Harleysville Books
in Indian Valley, PA.
I hope to see you then. I will answer (almost) any question you ask.
A moment to say how much it has meant to me to continue to hear from readers of Small Damages
. I am, in so many ways, an under-the-radar writer. To be found, to be read, to be kindly (generously) remembered on Facebook—it is remarkable. To find Small Damages
on blogs as powerful and respected as Carrie's own Books and Movies—where are the words?
With greatest thanks to all of you. With great thanks to Carrie today, for this review
My thanks to Sarah Laurence for letting me know that Small Damages
(Philomel) was among those titles discussed by Kelly Jensen at The Yalsa Hub, in a story entitled: "The Next Big Thing: Contemporary/Realistic Fiction).
For the whole story, which looks at all the contemporary/realistic books nominated for this year's Best Fiction for Young Adults, go here
By: Beth Kephart
Blog: Beth Kephart Books
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John Corey Whaley
, David Levithan
, Publishing Perspectives
, A.S. King
, Lois Lowry
, Patricia McCormick
, Small Damages
, YA literature
, future of Young Adult literature
, Eliot Schrefer
, John Green
, Add a tag
I was so grateful for the opportunity to give the keynote address at the Publishing Perspectives Conference, YA: What's Next, held at the hospitable Scholastic auditorium in New York City this past Wednesday.
Today the fine folks at Publishing Perspectives
share the text in full,
along with the illustrations by William R. Sulit. These illustrations were modeled with 3D software, all with the exception of the beautiful face and hands, which belong to my niece (daughter of my famous I Triple E brother)
, Miranda.In her keynote address from the YA: What’s Next? publishing conference, author Beth Kephart makes an impassioned case for YA books that are heartfelt, authentic and empowering.......(Just added: gratitude for a week of kindness toward Small Damages.)
Before Small Damages
and You Are My Only
, there was Dangerous Neighbors
(Egmont), my Centennial Philadelphia story featuring twin sisters, a boy named William, and the fair that ushered in the idea of the modern.
Yesterday, the paperback edition of Dangerous Neighbors
arrived, complete with its fancy discussion/teaching guide. The book will go on sale in a month or so, just ahead of the release of Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent
, the prequel that features 1871 Philadelphia and that animal-rescuing boy named William.
My thanks to Elizabeth Law and the Egmont team.
A few days ago, Lynn Rosen, the editorial director of the Publishing Business Group, wrote to ask me about those end-of year lists we see so often in the book business. What are they? What do they mean? How are they created? How do they affect us? She asked, and I (with my always limited knowledge) answered. Our conversation is here
This morning, while I was waiting for an unexpected visitor to leave the house (okay, so it was the pest control guy, and, all right, if you must know, I was not precisely prepared for the visit, and since you won't stop asking, no, my hair was not combed and my eyes were raccooned), I was scrolling through my blog log and saw that my good friend Danielle Smith of There's a Book had written something about pausing. I need pause right now,
I thought, and so pressed on the link, only to discover that Danielle had included me in her glorious post. You'll see what I mean, here.Oh my gosh, new insertion. Here is Sarah Laurence being uber kind to Small Damages at year's end.
So how do I feel about being included in some of these phenomenal lists, mentions, citations, possibilities? I feel blessed, pure and simple. I feel outrageously lucky. I have been writing books for a long time. I have published many. I was an outsider from the get-go, but I don't feel so outside anymore. I feel like I am part of a community. I feel like there is reason to go on searching for stories and words.
I want to write.
We woke to a deep mist here, a roiling fog. It seems the skies understand, that they, like us, are weeping.
It will be difficult for any of us to move forward. To stop putting our imaginations elsewhere, and grieving. And maybe that's okay. Maybe we do just need to stop.
On this necessarily quiet day, I want to thank two extremely generous people for kindness—an attribute more important to me than any other. The first is Michael G-G, always a smart writer and blogger, always a dear soul, who read two of my books at the same time and had this to say
. Michael understands my relationship to the color blue. His words on this and on so much more touched me so deeply—and arise out of the mist.
The second is Jennifer Brown, a former school teacher and now the woman I love to call (because it is so true) "the ambassador for children's books." She was a terrific panel moderator at the Publishing Perspectives conference held a few weeks ago, just after the storm Sandy stopped us all in our tracks. She reports on the conference today in Shelf Awareness
in the meaningful way that she does all things.
Love, and (somehow) healing.
Today, my thanks go out to Gina Lewis, who truly blesses Small Damages
in Differences Magazine with this review.
My thanks, too, to Serena, for letting me know.
Gina writes of her wish that Small Damages
would "continue on further." Gina, if you are reading this, know that an entire sequel lives in my mind—that these characters are still living, dreaming, and remembering under the heat of southern Spain. A baby has been born. A new adventure simmers.
By: Beth Kephart
Blog: Beth Kephart Books
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, Magical Journey
, Katrina Kenison
, Wynne Channing
, Body Combat
, National YoungArts Foundation
, Small Damages
, Ilsa Bick
, Moira Young
, Add a tag
I made my way to Body Combat early this morning. The snow began to fall just as I left. I allow myself to be lazy after workouts like that. To lie on a couch and dream a novel forward.
I write so slowly now. But I never mind the time I make to dream a novel forward.
In between I read the astonishing work being sent to me by the YoungArts
writers; our literary future, ladies and gentlemen, is in excellent hands. I read, as well, Katrina Kenison's glorious new book, Magical Journey
, of which I wrote
not long ago. Look for a chance to win your own copy here, on New Year's Day. All you'll need to do is tell me what makes you quietly glad, and your name will be put into the hat.
Finally, I discovered, thanks to a little white-winged bird, that A.A. Omer, a reader of discerning tastes (in my humble opinion), placed Small Damages number one in her five-book list of the year's best writing. It
joins the work of David Levithan, Moira Young, Ilsa Bick, and Wynne Channing. It is an act of greatest kindness. Thank you.
I spent part of this day in the cold, white weather, by my mother's grave. I spent part of it watching the news, wondering about the state this country is in. I spent part of it reading the still incoming essays by the two dozen YoungArts writers I'll meet in Miami in just a few days and part of it receding into that safe hollow where story still lives within me, if I listen hard, if I wait.
I came to this computer just now to see what a handful of these new Florence paragraphs look like on this big screen, because I will never believe in the sentences I make until I see them and remake them and endlessly reshape them until they are set, a tableau vivant. When I arrived, this bit of thrilling something was right here, waiting for me:
A.A. Omer, who just hours ago named Small Damages
number one within the Best Writing of 2012 category
, has today named this book of mine to her top five reads of the year. Here, on this list,
it joins Gone Girl, Drowning Instinct, Pandemonium
, and Blood Red Road
I have no idea how I got this lucky, but I hope you don't mind if I directly quote:
2) Small Damages by Beth Kephart
Every paragraph, sentence and word was important and a story that could’ve been dull was made captivating. Werewolves, vampires, dystopian worlds are fun but sometimes it’s everyday life and everyday problems that’s the most interesting.
A.A. Omer, I need to throw you a party. A very happy new year to you!
Small Damages has been nominated for YALSA's 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults
, and this makes me so happy. I wish I knew who to thank for this. Someone, out there, has made this happen, and I would thank you, if I could.
So, gracias, whomever you are, and congratulations to my friends who are also on this list. I love being in your community.
I have had this image of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (Syracuse University) read to rock and roll for Allie Caren, who has been interning at the Philadelphia Daily News this summer, all week long. Allie and I met on a warm day in the new Philadelphia Inquirer building a few weeks ago, and we've enjoyed a correspondence ever since then. Between the time and I met her and the time her profile of me
was published (today), a very big thing has happened to Allie: She's been accepted to S.I. Newhouse, the premier communications school in the country, my son's alma mater, and also the alma mater of my Philomel publicist, Jessica Shoffel. All good things, then, at Newhouse.
Allie, a million thanks for this story—for taking an interest and for telling it so well. And sweeping good luck to you as you now enter the school of your dreams.
Twenty by Jenny
is home to some of the most thoughtful reviews of books written for children and teens—anywhere. That is because Jenny Brown, its creator, has cared about youth literature for all of her adult life—as a teacher sharing stories, as an editor producing them, and as a critic and enthusiast writing for countless publications, including Shelf Awareness
. Jenny Brown trails golden light.
But I did not know, until late last night, that Jenny Brown, who had written the exquisite Shelf Awareness review of Small Damages
, had also taken the time to reflect on Small Damages
in Twenty by Jenny. Her essay is called "Regeneration."
It is, in every way, stunning. It taught me about my own book, made me step back with new understanding. This kind of reflection is built of love. And I am so grateful, Jenny Brown. I am.
I am so grateful, too, to the ever-vigilant Serena Agusto-Cox, for letting me know.
Within every story there are stories, and this morning I am deeply blessed by the chance, in Shelf Awareness
, to remember my grandmother and to reflect on the passion I have for creating young adult stories in which time works differently. Jennifer Brown, the children's book review editor for Shelf Awareness
, opened this door to me. Her kindness toward me and Small Damages
has been remarkable.
Pictured above is my beautiful grandmother, whom I lost on Mischief Night when I was nine. She sits beside my grandfather, who holds my brother on his lap. I am sitting with my beloved Uncle Danny. My mother's family. Sweet memories.
Thank you, Jenny Brown and Shelf Awareness
. These are the opening words of my Inklings essay. The rest can be found here
My books for young adults are frequently shaped by relationships between those who have so much wanting yet ahead and those looking back, with pain and wonder. Time works differently in books like these, and so does memory.
So proud and happy today to have Small Damages
selected as the teen book club pick by the esteemed Dear Reader.com for this back to school week.
For more on all the interesting choices and the book club itself, follow this link
Thank you, Suzanne, Valerie, and Dear Reader.com.
By: Beth Kephart
Blog: Beth Kephart Books
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, Cynthia Kaplan
, Mainline Media News
, Buzz Bissinger
, Bruce Springsteen
, Kelly Writers House
, Small Damages
, Ryan Richards
, John Prendergast
, Handling the Truth
, Add a tag
Late yesterday afternoon, I took a quick dance lesson then hurried to the train to see my kid, city side. I have been down there untold times of late—checking out apartments, moving boxes in, arriving, breathless, to help with something, and of course, this young man (not
a kid) needs no help at all. I'm just drumming up excuses to spend an hour here or there with him.
So that I have seen the city under sun and the city swollen with rain, the city just after dawn, the city late at night. And I have felt more energized and alive than I have felt for a long time. Philadelphia does that to me. And so do snatches of conversation with my guy.
This morning a text comes in, six a.m.ish. I'm working on my story,
it said. Because my son shares this with me, this love of words. This pleasure taken in filling the silent hours with vivid fictions. By now, he's off to work, first day. And my happiness for him is giant.
Meanwhile, Ryan Richards of Main Line Media News interviewed me yesterday morning at 8:15 a.m. (not-ish) and, 13 hours later, this Springsteen-infused story
(which is also about the making of Small Damages
for Philomel) had been posted. Tuesday is day-before-pub day there at Main Line Media News and Ryan plays a central role in getting all stories out and prettied up for show. I have no idea, therefore, how he wrote such a nice story in the midst of all that, but I thank him. I hope he got some sleep last night.
Finally, tucked into the day was this formal announcement from Penn about the Homecoming Weekend Panel I'll be sharing with my friends Buzz Bissinger, John Prendergast, and Cynthia Kaplan, as well as James Martin, whom I am eager to meet. Join us if you can.
October 27, 2012/Saturday 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Memoir: Methods and Meanings
Kelly Writers House
3805 Locust Walk
Join alumni authors at Kelly Writers House as they read from and talk about their work in memoir. Panelists include Pulitzer Prize-winner Buzz Bissinger C'76, whose latest book is Father's Day: A Journey Into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son; essayist and performer Cynthia Kaplan C'85, whose 'true stories' are collected in Why I'm Like This and Leave the Building Quickly; Beth Kephart C'82, author of multiple memoirs and young-adult novels, and of the forthcoming Handling the Truth; and James Martin W'82, author of In Good Company, which tells the story of his conversion from GE executive to Jesuit priest, and eight other books. Pennsylvania Gazette Editor John Prendergast C'80 will moderate the discussion. Advance registration is not required, but seating is limited. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (215) 746-POEM.
And so I realized that my Small Damages launch party
(at Radnor Memorial Library, this Wednesday night, 7:30) is but a few days away. And so I began to tremble. I hadn't prepared. I hadn't sat down and thought it through. I have nearby friends coming, not to mention a certain Patti Mallett, who is making the journey from quite a long way away. I could not afford to get up there and wing it.
I dedicated this afternoon to making sure that I didn't wing it.
There will, as everybody knows, be cake.
But there will also be a tour of my Estela's kitchen.
Can you guess what this ingredient is?
I have written many times on this blog about the exquisite writer and human being, Ruta Sepetys. I am lucky to know her—it's that simple—and the gift of our friendship is a gift that Tamra Tuller, our Philomel editor, gave. Tamra sent Ruta a copy of Small Damages
a long time ago, and Ruta not only lent her voice to this story, but she stayed in touch, sending notes from all around the world as she met with teachers, parents, and children to discuss her international bestseller, Between Shades of Gray—a
nd, later, to prepare us for the February 2013 release of her absolutely lovely second book, Out of the Easy.
Home for Ruta is states away from here. Life for Ruta is many obligations which she, with all the grace of a true diplomat, seamlessly fulfills. Still, on July 19th, the day Small Damages
was released into the world, Ruta thought to send me a gift. Enclosed is a little cake, not quite full of taste, but certainly full of love,
It had been my son's birthday, and then my husband's. There was endless corporate work to do. My party for this little book
was two months away. But there Ruta was, reminding me to take a moment for this book that had consumed ten years of my life and almost (so many times) vanished. Her cake will always sit among my treasured things, a reminder: Take a moment
Today, taking a page from Ruta, I stop to remind us all.
Tonight I'll officially launch Small Damages
(Philomel) in my hometown library
. I'll be sharing images of the research process, snapshots of Spain, and a glimpse of my Estela's cortijo
kitchen. I'll also be giving those who come this recipe card, featuring one of Estela's favorite easy desserts. Now, Estela is Estela, and pears are pears—so many different textures, so many degrees of firm. You have to mess with temperature and timing, therefore, but if you wait until the pears are truly cooked through, you'll have a sensational little treat on your hands (plumped raisins, Malaga- and orange-flavored pear flesh).
I am looking forward (so much) to this evening. Please come, if you are near:
September 12, 2012
Radnor Memorial Library
114 West Wayne, Avenue
SMALL DAMAGES launch party
By: Beth Kephart
Blog: Beth Kephart Books
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, Avery Rome
, Heather Mussari
, Small Damages
, Cynthia Reeves
, Elizabeth Mosier
, Kathye Fetsko Petrie
, Pamela Sedor
, Radnor Memorial Library
, Tamra Tuller
, Patti Mallet
, Add a tag
For reasons too complex, too personal to render fully here, yesterday was a day of deep emotion.
There were, however, friends all along the way. Elizabeth Mosier, the beauty in the dark gray dress, will always stand, in my mind, on either side of the day—at its beginnings, at its very late-night end. For your mid-day phone kindness, for your breathtaking introduction of me at last night's book launch, for the night on the town, for the talk in the car, for the bounty of your family—Libby, I will always be so grateful.
To Patti Mallet and her friend, Anne, who drove all the way from Ohio to be part of last night's celebration, I will never forget your gesture of great kindness, your love for green things at Chanticleer, and a certain prayer beside my mother's stone. Patti and I are there, above, at the pond which inspired two of my books.
To Pam Sedor, the lovely blonde in violet, a world-class Dragon Boat rower recently returned from an international competition in Hong Kong, the librarian who makes books happen and dreams come true, and to Molly, who puts up with my techno anxieties, and to Radnor Memorial Library, for being my true home—thank you, always.
To my friends who came (from church, from books, from architecture, from corporate life, from the early years through now)—thank you. Among you were Avery Rome, the beautiful red-head who edits Libby, me, and others at the Philadelphia Inquirer,
and Kathy Barham, my brilliant and wholly whole son's high school English teacher, who is also a poet (shown here in green). To the town of Wayne, which received our open-air tears and laughter late into the night (and to Cyndi, Kelly, Libby, Avery, and Kathye who cried and laughed with me)—thank you.
And also, finally, to Heather Mussari—my muse (along with Tamra Tuller) for the Berlin novel, a young lady so wise beyond her years, and a cool, cool chick who (along with Sandy) does my hair—I arrived at 11:15 at your shop inconsolable. You listened. You said all the right things by telling the truth and telling it kindly. I adore you, Heather. I hope you know that.
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My cup is overflowing.
On this rainy afternoon, I would like to thank the one and only Ed Goldberg for reading Flow,
my Philadelphia river book, and having so much good to say on his spectacular, shared blog, 2Together. Ed, you are so integral to my writing life. I am blessed by your kindness in so many ways.
Through Twitter, a tool I have yet to master, but a tool through which I have made new friends, I learned of two spectacular new reviews of Small Damages
. One, by the bloggess, Love Is Not a Triangle, made me smile in so many ways, and had me sharing, with the bloggess, my thoughts about the Small Damages
sequel I hope to someday write. The whole is here
The second is by the good people of teenreads—or, I should say, by the super duper Terry Miller Shannon of teenreads—who wrote, among other things
, "Characters are so fully realized, they could walk off the page.... Small Damages
is on the short side but is nothing short of a glorious triumph for Kephart." Those words will put sun into anybody's rainy day.
Finally, today, I want to thank Susan Barnes, Lauren Marino, and a certain publicist named Beth—all on the Gotham team. I had called Susan with a concern not at all of Gotham's making. She listened and took action at once. With tremendous compassion and care, the team relieved me of a percolating anxiety. They didn't have to do this. Some publishing teams might not have. But Gotham did, and I will always be grateful.