February 4, 2010
Guest Blogger – Lauren Cohen
Thoughts from Lauren Cohen, a member of Saratoga Reads’ Executive Board:
I’ve always been intrigued by books. They’re a final product – a signed, sealed and delivered pile of thoughts and ideas. I have a lot of thoughts and ideas – lots and lots of them. I can honestly say that very few of them ever leave the comfort of my muddled head. Sometimes I wonder if they could be something. I wonder if the stories, ideas and experience I have could be turned into a “work” – a product.
Guernsey, in particular, kind of allows us to see some of the heart and soul that goes into the process – both for Mary-Ann and Annie (the authors) and for Juliet (the main character). The afterword tells of Mary-Ann Shaffer’s illness and how her niece Annie Barrows took over and handled many of the manuscript changes. But she also talks about her husband, her daughters and two dear friends, Julia Poppy and Sara Loyster. Mary-Ann says Julia and Sara “demanded and beguiled and cajoled – and each read every word of the first five drafts.” Those are some good friends, huh?
Were Sara and Julia teasing out the story? Were they giving form and substance to a jumble of life’s experience? Were they just good listeners? Who do we need to help us achieve our goals?
In Guernsey, Juliet needs friends too. She has Sophie, she has Sidney. She finds the rest of what she needs on the island of Guernsey – from strangers. Dawsey, Isola, Amelia, Eben and the rest of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society give her a community in which she can bloom.
Annie Barrows, Mary-Ann’s niece and co-author of the Guernsey tells us a little bit about how she was able to turn her aunt’s manuscript into a publishable book. She says, “…her stories (Mary-Ann’s) were the wallpaper of my life, when just passing through the dining room would garner me an odd expression or an obscure fact, Mary Ann’s idea of narrative was becoming mine. In the same way that people acquire accents and politics from their surroundings, I acquired stories.” (p.286)
So sometimes we need friends. Sometimes we need family. Sometimes we need strangers. The accomplishments and products of our lives are born of these interactions.