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  • Barbara Stark-Nemon

Welcome to Hard Cider

I recently read a wonderful piece in the Guardian by the writer Kristina Olsson about her cross-country walk from one side of England to the other after finishing a novel manuscript. Designed to be a pleasurable reward for five years of hard work, the walk instead produced so many similar thoughts and feelings to Olsson’s experience writing her novel, that she came to realize that both journeys called forth strengths and challenges within her and were each in their own way, revelatory of the “wilderness within” that represents to Olsson “radical freedom.” ​​

This freedom allowed the “merciless world, the routines and claims of home, the marauding self-doubt, daily, excoriating” to dissipate, bringing Olsson to her best wild self. Olsson’s comparisons of walking and writing, her imagery, the confluence of physical, creative, emotional and psychological aspects of the two processes are so veracious and thought-provoking, whether you are a writer or a walker or neither one, you might want to check out the link below.

​​I am now, for most writing purposes, also between novels. My second novel, Hard Cider, will be published in September, and while there will doubtless be more edits, the primary arc of writing is complete. I have worked on this book for seven years, and its motifs of complicated family, long-term marriages, encore careers, infertility, surrogacy, life in northern Michigan, and the making of hard apple cider intricately weave real experiences and places with fictional characters and imaginative flights of “what if” fancy.

Alas, two hip replacements in the last three months keep me from the reward of a lengthy hike or cycling trip. Instead I will have to channel the wilderness within tol breathe fresh oxygen into the smoky depths where my head has been grappling with this manuscript. The tunnel vision and the confines of the world I’ve lived in while finishing Hard Cider now need to give way to a more physical and spiritual balance.

Just like deep within the apple trees that sleep in ordered rows on the frozen Leelanau Peninsula, where Hard Cider is set, I feel a shift, a sensor preparing for more light to come— a fused memory and foresight of longer warmer days, and of blossoms under frozen buds. The ​​extraordinary energy and growth over the next months will bring Hard Cider to publication, work on a new book, and hopefully, a restoration of personal balance. Happy New Year, and come along for the ride! Click on the Subscribe button above to get updates.

You can read the Guardian piece here