Friday, February 10, 2017

Friendships Among Women Lead to the Anthology A SECOND BLOOMING: BECOMING THE WOMEN WE ARE MEANT TO BE

Chris Rice Cooper 

How Friendships Amongst Women Turned Into the Anthology A Second Blooming:  Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be

       In 2014, Susan Cushman met her neighbor Sally Palmer Thomason for the first time when Cushman and her husband purchased a home right across the street from Sally.



When another friend who also lives in the neighborhood told me that there was a writer living in the house across the street from me, I was so excited. I can’t remember whether I got her phone number and called her first or just knocked on her door, but I do remember it was love at first sight. I had lost a dear friend to cancer about six years early. Like Sally, she had been somewhat of a mentor to me, living into her eighties. At the same time, I was losing my mother to Alzheimer’s (she died last May at age 88). So Sally came into my life just when I needed an “elder.”’

       The two writers became dear friends, writing together, attending writing salons together and conversing about life.  It was in February 2015 that Susan was sitting at her kitchen table with Sally, conversing about women and the stages they go through, regardless of age.  Out of that conversation an idea for an anthology about women entering a second stage of life was conceived.  

“The first three paragraphs of the Introduction to A Second Blooming describe a conversation I had over a cup of coffee with Sally Palmer Thomason one morning about two years ago. Sally lives across the street from me, and we have become close friends. I would also call her a mentor. She’s in her early eighties, but when she was my age—65—she got her Ph.D. in Aging and published her first book, The Living Spirit of the Crone: Turning Aging Inside Out. I had hosted a literary salon at which Sally spoke about some of the concepts in her book, and we had ongoing discussions about what I came to understand as the “second half of life.”

Much of this thinking came from reading Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward: A Spirituality For the Two Halves of Life.  As Sally and I were visiting that morning in February of 2015, another friend stopped by.

       That friend was Jen Bradner whom Susan first met when she hosted a literary salon at her home.
“She was vibrant—one of those souls you just want to know right away. She was the administrative director of the Memphis Symphony and she just sparkled. Jen Bradner is in her forties, just a year or two older than my oldest son, she was an “old soul” and I didn’t feel an age gap with her at all. I’m so thankful we met and she helped to inspire this book!

  The three of us continued the discussion. I was itching for a new project, being somewhat “stuck” in the process of revising a novel. With Sally and Jen’s help, the idea for an anthology was conceived, and I invited both of them to contribute essays.”

             Jen and Sally 

Susan set to work right away, wrote a book proposal and sent it to various publishers and inviting her choice of women writers to contribute essays to the anthology.   She received responses quickly – almost every one she invited to contribute said yes, and Mercer University Press accepted her proposal. 


“In fact, Marc Jolley, director of the press, said in an email that even if they didn’t get to publish the book, he would buy it for his wife when it came out! I ended up with two offers for publication, and made my choice based on Mercer’s excellent reputation and recommendation from a couple of the authors who were writing essays for the book.”

Susan edited the essays, working with the twenty authors during the process. 

                     Jennifer Bradner

              Julie Cantrell 

Emma French Connolly

Beth Ann Fennelly

Nina Gaby

Jessica Handler

Suzanne Henley

Jennifer Horne

River Jordan

Mary Karr

Cassandra King

Susan Marquez

 Alexis Paige

Ellen Morris Prewitt

Wendy Reed

Kathy Rhodes

Kim Michele Richardson

Sally Palmer Thomason

Natasha Trethewey

NancyKay Sullivan Wessman

Susan organized the essays into groups according to themes, and collected quotes to head each of the five sections:  I.  Blooming through Surrender; II.  Blooming after Loss; III.  Blooming in Place;  IV.  Blooming Again…and Again; and V. Blooming in Careers and Communities.

The manuscript includes Acknowledgments; Introduction; and Contributors Biography.
It also includes a Forward by Anne Lamott “Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be:  Where to Start’.

“This book was so much fun to put together… it didn’t really feel like work, although I know I spent hours and hours on it. I was excited to get permission to use a piece that Anne Lamott had published in O Magazine as the foreword. I learned a lot through the process of acquiring permissions for several other previously published essays, and of course I learned much from the editing process. The whole time I was working on the book I found myself thinking, “This is more fun than writing a novel!” I think my organizational and editing skills are better than my writing.”
The title went through several changes, but Susan settled on A Second Blooming when one of the contributors shared this quote by Agatha Christie: “I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations and suddenly find—at the age of fifty, say—that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study or read about…. It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.”

“I sent it off to the press. The next step was working with the press’s editors once they sent me the galleys to proof. This stage was easy, as the editor I worked with was so excellent. My work was done, and then the waiting started. It took about a year from inception to proofing galleys, and another year until publication. During the waiting I was able to give input on cover design (I love the cover!) but otherwise, it was just a time to wait.”
       And finally the time is here – in less than a month A Second Blooming:  Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be will be published by Mercer University Press and available for purchase on March 1, 2017

I have since learned that my recognition of truth most often occurs after the fact.  I learn from seeing the backside of God, as we are reminded in Exodus when Yahweh and Moses have a little chat.  I have come to know that humiliation often is the beginning of humility.  And gratitude.
--Excerpt from 1.   Blooming through Surrender
                         Beyond the Point there Be Dragons
                         by  Suzanne Henley, page 20


--Excerpt from II.  Blooming after Loss
                                 Pushing Up the Sun
                                 by Kathy Rhodes, page 35

--Excerpt from III.  Blooming in Place
                          Abuse:  A Survivor’s Message from 
                          the Vatican
                        by Kim Michele Richardson

--Excerpt from IV.  Blooming Again…and Again
                         The Triskele 
                         by Sally Palmer Thomason

--Excerpt from V.  Blooming in Careers and   
                         by Cassandra King

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