**Update: Because so many of our readers were away for Memorial Day we’ve decided to extend the giveaway for Camille’s book through Tuesday night. See below for details. And good luck!
My college years were dominated by old male writers: dead men, or men on their way to the grave, with the occasional young superstar (Michael Chabon, David Foster Wallace) thrown in for good measure. Certainly the Virginia Woolfs and Alice Munros and Sylvia Plaths made their way in to the mix, but I don’t remember reading many younger female authors. I came away from the experience with an English degree and the subtle feeling that my lifelong dream—to be a novelist—would not be happening anytime soon.
Then I read Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.
It was the summer after I graduated and I was living in a crappy sublet in New York City and interning at a magazine while I waited to attend Radcliffe Publishing Institute, a six-week boot camp of sorts, after which I would return to New York, hopefully with a job lined up. I’d picked up White Teeth at St. Marks Bookshop, and from the minute I cracked open the pages I knew I was looking at something special. The writing was good. Really good. But what really wowed me was that Smith—a prodigy if ever there was one—was in her twenties at the time the book was published.
This is an embarrassing admission, but it was not until I read that novel that I thought that maybe, just maybe, I did not have to wait until I was old and gray to try my hand at long fiction. It wasn’t that I aspired to reach Smith’s literary heights. But I did want to write—right away. Early attempts were laughable and rarely more than twenty pages. But one evening, shortly after my daughter was born, I started writing what would become my first novel. I was thirty when I finished the first draft, and thirty-two when it was published, with plenty of non-gray hairs left on my head.
After White Teeth, there were many other books that inspired me and informed my career. Barbara Kingsolver, whose Prodigal Summer—my favorite novel—opened my eyes to the power of multiple points of view. Lorrie Moore, whose many short story collections showed me that humor could give a story the sizzle it needed to embed itself in a reader’s mind. Emily Giffin, whose breakout novel, Something Borrowed, I purchased in an airport on a whim; by the time I arrived at my destination, I’d devoured it and decided that if I could make a reader turn the pages half as fast as I had been turning hers, I’d be doing something right.
Those books, written by women, watered the seed that Smith planted: Take a chance. Don’t wait. Write the book that’s in your heart.
Camille’s debut novel, THE ART OF FORGETTING, releases in paperback tomorrow. In celebration, Camille is giving away three signed copies. To be entered in the drawing leave a comment below telling us about a book you fell in love with as an adult. Winners will be chosen at the end of the day.
Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.
And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory- dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago- Marissa’s own equilibrium is shaken.
With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.
The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and myths that hold us back, and the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.
Camille Noe PagÃ¡n is a magazine journalist whose work has appeared in Glamour, O: The Oprah Magazine, PARADE and dozens of other publications and websites. Her first novel, The Art of Forgetting, is released in paperback by Plume/Penguin on May 29th. Library Journal calls Forgetting “a page-turner” for “readers who enjoy intelligent novels about women’s fiction”; The Chicago Tribune says, “PagÃ¡n writes with both a subtle sense of humor and great wisdom about the power of friendship and the importance of forgiveness in her quietly compelling literary debut.” She lives in Ann Arbor with her family. www.camillenoepagan.com