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You Must Believe In Spring

Today is the publication date of my husband’s first novel, The Variations. We met at a pretentious poetry workshop in the West Village where the woman who ran it insisted on calling me Elizabeth instead of my nick name.  Later, John and I spent most Friday nights at the St. Marks Poetry workshop.  I fell in love with him over baked chicken at the Second Avenue Deli before the workshop and over cappuccinos at the Cloister’s Cafe after, specifically when he handed me a poem called “Parts On a Beach,” and I believed I had met the Wallace Stevens of our generation.

Thirty three years later,  many lost notebooks, many lost weekends, my dearest darling has produced a novel  that fulfills all the promise of that young man in corduroy pants with the cuffs stapled, with poems stuffed in his pockets, who played the accordion after we made love. It is a searching story of a priest whose faith is dwindling along with his congregation. It is about the troubled young woman who haunts him (shades of me), and the editor who tries to save him (more shades of me). If you like me, you’re gonna the love this book and the women in it. But mostly, you will fall in love Dom, the all too human, flawed priest at its center. His thwarted quest for faith is exquisite.

In subsequent posts this week, I will write about a) living with a novelist  b) sleeping with writers and c) a guest post from said novelist. For now, sending out big congratulations to my darling.

People always ask me if I edit John. What do you think?

64 Responses

  1. How much do I love that your darling is an accordion player with staples in the cuffs of his corduroy pants.

    Congratulations, John!

    (I think you edit him. How could either of you resist?)

  2. A lot of musicians, including some of the world’s best (who might be thought beyond any improvement), rely on his/her spouse as an in-house critic and coach. I’d be surprised if your husband didn’t show you his work, Betsy, and maybe you contribute a lot to it–few of us really complete the work of creation alone, in majestic solitude–but surely he has an official editor, however much or little that person puts in. If you don’t please the editor too, the spouse doesn’t matter.

    For graphic-design reasons, I love the cover of your husband’s book. I wonder if you’re pleased with it, Betsy.

  3. Maybe not his writing, but all men could use a little editing from their wives…

    Such a beautiful story.

    Congrats to John!

  4. Accordions and corduroy cuffs. Stapled. Dear lord, I’m sold. Congrats to John (and you, you editor you) — this is fantastic. I’m off to have look at the book. Cheers!

  5. The book sounds wonderful.
    But could someone please explain to me why Amazon are advertising this book for sale USED on the day of its release, at prices ranging from $12.25 to $250 ?
    Is it possible that Amazon are just thieves and liars ?

  6. Cappuccinos, accordians and a writer? Your cup runneth over, Betsy. I want to know more about Dom–who can resist a flawed priest? Congratulations to John. And of course I believe you edited him. Whether he used the edits is another thing entirely.

  7. That cover is beautiful!
    Congratulations to your husband in what sounds like a wonderful novel.

    And no, I don’t think you edited him. I think he distracted you every time you tried and he then he played the accordian…

  8. I think the chronicles of your relationship with John are just as wonderful as the promise of his novel. Edited or not.

    And what is it with poetry workshops and romance? I’ve been watching a star-crossed romance sputter for some time now at the forum I attend: the shy librarian and the tattooed woman in recovery are quite a diversion from arcane verses and rants about God.

  9. I think not in a book-writing way.

  10. Such a Franzenesque title! I can’t wait to read it.
    I think he read passages aloud to you during its drafting and you kept your mouth shut as much as possible.

  11. beautiful cover. titilating story too, cant wait to get a copy and read it.

  12. I can’t get my husband to read my work. I even wrote a novel about his favorite sport, and he still only proofed the playing scenes.

    Sigh. The bit about the accordion slayed me.

  13. Congratulations to your beloved. Being a Bach fan, ex-Catholic and envious of those who can play the accordion, I think this might butter my toast. Good luck!

  14. Oh I can’t wait to read this. The cover is fantastic. Congrats.

  15. Of course you edit his work. It’s what you do.

    This is very exciting. Please congratulate him, from all of us.

  16. Congratulations to the writer and to you. A big accomplishment.

  17. This book sounds good! I love stories of lost faith, especially if it stays lost. But I’m okay if it comes back as long as it’s not sappy.

    Editing your husband sounds awfully risky to me; I’m sure you did not. I can’t even see you being his first reader.

    I’m trying to remember if I ever slept with a writer. Maybe I did. It’s hard to know everything about a person when you only know them for a night or two.

  18. Congratulations to your husband—and to you, as I’m told living with a novelist is problematic (cough).

    You’re still married, so I’m guessing you’re more a muse to him. I suspect being an editor is a lot like being a doctor—you shouldn’t operate on your loved ones.

  19. Congrats to John! Can’t wait to read it. (Great cover, btw.)

  20. I think you love John, is what I think. Whether or not you edit him is none of my business.

    Congratulations to John and congratulations to you. That he is still your darling after a third of a century is the sort of love, commitment, and steadfastness we lesser mortals can scarcely imagine.

  21. My husband and I can’t edit each other. Well, I can’t be edited by him but i do edit his resume and cover letters.

    How wonderful for your husband! You must be very proud. I am currently knee deep in David Eddings but his book sounds intriguing. I will check it out!

  22. Congrats, Betsy, to your hubby and to you for seeing him through.

  23. Oh, happy day! If I were you, I’d be feeling roughly equal amounts of pride and envy. And if you’re like me, your husband will plead for your editing, fight you tooth and nail on it, then quietly take every suggestion.

    Congratulations to John, who I had the pleasure of working with many years ago.

  24. Congratulations to Mr. John Donatich! Poems stuffed in his pockets and post love making accordion playing — the man has soul!
    Two things I’ll bet on: 1) He’s also a good father and 2) You restrain yourself from doing too much editing.

  25. Awe….
    Does John have a single brother because my single sister-in-law loves accordians and she owns a stapler.

    A hearty Congrats…no really, A HEARTY CONGRATS !!

  26. Do you hate Bonny Brody and her three stars? I do.

    Gorgeous cover! Hope it sells like crazy.

  27. Faltering faith. What a universal, individually driven theme. Irresistible to someone like me. Sincere congratulations to the Mister for keeping the faith and getting his story out into the world.

    Do you edit him? My unfounded guess would be you discuss the major points, but you don’t read the pages until they’re ready to go.

  28. Starred Kirkus. Not easy to get. Congratulations to your husband (and you). I hope it’s wildly successful.

  29. Bought it

    (Order Number: 103-3462760-5058609)

  30. Happy for the both of you. Wonderful. Will read ASAP.

  31. Purchased, and now posted for others to see on Facebook and Twitter.

  32. Congratulations Betsy to both you and John. Any book launch in a family is inevitably like birth so we’ll send sweet wishes to everyone. Love to catch up. Until that day …. Bravo to John and keep up the great blogs.

  33. How very exciting. This post is beautiful; the love and support you have for each other, made clear. Congratulations to you and your husband.

  34. Reading this sent a delicate lacy sweetness over me. Now I must read the book. Congrats and good luck with the publication.

  35. hey, congrats to your squeeze. very exciting for everyone at your house, even teenaged daughters.

    i wouldn’t edit my squeeze.

  36. OMG I’m having a party for you right now. Plaintain chips in a bucket from Whole Foods and cold coffee at 10:51 AM. Congratulations & I can’t wait to read it. An accordian player who writes about a priest. I can’t believe he’s not Italian.

  37. Your husband PLAYS THE ACCORDIAN???? How hot is THAT!!!!

    OK, now I’ll go back and read the rest of the post, because you had me at “accordian”.

    • Vivian – your comment reminded my of listening to a hilarious conversation between some drunk tourists at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. As the Cajun band ‘Steve Reily & the Mamou Playboys’ set up, one over-served man observed “huh. look at that dweeb with the accordion.” Once the music started, couples were eagerly two-stepping to the song while a group of women were huddled at the stage edge looking longingly at the accordion player. The man pointed to the “groupies” and somberly admitted “wow. maybe I should learn to play the accordion.”

  38. No, I don’t think you edit your husband. i think it’s a breech of professional ethics, if not marriage vows, to do so. I think you have too much respect for your husband’s artistic autonomy to even want to peep at the WIP.

    I do, however, think you help out with the cover design. Anybody who had your eye so close to hand would be crazy not to get your input.

  39. Congratulations John!

  40. Congratulations to you both! I’ve been casting about for an inspirational boot or some hint of purpose, and this is just the thing I needed to hear.

    The Whispernet stork just delivered my copy.

  41. Yayayyayayay congratulations! Love always wins in the end.

  42. Wow, what a lovely looking and terrific sounding book! Congratulations to him!

    (I edit the hell out of my husband.)

  43. Mazel Tov on both the book and it’s cover! I actually don’t know any women who do not edit! Isn’t it one of our genes?

  44. Congratulations to John! I’ve ordered the book too. My guess is that you don’t edit him but do read and offer feedback. Fine lines!

  45. No. Why complicate or ruin a marriage? We run in the same circles. I read at the St. Mark’s for years and gave my biggest reading there. I looked for you at the Patti Smith/Phil Glass concert honoring Allen. (Not that I’d have said anything.) My girlfriend recently posted a review of Patti on my blog. I saw her the night Dylan introduced her at CBGB. I think her voice has improved with age.

  46. Congratulations to John. Sounds like a book that was years in the making (the good ones usually are) and it must be an be amazing feeling to have it come to fruition. and kudos to Betsy…it can’t be easy living with a novelist, although you’re a writer too so that can’t be easy either…Well, we’re all just glad the whole thing worked out!

    As far as editing him goes, I will buy the book and judge from that whether there are signs of Betsy. It would take a lot of hutzpah to edit your husband but if anybody can pull that off…

  47. Of course you edit John! How could he not capitalize on an editor-extraordinaire-in-residence? I already have John’s book. As a middle-aged Catholic priest working on a memoir that sounds a titch like “The Variations,” I haven’t so looked forward to a novel’s release in some time.

  48. Just heard that John is appearing at a local bookstore in Milwaukee this Saturday. You think he’d like to get something to eat? Does he like to mingle with the natives or is he more the head back to my room type?

    • Hmm… might have to get the details on that Milwaukee appearance and send my son over there to get me a signed copy. With all his Catholic schooling (and he’s now at a Jesuit college), he might find it interesting, too.

  49. I am leaving this site right now to buy the book. I love it already! Congratulations to you both – what a wonderful story of dreams coming true for you both in so many ways!

  50. Congratulations to John on the publication of his first novel. I hope he has great success with it. And cool blurb from Jay Parini. I haven’t read the novel, but I’ve seen The Last Station three times and each time I take away something new from it.

  51. Having just finished a re-read of Brad Gooch’s Flannery O’Connor bio, I am totally primed for anything Catholic. I will never shake the heritage of the Church (not that I really try); its incense hooks me and its music (the good stuff, not the Vatican II guitar Mass crap) devastates me. And I’d say that perhaps only a Catholic boy could rise to the challenge and wonder of life with Betsy Lerner. Looking forward to reading The Variations. Nice review in the Chicago Tribune!

    I have no idea if you edit your husband. I’d need you to edit me first and maybe then I could make a guess. Although I edited my husband’s blog post once and he didn’t write for WEEKS after that, so maybe the answer had better be No.

  52. Yes, you edit him. Congratulations to your husband and to you!

  53. *swoon*

    I’m not really into the sisterwives thing, so will you guys just adopt me instead?

    Can’t wait to read this.

  54. Betsy, congratulations to your husband and you – lots of commercial & critical acclaim!

  55. You know that, despite the quick beginning, there will be a climax.

  56. I get in a bit late.
    Just to say congratulations to John.
    I am happy for both of you.

  57. That’s one hell of a big organ. Congratulations to John.

  58. I bet you edit him. And I bet he still gets butterflies every time. I let my long term boyfriend read my book after the first round of editing, and it was the most nervous I’ve felt in my whole life. But he proved to know me so well. He loved it and had fantastic ideas for the parts he wasn’t totally in love with.

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