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Fridge Coffee, Corner Offices, and Mornings That Are No Longer Mine
and hoping my life and my stories will still be there
This summer, I finished a revision of a novel I have been working on for many years. It is not the last revision, and it is not even the last revision before my agent and I send it off to editors. I’m not even sure, if I’m honest, what I revised. I tried to make things more cohesive. I changed the ending, which means I changed the way we got to the ending. I connected dots that hadn’t been connected and drew new dots and hoped that those ones got connected too. I made margin notes, then came back to see what those margins notes were and sometimes fixed them with gusto and sometimes felt the impossibility of ever actually fixing them.
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This is a little how writing is for me lately and it’s a little how life is for me lately, which is to say I am working very, very hard but I am not entirely sure at what or if it’s working or what the goal ultimately is.
Both of my daughters started at new schools last week. I use the word school extremely loosely when it comes to my 14 month old, but she’ll go there until she’s four, so it is both a sort of school and not a school at all. And my older daughter started kindergarten. In many ways, it feels like the whole summer was a huge ramp up to this shift— my daughter's’ and my own competing anxieties, the balancing act of summer schedules, the emotional weight of accepting I have a grade school kid, and also grappling with the sending of my younger daughter to the school year that got interrupted for my older one by Covid. Thus Covid is on my mind, that interrupted year, that spring that never came, plus my own memories of kindergarten (Ms. Tibbets and her letter people— Mr. A and Ms. F and all the others who taught us those reading building blocks) and the trying to guess at what this year will bring— as a parent, professionally, and as a person.
In some ways, I don’t know that I have found my groove since those early covid days. Maybe those early covid days were my groove? I wrote Lawless Spaces in the pre-dawn mornings before my older daughter— then a newly two year old— woke up. She was a late sleeper— a great sleeper— and I could predict that if I awoke at 5 or 530 I might have 2 or even on occasion 3 hours to work before she called out to me from her crib. I was emotional and stressed out and things were fraught, but also that bit of time was mine and I knew what I wanted to do with it. And the novel itself had a focus— these tiny poems, this snapshotted way of telling a story, a clear intention of theme and what mattered to me. I would make a latte and hole up in my office and the sun would shift in the sky and I would feel accomplished by the time the rest of the world was waking up.
I don’t have that latte-maker anymore. I don’t have that office anymore. I don’t have those mornings anymore either. The espresso machine took up too much space for not enough use, so my husband makes coffee and if I don’t have a cup I save it in the fridge overnight to have, microwaved with milk and sugar in the morning. The baby is now in what used to be my office and I work in a corner of my bedroom or at the kitchen table. And the baby is not the idyllic sleeper that my first was, often waking sometime in the 4s or 5s, requiring me to be a parent, not a writer, in those early morning hours.
These are small changes, maybe, but they are also huge ones. I have been so focused on my daughter starting kindergarten, my baby starting nursery school, that I haven’t made room for my own transition. For my kids, I bought lockets and BFF necklaces and new dresses and new backpacks and I made photo books and pumped milk and packed bags and had a hundred tiny conversations and enormous emotional eruptions about the transitions my children were making. But I forgot to say goodbye to the espresso maker, the office, the mornings that used to be mine. I do not have a locket with a picture of the way it felt for my responsibilities to be smaller and less all-encompassing. I forgot to have a conversation with myself, about what it might feel like to find myself all over again, as a writer and a mom and a person, with this new composition of my life.
I am drafting a few new books now, while the one I revised is getting read and I keep waiting for it to feel grounded and blissful and recognizably my process. I want to feel those epiphanies, that calm, that clarity and focus, that deliberate space of creating, which somehow existed in the chaos and heartbreak of early covid days, so why can’t it exist now?
I don’t think it’s because of the lattes, which were subpar, at best. And I don’t mind the corner that is now my office— there’s wallpaper and a window and I’ve always liked tiny spaces. I miss the mornings, but I am going to put my faith in the things I believe in— like that parenthood brings on more, not less creativity, and that maybe the daze of a 430 am wake up and the adrenaline of following a baby around a darkened apartment before a mad rush to get everyone out the door will somehow bring about a new, interesting, vital energy to my work. That even the drama and exhaustion of a kid new to kindergarten might be a creative fountain, not a drain. That new ideas will arise, ones that never could have existed in all those other variations on my life. That I can create from any state of being, because writing is the mulling over of states of being, and trusting in your brain and heart to find something exciting in the mundane. Or the overwhelming. Or the impossible-feeling.
I’ll drink the day old fridge coffee. I will believe this too shall pass. I’ll write in smaller pockets of time. I will, somehow embrace (or okay maybe just tentatively accept?) the haziness, the search for focus. This new book I’m drafting is about two Auden Greenes— a regular girl and a princess— switching places and finding themselves as they navigate those new realities. Surely, I understand that. Surely I can write the story of unexpectedly finding yourself somewhere new, where you are both the person you’ve always been and someone else entirely. Surely that is a story I know how to tell.
My middle-grade novel, THE WIDELY UNKNOWN MYTH OF APPLE AND DOROTHY, comes out September 19th. That is in one week. This is a Greek mythology inspired story about the challenges of friendship and the choice to stay a god or become a human. I’m incredibly proud of it. I’m also going to be doing a launch of the book on SEPTEMBER 28th at the Barnes in Noble on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn. The event is on September 28th at 630 pm. I haven’t done an in person book launch since EVENTOWN came out in 2019, and I really hope to see some familiar faces. I plan on reading, answering questions, signing books, and getting a drink after. Let me know if you might be able to make it— all are welcome— and if you have a young reader, this book is for ages 8 and up and I welcome kids at the event as well! Send me a message and let me know if you plan on attending! I hope you will.
I will also be at Brooklyn Book Festival (details to come) and Books of Wonder in the coming weeks. Details available soon on both events, follow my instagram (@coreyannhaydu) for more into when I have it!
Speaking of the book! It has gotten two fabulous reviews. Kirkus calls it: “tender, complex and full of hope— emotionally messy in the best ways. Apple and Dorothy are intricately woven characters who express relatable feelings of fear, love, and loss”, they go on to say it is “a refreshingly character-driven take on Greek mythology”. A beautiful review and also “emotionally messy in the best ways” describes me perfectly. “Tender complex and full of hope” does too.
Publishers Weekly says, “Through Dorothy and Apple’s alternating perspectives, the author explores grief’s impact to deliver a spirited, invigorating take on familiar legends”.
There is a reality TV dating show style podcast and if you know me you know that those are two of my most favorite things now meshed together. The Hang Up is incredible— so fun, hitting all the right notes, an absolute delight and I need a season two please. This is my favorite new podcast in a while.
Two book recs: for the grownups I absolutely loved THE LATECOMER by Jean Hanff Korelitz which I flew through on audio and found so satisfying and well-drawn and engrossing. If you love a family saga, this one is for you.
And for kids I recommend the lovely, and emotionally impactful LALA’S WORDS written and illustrated by Gracey Zhang. I read this one recently after not having read it for a little while and it really got me and opened up a lovely discussion with my kid. I found myself relating to both the child and the parent and I have been returning to it often.
Lastly, it’s the end of summer but that doesn’t have to mean the end of ice cream season. Have you tried Ben and Jerry’s Milk and Cookies flavor? I hadn’t before my last pregnancy, when I fell in love with it only to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes and have it taken away from me. I have returned to ice cream land, happily, and rediscovered this honestly perfect flavor, which I have shared with my child who agrees.
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