Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Anne LeClaire on the People We Thank



DEBORAH CROMBIE: We are so happy today to have Anne LeClaire, the best-selling author of The Orchid Sister, visiting us! She has a fascinating question, and I can't wait to hear everyone's responses.



ANNE LECLAIRE: Do you always read the author’s acknowledgements?  I do. I appreciate the public recognition that it actually does take a village to get a book not only written but on the shelf.

Often the author is generous and thoughtful in thanking those who have been invaluable in her research and supportive in her life.  I chose the pronoun deliberately for in my admittedly unscientific survey, it’s usually women who express their gratitude – often running on for pages as they thank their publishing team, their agents, writers’ groups, family, friends, people interviewed during the research phase or who answer those questions that pop up during the course of the writing. Doctors, scientists, law enforcement, lay people of all ilk, even friends who have offered support by watching her children, providing a hot meal or a space in which to write.

Men?  Not so much. They thank their partners and professionals who provided expertise in other fields, but I can’t remember an instance where one male author thanked someone for bringing over a casserole or taking the children off for the day while he finished the last pages of the first draft. I’m curious as to the reason for this, but that is a topic for another day.

I suppose if we really thanked all the people who mentored us along the way, offering support and help, answering the hundreds of queries, reading drafts at various stages, not to mention other authors whom have influenced us, it could prove a volume unto itself. No author works alone.

Although she has been dead for many years, I always wish I had mentioned Dot  Winski in my acknowledgements. She was the cook in a four-room school where my mother was a principal and taught first grade.  The basement cafeteria was comprised of an oven, refrigerator, and long counter which doubled as a prep area and service space where the students would grab a tray and then carry their meal back to their classroom to eat. Without question it would not be legal today. Off to the far side by the furnace was a card table and a couple of chairs where Dot, a large-bodied Polish woman, would drink coffee and smoke when she wasn’t cooking or washing dishes.

When I was on vacation (I had a different school schedule than my mother had) I would spend hours in the basement with Dot. She was a high school graduate, a passionate reader and a born story-teller which was what drew me to her at first. It was also what made me trust her enough to confide in her that I wrote short stories, ones I showed to no one.  She wanted me to read them to her and when I did, she always responded enthusiastically, encouraging me to write more. 

I went off to college in Ohio and my mother moved to another position in another state and I lost touch with Dot. But when I think of early influences, people who believed in me and gave me permission to follow my dream of becoming a writer, I think of her. I regret I never told her that.

Who do you acknowledge? Was there a Dot Winki in your life? 

DEBS: Yes, I do always read author's acknowledgements, but it had never occurred to me that women tend to thank a village. Now I'm going to be looking at every book I read by a male author! As for a Dot Winki, mine would be my grandmother, who not only taught me to read but to love reading, and who encouraged all my aspirations. And I'd add Miss Schwann, my teacher in both third and sixth grade, who shared her enthusiasm for learning.

How about you, REDs and readers? 

The Orchid Sister: Set on Cape Cod and the myth-shrouded Yucatan coast of Mexico, the novel is “full of sisterly love and the power of women.” Two sisters – Kat, who is fighting the idea of aging and Maddie, who is afraid to love  – are caught up in the dangerous obsession of a fanatical doctor in a clinic deep in the Mayan jungle. 


Anne LeClaire is the author of ten best-selling novels, an award-winning memoir, Listening Below the Noise, and a children’s book, Kaylee Finds a Friend.
She teaches workshops both nationally and internationally on writing as well as on the practice of silence. Anne lives on Cape Cod.




48 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Anne . . . .
    I do read the author’s acknowledgements . . . it’s always interesting to see how many people have had a part in getting the book into the readers’ hands.
    The Dot Winki in my life was my mom, who was endlessly encouraging . . . .

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    1. My mother didn't encourage my writing, but she was passionate about reading and birthed that love in me.

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  2. Yes, I always read the acknowledgements. You never who who will pop up in them, and looking for names you recognize is a lot of fun.

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    1. I am always delighted when I recognize a name

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  3. Of course I read the acknowledgments! So valuable.

    My parents had a living room full of books, many my mother's mysteries, and she was the perfect role model for being an avid reader (and raised four of them). She also encouraged my childhood writing efforts, and I hold close her comment when I was eight, "Edie, you're a good writer!" right through to today.

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    1. Mysteries! My mother especially loved the British mystery writers.

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  4. Congratulations on the new book, Anne!

    I read the acknowledgements, even if I don't know any of the people in there. Other people must read them, too, because more than once I've been stopped by someone I know, who tells me they just read the best book ever, by an author named Deborah Crombie, and were astonished to find my name in the acknowledgments. Even though they may have heard me say that I have a friend who is a writer, they somehow never realized my friend was a WRITER.

    I actually did thank one of my early listeners. Back when I was a freshman in college, I took English 150 from Dr. Bernice Warren, who was the first person beyond my immediate family to tell me that I had real talent at writing, and might want to think about becoming a professional. The idea thrilled me to the point that I had to take time out after class to just sit and think about it. When I started writing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, getting by-lines on features and such, I sent her one of my stories along with a thank you note for the encouragement. She didn't respond to me, but my father, who taught at the same university, called to let me know that she had sought him out to tell him how delighted she was.

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    1. What a great story. I never got to do that with Dot but later in life I did get to tell her daughter ow much her mother had influenced me.

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  5. Welcome and congratulations, Ann with an E.

    I read the acknowledgements in the back, always wishing my name would come up although there is only one writer I've ever helped. Or tried to help. Less said the better about that.

    Like Deb, I hadn't noticed the difference in male and female authors though. Hallie, I loved the way you dedicated B CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR to Jerry, and your mention of him in the postlude. He came through as an example of a wonderful inspiration.

    I see this acknowledgement as a way to thank publicly all those villagers who helped get your writing to press and publication. I wonder if you realize how pleased they are to be recognized?

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    1. Thanks for the "Ann with an E." My friend Ann Hood always address each other in emails as "Ann with an E" and "Ann without an E."
      Your comment about Hallie's dedication to her husband reminded me of one Robert Parker wrote to his wife Joan. I can't recall the exact words but it was along the lines of "Often a headache but never a bore." He didn't actually write headache but I can't remember what he used.

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    2. oops, forgot you wouldn't know my name was Ann, without an E

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  6. I scan the acknowledgements, curious about critique groups and writer's organizations. Certainly I had encouragement from librarians and English teachers along the way, but never a Dot Winki.
    Congrats on your new release!

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  7. Thanks, Margaret. I think we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to librarians.

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  8. Hi, Anne - I always read acknowledgments! And I think a lot when I write my own--in fact I start an ACKNOWLEDGMENTS file when I start writing a book so a year later, when I turn in the manuscript, I remember who helped along the way.

    I'm reading your book now and it's completely riveting. Of course I love books about sisters. But the parts about our obsession with youth and quack doctors who feed off it - ca you tell us a bit about the research you did on that? It's utterly fascinating and terrifying.

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    1. I also keep a file of those who helped along the way, especially when the book is birthed over many years as this one was.
      The research about our "fountain of youth" mentality was fascinating. And, as I learned through research, ancient. It is the basis of so many myths and stories and modern medicine has brought it to an entirely different place. It is a two footed stool - the desire for immortality as one leg and the yearning to retain youth as the other and neither provide steady support for a life. The idea for the book was twenty-three years ago when my son showed me an article in Mens Health about a clinic in Mexico where procedures were done to keep one young looking, procedures that were illegal in the US. The part of the article that fascinated me was that women in their 20s and 30s were going there. I went to Mexico three times to research - not to the actual clinic in the magazine piece because I made that up - but to immerse myself in the setting I imagined. But I set the story aside when another idea caught fire. I wrote four novels and a memoir before I finally returned to the story set in Mexico.

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    2. I was reminded of a science fiction story (or was it a movie?) where this person obsessed with looking young took a pill or stepped into a machine. The end result was a little baby. LOL. If the person obsessed with looking young knew that they would become a baby again, would they still go for it?

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  9. Anne, welcome to Jungle Reds! Yes, I always read the acknowledgements, especially to find out who their editors are, especially if the writing is excellent.

    Question about your character's fear of aging: Is it the aging itself or does it have more to do with the fear of dying? I do not mind aging as long as I still have the energy to do things that I love.

    Diana

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    1. As I wrote in my response to Hallie, there is the fear of dying and then there is the fear of aging - two different animals. In a youth obsessed culture the fear of aging can have more of a hold than that of dying.

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    2. Yikes! Is it part of Puritan culture? There was a time when old people were seen as witches and warlocks. I notice a lot of ads about "looking young". I think it is ludicrous because we have so much to learn from older people.

      Thank you for your response.

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  10. Hello Anne. One of the many reasons I love Jungle REDS is because I'm introduced to wonderful writers who add to the pure pleasure of my reading.
    I do read the acknowledgements. And, if I ever have the privilege of creating my own acknowledgement list I promise it will include the Keebler Elf. His baking efforts have sustained and comforted me throughout the entire journey.

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    1. The Keebler elf! Love it. Perhaps I should have acknowledged Mrs Richardson's Fudge Sauce.

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  11. I always read the acknowledgements, although I never particularly noted a difference between men and women before.

    I think my Dot Winski was my AP Chemistry teacher in high school - not because he did anything in the literary sense, but he was the first person to tell me, "Of course you're good at math. You can be good at anything you set your mind to."

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    1. These are the teachers thatmake the difference.

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  12. I also read the acknowledgements. My own name has been mentioned in several books, and I'm fascinated by how it often takes so many brains to cook up a good story.

    And you are so right, Anne, about men not doing this. I hate to say it, but it's typical. LOL I mentioned my husband in my first book, but he's never mentioned mine in any of the books he's written. And trust me, I offered a vastly bigger support role than he did.

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    1. Karen, I have enjoyed so many of your comments and you sound like someone I would love to hang out with however, any man who writes and does not acknowledge his wife...? You might need to stop taking food and clean underwear to whatever cave he's living in. Just saying

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    2. Lyda, what a great comment!

      Part of it is because of the books he has written, all non-fiction, and the publishers' modus operandi regarding acknowledgements. One of my publishers also did not allow acknowledgements--that is often typical of non-fiction work for hire. My first book was self-published, so I got to do whatever I wanted. But yeah.

      His dad was a longtime columnist in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the longest in their history, over 50 years. Despite the fact that his wife, my mother-in-law, not only edited most of his columns, but also took over the writing of them while he was in the service during WWII, she also never got credit.

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  13. Oh,Anne, hello! How fabulous to see you here… And wow, that book cover is gorgeous. I always read the acknowledgments, always, and in fact in my own, I thank the readers for reading the acknowledgments. How meta can anything be?
    Theory about men versus women’s acknowledgments is fascinating… I am going to look right now. Congratulations on your book! And I hope our paths cross in person soon. Xxx

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    1. HI, Hank. Yeah, we are overdue. Any chance you want to do an event with me? I'm set for a tea at the wonderful Titcomb's in June and would love to share the event with you. Or anywhere else.

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    2. Oh, how fabulous! Of course! Delighted! Let's plan..email me at h ryan at whdh dot com!

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  14. But wait— tell us about your book!

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  15. I always read the acknowledgements and the author's notes. I have never seen my name mentioned but you never know!

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    1. We can always hope. And keep on supporting each other.

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  17. I do read the acknowledgments, or at least skim them. It's probably because I know that those listed there really do appreciate seeing themselves acknowledged publicly. I've especially enjoyed seeing my own name there as a contributor, as I have with a couple of books published by authors in my Sisters in Crime chapter (I did some editing for self-published books, and once I suggested some of the punny chapter titles), and in the recently released Sisters in Crime of Northern California's first anthology. I was part of the team that screened the short stories submitted to determine which would be accepted, as well as one of the final proofreaders. Quite a thrill. It's a terrific anthology--Fault Lines--give it a try!

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  18. Welcome Anne! Me too, on reading acknowledgements. And as Hallie mentioned, I keep a file from early on because I know I'll forget. I'm still hoping to sell a book that's been 10 years in the making and I would never have remembered people who helped with it that long ago. I've also noticed men writing shorter acknowledgements (Michael Connolly for example) but never thought about it as a sex difference. Hmmm...

    I had a few teachers who told me I was a good writer--but not fiction because I wasn't writing fiction until my late 40's. Thank goodness for Sisters in Crime and this very group of bloggers--best support ever! You were so fortunate to have Dot Winki!

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    1. And we are all fortunate to have social media at its best as a way to offer support.

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  19. I usually skim through the acknowledgements. I like to see who an author relied on for research, for support, for friendship, for laughs. All of it! And some are quite funny, some illuminating. I'll have to compare to the men's; I think theirs are usually short and pithy.

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    1. I used to chuckle at the very lengthy ones but now I have learned to appreciate them as an acknowledgement of gratitude that eases the wheels of life.

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  20. Oh, I am absolutely hooked on the premise of your book, Anne! I see so many women fighting their age instead of embracing it. I can't wait to see what you've done with this. As for acknowledgements, I don't read them unless they catch my eye when turning the pages. Not surprised by the findings of your unscientific study. I remember a reader once told me she attended a signing by Nicholas Sparks and when asked if he appreciated the support of his wife, he allegedly said, "No, she has nothing to do with my success. I'm the writer." The reader declined to buy his book after that.

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    1. Did his wife stay married to him? Wondering...

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  21. I usually read the acknowledgments, but wait until after I've finished reading the book.

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  22. I read every bit of the acknowledgments at the end of a book. I especially enjoy seeing names of people I know. Anne, I love the story of Dot. In fact, I'd enjoy her being a character in a story. When I was in the second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Wright, took a story I'd written about a dog and me to the principal's office and had me read it to the principal. I was thrilled, but I didn't follow through in my life in writing fiction. Well, I haven't followed through yet.

    The Orchid Sister sounds like a wonderful read, and having recently turned 65, the aging subject is of great interest to me.

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  23. Wow, unless the author has a really bad spouse, the spouse would support by providing food and clean clothes and listening when the writer vents. I always read the acknowledgements, forwards, afterwards, and historical notes, heck even footnotes! I like to know the whole story. Also like to see if I recognize anyone, usually another author.

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  24. Always. Publishers, agents, proofreaders...all are mentioned. Talk about a way "in" for the wanna be published. And for everyone else, it feels good to know that authors are human!

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