It isn't everyday that I get to interview a popular newspaper columnist, but Amy Dickinson, author of "Ask Amy," wanted to talk about her "Second Chances." And, her book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville was just released in paperback, so it was the perfect time to talk to her. Plus, check out the end of the blog for details about a special contest.
Lesa - Thank you, Amy, for taking time to answer a few questions. With the support of some strong women in your life, you’ve had a second chance. Would you tell readers about your personal second chance in life?
Amy - My fresh starts occurred, as they usually do, as the result of some really tough times in my life. When my husband left me with a baby to raise, I had to figure out how to start over. Fortunately for me, I had the support and counsel of the women in my life. They literally took me and my daughter in. They cheered me on – and they let me blubber over the sink, when absolutely necessary.
After living in my hometown for several months where I tried to figure out where to go and what to do, I started over in a new city, found work, found friends, and built a life. And then, many years later because of a job opportunity, my daughter and I moved again. We started the whole process all over again.
Then, when my dear girl went to college, I returned back to my hometown and back to the women who had helped raise me. It felt like I was going full circle – returning in that way – but the surprise here was that I was in for yet another second chance – this time, at love.
And so I took it, and another adventure began.
Lesa - Last year, I reviewed your book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville. Now, the paperback is due out. Even though you were already writing a column, I’m sure book publishing is different. What surprised you about writing and publishing a book, as compared to your column?
Amy - The “Ask Amy” advice column is a daily job – though it’s far from “everyday.” The column is the bedrock of my work, and after seven years I still enjoy it as much as ever.
Writing a book is different; it’s important to sustain the tone over much more than the length of my column. I saw the book as an opportunity to tell the “backstory” of my life – the quirky and individual chapters that I would never think to tell in the space of a column. The pleasure I took in the writing is pretty evident on the page.
The publishing process can be grueling – certainly after the quick hits of the column – but I was lucky to work with women at Hyperion who believed in me and in the book. It really was a challenge, but also a joy.
Lesa - Would you tell us about the new website, Mysecondchancestories.com?
Amy - I was inspired to gather “second chance” stories based on how women were responding to my book. They identify with me – with the challenges I’ve faced and the real-world issues I’ve dealt with in my own life. And they have gotten in touch to tell me about their lives. Women have an incredible resilience and I’ve been amazed and inspired by how often we choose (or are forced) to start over. Some of this is based on the challenges facing a lot of us because of the economy. We are forced to recalibrate.
Lesa - You already have the “Ask Amy” column. Is your new column, “Second Chances” going to alternate with that? If not, how are you planning to handle both columns?
Amy - I’ve told “Ask Amy” readers that I will run their second chance stories in my advice column in order to let their true life tales inspire other readers. So it won’t be two columns, but a regular recurring feature in the Ask Amy column.
Lesa - Would you update us as to your life since the publication of The Mighty Queens of Freeville?
Amy - Well, my book ends on a real life cliffhanger. And I’m happy to say that my “Lifetime Movie” happy ending really happened. I am now a middle age newlywed with five daughters and two elderly mothers to worry about. Still surrounded by wonderful women, and very very happy. And because I like you so much, I’m going to throw in a bonus link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/fashion/weddings/31vows.html
Lesa - This is the question I normally save for last, but I have one more for you. I’m a public librarian. Do you have a story you can share about your experiences with a library?
Amy - Libraries are a cause very close to my heart. Because I grew up in a very rural area with limited resources, our public library was (and is) a very important part of my family’s life. My mother would take us there once a week and the books I always chose were from a biography series featuring lots of stories about women: Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, and lots of athletes like Babe Didrickson and Wilma Rudolph. My sisters liked fantasy but I liked these real life stories. I now realize, of course, that these stories were teaching me to be brave and to go out into the world. I loved their pluck, courage and determination. And I think I tried to be like that.
I’m happy to say that the Dryden Public Library, where I first checked out these books, still carries the very same books on the shelves and I can see that I signed them out with my first library card, over 40 years ago. Hyperion recognized my commitment and so when they agreed to publish this book, they generously offered to donate 1000 books to my library.
Lesa - What a wonderful story about libraries. Thank you, Amy, for sharing that, and sharing with the Dryden Public Library. Now, my final question. OK, “Ask Amy,” what would you like to tell my readers that we haven’t covered?
Amy - Mainly that writers wouldn’t be anywhere without readers. I came into this as a reader and I’ll be a reader, God willing, long after I’m done writing. Writing this book was an act of love for me. Telling the world about the amazing women in my life has been a pleasure. Sharing their second chance stories and my own is a joy. I think I’ll always feel this book is a special gem. But the response from readers is so lovely, so generous, and so heartfelt that it makes me feel great. I’m really proud of it. And that’s a good thing, because there’s another book just waiting to be written.
Amy, thank you for answering my questions. Good luck with the paperback, and continued good luck with your column.
On Amy Dickinson's new site, Mysecondchancestories.com, readers can join the virtual hometown community, watch inspiring interviews conducted by Amy, browse book club discussion questions, view photos and "Bring Amy to Your Hometown" with live chat, podcasts, and book signings.
The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. Hyperion, 2010. ISBN 9781401310127 (paperback), 240p.
Special contest - Thanks to The Book Report Network, there will be copies of Amy Dickinson's The Mighty Queens of Freeville given to two lucky winners. The contest is open to anyone in the U.S. and Canada.
If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subject line should read Win "The Mighty Queens of Freeville." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants from the U.S. and Canada only.
The contest will end Thursday, April 22 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and they will receive their books from The Book Network. Good luck!