Monday, February 6, 2012

And Speaking of Girlfriends ...

By Ellen Meister

Girlfriends and books. Outside of my family, they're two of the most important things in my life.

And so I'm thrilled today to blog about a girlfriend writer named Myfanwy Collins. We met early in my journey as a novelist, and I knew from the start I had hit the friendship lottery. Myf is a generous friend with a tender heart. She is also, I'm proud to say, one of the most gifted writers I know. Her stunning prose packs so much emotional resonance that every time I read one of Myf's pieces I get the wind  knocked right out of me. She's that good.

So while I know this is a tough business and that talented writers get passed over again and again, I always believed that one day some lucky editor would open a manuscript with my friend’s unusual name on the coversheet and be swept away.

I’m thrilled to say that that day has come. Myfanwy Collins’s debut novel, ECHOLOCATION, is now available from Engine Books, and I was honored to write the following blurb for it:

“Fearless, elegant, and accessible, Echolocation is literary fiction at its best. With heartbreakingly beautiful prose, Myfanwy Collins tells a gripping and tender tale of broken souls yearning for wholeness. These are characters who will stay with you long after you turn the last page. It’s a dazzling debut!”

I hope that whet your appetite enough to read the excerpt below. After you do, please leave a comment about a special friend in YOUR life and you’ll be eligible to win a signed copy of the book. (U.S. residents only.)

Thanks ... and enjoy!

ECHOLOCATION by Myfanwy Collins—An excerpt from Chapter 5

When they were twelve, there was no “I” for either girl, but the two of them together as one “we.” This was what Marie heard: we are doing this or we are doing that. While she had raised her sister Renee and been more or less mother to her, the two of them had never been as close as these two girls were—two girls who couldn’t be more different from each other.

It was a Saturday and they were sitting in the front room with Marie, who was teaching them to knit. There was a good fire in the stove and outside the last leaves of autumn kicked up the sky. She cherished these quiet times with them, when they would sit still and focus on what she had to say. When they would listen to her and not talk and stop moving and breathe in and breathe out. She had taught them how to cook, how to shoot a rifle, how to sew, how to fish, how to clean a fish and a squirrel, and how to crochet.

She had taught them how to wash dishes and cut a sandwich and bake a cake. She had taught them hospital corners and how to wash windows (with newspaper and vinegar—do not waste money with those fancy spray cleaners). “You girls need skills,” she told them, “in case there’s ever another Depression with no work to be found. These skills are what will get you through. Not Algebra.”

Knitting came hard to Cheri, but as always Geneva picked it up quickly. The child seemed as though she were more kin to Marie than Cheri did, really. And perhaps she was. Marie saw a lot of herself as a young girl in that child. Like Geneva, she had had to bring herself up from childhood. Marie’s mother sent her off young to the convent over the border—the one in Ormstown where she herself had been raised.

Marie was twelve when her mother left her behind the brick walls, within the quiet rooms. “We are no longer worthy of raising a daughter such as you. The sisters will take good care of you here, Marie.” Marie had wanted to make her mother proud, but one thing which stopped her from taking that step, from giving herself up entirely to God, was this: She wanted a child of her own. It was a selfish wish. She knew this. But it was her only one. The other thing that stopped her from giving herself up was unspeakable. Marie had sinned and because of this she was unworthy of God’s love.

It was at the convent she learned most of her skills—except for the hunting and fishing, which had come from her father, who had never gotten the son he wanted. She watched the two girls as they copied her motions. Watched their sideways glances, hand signals, eye twitches. Looking at these girls you’d think that Cheri must be in awe of Geneva—how beautiful she was and how quick in her brain, but Marie knew different: It was Geneva who envied Cheri, whether she admitted it to herself or not. Cheri would come and go and stick to no one. Whereas Geneva was leaden, heavy in her organs, and stuck to this place, just as Marie was. It was in their soul.


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ECHOLOCATION is now available from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
To order direct from the publisher, visit Engine Books.

For more information, visit Myfanwy's website at myfanwycollins.com
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Please leave a comment below about someone special in YOUR life, and you’ll automatically be entered in the giveaway for a signed copy of ECHOLOCATION! (U.S. residents only.)
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Ellen Meister is the author of three novels including THE OTHER LIFE. For more information visit her website at ellenmeister.com.

29 comments:

  1. Yay! Congratulations, Myf. I'm not entering the competition since I'm not a US resident, but...yay!

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    1. There are fewer best friends in life, than a sister, if you are so blessed as to have one. I look forward to reading this book.

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    2. Thank you, Marcia and Sherry! Sherry, I totally agree. My mother (who had six sisters) always said, "Friends may come and go but sisters are forever."

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  2. Sounds like a great book! I would say my sister it the special someone. We were really close when we were little girls and pulled away from each other as teens. After our mom died when we were in our twenties, we got close again. She is the one person I can be most real with, ask anything to and of. When doctors found a mass of tumors in my breast last year, my sister flew out to hold my hand. It wasn't even a question, she just came.

    Laura Kay
    anovelreview(@)yahoo(.)com

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    1. So sorry for the situation that brought you back together but I'm so glad you have each other, Laura. Take care!

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  3. I'm sold! I will put it on my Amazon list!

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  4. Great post, Ellen! Love this excerpt, Myfanwy! Will you be reading in New York? Any friend of Ellen's is a friend of mine. Can't wait to read more of your debut.

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    1. Thanks so much, Brenda!

      So far I have to scheduled readings in New York:

      Pen Parentis Literary Salon on March 13th http://www.penparentis.org/

      And at Sunday Salon New York on April 15th http://www.sundaysalon.com/nyc-salon

      The rest of my events can be found her:
      http://myfanwycollins.com/events/

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  5. I absolutely can't wait to read this! Great send out, Ellen, and you know how I feel about your writing, Myf. I still remember reading the first chapter of this as a short story in Dorothy Allison's workshop. She couldn't find a word to critique about it!

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    1. Thank you so much, Bonnie! That workshop was one of the best experiences of my life. Loved hanging with all of you wonderful women. xo

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    2. Hi, Bonnie. Thanks! Did you see that Dorothy Allison blurbed the book? (Hey, I'm in good company!) Here's what she said:

      "Myfanwy Collins tells a deep and resonant story about people she loves, and along the way shows us how to love them as well."

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  6. I absolutely can't wait to read this! Great send out, Ellen, and you know how I feel about your writing, Myf. I still remember reading the first chapter of this as a short story in Dorothy Allison's workshop. She couldn't find a word to critique about it!

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  7. Congratulations to Myfanwy on her book - I know it will be a terrifc read!

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  8. What an extraordinary debut announcement from an equally extraordinary talent. Does it get any better? Congratulations Myf... long may you fly off the shelves. And great post, Ellen. You know how to spot 'em!

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    1. Thank you so much, Saralee! I agree. They broke the mold when they made Ellen. I just adore her.

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  9. I can tell you "Echolocation" is an outstanding read and what a lovely tribute, Ellen!!

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  10. oooooo - I can't wait to read Echolocation - it sounds fabulous.

    I would have to say I have a very special relationship with my daughter. We are so close, more like BFFs. And we get mistaken for sisters all the time - must be because we have so much fun together.

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    1. Awww, that's beautiful about you and your daughter. I love to hear it!

      Thanks for your kind words, Susan!

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  11. S. Antoinette La ForceFebruary 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    I certainly would buy a copy of ECHOLOCATION !... I love such heart-felt stories... My sister and me... UH-HUM !... We are like night & day, with me as the night !... BUT,---I know she would always be there for me, and I would be there for her too !... SUCCESS to you with your debut novel, Dear !

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    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate your kind words.

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  12. Joining the chorus of "I can't wait to read" commenters...hmm...the special in my life---can they rotate?

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  13. Where would we be without our girlfriends. No sisters for me, but, I'm lucky enough to have some wonderful friends. It would be hard to pick out one best friend, although at different times in my life, I've been closer to one or another.

    Anyway, I'll be interested to learn more about the friends in Echolocation......

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    1. For sure, Tari. I would be nowhere without my friends. I'm truly rich with them, including my dear friend, Ellen Meister.

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