My first novel is getting published!
Over the past few weeks. I’ve been working with the lovely folks at The Watershed Journal (TWJ), a small publisher, literary journal, and bookstore in Brookville, Pennsylvania. The mission of this organization is to highlight literature from the Pennsylvania Wilds region, an important but underrepresented area of Northern PA. Since I hail from Venango County, a land of vast forests and oil ghost towns, I was excited to find TWJ and join their writing community!
My manuscript, And It All Came Tumbling Down, is a very important story to me. I first began working on it ten years ago, and it went through many iterations and reiterations with each passing year. The story and characters changed as I changed. They were with me when, in my teen years, I struggled with anxiety and depression. They were with me when, in college, I made huge life changes and felt the hope of something new while everything old fell to pieces around me. They were with me in grad school, when I constantly felt like a fish out of water who had somehow fooled everyone into letting me learn how to write. And in each new phase of change, I was thinking and thinking and writing and writing, about these people, this place, this story that stuck with me even as I didn’t really know what it was yet. This story, sticking to me and demanding to be written.
In the novel, Amy Reilly is a young woman, fresh into adult life, who must return home after a family tragedy to pick up the pieces of the life she left behind. Her small Northern Appalachian hometown of Haven, Pennsylvania, is a once-prosperous hub of the oil industry that can no longer live up to the grandeur of its past. Amy’s relationship with her fraternal twin sister, Laura, is fractured. Despite having grown up in a devout religious community, Amy no longer knows what she believes, and the only people who could help her make sense of it all are now dead.
The story follows Amy as she forges a new path for herself, trying to take the scattered parts of her old self and mold them into something new. She must process her grief, her shame, and the weight of the past before she can begin to move forward.
The book explores the experience of a rural diaspora: the people who left their home places for a better life somewhere else (although, as Amy soon finds, “better” is subjective). It also looks at the idea of a religious deconstruction, which so many are currently wrestling with: what happens when the layers wrapped around the Divine are obscuring, not clarifying, what it means to be a person of faith? The novel entwines these conversations around themes of loss, mental health, and identity.
When I finished the manuscript, (finally, after ten years!) I really wanted to seek publication, but all of these ideas were so precious to me, that it was difficult to know where to go next. Thankfully, I found TWJ through a friend, and learned that they were choosing their manuscript to publish in 2021. I submitted the book, and was so excited months later when I learned it had been chosen! Writing about the region I love so much and getting to introduce it to readers is an honor.
So, all this to say, And It All Came Tumbling Down will be out next month! It has finished the editing phase and is in production. I’ll share more information, including preorder information, over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to share this story, and to see this book in the flesh! Stay tuned, and make sure you are subscribed to my mailing list to get the latest updates!