(Crystal A. Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News, April 1, 2012 ed)
If Miriam Gershow made a bumper sticker it would say “Fiction Saves Lives.” The Berkley High graduate is the author of The Local News, a story about a teenager whose older brother went missing and how it affected her and her family. Gershow, who now lives in Oregon, came back to Michigan to do a reading from the novel at The Ferndale Public Library as part of their Ferndale Reads celebration.
All through the month of March, the Library encouraged a community-wide reading of The Local News. Free copies were distributed around town and many events were held. Go!Comedy did an improvisational epilogue to the book. The Emory hosted a book party. The author did a Skyped in interview with a book club, and other groups held discussions. The grand finale was getting to meet Gershow in person at the March signing.
“I believe that fiction does have an undeniable power,” she told her Ferndale readers. “It’s not just the best books. It’s when the right book hits the right reader at the right time.
‘In high school I was a huge dork. When you’re a dork it can lead to an isolated existence. What saved my life over and over were books….There’s something to savor about ‘I’m going to run off and read this book.”
She talked about the books that saved her soul as a youngster, including Choose Your Own Adventure books and books by Judy Blume. “The first night I ever spent under the covers with the flashlight was Flowers in the Attic. In high school I continued to read everything I could. I loved being scared witless with Pet Cemetery,” she said.
In her early 20s she made the decision that she was going to move to the West Coast and be a writer. She took jobs that would gave her time to write in the evenings, and she joined her first writers group, although she said she wasn’t quite ready for criticism at that time and she left the group “bitterly and angrily.”
Again she found refuge in fiction, reading the works of others and knowing that if they could become writers so could she. One book in particular fueled her desire to write. She said that Jennifer Egan’s Invisible Circus was “so full of longing and loss that it was the tone I wanted. When I read it I got hope that it could be done. It made me think about ‘how do you marry darkness and light?”
Gershow took her inspiration and moved to Oregon to “go to college to learn to write,” she said. “I knew I had to be a sponge and learn everything I could. The MFA program only deepened my appreciation of good writing.” There she read Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Loriane Moore. “She writes about teenagers in a way that is endearing but not sentimental,” she said. Another influential book was Lolita. “Lolita changed the way I view sentences. I love the way Nabakov can write 13 and 14 line sentences that are just flowing and beautiful. And though the main character is not sympathetic in any way, I love the way he has this repellant narrator that I wanted to follow from beginning to end.”
From a place staked out at the long tables of the Eugene Public Library, Gershow would write in three hour bocks, based on the length of time the parking meters allowed for. She first turned out a collection of short stories, and then it took her a year to do a first draft of The Local News. A second draft took one more year, and once it was picked up by a publisher there were three months of edits before it was ready to be released.
Now The Local News is available in paperback, hardcover, and versions for Italy and Australia.
Now Gershow is married, with a son who happens to sleep in three hour blocks each afternoon. This is when the author retreats to her downstairs office to work on her next novel.
Readers listened as Gershow read a chapter of the book where the protagonist Lydia gets invited to her first high school house party. To watch a video of the reading, see below or go to http://youtu.be/EMryKepk6xI.
Find out more about The Local News and Miriam Gershow at http://miriamgershow.com/.
Look for more educational and entertaining events at The Ferndale Public Library website http://www.ferndale.lib.mi.us/.