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Blogger from Newfoundland scores book deal

A Newfoundland writer, now living in Arkansas, has landed a book deal with a major publisher.

Kyran Pittman first appeared on my radar screen about two years ago, through her exceptional Notes to Self blog, which I stumbled onto by chance but have been reading faithfully ever since.

The daughter of the late, great Al Pittman, Kyran clearly has her father's gift for language. Her blog is by turns funny, inspirational, heartwarming and deeply personal. It brought her to the attention of Good Housekeeping (GH) magazine, which has published several of her articles (her most powerful piece yet, in the February issue, is on newsstands now).

Last month, Kyran revealed in her blog that she had been named a contributing editor with GH. Now she has signed a book deal with her "dream publisher."

"Through essays on love, family, sex, sex after children, money, foreclosure, etc., Pittman, a native of Newfoundland, will reveal what it's like to be a wife, mother and foreigner living in white-picket-fence suburban Arkansas," says the official announcement today at Publisher's Weekly. "Pittman's voice is said to conjure writers like Meghan Daum and Sloane Crosley, only married with kids."

In an interview conducted via email, I asked Kyran if this was going to be a compilation of her best blog items.

"I wouldn't call it a compilation," she said. "It's a memoir that roughly spans the first ten years of marriage and raising a family in America. Like my blog, it will hold up ordinary life as something really quite extraordinary. Coming from a unique culture and an unconventional family makes a white-picket-fence life in Middle America seem very exotic to me.

"Some people are called around the world to find themselves, and that's fine. But digging into your own backyard can be just as deep and as wide an experience. And maybe more."

Pittman said the manuscript is already in progress. "I'm reaching into the blog (and other published pieces) for some of the material, threading scraps of things together against a more squarely defined context. But there will be a significant amount of new writing as well."

Kyran is excited about her publisher, Riverhead (Penguin Books), mainly because of the company she will be keeping on its authors list - Ann Lamott, Sarah Vowell, among others. "Riverhead is probably disproportionately represented on my bedside stand any given day."

Over the last year, Kyran and her self-employed husband endured some challenging economic times (she recounts this story in the latest issue of GH) so I asked what this deal means to her, in light of recent experience.

"At a practical level, it means I am able to focus on writing without the kind of financial stress that we've experienced in recent years, as my husband and I have been chasing down our respective dreams. It means I can hire a sitter in the summer so my work routine is not disrupted, and it means that we will take our first family vacation to Newfoundland in four years.

"At the level of career, achievement, validation and all that, it's still composting. In the last year, I've realized several lifelong fantasies, and it's been both utterly like and unlike what I dreamed it would be. The action doesn't pause, and the string section doesn't strike up, like in the movies. One day I'm going over publicity blurbs that make me sound like the new sliced bread, and later the same night, my four-year-old comes into bed and throws up on me. As long as there are dirty bums and throw up, I don't think I'm in danger of getting swept away.

"It's all good. I'm glad I'm 39 and not 29, writing my first book. I don't think I'd have had anything very interesting to say."

Her one regret is that her father is not alive to share in the moment.

"It is bittersweet, to know how excited my Dad would be, and to not be able to pick up the phone and tell him."

Not being familiar with how book deals work, I asked the tacky question, about when she might become fabulously wealthy.

"Nothing against fabulous wealth bring it on but even a very glamorous-sounding book deal has to be pro-rated over all the years of writing for no or little pay, and the time it takes between this and (fortune willing) the next book. You do that math, remembering the agent gets her (well-earned) fee, and the IRS gets their take, and what's left is a very middle-class salary. Nobody in Little Rock will be seeing any big changes to our lifestyle anytime soon.

"Having said that, it is an incredible feeling to be getting paid to write a book. My mom pointed out recently that my father had to dig into his own pockets to publish his first book. Count on moms to lend perspective.

"And yes, sales are important. Newfoundland, I'm looking at you to put it over the top!"

I remarked, in passing, how encouraging it is to see that, sometimes, there is justice in the world.

"There is justice, but there is also a lot of love, luck and support that made it possible," Kyran said. "All along the way, someone saw, and believed."

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  • Gary
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Hey Geoff,

    Great story. Often times the inspirational news stories get left behind. Thanks for bringing this forward.

    I like the comment about finding inspiration in your own back yard.

    GK