A Writer's Dreams Come True

In 1997 I was hired to teach an Oral History writing workshop at Touro College in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. My students were recent Russian immigrants who came to the U.S. after the Cold War. In my class they wrote and spoke passionately about their personal and collective histories. The storytelling was measured and deliberate, personal and always compelling. Amelia described the garden where she felt safe, and kissed a boy for the first time; Yuri described the icy waters of the Gulf of Finland where his family swam and picnicked; and Stalina told of being named for Stalin. She explained to the class how, even though she was advised to change her name, she would never, “it is our history and I carry that with me today.” Told with a stoic, often ironic, and at times playful demeanor, these stories inspired me to create the central character for my debut novel. It took me five years to write Stalina. Working full time as a television stage manager, I wrote whenever I could and tokk workshops to hone my craft. In 2008, after I finished a first draft of the novel, I was side swiped with a diagnosis of breast cancer. With the rigors of treatment, battles with insurance, and continuing to work, I felt I had to give in to my health needs and put the novel aside. I finished treatment at the end of 2009 and entered the abyss that many patients experience when they are released from the care of their doctors. It felt like being cast out to sea. I sat at my desk one day and thought what should I do with myself? I opened a drawer, pulled out the novel, read through it, made some minor changes and entered it in the Amazon Debut Novel Emerging Writer Award Contest. A year later, I had forgotten about the contest and was going through a crisis of how to keep my writing life alive, when I received a phone call from Terry Goodman, the Senior Acquisitions Editor of AmazonEncore, Amazon’s new publishing venture. He was extremely complementary of the novel and wanted to know if I would be interested in having it published. After picking myself up off the floor, where I had fallen from the shock of it all, I said yes, and managed to croak out a thank you. Aside from the occasional writer’s high when you find the perfect combination of words, that phone call was the most encouraging and exciting moment in my writing life. To be part of the publishing world at a time when there are great upheavals and a revolution of change is exhilarating. I am deep into the writing of a second novel, and this year I was also honored as the first recipient of the Sarah Verdone Writers Award. The award was established by family and friends of Ms. Verdone, a journalist, wife and mother, who died from breast cancer in 2010. A number of other awards have also come my way, all of which have helped to shore up my confidence to keep writing. In 2011 Stalina was chosen for re-release by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. There are good days and hard days with the writing, but it is often filled with discoveries that tweak my curious nature, and keep me pushing on through to the next sentence. I hope other aspiring writers are inspired by my journey and will look for a community to support them in their efforts to keep writing. Please check out my website at www.emilyrubin.net. Stalina is available in bookstores (support your local indie) and on Amazon.

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