Thinking about Home in Life and Writing

Peony from my garden.

Peony from my garden.

By Lisa Alber

Two months ago, I discussed success. I was inundated with finishing a manuscript and buying a house for the first time plus maintaining my regularly scheduled work, dogwalking, Mom visits, and so on. Two months later … wow.

I’m in my new house. Safely moved. Getting organized. It’s all good, even the dry rot repair on the exterior!

But also — !!! — the manuscript I was working on? Its deadline? I now have a two-book deal and a new, fabulous literary agent to boot! All of this transpired this week, and I got word that I could make the news public today. This might explain why I once again spaced out on making my Wednesday deadline for this blog post, hehe.

Even though this all feels very successful, what lingers in my mind is the notion of “home.” In a literal sense, I have a new home. I love it. I love that I don’t share walls, and that I have a fenced-in backyard. I even love rolling my garbage cans to the curb. (I’m sure that will wear off!)

I found this perfect antique hall stand.

I found this perfect antique hall stand.

But “home” is so much more than houses. It’s also our communities. I’m getting to know my neighbors, and I’m sensing that my street is a nice home street too. My neighbors are an eclectic crew of low-key, independent types. Straight, gay, younger, older, childless, child-full, single, partnered. I’m loving it that no one — and I mean, no one — has asked about me buying the house all on my own.

So now I think about finally have literary representation and a traditional publisher. I’ve been floating in the publishing world, which has been fine and fun. KILMOON turned out great, but I’m so relieved that I have a traditional publishing home with traditional distribution outlets. I’m not even a traditional kind of person — so what’s that all about, you might ask?

I think I’m a floater in life, to be honest, but I no longer have the energy, time, or will to try to do every darned thing on my own. Communities to call home provide relief from that. Even when it comes to my house, I’m overjoyed that I’ve found my handyman husband (big smiley face). I have a contractor. I think I know who I’m going to use for electrical stuff and roof stuff and yard stuff.

Without being conscious of it, I started to gather a house community around myself. And now I have a publishing community. I’ve always had my writing community. I have my family and friends communities too.

And all of these communities are home.

Morning coffee on my deck.

Morning coffee on my deck.

I think we writers create homes within our storytelling too. I’m not just talking about this in the obvious way, like J.K. Rowlings’s world building. Even authors who don’t have series set in particular worlds tend to return to the same themes. For example, I tend toward writing about community failures in my novels — especially related to families. The ways in which home communities can turn dark and dysfunctional. In my novels, this leads to murder.

And, come to think about it, my novels always feature a character or two who are floaters in life. Somehow, they’re outside the community, looking for a way in. Looking for home.

I guess that’s just my thing too. But at least I can say that I own my very own house now! And within my very own house I have my very own community of dog and cat and character voices. And in my very own house, everyone is welcome!

What do you think about when you think about “home”?

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