This is a story about second chances.
In elementary school, my best reading friend was Susan Hill. We read the Narnia books together, and both The Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle in Time when they were newly published. In this photo from my third grade birthday party, Susan is the second from the right, with the gap-toothed smile, and I’m the second from the left, in the gray wool skirt. (Why wool in the spring? I don’t know. Ask my mother.)
When I started publishing books for children, Susan was one of the people I thought of — I hoped she knew that I was tapping memories we’d made together. But foolishly I didn’t try to contact her, and discovered too late that she’d died of cancer in her fifties.
Then several years ago I met the writer Susan Hill Long and felt like I’d been given another chance. When it turned out that Sue’s best friend in elementary school had been another Jeannie, we knew it was fate. Since then we’ve become very good friends indeed. And because we’re writers, we’ve shared a lot about our writing, our process, and the fears and joys that go along with being an author.
This week, on May 10th, Sue has a delightfully funny new book coming out, The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel. And yes, it really does have all those things in it, and they fit together in a glorious plot that makes me gnash my teeth with envy. (Sue’s a really good writer — did I mention that?) To celebrate her book, Sue and I will be visiting five New England independent bookstores over the next few weeks. We’ll be talking about her book, our friendship, and maybe I’ll give away a few tidbits about the last Penderwicks book, the one I’m working on now.
Here are the stores. Please check their websites for more details. And hope to see you at one of them!
R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison CT on Friday, May 13 at 5 PM
Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center VT on Saturday May 14 at 2PM
Broadside Bookshop, Northampton MA on Sunday May 15 at 3 PM
Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley MA on Monday May 16 at 5PM
The Children’s Book Shop, Brookline MA on Tuesday May 17 at 3PM (held at the Brookline Public Library)