Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks Giving

It is the day before Thanksgiving. Matt and I are not traveling this year, and we live in a city with no family, but many dear friends. Many dear friends who are traveling for the holiday, though, or uber familied with traditions of their own. We'd decided not to mope but to enjoy a simple day, eating out at a restaurant, taking a long walk, seeing a movie. Sure, that will be fine, we told ourselves.

Hanging with friends one night last week, discussing where everyone was going for the holiday, we said, "Oh, we're going to a restaurant, no big deal." And I felt the flood of emotion, the deep homesick, the lack of family. I admitted I was sad, that I'd rather spend it with others.  A dear uber-familied friend said, "Just come over! We'd be happy to have you guys. We thought you were going out of town." My eyes, which were moist, brimmed for a moment before I took a deep breath and said, "Thank you."

Today I will be shopping for root vegetables and apples and pomegranates. I will be pre-heating and whisking and chopping, and I will be so grateful. Friends are not hard to come by, not necessarily, but a truer connection comes with vulnerability, with the simple words, "I'm so sad." Or, "Can I help?"

And always, always, "Thank you."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Life has a way of throwing annoying metaphors at you when you least want them. My computer's hard drive bit the dust last week, just as summer was ending. Just as I was finalizing what to write next, making copious notes and plans. Just as one dear person in my life was undergoing a serious lifesaving procedure, and another was veering off in a new direction.

I felt endlessly sad and frustrated and, well, pissed off.

And then yesterday, it rained like hell. No, like heaven had opened and emptied itself, either a giant thunder piss to say, You think you know what life's about? Ha!  or to say, Here, let me wash that clean for you. (And by the way, you can't stop the seasons changing.)

You can't stop the seasons changing. You know that, inside, but sometimes you just want to hold on for one moment longer to what you had, whether it's health, love, an idea, or summer. The ocean lolling its waves at you on a hot day, the kind of conversation that feels life saving. But as the Buddha will tell you, everything is impermanent. Not to mention imperfect.

So life, I piss on you. I hate that you've taken my precious things, because to me, possession should be 9/10ths of the karmic law.

And, goddamnit, I love you. Because you wash me clean every now and again, open up new possibilities, make me work hard for what I want, and occasionally, you deliver something quite sweet and beautiful.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Long and Winding Road . . .

. . . of book touring is coming to an end. A couple of visits to Eastern Washington and then the Oregon Coast the last week of June, and I will have done 30-ish events in support of Love Water Memory, which released on April 2. Thanks to everyone who has shown up, spread the word, clinked glasses, laughed at my jokes, and of course, purchased books.

My band, The Rejections, performed at two events, and you can hear some of our music here. We will continue to play gigs this summer, including for The Chuckanut Radio Hour in Bellingham, WA on June 20, and at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island, WA for First Friday Art Walk on August 2.

This summer, I will settle down to work on the next book. I don't know enough about it yet to tell you much, except that once again, it's inspired by real events that I found too intriguing not to write about. More to come. I'll be teaching at writing conferences this summer and fall, so take a peek at my events page if you 're interested. Soon, believe it or not, we'll be cranking up the promotion cycle for the paperback of Love Water Memory, due out in January 2014.

Matt and I continue to enjoy Seattle (especially in summer), our friends and family, and now, playing music together again at long last. I hope you have a really terrific summer, and get out there and do the things that make you feel most you, and most alive. That's my goal!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Changing the World

Reposted from Amy Sue Nathan's wonderful blog, Women's Fiction Writers, published April 16, 2013:

Author Jennie Shortridge says: Writing For Women Is One Of The Most Powerful Ways To Change The World

There’s much ado about women’s fiction, women authors, and women in general these days. On one hand, reports that confirm how many fewer books by women get reviewed in major publications and some women writers putting down other women writers is horrible. Okay, on two hands it’s horrible. But on that imaginary third hand, it’s bringing a lot of amazing women writers together. A band of brothers has nothing on a band of women writers. 
Author Jennie Shortridge shares her thoughts today, in a show of camaraderie with other women writers, and in celebration of her new novel, LOVE WATER MEMORY.
Please welcome Jennie to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Amy xo

Author Jennie Shortridge says: “Writing For Women Is One Of The Most Powerful Ways To Change The World”

In the year 2013, “women’s fiction” is still believed by some to be a pejorative term. The “chick lit” craze certainly didn’t help. Some early books in that category were as deeply revelatory as Catcher in the Rye, but got bedazzled in the marketing machine to scream: “Only buy me if you are female!” And begat a generation of pastel-covered books meant to categorize the stories of women’s lives as fluff, even when the messages inside might be strong as steel.
The novels I write are categorized as women’s fiction, even though my latest, Love Water Memory, has both a male protagonist and a female protagonist, and is the story of a harrowing brain disorder and its aftermath. You could imagine John Irving or Nick Hornby or Garth Stein writing about such a thing (in fact they’ve written about very similar things).
And yet, I’ve decided to come down on this issue exactly where novelist Elizabeth Berg does. To paraphrase Ms. Berg, when asked if she minded her work being categorized as women’s fiction, she said something like, “I love women! I love writing for women. Why would I mind?” (Why indeed, when women buy the vast majority of books?)
But here’s the real reason why I love writing books for women (and men, because plenty of men read my books): Writing for women is one of the most powerful ways to change the world.
Scientific studies show that college students who read fiction develop more empathy toward others than their counterparts. Those of us who’ve always read fiction know this innately. Our sensibilities, values, and core beliefs are formed and informed by the novels we read as teens, young adults, and even now.
In this new society of hardwired, head-phoned technoids tuned in electronically alone at their devices, actual human connection is eerily on the decline. We may tweet or text characters on a screen, but we can’t feel the impact of what we say or don’t say unless we can look into the other person’s eyes.
Women are biologically engineered for empathy, and yet we often get subtle (or not so subtle) messages that empathy and compassion are not as important as power and might. Don’t believe it. If more leaders of corporations, governments and religious institutions were women, integrating compassion into decision and policy making, our people and our planet would be far better off.
When women write women’s stories, we share ideas and experiences and revelations about solving problems, about surviving and thriving through difficulties, about love and the power of compassion and understanding.
And that changes the world, one reader—female or male—at a time.
Love Water Memory and four other acclaimed novels, as well as a writing teacher and avid volunteer. She is co-founder of Seattle7Writers, a nonprofit collective of over sixty published authors in the Northwest who work to give back to their community. Find her onFacebookTwitter, her blog JennieSez, and

Monday, April 1, 2013

In Bloom

Writers are a bit like gardeners. We plant seeds, lots of seeds, and hope they'll sprout and take hold in the muck that fertilizes such things and helps them grow. Like gardeners, we don’t always succeed. But when we do, and the result of our meticulous tending blooms, it’s a moment of such pride and satisfaction that it’s hard not to grin and gape and call out, “Hey, everybody! Look what I did!”

So, um, hey, everybody! Look what I* did!

Love Water Memory goes on sale Tuesday, April 2!
Please come celebrate with me at an event near you.

*And because of course I didn’t do this alone, big gratitude and huge hugs go to my fellow gardeners:

Stephanie Rostan, Karen Kosztolnyik, Jennifer Bergstrom, Jennifer Robinson, Mary McCue, Natalie Ebel, Ellen Chan, Christine Foye and everyone at Gallery Books.

Erica Bauermeister, Randy Sue Coburn, Garth Stein and all of the writers I’m lucky enough to write and work with and hang out with in the Seattle7 and everywhere.

Tim Mooney, Jay Miazga, Stan Matthews, Kaila and Scott Raiby, Lynne Kinghorn and Margaret Meineke for technical assistance.

My bandmates in The Rejections, who’ve worked hard to make my launch extra special with a live performance and a special download coming soon to my website: Matt Gani, Paul Mariz, Stevie Kallos, Garth Stein and Ben Bauermeister. And special guest in Denver, Peter Fletcher.

All of the independent booksellers who faithfully serve and support readers, writers, and books, without politics, agenda, or fail. If I listed all who have been especially kind to my books and me, this page would never end.

My family: my dad, my sisters and inlaws, my nieces and nephews, my aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins. (I’m not kidding. They’re all amazing.)

And always, my dear, sweet husband. If you wonder why I write so often about love, well. There you go.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Help Wanted

A week from today (April 2) is the day Love Water Memory will be officially published and available to readers (except for in Barnes & Noble stores, read the NYT story.) This is my fifth book, my fifth labor of writing love. When people ask me which of my books is my favorite, I ask, “Do you have children?” There is no favorite. There are only stories that arose from particular periods and moods and thoughts and skill levels I possessed at the time. They are each precious in their own way.

Love Water Memory started with a newspaper clipping and a question. The true story was about a man who went missing for six weeks before his fiancée found him states away with amnesia. She brought him home and they continued their love story, even though he no longer knew her. “I remembered her heart, but not her face,” he said. I thought, "What on earth happens next?" And then I wrote my answer.

My beautiful (thank you, Simon and Schuster) book is in danger of going missing. With a cover that was designed to be picked up and touched, it will not be on B&N tables and shelves. Yes, we have wonderful independent bookstores that will sell the heck out of it (thank you, indie booksellers). And yes, it's available at all online outlets, including B&, but roughly a third of potential readers are lost now, because in some parts of the country, the only bookstores they have are B&N.

I hope you find, read and enjoy the book. And if you do enjoy it, I hope you share it with your friends and tell people about it, because this one is going to need a little extra help out there in the world. I’ve always been able to count on the kindness of readers, and I do now, more than ever.

I dedicated this book to my three sisters, but as always, it’s dedicated to you, too, because without you, there is no book.

Links you can post to spread the word:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Next Big Thing Interview Series

Authors are a creative bunch. One such creative type, Mary Biddinger (Prairie Fever, St. Monicas, and O Holy Insurgency) started a self-interview series called "The Next Big Thing," whereby writers administer the Q&A below to themselves, then tag others to do the same. It’s been zinging around the Internet, building a fine collection of interesting insights from a diverse group of authors about their books. I mean, self interview? Bring it on.

I've been tagged by two writers to participate: Laurie Frankel, author of the intriguing and brilliant Goodbye For Now (soon to be a major motion picture) and Atlas of Love, and poet Denise Banker, whose luminous book of poetry is called Swimming the Colorado. Both of these women are dear friends and exceptional writers, and I hope you will discover that for yourself by reading their books.

And now, for the self interview.

What's the title of your book?
Love Water Memory. That was not my first title choice. It was The Amnesiac’s Love Story. My publisher thought, and probably rightly so, that title sounded too much like a Lifetime TV movie or a thriller. In the midst of trying really hard to think of a new title, I woke in the night, twice, with these three words: love, water, memory. I ignored them the first time, but when they came back the second time, I jumped up and wrote them down, sent them to my agent and editor, saying, What do you think? And they loved it.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s a mystery wrapped in a love story about an amnesiac who remembers nothing, and her fiancé, who remembers too much.

What genre does your book fall under?
I would call it simply fiction. A novel. The publishing business has many categories, even for non-genre fiction ("genre" typically meaning scifi, mystery, romance, thriller, etc.) This particular novel is in the category of upmarket hardcover fiction. See? Means nothing. Let’s move past genres and categories, and just read good books.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book is published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. I am represented by Stephanie Kip Rostan of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. I love them both.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
A Seattle Times article in February 2007. The headline was: “His memory fails him, but his heart won’t forget.” It was about a man who suffered from a rare condition that steals his memory and makes him flee his life, over and over, and about his fiancée, who goes to get him. It made me want to know what would happen, so I wrote a book to find out.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm. I always try to turn this question around and ask readers, because they have such definite ideas. I already see Lucie and Grady and Helen and all the rest as real people, so it’s difficult. But, off the top of my head, how about Cate Blanchett for Lucie (with one of her brilliant American accents)? I can’t even imagine who might play Grady, who is half Native American and has the long lean body of a swimmer. Can you?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I think about 18 months? I lose track. Meaning, I don’t want to remember. But usually, it takes me about a year to a year and a half to do a first draft, then anywhere from a few months to another year or so to do revisions.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Love inspired me to write this book, the power of it, the difficulties inherent in it, and the sheer beauty of it when you let it in.

And now my tags:

When my first book was published by NAL/Penguin, I attended regional bookseller tradeshows and met the loveliest young woman working in the Penguin booth. Jeanine Cummins was kind and helpful and gave me a human connection in a big publishing world. She has since written three wonderful books, including her latest, just released novel: The Crooked Branch.

At another regional tradeshow, for another book (I don't remember which), I met the amazing author Susan Jane Gilman. What a lovely force of nature she is! She's currently on deadline for her new book, so she will post at a later date, but in the meantime,  check out Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Swimming Pool

If it were just my cup running over, it would be one thing. But it is my salad bowl, my kitchen sink, no, my imaginary swimming pool that runneth over today.

This is my life.

Earlier this month, I spent two days in Vancouver with my film righting partner Joan Macbeth, working on a treatment for my novel When She Flew. Her condo is across a narrow strip of water from Granville Island, where we ferried to buy groceries and Indian food for lunch. We ended our time together excited and buzzing with new ideas.

The following week, I took the ferry again, twice, to Whidbey Island. The first time was to enjoy the company of a dear friend from the Bay Area, and talk about creating a writers retreat space in her home. The second time was to appear at Hedgebrook's production of a scene from my forthcoming book, Love Water Memory, and scenes from my friends' books as well, Carol Cassella and Erica Bauermeister. My words came out of actors' mouths. I was astonished and filled with a kind of joy I had not yet experienced as a writer. I imagine it's something like what songwriters feel when the audience sings along to their songs.

This past week, I performed with our new band, The Rejections and the Trailing Spouses, at Elliott Bay Books for Erica's launch of her gorgeous new novel, The Lost Art of Mixing. Along with Stephanie Kallos, Garth Stein, Ben Bauermeister, Paul Mariz and my hubster Matt Gani, we played "Paperback Writer" (although Erica's book is in hardcover) and the old Robert Johnson number "Come On in My Kitchen," to honor the cook heroine of the book. Playing in a band is my first love, creatively. I was always in one from age 16 to 30, when I met Matt and we became an acoustic duo. Full circle doesn't even come close to how gratifying this experience has been for me.

And then our wonderful collective, Seattle7Writers, invited 100+ writers to join us yesterday for a one-day writing intensive, filled with mini lessons and individual consultations, strong coffee, donuts, chocolate, cookies, popcorn from the brand spanking new S7W popcorn machine . . . and lots and lots of people writing. Joy is too small a word for what happens when you gaze over the crowd and hear: clickety tick tick tick x 100.

At the end of the day we decided to shake it up and presented our Q&A session as a game show: Ask an Author. All of our participating authors were funny and fun and informative as Garth led us through our nerve-wracking paces, answering surprise questions in under 30 seconds.

And then I thought, here comes the coup de grace, when we give our end-of-year donations to two organizations we love: 826 Seattle and Powerful Schools. But before Garth handed over the big checks, he gave me such a lovely shout out, and I couldn't very well hide or pooh-pooh him, and then Teri Hein of 826 said another nice thing from the stage, and I let it all in, and my eyes filled, and I was exhausted and drunk with having accomplished so much, and so, so grateful for my life and my friends, and for the community I live in, and for all the things I get to do.

Amazing grace. How sweet.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Book Smell

I take the whole New Year thing seriously. I'm a sucker for opportunities to reflect and renew and take stock, to revisit old dreams, set new goals, find inspiration. And there's that feeling that—come January 1st—anything is possible, again. Sure, nature provides its own new beginning every year at spring time, but still, the new year holds its sway, as it did on Tuesday when hubby and I sat at the dining table and mapped out our paths for the coming year.

In 2013, that path includes the release of my new book, both thrilling and daunting, knowing the work ahead of me as I go out into the world to give public birth to it this spring. I loved writing the book, the story behind the story (listen here), and now the experience of working with my new publishing team at Gallery Books/ Simon and Schuster. On the eve of Hurricane Sandy, I visited New York to meet with them, and I was blown away by their incredible devotion to the book, and their intention to get it into the hands of as many readers as possible starting April 2.

This is how much they love it. They commissioned an artist to create this beautiful cover.

I cried when I saw it because it so thoughtfully reflects the story inside the pages. You can read more about the story here. If you pre-order a copy at the bottom of that page, your support will be noticed by the book industry, in a good way. Love Water Memory represents a brand new path for me with my writing career, and I'd love your help.

On April 2, there will be a launch party at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle. (Notice that I'm inviting you to come with plenty of notice?) Of course, if you can't make it, I'll be traveling through the Northwest and Bay Area and Denver to do readings and book clubs. I hope to see you somewhere, so check my schedule, which will be filling in very soon.

It's a brand new year and an opportunity to reconnect. As always, I thank my lucky stars for all of you who've been with me for all or part of this journey, and I wish you wonderful things in 2013 and beyond. Dream big!