Amy Shearn's 5 Firsts and Lasts

cover-imageOur guest today: Amy Shearn

Why we love her: We dig her fresh narrative!

Her latest: The Mermaid of Brooklyn

The scoop: Formerly an up-and-coming magazine editor, Jenny Lipkin is now your average, stretched-too-thin Brooklyn mom, tackling the challenges of raising two children in a cramped Park Slope walk-up. All she really wants is to survive the sweltering New York summer with a shred of sanity intact. But when her husband, Harry, vanishes one evening, Jenny reaches her breaking point. And in a moment of despair, a split-second decision changes her life forever.

Pulled from the brink by an unexpected ally, Jenny is forced to rethink her ideas about success, motherhood, romance, and relationships. But confronting her inner demons is no easy task. . . .

Our thoughts: Dive in this witty and heartfelt novel this weekend! You won't regret it!

Giveaway: Two copies! Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win--we'll choose the winners on Monday, April 22nd after 8am PST.

Fun Fact: The Mermaid of Brooklyn is a Oprah.Com April book pick!

Where you can read more about Amy: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.



Amy-ShearnFirst: Let me just say that Jewish overnight camp in the Wisconsin woods circa 1992 was a heady time. The poignant Extreme ballad “More Than Words” was playing constantly, everywhere, as if piped in from the trees. And finally a boy liked me. I remember thinking I had been waiting forever for a boy to notice me. I was going into eighth grade. Obviously, it had been like MONTHS between the start of puberty and now – what was taking all the boys so long to notice a quiet, awkward, bookish girl who never spoke to them or even really looked at them? But finally this boy LIKED me liked me, and we were sitting outside by the creek and he leaned in and sort of smeared his mouth on my cheek area. Later that night, I was informed by my more streetwise cabin-mates that I was supposed to have turned my head to trickily French him. I was mortified, both at my lack of savvy, and at the idea of French-kissing him. Even though I didn’t really have any opinion whatsoever of this boy, I remember lying awake in my upper bunk aglow with that surreal excitement you get when your life seems to have gotten magical all the sudden.

Last: Tonight at bedtime, my two-year-old son announced he was a cat and then passionately licked my face. Not totally dissimilar to my summer camp kiss, actually. Except that I really, really love this boy.



First: I taught myself to read when I was around 3 by obsessively staring at Mercer Mayer’s Just For You, which I assumed was the most hilarious and yet meaningful work of literature ever. I have a distinct memory of lying on the basement floor of my parent’s house, rubbing my feet over a rough place in the concrete, and having it all click, and realizing, with something like ecstasy, that I could read.

Last: I’ve just begun Jessica Francis Kane’s luminous short story collection This Close. It’s been a while since I read a collection of stories, and it’s such sheer pleasure. She packs tremendous insights into these narrative jewels.


First: I have never been a risk-taker, really, so I had to wrack my brain here. I did have a much-cited (literally, almost every time I see my parents) misadventure in fifth grade, when, after watching 3 or 4 other kids do it, I went down the new banana-yellow twisty slide backwards. This was forbidden, and I got caught, and was benched. Benched! This horrifying punishment involved having to sit on a bench for a few minutes. It was my first and last time getting benched at Lincoln Elementary School. And that’s what you get for taking risks. Just kidding. Sort of.

Last: Writing this novel felt like a big risk. As noted above, I’ve always been a bit of a goody-two-shoes, an inveterate conflict avoider. Like every mother, I want to be seen as the perfect mom and wife, because of course I want to be the perfect mom and wife. But that whole parenting situation is just so difficult and fraught – honestly, even if you are a pretty happy mom, which I think I am -- that I wanted to write about how hard it is, taking care of small children and maintaining your sanity and sense of self. I wanted to say the things that all my mom friends say to each other, but that I had never read in a novel. And I wanted to inhabit a character who was trouble and difficult, because I find those characters interesting. But then, you know, you have to deal with people saying things like “I read your book and now I’m so worried about you! Is the main [depressed, manic, cheating] character you?”  Oy.

Hell Ya! Moment

First: The summer I was 20 I backpacked around Europe by myself, and I remember the whole time as one big HELL YA! I was breaking up with my long-time boyfriend, I was proving I was independent and brave, I was seeing the world and meeting people and I spent about $5 the whole time and I know the life-changing college trip is a total cliché but it was truly amazing. I have no idea how I did it. I don’t know that I could handle it now.

Last: My daughter is just starting to read on her own, and every time she reads a sentence or recognizes a word I do a little internal cartwheel. It’s so exciting to watch it all coming together, and to think of all the adventures that await her in library stacks.

Aha! Moment

First: I was probably 7 or 8 the day I was pestering my father while he was trying to write something and he handed me a notebook and said, “Here, you can start your own journal.” I wrote down some pertinent information about my cat, Daisy, and then reread it and enjoyed the process so much that I then wrote some more and then some more and soon I was filling notebooks with stories.

Last: As a mom-blogger, I’ve probably written 15 different essays/articles/blog posts about how moms shouldn’t be so hard on themselves, without truly internalizing this myself. It’s all very easy to say, but then…you know how it goes. Then the other night I realized I was having these crazy bedtime struggles with my 4-year-old for no real reason other than that I felt she ought to go to bed by 8:00pm and that in the back of my mind there was some voice – Super-Nanny, maybe – chiding me for not having enough control to maintain this bedtime. And then for some reason I had a moment when I asked myself if I really cared when she went to bed. If she’s quietly playing with paper dolls at 8, isn’t she maybe just winding down slowly? Since she has a hard time calming down to sleep, shouldn’t I let her do that work to learn how to calm herself down, as the end goal really is to have her know when she’s sleepy and put herself to bed? I realized that if she was busy coloring or something that I didn’t actually care when she went to bed, I just thought I should care, and that I was waging this nightly battle (that inevitably ends with me asleep in the toddler bed alongside her) for no real reason. So we did bath time, tooth-brushing, stories, all the bedtime things, and then I just let her chill out and tell the dog some stories until around 9 she told me she was ready for bed and wow, what a revelation! There’s motherhood in a nutshell: you don’t even realize that by trying to do something The Right Way you’re making yourself miserable. I’m always telling other moms not to be so hard on themselves, not to judge their parenting, to do what feels right. So maybe I should follow my own advice for once.

Thanks, Amy!