It’s the New Year (with all good wishes to TNB readers), so let’s talk about fresh starts. When and where did you begin writing Night Swim, your debut novel? What were the circumstances?

Geographically, I was living in Atlanta, GA. Chronologically, it was early 1990s. Developmentally—and that’s really the point of your question—I was at a breaking point. My husband and I were shifting things in our life—feeling restless, unable to get pregnant, renovating our house, trying to adopt a baby, trying to change something essential that we couldn’t quite articulate. We had tried for five or so years to get pregnant and it wasn’t happening. Adopting seemed even more impossible. My first novel (Body Chemistry) hadn’t sold—a devastating disappointment. I was battling invisible viruses of depression and failure. I think renovating the house was my way of trying to gain control of uncontrollable feelings, my way of attacking chaos and feelings of inadequacy as a writer and un-pregnant woman.


In other words, you were losing a sense of your life’s direction?

I didn’t think of it that way. I only knew I was feeling wild inside, wanting to pull down barriers I couldn’t see. By renovating my house, I could hire other people to knock down walls for me, rearrange my living space for me, and do it in a defined measure of time. If I could do that, and succeed, maybe I could bust open those other areas in my life that felt locked in. So, after nine months of weird, dusty smells, constant machine noises, and construction workers tromping through every room (like people in a bad dream) the rebuilding ended, or phase one of it anyway. Fatigued, disoriented from lack of routine, and desperate for silence, my husband and I escaped to Budapest for a two-week vacation. When we returned, there was a message on our phone machine from a priest asking if we were still interested in adopting. One of his parishioners knew a pregnant young woman seeking parents to adopt her baby.


Whoa. Knocking down those walls actually opened a door to becoming a mother, exactly as you hoped. Kind of supernatural, don’t you think?

That’s how it felt. Getting this call, and I’ll get to the details in a minute, was otherworldly. Unbelievable. The timing was pitch perfect. Several months earlier, my husband started sending out a letter we had written to Episcopalian priests expressing our desire to adopt. I was sure, convinced, resolute that such an unorthodox method wouldn’t work, but my husband had met a man who had done this very same thing and it had worked. So, every day, my husband mailed three more letters, until he’d sent 100 letters to 100 Episcopalian priests throughout the Southeast region. To my astonishment, we got many letters back wishing us well, sending prayers. Out of the 100 letters, only one priest wrote to say he was sure this method wouldn’t work. He said it with such authority, it angered me. Who was he to predict this? Of those 100 letters, we also got one phone call from a lovely priest who had studied music in Boston, where I grew up. This priest told me he rarely came across a situation like the one we were hoping for, but would keep us in his prayers, etc. This same, lovely priest called us again a few months later and left that life-altering message about his parishioner. The wonderment of such a call, it’s hard to explain —fate, randomness, destiny? Beam of starlight from a distant solar system? Pin-sized, powerful, focused light shining through our brand new, living room windows? A few months later, our son was born. We drove six hours to Florida to get him, and when I returned home, a new mother, I started writing what would eventually become Night Swim.


Out of chaos, G-d created…a new house, a new son, and a new novel—more of that eerie synchronicity.

Indeed. I didn’t understand this at the time, but holding our son in my arms, the transformative power of that event—that was the culminating agent that initiated a long chain reaction that trailed back to my childhood and opened up a channel for Night Swim. Adopting a child, becoming a parent, gave me a vastly different perspective on my childhood, one that I needed to write this novel. For Night Swim is very much about family, and the loss of a parent, and how children deal with tragedy and grief. Parenting is something you must choose. It doesn’t just happen to you. Also, and I’ve written about this in a few places, one of my best friends lost her mother to suicide when we were teenagers. This suicide sparked deep, sad feelings I had toward my own mother, feelings that had haunted me for years. All of these things converged.


You also grew up in an upper middle class suburb with live-in, black maids just like the Kunitz family in Night Swim. Clearly, this novel is autobiographical, right?

Sure. To a point. I harvested personal experiences to create something outside of my personal experience. I can list lots of similarities between the Kunitz family and my own family (wealthy suburb, country club life, socialite mother, 1960s childhood), but the two families separate and become distinctly different at a juncture that encompasses crossroads of personal understanding, detachment, and clarity. That important juncture allowed the dynamics of my fictional family to detach from my “real” family and move ahead on its own and necessary direction. It took me years to get there because I had to first wrestle and untangle the two families within the safe regions of my unconscious. The word “safe” is key here. I had to feel psychologically safe from the dangers these emotions from my own family evoked in me—emotions that involved a distant parent, and a parent whose temper was out of control. I had to overcome guilt, shame, fear—fear’s the big one for me—a childhood tangle of confusion—all wrapped in desires for love, compassion and forgiveness. I’m a huge believer in trusting your unconscious and allowing it to direct your story. For me, this process took years.


Many writers figure these things out much faster. They go right at the muck and don’t get stuck. What takes you so long?

I’ve stopped judging myself for this. I’ve simply come to accept this. I’m in my fifties now. I’m clearly not going to be a writer who churns out dozens of novels in my lifetime. Actually, I never aspired to that. But, I also got stuck in sinkholes of insecurity, doubt, terrible attacks of personal failure and despair. Those were difficult phases in my life. I allowed my despair to take over and paralyze me for months at a time, even years. Every writer confronts this possibility. I succumbed to it. If you’re a writer reading this, don’t do it for long. Don’t allow yourself to swim in those sinkholes for as long as I did. At the same time, I’m more understanding about my earlier attraction to darkness, the desire to swirl and lose direction, to dance with darkness because somewhere I believed that a greater understanding of the unwanted muck of life would lead to a greater understanding of its opposite—light. Playing with these extremes, experiencing them as a child, as an adult—knowing them—would lead to knowing something more about humanity and, from there, a chance to write about what is true.


Could you say a little more about your main character—Sarah Kunitz’s upbringing? In particular, the maids, the money?

Like Sarah, I grew up with black, live-in maids in our house. I don’t talk about this much because it sparks instant judgment. But I never liked it. The story of the Kunitz family allowed me to address this way of living in a more personal, intimate way. I wanted to get behind the mask of money. Money fools people in so many ways. How we perceive money and how we relate to it is pretty complicated, but it doesn’t make up for the tragic loss of a parent or the need to be loved.


How has your perception of yourself as a writer changed from when you started at nineteen?

I no longer have a perception of myself as a writer. I just write. At nineteen, my idea of myself as a writer changed week to week. I was holed up in my attic bedroom (in a nice house in a toney Boston suburb) reading twelve hours a day, and becoming whatever writer I was reading—Blake, Dickinson, Conrad, Joyce, Elliot, Genet, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Austen, O’Connor, McCullers, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Sexton, Dickinson, Rilke, Plath, Donne, Shakespeare, and so many more. Did the writer wear black? I wore black. Did the writer drink? I drank. Did the writer smoke? I smoked. Did the writer feel paranoid? I felt paranoid. You get the picture.


Any other question you want to ask before you and I end this session?

Yes. I’d love to ask readers this: How do you climb out of your emotional sinkholes, or avoid them? What helps you overcome self-doubts? Do you believe, as I do, that some self-doubt must remain in our system as an agent provocateur to gain greater vision? I’m also giving away 5 free copies of Night Swim. Email me and I’ll enter your name in a drawing. My son (yes, that son) will pick 5 winners on January 10, 2012.

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JESSICA KEENER'S fiction has been listed in The Pushcart Prize under “Outstanding Writers.” Writing awards include a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist’s Grant Program; a Chekhov Prize for Excellence in Fiction by the editors of Wilderness House Literary Review; and second prize in Redbook magazine’s fiction contest. For more than a dozen years, she has been writing features for The Boston Globe and other national magazines such as O, the Oprah magazine. She is also the co-author of Time To Make the Donuts, about the extraordinary life of Dunkin’ Donuts founder William Rosenberg. Night Swim is her debut novel, coming January 10, 2012 from Fiction Studio Books, available everywhere books are sold as an ebook or in paperback.

81 responses to “Jessica Keener: The TNB 

  1. What a great interview from a gifted writer! As usual, The Nervous Breakdown asked just the right–and most interesting–questions, and Keener’s responses were brilliant. Thanks to both of you!

  2. Frances Gapper says:

    This is a fascinating interview – thank you! So many stories of your life interwoven. I’m glad things came right for you.

  3. Laura Kay says:

    Fascinating interview!

    How do you climb out of your emotional sinkholes, or avoid them? What helps you overcome self-doubts?

    For me, I need to avoid them or I struggle to get out of those sinkholes. I have to make a conscience decision to not ‘go there’ I physically shake it off. Sounds silly I’m sure, lol. I have struggled with my own depression, anger and pain for so long that it became so all consuming. The self-doubt, well that I’m still dealing with!

    • Laura,
      The best strategy, isn’t it? Just avoid the crazy f*kers! It takes habit-forming, though, which is what you’re implying. Self-doubt is something I think has its place. It’s finding the right amount, like seasoning. Thanks for stopping by here. I’m still clearing my head from a late night last night.

  4. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your writing through this interview. You asked how others climb out of emotional sinkholes. I tell myself that allowing myself to focus on the fear, doubt, rejection, and discouragement that I sometimes feel is doing absolutely nothing for me. The only way to ensure that my fears will come true is to believe that they will, and then to do nothing about it. I try to take a step forward, even if I’m just going through the motions. Eventually, going through the motions leads to moving forward for real. (P.S. I’d loved to be entered into the drawing.)

    • Faye-rest assured, you are entered! Leaving a comment does that as comments go right to my email. Thank you! I completely relate to pretending you feel better even if you don’t–fake it ’til you make it. It works, but, I suppose, you have to believe it will work. Catch-22.

  5. Robby Auld says:

    TNB+Jessica Keener=a large amount of happiness in me. I’m started Night Swim sometime today, and reading this interview made me even more excited than I already was. The self-interviews are always my favorite.
    Maybe the insecurity and depression were necessary to get to this point you are at in your writing/life. That reminds me a bit of Julia Glass, how long it took her to publish her first novel, too. But life happens the way it’s meant to, right? Congratulations on all of this wonderful press. You deserve it.

    • Dear Robby,
      Thank you for reading. When I’m not completely in awe of you, I am nudging away vectors of jealousy—the ones that can’t believe you have so much wisdom at your age. You’re probably sick of people telling you this. Ok. So I got that off my chest. Now to my question and your answer: I agree with you more and more that our lives take on the course it’s meant to take or that we mean it to take, at least I think this is true. I’m still thinking about it, though.

      • Robby Auld says:

        Thank you thank you thank you. I don’t think anyone stops thinking about it. Fate and destiny are involved but how much choice do we have in that? Every decision and experience, even if it only involves ourselves, can have catalysts that lie in other people or outside sources, and usually do. We are all impacted by everything around us. I try to remind myself that “no one is given anything they cannot handle,” if that’s how the adage goes. I’m glad things are finally happening for you.

        • Robbie. Honestly, I don’t know about the “given what you can handle” adage. What about all those people who don’t/can’t handle what they’re given? I don’t have an answer but the adage reminded me that I’m not so sure. I’m glad you brought it up here.

          • Robby Auld says:

            You’ve got me there. There are certainly always exceptions, when it comes to disease and extraneous circumstance. I’ve always wondered if our limit, or how much we can handle, is based on our estimation of it or what it “actually is.”

  6. Kim says:

    I am so looking forward to your book, Jessica. Thank you for sharing your life with us. This interview touched so many familiar chords within me. Happy New Year!

  7. A beautiful writer tells her own story with grace and wisdom.

  8. Mary Glickman says:

    Compliments on a brave interview. It’s not easy to reveal that much about oneself in any forum, let alone one like this. Looking forward to reading Night Swim. Wishing you all good things in the weeks and months to come!

    • Mary, you make me laugh. Thank you. Now, what do you mean…”in any forum, let alone one like this” –that’s what made me chuckle. You’re right about revealing oneself. But, I think I spent too many years concealing. So, I’m giving the opposite a try. I also want to mention your second novel that came out recently and is on my to-read shelf: One More River.

      • Mary Glickman says:

        Well, I don’t know this site but from its title, I’d assume it encourages intimate confessionals. Somehow, that strikes me as even more intimidating than intimate self-portrayal elsewhere. Must be some doozies in here!

        Glad to keep you laughing! And thanks for the nod!

  9. “I harvested personal experiences to create something outside of my personal experience.” This is an elegant way to express something I think those who don’t write fiction sometimes have trouble understanding, that you can borrow from experience while creating something that is distinct and separate. I find that interviewers often ask what came from reality, but less often about what outside elements helped to create the distancing that lets you make the work of art, and, sometimes, also gain a new position from which to view your own problems. So, reading this, I wondered if you might describe something you gave the novel’s family that let them “become distinctly different at a juncture that encompasses crossroads of personal understanding, detachment, and clarity.” What opened up imagination, as opposed to simply memory?
    Also want to say that I love the story of the 100 letters, and I think they represent a great lesson in how taking an action that enacts hope, optimism, and trust in others is a way out of the sinkhole of self-accusation and despair. Letters, rebuilding, even the vacation: it’s important to do something rather than brood. Or perhaps what I’m saying is that productive brooding leads to action.
    Really looking forward to reading Night Swim!


    • Lynne, so much brilliance in your observations and question, where do I start. First, thank you, and thanks for your additional insights. It’s clear why your teaching and writings have been well-recognized. Can I pinpoint that precise, magical moment of departure when auto-bio material transformed into fiction and imagination? When did the taffy of imagination pull apart from the glob of “true life”? I think it happened as part of a long, messy process, and part of that process included writing blocks, stopping and starting, putting the material away to let it germinate or rest or cool so I could gain more distance, and also courage. There’s some weird kind of growing up process that the imagination goes through, when you, the writer, are ready to drive the imaginative car on your own. I’m sure this doesn’t answer your question sufficiently. It’s a great question that I’ll be thinking more about. Thanks, again.

  10. Mary Cody-Kenney says:

    Once again, I am deeply moved to tears by your words. Reading this interview encourages me to go where I don’t want to go. It reminds me that to have any sort of serenity, I need to stay where I don’t want to go to acknowledge, feel and grow. I love you and have always have. Thank you.

  11. Marilyn Annucci says:

    Very engaging interview. The excerpt from your forthcoming novel was effective bait–if I don’t win a copy of the novel, I’ll buy one! I know well the father at the dinner table with his “quick eyes scooping up the slightest imperfections in everyone around him” (I grew up in Worcester in the 60s and 70s with a father whose temper was out of control). As a reader and writer, I’m drawn by your voice, and I appreciate your keen observations. Happy to be on sabbatical with time to read. Here’s to a new year full of light.

    • Marilyn,
      Someone recently suggested that men/fathers of that era grew up in a different culture with different expectations and could explain some of the temper issues. I’m glad the excerpt appealed to you, and very much appreciate your kind comments and wishes.

  12. Dear Jessica,
    What a fascinating interview that every writer, rookie or experienced, should read. I love your question: How do I climb out of emotional sinkholes?
    I think I’ve found several ways to dig myself out of the doldrums over the years.
    1. One way I do it is simply to write, but not necessarily to write something aimed at publication. I scribble my tangled thoughts in a notebook, on a scrap of paper, on anything in the hopes that by writing things down, I will start to work them out.
    2. Music, too, has helped. I’ll play my flute or sing. I’ll immerse myself in something unrelated to my ‘sinkhole.’
    3. I force myself to connect to someone in my ‘community,’ whether it’s my community of writers, friends, or family.
    4. I flat out refuse to succumb.

    Do I always succeed? Nope. But I think the act of trying does lead to this greater vision you mention in the interview.

    Again, mazel tov on the upcoming debut of your book.

    • Thanks for these suggestions, Linda. Music’s a big one for me. More recently, I’ve learned how important community is. I used to balk at that idea. Maybe I hadn’t yet found the right community for me. The refusal to succumb is near the top of my list, though. It’s an act of defiance in the best way. Thanks, again.

  13. Mary Glickman says:

    Well, Jessica, I just did that. It’s a bit overwhelming, so much content! And now I think you’re even braver than I thought at first. Enjoy the spotlight. It’s your turn!

  14. Theresa Kaminski says:

    Great interview! I especially appreciated your answer to “What takes you so long?”

  15. Betsi says:

    Once again, Jessica, I am mesmerized by your words and this fascinating, vulnerable interview. I wish I could find the words to be such an eloquent writer, but usually I just end up writing long babblings. As the new year starts, I (like everyone else!) try to identify goals for the coming months. I do my best to keep them realistic, but so many times they get swallowed up by the everyday tasks. Emotional sinkholes and self-doubt? They sometimes creep into the days when I’m not even looking, and take hold before I can sweep them away. I SO admire your determination not succumb to them, and appreciate such thought provoking ideas here. I feel great inspiration from this interview and will try to process it all in the coming days…your writings will surely influence THIS year’s goals 🙂

    • Betsi-so true about sneaking up when we’re not looking. That’s tricky, isn’t it. More to consider. I did succumb to them, Betsi, but doing my best not to anymore. Maybe accepting that phenom will help makes us less vulnerable to it? Thanks for weighing in. I’m inspired by your taking time to read and comment.

  16. Finding a writer so bravely articulating the feelings we all have of inadequacy, of life’s traps and riches, was, for me, a once in a life time experience. Such a writer is Jessica Keener and I cannot sing her praises loud enough to pierce through the soundwalls we all set up. She is truthful, she is authentic, in many way she is a writer’s writer..and as one of those writers I’m want to make her everyone’s writer… here and elsewhere she bares her inner self, and lets us identify, what a gift she has!

  17. Bo Lowney says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Jessica.
    Enter me in the contest please.

  18. Greg Olear says:

    Congrats on the novel, Jessica.

    It’s good that you don’t get bogged down in the timing of it all…everyone writes and publishes according to his or her path. Milton was what, 60 when he wrote “Paradise Lost”? And blind. Not everyone has to have a book come out every two years or whatever. Compare, despair. So don’t compare.

    And I love the story about the house.

    Good luck!

  19. Jennifer says:

    How wonderful to learn so much about you. Thank you for your openness. To me this is truly courageous! I really look forward to connecting in person when the time comes.
    Working through my body’s helps me daily, though it certainly doesn’t do away with my ravaging self doubts.
    Happy New Year, Jessica.
    Enter me up!

    • Hi, Jennifer. “Working through [your] body helps…that’s intriguing and something that I think is overlookeds. Have you read Peter Levine’s work on trauma and the body? I appreciate your comments. I hope to meet you, too.

  20. Greg. Thanks so much, and congrats back to you for Fathermucker. It’s on my Kindle waiting for me. In the old days, the idea of publishing quickly wasn’t applauded in the same way it seems to be now. I lean on Flannery O’Connor’s take on speed. In her letters (Habit of Being), she often stated how slow she wrote and how clearly proud she was of that fact. She waved her slow flag a lot while churning out a sizable opus.

    Glad you liked my house story. Me and the places I live tend to have highly personal relations.

  21. Nancy says:

    Great interview, Jessica! Thank you for sharing your struggle to become a mother. I went through the same thing in Atlanta in the late 80’s, and also have one son. I also struggle to climb out of my personal sink holes and to overcome self doubt, but don’t we all? You’ve also given me new hope with my own writing.

    Cannot wait to read Night Swim!! Sign me up, please!

  22. anna march says:

    jessica — GREAT interview. am going to share on fb. i’m so glad to read you urging other writers not to get locked into despair. Night Swim is so wonderful — big kudos to you! xoxoxo

  23. Makes me want to read Night Swim even more. Well done, TNB and Jessica! 😉

  24. Jane McGinnis says:

    Dear Jessica,
    I am looking forward to “Night Swim” and I enjoyed your interview. You and I have shared many of the same paths…Happy New Year 2012.

  25. Hi, Jane. Happy New Year to you. Interesting what you said about sharing paths.

  26. Kate Mallow says:

    Deep resonance for me in much of what you shared, Jessica. Your honesty & insight inspires —I am grateful. Thank you! I can’t wait to read more! Warmly, Kate

  27. Shelley says:

    “I just write.”

    And, clearly, she reads, and reads the classics.

    That’s the sign of the real thing.

  28. Loved this rich feedback about process and fear! I’m slow on the uptake so didn’t understand it was a self interview, and was about to, in the comments section, scold the interviewer for her rudeness toward the author (the part about “Why are you so slow?”).

    Very interested to read your book and it’s deeply reassuring to read your articulations of fear and the need for emotional distance and safety. The grappling I do involves music — usually classical b/c of the gratifying patterns and order in it, and scribbling with a pen any notes or musings on what’s on the screen, immobile and frozen. I think the motion of one’s hand can jog ones mind in a way sometimes that typing doesn’t do.

    Wondering, re your take on mining your unconscious, or allowing it to guide your story–anything else you can say about tapping in to that? I mean, what qualifies as unconscious? Also, do you ever mine other people’s emotions–other people’s accounts of their own histories?

    Many many thanks for your generous notes.

  29. Anna – fabulous questions (about unconscious). I’m sure I won’t get anywhere near a sufficient answer. Here’s what I think I mean: I try to put myself into a place where I feel open and calm and therefore able to listen to what a character is saying. When I’m in this open place, visual images flow in like pictures that I will then describe. Same for voices and conversations. This place is probably what I’m calling my unconscious. Maybe I should have called it my subconscious? If if I can get to this open, calm place, it helps me become the character and be inside so I can hear what the character hears and see and feel what the character sees and feels. It’s also a place that is devoid of judgment and criticism and people’s opinions that I may be trying to please. What I called “mining my unconscious” is letting myself go in directions I may not have expected and trying to follow those directions like following dreams. When you wake up from a dream, you don’t often know why it proceeded as it did. It’s that kind of feeling. You can make an itinerary when you travel, but hopefully you allow yourself to go off course because that is often when the best surprises pop up.
    To answer your question about other people’s accounts and histories-yes, absolutely, up to a point. I definitely search for experiences I have or conversations I’ve heard to get inside a place or scene or emotion. Every novel I’ve started has come from some experience or conversation that provoked a question.
    I love your notion about your hand jogging your mind. I think that’s true for many people, not all. Whatever works for you, that’s what matters.

    Thank you for your questions. I’d love to hear more about your music.

  30. Rosie Sultan says:


    A really moving and insightful interview. I loved the part about finding your child, and then finding your novel. I also laughed out loud when you said if a writer wore black, you wore black, and so on. So funny and so true for young writers. You’re the read deal, and I so look forward to reading Night Swim!

    • Rosie- Thank G-d! someone is willing to laugh at my antics. I am sure I am ridiculous most of the time. This is also a good opportunity to mention your debut coming in the spring: Helen Keller in Love–a fictional account of Helen Keller’s real-life affair! I am so excited about this.

  31. Sheri Ackerman says:

    Wonderful interview and great honesty! Enjoyed reading it.

  32. Julie Wu says:

    Jessica, this interview is beautiful because it’s so very honest and brave. Kudos to you for getting to that place. I can’t wait to read your book.

    The urge to renovate struck a chord with me. Every once in a while–usually when the writing isn’t going well–I fall into fantasies of expanded kitchens, demolished bathroom vanities, and built-in bookcases. Diving back into the writing gives me internal order and beauty and splinters that House Beautiful urge. My book has saved my family a ton of money!

    Looking forward to your launch!

    • Julie-funny that your internal dive saved you money. I’m laughing about that because my house renovation definitely interrupted my writing and certainly cost way too much money. Yet, I do love home design. It’s a passion of sorts. I’m glad your internal order and beauty produced winning results–your book comes out next year with Algonquin!

  33. Jessica, Much good luck to you on your debut novel. You inspired me to keep plugging away on my own novel which is now at the “querying agents” stage. I look forward to reading “Night Swim.” Loved this interview, esp. when you reveal how many years this novel has been in your system. I am actually a pretty determined person but getting my first novel published is a journey like none other. Thanks for your honesty. All the best to you. Warmly, Julie Maloney

    • Julie, thank you so much. I can sense your determination, so consider that your gift to yourself. I wish you the very best good news about your novel–soon. It’s definitely a journey.

  34. Joyce says:

    Great questions & wonderful answers. Reading this taught me about myself, thank you for your honest insights Jessica. And yes, I think self doubt is valuable. I also think that thoughts about oneself that make someone feel bad about his or herself should be avoided like bad traffic. One way I overcome self doubt during difficult times — and make good things happen — I write positive affirmations (make them wildly optimistic — dream big!)
    Best wishes with your wonderful book Jessica!

    • Dear Joyce.
      I love your comment about bad traffic, and your advice about affirmations. I have a stack of file cards that I look at every morning and they really do help. Dream big. Wildly optimistic! Those are wonderful things. Thanks.

  35. What a wonderful self-interview. I love how you found your child and your book at the same time (or should I say, perhaps, your book found you?). As an adoptive mom myself who began my WIP when my second child was very young, I’m not surprised by the connection. (And no, my WIP is not about adoption!)

    “I’m a huge believer in trusting your unconscious and allowing it to direct your story.” I believe in this method, too, although it does lead to a certain amount of “muck” at times, as you pointed out. And like you, I’ve spent far too much time stuck in the muck. But I think we’re attracted to that muck because we know the truth is buried there, and we’ve got to slog through the muck to bring that truth out. Rats. But also worth it.

    Now I can’t wait to read Night Swim!

    • Hi, Tracy. Wow. Thanks for telling me about your adoption and your simpatico with muck. (What is that, anyway?) Maybe that’s our way of playing hard. I’d love to hear about your WIP sometime if you’re ready to talk about it. Thanks, again.

  36. Oh, I can so relate to the connection between becoming a mom and becoming an author. My husband and I adopted our daughter from Vietnam in September 2008 (we were living in China at the time). In October–less than a month later–I got a book deal with Swallow Press for my first novel. As you can imagine, the following months were lovely, crazy & perfect.

    I’m glad I read this this morning. It slowed me down and made me think about why I write and what’s most important to me. Can’t wait to read Night Swim! Congrats on your journey and all the wonderful buzz.

    • Kristin -double congratulations to you! What wonderful news and congruence as well. Wishing you the best for your novel, Thirsty. (Assuming that’s the one you were talking about?) And, thanks for your good wishes.

  37. Sion Dayson says:

    What a thoughtful, insightful self-interview. Thank you! I particularly needed to hear the part about accepting that it might take you longer to “figure it out” than someone else – but not to get lost in the sinkholes of despair for too long. I’m not a prolific writer and don’t imagine dozens and dozens of novels, either, but I’m working on accepting that it takes the time it takes.

    I finished my first novel near the end of last year and am now querying agents. The sinkhole of despair was threatening for a couple months. But I just wrote a new essay and poem (and both were published this week!) and I feel the light again.

    I’d love to read Night Swim. Enter me in the contest, please!

    • Hi, Sion. Congratulations on finishing your first novel. That’s monumental in itself. I’m glad to see that you continued on despite your feelings of despair. Do you know any writer who doesn’t despair? I don’t! Pushing ourselves with time, or measuring ourselves against others in this way, is one of those sinkholes. Maybe it’s a pothole. Keep on, and consider yourself entered. Thank you so much for commenting here.

  38. Hi, all. I picked 5 winners! Your names went into a straw basket and got tossed around for a blind drawing. Tonight, the full moon is looking like a glazed window pane. Here’s the list of winners.

    1) Sion Dayson 2)Lynne Barrett 3) Laura Kay 4) Jane McGinnis and 5) Mary Cody-Kenny

    You can reach me by email (go to my website: www. jessicakeener.com and click on the contact button for my email address). I will also try to reach you directly. Thanks so much for your comments.


  39. Kvalítní repasovaný notebook, repasované notebooky zlín…

    […]Jessica Keener | Jessica Keener: The TNB Self-Interview | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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