The Rise and Fall of Jenny Goodguts

And announcing the culmination of four years, two blogs, a few songs, a blonde wig, a lot of iPad games, some spreadsheets, many things I said I would do and didn’t, some things I started and didn’t finish or lost, zero recipes, and many, many, many questions. I will, in very short order, be pleased to announce the publication of my first book (an actual book, you can hold it in your hands!):

The Rise and Fall of Jenny Goodguts by Jennifer Hole. It should be available early 2019 and I couldn’t be more excited. It started off as a project for myself. I wanted it to exist. But I think it turned out even better than I had imagined. I really love it and I think you will too. A bit from the beginning of the book:

Dear reader,

These few introductory words might be the hardest part of writing this book. Imagining you, opening to the first page, not knowing who the heck Jenny Goodguts is, why she might rise and fall.

When I started writing this, four years ago, typing a number of the first entries in the driver’s seat of my car while pulled over on the side of the road, I was writing for myself. I think I thought writing might be a way of drawing a map to get from where I was to an imaginary place I thought I should be. I didn’t know how I had come to be so serious. At the same time, I had this unacknowledged script of self-criticism contantly murmuring. I thought I have untapped potential. I thought look what other people can do. I thought I haven’t given my all, done my best. Or think of any quote you’ve ever read about attitude and altitude. 

At the beginning of this adventure, I contemplated a quote from Walden “Most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Writing this now, these words seem so bleak, such a dark rallying cry. But the idea contained in these words is what moved me to start writing. Four years ago, I felt the song a hoarse, croaky whisper inside me, but with a force that felt no longer containable. I had worked for years in a field I cared about, frequently giving my almost very best effort, but that work didn’t feel like my song. For ten years I had played no music. I had untuned, unstrung instruments, wasting away in cases (figuratively and literally) (until my son stepped on one but that is another story). So I started blogging, because it felt like a thing to do. A feasible, acceptable outlet for this uncontainable urge.

I thought I was writing to figure out my song. To remove obstacles to singing it. To fix myself. Maybe help fix you too. I also thought that figuring out how to be happy and fulfilled and peaceful in this world sets a good example if you wish for happiness, fulfillment, and peace for your children. You can’t really hope that for them and then run around like a crazy banshee having road rage all day long and think they aren’t going to start watching all the cars going by and yelling at drivers for they aren’t sure what.

The book shares my journey from no blog to blogger, salaried to not, from renter to owner, from not-yet-forty to forty-plus, from babies to children, from Obama to Trump. While it pulls in events that take place in the real world, in my own life and the trajectory of history, most of the action is a slow circling inside of one six-inch noggin. Around and around, digging and scraping and looking for some secret recipe. Something like watching a slow-motion makeover where, at times, to the audience it might be pretty clear that that is definitely not my shade.

What I’m nervous about is also what I think makes the book worth sharing. I learn as I go. Starting in October of 2016 the writing shifts into a more authentic, maybe a more original, voice. But it doesn’t start that way. I think it may be interesting—maybe even helpful—to watch the change. But to do that you have to start from the beginning. I tried to be brave enough to share both the before and the after but I did cut—just a bit—some of the before. You have your own life to live and there are only so many lists a person can read! If you find yourself terribly aggravated during the beginning, consider skipping straight to October 2016 or to April 2017 when I find a lucky quarter in the Trader Joe’s parking lot and turn my life around.

I don’t want to give away the ending, what happens, everything I might have learned—not here at the beginning. I do think I’ve learned about setting up a life that enables me to sing the song. And maybe all of these steps and tests and trials, the checklists and experiments, were necessary. 

I guess, for me, they were.