On the Eve of My Book Launch: Gratitude

I got in the habit, starting around age 12, of going into bookstores and finding the space on their general fiction shelf where my novel—the novel I was sure I’d one day publish—would be. I’d skim past Don DeLillo and Andre Dubus, slipping my fingers between the spines of the books, making space.

It’s hard to know how to react when a lifelong dream comes true. On the night before the launch of Besotted, I feel proud of the years of work this publication represents, but more than that, I’m grateful. Seeing Besotted on the shelves at Powell’s is a gift: a gift from my family, my friends, my writing teachers, my publisher, my cover designer, and the extensive writing community I’m lucky enough to be a part of.  

The acknowledgements below—the final pages of Besotted—are my first attempts at saying thank you.

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Before this book came the belief that I could be a writer. Thank you, Christopher Dollas, Mercy Carbonell, Ralph Sneeden, Karen Rile, Al Filreis, Paul Hendrickson.

Before that, the belief that a writer is a thing worth being. Thank you for that, Mom and Dad, and for the support you’ve each given me to pursue this dream. 

I’m grateful to the many people who helped shape my writing and this novel: Brett Hool, Chris Khun, Dan Bevacqua, Eric Barkin, Frank Winslow, Heidi Julavits, Jamie Yourdon, Jason Pribilsky, Joanna Rakoff, Jonathan Dee, Jordan Foster, Kristin Walrod, Lidia Yuknavitch, Ramon Isao, Tye Pemberton.

Jaime Manrique: thank you for the questions you taught me to ask about my characters. Tahneer Oksman: thank you for being Besotted’s first, most patient reader, and for teaching me what critique should look like.

Annelisa Smith, April Custer, Emily Schoonmaker, Kathryn Moakley, Kendra Noyes Miller, Kimberly Kay, Kristen Boyd, Mary Milstead, Meghan Moran, Rachel Melissa, and Sarah Winter Whelan: thank you for teaching me to be a better reader. Thank you, Rachel Jagoda Brunette: the ways you keep me sane are too numerous to list. 

Thank you, Leland Cheuk for believing in this novel enough to publish it, and Gigi Little for dressing it so perfectly to meet the world.

Kimberly King Parsons: thank you for being a trusted reader, a voice of reason, and the loudest cheerleader I’ve ever had. Tracy Manaster: for your masterful edits, motivational techniques, insights, honesty, culinary skills, and excellent taste in bars, I am eternally grateful. 

To Jesse, for what you’ve taught me about empathy;

To Nikki, for more than 20 years of friendship, and for always believing in me even when I don’t;   

To Kate, for continuing on as my longest-serving editor, and for tricking me into moving to China: 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Cleaver Magazine Calls Besotted a Lyrical, Urgent Love Story

Melissa Duclos’ debut novel Besotted is a lyrical, urgent love story about two young American women, Sasha and Liz, who run away to China to try to find themselves. Sasha has fled all the trappings of her privileged life, including her father who disapproves of her sexuality. Liz, the object of Sasha’s desire, has packed up and left her predictable existence and Amherst-educated boyfriend, having grown tired of being an afterthought of his otherwise-enchanted life.

The plot seduced and sizzled, but it was the voice that kept me in its grip—a first-person omniscient point of view. 

Thank you to Cleaver Magazine for this insightful, detailed review of Besotted

Besotted Has a Cover!

When I suggested to Gigi Little, my cover designer, that the wooden box my narrator discovers in the opening pages of Besotted might make a strong cover image, I never dreamed she would carve the box herself—not out of wood, but out of pixels. On her website Gigi describes creating a flat design first, marrying it with a smooth image of wood, layering the image in different shades, and finally using the eraser tool to carve away the layers to create a three dimensional design.

That I had this kind of access to my designer—sharing with her other covers and color palettes I liked and passages from the book that might resonate—is a testament to the culture of 7.13 Books created by publisher Leland Cheuk. “It’s important to me that the author be 100 percent behind the cover because they’re going to be out there championing the book,” Leland told me. “I make cover design decisions based on the author and designer’s creative vision, so it is, as much as possible, about the art instead of the commerce.” 

I’m absolutely thrilled with the results of Gigi’s vision and careful work, and was eager to talk more to Gigi about what inspires her as a designer. Gigi was kind enough to select some of her favorite small press book covers for the November issue of Magnify

A Conversation With Peg Alford Pursell

Books published by Why There Are Words Press. 

One of my biggest joys as a writer is interacting with other writers and readers who are invested in the world of literature. This month, I was fortunate enough to “meet” (over e-mail anyway) another community builder, Peg Alford Pursell. Part of an ongoing series of conversations between authors who don’t already know each other organized by The Refresh, Peg and I discussed our forthcoming novels and our efforts to build our respective writing communities. Read the full text of our conversation here. After hearing from Peg about the Why There Are Words reading series and small press that she founded, I was eager to learn more about her life as a small press publisher and author. I’m grateful to her for continuing our conversation in the October issue of Magnify, my newsletter celebrating small press books. 

Interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow

I’m grateful to CNN’s Poppy Harlow for inviting me on her show to discuss the question of arming teachers to prevent school shootings. The expectation that teachers should prepared to defend their lives and the lives of their students against gunfire is the result of our lawmakers’ refusal to stand up to the gun lobby. 

Read More: “An Oregon Teacher’s Letter to Lawmakers: We Don’t Need Your Prayers, We Need Your Courage.”