It’s the last day of 2016 and so naturally a time to reflect on the year that has been. 2016 was a year of ups and downs, both personally and nationally. But I’ll stick here with the personal. (We’ve all had enough of the national political scene, I’m sure.)
2016 started with the frenzy of promoting my books Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist and a collection of Woolson’s stories, Miss Grief and Other Stories, which came out on February 29 from W. W. Norton. A week later they hit the front page of the New York Times Book Review and were subsequently reviewed far and wide, to my astonishment. The whole process of seeing Woolson greeted by the world was gratifying and, at times, stupefying. As my editor said, “It seems everyone has their own Woolson.” My Woolson was not the same one a few of the reviewers saw, and I recognized the truth of the old adage, which I often share with my students, that once a book is published, it no longer belongs to the writer; it belongs to the readers. Overall, however, Woolson was gaining the long overdue recognition she deserved, and for that I was ecstatic. But there is something about publishing a book that feels like getting run over by a truck. Everything happens so fast and is so disorienting. Then suddenly it’s over.
I didn’t have much time to reflect on the whole thing, however. My work, it seemed, was done as I then swiftly moved on to my next project, The Story of Little Women, for which I had received a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Grant. I spent all year banging out the first draft. And just two days ago I wrote what I think will be the ending of the book. I still have two small pieces to plug in, but I’m almost there and so relieved–and tired!
It was, at times, a grueling year, especially the month I had shoulder surgery in the midst of the hottest New Orleans summer on record. That set me back a while. But for the most part it was heavenly to have the year to devote to researching and writing this book. I had no idea when I started the volumes of material I would find on Little Women. It seems there is no end to the commentary on it.
Now, as I look ahead to January and returning to teaching and administrative work full-time, I think of all the work ahead to revise the manuscript and get it ready for those readers, who will, I’m sure, have plenty to say about my take on Little Women and its history.
Then, out of nowhere, comes this astonishing news about the book I thought had been forgotten:
Although the article was published a week ago, I just heard today from my editor that the Chicago Tribune chose Constance Fenimore Woolson as one of its ten best books of 2016. I’m astonished and grateful. After the ups and downs of this year–the high of seeing Woolson out in the world and the low of fearing that she had again been forgotten–this was such a wonderful way to end 2016. Now I feel ready for 2017, finishing up The Story of Little Women and getting it ready for readers in 2018. (If we can only survive the next few years politically.)