When I think of my father, I think of clipping down the Brooklyn Promenade, trying to match my 10-year-old legs to his 6’4″ New York stride. I think of running a wind-up toy race car down the swoop of particle board framing his Ikea armchair. I think of his proud smile at my high school award ceremonies and sharpening my worldview against his indulgence of back-to-back “Rocky & Bullwinkle” episodes and all three Naked Gun movies.
I think in flashes of sweet childhood when I think of my father, and they lodge a lump in the base of my throat. Not because we’ve been severed by tragedy but simply because I, like so many daughters, remember his love in a way that transcends time and space.
That bond is the premise behind a new book launching May 23, an anthology of non-fiction essays called Every Father’s Daughter: Twenty-four Women Writers Remember Their Fathers. The anthology features nationally and regionally famous authors, including Jane Smiley, Maxine Hong Kingston, Bobbie Ann Mason, Jill McCorkle, Ann Hood, Jayne Anne Phillips and Charlottesville’s own Jane Friedman, a writer, editor and full-time entrepreneur.
”My Jewish father grew up in Brooklyn but died in a very small rural Indiana town, far away from most of those he knew or met, save for myself and my mother,” Friedman wrote in a recent exchange with C-VILLE. “But he was happy, and he exhibited the joyfulness of chasing after your heart’s desire, even if that meant upsetting other people’s expectations. Which fairly describes my approach to writing these days.”
In addition to essay writing, Friedman acts as a freelance writing consultant, teaches digital publishing and media at UVA, blogs and speaks about publishing in the digital age and co-edits the magazine Scratch, which explores the intersection of writing and money and was named a top website for writers. Like many solo creatives who make a living from their craft, her approach to writing has many angles.
“I’m a columnist for Publishers Weekly, and I write about the publishing industry and how writers can navigate it. It builds on expertise and insights that I’ve gained over many years and is written to be of service, to shed light on issues that confuse people,” she said. “On the creative side—which doesn’t pay and probably never will—I’m interested in essay writing. I majored in creative non-fiction as an undergrad, and after many years I am getting back to that.”
Friedman has a unique vantage point into both the creation and sale of Every Father’s Daughter, for which publisher McPherson & Company has organized a truly unusual launch. To connect 14 contributors scattered across the country, it will use digital technology to link eight venues, including New Dominion Bookshop on the Downtown Mall, at the same time and place.
On May 23, each party will kick off at the same time (4pm EST), following in-person readings, signings and discussions with a Skype call and a roundtable in which authors and audiences from every bookshop or writing center can speak in real time with each other.
An unusual opportunity in the publishing world, this innovative event draws on principles Friedman has been teaching for years. After working first as the editor of her middle school newspaper, then writing, editing and publishing throughout school, and getting a job after college with a family-owned publishing company, the writer became an assistant professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati.
She taught bachelor of fine arts candidates how to create media regardless of format, preparing them for work for big city media firms from Buzzfeed to Paramount Studios.
She taught the nuts and bolts of storytelling and writing across mediums as well as the research, ethics and history of media. In short, she trained students to apply their creative strengths to practical outputs.
“I’ve had a number of lucky breaks that meant I can craft a career that doesn’t feel like work,” she said. “Some find art and business fundamentally opposed and I don’t. I think that’s been one of my advantages.”
Another advantage was her father. “It’s perhaps a cliché for parents to say such things, but he believed and regularly told me that I could be or do anything I wanted,” Friedman wrote. “He was a calligrapher—and a typesetter, back when that occupation existed—and a piece of his artwork hung in the house, a line from Tennyson: ‘I am a part of all that I have met; / Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough / Gleams that untravelled world, whose margins fades / For ever and for ever when I move.”
Friedman’s father’s faith in the world to provide income through his art laid a foundation for her happiness as well as his own. And his faith in his daughter to make her own way—well, I know how that feels.
Hear Jane Friedman and 13 other contributors to My Father’s Daughter share their work and take questions at 4pm on May 23 at New Dominion Bookshop.