Anne Leigh Parrish Writer

To proof a galley for the last time, just before the manuscript goes to print, is to say good-bye to the world I made and filled with people I love. That world is going on without me now, and I’m going on without it, into the next made-up world, and the one after that. If, one day, I open the book the manuscript becomes I’ll read it with fresher eyes and while it won’t be new, it won’t be thoroughly familiar, either.  I’m different for having written it, and I see things differently, too, because making art changes us.

In my novels I live in two worlds. One is about the Dugan family in upstate New York. They’ve been with me for eleven years. The mother, Lavinia, is my favorite character. I admire her so much I named my photography gallery after her, Lavinia Studios. On the page she’s not refined or artistic, but she’s got a keen, edgy wit that keeps her messy family in line. The second world belongs to Edith Sloan, a young woman from an earlier day whose ambitions are thwarted by her husband. We meet her in 1948 after she runs away from her marriage. Her independence is delicious but frightening; her husband’s begging letters lure her home. Every ambition she has—to be a businesswoman by buying a local bookstore, establishing a small press to publish publish poetry—is met with resistance from the men around her. Why can’t she just stay home and bake pies?

Power is not a zero-sum game. If you have power over your own life and I have power over mine, it doesn’t lessen yours. Unless you get off on the idea of control. There are those who feel cheated if they can’t control the fate of another person. Are we entitled to control the fate of others? And to what end?

These questions found their way to me late in life, and now they’re all over my pages. It’s a lovely feedback effect. Did my concern with the fate of women bring Edith to mind? And did she then shape that concern? Yes, to both questions.

Edith will be seen next in The Hedgerow, coming in July. The Dugans return in 2025. It’s hard to look that far ahead, and odd to think that these two books will draw me back to a place I occupied fully, fought with, despised, tore down, rebuilt, rejoiced in, and departed wearily but glad for the time spent.