What exactly is art; who defines it; who makes it; and where in Atlanta do poets, thespians, and artists congregate and create? We’ll use this space to catch up with a few for a few…some you may know; others we hope you’ll be pleased to meet their acquaintance.
In first grade, when most of us can barely describe our feelings, Zoe Fishman wrote a love letter for a friend, TruDonald, to give to his girlfriend. In it, she noted he wanted to take a bubble bath with her, which landed Fishman a trip to the principal’s office.
But this twist of fate let Fishman know she was hooked on writing.
The Georgia Author of the Year Award-winner uses language to tell stories about women navigating varying ages and stages in life in novels like Balancing Acts, Inheriting Edith, Invisible Air, and her forthcoming, The Fun Widow’s Book Tour (HarperCollins Publishers).
Can you share how living in Atlanta has inspired your work?
ZF: Atlanta is where I became a mother. Writing for a living with kids undertow is a whole different ballgame. I’ve had to learn to carve out the time: early in the morning before they’re awake and on a good day, two hours while they’re at school. But the schedule is constantly changing as they’re changing. I’ve had to learn how to roll with that and be more patient with my process.
TE: I read your Modern Love essays in the New York Times and those you’ve done for the Atlanta Journal-Consitution, not quite expecting the journey I’d go on with you, from your “subway crush” to the loss of your husband, Ronen. I was drawn in, moments braided with hope and sadness. Your words and how you used them moved me in the same way I felt after reading Elizabeth Alexander’s memoir, The Light of The World, about the loss of her husband.
In a blurb about your new book, The Fun Widow’s Book Tour, its description as an “intersection of art and grief” really struck me. In many ways, that same intersection occurred during the pandemic – where art became central to thriving while trying to survive; art serving as a type Balm of Gilead for grief at times.
Can you talk about your process of writing The Fun Widow’s Book tour?
ZF: Wow, first of all, thank you for your very kind comparison to Elizabeth Alexander. She is a beautiful writer. I wrote Fun Widow in my garage during the pandemic while my eight- and four-year-olds virtual schooled. Needless to say, my first draft had an uncanny resemblance to Jack Nicholson’s manuscript in The Shining.
I took it all apart and put it back together again with my second draft and realized that the problem with the first draft was that I was running from the only story I really wanted to tell: mine. And so I did. Fun Widow is about as meta as it gets.
How do you navigate the “intersection of art and grief?”
ZF: After my husband died, my agent suggested I write an essay for submission to Modern Love. We had a very New York love story in that we met on the F train. I sat down to write, and the words just flowed out of me. I’ve never put more heart on the page; never been so vulnerable and bare. We submitted it and to my great surprise, delight, and terror, it was published in The New York Times that December.
The response from readers was incredible. They were so kind and empathic and encouraging. I couldn’t believe it. I had taken my pain and my missing him and turned it into words. My heart was beating on those pages, and readers felt that. It was the single most cathartic moment of my career thus far and ultimately what inspired me to go for it with Fun Widow.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
ZF: In between books, I love taking walks at dusk with the kids and the dog to Decatur Square, where art often lives and breathes.
What else would you like to share that I haven’t asked you about?
ZF: The Fun Widow’s Book Tour will be published on March 14th, but you can pre-order from any of your preferred booksellers here.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Zoe Fishman will be in conversation with Gail O’Neill at Writers at the Wrecking Bar on Tues., Mar. 14 where she will read from her new novel, The Fun Widow’s Book Tour.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story indicated the Wrecking Bar event was on Mar. 8. The correct date is Mar. 14. We regret the error.