Journal

Lily’s First Anniversary

by | Mar 16, 2017 | Books

This month, March 2017, marks the first anniversary of the publication of my verse novella, Lily of the Valley—An American Jewish Journey. This, as many of you know, is the story of five generations of American Jewish women and the resilience, faith and American Dream they all share.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been so supportive, who have bought books, who have been part of the wonderful gatherings, audiences and classes where I have been privileged to share Lily’s story. Those occasions have always resulted in such lively and deeply moving question-and-answer sessions at the end. One of the most frequently asked questions is one that I address in the Preface to the book: who was Lily, the very first Lily, to me?

My answer is always the same. I do not know. This book is not autobiographical. It is officially categorized as a work of fiction. But is it? I do not know. As I say in the Preface, Lily began whispering her story to me in snippets of rhymed, metered poetry many years ago on my morning walk. She was very insistent that I tell her story, which I did as a requested performance at a banquet for Chabad of the Valley many years ago. And when I returned to the story more than a decade later to prepare it for publication, Lily began whispering to me again, fleshing out her tale beyond what could fit into a fifteen minute reading at the banquet. So who was Lily to me? I do not know, but she was someone, and she is very real to me. She is lodged somewhere deep inside my soul.

This answer often leads to an intriguing follow-up question, usually asked by people who themselves want to write: does Lily still talk to me? At first the question caught me off guard. I really had to think about it. Had I heard from Lily since I brought the book out into the world? And the answer, I realized, is yes, she does come to me occasionally. But now she is no longer telling me her story. Instead she is encouraging me to listen to other voices trying to break through, to other people with stories they wish me to tell. As I have always told my creative writing students, the first task of a storyteller is to be receptive, to quiet your everyday mind-chatter enough to listen to who or what is coming to you.

So are there other voices trying to break through to me? Very much so, from long ago times and faraway places that I know little about. But I am listening.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been so supportive, who have bought books, who have been part of the wonderful gatherings, audiences and classes where I have been privileged to share Lily’s story. Those occasions have always resulted in such lively and deeply moving question-and-answer sessions at the end. One of the most frequently asked questions is one that I address in the Preface to the book: who was Lily, the very first Lily, to me?

My answer is always the same. I do not know. This book is not autobiographical. It is officially categorized as a work of fiction. But is it? I do not know. As I say in the Preface, Lily began whispering her story to me in snippets of rhymed, metered poetry many years ago on my morning walk. She was very insistent that I tell her story, which I did as a requested performance at a banquet for Chabad of the Valley many years ago. And when I returned to the story more than a decade later to prepare it for publication, Lily began whispering to me again, fleshing out her tale beyond what could fit into a fifteen minute reading at the banquet. So who was Lily to me? I do not know, but she was someone, and she is very real to me. She is lodged somewhere deep inside my soul.

This answer often leads to an intriguing follow-up question, usually asked by people who themselves want to write: does Lily still talk to me? At first the question caught me off guard. I really had to think about it. Had I heard from Lily since I brought the book out into the world? And the answer, I realized, is yes, she does come to me occasionally. But now she is no longer telling me her story. Instead she is encouraging me to listen to other voices trying to break through, to other people with stories they wish me to tell. As I have always told my creative writing students, the first task of a storyteller is to be receptive, to quiet your everyday mind-chatter enough to listen to who or what is coming to you.

So are there other voices trying to break through to me? Very much so, from long ago times and faraway places that I know little about. But I am listening.

We use cookies to give you a better experience. Dismiss